Dynamic Scoring: Republicans Rig the Rules on Tax Cuts

Jan 12, 2015

Republicans are changing the rules of congressional scorekeeping by requiring CBO and JCT to incorporate “dynamic scoring” into their official estimates of major legislation. They’ve returned to voodoo economics so they can have it both ways – cut taxes and pretend not to increase the deficit.

Economists across the political spectrum have criticized the GOP push toward dynamic scoring:

Ed Kleinbard, former JCT Staff Director, USC professor of law and business: "The Republicans’ interest in dynamic scoring is not the result of a million-economist march on Washington; it comes from political factions convinced that tax cuts are the panacea for all economic ills. They will use dynamic scoring to justify a tax cut that, under conventional scorekeeping, loses revenue.”

Howard Gleckman, Resident Fellow at the Tax Policy Center: “It is important for lawmakers to understand how changes in tax law affect growth. But predicting these outcomes is extremely difficult, in part because they depend on factors that wouldn’t be specified in a reform bill. For instance, if a tax cut increases the deficit, how would that increased borrowing ultimately be repaid—by higher taxes or less spending?  Who’d pay the new taxes? What spending would be cut? And when? The answers matter–a lot.”

Bruce Bartlett, former Reagan and Bush administration official: “It is not about honest revenue-estimating; it’s about using smoke and mirrors to institutionalize Republican ideology into the budget process.”

Paul Krugman, professor of economics at Princeton and NYT columnist: “Well, for years they have relied on magic asterisks — claims that they will make up for lost revenue by closing loopholes and slashing spending, details to follow. But this dodge has been losing effectiveness as the years go by and the specifics keep not coming. Inevitably, then, they’re feeling the pull of that old black magic — and if they take the Senate, they’ll be able to infuse voodoo into supposedly neutral analysis. Would they actually do it? It would destroy the credibility of a very important institution, one that has served the country well. But have you seen any evidence that the modern conservative movement cares about such things?”

…and columnists agree…

Jim Newell, columnist for Salon: “So if you want to do serious, revenue-neutral ‘tax reform,’ but politics scare you away from taking on the biggest deductions, what do you do? Republican supply-siders have the perfect answer, in one of those hilarious Washington phrases that never quite goes away: ‘dynamic scoring.’”

Jamelle Bouie, columnist for Slate: “With the right assumptions, a dynamic score can make tax cuts the free lunch of public policy. For example, in his 2012 Path to Prosperity, Ryan said that his tax cuts and budgetary policies would create ‘nearly 1 million new private-sector jobs,’ bring the unemployment rate down to ‘4 percent by 2015,’ and increase ‘real GDP by $1.5 trillion over the decade.’ The proof? A dynamic score calculated by the right-wing Heritage Foundation.”

Danny Vinik, columnist for The New Republic: “Too often Republicans have used dynamic scoring as a cover for large tax cuts. At that point, dynamic scoring stops being a way to estimate the effects of tax reform and becomes a budget gimmick. In addition, if we stick with static scoring then any additional revenue generated from economic growth could go towards deficit reduction. Republicans are still worried about the deficit, right?”

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114th Congress