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Palgrave Macmillan

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The production of policy knowledge in the United States is typically described as fractured and contentious. Yet since 1974, the production of fiscal knowledge in the federal budget process has become more centralized and coordinated. And even as Congress has retrenched other analytic institutions, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has endured. Dominant explanations for the CBO’s durability point to its reputation for neutral competence. This argument, however, fails to acknowledge that Congress has retrenched other institutions with similar reputations. Drawing on theories of policy durability and change, I argue that the CBO’s endurance has depended on the existence of a political support structure and growing congressional investments in fiscal knowledge. As these changes created barriers to formal retrenchment, critics of the CBO have embraced “technopolitical” strategies for altering its analyses or undermining its credibility. I conclude by considering the implications of these findings for what we know about the durability of policy-analytic institutions.


Published version. Polity, Vol. 53, No. 4 (October 2021). DOI. © 2021 Northeastern Political Science Association. All rights reserved. Published by The University of Chicago Press for the Northeastern Political Science Association. Used with permission.

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