Don’t Get Too Excited About the Budget Deal

By Peter R. Orszag

…The story of Youth Opportunity grants demonstrates the risks involved in indiscriminate cutting. The grants were administered, starting in 2000, by the Department of Labor and focused on three dozen disadvantaged communities. An evaluation of the program by Decision Information Resources, Inc., found that it increased educational attainment and work. Unfortunately, though, this evaluation was done only after the program had been discontinued. That is the type of mistake we can little afford as we come under increasingly tight budget constraints.

A recent book I co-edited with Jim Nussle, who was President George W. Bush’s budget director, lays out what we need to do to boost evaluation efforts in government — so that we cut what doesn’t work but retain and even expand what does. “Moneyball for Government” suggests a simple formula: Devote 1 percent of discretionary spending to evaluating the other 99 percent.

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