Rep. Ann Wagner’s (R-2) is hopping mad – or, more likely, hopping around, trying to get off the liar’s hot seat (remember the refrain “liar, liar, pants on fire”?). What’s got her hopping? A recent editorial in the St. Louis Post Dispatch that had the temerity to suggest that the deficit was falling, the economic outlook is improving and that the findings of a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on Obamacare economic impacts have been grossly misinterpreted by folks like Wagner. So what does she do to relieve the gut-churning evidently induced by the good news? Why, write a letter to the editor, of course, insisting that they take it all back – a letter which she then proudly forwarded to her lucky constituents, a move meant, undoubtedly, to let the Tea Party types among them know what a big, fearsome Obama-hater she really is.
Rep. Wagner attributes her motivation for writing to her tender concern for constituents who, according to her claims, have been telling her about all the ways their lives have been ruined by Obama administration policies, especially Obamacare:
Every day I hear from hardworking families in the 2nd District who are struggling to make it to the 15th and the 30th of every month in this tough economy. These are real people struggling under the weight of President Obama’s failed agenda.
Wagner added a few details in the constituent email:
Every day I hear from far too many hardworking families in the 2nd District who have seen their premiums skyrocket, their health insurance cancelled, who have been forced to change their doctors, and have seen their hours cut back at work.
I haven’t followed every pronouncement from Rep. Wagner on the topic of Obamacare, but when she starts moaning and groaning about her constituents’ Obamacare-related suffering, concrete details are few and far between. Which is probably intentional given that similar “true” stories promulgated by Wagner’s GOP colleagues have not been able to withstand close scrutiny. Remember, for instance, the subsequently debunked Bette story in Cathy McMorris Rogers response to the SOTU? Of course, it’s also likely that the complaints that she has received in response to her solicitations for Obamacare hardship stories reflect a partisan bias that skews perceptions. A Gallup poll released last week showed that only 19% of Americans said that they had been hurt by Obamcare and, of that 19%, 60% were Republican or Republican-leaning. Which, in turn suggests that what Steve Benen identifies as political “tribalism” leads people to respond to polls – and requests from politicians for political ammo – in the way they think they should.
The real point is not that Missourians are suffering due to Obamacare, but that Rep. Wagner has invested lots of capital in questionable rhetoric and she’s up in arms when folks like the Post-Dispatch editorial staff who, after looking carefully at the recent CBO report, point out that she and her GOP cohorts have distorted its contents. Her claims are simple:
The numbers in the CBO report couldn’t be clearer: Due to Obamacare, the equivalent of 2.5 million people will leave the workforce over the next 10 years, and government-run health care will add another trillion dollars to our national debt.
This is where the burning pants really ignite. Wagner is willfully wrong on both counts.
The CBO report does not say that jobs will be lost, just that some people will voluntarily leave the labor force or reduce their hours of work because they don’t need to keep working in order to secure affordable health insurance. Hours will not be reduced by employers, but by employees. In fact, as the Washington Post points out, “the CBO declares that ‘there is no compelling evidence that part-time employment has increased as a result of the ACA,'” thus decimating one of Wagner’s talking points about employers cutting employee hours to escape paying for health insurance. There’s lots to be said on this topic, and I think most of it got said last week – and none of it supports Rep. Wagner’s hyperbolic assertions, including a statement from the author of the report she considers so clearly negative, CBO director Doug Elmendorf. In fact, as Elmendorf pointed out, the report indicated that Obamacare would have a positive employment effect:
Elmendorf also noted that the ACA is actually expected to boost the economy in the near-term by making health insurance and medical care affordable for the poorest Americans, giving them the freedom to spend money in other areas of the economy. “On balance, CBO estimates that the ACA will boost overall demand for goods and services over the next few years,” states the report.
As for the business about increasing the deficit:
…the CBO reduced its estimate of the net cost of the ACA by $9 billion through 2024, in part because of the number of states that have refused to implement the law’s Medicaid expansions. And the CBO still maintains that, over the 10-year window of its analysis, the ACA will reduce the federal deficit. In fact, that trend is expected to increase in subsequent years, with the ACA leading to greater deficit reduction.
So what should we think about Rep. Wagner’s whining ways? Paul Krugman’s summary of GOP duplicity could have been tailor-made to her measure:
… .Remember, the campaign against health reform has, at every stage, grabbed hold of any and every argument it could find against insuring the uninsured, with truth and logic never entering into the matter. Think about it. We had the nonexistent death panels. We had false claims that the Affordable Care Act will cause the deficit to balloon. We had supposed horror stories about ordinary Americans facing huge rate increases, stories that collapsed under scrutiny. And now we have a fairly innocuous technical estimate misrepresented as a tale of massive economic damage.
To conclude, sorry Rep. Wagner, but Obamacare is beginning to work out, the economy is getting better despite harmful GOP budget cutting, and lots of things are really getting better for lots and lots of Americans – despite the best GOP efforts to hide the truth.