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Posted at 3:00 PM ET, 02/11/2011

Playing games with CBO testimony on jobs and the health-care law

By Glenn Kessler

CBO Confirms Health Care Law Destroys Jobs
--headline over a House Budget Committee posting on You Tube

A long and rather dry discussion of nation's budget outlook at the House Budget Committee has exploded with a frenzy of politics after a brief exchange, highlighted in the video clip above, between Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) and Congressional Budget Office director Douglas W. Elmendorf. The CBO last August had estimated that the new health care law over the next decade would reduce the number of overall workers in the United States by one-half of one percent, and Campbell got Elmendorf to utter the words "800,000."

CAMPBELL: "That means that, in your estimation, the health care law would reduce employment by 800,000 in '20-'21. Is that correct?"

ELMENDORF: "Yes. The way I would put it is that we do estimate, as you said, that the household employment will be about 160 million by the end of the decade. Half a percent of that is 800,000. That means that if the reduction in the labor used was workers working the average number of hours in the economy and earning the average wage, that there would be a reduction of 800,000 workers."

House Republicans have spent weeks criticizing the CBO and its estimate that repealing the health care law would increase the deficit. But somehow this estimate--reached with the same assumptions the CBO has used before--met their approval.

Within hours, conservative publications such as the Weekly Standard and the National Review had posted commentaries lauding Elmendorf's statement. "Job Killing," declared the National Review. The National Republican Congressional Committee made it a campaign theme, sending out an email on Friday attacking Democrats: "Jay Inslee Doesn't Get It: ObamaCare Will Cost 800,000 Jobs: Washington Democrat Refuses to Repeal the Law the CBO Admits Will Destroy Jobs." The Washington Post's conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin approvingly linked to the youtube video.

So what's the truth? Did Elmendorf really say the new health care law would "destroy" jobs?

The Facts

Note that Elmendorf never said the words that the GOP has attributed to him, such as "destroy" or "kill." He used the phrase "reduction of labor." It doesn't quite roll off the tongue like "destroy" -- and it does not mean the same thing.

The CBO first discussed this issue, briefly, in a budget analysis last August. Boiled down to plain English, the CBO is essentially saying that some people who are now in the work force because they need health insurance would decide to stop working because the health care law guaranteed they would have access to health care.

Think of someone who is 63, a couple of years before retirement, who is still in a job only because they are waiting to get on Medicare when they turn 65. Or a single mother with children who is only working to make sure her kids have health insurance.

Now some might argue that despite these heartwarming stories, the overall impact of the health law on employment is bad because it would be encouraging people -- some 800,000 -- not to work. Moreover, the argument could go, this would hurt the nation's budget because 800,000 fewer people will pay taxes on their earnings. That's certainly an intellectually solid argument -- though others might counter that universal health care is worth a minimal reduction in overall employment -- but it's not at all the same as saying these jobs would be "destroyed."

We asked a spokesman for the House Budget Committee for a response, but have not heard one. If we get one, we will add it at the end.


The Pinocchio Test

This is the kind of political gamesmanship that gives politics a bad name. The House GOP has taken a a sliver of a phrase and twisted it beyond all meaning. Elmendorf never said 800,000 jobs would be destroyed, and he certainly did not mean to suggest that. Given that Republicans have routinely faulted the CBO for its estimates and assumptions on the health care bill, they should be ashamed of immediately embracing this particular aspect of the CBO's analysis.


Three Pinocchios

(About our rating scale).

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By Glenn Kessler  | February 11, 2011; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  3 Pinocchios, Economy, Health  
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Next: Romney's haunting job loss claims at CPAC

Comments

It is also likely that any jobs lost through attrition this way would reduce the unemployment rolls with a similar number of replacement workers. I think the CBO should clarify their comments.

Posted by: Rudesan | February 11, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans are real bone heads on this one. Any idiot knows that fewer people working is not the same as fewer jobs available.

The bill won't reduce the jobs available it will simply give some people incentive to work a different work week. Or to leave the workforce if it is practical for them to leave it. This will make more jobs available for people who have a greater need for a job.

Republicans make the most disingenuous politicians.

Posted by: aahpat | February 11, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Duh! It is no surprise that the UNCONSTITUTIONAL Obama healthcare law isn't all that and a bag of chips. Only a moron would believe in Obama.

