The CBO does not, however, score proposals by political candidates, and that is part of the problem. In the runup to the pre-election debates between Obama and Romney, both sides should agree to submit detailed budget proposals in the correct format for CBO assessment. The relevant congressional committees should also agree to this exercise.
If one presidential candidate refuses to cooperate in this manner, that should confer an advantage on the candidate who is willing to disclose more fully the specifics of his plan. And, to make this pressure to disclose meaningful, part of one debate should focus on budget proposals, with the questions being structured around how the CBO has reacted to specifics. If either candidate does not want to bring the national debt under control, he should be pressed to explain why.
This is not a matter only for the world’s largest economies. Candidates to lead their countries should not be allowed to get away with speaking in generalities or engaging in vague rhetorical flourishes. Democracy can and should be better than that.
Simon Johnson, a former chief economist at the IMF, is cofounder of a leading economics blog, http://BaselineScenario.com, and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.
Copyright: Project Syndicate