Government’s Own Budget Analysis Shows That Allowing Debt Collection Robocalls Is Pointless

See all those stars on this report from the Congressional Budget Office? Those indicate that the robocall clause in the bipartisan budget proposal will have no real effect on our government's finances.

See all those stars on this report from the Congressional Budget Office? Those indicate that the robocall clause in the bipartisan budget proposal will have no real effect on our government’s finances.

In response to the news that the bipartisan budget deal currently before Congress includes a loophole that would allow the federal government to make debt-collection robocalls, some might say “Well, if it helps the government get back some of the money it’s due, then maybe it’s a necessary evil.” But the government’s own analysis of the budget proposal currently shows this clause as having no measurable impact on our federal finances.

This is according to the latest review [PDF] from the Congressional Budget Office, which found that Section 301 of the law — the one that supposedly improves the government’s ability to collect debts — will have zero effect over the next ten years.

See those stars in the above chart? Those indicate instances in which the CBO estimates somewhere between an annual cost of $500,000 or annual revenue of $500,000.

Even assuming the maximum amount of revenue for each of the ten years, you’re still talking about a total of $5 million.

The Hill reports that this part of the budget actually comes from the White House, where the Office of Management and Budget had estimated $120 million in revenue over ten years.

Even if that much higher figure is accurate, it wouldn’t even put a dent in the amount of money owed to the federal government. Student loan debt in the U.S. (a good deal of which is from federal loans) has long passed the $1 trillion mark. Then there are the billions of dollars outstanding to the IRS, FHA, and other federal agencies. Reducing that by an average of $12 million a year seems a bit like using a mop to clean up Lake Michigan.

Meanwhile, think of the hundreds of thousands — possibly millions — of Americans who will have to endure obnoxious robocalls that may not even be for them.

We wonder if the government will be held to the same standard that businesses are when they mistakenly call wrong numbers.

If you want to tell lawmakers how you feel about this issue, our colleagues at Consumers Union have put together this form that identifies your relevant members of Congress and allows you to easily send them a message expressing your concerns.

Some lawmakers are already speaking out about the robocall clause.

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri said during a hearing this morning that she had no idea how this section of the bill made its way into the proposal.

“If anybody knows, I would love to find out,” said the senator. “I just think it is a really bad idea that we put something in this budget deal that’s going to allow the federal government to participate in robocalls to collect debt.”