Posted by: theBozyn | February 11, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

@theBozyn

"Duh! It is no surprise that the UNCONSTITUTIONAL Obama healthcare law isn't all that and a bag of chips. Only a moron would believe in Obama"

----------------------------------

Typical hyper-partisan stand. If you don't agree with me, then your a moron.

I would bet dollars to donuts that the 'theBozyn' is pretty clueless what is actually in the bill and how it would affect ordinary Americans, such as... I am assuming here... himself.

Indeed, polling shows that a large majority of Americans like the provisions of the health care bill, they just keep getting fed lies by the Republicans and the right wing talking heads so they are against the law that implements these popular ideas.

Please stop calling people names just because they don't agree with you. A lot of really intelligent people believe in both Obama and what he is doing, just like a lot of really intelligent people do not.

Posted by: reussere | February 11, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

And what about when the CBO said how much money Odumbocare would save? That's already been proven wrong.

Posted by: gmclain | February 11, 2011 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Since the CBO just crunches numbers given to them, it is quite surprising that the Obama Administration actually gave them numbers showing jobs will be destroyed. I would estimate many more than predicted because all government spending always outdoes and budget predictions.

Posted by: Jsuf | February 11, 2011 5:27 PM | Report abuse

First, I think that Obamacare is a truly lousy law.
Having said that, the .5% reduction could be an indication of increased efficiency due to people not needing to work due to the anticipated lower cost of health care.
The Republicans better be careful here. This could be a real trap. Isn't improved efficiency a promise of Obamacare ?

Posted by: peterroach | February 11, 2011 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I would definitely be one of those people leaving my desk job early. Some college grad who's working at Wegmans now could switch jobs with me.

Posted by: duhneese | February 11, 2011 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Of the jobs that may no longer exist because of the health care bill, does that include any loss in the insurance industry, the health care provider sector, and the other paper shufflers who are currently in the profit making part of the business of providing health care?
Is there any indication in the analysis of the distribution of that job loss?

Posted by: twigchack | February 11, 2011 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Conservatives have no soul so shame would be something they could not possibly feel.

Posted by: Freethotlib | February 11, 2011 6:46 PM | Report abuse

I thought Mr. Elmendorf was referring to the number of people no longer needed to fill out and file all those "denial of service" notices from the insurance companies.

Remember the insurance companies? They are the people who charge us higher and higher premiums while denying more and more service payments and reporting record profit after record profit each year.

Oh, did anyone mention that the right-wing Congress persons negotiated controls and oversight of premium increases out of the Affordable Health Care Act then VOTED AGAINST HEALTH CARE REFORM!!!

If they go along with reform it is an admission that our right-wing-engineered society is failing just like it did at the end of the 19th century and again in the 1920s. And those are the ages Reagan wanted to blast us back to.

Regressive policies destroy civilizations.

Posted by: PoliticalPrisoner2012 | February 11, 2011 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps once people can afford health insurance, they will quit their dead end jobs and start a business of their own. Health insurance keeps a lot of people working at jobs they don't like for wages that are too low.

Posted by: MNUSA | February 11, 2011 8:01 PM | Report abuse

It is amazing to me how ridiculous some of the comments here are. Did you even read this article? By the same logic exhibited by some of these Obama haters, you can argue against retirement at 65 because it, too, is a real job killer! Think of all the people retiring every year, and how many jobs are lost because people don't need to work anymore. Terrible!

Leave it to the GOP/teabagger goon squad to argue against the idea that 800,000 may actually no longer NEED to work just to get employer-sponsored health benefits. Hey guys, if you really want that HSA with the $5,000 deductible plan, knock yourself out... and enjoy grabbing your ankles when your friendly insurance company sticks it to you when you actually need the insurance to work.

Posted by: mikebythesun | February 11, 2011 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Just work til you drop dead - new Republican slogan for '12.

Posted by: Duke69 | February 11, 2011 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Covering 30 million new people who have the income to buy insurance.Or 30 million who don't.Who are we discussing in relation to how many insurance jobs are lost and how much I will pay to make up the difference.
It then seem on the face of it a flawed bill, as we know thousand of rules and laws are now under consideration by a unelected agency. One word,Egypt

Posted by: jmounday | February 11, 2011 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Search on the web "Wise Health Insurance" if you have a condition such as high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, cancer, depression , obesity or have had an injury, like a broken leg and need health Insurance NOW.

