Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Media Makes you Stupider

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has just released a report in which they predict what effect current laws and tax policies will have on the US economy over the next ten years. For those who don't know, the CBO was created by Congress in 1974 to provide objective, nonpartisan analyses of the economic effects of laws and taxes in order to help Congress determine the actual economic impacts of that legislation. As part of its report, the CBO has made some predictions about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA, informally known as Obamacare) will effect the labor market in the US. One of their main conclusions is the following:
CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor—given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive.
What this means is that because of the healthcare guarantees provided by the ACA, many people who are working solely to obtain health benefits will stop working because they can now get healthcare on one of the state-run exchanges. This will have the effect of freeing up these jobs for other workers who are looking for employment. As a result, according to the CBO, the ACA will result in the equivalent of about 2-2.5 million workers leaving the labor market. As an illustration, here is ZGare commenting on an article about this in the Washington Post:
At 64, I am about to retire, but my wife who is 55 with a pre-existing condition (diverticulitus 15 years ago) would have had to keep working for health insurance to protect against catastrophic illness wiping out our life savings. But with ACA, she can retire in a couple of years instead of 10 years and travel with me.
So, because of the ACA, ZGare's wife will retire earlier than she would have without the ACA. The job she was performing will still exist, but because she isn't doing it, there will now be a vacancy for a new employee (assuming the employer doesn't decide to reduce its workforce through attrition for some other reason).

So, now that we are clear about what the CBO actually said in its report (and if you don't believe me, just go read it). Let's take a look at how many people in the Media reported on this report. A recurring theme will be that if you get your information from these media outlets you will actually be misinformed about what the CBO actually said. In effect, after watching these programs you will have less understanding about the world, and you will, in fact, be a little stupider.

First up is Fox News. Here is a headline followed by the first paragraph from their website:
ObamaCare could lead to loss of nearly 2.3 million US jobs, report says
The long-term effect of ObamaCare on the U.S. economy was rewritten Tuesday with the Congressional Budget Office issuing a revised projection that nearly 2.5 million workers could opt out of full-time jobs over the next 10 years -- allowing employers to wipe 2.3 million full-time jobs off the books.
Again, the report does not say that the jobs will be lost, but that the equivalent of 2.3 million people might choose to retire, work less, or quit their current job to start up a new business. These kind of lies and deception are par for the course at Fox News, but they weren't the only one's guilty of misrepresenting the report. Here's a tweet from Luke Russert of NBC:
And here is a tweet from Chuck Todd, also of NBC:
In both these cases, we have individuals who claim to be journalists actively misrepresenting the content of the CBO report to their followers. This is a clear example of those in the Mainstream Media who call themselves journalists actually misinforming their audience about a subject of great importance. And this is very strong evidence that getting information from the Mainstream Media actually makes you stupider.

h/t to Dylan Scott of TPM

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