April 13, 2017Op-ed

The Hill: Using short-term data to justify spending cuts is dangerous

by Antony Bugg-Levine and Dan Cardinali

Federal/Nonprofit/ Economic/ 2017/

When White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney defended the Trump administration’s proposed deep cuts to social programs, the words “evidence” and “results” came up repeatedly.

“There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually helping results,” Mulvaney said. Journalists quickly scrambled to set the record straight, citing evidence ranging from after-school programs’ impact on graduation rates to how meal-delivery programs have reduced Medicaid costs.

Mulvaney picked a poor example to buttress his argument — Meals on Wheels happens to have very strong success data. But, more crucially, he misguidedly justified spending cuts with the very approach that could finally tackle intractable social problems: collectively orienting programs and funding around results or outcomes.