The big story among health care policy circles and some pundits over the past few days has been a new Congressional Budget Office report.
Republicans falsely seized on it to claim that Obamacare would “eliminate 2.5 million jobs.” Multiple experts and Democrats pushed back against this charge and it eventually got so bad the CBO issued a very rare rebuttal of the GOP talking point. The whole thing has left pundits wondering if the CBO report is still a politically useful weapon for the GOP in 30 second ads.
The pundits can stop racking their brains because what the CBO says basically never matters politically. Regular people don’t pay any attention to the CBO.
You need to only look at the original health care reform debate to see how little the CBO reports mattered to the general public. There was probably no piece of legislation ever that was more heavily covered by the media and no debate where CBO reports played such an important role.
The drafting of the Affordable Care Act was repeatedly delayed to wait for new CBO scores. Democrats made getting a deficit reducing CBO score a top priority, going so far as to make several stupid policy choices just to assure they got a “good” score. The CBO claiming the law would reduce the deficit was made a top selling point in Democrats’ PR campaign.
Despite all this work, in the end the public still had no idea what the CBO said. Polling found only 25 percent could correctly identify that the CBO projected the ACA would reduce the deficit, while 45 percent incorrectly thought the CBO labeled it as increasing the deficit. It was probably the biggest effort ever to inform the American people about a CBO finding and it was a complete failure.
During the 2014 election the GOP is going to make whatever claims they want about President Obama’s policy and the fact that the CBO does or doesn’t back up their claims is probably not going to make a real difference politically.
Photo by Gage Skidmore under Creative Commons license