Hatch Loves the CBO. Unless He Doesn’t.

Sahil Kapur reports at Talking Points Memo about Sen. Orrin Hatch’s absurdly dishonest and incoherent position on the CBO’s report on Obamacare and the economy. First, he repeated the lie that the report says that Obamacare would destroy two million jobs:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) touted CBO for the convenient finding, and then quickly dismissed and mocked CBO for the inconvenient finding.

“Today CBO delivered terrible news to the millions of Americans looking for work. Obamacare, the President’s signature domestic policy achievement, will lead to more than 2 million fewer jobs and hurt much-needed economic growth,” Hatch said in a statement, referring to the CBO statistic that upwards of 2 million Americans would leave the full-time labor force over 10 years as Obamacare makes health coverage more accessible to them without their employer.

In fact, the report says that two million people will be able to quit jobs they don’t want but keep because they need insurance. That will open up jobs for other people, reducing unemployment. But then when he was asked about that same CBO report saying that the risk corridors in the ACA will reduce the deficit, suddenly the CBO is totally unreliable:

Then, within seconds, Hatch turned around and attacked CBO when asked about another finding in the same report that Obamacare’s risk corridors — the provision Republicans bash as a “bailout” — would actually save the government money.

“First of all, I don’t believe that,” the senator said, with a laugh. “I mean, that may be something they can conjure up in mathematics but I don’t believe so. These are the guys who tried to use pension smoothing to pay for unemployment insurance for three months,” he said, referring to a near-term budget savings options that has been criticized as a gimmick.

“I mean, come on, give me a break,” Hatch said.

So when he’s lying about what the CBO concluded, that’s totally reliable. What the report actually said, however, is completely unreliable and wrong.

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  • “So when he’s lying about what the CBO concluded, that’s totally reliable. What the report actually said, however, is completely unreliable and wrong.”

    He may be a lying liar, but that actually is consistent; 🙂

  • Reginald Selkirk

    “I mean, that may be something they can conjure up in mathematics but I don’t believe so.

    Karl “The Math” Rove could not be reached for comment.

  • Michael Heath

    Several years ago a Christianist relative pressured to me read Orin Hatch’s memoir, which I did, in spite of the fact this person is not able to even hold my recommended books in their hand. This person once dropped one as if an evil spell was cast on it. I know Sen. Hatch mostly from watching him bloviate at Senate Hearings to confirm Supreme Court nominations; my motivation in reading his book was to understand if that was an act or he was really as ignorant and stupid as he came across in those hearings.

    Anyways, back to the memoir. Vain and vapid come to mind. Bill Clinton once noted after being president for several years that he was amazed at how ignorant so many policy makers and world leaders were on the subjects they impacted. Orin Hatch and now, nearly every single Republican member in Congress, unfortunately sinks to Clinton’s observation. And while many Democrats suffer from this affliction as well, from my point of view it’s not nearly at the same rate as the GOP. And to the Democrats’ credit, many of those that are ignorant on technocratic subjects at least promote policy supportive of the relevant factual premises reported by experts.

  • Didn’t we have this same thing a week or so ago with the round-ark story? Fundamentalists were quick to point to another culture’s description of a worldwide flood as supportive of their myth. But the part about that story predating the Jewish version was totally wrong.

    Shorter version: Anything that supports my belief is true; anything that undermines my position is evil, Satanized lies from stupid, liberal poopy heads.

    Shorter, shorter version: Heads I win, tails you lose.

  • jamessweet

    I’m not sure I buy the liberal spin on the CBO report either (Just so we’re clear, I consider myself an unabashed unapologetic liberal. I’m not using it as a dirty word here, I’m just saying that people whose politics align with my own tend to have a particular spin on the CBO report, and I’m not sure I believe it.) My impression was that it was less about people who wanted to work less anyway choosing to work less, and more about people being forced to lower their hours in order to qualify for subsidies. Still not an entirely bad thing, but not an awesome thing either.

    But I admit, I haven’t read the report myself. Anybody who has wanna straighten me out here?