Posted by: perelwll | February 12, 2011 1:05 AM | Report abuse

The Republicans were perfectly willing to accept CBO budget figures when Bush, McConnell and his fellow Republican Senators (except for John McCain), and Boehner his fellow Republican Congresspeople pulled the first part of their tax cut flim-flams a decade ago. Of course, at that time the CBO had gone on the assumption that these "fiscal conservative" sociopaths would have integrity and not renege on the second part of the flim-flam, which was allowing the tax cuts to expire after they strip-mined the Treasury for their friends.

Three Pinochios are hardly enough for intentional misrepresentation and disinformation. The leadership of the Republican Party, at any rate, is neither stupid nor ignorant nor ill-informed. They surely know the difference between people choosing to leave the labor force, making their jobs at least theoretically available for other people, and having the jobs disappear in and from the United States.

Posted by: edallan | February 12, 2011 3:58 AM | Report abuse

"The House GOP has taken a a sliver of a phrase and twisted it beyond all meaning. Elmendorf never said 800,000 jobs would be destroyed, and he certainly did not mean to suggest that". You mean like the Democrats twisted the overall cost of Obamacare and continues to misrepresent that "if you like your policy you can keep it", when that might be the case in about 1% of current policies but the rest will fall under additional policy provision mandates not yet released by the HHS? Or that premiums will go down, which even the CBO doesn' say will be the case. Or maybe that part they leave out about how instead of paying higher premiums due to those seeking "emergency room treatment", we will now being paying for all or a portion of those uninsured health insurance premiums? Or, the flawed formula the IRS and HHS will use to determine whether an employer/individual/family can afford coverage based on their "modified adjusted gross income", that fails to actually measure your "disposable" income that will be available to pay for premiums. Not taking into account any non-tax deductible payments and obligations such as car payments, gas, electric, student loans, credit card payments and so on?

Are the Authors of Health Reform blogs and articles blind, or are they part of the attempt to pull the wool over our eyes?

Don't forget how the CBO had to score the cost using the savings from the "new student loan act" and "social security" and "not including Physician reimbursement costs. Read the Report posted on the CBO website. This is why Republicans don't put much credit into the "score" of the cost of the "entire" Health Reform ACT

Posted by: fedupwithgovernment | February 12, 2011 7:04 AM | Report abuse

I think an important cover up in the ACA debate is in direct opposition to the point made by conservatives here. If 800,000 people don't retire b/c they cannot afford health care, which means 800,000 up and coming workers cannot get jobs.

A fall out from increasing the retirement age is that employment turnover is reduced. We already see people wanting to build up their 401-k accounts working into their 70's, which means these job are not available for those in their 30's as would normally be the case. So, we are increasing the age of the workforce and hampering the next generation from employment. A good thing? No. ACA helps prevent the drag in employment turnover.

Posted by: gfoster56 | February 12, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Let's factor something else in:

"Think of someone who is 63, a couple of years before retirement, who is still in a job only because they are waiting to get on Medicare when they turn 65. Or a single mother with children who is only working to make sure her kids have health insurance. "

Would not both these people start collecting welfare or Social Security? Do you believe that the ONLY reason these folks are working is to stay on an insurance plan? These are not only jobs not being filled (and I agree that someone else would slip into their places), but they're suddenly liabilities to our government coffers.

Posted by: LNER4472 | February 12, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

As if the only reason to work is to have health insurance!? This is STUPID reasoning! YOU NEED A JOB TO PAY FOR A ROOF OVER YOUR HEAD AND FOOD IN YOUR STOMACH.

How dumb can some Repubs get!!!!

Posted by: CALSGR8 | February 12, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry, there will certainly be MORE government and insurance company paper-shuffling jobs under the law. Only real jobs will fall by the wayside.

"Of the jobs that may no longer exist because of the health care bill, does that include any loss in the insurance industry, the health care provider sector, and the other paper shufflers who are currently in the profit making part of the business of providing health care?
Is there any indication in the analysis of the distribution of that job loss?"

Posted by: capsfan77 | February 12, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

This removes the last shred of credibility from the GOP's disingenuous "job killing" argument. It turns out it is actually a "job creator" in this analysis. So 800,000 people no longer need to work just to get their medical insurance, so that OPENS UP nearly a million jobs for the unemployed. Presumably those 800,000 jobs are doing something useful, or else they would have been laid off.

