Where understanding lacks, spinning runs supreme
CBO report yields exaggerated political divisions
Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 23:02
A complicated report from a hardly known congressional office, an almost humorously divided congress, and a public prone to being just as polarized all conflated last week to the expected result.
A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the impact of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, on that other political buzzword, jobs, was released last Tuesday. The ensuing war of words about the wonky findings is the real news.
For a Congress that accomplishes nearly nothing, save inflammatory rhetoric and filibusters, the reaction to anything about such contentious topics came as swiftly as could be expected.
The combination in this report was combustible at first glance. Jobs, Obamacare, an office with a seemingly reputable name, catalyzed by an organ of government with insurmountable issues and no desire or accountability to take them on.
Republicans struck first, contorting a particularly exploitable finding in the CBO report. Speaker of the House John Boehner purported at breakneck speed that this report proves Obamacare “will drive 2.5 million full-time workers out of the economy.”
GOP members and sympathizers endlessly repeated this “fact.” Too bad it wasn’t true.
The finding was a bit more complicated – we will see a reduction in hours worked equivalent to over 2 million jobs. The nation won’t just lose those positions.
Democrats are hardly excused, though. They volleyed back at Republicans with spinning worthy of a gold medal.
They claimed Obamacare will generate jobs as people have more spending money, leading to a multiplier effect and good for people suffering from “job-lock,” lack of choice in jobs or inability to leave a job due to economic factors.
If understanding the debate seems burdensome, it is. But this seems to be the point.
The CBO report is significant for a variety of reasons, most prominently that it could lead to small alterations in policy and the implementation of Obamacare.
But neither side is willing to do that – it’s easier to gain some quick political traction ahead of an upcoming election.
The report has already met the fate of many other research findings on excessively politicized topics – spun into submission, then discarded from public knowledge, never to see the light of usefulness.
The pattern should seem familiar given the prevailing political climate we find our nation mired in.
Lack of accountability, preponderance of money and truly difficult challenges for the direction of our country have coalesced into an ideologically divided government hell-bent on reproducing exactly that.
Calling individuals to read the report and come to their own conclusions is idealistic at best – simply put, nobody’s got time for that.
This is exactly what breeds this situation in the first place. Nearly no one will sift through the 170-plus pages of jargon, inset boxes, line graphs and daunting tables.
So we defer to our preexisting political proclivities, unquestioningly absorbing their claims, never considering the other side of an issue we just barely grasp already.
The fact that we are so comfortable doing this, though, is what needs to change.
It is this tendency – a particular brand of laziness and negligence in our approach to the news blended with volatile, divided viewpoints – that leads to the erosion of the middle-ground that characterizes our politics, and country, today.
A call to politicians who are kept in office by way of these tactics will yield little.
News we cannot comfortably force through our political filter arises all the time – complex reports, such as this, particularly. We too often rely on our political pals or contrarian commentators to spin these topics to fit the mold of our preconceived notions they themselves helped form.
And with these notions again confirmed in our minds, we see ourselves even further from the other side of the aisle, we hungrily await the next self-reaffirming headline.