  • colnago80

    Re jamessweet @ #5

    The point is that the Rethuglican spin is that 2 million jobs will be lost. That’s total horse manure because, as Ed states and as I have said in comments on several blogs, the jobs will still be there; they will provide opportunities for many who are currently unemployed.

  • jamessweet

    colnago: Oh, I get that part. There was never any way to square the conservative spin on it with reality. But I happen to be in the “truth matters for its own sake” crowd, so I was just wondering if the liberal spin on it was accurate as well. The truth to me seems to be somewhere in between — like I say, not entirely bad news, but not great news either (and in fact, a good argument in favor of single payer: The “you lose your subsidy if you work too much” crap can only happen in a mandate+subsidies system, but in single payer that is a non-issue)

  • D. C. Sessions

    My impression was that it was less about people who wanted to work less anyway choosing to work less, and more about people being forced to lower their hours in order to qualify for subsidies. Still not an entirely bad thing, but not an awesome thing either.

    There’s no step function there where more income means less net income. However, because the subsidies go away with increasing income the effective “tax rate” is steeper (until the subsidy goes away entirely) than it would otherwise be.

    So (in one of the examples) a parent or grandparent might discover that the take-home pay from a low-wage job is less than the savings from being home and saving on child care for the same hours.

  • Michael Heath


    The Feb. 4th CBO report is titled, The Slow Recovery of the Labor Market. Here’s a link to the screen-friendly PDF file: http://goo.gl/CgfDnC.

    I searched the document using the keyword “ACA” and got the following relevant passage:

    The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will tend to reduce [labor] participation, with the largest impact stemming from new subsidies that reduce the cost of health insurance purchased through exchanges.23 Specifically, by providing subsidies that decline with rising income (and increase with falling income) and by making some people financially better off, the ACA will create an incentive for some people to choose to work less.24 The structure of the tax code—in which rising incomes push some people into higher tax brackets—will also reduce labor force participation slightly.

    A couple of days ago I read some media reports referencing this report that discussed a reduction in labor supply due to the ACA which projected a supply reduction of 2 million equivalent jobs. However I couldn’t find this assertion in the above-linked report by searching using the keyword “million” or the keyword “equivalent”. Footnote 24 referenced above links to the budget analyst released just today. (I’m not sure if the 2/11 report was actually available on 2/4 or not.)

    A link to the 2/11 report: http://goo.gl/Vfiuqe. It’s titled, The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2014 to 2024.

    Here’s the relevant section:

    The reduction in CBO’s projections of hours worked represents a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024. Although CBO projects that total employment (and compensation) will increase over the coming decade, that increase will be smaller than it would have been in the absence of the ACA. The decline in full-time-equivalent employment stemming from the ACA will consist of some people not being employed at all and other people working fewer hours; however, CBO has not tried to quantify those two components of the overall effect. The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment (that is, more workers seeking but not finding jobs) or underemployment (such as part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week).

    CBO’s estimate that the ACA will reduce employment reflects some of the inherent trade-offs involved in designing such legislation. Subsidies that help lower-income people purchase an expensive product like health insurance must be relatively large to encourage a significant proportion of eligible people to enroll. If those subsidies are phased out with rising income in order to limit their total costs, the phaseout effectively raises people’s marginal tax rates (the tax rates applying to their last dollar of income), thus discouraging work. In addition, if the subsidies are financed at least in part by higher taxes, those taxes will further discourage work or create other economic distortions, depending on how the taxes are designed. Alternatively, if subsidies are not phased out or eliminated with rising income, then the increase in taxes required to finance the subsidies would be much larger.

    CBO’s estimate of the ACA’s impact on labor markets is subject to substantial uncertainty, which arises in part because many of the ACA’s provisions have never been implemented on such a broad scale and in part because available estimates of many key responses vary considerably. CBO seeks to provide estimates that lie in the middle of the distribution of potential outcomes, but the actual effects could differ notably from those estimates. For example, if fewer people obtain subsidized insurance coverage through exchanges than CBO expects, then the effects of the ACA on employment would be smaller than CBO estimates in this report. Alternatively, if more people obtain subsidized coverage through exchanges, then the impact on the labor market would be larger.