The CBO-CBA Analogy, or What Wonks Could Learn from Each Other

From: Notice & Comment | A Blog from the Yale Journal on Regulation and the ABA Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice

by Jennifer Nou


Like the CBO Director, the OIRA Administrator is often a punching bag for both the Left and the Right. When you’re trying to maintain a reputation for nonpartisan number-crunching, you can’t please everyone. And like CBO, OIRA must also make predictions about the future amidst uncertainty: How many companies will go out of business as a result of technology-forcing requirements? How many people will no longer get lung cancer as a result of tobacco warning labels? These judgments require answers to hard questions about the right modeling assumptions, discount rates, and time horizons.

One striking aspect of the recent CBO controversy has been how much it shows the potential for participants in both processes, CBO and CBA, to learn from each other. (As someone who worked at OIRA, I know more about the latter than the former, so will pitch some of the analogous questions to the CBO experts out there.) Sure, there are analytical differences between budgetary and regulatory costs, but at a higher level of generality, note that the CBO-CBA analogy becomes more acute in light of the aforementioned need for OIRA to consider regulatory as opposed to fiscal “budgets.” Here are three areas of potential overlap, but there are surely more—perhaps the topic of future posts: 

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