Morning Plum: Republicans double down on another Big Lie about Obamacare

It’s official: The GOP’s big lie about the CBO report — that it said the law will kill 2 million jobs — is now the new “Obama gutted Medicare to pay for Obamacare.”

The claim about the CBO report — which has been widely debunked by fact checkers — has now found its way into its first ad against an incumbent Democratic Senator. Here’s the spot hitting Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina, paid for by her opponent, GOP Rep. Thom Tillis:

Politico says this is a Web ad, but it’s very likely this is how countless attack ads to come will feature this newly minted GOP falsehood. The ad says:

Kay Hagan votes with Barack Obama 96 percent of the time. What will it take to change her mind? How many families will have to lose good health coverage? How many workers will have to lose their jobs? How many people will have to pay for Kay Hagan’s loyalty to Obama?

As the narrator talks about workers losing their jobs, the ad flashes a padlocked factory on the screen, with the words: “Congressional Budget Office estimates 2 million lost jobs do to Obamacare.”

That’s not what the CBO estimated, of course. Indeed, even CBO director Douglas Elmendorf directly contested the characterization of jobs being “lost” during yesterday’s House hearing, noting that when people decide to ease up on work for good reasons, “we don’t sympathize. We say congratulations.” Elmendorf even added that those impacted this way could include older people who decide to retire earlier than they otherwise might have, or spouses who choose to reduce work hours to stay home with a new baby.

It’s worth appreciating the perverse nature of the lie on display here. Because Republicans are absolutely wedded to their “Obamacare is a job killer” talking point, the CBO report’s findings are being distorted into proof that the law will inflict job losses on millions of workers who, in this telling, become Obamacare’s helpless victims — a labor demand argument. In reality, the report actually found it would impact the choices workers receiving the law’s benefits make — a labor supply argument.

Some conservatives have dealt with the report’s actual findings directly by arguing they prove the case against the law — that government subsidies reduce the incentive to work. Many of the good wonky writers — Jonathan Cohn, Brian Beutler, Jonathan Chait, Jared Bernstein — have already engaged this argument effectively. But that is at least a legitimate debate to have within the context of the CBO’s findings.

However, the point is that, for the purposes of political attacks, Republicans don’t want that to be the debate. The argument over the pluses and minuses of expanding health care to those who lack it — whether it’s good because it creates economic flexibility, or bad because it fosters dependency — takes the debate on to turf GOP operatives would prefer to avoid. That’s in keeping with the larger story here, which is that Republicans don’t want any debate about the law’s benefits. They have focused relentlessly on supposed victims of Obamacare horror stories about “lost” coverage and rising premiums (see “Bette in Sokane“), while pretending those benefitting from it simply don’t exist and in some cases explicitly working to prevent their own constituents from joining the ranks of the law’s beneficiaries.

Similarly, the CBO report must be distorted beyond recognition into fodder for a story only about people being victimized by the law — by Obamacare-created job losses inflicted on them.  The above ad is only the beginning of this, and we’re going to be seeing a lot of it.

* OBAMACARE FOES DUMB DOWN DEBATE: Related to the above: Don’t miss E.J. Dionne’s column pushing back on misrepresentations of the CBO report, in which he details why working less might be a good option for some people, since broadening coverage to create flexibility is one of the law’s goals. Also, Dionne flags a nugget in the report that’s gone oddly overlooked:

It’s sometimes an economic benefit when some share of the labor force reduces hours or stops working altogether. At a time of elevated unemployment, others will take their place. The CBO was careful to underscore — the CBO is always careful — that “if some people seek to work less, other applicants will be readily available to fill those positions and the overall effect on employment will be muted.”

Also, as noted here yesterday, the CBO director himself confirms that the law will lead to a rise in labor demand, which in this kind of economy will reduce unemployment.

* GOP DEBT CEILING STRATEGY TAKES ANOTHER TURN: The Post has the latest:

House Speaker John A. Boehner scrambled to sell a new debt-ceiling solution to his Republican colleagues on Wednesday, encouraging them to demand a restoration of recently cut military benefits in exchange for a one-year extension of the federal government’s borrowing authority….Boehner’s approach — moving toward a possible tweak to federal pension funding — signals a departure from past debt-ceiling debates, in which Republicans have frequently demanded sweeping conservative measures in exchange for an extension. It also underscores Boehner’s desire to avoid a partisan standoff with the White House ahead of the midterm elections.

At this point, Republicans are not even trying to extort conservative priorities, because they know they need Dem support to avoid another damaging hostage crisis. So why not a clean increase at this point?

Meanwhile, check out James Downie’s excellent look at how the folly of the GOP debt ceiling position actually had Republicans entertaining a hostage demand that would have increased the deficit Republicans care so much about.

* HERE COMES THE GOP ALTERNATIVE TO OBAMACARE: So reports The Hill:

Cantor intends to move a repeal-and-replace bill before the midterm elections in November, according to a source familiar with the situation….A source close to Cantor noted the similarities of the plans and general agreement among members of the party that an alternative should include the ability to purchase insurance across state lines, the creation of high-risk pools for individuals with pre-existing conditions and medical malpractice reform.

The question then will be: is there any alternative that can actually pass the GOP-controlled House? Until there is, the GOP plan will be, in effect, to go back to the old system.

* OBAMA QUEST FOR FAST TRACK AUTHORITY IN TROUBLE? The Wall Street Journal has a good piece detailing how Obama’s quest for fast track authority is in trouble in Congress, partly because Dem leaders are leery, but also because even Republicans are balking at giving him that authority. Key factoid: while only 27 House Republicans opposed giving George W. Bush this authority in 2002, now some 60 House Republicans might be opposed, because they are “reluctant” to grant these powers to you-know-who.

As WSJ delicately notes, this is the case even though “Republicans have traditionally backed trade measures.”

* DEMS TO RAMP UP ATTACKS ON KOCH BROTHERS: In Louisiana, Dems are set to hold a press call today to draw attention to the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity’s agenda, as pushback against AFP’s ad blitz against Senator Mary Landrieu, hitting the group’s opposition to Senate flood insurance reform, a big issue in Louisiana. With Dems growing alarmed about AFP money, expect a more aggressive effort to tie GOP opponents directly to the Kochs — with a focus on their agenda in states where they’re advertising, and nationally — in coming weeks.

* THE DEM GAME PLAN FOR 2014: Ashley Parker has a good piece detailing the extensive efforts underway by Dems to ensure good turnout among Dem constituencies in the 2014 Senate races. The challenge is formidable:

The Democratic Senate campaigns face considerable challenges. The voting rates of core Democratic constituencies — African Americans, Hispanics, unmarried women, younger voters — historically drop off considerably in midterm elections….Moreover, in many of the states, especially those where the Obama campaign had little real presence, they are basically starting from scratch. Young voters, for instance, are highly mobile and often have to be registered again because they have moved in the past two years.

As noted here the other day, turning out constituencies such as minorities and low income and unmarried women will be pivotal to Dem hopes of holding the Senate, and pocketbook issues will be used to mobilize those constituencies.

What else?

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