Republican Pick for CBO Director Draws Mostly Good Reviews
George Mason Professor Keith Hall defended government’s jobless numbers from attacks.
Keith Hall, whom Republican lawmakers on Friday named as the new director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, has a history of defending civil servants against conspiracy theorists’ charges of bias.
Hall, chief economist at the International Trade Commission, is a former Bureau of Labor Statistics commissioner who for two years ending in September 2014 did research at the conservative Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
He was chief economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush and the chief economist for the Commerce Department. At Mercatus, according to a George Mason release, Hall’s research focused on labor markets, labor market policy, and economic data. His Mercatus publications include “Opportunity, Mobility, and Inequality in Today’s Economy,” “Dreams Deferred: Young Workers and Recent Graduates in the U.S. Economy” and “The Employment Costs of Regulations.”
“Keith Hall will bring an impressive level of economic expertise and experience to the Congressional Budget Office,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga. “His vast understanding of economic and labor market policy will be invaluable to the work of CBO and the important role it will continue to play as Congress seeks to enact policies that support a healthy and growing economy.”
A less enthusiastic reaction came from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the ranking Budget Committee member, who said, “Based on Mr. Hall’s writings, it appears that we have very different views on a range of issues and he would not have been my first choice. His opposition to increasing the minimum wage and his resistance to sound strategies for eliminating poverty place him outside the mainstream. That said, I look forward to continuing the important, 40-year tradition of independent and objective budget analysis at the CBO and hope the office will play a valuable role as we continue to work toward policies that help create jobs and protect the middle class.”
Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo, noted that Hall “has dedicated his career to managing teams focused on strengthening the economy by providing policy makers and the public with superior economic analysis and information.”
House Budget Ranking Member Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., congratulated Hall, saying he hopes he will continue the CBO’s “tradition of independent and professional leadership.”
In 2012, Hall came to the defense of the Bureau of Labor Statistics after it was accused of hyping monthly job gains numbers to aid President Obama’s reelection, and for inflating the number of so-called “green jobs” being created. Hall told the Los Angeles Times in October 2012 that dozens and dozens of people are involved in the process of collecting and assessing the data that goes into the unemployment figure. "It would be impossible to manipulate the numbers and not be found out," he said.
On Saturday, The Washington Post editorialized that “Hall’s views appear to be moderately phrased and well within the conservative mainstream. His power to cook the books would be limited in any case by the internal process at the CBO, which relies heavily on professional staff input.”