President Joe Biden and top Democrats selling the president's agenda promised for weeks that Biden's multitrillion-dollar "Build Back Better" social spending bill would be fully financed.
Now, Democrats are preparing themselves for a score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that puts the lie to those claims.
What did Democrats claim?
Top Democrats, including Biden, said Americans should not worry about the eye-popping price tag of the legislation. Why worry, they claimed, when the bill costs nothing?
Aside from being an obtuse argument that defied basic laws of mathematics, nuanced arguments of the position explained that tax hikes on the wealthy would offset the trillions of dollars of spending. Therefore, Democrats claimed, the bill would not actually add to the deficit or national debt.
What is the CBO saying?
While the CBO has not officially scored the plan, CBO Director Phillip Swagel said Monday that the bill — which now has a price tag of $1.85 trillion after lawmakers shaved off waste that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) refused to support — will not be fully financed.
To help finalize the massive spending plan, Biden wants to empower the Internal Revenue Service to receive information from banks to allegedly catch tax evaders. First, lawmakers proposed that every bank account with annual transactions exceeding $600 would be flagged by the IRS. After pushback, the threshold was raised to $10,000 in annual transactions, which still means almost every bank account in the U.S. The Biden administration claimed routine salary deposits wouldn't count toward the limit.
However, the CBO is expected to say when it releases its full assessment that the IRS proposal will "yield far less [revenue] than what the White House was counting on to help pay for its bill — about $120 billion over a decade versus the $400 billion that the administration is counting on," the New York Times reported.
The significance of the finding cannot be understated: Biden promised the bill would be fully paid for, but the nonpartisan budget office says that's not true to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars — at least.
How is the administration responding?
The Biden administration is already telling the public to ignore the CBO's assessment, claiming it is too conservative and underestimates the revenue possibilities created by a more aggressive IRS.
In fact, the position of the Biden administration is that economic policy experts and the bona fide mathematic geniuses at the CBO are wrong.
"In this one case, I think we've made a very strong empirical case for CBO not having an accurate score," Ben Harris, Treasury's assistant secretary for economic policy, told the Times. "The question is would they rather go with CBO knowing CBO is wrong, or would they want to target the best information they could possibly have?"
The CBO is expected to publish its full score of the bill by Friday.