Rep. Ryan Desperately Claims CBO Testimony Proves Health Care Reform 'Destroys Jobs'

February 11, 2011 10:54 am ET — Meredith Kormes

Rep. Paul Ryan

After the CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf testified at the House Budget Committee yesterday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) thought he caught the director in a "gotcha" moment and posted a tweet saying, "President's health care law will destroy jobs, says CBO," and then linked to an excerpt of Elmendorf's testimony:

REP. JOHN CAMPBELL (R-CA): ...First on health care before I get to broader issues. You just mentioned that you believe or that in your estimates, that the health care law would reduce the labor used in the economy by about one half of one percent. Given that I believe you say there's 160 million full-time people working in 2021 that means that in your estimation, the health care law reduce employment by 800,000 in 2021. Is that correct?

ELMENDORF: Yes, the way I would put it, is we do estimate, as you said, that the household employment will be about 160 million by the end of the decade. Half a percent of that is 800,000. That means that if the reduction in the labor used was workers working the average number of hours in the economy, and earning the average wage, that there will be a reduction of 800,000 workers. In fact, as we mentioned in our analysis last summer, the legislation also creates some incentives that might affect the number of hours people worked, it might affect the propensity to work of lower and higher income people. We haven't tried to quantify those things, but the impact is that the 800,000 might not be exactly the number, but it is equivalent of withdrawing 800,000.

Rep. Ryan is so desperate to paint the Affordable Care Act as a 'job killer' that he is trying to present old information as new and shocking. However, the CBO has been saying since last August that the new health care law "will reduce the amount of labor used in the economy by a small amount—roughly half a percent—primarily by reducing the amount of labor that workers choose to supply."

Rep. Ryan is willfully misrepresenting that there is a difference between a reduction in the supply of labor and a reduction in the supply of jobs. As the Associated Press explained, "What CBO actually said is that the impact of the health care law on supply and demand for labor would be small. Most of it would come from people who no longer have to work, or can downshift to less demanding employment, because insurance will be available outside the job."

And despite what Ryan claims, that is exactly what Director Elmendorf said in his testimony.

UPDATE: The Washington Post fact checked the Republican's claim and gave it three Pinocchios, saying, "This is the kind of political gamesmanship that gives politics a bad name. The House GOP has taken a sliver of a phrase and twisted it beyond all meaning. Elmendorf never said 800,000 jobs would be destroyed, and he certainly did not mean to suggest that. Given that Republicans have routinely faulted the CBO for its estimates and assumptions on the health care bill, they should be ashamed of immediately embracing this particular aspect of the CBO's analysis."