You have to be a complete Republican partisan, or a sub-normal-intelligence Fox viewer, to not get this basic math. But then those are the only fools still believing what the Republicans in Congress are ranting about regarding this law.

Posted by: B2O2 | February 12, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Elmendorf is a pathetic contortionist. Anyone (democrat or republican) who believes his numbers is delusional.

Posted by: hungrypirana | February 12, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

@hungrypirana: Elmendorf is a pathetic contortionist. Anyone (democrat or republican) who believes his numbers is delusional.

If you believe that, that goes for both the deficit reduction of the health care bill and the reduction in the number of jobs.

He has a very difficult job - unlike anyone of us, he HAS to assume what's in the bill is going to happen - he CANNOT use any other assumptions, even if they appear more realistic.

Posted by: Gaithersburg1 | February 12, 2011 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Yep, honeymoon over. Republicans *cough* embrace *cough* CBO numbers.

Posted by: Falling4Ever | February 12, 2011 11:22 PM | Report abuse

This removes the last shred of credibility from the GOP's disingenuous "job killing" argument.
===========================================

Saying that you're a "fact checker" doesn't make it so. I wouldn't call Kessler a definitive link to the truth. If he truly wanted the truth, he would forget his politics and do some real investigative reporting. His job is to provide accurate information to the American public, not cover or support for the White House.

There is no deliberate deceit on the part of the CBO. But, make no mistake about it, the figures that they are presented with are the figures that they use. It is not their job to determine whether those figures are legitimate.

Posted by: bethg1841 | February 13, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

If those 63-year-olds quit those jobs, doesn't that mean that 800,000 jobs will open up for those who actually need them, such as 45-year-olds with kids in school and single-parent mothers, many of whom were the first to lose their jobs after the money freaks sold us all out? Gee, I guess that's another way to look at the numbers.

Naw, never mind...let's just read into the numbers what we want to see. Easier, less brainpower, and makes us more fiercely proud than ever of our particular identity group. Onward we go.

Posted by: yogi11 | February 13, 2011 10:32 PM | Report abuse

I certainly appreciate all the teabaggers here who insist the only "facts" are the ones they believe. They save us rational ones a lot of electricity trying to reason with four-year-olds who don't want to give up someone else's toy.

That said, do you want your father, or your kids' grandfather, working some crap job just so your parents can have health insurance? Wouldn't everyone benefit if they could spend more time with their grandkids, maybe volunteer at a school or church, in short do something fulfilling instead of slaving away for some Wall Streeter with an East-Side Co-op to pay for?

Morans.

Posted by: Froomkin_fan | February 14, 2011 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Fact Checker is going beyond his mandate when he uses the word "hypocrisy." The goal of Fact Checker is supposed to be to assess the veracity of the statement of the day, not to determine whether other statements made by the speaker are inconsistent.

This is the second time I've noticed him crying hypocrisy when he can't find fault with a Republican's comment but wants to add pinocchios, and so finds an off-subject comment that was inconsistent.

Today's hypocrisy charge is easy to refute. The GOP has complained that the CBO has made overly optimistic assumptions regarding ObamaCare many times in the past (e.g. the doc fix, Medicaid expansions that are off the federal books). But it IS fair for them to complain that EVEN WHEN the rosy assumptions are made against the GOP's wishes, that the resulting predictions include some bad outcomes. The argument implies that if REASONABLE assumptions were made, the outcomes would be WORSE.

One could argue the assumptions are reasonable; but Fact Checker wasn't interested in the matter, even though they're related to the CBO's and GOP's comments on employment predictions.

And I've never, ever heard anyone - GOP or otherwise - complain that the CBO was making predictions that were wrong based on the assumptions they were given. The charge is generally that the assumptions were flawed or that the results should be ignored because the assumptions were flawed.

Republicans do have an annoying habit of describing anything bad for the economy as a "job killer." So a pinocchio is in order for dramatizing rhetoric, but once again, the thrust of the argument is correct.

In the past, 25 year olds generally had to find a job in order to have health care, as they were too old to stay on their parents' policies. Now, ObamaCare allows for more 25 year olds to stay home and layabout. That's bad for the economy in general of course, as we lose what those people could produce, and we have to pay higher taxes or insurance premiums to cover that "benefit." Calling that a job-killer is not too far off base.

Posted by: angrydoug1 | February 14, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

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