Download the WSB Radio App and Enable Push Notifications for Storm Updates




H 68° L 44°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day
    Current Conditions
    Thundershowers. H 68° L 44°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day
    Thundershowers. H 68° L 44°
  • heavy-rain-day
    Chance of Rain. H 56° L 44°

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

National Govt & Politics
The suddenly controversial world of budget estimates

The suddenly controversial world of budget estimates

The suddenly controversial world of budget estimates
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

The suddenly controversial world of budget estimates

Mentioning the Congressional Budget Office these days as a reporter is akin to sending out a link to an article from the Washington Post or the New York Times, as my social media responses on Facebook and Twitter immediately fill with outrage from my listeners and readers at the mere mention of a CBO cost estimate.

That was demonstrated again on Thursday, when I reported on the latest CBO review of a President's budget; in this case, President Donald Trump's budget plan, issued back in May.

In that budget, Mr. Trump's team predicted it would show a $16 billion surplus in 2027, balancing the federal budget in ten years.

The CBO found something much different, that the Trump budget would show - not a surplus in 2027 - but a $720 billion deficit that year.

Jamie Dupree


Jamie Dupree

It didn't take long for the social media barbs to rain down on me.

"Why do you give the CBO any credibility?!" one person wrote.

"Since when has the CBO been right about anything?" another added on Twitter.

"Because the CBO was so right about Obamacare," read one comment.

But even the White House has said nice things about the work of the Congressional Budget Office - along with the Joint Committee on Taxation - which slogs through all sorts of budget reviews of bills in the Congress, how they would impact Congressional spending and overall federal revenues.

For example - this was from late June at the White House:

Jamie Dupree


Jamie Dupree

So, let's look at CBO budget projections in recent years, and whether or not they have come close to predicting the correct level of budget deficits.

1. CBO budget review from March 2010. In the CBO review of President Barack Obama's budget plan for Fiscal Year 2011, the CBO made the following budget deficit projections - the first figure is the CBO deficit estimate, the figure in parentheses is what the deficit actually was that year.

2010 - $1.5 trillion ($1.294 trillion)

2011 - $1.34 trillion ($1.300 trillion)

2012 - $914 billion ($1.087 trillion)

2013 - $747 billion ($680 billion)

2014 - $724 billion ($483 billion)

2015 - $793 billion ($438 billion)

2016 - $894 billion ($585 billion)

In this 2010 review, the CBO was almost exactly right on the 2011 deficit, too low on the actual 2012 shortfall, and then estimated a deficit that was too high in years after that.

2. CBO budget review from early 2011.

2011 - $1.425 trillion ($1.300 trillion)

2012 - $1.164 trillion ($1.087 trillion)

2013 - $901 billion ($680 billion)

2014 - $764 billion ($483 billion)

2015 - $748 billion ($438 billion)

2016 - $841 billion ($585 billion)

2017 - $870 billion

In the 2011 estimate, the CBO was close in 2012, but well above the actual deficit figures for the next four years.

3. CBO budget review from early 2012.

2012 - $1.253 trillion ($1.087 trillion)

2013 - $977 billion ($680 billion)

2014 - $702 billion ($483 billion)

2015 - $539 billion ($438 billion)

2016 - $529 billion ($585 billion)

2017 - $488 billion

2018 - $510 billion

After being too high on deficit estimates, the CBO numbers got closer by 2015 from this 2012 projection, and then underestimated the deficit in 2016.

4. CBO budget review from early 2013.

2013 - $669 billion ($680 billion)

2014 - $675 billion ($483 billion)

2015 - $437 billion ($438 billion)

2016 - $413 billion ($585 billion)

2017 - $399 billion

2018 - $427 billion

In the first few projections we looked at, the CBO was often too pessimistic about the deficit. The 2013 estimate did the same for 2014, nailed the deficit almost to the dollar figure in 2015, and then underestimated the deficit for 2016 (and likely 2017 and 2018 as well).

