Articles Posted in Commentary and Opinion

On April 10, 2024, CBO’s Director, Phillip Swagel, testified before the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch regarding the Congressional Budget Office’s request for appropriations for fiscal year 2025. This posting includes a summary of the Director’s testimony followed by a link to his complete testimony and links to supporting documents.


Chairman Amodei, Ranking Member Espaillat, and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Congressional Budget Office’s budget request. CBO requests appropriations of $73.5 million for fiscal year 2025: About 89 percent would be for pay and benefits; 7 percent would be for information technology (IT); and 4 percent would be for training, expert consultant services, office supplies, and other items. The request amounts to an increase of $3.5 million, or 5 percent, from the $70 million that CBO received for 2024. That increase would address increased costs brought about by inflation, sustain investments in IT infrastructure, and enable CBO to expand its staff in key areas.

According to responses to the 2024 ABA Survey of Civic Literacy, 74% of individuals surveyed said that U.S. democracy is weaker than it was five years ago. Most blamed misinformation, disinformation, and political parties for contributing to this result. The survey is released each year to mark Law Day, observed annually on May 1. The responses are from a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,000 respondents from March 4-9. Here is an overview of some of the results as reported by the ABA on their website: followed by a link to the full text of the survey.

Democracy “A large majority — 74% — said U.S. democracy is weaker today than it was five years ago. Only 13% said it is stronger. Among those who said our democracy is weaker, nearly 1 in 3 (31%) said the primary cause is misinformation and disinformation. Nearly as many (29%) blamed the political parties. Less than 10% blamed social media or lack of civility. The survey also asked who should be primarily responsible for safeguarding our democracy. More than a third (37%) said it is mainly the responsibility of the general public — yet half of all respondents (exactly 50%) said the general public is not very informed about how democracy works.

The United States has an important lead in the development of artificial intelligence that is crucial to the country’s economy and national security, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said at the American Bar Association’s 39th National Institute on White Collar Crime in San Francisco. “The Justice Department’s first job is to protect that lead and to protect our intellectual property,”… . According to Garland, “the Justice Department just will not tolerate theft of trade secrets in the area of artificial intelligence.”

From the ABA announcement:

During a fireside chat with Kenneth A. Polite Jr., former assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, Garland announced that the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California had unsealed an indictment against a Chinese national who is charged with stealing AI-related intellectual property and trade secrets from Google.Garland said AI and other evolving technologies have “great promise and the risk of great harm … including algorithmic discrimination that AI can foster and the way in which it can accelerate the cyberattacks that are happening daily, even ‘minutely,’ on our companies, on our law firms, on our departments of the government and on our military.”

A presentation by Chapin White, CBO’s Director of Health Analysis, at the David Rogers Health Policy Colloquium, Weill Cornell Medicine.


This presentation provides a brief look at Congressional Budget Office’s work related to federal spending on health care and the recent slowdown in the growth of such spending. It also discusses the types of new research that could be useful in explaining that slowdown and in answering other health-related questions for the Congress. It contains important information for all who are interested in monitoring research related to this subject.

Eyewitness accounts, once considered a gold standard, have faced increasing scrutiny due to their susceptibility to memory errors and biases. Forensic evidence, while highly valuable, comes with its own set of limitations, such as the time-consuming nature of analysis and the potential for contamination.

Enter the age of technology, which has drastically altered the way law enforcement approaches suspect identification. Innovations in data collection, processing, and analysis have paved the way for faster and more accurate identification techniques. The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) technology has proven particularly transformative, revolutionizing the field of criminal investigations.

Eyewitness identification remains a cornerstone of criminal justice, despite its well-documented weaknesses. Human memory is fallible, susceptible to stress, suggestion, and bias. Artificial intelligence (AI) offers a potential revolution in this domain, but its impact is a double-edged sword.

The death penalty remains a highly contested issue in the United States, with arguments raging on both sides. However, beyond the ethical and legal debates lies a lesser-known aspect: the phenomenon of failed executions. These attempts, often characterized by prolonged suffering and technical difficulties, raise serious concerns about the very concept of a humane and constitutional capital punishment system.

Historically, the U.S. has employed various methods for execution, each with its own share of botched attempts. The electric chair, implemented in the late 19th century, witnessed numerous cases where the condemned endured extended periods of agony due to malfunctions or improper application. Lethal injection, the current primary method, has also been plagued by issues. From 2000 to 2020, an estimated 7% of all lethal injection executions were classified as botched, often involving prolonged struggles to establish an intravenous line, raising concerns about unnecessary suffering inflicted upon the condemned. It is estimated that 3% of U.S. executions in the period from 1890 to 2010 were botched.

The case of Thomas Eugene Creech in Idaho in 2023 exemplifies the harrowing realities of failed executions. Despite repeated attempts by medical personnel, a suitable vein could not be located for lethal injection, forcing the execution to be halted. This incident, like many others, highlights the inherent fallibility of the execution process where unforeseen complications can transform the intended punishment into an act of torture. In his article in Verdict discussing this case, Austin Sarat, a professor of jurisprudence and political science at Amherst College, argues that “systemic issues and denial by state officials perpetuate the cruelty and inefficiency of lethal injections, urging an acknowledgment of its failures and a cessation of its use for capital punishment”.


Medicare, the federal health insurance program in the United States, serves millions of Americans, providing essential healthcare coverage for seniors and certain individuals with disabilities. However, with its vast reach and substantial funding, Medicare is also a target for fraud and deception. Fraudulent activities not only drain taxpayer dollars but also jeopardize the integrity of the healthcare system and endanger patient well-being. To combat these threats, Medicare employs various strategies and initiatives aimed at detecting, preventing, and prosecuting instances of fraud and deception.  Yet, some people would argue the since Medicare loses billions of dollars every year to fraud, waste, and abuse, they could do a better job at preventing fraud.


Microsoft has sponsored and published a valuable collection of essays on the future of AI written by a  group of experts, with specialties encompassing a broad spectrum—spanning the fields of business, economics, education, engineering, healthcare, history, law, mathematics, medicine, mental health, psychology, and the sciences—to explore the capabilities of GPT-4 before its public release and provide their insightful reflections” on the future of AI. The collection includes an Introduction, Reflections on AI and the Future of Human Flourishing. by Eric Horvitz, Chief Scientist at Microsoft.

Experts who participated  in this project were asked to consider the following two questions when preparing their essays:

How might this technology and its successors contribute to human flourishing?


The polarization of American politics has become a prominent and concerning trend in recent years. This post aims to explore the multifaceted factors contributing to the polarization of American politics, analyzing historical, social, economic, and institutional elements. By understanding the roots of this polarization, policymakers, scholars, and citizens can work towards fostering a more cohesive and collaborative political environment.

Historical Factors:

Presiding Justice Hector D. LaSalle and the Justices of the Appellate Division, Second Department on January 11, 2024, announced the creation of a Task Force to study

the interplay of artificial intelligence and the courts of the Appellate Division, Second Department. The Task Force will meet with experts in the field of artificial intelligence

and propose recommendations on how the Appellate Division, Second Department and the trial courts within its jurisdiction may best utilize reliable artificial intelligence

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