January 13, 2017
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Congressional Republicans are about to be confronted with the first great choice of the Trump era, and it will be interesting to see if they can apply the lessons of the November 8th victory and the country’s desire for real change.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is simply incompatible with the Trump era.
President-elect Trump won as an entrepreneurial change agent who would “drain the swamp”, get Washington under control, take charge of the bureaucracies, and get things done in an entrepreneurial, common sense way.
The Congressional Budget Office is the opposite of these commitments.
It is a left-wing, corrupt, bureaucratic defender of big government and liberalism. Its scoring of ObamaCare was not just wrong, it was clearly corrupt. CBO literally brought in the architect of ObamaCare to be the adviser on scoring the very Obamacare legislation that he helped write. The score was a lie. It was so wrong it was totally indefensible. A year later the CBO produced a new score that was so much more expensive that it was clear ObamaCare would have been defeated if it had been the original score.
In the four years during which I was Speaker of the House, CBO was consistently difficult to work with. If we hadn’t fought with them constantly we would never have balanced the budget.
President-elect Trump presents a perfect test case for CBO in one of his best stories, the repairing of the Wollman Rink in Central Park.
This story is told brilliantly in Trump’s bestselling book, The Art of the Deal.
Every citizen should read the chapter on fixing the Wollman Rink.
In 1980 the skating rink stopped making ice.
For six years at a cost of $13 million dollars the city bureaucracy failed to fix it. The very sophisticated, expensive system they installed did not work. You could tell it did not work because there was no ice.
Trump’s penthouse looks out over Central Park. He got tired of looking at the empty skating rink so he began taunting Mayor Koch in the newspapers.
Finally, Mayor Koch responded, saying the city would give Trump $3 million and six months to fix the skating rink.
What tells a lot about Trump and Trumpism was his reaction to Mayor Koch’s challenge.
Trump admits he did not know anything about fixing ice skating rinks. He also knew he had to solve the situation or be ridiculed.
There is a great deal to learn about President-elect Trump from studying his thought process.
He asked himself, ‘Who fixes ice skating rinks?’
He concluded, Canadians – because of their great love of hockey.
He then found the Canadian firm that had built the most ice skating rinks for the NHL.
Everyone recommended the same firm.
Trump called the company and their CEO explained the principles of building ice skating rinks.
The Canadians flew in and were astonished at how dumb the New York City bureaucracy had been.
Within four months, for $2,250,000, the Wollman Rink was fixed. In its first year back, 225,000 people used the rink.
If we are truly moving into the Trump era, we must confront the amazing public policy implications of this story.
An entrepreneurial, problem solving, red tape cutting approach had solved the skating rink for 1/5 the cost in 1/18 the time.
How would the Congressional Budget Office accurately score the Trump approach?
All the current estimates for the wall with Mexico assume traditional bureaucracy with traditional red tape moving at traditional speed (ultra slow).
All the current projections for getting back to the moon and on to Mars are based on NASA red tape, NASA bureaucracy, and a system so badly run we currently put American astronauts on the space station using Russian rockets.
Every reform effort will get a false score from CBO.
It is impossible for the current CBO to come anywhere close to an honest, accurate score of a red tape cutting, entrepreneurially hard charging system.
The current obsolete, inaccurate, and dishonest CBO bureaucracy should be replaced with two bold reforms.
First, a competitive system of bidding should provide three to five scores for every legislative proposal. Over time, the projections should be measured against reality and the worst performers should be dropped while new performers should be added.
Second, all the secret formulas which CBO today refuses to release should be made public.
In the modern information age, it should be possible for anyone to work through the scoring conventions and produce their own estimates.
Recognizing the importance of the Wollman Rink example and insisting on replacing the Congressional Budget Office would be a bold step in the right direction for Congressional Republicans.
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