5. CBO budget review from early 2014.

2014 - $506 billion ($483 billion)

2015 - $509 billion ($438 billion)

2016 - $548 billion ($585 billion)

2017 - $539 billion

2018 - $551 billion

2019 - $648 billion

CBO wasn't far off with their 2014 budget deficit predictions, going over but fairly close in 2014 and 2015, and then under in 2016. Their 2017 number will probably turn out to be too low as well.

6. CBO budget review from early 2015.

2015 - $486 billion ($438 billion)

2016 - $380 billion ($585 billion)

2017 - $401 billion

2018 - $435 billion

2019 - $511 billion

2020 - $574 billion

The 2015 review was fairly close in that fiscal year, but then continues the CBO's recent projections that were too rosy - 2016's deficit estimate was too low, and 2017 will be as well.

7. CBO budget review from early 2016.

2016 - $529 billion ($585 billion)

2017 - $433 billion

2018 - $383 billion

2019 - $518 billion

2020 - $585 billion

2021 - $651 billion

The deficit turned out to be worse than expected for 2016 in this projection, and the 2017 (and maybe 2018) figures also look to be too low in terms of the deficit.

8. CBO budget review from May 2017.

2017 - $693 billion

2018 - $593 billion

2019 - $689 billion

2020 - $664 billion

2021 - $692 billion

2022 - $745 billion

This was the projection done on the first budget from President Donald Trump. The 2017 figure is along the lines of where the deficit is heading in the current fiscal year. Depending on what the Congress does - and how the economy responds, we'll see about the other figures.

Is the CBO right all the time? No. But they aren't dead wrong all the time either.

On Capitol Hill, they are regarded by many - along with the Joint Committee on Taxation - as a very effective group in estimating revenue and budget numbers.

Even the White House - which has been critical of CBO health insurance coverage estimates - has praised the work of the CBO on budget and revenue issues.

"CBO is strictly nonpartisan," it says on the agency website, touting "objective, impartial analysis," and stating that it "hires its employees solely on the basis of professional competence without regard to political affiliation."

