“Learn the rules, break the rules, make up new rules, break the new rules,” the late American poet Marvin Bell is quoted as saying. One might think he was describing Congressional Democrats. These days, Congressional Democrats spend almost as much time trying to win elections as they do trying to come up with ways to change the rules of the game. While hollow threats from Senate Democrats to end the filibuster have made headlines in recent months, what is lesser known is the fact that Democrats are also playing games with the Congressional Budget Office rules, specifically as they relate to the impending $3.5 trillion FY21 budget reconciliation bill. So how do Democrats propose changing long-standing rules to push more spending?
“When Republicans have used dynamic scoring in the past, Bernie Sanders called it a ‘gimmick’ and a way to ‘cook the books.’ Now Democrats are using the same strategy,” POLITICO reported last month. Right now, Democrats are weighing how much they want to rely on the concept of dynamic scoring in their efforts to offset some of the cost of President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion FY21 budget reconciliation bill.
Here’s what Democrats plan to say. They will claim that their wild spending proposals will spur economic growth, increase jobs and wages, and therefore bring in more money into the U.S. treasury. That increased revenue is then factored into the overall cost of the bill as a spending offset or pay for. The problem is that those projections are not always accurate, often exaggerated, and they don’t account for potential economic downturns, like a massive hurricane hitting the East Coast or a global pandemic.
In addition, Democrats plan to add non-budgetary spending proposals to the bill, which, though non-germane, they will argue will have a positive impact on economic growth, will help offset the costs, and therefore should be included.
Interestingly, when Republicans applied the concept of dynamic scoring in the past, it was regarding tax cuts and were used to show the minor associated costs. Now, Democrats are proposing to change the CBO rules in order to use dynamic scoring to illustrate a large revenue windfall it will bring so that they can spend that much more in advance.
But while Democrats scolded Republicans about cheating the system, they are now scraping for revenue and ready to employ dynamic scoring themselves. Republicans called for reasonable reforms that more accurately showed the positive economic effects from letting Americans keep more of their own money. Democrats hope to show that spending has a similarly stimulative effect by changing economic models that were once off-limits to favor their position.
“We’re way beyond the frontiers of what we can be confident of, economically. It’s just a way for members to pretend that they’re paying for something,” stated David Wessel, Director of Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution.
The Democrats’ “do as I say, not as I do” approach is doomed to backfire. Their tactics reek of desperation and an inability to govern lawfully. If this is the type of Mickey Mouse games Democrats want to play, it won’t be lost on the American people, and it will backfire at the ballot box too.
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