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February 04, 2014 5:24 PM Coming To a Right-Wing Talking Point Near You

By Ed Kilgore

Buried in today’s CBO budget update (along with a downward revision of budget deficits and a debunking of the “risk corridors bailout” meme) is an item that is already echoing around the conservative blogosphere as “Obamacare will cost 2 million Americans their jobs!” Here’s what CBO is really saying, per Dylan Scott at TPM:

What the CBO really found was that the numbers of hours worked would decrease under Obamacare, by roughly 1.5 percent to 2 percent between 2017 and 2024. The report then translated those lost hours into the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs. But that doesn’t mean 2.5 million jobs are going to disappear from the U.S. economy.
The CBO report, in fact, specifically undermines that claim. Those lost hours will “almost entirely” be the result of people choosing to work fewer hours because of Obamacare — not because they lost their jobs or can’t find a full-time job.
“The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment (that is, more workers seeking but not finding jobs) or underemployment (such as part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week).”
The report explicitly says that Obamacare isn’t going to force businesses to cut jobs on any grand scale. What it is going to do is change how much Americans work.
“I think it’s important to distinguish between people choosing to work less and jobs being lost,” Larry Levitt, vice president at the non-partisan Kaiser Famiy Foundation, told TPM. “That is something important to keep an eye on, since you don’t want to discourage work. But, it’s not in all cases a bad thing.”
“For example, some people in their late 50s and early 60s would like to retire because they have health issues but have kept working for the health benefits. Some of them can now retire because they can’t be discriminated against for having a pre-existing condition and may get help paying their premiums.”

You could even argue these vacated full-time jobs might provide some opportunity to the younger people who are always being painted as victims of Obamacare.

But before we can have that discussion, the triumphal shrieking of the Right must die down.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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