CBO tells Congress what works

The Congressional Budget Office warned lawmakers yesterday that the economy, on its current course, will see the unemployment rate remain largely unchanged over the next year, with sluggish GDP growth “well below its potential.”

Congressional Republicans, still confused by the basics, saw this as proof of how right they are — if President Obama’s policies were better, the projections would be stronger. This, of course, assumes that the president’s agenda is being implemented, but it’s not. In case GOP policymakers missed it, they’ve killed the White House’s jobs agenda, and we’re doing things the Republicans’ way: the private sector is being left to its own devices; the public sector is shedding jobs quickly; and lawmakers are focused on debt-reduction. The right has nothing to complain about.

As it turns out, though, that’s not the only thing the CBO had to say yesterday. In the same economic-outlook report, the non-partisan office also considered policy options for “increasing economic growth and employment in 2012 and 2013.” This wasn’t at all what Republicans wanted to see.

The chart may be a little tough to read here (click on it for a larger view), but what it shows is which investments have the greatest impact when it comes to improving the economy. The CBO made no references to parties or ideological agendas, it simply highlighted the facts — and in this case, Democratic proposals would boost the economy and Republican proposals wouldn’t. It’s not an opinion, so much as it’s the result of an objective, independent analysis.

What’s more, this is consistent with the analyses of other independent economists, who’ve consistently reached the same conclusions (though GOP leaders found an “anarcho-libertarian philosopher” who believes differently).

Now, if our political process made any sense, this would be about the time that policymakers said, “We all want to improve the economy, so let’s do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.” Then, they’d look to independent analyses like this one from the Congressional Budget Office to shape the best agenda.

But our political process doesn’t make sense, and analyses like the new CBO report won’t sway Republicans at all. Confronted with evidence that their agenda won’t work, Republicans reflexively respond, “We don’t care what the evidence says; our ideology trumps all.”

And that’s why we can’t have nice things.