Fox News is having a field day with its new poll
regarding the Affordable Care Act, gloating that majorities of respondents want Obamacare repealed and call its implementation "a joke
." Predictably, Fox does not set the record straight
about Americans' misperceptions of the ACA. Instead, the network further spins the cycle of conservative disinformation about Obamacare's impact on premiums, taxes, savings to consumers and so much else. That 65 percent mistakenly believe that the Affordable Care Act will increase the U.S. national debt is a perfect case in point.
Consider this nugget from the Fox News poll:
Majorities of Americans think the new health care law is going to increase their medical costs and their taxes -- and add to the federal deficit as well ... 65 percent think it will add to the deficit.
Unfortunately, those two-thirds are wrong. From the beginning, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has forecast that thanks to its mix of new revenue sources and cost savings, the Affordable Care Act will reduce the U.S national debt. When the new Republican House majority proposed H.R. 2 in January 2011 to repeal Obamacare, the CBO
informed them their gambit would increase deficits in the years to come. Since then, the CBO has reiterated in its projections that Obamacare will reduce the national debt
On net, CBO and JCT estimate, repealing the ACA would increase federal budget deficits by $109 billion over the 2013-2022 period. Repealing the coverage provisions discussed in this report would save $1,171 billion over that period, but repealing the rest of the act would increase direct spending and reduce revenues by a total of $1,280 billion.
So where would those surveyed by Fox News get the mistaken impression that Obamacare would increase federal budget deficits? By listening to Republican leaders and their amen corner on Fox News, as we'll examine below the fold.
Consider, for example, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's reaction in January 2011 to the CBO's inconvenient truth about Obamacare's deficit reduction benefits. "About the budget implications, I think most people understand that the CBO did the job it was asked to do by the then-Democrat majority, and it was really comparing apples to oranges," Cantor said. "It talked about 10 years' worth of tax hikes and six years' worth of benefits. Everyone knows beyond the 10-year window, this bill has the potential to bankrupt this federal government as well as the states." As CBS reported:
Cantor also disputed the claim, put forth by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, that the health care reform bill passed by Congress last year will actually reduce the deficit by $143 billion, calling the figure "budget gimmickry."
"I think what we do know is the health care bill costs over $1 trillion," Cantor told Hill. "And we know it was full of budget gimmickry. And it spends money we don't have in this country."
The Republicans' budget claims were bogus and intentionally so. As Ezra Klein of the Washington Post
explained the GOP's latest lie, "Repealing health-care reform would cost hundreds of billions of dollars—and Eric Cantor knows it."
Republicans are aware that this looks, well, horrible...
What's important about Cantor's argument is not that he's wrong. It's why he's saying something he knows to be wrong. There are plenty of reasons to oppose the health-care reform bill. You might not want to spend that money insuring people, or you might not think the legislation goes far enough in reforming the system. But as a matter of arithmetic, using the math that Congress always uses, the bill saves money. It cuts enough spending and raises enough taxes to more than pay for itself, both in the first 10 years and in the second 10 years.
But Cantor and the GOP know full well that the bill is unpopular largely because people think it increases the deficit. Polls have shown that only 15 percent of Americans know that CBO said it will reduce the deficit. If, in the repeal fight, it becomes widely understood that the bill reduces the deficit, it will become more popular. So it's crucial, as the repeal effort goes forward, for Republicans to become much more brazen in falsely asserting that the bill doesn't really reduce the deficit, and that even if the CBO does say it reduces the deficit, that they're saying that because they've been tricked somehow. But CBO wasn't tricked. If it were, Cantor, who has a staff dedicated to figuring these things out, would have a better argument than the one he's offering.
For his part, the GOP presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich
in November 2011 called for simply killing the messenger:
"If you are serious about real health reform, you must abolish the Congressional Budget Office because it lies."
Of course, it was the Republican Party and its standard bearer doing the lying on the budgetary benefits of the Affordable Care Act. The 2012 Republican platform
decried "the fiscal nightmare of Obamacare." On June 28, 2012, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney
reacted to the Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act with this whopper:
"Obamacare raises taxes on the American people by approximately $500 billion. Obamacare cuts Medicare -- cuts Medicare by approximately $500 billion. And even with those cuts and tax increases, Obamacare adds trillions to our deficits and to our national debt, and pushes those obligations on to coming generations."
That October, Romney used a presidential debate
to lie again. "Come on our website, you'll look at how we get to a balanced budget within eight to 10 years." Mitt announced, adding, "We do it by getting—by reducing spending in a whole series of programs. By the way, number one—get rid of is Obamacare."
Again, getting rid of Obamacare will increase the national debt. Unless, of course, you don't actually spend any money on it and instead keep the revenue and Medicare provider savings. And that just happens to be the Republican plan.
Marco Rubio and his fellow saboteurs demand that Washington spend no money on the Affordable Care Act or they will shut down the government. But they nevertheless want to pocket the hundreds of billions of dollars of new revenue it will raise over the next decade. In fact, the Paul Ryan budget which garnered the votes of 98 percent of all Congressional Republicans—including Marco Rubio—depends on the same mix of new taxes and savings from Medicare providers that Obamacare does. (Mitt Romney's scheme used the same trick.) Nevertheless, on the 48th anniversary of President Johnson's signing it into law, Republicans are once again running ads accusing Democrats of taking the same $716 billion from Medicare overwhelming GOP majorities repeatedly endorsed.
Given the history of the Republicans' killer lies on health care, it's no surprise that Americans are confused about what Obamacare does and what it means for them and the national budget. But like Politifact's 2009 Lie of the Year ("death panels") and 2010 Lie of the Year ("government takeover of healthcare"), Republican repetition of the claim that the Affordable Care Act will generate red ink doesn't make it any truer. But like the 2010 fraud that President Obama raised taxes or the sham that stimulus "made the economy worse" or any of the other myriad GOP claims which were "not intended to be a factual statement," millions of Americans deceived by Republican lies sadly believe it.