CBO: Guys, We Didn’t Say Obamacare Would Cost 2.5 Million Jobs

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February 10, 2014 3:27 p.m.

The Congressional Budget Office issued its official rebuttal Monday to the Republican talking point that Obamacare would cost 2.5 million American jobs.

In a new FAQ explainer of last week’s budget report, CBO director Doug Elmendorf, answering if 2.5 million people will lose their jobs by 2024 because of the health care reform law, said: “No, we would not describe our estimates in that way.”

In the immediate aftermath of the CBO report, some Republicans characterized the report’s findings as: The law would “cost” the U.S. economy up to 2.5 million jobs. The phrase quickly found its way into a Senate GOP web advertisement.

But what the CBO actually said was much different, as TPM reported. The agency said that some Americans would choose to stop working or work less because of the law. They could change their work habits for various reasons, such as starting a new business or choosing to spend time at home. The voluntary cutback in hours would be equal to 2.5 million full-time jobs.

“Because the longer-term reduction in work is expected to come almost entirely from a decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply in response to the changes in their incentives, we do not think it is accurate to say that the reduction stems from people ‘losing’ their jobs,” Elmendorf wrote.

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But in the broader debate about whether Obamacare’s effect on the American work ethic is a good or bad thing, as TPM discussed, the CBO decided to leave that to the politicians.

“Whether voluntary reductions in hours worked owing to the ACA are good or bad for the country as a whole is a matter of judgment,” Elmendorf said.

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