The GOP’s Sudden, Inconsistent Concern for Jobless

The GOP’s Sudden, Inconsistent Concern for Jobless February 11, 2014

After the release of a CBO report last week about the economy and Obamacare, the Republican party immediately and predictably began distorting one of its findings, despite the fact that the report went out of its way to preempt that distortion in the text.

The distortion involves a conclusion in the text that the availability of affordable insurance will allow about 2 million people to quit jobs that they were keeping in order to keep the health insurance. This would be a good thing for the economy, as it would open up those jobs for people who don’t currently have them. Ezra Klein points out how Republicans are being dishonest about that finding:

The finding that made the news, however, concerned the Affordable Care Act’s long-term effect on labor supply. In past reports, the CBO has estimated that the law will, on net, lead some people to drop out of the labor market or cut back on their hours because their health insurance is no longer tied to their job. Imagine a 62-year-old who would like to shift to part-time work but can’t because he can’t afford — or, due to pre-existing conditions, wouldn’t even be sold — insurance on the individual market. Now, because Obamacare has made that insurance affordable and available, he can — and will. As a result, his work hours will be (voluntarily) reduced.

Previously, the CBO had estimated this would reduce total hours worked by about 0.5 percent. Now, it estimates the effect at 1.5 percent to 2 percent of hours worked — a reduction in hours equivalent to more than 2 million full-time jobs.

The CBO was very clear about what this means: “The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in business’ 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.”

The CBO’s clarity didn’t forestall a festival of motivated misreadings. The conservative Washington Times, for instance, featured this headline: “Obamacare will push 2 million workers out of labor market.” That has the distinction of being not only untrue but also the very opposite of the truth. Workers are choosing to cut back hours — not being pushed to do so.

And he notes the hypocrisy at the core of this claim:

In context, the freakout over the CBO estimate is perverse. Is it really the Republican position that we should do nothing – – in fact, cut aid — for the millions of long-term unemployed, but express shock and terror that employed people will, in a few years, cut back their hours or leave the labor force by choice? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about people desperate to join the workforce, who can’t, than about people voluntarily leaving the workforce, who can?

Some Republicans will say, of course, that they don’t oppose helping the jobless. They just oppose increasing the deficit or increasing taxes to do so. But repealing Obamacare raises the deficit, too! So rather than increasing the deficit to help people who want jobs get them, we would be increasing the deficit to make sure people who want to leave their jobs can’t. That’s insane.

It’s pure partisan nonsense.

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