This week’s Congressional Budget Office report really heated things up during an otherwise frigid week across the country.
As I mentioned yesterday, the latest CBO report which focused largely on the president's health reform law, dominated the headlines most of the day — whether it was about the shrinking federal deficit (which appears to undermine most Tea Party claims) or the labor cost of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (apparently widely misunderstood).
Oddly enough, what no one outside (or even inside) the industry seemed to notice was the huge hit the botched HealthCare.gov rollout seemed to inflict on the federal exchange enrollment forecast. To say the administration — and by extension, the media — glossed over the 1 million enrollment shortfall would be a gross understatement. We’re talking about a 14 percent deficit of expected new enrollment right out of the gate just because the website used to run the thing came straight out of the dot-com bust.
No, what everyone wanted to focus on was the 2 million job number.
The report declared a few things, actually. For starters, the CBO found that PPACA would costs the economy the equivalent of roughly 2 million jobs by 2017. Further out, the report predicted hours worked would fall another 1.5 percent to 2 percent by 2024. And that total compensation for those remaining in the workforce would fall 1 percent from 2017 to 2024.
(Keep in mind all these numbers are more than double original estimates.)
I wrote, probably too generally, “But before Democrats get too giddy, the CBO sounded a pretty damning alarm of some ‘unadvertised’ costs of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As in, a loss of more than 2 million jobs and an extra $1 trillion tacked on to that (for now) shrinking deficit by 2017.”
And the White House response?
“Over the longer run, CBO finds that because of this law, individuals will be empowered to make choices about their own lives and livelihoods, like retiring on time rather than working into their elderly years, or choosing to spend more time with their families,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
Did I — along with the majority of the media — unfairly or incorrectly report what the CBO was telling us? Maybe. But the facts remain the same. In the short term, PPACA’s impact on the economy — and the deficit — are negligible. But, in the longer term, the economy and our deficit will both get dragged down by the legislation.
At the same time, I think it’s a cop out, if not dangerously naive, to split the hairs here and say its OK if people are leaving the workforce voluntarily. Whether it’s their choice or not, people outside the labor pool are, at best, contributing nothing, while in the worst case, are actually a drag on it.
The media have a habit of taking the shortest distance between two points, sometimes oversimplifying complicated stories for the sake of our readers, or viewers. And sometimes ignoring them altogether.
But to take Huffington Post’s stance and call it “Media’s Gigantic Obamacare Fail,” is equally lazy, if not jingoistic, reporting. We might have misrepresented the findings, technically, for simplicity’s sake, but we’re certainly not backtracking to the point of propaganda, either.
No matter how you spin it, the simple truth is that this law will cover fewer people than intended at a higher price — both in terms of dollars and jobs — than anyone could have predicted.