Sean Spicer Parrots Right-Wing Media Attacks Against The CBO Now That It Doesn't Fit Trump's Agenda

White House press secretary Sean Spicer attacked the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) claiming that if the office has “any kind of authority [that] is a little far-fetched.” Spicer’s dismissal of the CBO’s credibility follows years of misrepresentations and attacks against the CBO by right-wing media figures. In fact, Spicer himself and President Donald Trump have cited CBO analysis to boost their agenda.”

Sean Spicer Attacks The Congressional Budget Office As Inaccurate

Spicer: “If You're Looking At The CBO For Accuracy, You're Looking In The Wrong Place.” On March 8, The Hill reported that White House press secretary Sean Spicer “questioned the work of the independent Congressional Budget Office,” and told reporters that “if you're looking at the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place.”

The White House on Wednesday questioned the work of the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) ahead of its widely anticipated estimate for the GOP's bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

White House press Sean Spicer said the scorekeeper was “way off last time” in its cost estimate of the Affordable Care Act, arguing its numbers on the Republicans’ replacement should not be taken as the final word.

“If you're looking at the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place,” Spicer said. [The Hill, 3/8/17]

Right-Wing Media Has Attacked The CBO For Years

Glenn Beck Mocks CBO Score Of Health Care Reform: “Well, That's A Party In My Pants.” On the March 18, 2010, edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck, Beck asked, “How would the CBO numbers even make any difference? You know, 'Only 900 and' -- what is it -- '$954 billion.' Oh. Well, that's a party in my pants. Thank you for sending that one by. How does that make a difference?” [The Glenn Beck Show, 3/18/10]

Steve Doocy: "[C]an You Really Rely On The Numbers That The Congressional Budget Office Comes Out With?" On the March 19, 2010, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed, “Democrats say it will reduce the deficit by more than $100 billion over the first decade.” After guest host Dana Perino responded by saying, “Well, but there are other members who say that it actually will cost $2.4 trillion over the 10 years once you add it all up,” Doocy asked, “Because, can you really rely on the numbers that the Congressional Budget Office comes out with?” [Fox & Friends, 3/19/10]

Perino: "[C]an We Trust These Numbers?" Introducing an interview with Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) on the March 19, 2010, edition of Fox & Friends, Perino said, “Nine hundred and forty billion dollars over the next decade. That's the preliminary price tag for the Democrats' health care bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It also says the plan will cut the federal deficit by $130 billion in that time, but can we trust these numbers?” [Media Matters, 3/19/10]

Peter Johnson Jr.: “I Don't Expect Or Anticipate That Their Numbers Are Real.” On the March 19, 2010, edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said that the “average person” would say, "[I]f a plan costs $940 billion, tell me how I'm saving 130 billion. So it doesn't make any sense." Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. then noted that Perino had asked, “Do we really trust these numbers?” and claimed that “if you read carefully the latest CBO things, they say, 'Well, we don't usually project out another ten years.' And there's so many variables and so many wiggle words that I don't expect or anticipate that their numbers are real.” He later said, “I think we're being spun.” [Media Matters, 3/19/10]

Sean Hannity Calls CBO Score “Budgetary Gimmicks And Tricks.” On the March 18, 2010 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity called the CBO score of the health care bill reflected “budgetary gimmicks and tricks” and said that it is "[f]lat-out dishonest" that the score didn't contain separate legislation that cancels scheduled cuts in Medicare payments to doctors. [Media Matters, 3/18/10]

In 2014, Fox Questioned The CBO’s “Deceiving” Obamacare Projections. Neil Cavuto hosted serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey on the April 14, 2014 edition of Fox’s Your World with Neil Cavuto to assert that the CBO was misinforming Americans about the cost of insurance premiums:

CAVUTO: So what is the CBO looking at? It's limiting it to what they expect it to be, that millions more will sign up under these exchanges, and I guess because of subsidies and special breaks see their premium increases actually stabilize. Do you buy that?

McCAUGHEY: Well, no, I don't buy that. I think the insurance company executives know exactly what they're talking about, and they're worried about the public pushback from these huge premium hikes ahead. That's only part of the bad news. You're also going to see a million people or more default. In other words, they've paid their first premium, but when they discover what it really means to pay a three or five thousand dollar deductible on their plan, they go to their doctor again and again and have to pay full freight even though they're paying their premium, they're going to stop paying their premium.

Another big problem ahead is the 25 to 30 million people who currently get on the job coverage who are going to lose it in the coming months when their employers realize that they're not going to be able to renew those old plans and they're stuck between the very costly Obamacare plans or sending their workers and their families onto the exchanges. And finally, you're going to hear a lot of desperation from cancer patients when they discover these Obamacare exchange plans won't let them go to any specialty cancer hospitals, even though the data show that, for example, women with ovarian cancer live longer when they're treated at a high-volume cancer hospital.

CAVUTO: But the argument that the CBO is raising that all those problems notwithstanding -- they're big ones, it's like saying “Outside that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show?” -- they're still going to see premiums for those in these exchanges go down. But what I did look at in the CBO study, it's all dependent on these special write-offs and allowances and subsidies that those in a certain income group get to give you what seems like a deceiving savings.

