Rep. Ryan Falsely Claims CBO Director Testified That Health Care Law 'Destroys Jobs'

February 11, 2011 2:57 pm ET

After the CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf testified at the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) posted a tweet saying, "President's health care law will destroy jobs, says CBO." But Rep. Ryan is misrepresenting Elmendorf's testimony, which aligns with an August CBO report saying that there will be a reduction in the supply of labor due to workers voluntarily leaving the workforce — not a reduction in the supply of jobs. The tired Republican talking point that the health care reform law destroys or kills jobs has been repeatedly shown to be false.

Rep. Ryan Claims CBO Director Testified That Health Care Reform Law 'Destroys Jobs'...

Ryan Tweet: "President's Health Care Law Will Destroy Jobs, Says CBO." Rep. Paul Ryan posted the following on Twitter:

Tweet         

[Twitter.com, 2/10/11]

...But That's Not What The Director Said About The Law

Ryan Linked To Video Of CBO Director Elmendorf Testifying That Health Care Reform Reduces The Supply Of Labor, Not Jobs. From the video linked by Rep. Ryan of CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf testifying before the House Budget Committee:

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.

[House Budget Committee hearing via YouTube.com, 2/10/11]

CBO Report Says Health Care Law Will "Reduce The Amount Of Labor That Workers Choose To Supply." From a CBO report discussing the health care law:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the legislation, on net, 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.

[CBO, The Budget and Economic Outlook: An Update, August 2010, emphasis added]

AP: CBO "Actually Said" That Impact Of Health Care Law On Jobs "Would Be Small." From the Associated Press:

[The GOP] cites the 650,000 lost jobs as Exhibit A, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office as the source of the original analysis behind that estimate. But the budget office, which referees the costs and consequences of legislation, never produced the number.

What follows is a story of how statistics get used and abused in Washington.

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.

"The legislation, on net, 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," budget office number crunchers said in a report from last year.

That's not how it got translated in the new report from Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other top Republicans.

CBO "has determined that the law will reduce the 'amount of labor used in the economy by roughly half a percent,' an estimate that adds up to roughly 650,000 jobs lost," the GOP version said.

Gone was the caveat that the impact would be small, mainly due to people working less.

[Associated Press, 1/18/11, emphasis added]

PolitiFact Rated Claim That Health Care Reform Kills Jobs "False." From PolitiFact.com's fact check of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's claim that the health care law is "job killing":

Republicans have used the "job-killing" claim hundreds of times -- so often that they used the phrase in the name of the bill. It implies that job losses will be one of the most significant effects of the law. But they have flimsy evidence to back it up.

The phrase suggests a massive decline in employment, but the data doesn't support that. The Republican evidence is extrapolated from a report that was talking about a reduction in the labor supply rather than the loss of jobs, or based on measures that weren't included in the final health care law. We rate the statement False. [PolitiFact.com, 1/19/11]

McClatchy: "Saying That The Law Is A Job Killer Doesn't Necessarily Make It One." According to McClatchy:

Republicans have titled their effort to overturn the law the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act," and that's their favorite talking point against it. The House of Representatives will start debate on repeal Tuesday and probably vote Wednesday.

Saying that the law is a job killer doesn't necessarily make it one, however, and independent experts say that such a conclusion is at least premature, if not unfounded.

"The claim has no justification," said Micah Weinberg, a senior research fellow at the centrist New America Foundation's Health Policy Program. [McClatchy, 1/17/11]

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