Imagine how different our national health care debate would be if there were no Congressional Budget Office. Without its widely respected assessments of the costs and benefits of each Republican proposal, we’d be adrift in a sea of competing claims. Every left- and right-leaning think tank would have its own analysis, every industry group its own numbers, and every lawmaker the chance to pick his or her preferred truth.
In other words, very much like the perennial situation here in Massachusetts, where there is no CBO-equivalent, no nonpartisan agency set up to score legislative ideas and proposals.
To get a sense for why this matters, consider the Beacon Hill standoff over how much to tax marijuana.