McCAUGHEY: That's right, and It's really not a savings, Neil. It's just a cost-shifting. [Media Matters, 4/14/14] “The Entire CBO Mission Is A Charade.” On December 24, 2014, fake news purveyor posted an article claiming that “the politicians (at the behest of the rich) have made sure the Congressional Budget Office is unable to provide accurate predictions … and even if the CBO could perform this task, the results would be useless [because] the entire CBO mission is a charade”:

In short, the politicians (at the behest of the rich) have made sure the Congressional Budget Office is unable to provide accurate predictions about current and future deficits, and even if the CBO could perform this task, the results would be useless.

The entire CBO mission is a charade, created by Congress and President Richard Nixon on July 12, 1974, as part of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act. Ironically, three years earlier, President Nixon had invalidated the future CBO’s mission, when he took the U.S. off its gold standard, and made the government Monetarily Sovereign. [BeforeItsNews, 12/24/14]

Infowars: CBO Underreported Deficit By $4 Trillion Because Of Their “Really Bad Accounting.” In a 2009 post, Infowars attacked the credibility of the CBO, claiming that “the U.S. actually had a budget deficit of 5.1 trillion dollars in 2008” despite the CBO reporting “the federal budget deficit was only 455 billion dollars” at the same time. Infowars concluded that the CBO underreported the deficit because they do “some really bad accounting”:

So why did the Congressional Budget Office report that the federal budget deficit was only 455 billion dollars (which is certainly a total disaster) in 2008?

The difference lies in accounting. The CBO’s figures are based on cash accounting, while the 2008 Financial Report of the United States Government is based on GAAP accounting. GAAP accounting is what is used by all the major firms on Wall Street and it is regarded as a much more accurate reflection of financial reality.

So why is there such a big difference?

Well, what the Congressional Budget Office does is some really bad accounting. When you pay social security taxes, the federal government takes that money and instead of putting it away to pay your social security benefits in the future, it takes that money and spends it however it wants. [Infowars, 2/17/09]

RightWingNews: “There Are Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, And CBO Scores.” A 2011 post on RightWingNews admitted the CBO is not “a left wing hack group,” but still contended their scores “often have very little to do with reality” because of how they are calculated. The post contended that readers should be aware of CBO scores because “their estimates may be off by hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars.” (emphasis original):

5) There are lies, damned lies, statistics, and CBO scores. Is the Congressional Budget Office a left wing hack group that’s trying to mislead people? No, not at all. However, the numbers they put out often have very little to do with reality for a simple reason: Congress writes the rules that they have to go by when they’re making estimates. Then, Congress conveniently takes advantage of the loopholes they’ve created to game the system. It’s like letting hackers write the code for your blog and then scratching your head when someone keeps changing your front page to “N00b, yew aRe thE GHEY” every week.

For example, the reason Obamacare’s services aren’t set to begin until 2014 is largely to game the CBO’s 10 year budget. Then there are Obamacare’s Medicare cuts. Supposedly, they’re going to cut 500 billion dollars from Medicare. Will that ever happen? Who knows? Whether the cut ever happens or not, the CBO has to score it as if it will. Unbelievably, they also have to “double count” the money to make both Medicare and Obamacare look more financially feasible — when, of course, sadly you can only spend it once (Shhhhhh, don’t tell any of the people counting on receiving Social Security a decade from now).

Does that mean CBO numbers are always useless? No, but be aware that it’s extremely easy to game the numbers and because of that, their estimates may be off by hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars. [RightWingNews, 4/19/11]

 Sean Spicer And Donald Trump Have Both Positively Cited The CBO To Push Their Agenda

Spicer In 2016: “Bill Gutting #ObamaCare Would Save Half-Trillion Over A Decade, CBO Finds.”

[Twitter, 6/4/16]

Trump In 2014: “CBO Now Estimates That Over 2.5M Will Lose Jobs Directly Because Of ObamaCare. REPEAL Now Before It Is Too Late.”

[Twitter, 4/18/14]

CBO’s Affordable Care Act Forecast “Proved To Be Reasonably Accurate”

Study: CBO’s Analysis Was Reasonably Accurate And Closer To Reality Than Other Forecasters. In December 2015, The Commonwealth Fund analyzed the CBO’s forecast for the ACA’s  marketplace enrollment, income levels, and health care prices. The study found that the CBO’s forecast “proved to be reasonably accurate:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a nonpartisan agency of Congress, made official projections of the Affordable Care Act’s impact on insurance coverage rates and the costs of providing subsidies to consumers purchasing health plans in the insurance marketplaces. This analysis finds that the CBO overestimated marketplace enrollment by 30 percent and marketplace costs by 28 percent, while it underestimated Medicaid enrollment by about 14 percent. Nonetheless, the CBO’s projections were closer to realized experience than were those of many other prominent forecasters. Moreover, had the CBO correctly anticipated income levels and health care prices in 2014, its estimate of marketplace enrollment would have been within 18 percent of actual experience. Given the likelihood of additional reforms to national health policy in future years, it is reassuring that, despite the many unforeseen factors surrounding the law’s rollout and participation in its reforms, the CBO’s forecast was reasonably accurate.


The Affordable Care Act was a critical step in expanding health insurance coverage, but it is unlikely to be the last national health policy reform considered by Congress. It is therefore reassuring that despite many factors that could not have been foreseen in 2010—such as the ACA’s troubled rollout and the lack of state support—the CBO model proved to be reasonably accurate compared with actual experience and the estimates of other modelers. This should allay concerns of some critics that its forecasts were biased in favor of the Administration. [Commonwealth Fund, 12/15/15]