Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 18, 2011

FACT-CHECKING A NON-EXISTENT CBO NUMBER.... Following up on an earlier item, the Republican argument that the Affordable Care Act would cost thousands of jobs is clearly untrue. But there's one talking point in particular we're likely to hear repeated, which deserves special scrutiny.

When making the case for repeal, GOP leaders insist that the reform law will cost the economy "650,000 jobs." Republicans even published a report of sorts, claiming that the 650k number is the result of "independent analyses," most notably from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

To its credit, the AP fact-checked the claim today, noting the CBO "never produced the number," and the talking point itself is an example of how "statistics get used and abused in Washington."

What CBO actually said is that the impact of the health care law on supply and demand for labor would be small. Most of it would come from people who no longer have to work, or can downshift to less demanding employment, because insurance will be available outside the job.

"The legislation, on net, will reduce the amount of labor used in the economy by a small amount -- roughly half a percent -- primarily by reducing the amount of labor that workers choose to supply," budget office number crunchers said in a report from last year.

That's not how it got translated in the new report from Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other top Republicans.

No, of course not. Congressional Republicans aren't interested in a credible, serious debate -- they're interested in scoring points. In this case, a lie is more effective than the truth, so that's what they're repeating over and over again.

The key here is understanding that the health care law may reduce the labor supply, not the number of jobs. The possible 0.5% shift in labor is not the result of employers cutting jobs, it's the result of people working less. And why might people work less? Because some workers might decide to retire earlier, knowing that they won't have to keep working in order to have health care benefits. (And when these older workers leave the workforce, it creates opportunities for younger workers.)

The 650,000 figure is a sham, pushed by professional con artists who assume the public and the media won't aren't pay close attention anyway. Some will believe the lie, and there won't be any consequences of the dishonesty anyway.

For more on this, there was a good segment on MSNBC's "Countdown" last week.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Steve Benen 1:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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Comments

"Jobs lost" are just this week's "death panels." Need say no more.

Posted by: David in NY on January 18, 2011 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

One thing that never gets mentioned, the number of people who will leave corporate borg jobs to start their own businesses because they'll be able to do so without facing ruin because of health care.

I think that's called "entrepreneurship" and I thought republicans were supposed to be for that.

But hey, what do I know?

Posted by: fourlegsgood on January 18, 2011 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I believe Jon Stewart said (paraphrasing) "This will reduce the number of jobs the same way that sleeping reduces the amount of 'awakeness'"

Posted by: bruce k on January 18, 2011 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Calling the ACA a "job killer" is just the GOP using their favorite tactic of attaching something they hate to something everyone else is worried about.

They could have just as easily called it:

"Repealing the 9/11-Victory-Mosque Health Care Law Act"

or "Repealing the Gun-Regulating Health Care Law Act"

or "Repealing the Global-Warming-Hoax Health Care Law Act"

or "Repealing the Gay-Marriage Health Care Law Act"

or "Repealing the Raise-Rich-People-Taxes Health Care Law Act"

or "Repealing the Blood-Libel Health Care Law Act."

Posted by: chrenson on January 18, 2011 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

To its credit, the AP fact-checked the claim today, noting the CBO "never produced the number," and the talking point itself is an example of how "statistics get used and abused in Washington."

Wow. The AP actually did it's job for once. Wonders never cease!

Posted by: electrolite on January 18, 2011 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

chrenson , chrenson , chrenson . I almost got through that list without laughing ...

Posted by: FRP on January 18, 2011 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

We are all deeply shocked that the Republicans would "make shit up" , I mean they have been paragons of honesty and integrity to this point.

Posted by: John R on January 18, 2011 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

The 650,000 figure is a sham, pushed by professional con artists who assume the public and the media won't aren't pay close attention anyway. Some will believe the lie, and there won't be any consequences of the dishonesty anyway.

Word.

Posted by: Gregory on January 18, 2011 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

The difference between liberal and conservative pundits is that conservative pundits just want to win more.

For example, a guy like Ezra Klein will bend over backwards to legitimize people like Paul Ryan or Mitch Daniels. Or, in this case, he'll refrain from accusing the GOP from maliciously lying when they claim that ACA is "jobs-killing".

Why? Because Klein cares more about his own reputation and not being labelled "shrill" than he does about convincing the maximum number of people that he is right on the merits. Win? Sure, but look reasonable first.

OTOH, conservatives are never embarrassed to make a stupid argument. Or even to look ignorant (e.g. "Democrat v. DemocratIC Party") if they believe that it will help them win a debate.

Posted by: square1 on January 18, 2011 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

"And why might people work less? Because some workers might decide to retire earlier, knowing that they won't have to keep working in order to have health care benefits."

In other words the general quality of life in this country will improve as people have to work less to be able to afford health care, and will worry less about it. Yet another benefit the Republicans would take away.

Posted by: Allan on January 18, 2011 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

I find it hilarious that a week ago the Republicans discarded the CBO analysis of the health care law when it came to deficits, but now they are just fine with the CBO analysis because they feel it suits their argument (even though it doesn't).

Posted by: Sam on January 18, 2011 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

In the current economy this is actually a fairly significant positive deal. The CBO is talking in equilibrium terms, where 650,000 fewer people in the labor force (who are not starving as a result) could mean 650,000 fewer people working.

When you have way more job applicants than jobs, reducing the labor force by 650K (once again, without anybody starving) is a great thing, because it means 650K fewer people competing for the jobs that are available.

Posted by: paul on January 18, 2011 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Craven point scorers!

A very plausible scenario that would lead to a "reduction in labor supply":

Non-insured workers holding down as many as three under-empolyed jobs (part time) to earn enough money to pay for health care as they go, never having enough to deal with catastrophic illnesses.

Now, one of their employers may just be able to offer benefits, so the over-worked-underemployed worker makes a decision to give up on of his/her jobs, reducing the labor supply, but not because their job was killed!

Killing, that's what a person with a lethal device does to another person! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 18, 2011 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

It's seems the Monthly doesn't care to dig to deeply. The 650,000 number comes from lost labor. The worst that can be said of the estimate is that it's a generalization. Maybe readers like Kevo can rationalize this as loads of people working multiple jobs who will focus on an employers who can suddenly, magically offer health insurance because of government mandates but in the real world cutting jobs is one of the ways they will have to pay for those who do get insured. Leave aside the fact that the law doesn't mandate that employer offering their newly insured worker more hours.

Paul suggests that a drop of 650K jobs is a good thing! Good luck with that.

As for picking and choosing from the CBO (Memo to the President, apparently your supporters don't like that, so knock it off), what Boehner has objected to is the CBO numbers suggesting that the HC bill will lower the deficit. Most people who have taken the time to follow the issue know that the Democrats double-counted funds and required the CBO to accept the assumption that those savings/revenues would all translate out as though they were different monies. The idea that a new, trillion dollar entitlement will save the government money is something found only in the wildest fantasy lives of statists. If the CBO is allowed to correctly count the monies, the deficit savings vanishes.

Posted by: ME on January 18, 2011 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

It's not 650K jobs lost, it's 650K workers lost (from labor supply). Yes, Republicans have it exactly backwards. Those 650K jobs won't just not need to be done anymore, they will be filled by someone else. Therefore it should lower unemployment by a similar number.

I believe the Republican politicians know this, but enjoy lying to voters for their own advantage.

Posted by: Katie on January 18, 2011 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

I can't believe I live in a country that is dumb enough to vote for this riff-raff. Yet I see my own relatives on FaceBook that have bought their shit; hook, line and sinker.

Posted by: Marko on January 18, 2011 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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