Congressional Budget Office reports carry the weight of a feather. Although the CBO passes for as neutral a party as our government can currently muster, its credibility suffers by the heavy use of easily manipulated government data.
To put it plainly: "Garbage In, Garbage Out." Some CBO reports are more accurate than others. No CBO report should ever be taken as Gospel.
And so it is with the CBO report issued last week that shows Obamacare will suck the wind out of the economy.
You can take the report or leave it, but what you can’t ignore is the political ramifications.
This report amounts to nothing short of a credibility arrow in the neck of a Democratic Party that has bet control of Congress on the perceived success of the Affordable Care Act.
Up to this point, Democrats have used the CBO to say that the Affordable Care Act isn’t as bad as it initially looks. It’ll work eventually, they say. Give it time.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank devilishly illustrates this "CBO defense" by digging up a few of the past headlines that Democrats loved:
"CBO Confirms Families Will Save Money Under Health Reform."
"CBO Update Shows Lower Costs for the New Health Care Law."
"CBO Confirms: The Health Care Law Reduces the Deficit."
But now comes the newest CBO report and, well, it writes new headlines.
"CBO says Obamacare kills 2+ million full-time jobs by 2017."
"CBO: 31 million Americans still without health care insurance by 2024."
"CBO: With Obamacare, everyone will lose the plans they liked."
"CBO confirms: Obamacare tax targets union workers for paycheck cut."
What is a loyal Democrat to do?
Well, to remain consistent CBO cheerleaders, Democrats — starting with President Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi — should on Monday morning call for a halt to the ACA, because the CBO says quite clearly that Obamacare is doing a "tick, tick, tick" on the economy.
But that’s about as likely to happen as Denver Broncos executive John Elway saying, "We played as good as we can play in the Super Bowl."
Instead, President Obama, Sen. Reid and Rep. Pelosi won’t seriously address the CBO report. That’s because leaders of consistency, honesty and integrity are an endangered political species these days.
Party loyalty is more important than doing the right thing or getting to the truth. Democrats will go down with the Obamacare ship, so to speak, no matter what the CBO analysis reveals.
Instead, Democrat incumbents in Congress seeking re-election, as well as Democrat challengers looking to unseat Republican incumbents, will scramble this week to retool campaign messages in an effort to mitigate the new CBO report.
Zero of them, sadly, will flat-out run against Obamacare.
Interestingly, there was a bit of good news for Democrats in the new CBO report.
Washington Post health writer Sarah Kliff reports that "The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the federal government will take in $16 billion from health plans that are essentially making a profit on the exchange — and will redistribute $8 billion to other insurers running a loss. That means $8 billion in new savings for the federal government."
It’s a small morsel, but it raises the question: Can you find succor in the bailout news, but reject the CBO’s dire economic warnings?
The bottom line for regular folks trying to understand the latest CBO report is this: Obamacare remains a dangerous wildcard for the American economy. It was legislatively conjured by one party and one party alone. The geniuses in that party rushed to pass it. They did not even read it. So here we sit flying aboard a half-built monstrosity of an airplane with President "HealthCare.Gov" Obama in the left cockpit seat.
It’s time to quickly and gently land this beast, if we can; pull it into a hangar; stuff it full of CBO reports and mothball the whole foolish experiment like one of those old Howard Hughes planes.
That is, of course, if you believe the CBO.
Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame, writes a column for Stephens Media. Read his blog at www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/sherman-frederick.