Really Bad Immigration Bill Numbers at the Washington Post

The Post had an article on the Congressional Budget Office�s (CBO) estimate of the cost of the recently passed Senate immigration bill that was sure to mislead anyone who reads it. The article�s headline warns that CBO estimated the 10-year cost at $126 billion.

This headline not only commits the common sin of scaring readers with a big number outside of any context (the spending is less than 0.4 percent of projected federal spending), it also fundamentally misrepresents the CBO report. The report is very clear that there was a mistake in the wording of the bill. The $126 billion is an estimate based on the mistaken wording.

CBO did a separate estimate that is based on the intention of the sponsors of the bill, as conveyed to them from conversations with the key sponsors of the bill and their staff. The net cost of the bill under this estimate is less than $35 billion over the next decade, or less than 0.1 percent of projected spending.

Members of Congress may not be the brightest lights in the world, but it is reasonable to assume that they would have fixed the bill before its final approval. The $35 billion figure (0.1 percent of projected spending) should have been the headline for this article.

--Dean Baker

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