An object lesson in why exaggerating the facts comes back to haunt you
Following the release of the CBO report updating Obamacare's economic impact, many - not all - right leaning pundits leapt on a morsel in the report about Obamacare's impact on jobs. The CBO estimated that between 2016 and 2024, Obamacare would cause Americans to work fewer hours - presmuably because cheaper insurance means that they wouldn't need to make as muich money and many working full time could switch to part time employment. Also, those who were retirement age, could leave the workforce because Obamacare lowered their premiums to the point they could afford to quit.
The bottom line: Two million workers would leave the workforce. A distinction without a difference? Those who headlined their blogs and articles "Obamacare to cost 2 million jobs" were inaccurate. That's not what the CBO report said, as Rep. Paul Ryan demonstrated in a hearing with CBO chief Douglas Elmendorf:
House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) explained in a Wednesday hearing with CBO director Doug 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.
"That is right," Elmendorf said.
First of all, I have no idea what liberals are celebrating here. The workforce participation rate is going to go down as a result of Obamacare (it's already at historic low levels). Make no mistake. No matter how the left tries to spin this, it's bad news. The CBO is whistling past the graveyard when it claims most of those workers are going to leave or have their hours cut voluntarily. Whatever crystal ball they're using to come up with those numbers, I'd like to borrow it to invest in some stocks.
The incredible spin underway now - that this means workers will have the freedom to quit jobs they don't like, that old people can retire, etc. - is possible only because the original reporting done by many on the right misinterpreted the CBO numbers and created a false narrative about what the report actually said. Some examples supplied by WaPo"s media reporter Erik Wemple of before and after headlines tells the tale:
Wall Street Journal earlier: Health-Care Law Expected to Take Greater Toll on Workforce
Wall Street Journal now: Health Law Seen Leading to Some Loss of Labor
Washington Times earlier: Obamacare will push 2 million workers out of labor market: CBO
Washington Times now: Obamacare will push 2 million workers out of labor market: CBO
UPI earlier: CBO: Obamacare to cost 2.3 million jobs over 10 years
Politico earlier: CBO: Lower enrollment, bigger job losses with Obamacare
Politico now: Report reignites debate over Obamacare and jobs
The Hill earlier: CBO: O-Care slowing growth, contributing to job losses
The Hill now: CBO: O-Care will cost 2.5M workers
National Review earlier: The CBO Just Nuked Obamacare
National Review now: The CBO Just Nuked Obamacare
By exaggerating or misinterpreting the facts of the CBO report, the right left a gigantic hole through which the left is now driving the debate. Don't get me wrong. Obamacare is still bad, the CBO report is still bad, the loss of workers is very bad, given that not all of them will be leaving voluntarily - but the credibility of Obamacare opponents has temporarily taken a hit and allowed the left's spin to successfully dominate the debate. Major media has already pounced on the right's misstep and is refusing to report on other aspects of the CBO survey like the increase in the national debt or the disincentives to work.
This was an avoidable error that is costing opponents of Obamacare.