House Republicans are poised today to vote to repeal The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the healthcare reform Democrats approved last year. To be more precise, they’ll be voting on a bill called “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.” And after it passes, it will die.
But that title is an early indication that the GOP will rely as much in exercising governmental power as it did in campaigning on a strategy that historian Rick Perlstein called “mendocracy” – rule by lying.
It seems to be working, in part. A new ABC/Washington Post poll’s questions about last year’s reform bill, according to The Note, “showed that 46 percent of Americans think the law is likely to cut jobs, 54 percent think it’s likely to hurt the economy, and 62 percent see it as increasing rather than decreasing the federal deficit.”
One problem: all those beliefs are wrong or, being generous, either open to debate or simply impossible to say definitively. But Republican mendocracy is winning that war of ideas.
On the other hand, the same poll found that only 18 percent of Americans favor complete repeal, as Republican members of Congress plan to vote today, and just 19 percent more favored repeal of some parts of the law but not all of it. So there’s still hope that voters may see through some of the fog of misinformation.
In making their case for repeal, Republicans launched an attack on the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that has gone well beyond the usual bipartisan grumbling about CBO “scoring” of legislation. They attacked the conclusion of the CBO’s report, which states the existing law will reduce federal deficits by $230 billion over the next decade. Conversely, the Republican bill will increase deficits, despite their posturing.
Two former CBO officials now at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said on Tuesday that the Republican critiques of the CBO analysis were “demonstrably false.”
The Republican white paper on their bill seriously misrepresents CBO conclusions about the impact of last year’s health reform on jobs, claiming it will cause “significant job losses,” roughly 650,000.
The most salient CBO conclusion in a July 2009 report is that “the overall impact on labor markets…is difficult to predict.” Many potential effects offset other potential effects, and much of the forecast relies on theoretical projections of labor market decisions, such as a forecast that minimum wage employers will cut back employment if their health care costs go up – even though empirical studies find that employers often ended up hiring even more employees in a comparable situation with an increase in the minimum wage.
After the law passed, CBO concluded that “the legislation, on net, will reduce the amount of labor in the economy by a small amount – roughly half a percent – primarily by reducing the amount of labor that workers choose to supply.”
In other words, some workers will be better off because the law “will effectively increase beneficiaries’ financial resources” or freedom of choice, and they will choose not to work or to work fewer hours. That’s a voluntary cutback in working time, not a loss of jobs.
CBO reports that the healthcare reform may affect the labor market in ways “that are difficult to anticipate or quantify” and with a “net effect on the total labor supply [that] will probably be small.”
Where’s the mass murder of jobs?
Mainstream economists and journalists from organizations such as Factcheck.org, the Urban Institute, and Moody’s Analytics have amassed evidence and projections that, weighing all the imponderables and countervailing effects, the overall job impact will be minimal.
Democrats in Congress, as well as the Center for American Progress, claim there will be a net increase in jobs. They reach that conclusion partly by projecting substantial long-term slowing in the rate of health care cost increases, much of it coming from expansion of pilot projects that prove successful (a forecast that CBO did not even attempt to make).
But expect Republicans to continue inserting arguments about “job-killing” into every debate about government action – except tax cuts, especially for the rich, and war. Mendocracy may not be pretty, but so far it has worked well for the Right.
David Moberg, a senior editor of In These Times, has been on the staff of the magazine since it began publishing in 1976. Before joining In These Times, he completed his work for a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Chicago and worked for Newsweek. He has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nation Institute for research on the new global economy.