The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report today showing that the Affordable Care Act would reduce the labor force by an estimated 2.4 million workers by 2024.
Cue shrieking about how Obamacare is killing jobs and the economy. Headlines:
Chuck Todd tweeted the following:
CBO essentially reaffirms GOP talking points on health care. Says it will cost jobs, feel as if it raises taxes and contributes to deficit
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) February 4, 2014
And then this:
— NRCC (@NRCC) February 4, 2014
It should come as no surprise that all of the sources above are totally (and perhaps deliberately) misinterpreting the CBO’s report. Of course.
The report doesn’t have anything to do with layoffs or a reduction in available jobs. Even a cursory reading of the report shows that it’s all about people voluntarily leaving the workforce, either to start their own business due to the availability of healthcare or to scale back to part-time employment while still retaining their insurance. The report clearly states:
The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor.
A total nincompoop can understand that. But clearly it’s way too complicated for journalists employed by major news outlets like The Hill, Politico, NBC News, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and UPI who all got it wrong. Again, we also have to question whether these reporters simply didn’t read the CBO report correctly or whether they’re deliberately misleading their readers.
If it’s the latter, and I tend to believe it is, this unforgivable misreporting of a story is yet another indication of a growing and very dangerous crisis in journalism. Political polarization, the demand for internet traffic and the efficacy of incendiary, click-bait headlines are, combined, leading to a resurgence in yellow journalism in the digital age, loaded with flagrant inaccuracies and hyperbole which only serve to derail the debate and create false narratives.
If the NSA story wasn’t reason enough, these CBO articles make it abundantly clear that now more than ever, we have to read between the lines and never believe a headline at first glance.