CBO Stimulus “Report” Didn’t Exist

Isaiah J. Poole

It turns out reports that the Congressional Budget Office had found that much of the stimulus package to be voted on in the House in a few days would not be spent until after 2011 were incorrect.

Ryan Grim at The Huffington Post reported late Friday:

The nonpartisan CBO ran a small portion of an earlier version of the stimulus plan through a computer program that uses a standard formula to determine a score — how quickly money will be spent. The score only dealt with the part of the stimulus headed for the Appropriations Committee and left out the parts bound for the Ways and Means or Energy and Commerce Committee.

Because it dealt with just a part of the stimulus, it estimated the spending rate for only about $300 billion of the $825 billion plan. Significant changes have been made to the part of the bill the CBO looked at.

The CBO numbers were given to a small number of congressional Democrats and Republicans, but were not posted online because they’re not an official CBO product.

Nonetheless, the House Republican leadership mischaracterized as “an important report” what was in effect an informal, preliminary and incomplete analysis, and the media played along. (I saw a red flag when I did my original post on this so-called report but could not find it on the CBO web site and concluded that the report must have been a response to a member of Congress rather than a traditional CBO product. But I could not confirm that at the time.)

Dean Baker notes:

CBO will produce an analysis next week that will examine the bill in its current form. It is also important to keep in mind that the preliminary analysis (and probably the analysis that will be produced next week) relied on standard rules of thumb for spendout rates rather than the spendout rates for the specific projects in the stimulus package.

In the meantime, at least we have the answer to the question I posed about whether the CBO is being used by House conservative obstructionists to derail the Obama stimulus package. The answer is a resounding yes, in a most dishonest way.

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