Lying about Obamacare for political profit

    The latest mendacious whopper about the health reform law – supposedly, it’s gonna throw two million people outta work! – will likely beneft the GOP on midterm election day.

    It doesn’t matter that the claim is a blatant lie; what matters is that the ginned-up conservative base is conditioned to believe it.

    You’ve surely witnessed the hysteria, which was triggered last week by the Congressional Budget Office’s latest ruminations about the economy. Appendix C mentioned some projections about possible workforce reductions between 2017 and 2014. Cue the instant Republican agitprop:

    The National Republican Congressional Committee tweeted, “Nonpartisan CBO admits that Obamacare is hurting the economy, will cost 2.5 million jobs.” Sean Hannity fumed, “This debacle will cost nearly 2.5 million jobs.” House majority leader Eric Cantor keyboarded, “Millions of hardworking Americans will lose their jobs.” Republicans aiming to unseat North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan ran an ad that asked, “How many workers will have to lose their jobs?” Republicans aiming to unseat Alaska Sen. Mark Begich renamed the health reform law and said, “BegichCare is a job killer.” And so on.

    Actually, the CBO report never characterized the Affordable Care Act as a job killer, nor did it ever say that Obamacare would spark two million layoffs. Yesterday, the CBO folks even posted a Q&A on its website, in a (futile) bid to trump all the lies. For instance…

    Q: Will 2.5 Million People Lose Their Jobs in 2014 Because of the ACA?

    A: No, we would not describe our estimates that way.

    How much clearer can they be? Their report stated, in plain bureaucratic English, that Obamacare subsidies would free a lot of people from “job lock” (the need to cling to a job just for the health coverage); these people will be able to choose whether to stay in the workforce, and on what terms. The new CBO post quotes the key passage in the report: “the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor.” (Emphasis mine.)

    The new CBO post, written by director Doug Elmendorf, hits the point again: “Because the longer-term reduction in work is expected to come almost entirely from a decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply…we do not think it is accurate to say that the reduction stems from people ‘losing’ their jobs.” And hits it again: “Thus, there is a critical difference between, on the one hand, people who leave a job for reasons beyond their control and, on the other hand, people who choose not to work or to work less.”

    Freed from “job lock,” these people will have more flexibility to retire, or start a small business, or spend more quality time with the family. (Republicans have always championed the family, and the small businessman – until now, apparently. And Republicans have frequently opposed job lock – until now, apparently. Paul Ryan once mused, “Are we going to continue job lock, or are we going to allow individuals more choice and portability, to fit the 21st century work force?”)

    Elemendorf, in House testimony last week, tried (in vain) to explain that Obamacare’s impact on these workers would indeed be a good thing: “If someone says, ‘I decided to retire or stay home and spend more time with my family and spend more time doing my hobby,’ they don’t feel bad about it. They feel good about it. And we don’t sympathize. We say congratulations.”

    But will the Republicans take heed? Not a chance.

    A 30-second ad is the perfect vehicle for a visceral lie. It’s a lot easier to scream “job killer” than it is to explain the CBO’s carefully hedged nuances. Typically in politics, when you’re explaining, you’re losing.

    And most importantly, the Republican lie is red meat for the ravenous conservative base that delights in hate-feasting on the health law. Those voters are conditioned to believe the worst; passion drives turnout, which means they’re likely to dominate midterm balloting in November. They’ve already swallowed a slew of lies – from “death panels” to “rationed care” – so why would factual reality enlighten them now?

    As the famed Italian poet Dante wrote 700 years ago, “A mind sequestered in its own delusion is to reason invincible.”


    This Week In Christie…

    Where else but New Jersey would we ever read a newspaper correction like this? Yesterday, the Star-Ledger in Newark ran a profile of Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak, with an oops addendum:

    An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Drewniak referred to the Port Authority’s executive director as a “piece of crap.” While Drewniak did call him a “piece of excrement,” it was David Wildstein who referred to the executive director as a “piece of crap.”Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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