ICYMI: Groundwork’s Lindsay Owens Caps Off The American Prospect’s Special Issue on Economic Policy Models

April 14, 2023

Owens: “It’s the CBO’s world, and Congress is just living in it.”

Today, Groundwork Collaborative’s Executive Director Lindsay Owens concluded The American Prospect’s April special issue, “Washington’s Secret Policy Engine,” with her piece, “Ripping Off the Invisible Straitjacket.” In the piece, Dr. Owens highlights the pernicious roles that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) play in our policy debates – and why we need to fix our modeling system to deliver an economy that truly works for all of us.

Over the last two weeks, The Prospect published 10 feature stories uncovering the distorting power of current macroeconomic models, their outsized impact on Washington policymaking, and how to formulate new models that will lead to a healthier and more equitable economy for all of us. Read all 10 articles featured in the April 2023 issue here and RSVP for the issue launch party in Washington, D.C. on April 18 here.

KEY EXCERPTS (Read the entire article here)

“Senators, congresspeople, and their staffs are supposed to be the engines of legislative policymaking, responding to and accountable to the preferences of their constituents. CBO is supposed to be the camera, taking a look at these policies and reflecting back their impacts on the federal budget and the broader economy. Over the last few decades, the roles have reversed, with members of Congress simply writing policy that reflects back what modelers and scorekeepers dictate. It’s the CBO’s world, and Congress is just living in it.”

“Sometimes the right thing to do (e.g., saving the planet) is obvious, and when this is the case our elected leaders can and should say so. And while economic estimates and budget scores may be helpful…the fact that the United States should invest in our future should be self-evident. When common sense, or a gut check, or even a smell test will suffice, Congress should not overcomplicate it.”

“Until we adopt a better set of modeling tools, and rightsize the role of models and modelers as gatekeepers in our policymaking process, we’ll continue to underdeliver for Americans, achieving consistently suboptimal policy results.”