Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Spin Trap

Less than 24 hours ago, many media pundits (including that one) were salivating. And G-O-TEA politicians everywhere were licking their chops. Why?

"We wuz rite!!! OBAMACARE KILZ JOBZZZ!!!!"

And they were... As usual, wrong. And fortunately for us, the Los Angeles Times' Michael Hiltzik explains why.

The CBO [Congressional Budget Office] projects that the act will reduce the supply of labor, not the availability of jobs. There's a big difference. In fact, it suggests that aggregate demand for labor (that is, the number of jobs) will increase, not decrease; but that many workers or would-be workers will be prompted by the ACA [Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare] to leave the labor force, many of them voluntarily.

As economist Dean Baker points out, this is, in fact, a beneficial effect of the law, and a sign that it will achieve an important goal. It helps "older workers with serious health conditions who are working now because this is the only way to get health insurance. And (one for the family-values crowd) many young mothers who return to work earlier than they would like because they need health insurance. This is a huge plus."

The ACA will reduce the total hours worked by about 1.5% to 2% in 2017 to 2024, the CBO forecasts, "almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor — given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive."  That translates into about 2.5 million full-time equivalents by 2024 — not the number of workers, because some will reduce their number of hours worked rather than leaving the workforce entirely.

So those who'd rather not work as many hours won't have to any more. And those who'd like to break away to start their own business now can. And those who felt trapped because of the need for health insurance no longer have to feel that way. What's the problem here?

The problem here doesn't lie with Obamacare. Rather, it lies with misleading G-O-TEA spin... And the willingness of far too many media pundits to go along for the ride.

Republican "leaders" on Capitol Hill have become increasingly desperate in their efforts to placate their base of G-O-TEA Culture Warriors hell bent on provoking Armageddon. That's why they're latching onto whatever they can spin as "OBAMA FAIL!!!!" Clearly, they were hoping that the new CBO report would provide just that. And once they started realizing it actually didn't, they proceeded to attack the CBO.

Apparently this morning, all the misleading spin finally proved to be too much for The New York Times Editorial Page.

Some workers may have had a pre-existing condition and will now be able to leave work because insurers must accept all applicants without regard to health status and charge premiums unrelated to health status. Some may have felt they needed to keep working to pay for health insurance, but now new government subsidies will help pay premiums, making it more possible for them to leave their jobs.

The report clearly stated that health reform would not produce an increase in unemployment (workers unable to find jobs) or underemployment (part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week). It also found “no compelling evidence” that, as of now, part-time employment has increased as a result of the reform law, a frequent claim of critics. [...]

The new law will free people, young and old, to pursue careers or retirement without having to worry about health coverage. Workers can seek positions they are most qualified for and will no longer need to feel locked into a job they don’t like because they need insurance for themselves or their families. It is hard to view this as any kind of disaster.

It's just too bad that even The Times' own front page initially got caught in the spin trap. And it's too bad that certain media pundits are rewarding the spin rather than reporting the news. Oh, and this just serves as another reminder of why we need more independent media who are actually committed to reporting real news.

No comments:

Post a Comment