The Media Fails While Covering CBO Report on ObamaCare

© Josh Sager – February 2014

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If you follow the political media, you have probably seen reports covering how a recently released CBO report just concluded how ObamaCare will cost Americans nearly 2.3 million full-time work hours by 2024. Unfortunately, if you have seen these articles, you have been misled and are probably worrying about a problem which simply doesn’t exist.

In their analysis of the CBO report, numerous large publications—including Forbes, Fox News, The Washington Times, Politico and a lineup of talk/news shows on television—have deceptively labeled terms in the CBO report in order to support the right wing attack narrative that ObamaCare is costing American’s jobs. In doing this, these publications have twisted a very positive aspect of the ObamaCare reform into a partisan attack line.

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Those who push this talking point fail to make a distinction between the supply of labor (how many people want jobs) and the demand for labor (how much employment is available based upon demand), conflating jobs lost with workers voluntarily leaving the market.

 

The Real Story

The CBO report does indicate that ObamaCare will reduce the national workforce by the work-hour equivalent to 2.3 million full time workers (40hr/week) by 2024, but it credits these “losses” to people voluntarily quitting/cutting back hours. This voluntary departure has many motivations—ranging from people taking early retirement to people shifting to part-time now that they don’t need to qualify for benefits—but it is a function of Americans gaining more freedom.

Before ObamaCare set up a viable alternative to employer-provided health insurance, workers were “job-locked” into employment that they wanted to leave because quitting would eliminate their health insurance. This lack of freedom hit many populations, but it was particularly harmful to the elderly (who tend to have health problems and an inability to get insurance), those with families, and people with conditions that would invalidate them getting new insurance.

Now that ObamaCare creates a viable alternative to employer-provided health insurance, Americans who were previously job-locked will be freed up to leave their employment and other Americans will take their places.

For example, a 63-year old worker wants to retire but has health problems and will not be eligible for Medicare for two years—his need for employer-based insurance forces him to work a full time job in order to retain his benefits. With ObamaCare in effect, this man is able to find affordable non-employer insurance that allows him to leave his job and finally retire.

In this situation, a full time job is technically “lost,” because a worker was given enough resources to leave it voluntarily. Functionally however, this job isn’t really “lost,” as the demand for employment is still there once this man leaves and his departure will leave an opening for another worker.

 

Why the Media Confusion?

It is very difficult it attribute exact motivations to many of the publications which misreported this story, but it is likely one of three possibilities:

First, right wing propaganda outlets like Fox News and The Washington Times, likely understood the true ramifications of the report, but chose to report it in a way which attacks their political foes. These outlets have never let reality get in the way of their attacks and it should surprise nobody that these outlets find it appropriate to misreport CBO analyses of the most hated law of the right wing.

Second, some authors and editors at publications like Politico could have made a simple mistake in reading the report and grabbed headlines without realizing how misleading their reporting was. It is the duty of these publications to immediately retract their previous stories and correct their mistakes.

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Finally, there are likely many news sources (particularly on the local level) which got swept along by the headlines of the larger publications and made the mistake of re-reporting the mistakes of other publications. Just as with the larger publications, these outlets must offer retractions, but they must also take care to do their own fact-checking and not get caught up an echo-chamber of falsehoods.

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