House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) was confronted during a listening session in Racine, Wisconsin Wednesday.
Frank Thorp/NBC News

The House GOP’s ‘dynamic’ ambitions

There aren’t many differences between this year’s House Republican budget plan from Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his blueprints from recent years. Medicare would still be privatized; the Affordable Care Act would still be repealed and replaced with nothing; aid to the poor would still be gutted; the rich would still get a massive tax break; etc.
But this year, Ryan embraced “dynamic scoring” as a way to help finance his far-right agenda. In other words, Ryan believes he can pay for his wish list by implementing it, which he’s certain would make the economy soar, which means he’s comfortable counting predicted revenue from the super-charged economy he thinks he’ll create as actual revenue.
In fact, GOP lawmakers like this approach so much, they want it to be required.
The House approved a bill Friday that would require “dynamic” scoring of major legislation before it comes up for a vote.
Members passed the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act in a 224-182 vote, a few days before the House is slated to pass the latest Republican budget, which would cut $5.1 trillion from current spending plans over the next decade. Four Democrats voted with Republicans on the scoring bill. […]
Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the Congressional Budget Office should be required to use dynamic scoring to determine legislation’s likely effects on jobs and the economy.
As the chasm between the parties grows wider, it’s not uncommon to hear speculation about whether Democrats and Republicans have entirely distinct realities, each with their own rules. This reinforces the thesis – Democrats would rely on budget math, while Republicans prefer their own friendlier version of budget math that’s more in line with what they want to hear.
The same bill would also require the Congressional Budget Office to “consider the effects of legislation over a 40-year time horizon, not the 10 years the nonpartisan agency uses today.”
Think about that for a second: the CBO’s number-counters would be mandated to give Congress credible estimates about U.S. finances four decades in advance. (Try to imagine CBO officials making educated guesses in 1974 about the nation’s fiscal landscape today. Then imagine policymakers making decisions in 1974 based on those projections.)
We know what’s driving this nonsense, and it’s absurd.
Democrats argued that the bill is an attempt to create a process at the CBO that lets Republicans point to the economic benefits of tax cuts as a way to justify those tax cuts.
“What this bill is after is simply to do the analysis primarily on the tax policy,” Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said.
“It’s motivated primarily by this idea that if you provide big tax breaks to people at the very high end of the income ladder, it will trickle down and lift up all the boats,” he added. “We saw how well that worked in the 2000s.”
Indeed, Van Hollen’s criticisms are well grounded – the Republicans’ “Pro-Growth Budgeting Act” would not apply “dynamic” scoring to appropriations bills. In other words, the number-counters would be required to project a super-charged economy following tax breaks, but not investments in areas like education or infrastructure.
‘Dynamic’ scoring is a way to manipulate the budget process and it’s wholly unnecessary. As the CBPP’s Paul Van de Water explained a couple of years ago, the CBO already includes “a wide range of behavioral responses” in its revenue estimates.
Republicans don’t need their own version of budget math. It’s silly for them to try.