Last week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office issued its analysis of Obamacare — the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act — finding that under the act, about 2.5 million workers would leave the workforce by 2024 as a result of the act’s provisions.
Republicans immediately seized on the CBO finding, claiming the report proved that Obamacare was indeed “a job killer,” and that it would “cost millions of Americans their jobs” or “leave millions of people looking for work.”
The Republican spin on the Obamacare CBO finding was widely debunked in the press and The Washington Post went so far as to call it “another Big Lie.”
Today, the CBO itself weighed in, explaining in its usual dispassionate terms, that Republican talking points aside, the Obamacare report never said what the Republicans said it said.
In fact, the CBO said, that Obamacare will make people better off by allowing them to reduce their working hours or leave the workforce altogether voluntarily — something generally referred to as “retirement” and traditionally in America, celebrated as a good thing.
“When firms do not have enough business and decide to lay people off, the people who are laid off are generally worse off and are therefore unhappy about what is happening,” the CBO explained in a FAQ document posted to its online site today. “As a result, other people express their sympathy to those people for having ‘lost their jobs’ due to forces beyond their control.”
So, to summarize, people who get kicked out of their jobs by forces beyond their control have “lost their jobs” and are unhappy because they are in worse shape than when they were working.
That, the CBO said, is not what will happen as a result of Obamacare.
“When the labor market is strong and people decide on their own to retire, to leave work to take care of their families, or to cut back on their hours to pursue other interests, those people presumably think they are better off,” the CBO patiently explained. “As a result, other people are generally happy for them and do not describe them as having ‘lost their jobs.'”
The CBO never said that 2.5 million jobs would somehow be cut from the U.S. workforce. It estimated that people who feel happier and better off in their lives will choose to work fewer hours. Between 2017 and 2024, the CBO expects that people will cut down on work time by between 1.5 and 2 percent. The total number of willingly reduced hours would be the equivalent of roughly 2.5 million full-time jobs.
Why would people cut back their working hours? Because they are happier. They might use the extra time to start businesses of their own, or just spend more time with their families — whatever they choose. Traditionally, those types of happiness-increasing activities have been looked on as integral to the American “pursuit of happiness.”
Writer Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt, in a Politico essay entitled, “Why Do Republicans Want Us To Work All The Time?” explained that over the past century, freedom from working crushingly long hours — as during the Industrial Revolution when Americans worked 12 to 14 hour days, six days a week with no paid time off — has been a fundamental American aspiration.
None of this lines up with Republican claims such as the one made by Florida Senator and 2016 expected Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, who said, “Just yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office found that Obamacare will cost millions of Americans their jobs.”
Or Minnesota Rep. John Kline, who declared, “The president’s health care law is destroying full-time jobs,” and “wreaking havoc on working families nationwide.”
The CBO explained today that neither claim is true, nor is either claim actually contained in the CBO’s original Obamacare report.