CBO's Independence

July 23, 2009

In the past few days, I've received many calls and e-mail messages from people around the country commenting on my participation in a meeting this past Monday at the White House. Most of these people expressed their concern about CBO's ability to carry out its responsibilities with its traditional independence and nonpartisanship. I appreciate the interest in CBO's work, so let me try to allay those fears.

The President asked me, and other experts in the room, for our insights into possible ways to reduce the nation's health care spending. The very capable staff at CBO has thought a lot about this subject, and I shared those thoughts with the President. Although the audience was unique, my comments were no different from what we have said publicly on numerous other occasions. The CBO staff and I have offered our thoughts on this subject to the Congress and the public in published reports and letters, and we have discussed them in many meetings with Members of Congress and their staffs of both political parties. Across the range of topics we study, we deliberately spend a lot of time explaining our thinking to policymakers, because we believe that such openness is a responsibility of our agency and can help policymakers to reach better-informed policy decisions. But we never adjust our analysis or conclusions to please our audience (as the reaction to various CBO reports amply demonstrates).

CBO will continue to do what it has always done---provide independent, nonpartisan analysis for the Congress, communicate that information as clearly as possible, and provide as much transparency as possible about our methodology and assumptions. A visit to the White House won't change that a bit!