As 2015 got underway, congressional Republican leaders had a decision to make. It wasn't one of their high-profile choices -- whether or not to shut down the government, whether or not to sabotage American foreign policy, etc. -- but it nevertheless mattered quite a bit.
In practical terms, GOP leaders had to pick their accountant. Doug Elmendorf's term as head of the Congressional Budget Office was nearly over, and Republicans were under pressure to reappoint him to another term. The recommendations made sense -- Elmendorf developed a reputation as a respected, impartial economist, who was pretty effective in telling lawmakers -- and by extension, all of us -- how much stuff costs.
As we talked about late last year, the argument from mainstream conservatives was that Elmendorf could extend meaningful credibility to GOP proposals through favorable scores -- if Elmendorf said Republicans’ numbers add up, everyone would know GOP lawmakers were taking their responsibilities seriously.
Soon after, right on cue, Republicans showed Elmendorf the door, and introduced Keith Hall, a "Republican stalwart," as the new CBO chief. The strategy wasn't subtle: GOP leaders wanted a Congressional Budget Office that would tell conservatives what they wanted to hear. Elmendorf wouldn't, so he had to go.
The new Republican-appointed director of the Congressional Budget Office delivered some bad news ... to the party's "Reaganomics" devotees: Tax cuts don't pay for themselves through turbocharged economic growth.
Keith Hall, who served as an economic adviser to former President George W. Bush, made the pronouncement at his first news conference after the CBO reduced its 2015 budget deficit forecast by $60 billion.
Hall spoke to reporters recently, shortly before lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill, and he threw cold water at one of the Republican Party's top economic principles. "No, the evidence is that tax cuts do not pay for themselves," Hall told reporters. "And our models that we're doing, our macroeconomic effects, show that."