Transparency is a top priority for CBO. We have long been dedicated to clearly explaining our analyses, and we have continued to bolster our efforts to be transparent over the past year. Now that 2019 is drawing to a close, I’d like to share some highlights.
We enhanced our cost estimates to give readers more context and data. The front pages of most estimates now highlight the specific sources of budgetary effects, and many also discuss the types of uncertainty surrounding our analyses. When it was possible, we also provided more detailed discussion of how actual spending might prove higher or lower than our estimates. We began posting the estimates’ tables in spreadsheet format. Those changes are illustrated in our estimate for S. 1790, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. And as I noted in an earlier blog post, we have made improvements to the section of our website that contains cost estimates.
We also created interactive tools to enhance our transparency, including the following:
- A web page that lets users see how changing Social Security could affect beneficiaries and the system’s finances;
- A table builder that lets users explore data about the income distribution;
- A spreadsheet that takes our projections of the budgetary effects of financial regulation and illustrates how sensitive they are to changes in selected parameters; and
- A web page that lets users see how different approaches to changing the federal minimum wage would affect earnings, employment, family income, and poverty.
We published computer code this year underlying analyses on various topics: business investment, financial regulation, health insurance, the minimum wage, and reverse mortgages. In addition, we published equations and other details from our modeling, such as what we used to estimate the costs of military base operations support. Many of those efforts began while Keith Hall was CBO’s Director. I’m pleased to have kept them going.
There is a full list of our recent transparency efforts—including technical explanations, analyses of the accuracy of our estimates, analyses of the uncertainty of our projections, and others—on our website. Those efforts have three principal goals:
- To promote a thorough understanding of CBO’s analyses through accessible, clear, and detailed communication;
- To help people gauge how CBO’s estimates might change if policies or circumstances differed; and
- To enhance the credibility of the agency’s analyses and processes by showing the underlying data, professional research, and feedback from experts.
We continually seek feedback to make our work as useful as possible. Please send any comments to email@example.com.
Phillip L. Swagel is CBO’s Director.