Read More


  • Who will sit on the Iron Throne when “Game of Thrones” ends its run later this year? You can -- well, sort of. >> Read more trending news  A student at a Kentucky welding school built a 200-pound replica of the Iron Throne as a wedding gift for his wife, WLKY reported. He is also renting it out, the television station reported. Michael Hayes is a student at the Knight School of Welding in Louisville. He and his instructors spent nearly 110 hours over two months to craft the throne, which includes 400 swords, WLKY reported. The school funded the project, which cost $7,000. The throne is not made of iron or steel, but aluminum, otherwise “it would pretty much stay wherever it sat,' Hayes told the television station. Hayes said he made the throne as a wedding gift for his wife, Kacie Hayes. 'The show is one of the first things my wife and I bonded over,” Michael Hayes told WLKY. “It's a really important thing to us.” >>  Social media reacts to season premiere of ‘Game of Thrones’ The throne was a centerpiece at the Hayes’ wedding, and the couple struck a pose similar to ones by “Game of Thrones” characters Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. 'Besides the awesome fact that my wife pretty much does look like Daenerys, especially when she's in her get-up,” Michael Hayes told WLKY. “It made it all the more awesome when I could see her sitting in the throne and doing her thing. It's just been awesome.” Hayes said if you want to rent the throne, email him at, WLKY reported.
  • “I am in the middle of the expressway with a donkey,” an Illinois deputy said Wednesday, agitated as she called for backup. >> Read more trending news  The Cook County Sheriff’s deputy was not referring to a driver on I-90. She was seeking help after a real donkey escaped from a trailer shortly before noon, WBBM reported. Body cam footage showed the deputy trying to coax the donkey, named Dusty, to the side of the road, away from vehicles barreling down the interstate, the television station reported. “Come here, come here, sweetie,” the deputy told the donkey. She then radioed her dispatcher, telling officials that “You wanna call the state or something, somebody lost their donkey, county,” WMAQ reported. >> Two donkeys found mauled to death in Louisville According to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office Twitter account, Dusty, was safely returned to his owner.
  • An Australian man rescued his 14-month-old son Friday, after the child was dragged away from his bed by a wild dingo, 9News Australia reported. >> Read more trending news  The toddler was sleeping inside a camper on a remote area of Fraser Island in Queensland when two of the wild dogs entered the vehicle. One of them bit the child’s neck, Radio New Zealand reported. Paramedic Ben Du Toit said the dingo began dragging the child into the bush, 9News Australia reported. 'The parents awoke with the toddler crying and heard the crying getting further away from the campervan,' Du Toit told the network. The child’s father ran outside and rescued the boy from the jaws of the dog, CNN reported. The boy suffered two deep cuts to the top of his neck and minor cuts to his scalp, Radio New Zealand reported. He was airlifted to a hospital for treatment and was in stable condition, CNN reported. 'If it wasn't for the parents and their quick thinking and fighting off the dingoes, he probably would have had more severe injuries,' Lifeflight pilot Frank Bertoli said at a news conference.
  • A Texas woman was sentenced to 15 years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to stealing $1.3 million from the Fort Worth Stockyards Rodeo, using the money to finance vacations and two motorcycles, WFAA reported. >> Read more trending news  D’Ann Elizabeth Wagner, of Fort Worth, was a bookkeeper for the rodeo, the television station reported. She was sentenced in Tarrant County District Court. According to prosecutors, Wagner used a PayPal account on the rodeo’s website she set up and was linked to her personal information, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. PayPal issued a debit card to manage the money, which Wagner used for her personal use, the newspaper reported. Investigators found more than 11,000 transactions between January 2014 and March 2017, totaling more than $1.3 million. She used the money for vacations and gambling, bought two Harley-Davidson motorcycles and made other unspecified purchases, WFAA reported. “This defendant stole more than six times the minimum threshold for this first-degree felony charge,” Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Brooke Panuthos said in a statement. “She had 11,000 chances to stop her criminal behavior and stop stealing from employers who trusted her. She showed no conscience and no remorse for her actions.”
  • A Michigan man accused of intentionally shooting his 2-year-old son in the face was arraigned in court Thursday, MLive reported. >> Read more trending news  Michael Christopher Glance, 32, is charged with three counts each of assault with intent to murder and felony firearms, the website reported. He is being held in lieu of a $10 million bond, WILX reported. The incident occurred in Blackman Township on Tuesday, the television station reported. It happened while Glance allegedly was arguing with Nicole McCarthy, the boy’s mother, MLive reported. “For whatever reason, Mr. Glance decided to take his anger out on his 2-year-old child that day,” Jackson County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kati Rezmierski said in court. During an argument between the couple, Glance allegedly held a pistol to his son’s temple and pulled the trigger, Rezmierski said. The gun did not fire, she said. McCarthy took the boy to her car and put him in his car seat, MLive reported. She was getting ready to leave when Glance allegedly came out of the couple’s home with a shotgun and fired at their son, according to the website. The child was taken to a hospital and was in critical condition, WILX reported.
  • City council members in a Denver suburb voted to approve a name change for a neighborhood that has been called Swastika Acres, KDVR reported. >> Read more trending news  Cherry Hills Village City Council members Tuesday voted unanimously to change the subdivision name to Old Cherry Hills, the television station reported. Swastika Acres was named decades before the symbol was adopted by the Nazis, KDVR reported. However, the subdivision’s name is only apparent in real estate closing documents, according to the television station. “Some buyers are savvy enough to read the documents and really dig in and understand what their legal description of their property is,” Cherry Hills Village councilman Dan Sheldon told KDVR. “That’s the only way you’d know.” According to Sheldon, the subdivision name derived from the Denver Land Swastika Company, which divided the land into plots at the turn of the 20th century. “There was nothing wrong with (the name) at that time,” Sheldon told KDVR.