Earlier today, GDP growth figures for the fourth quarter of 2013 were released by the federal government, and the numbers were not good. The economy just barely avoided painful contraction, posting annualized growth of only 0.1 percent.
But for the Obamacare Truther Brigade, there was a tiny glimmer of hope. It turns out that higher than expected health care spending growth was just enough to keep that quarterly growth number out of the red. According to the BEA data, if that health spending growth had been excluded, the economy would have contracted by 1 percent.
And according to the Obamacare Truthers, that is proof that Obamacare is totally making the economy awesome:
Health care spending is on the rise, and that’s a good thing http://t.co/qld4G99MKT
— ThinkProgress (@thinkprogress) April 30, 2014
— HuffPostBiz (@HuffPostBiz) April 30, 2014
Without an Obamacare-driven boost to health care spending, economic growth would have stalled out completely. http://t.co/WpXYBntWz5
— FiveThirtyEight (@FiveThirtyEight) April 30, 2014
I’m old enough to remember when one of the major reasons to pass Obamacare was to reduce the percentage of the economy spent on health care, not increase it.
In fact, the White House economic team put out a massive paper in June of 2009 — entitled “The Economic Case For Health Reform ” — that focused on how Obamacare would grow the economy by slashing health care cost growth. Here are just a few fun selections from that report:
We estimate that slowing the annual growth rate of health care costs...would increase real gross domestic product[.] Slowing the growth rate of health care costs will prevent disastrous increases in the Federal budget deficit. Slowing cost growth would lower the unemployment rate consistent with steady inflation by approximately one-quarter of a percentage point for a number of years. The beneficial impact on employment in the short and medium run (relative to the no-reform baseline) is estimated to be approximately 500,000 each year that the effect is felt. The rising share of health expenditures...has dire implications for government budgets. As health care spending rises as a share of GDP under the current system, both households and governments will feel pressure on their budgets.
It goes on and on like that for 56 pages. The report even included a handy chart to show how lower — not higher — health care cost growth would boost the economy:
Why, it’s almost like one of Obamacare’s major stated goals was to reduce health care spending as a percentage of GDP, so that that money could be spent on more productive aspects of the economy! The president’s economists know this, which is why they put so much effort into pushing the meme that Obamacare would reduce health care costs.
Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happened. Despite numerous promises that Obamacare would “bend the cost curve downward,” health care costs have continued to increase. Given all the other blatantly broken promises about Obamacare (keeping your doctor, your health plan, etc.), though, it’s not exactly surprising.
At this point the Venn diagram of Obamacare Promises and Obamacare Results resembles two lonely circles, miles apart, never to meet. And in no way is that a good thing, no matter what the Obamacare Truthers say.