You probably know what happened today:
The Congressional Budget Office issued a new report Tuesday on the federal budget deficit, Obamacare and jobs -- and Official Washington exploded.To some extent, the projected reduction in hours worked will be because people nearing retirement age won't need to work to maintain health coverage in their pre-Medicare years:
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.
"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....The rest is explained by the fact that poor people are expected to try to limit their hours because the law -- like all means-tested laws aimed at helping the poor -- provides an incentive to keep income low, because a recipient's health care subsidies drop as the recipient's income rises. Kevin Drum says that if that bothers you, then maybe we should switch to single payer:
"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."
... health care ... doesn't have to be means tested. If we simply had a rational national health care system, available to everyone regardless of income, then none of this would be an issue. There might still be a small income effect, but it would probably be barely noticeable. Since everyone would be fully covered no matter what, there would no high effective marginal tax rate on the poor and no reason not to work more hours.But either way, this supposed decline in jobs is actually a decline in the amount people choose to work, as even The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler acknowledges:
... this is not about jobs. It's about workers — and the choices they make....Republicans could argue that it's morally troublesome to give people the incentive to work less (which is what Ross Douthat frets about). Republicans could say that other people's taxes shouldn't pay to provide this incentive to work less, even if it's an incentive that might allow a person with three benefit-free minimum-wage jobs to cut down to two, because health care, at least, is now affordable. At least then Republicans would be arguing about what the CBO report actually says, rather than bellowing out a truthy talking point (OBAMACARE IS A JOB-KILLER) based on a distortion of the report.
The CBO, in its sober fashion, virtually screams that this is not about jobs....
... the figures (2 million, etc.) are shorthand for full-time equivalent workers -- a combination of two conclusions: fewer people looking for work and some people choosing to work fewer hours. The CBO added those two things and produced a hard number, but it actually does not mean 2 million fewer workers.
But one of our two major political parties chooses dishonest zone-flooding politicization over truth every hour of every day, in 100% of all circumstances. The Republican Party isn't even a political party anymore, really -- it's an advocacy organization that substitutes the substance of attack ads for political discourse, every single day; it runs in campaign mode 365 days a year.
The Democrats never manage to keep up. And the members of the press are either stupid enough to treat the attack ads as fact....
... or so cynical that they're more concerned with how the messaging wars are going -- for the Democrats, they're usually going about as well as the Super Bowl went for the Broncos -- than they are with whether the truth gets out:
Tho much reporting & GOP response to new CBO report on ACA is inaccurate/false, problem for Dems: If you're explainin', you're losin'— Jackie Calmes (@calmesnyt) February 4, 2014
Democrats are losers. Republicans are liars. And the press just laughs every time Republicans kick the Democrats' asses.
Democracy can't survive under those conditions.