Fact-checking a non-existent CBO number

FACT-CHECKING A NON-EXISTENT CBO NUMBER…. Following up on an earlier item, the Republican argument that the Affordable Care Act would cost thousands of jobs is clearly untrue. But there’s one talking point in particular we’re likely to hear repeated, which deserves special scrutiny.

When making the case for repeal, GOP leaders insist that the reform law will cost the economy “650,000 jobs.” Republicans even published a report of sorts, claiming that the 650k number is the result of “independent analyses,” most notably from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

To its credit, the AP fact-checked the claim today, noting the CBO “never produced the number,” and the talking point itself is an example of how “statistics get used and abused in Washington.”

What CBO actually said is that the impact of the health care law on supply and demand for labor would be small. Most of it would come from people who no longer have to work, or can downshift to less demanding employment, because insurance will be available outside the job.

“The legislation, on net, will reduce the amount of labor used in the economy by a small amount — roughly half a percent — primarily by reducing the amount of labor that workers choose to supply,” budget office number crunchers said in a report from last year.

That’s not how it got translated in the new report from Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other top Republicans.

No, of course not. Congressional Republicans aren’t interested in a credible, serious debate — they’re interested in scoring points. In this case, a lie is more effective than the truth, so that’s what they’re repeating over and over again.

The key here is understanding that the health care law may reduce the labor supply, not the number of jobs. The possible 0.5% shift in labor is not the result of employers cutting jobs, it’s the result of people working less. And why might people work less? Because some workers might decide to retire earlier, knowing that they won’t have to keep working in order to have health care benefits. (And when these older workers leave the workforce, it creates opportunities for younger workers.)

The 650,000 figure is a sham, pushed by professional con artists who assume the public and the media won’t aren’t pay close attention anyway. Some will believe the lie, and there won’t be any consequences of the dishonesty anyway.

For more on this, there was a good segment on MSNBC’s “Countdown” last week.

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