While the battle over the annual federal budget in Congress has become a political circus, it is the Congressional Budget Office that is responsible for bringing the debate back to reality. When a Member proposes a new piece of legislation, it falls to the non-partisan CBO to score the proposal to determine its impact on the budget. CBO is non-partisan, but to listen to Senators and Representatives talk about it, you'd think that the CBO was the tool of the "other" party. Well, depending on what the CBO says.
Typically, when the CBO concludes that a Democratic proposal will reduce the deficit, the Republicans blast it for being biased. But when the CBO says a Democratic proposal will add to the deficit, the GOP lauds its objectivity and trustworthiness. And then there are times when the Democrats accuse the CBO of being biased in favor of the GOP.
The back and forth between the parties hating and loving the CBO is legendary in Washington, and frankly a bit ridiculous. The bickering is so much all over the map that it is hard to take either party seriously when they go after the CBO. Perhaps pissing off both parties at times is truly a marker for the CBO's non-partisanship. When you really dig into the facts on Congressional policy proposals, the conclusion is bound to anger one side or the other.
Historically, most Americans were at the mercy of the hurled accusations among legislators when judging proposed laws. It was all "he said/she said" stuff. Sure, a citizen could visit their nearest Federal Depository Library and read the hard copies of CBO reports, but who does that? Well... I used to do that all the time when I was in high school, but not without undue hassle.
My local Federal Depository was at the college library down the street. But I was not a student at that college, so I was always harassed by the librarian. She tried to kick me out all the time because I wasn't a student there. Each time I reminded her that the library was a partial Federal Depository, so I had a right to use the documents. She'd grumble and walk away.
But now (oh joy), thanks to the internet, all of those exciting documents are available online. They have been available on the CBO's website for years. But recently, the CBO has become proactive in pushing its reports out to the public. First it joined Twitter to share its reports with the public. And now it has launched a YouTube channel, so we can all kick back and watch CBO Congressional testimony.
You might be thinking, "I have enough TV to watch. Why would I watch CBO testimonies?" Good question. For me the answer is simple. If you want to know whether the CBO findings about the budget impact of legislative proposals is fair or biased, it is better to listen to what the CBO has to say about its reports than it is to listen to the partisans whining from the losing side of its conclusions.
An informed citizenry is the key to a healthy democracy (ok... republic). And what better way to be informed than to listen to the analysis of the researchers at CBO who spend their entire workday digging into the data to evaluate the bills Congress is considering. And now that the CBO is on social media, that valuable research will be delivered to you as it is delivered to Congress.
Now that is how government should work.