CBO chief shrugs off Dem criticism on wage report

McClatchy Washington BureauFebruary 19, 2014 

Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf

MICHAEL BONFIGLI — The Christian Science Monitor.

— If Douglas Elmendorf has 99 problems, criticism from Democrats over his report this week highlighting the tradeoffs involved in raising the minimum wage is not one of them.

Asked repeatedly Wednesday about criticism from top Democrats and lobby groups about the report's findings, the director of the Congressional Budget Office said "it doesn't have any effect on the work we do." He added that "for much of the work we do there is a range of reactions."

Elmendorf was already unpopular with Democrats for an earlier report that tried to  calculate the future labor-market effects of the Affordable Care Act over the next 10 years. Republicans made hay from it, focusing on the job losses projected as people lowered their hours worked and ignoring the demand side of the report that said on net more jobs would be created.

The criticism grew after the non-partisan CBO released its report Tuesday on the economic effects of raising the minimum wage. The report said the most likely scenario under the president's proposal to raise the minimum hourly wage to $10.10 was that almost 1 million people would be lifted out of poverty but another 500,000 could lose their jobs

The conclusion led to an unusually hostile statement from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The CBO's findings "contradict the  consensus among hundreds of America's top economists, who predict that a wage hike would actually stimulate the economy, raise demand and job growth, and provide help in job creation."

Addressing reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, the CBO chief said he would not answer Pelosi's comments directly. The report, he added, was entirely consistent "with the latest thinking by economists." Those economists that criticized the report, he said, "don't put numbers to their words."

As for comments by some groups that as many as 600 prominent economists supported raising the minimum wage, Elmendorf gave an answer in the language of true wonks.

"That's not a representative sample of economists," he quipped.

When asked about how both political parties were seizing parts of his report and playing loose with the facts, Elmendorf said it was not his job "to be the hall monitor."






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