Is the CBO Engaged in Partisan Manipulation of Data?

Is the CBO Engaged in Partisan Manipulation of Data?

Economist Lan T. Pham says she was fired from the Congressional Budget Office for “producing work at odds with Wall Street research favored by her supervisors,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

In a letter written to Sen. Charles Grassley, Ms. Pham says that the CBO, which is supposed to be a nonpartisan and objective institution, consistently pressured her to suppress certain information that might be disadvantageous to the Obama Administration and its fundraising allies on Wall Street.

I was repeatedly pressured by the CBO Assistant Director, Deborah Lucas, in charge of the Financial Analysis Division to not write nor discuss issues in the banking sector and mortgage markets that might suggest weakness in these sectors and their consequences on the economy and households

Specifically, Ms. Pham says that the CBO gave her and others explicit instructions as to what they could and could not report on to keep the Obama Administration in the most favorable economic light:
  • Statements could not be made attributing the decline in property tax revenues to foreclosures and the decline in home prices, which runs counter to common sense and the findings by the U.S. Senate Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.
  • Foreclosures had no impact on home prices (negative externalties, spillover effects). This runs counter to common sense, and a prominent national home price index by Corelogic in the CBO’s key database subscription showing clearly the distressed homes component of the index worsens home price declines.
  • The decline in home prices had no impact on household wealth, which runs counter to common sense and the fact that the home is a significant asset or source of ‘wealth’ for most households. According to the Federal Reserve, about $7 trillion in home equity evaporated in the housing collapse.
  • The emerging foreclosure fraud problems in September 2010 were due to media “sensationalism”, “the kind of event of the moment where we should be adding skepticism, not just repeating the hype in the press”, and discussing it “lacks judgment about what is important’

The CBO is remaining hush-hush about its firing of Lan T. Pham, Ph.D.   The Journal reports that the CBO’s 2010 termination letter to Ms. Pham cites her lack of qualifications, “poorly organized” research, and resistance to taking orders from her superiors as the reasons for her firing.

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