Merkley's "stunningly good idea": CBO scoring on jobs impact

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

As the congressional super-committee begins its work trying to find common ground between Democrats and Republicans on a plan to cut the deficit, Senator Jeff Merkley is worried that jobs will become an afterthought.

To make sure that the supercommittee's focus remains on creating jobs, Merkley has proposed a simple idea: Ask the CBO to score every proposal, not just for budgetary impact, but for its impact on jobs.

From Greg Sargent at the Washington Post:

“We need to have every proposal that the super-committee brings out to have it scored by its jobs impact,” Merkley told me in an interview this morning. He plans to urge Democratic and GOP leaders to agree to this standard, and hopes to build a campaign to make it happen. ...

“We need to have a `no-harm’ standard,” Merkley says. “At a minimum, people on both sides of the aisle should be able to agree that the proposals do no harm to jobs.”

“This will keep their feet to the fire and avoid a situation where their plan drives us into a deep recession or a depression,” Merkley continues. “We must not repeat the mistakes of Europe, where austerity has driven the economy further into the ditch rather than pulling it out.”

The WaPo's Ezra Klein notes that this wouldn't take an act of Congress (ba-dum-bump):

The CBO has done this before, and all it would take is a request from the committee's chairs for them to do it again. It wouldn't require anyone to come to any new ideological epiphanies, or strike any grand new bargains. It would just force them to think hard about the impact their proposals will have on the labor market, and submit their conclusions to the independent analysis of the CBO.

Sargent notes that any Senator can request a jobs-impact score, but those requests aren't prioritized the same way that a request from the committee chairs - Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) - would be.

On his blog, Chris Weigant calls it a "stunningly good idea". There's more at Talking Points Memo and Daily Kos, too.

Update, 2:15 p.m.'s senior campaign director, Daniel Mintz, reacted positively to Merkley's effort. In a statement (via email):

Americans can't afford for the Super Committee to come up with a proposal that cuts spending by destroying jobs. In recent days, Senator Jeff Merkley has been encouraging members of the Super Committee to have the non-partisan CBO score their deficit reduction proposal to ensure that it doesn't put more Americans out of work. This is a responsible way to ensure that any proposal out of the Super Committee takes into account the impact it will have on the nation's economy. While millions of Americans can't find a job, and are increasingly losing hope in the promise of the American Dream, it's imperative that the Super Committee's proposal is not a job-killer.

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    Full disclosure: My firm built Jeff Merkley's campaign website. I speak only for myself.

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    Can one chair make the request or does it require both?

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      As I understand it, any Senator or Representative can request it - but chairs and leadership are prioritized.

      But the real value would come from the committee - or its chairs, together - agreeing to get these metrics on any proposal before acting on them.

      It would all work better if it were part of the formal process.

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    I know and respect Senator Murray, but I believe that the super-committee will do nothing but provide political cover to those (Dems and Repubs) who are going to take a meat axe to progressive programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

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    I don't have a problem with this proposal but I am troubled by the tendency for people to think that the CBO is some magical oracle with a direct pipeline to absolute truth.

    The CBO has a deservedly high reputation for being nonpartisan and unbiased. It does not have a particularly outstanding reputation for being accurate in their projections. Sort of like the state economist's Oregon revenue forecasts.

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      Jack, you're probably right on the fine details - the CBO can't tell us whether a proposal would create 10,000 or 11,000 jobs.

      But in terms of polarity (create jobs or cost jobs?) and magnitude (10k jobs, 100k jobs, 1m jobs) they're probably in the ballpark.

      And as Kristin says, just asking the question is half the battle.

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        As I said, I'm not opposed to the proposal and Kristin's point in on the mark: Asking the question is probably more important than thinking you can get a precise answer.

        This just gave me a chance to air a pet peeve of mine, i.e., the growing tendency to act as if citing a CBO estimate is an automatic discussion-ender rather than just one more piece of evidence.

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          I have to concur on this point. Lack of partisanship is not akin to omniscience.

          A well-intentioned group of experts can still be wrong. With economic forecasting, the data set can never be complete.

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    Jeff does it again. What a difference a smart and committed progressive senator can make. That's why I'm supporting Elizabeth Warren's campaign for the senate in Mass.

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    Nice association Patrick especially given their very similar records of long tern attention to that citizen protections.

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    Yeah, where is that useless and wimpy Jeff Merkley that some of the partisans here kept telling us we were going to get.

    I feel extremely fortunate to have the actual Jeff Merkley representing Oregon in the Senate.

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