WHEN DOUGLAS Holtz-Eakin was named to head the Congressional Budget Office almost three years ago, we were -- as we said at the time -- a bit jittery. Mr. Holtz-Eakin was going to the nonpartisan budget office from a stint as the White House chief economist, and he was known as a proponent of dynamic scoring, a method of budget calculation championed by tax-cutting true believers. Now Mr. Holtz-Eakin is leaving the CBO to join the Council on Foreign Relations, and we're sorry to see him go. He has been an honest and clear-thinking director who has resisted political pressures to skew or sugarcoat the difficult policy choices confronting Congress; he's maintained the office's credibility and independence.
On dynamic scoring, Mr. Holtz-Eakin agreed that the economic effects of changes in spending, as well as in taxes, had to be taken into account. The results, however, weren't the dramatic dynamism the Bush administration and its allies had claimed but rather small -- and according to most models, negative -- effects. He insisted that the president's proposed personal Social Security accounts had a cost that had to be reflected on the books; he disputed administration claims that limiting medical malpractice lawsuits would curb health care costs. When the administration started to crow about falling deficits, Mr. Holtz-Eakin urged that the improvement be taken "with a grain of salt," noting the continuing grimness of the long-term outlook.
Mr. Holtz-Eakin's record underlined the value of maintaining at least one nonpartisan broker of budget information in an increasingly partisan town.