Opportunity of a Lifetime, Missed

When America embarks on a disastrous policy, as it did last night during the Sunday Night Massacre, when the House voted to pass Obamacare, I think to myself if there’s any little thing I could have done to help stop it. I did write a couple of anti-Obamacare articles. But they were probably read by a few hundred, or if I’m lucky a few thousand people, or about .0001 percent of the population of America. So that didn’t help at all.

But this morning in the shower (where a lot of my ideas come to me, in addition to jogging) I was kicking myself for not trying another strategy. Had I been more astute, it’s something I should have done, in retrospect. To be sure, I’m absolutely sure that it still wouldn’t have changed anything whatsoever, but at least I would have given it my best shot.

In previous weeks I had been toying with researching and writing an article on the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring method. When the CBO determines a certain policy’s effect on the deficit, it doesn’t take the political feasibility of that policy into account. So if Congress says it’s going to raise taxes and cut spending by a certain amount, the CBO uses that amount in its calculations and doesn’t make a judgment regarding how likely those tax increases and spending cuts will come to fruition.

That was the case with Obamacare. Last week the CBO stated that based on Congress’s numbers, Obamacare would cut the deficit due to the massive tax increases and cuts to Medicare payments to doctors. That gave a big shot in the arm to Obamacare supporters in the House, prompting them to call for a vote on Sunday.

But it’s so ludicrous because the reductions in payments to doctors are highly unlikely to happen, based on past experience, and additional government revenues from tax increases will likely be much less than anticipated, also based on past experience (because when taxes go up, people’s behavior changes, prompting them to work less, find tax loopholes, or defer paying taxes).

I should have written an article about that. In addition the the article itself, I would have had a lot more knowledge about the subject under my belt. That would have equipped me to be quite conversant on the topic.

And then I could have approached Doug Elmendorf on the subject. He’s the director of the Congressional Budget Office.

For the past decade or more I’ve been going off and on to a group called the Prosperity Caucus, where a modest-sized group of free-market types meet once a month to hear a speaker. (Anyone can go – you certainly don’t need an exclusive invitation or anything like that.) And they’re usually quite prominent people in the policy world.

Last month, Doug Elmendorf was the speaker. That could have been a great opportunity, during the Q&A, to suggest to him, nay plead with him, that the CBO should report back with two or more sets of numbers, assigning the likelihood of each set. (The Obamacare deficit reduction number certainly would get an “unlikely” scoring. A soaring deficit number, contrary to Obamacare pipe dreams, would have gotten a “likely” scoring.)

After his talk, when everyone was milling about, he surprisingly stayed for quite a long time, willing to take questions and comments from people individually. That would have been a great opportunity for me to hand him my (would-be) article and reiterate to him that the CBO really should take political feasibility into account.

Of course, I’m not so naive as to think that had I done that, it actually would have changed anything at CBO. (For all I know it may require an act of Congress.) But at least my conscience would have been clear.

Opportunity missed. Probably never again will I ever have such close access to such a key figure in the policy world just before such an America-shattering vote.

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