Unemployment Is Freedom. Dependency Is Choice. Numbers Lie.
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Unemployment Is Freedom. Dependency Is Choice. Numbers Lie.

The Great Deflection

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 Obamacare is “costing” or “killing” American jobs. It is no more a “lie” to say so than it is to claim Mitt Romney was “shipping jobs overseas” or hear an administration assert that it “created jobs” — or any of the other countless shorthand 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 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 the 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 reasons 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. Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Jason Furman told reporters that Obamacare allowed greater “choice” not to work. Jay Carney followed. And soon left-wing media followed.  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. It’s about workers — and the choices they make,” writes 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 labor force participation rate, or the unemployment rate for that matter, he or she might be lying to the public.

Magically, it was either a good thing that Americans were dropping out of the labor market or a “lie” to claim that Obama was 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 had found legislation was the impetus for over 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. But within a few hours, many were changing headlines. Here are a few according 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 discouraging work and impeding job creation is now a dispute about semantics. Mission accomplished.

David Harsanyi is a Senior Editor at The Federalist and author of the forthcoming The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy

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