Friday, April 8, 2022

Is the Missing ERP Revealing Bad News about Biden's Health?

15 USC 1022(a) requires

"The President shall annually transmit to the Congress not later than 10 days after the submission of the budget ... an economic report (hereinafter in this chapter referred to as the “Economic Report”) together with the annual report of the Council of Economic Advisers...."

Because the budget was submitted March 28, 2022, yesterday was the due date for submitting the 2022 Economic Report of the President.   No report has been released in 2022 and neither the White House nor news media have said anything about this year's report.

CEA, like many other government agencies, is funded with public money.  It should perform its duties as directed by the public through the statutes duly enacted by its representatives in Congress.

Moreover, CEA is unique from most of the rest of the Executive Office of the President in that it is explicitly created and directed by federal statutes.  As it should, this unique statutory basis has elevated CEA's influence within the White House.  But if CEA does not comply with the law, what stops the rest of the bureaucracy from treating CEA as just one of many White House Offices and Councils whose entire existence could be erased at the whim of the President or senior staff?

Why the lack of compliance with 15 USC 1022(a)?  Here are my guesses, beginning with those I assess to be most likely.

  • Biden, who must at least meet with CEA and sign the report, is too feeble to perform all of the duties required of him by law and politics.  Senior staff have made the tough decision as to which laws will not be followed in order to reserve Biden's energy for other duties.
    • I am not the only one to notice that it has been a month since Biden had anything on his public schedule later than mid-afternoon.
    • This theory predicts that no EOP employees get fired.

  • Biden's senior staff views statutes as mere suggestions, and therefore even a minor logistical challenge would be enough to ignore 15 USC 1022(a).
    • This is consistent with the fact that the FY 2023 budget (an OMB product) missed the statutory deadline too, which has occurred before when a President was just coming into office or when the deadline occurred during a government shutdown but (I think) is otherwise unprecedented.
    • Expected punishment is low, under the theory that a Democratic Congress would not hold a Democratic administration accountable.
    • This possibility is the worst for (among other things) the CEA as an institution because then CEA itself becomes a mere suggestion.

  • The draft ERP, which likely began in early 2021, contains something that in hindsight is terribly embarrassing to the Biden administration.  It either needs to be rewritten or released on a day when other news distracts all of the attention.  This is bit unlikely, because the embarrassment would have to be something that the ERP covers that the (much longer) President's Budget does not.  On the other hand, this explanation is complementary with the Biden-debilitation story because likely the President would be needed to adjudicate a serious dispute among senior staff.  [More generally it would be interesting to know how disputes are resolved when POTUS is debilitated.  Does VPOTUS help?]

  • The current CEA is unaware of 15 USC 1022(a) and what actions are required to comply with it.  I doubt this because the CEA chair, Cecilia Rouse, was a CEA member who had helped prepare two prior ERPs (2010 and 2011).

  • The current CEA is aware of 15 USC 1022(a) and the actions are required to comply with it, but proved incapable of doing its part.  I doubt this even more because that puts the President in jeopardy and an army of former CEA staff could have been called to help on a volunteer basis.  More time could have been obtained by going downstairs and asking OMB to delay its budget release, which itself was already past the statutory deadline.

  • Progressives in the administration have objected to even the mildest citation of unintended consequences and the law of demand (mild enough that even Jared Bernstein insists that they be mentioned).  Such objections could likely exist, but very unlikely stop the lawful ERP transmittal because
    • The CEA chair had much time to engage in earnest debate with the rest of the administration  (as CEA 45 often did, sometimes for more than a year).  In the end she could assert her statutory authority to issue the ERP as she and POTUS see fit.
    • Possibly the CEA chair would be willing to fudge the economics for the progressive cause, and therefore the dispute would not be reason to miss the statutory deadline.

Even if the 2022 ERP is transmitted to Congress next week, it will be more than 100 days into the calendar year, as compared to the previous "record" (lawfully) set in 2019 on the 78th day of the year.  96 percent of all previous ERPs (75 in total) had been transmitted by February 23, which is the 54th day of every year.

Update: ERP 2022 was electronically transmitted April 14, 2022, which was the 104th day of the year and 17 days after the budget submission.
  • The Joint Economic Committee is the statutory Congressional receiver of the annual ERP.  The hard copies, which is usually provided to JEC on the official "day of transmittal," was not delivered until April 25, 2022.  This observation adds support to the Biden-disability theory because POTUS at least signs the hard copies.
  • On the other hand, the excellent CEA45 production editor, Al Imhoff, also served in that role for ERP 2022 (see p. 345).  The fact that a second production editor was hired (Kellam worked on Obama-era ERPs) suggests that CEA46 was so late writing its chapters that there was no time for Imhoff to serially process them as he did for CEA45.  This hypothesis is also consistent with the fact that many more of CEA45's chapters were released as stand-alone public reports throughout the year (Imhoff was copy editing many of those too), some of which could be entered into ERP production 4-5 months ahead of the statutory deadline.

1 comment:

Danley Wolfe said...

The CEA has been missing in action and it is also unlikely that the President has any priorty, leave alone care ... or understand the need to report to the general public.

The White House recently the following: "Under President Biden, Cecilia Elena Rouse serves as Chair of the CEA, and Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey serve as members. Together, they are helping steer America's economic recovery and ENSURE THAT OUR NATION BJILDS BACK BETTER."

Biden's "Build Back Better Framework" will cause irreversible damage to the US Economy.