David Harsanyi / February 7, 2014

Unemployment Is Freedom

Obamacare will reduce American workforce participation by the equivalent of 2 million full-time jobs in 2017, according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office. Work hours would be reduced by the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs in 2024, a tripling of the previous estimates. If you believe this report – and I’m not sure why we pay this much attention to CBO projections – you can then believe that Obamacare discourages work, pushes people out of the labor market and, consequently, leads to fewer people having jobs. Certainly, it is well within the parameters of political rhetoric for the opposition to assert that the CBO has found that Obamacare is “costing” or “killing” American jobs. It is no more a “lie” to say so than it is to claim that Mitt Romney was “shipping jobs overseas” or for an administration to assert that it “created jobs” – or to use any of the other countless shorthand terms we use for economic consequences in political debate.

Obamacare will reduce American workforce participation by the equivalent of 2 million full-time jobs in 2017, according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office. Work hours would be reduced by the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs in 2024, a tripling of the previous estimates.

If you believe this report – and I’m not sure why we pay this much attention to CBO projections – you can then believe that Obamacare discourages work, pushes people out of the labor market and, consequently, leads to fewer people having jobs. Certainly, it is well within the parameters of political rhetoric for the opposition to assert that the CBO has found that Obamacare is “costing” or “killing” American jobs. It is no more a “lie” to say so than it is to claim that Mitt Romney was “shipping jobs overseas” or for an administration to assert that it “created jobs” – or to use any of the other countless shorthand terms we use for economic consequences in political debate.

But the only way to blunt the negative force of the CBO findings was to deflect from the numbers and gin up a controversy over semantics. And the synchronicity and speed in which left-wing punditry accomplished this task was pretty extraordinary: No, absolutely false, the term “killing jobs” implies that the problem is on the labor demand side, but the CBO, as any honest person can see, is talking about the labor supply side. So really, “jobs” aren’t being lost; people just don’t want to work.

“Obamacare is inducing labor demand to shrink!” doesn’t have quite the same punch as “Obamacare is costing us jobs!” – though both are accurate. Yet all of a sudden, a precise elucidation on every underlying economic reason for what’s happening must be offered with each and every mention of the CBO report. Otherwise, “lies.”

Well, unless you spin the projection as good news. Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Jason Furman told reporters that Obamacare allows greater “choice” not to work. White House press secretary Jay Carney followed. And soon, left-wing media followed. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler prepared a bizarre fact-checking piece that was helpfully titled “No, CBO did not say Obamacare will kill 2 million jobs.” “First, this is not about jobs offered by employers. It’s about workers – and the choices they make,” wrote Kessler. Yes, the choice not to work at a job. Using Kessler’s logic, each time some clueless reporter mentions the word “jobs” in any story about the labor force participation rate – or the unemployment rate, for that matter – he or she may be lying to the public.

Magically, liberals argue it is a good thing that Americans will drop out of the labor market and a “lie” to claim that Obamacare is the impetus for impeding job growth.

Yes, for an estimated $1.2 trillion over the next decade, we can subsidize your freedom. In ordinary times, if a projection found particular legislation to be the impetus for more than 2 million people dropping out of the labor force during serious economic stagnation, newspapers might have reported it in a negative light. And maybe that was their initial intent here. But within a few hours, many were changing headlines. Here are a few, according to the Post’s Erik Wemple:

Politico at first: CBO: Lower enrollment, bigger job losses with Obamacare.

Politico now: Report reignites debate over Obamacare and jobs.

UPI at first: CBO: Obamacare to cost 2.3 million jobs over 10 years.

UPI now: WH disputes media claims on CBO Obamacare study.

What was once a story about Obamacare’s discouraging work and impeding job creation is now a dispute about semantics. Mission accomplished.

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