Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Counting On The Stupid

The release of the Congressional Budget Report’s forecast on the budget deficit and the impact of Obamacare is a perfect microcosm of why a lot of people in the news business in Washington are derided as idiots, stooges, and lazy by unpaid bloggers like me.

It all centered on one line about how the health care reform law would affect employment. CBO actually said that Americans would choose to work less, for various reasons, and that if you translated the fewer hours worked into full-time jobs, it would equal 2.5 million by 2024 (2.3 million by 2021). It didn’t say that Obamacare would cost the country 2.5 million jobs, but Republicans said so anyway.

But it wasn’t just the GOP, which had a political incentive to take advantage of economic jargon. It was the political press as well. They either misrepresented what the report said — or shrugged off the actual facts, opting instead to speculate on what the political spin would mean for the horse race.

This is the kind of bullshit that drives up the profits at Jack Daniel’s.  I have a pretty good idea what it’s going to sound like on Morning Joe when the Villagers gather around to munch down this carcass hyena-style, and even the tote-baggers at NPR got it wrong last night on All Things Considered.  They finally got it right this morning.

The reality is that the CBO is saying a lot of people in the next ten years will have the option of cutting back their hours or going to part-time work because they will have access to healthcare thanks to Obamacare.  They won’t be forced to work solely because of it, and those of us who in the next ten years want to work fewer hours, either because of age or just because we want to, can still get coverage.

To its credit, the Washington Post has already turned its fact-checker loose on the story and called out headline writers and even its own op-ed columnist Jennifer Rubin for getting it wrong, either through laziness or a deliberate attempt to mislead the casual reader into thinking 2.5 million people will lose their jobs because of Obamacare.  Thus is born a thousand attack ads for the GOP.

UPDATE: Well, whaddaya know.  Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) debunks the GOP talking point.

At least one Republican is setting the record straight on what the Congressional Budget Office actually said this week about Obamacare and its effect on jobs.

House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) explained in a Wednesday hearing with CBO director Steven Elmendorf that the health care reform law wouldn’t cost the U.S. economy more than 2 million jobs, as many of his colleagues alleged, but that Americans would choose to work less.

“I want to make sure we accurately understand what it is you are saying,” Ryan said, before leading Elmendorf through a series of questions to explain the report and its findings.

Ryan and Elmendorf combined to explain that Obamacare would lead to a decrease in the number of hours worked by up to 2 percent in 2024. Most of that drop, the CBO said, would be the result of Americans choosing not to work, for various reasons, but not because employers would want to hire fewer workers on account of the law. Translate those lost hours into full-time employment and it equals up to 2.5 million jobs by 2024. But that’s not the same as jobs being cut.

“Just to understand, it is not that employers are laying people off,” Ryan said.

Consider me pleasantly surprised, but skeptical that this will get any play from the usual suspects.

One bark on “Counting On The Stupid

  1. Example close to our lives: a little old woman well into her late 60’s still works long hard hours in the kitchen of a little club in the town we once lived in. As the food has gotten worse and worse members ask “why doesn’t Helen retire?”. Several on-staff candidates would love to take on her job. She CAN’T retire. She has no pension, no health care benefits and even as she’s held together with paper and glue she hangs on for dear life. This is exactly the sort of worker FDR had in mind when he put through Social Security. Problem is: with health care costs going higher every year older people can’t live on this pension. And shame on the club’s board for not initiating pensions for their loyal workers – or some sort of health care subsidy.

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