Flashback: GOP’s 2010 Claim that Obamacare Would Increase the Deficit

Jonathan Chait takes a look back at the 2010 debate over Obamacare, with a focus on the Republicans’ argument that it would increase the deficit:

Four years ago, President Obama gathered leaders from both parties in a cavernous room in Blair House to undertake a televised debate-cum-negotiation over health-care policy….

[T]he moment that rocketed Paul Ryan to his status as thought leader of the Republican Party was a soliloquy he delivered at the Blair House summit….

[R]yan forcefully rebutted all the budgetary assumptions undergirding the health-care bill. Speaking in relentlessly technocratic terms, Ryan asserted, “the bill does not control costs, the bill does not reduce deficits,” and rattled off a series of bullet points that bolstered, or seemed to bolster, his point. The Wall Street Journal editorial page reprinted his remarks. The YouTube clip of the confrontation attracted over a million views. Ecstatic conservatives declared Ryan the obvious victor and began touting him as presidential timber….

The bill was “full of gimmicks and smoke and mirrors,” Ryan lectured. It would turn out to increase rather than reduce the deficit.

Chait then measures the Republicans’ 2010 deficit argument against the 2014 reality as documented by the Congressional Budget Office:

In fact, Ryan’s argument was wildly and often amateurishly wrong….

[T]he Congressional Budget Office’s update on Obamacare issued last week is the latest and most powerful repudiation of the case Ryan and his allies made. It reiterates that, contrary to the right’s certainty that the apparent deficit-reducing measures would melt away as the program went online, it still reduces the deficit. Indeed, it turns out to be even more fiscally conservative than originally forecast. Every new forecast turns out to be more optimistic than the last.

As a supplement to Chait’s analysis, here’s a chart comparing the nation’s deficit in FY 2009, the last full budget year without Obamacare, and the CBO’s latest deficit estimate for FY 2014, the first year in which Obamacare will be fully implemented (click thumbnail to enlarge):


Jobs Report: 8.8 Million Private-Sector Jobs Created in First 4 Years of Obamacare

With the release of today’s jobs report for March 2014, we now have official data showing four full years of private-sector job growth under Obamacare. Since the President signed the law, a total of 8.8 million jobs have been created in the private sector, a dramatic turnaround from the loss of 3.6 million private-sector jobs in the decade before Obamacare.


Today’s report is an important reminder of what’s at stake in Washington, where every vote to repeal health reform is a vote to return to the type of job-killing policies that prevailed when businesses shed millions of jobs in the decade before Obamacare.

The choice for congressional Republicans is clear: They can join with Democrats to strengthen America’s comeback by investing in more policies like the Affordable Care Act that provide economic security and opportunity to hard-working Americans and small businesses, or they can try to stand in the way of America’s comeback by refusing to do anything in Washington other than stage repeal votes for purely partisan political purposes.

A closer look at the monthly jobs numbers shows how America went from losing nearly 800,000 private-sector jobs a month at the end of the last Republican Administration to gaining jobs again within a year of President Obama signing the 2009 Recovery Act (the Stimulus). And since the President signed the 2010 Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the economy has been creating an average of more than 180,000 private-sector jobs a month:


As a result of the comeback in the jobs market, the unemployment rate has dropped by more than 3 percentage points under Obamacare, from 9.9% to 6.7%:


Some have asked if it makes sense to focus on these positive developments in the labor market over the past four years given that portions of the Affordable Care Act only went into effect this year.

That is a good question. Here’s my answer:

Many of the provisions in the law that Republicans claimed would kill jobs went into effect immediately. Indeed, just three months after the President signed the law, House Republicans put out a 43-page report slamming Obamacare that began with a section entitled, “American Jobs Already Under Attack.” Likewise, the Heritage Foundation pressed the argument that the enactment of Obamacare in March 2010 had an immediate negative impact on private-sector job growth.

Now that we’ve created 8.8 million private-sector jobs since the enactment of the ACA, some Republicans want to argue that “Obamacare didn’t go into effect until 2014,” but that argument can’t be reconciled with what they’ve been telling the American people for four years or with the fact that many of the ACA’s allegedly “job killing” provisions went into effect in 2010 and 2011.

Plus, we’ve averaged 182,000 monthly jobs created in the private sector in the first three months of 2014, the same as the overall average over the past 4 years, so  the response to the “job-killing” claim is the same whether you look at 2010-2014 or just 2014.

Of course, as the White House points out every month when the jobs numbers are released, we need to do much more to strengthen the comeback. But I don’t think we should be shy about pointing out the contrast between what happened in the job market under the economic policies of the last decade and what is happening in the job market under Obamacare.

In addition to the jobs comeback under Obamacare, millions of lives have been directly impacted by the expansion of health coverage, and the law is delivering benefits to our economy and our people that have largely gone under the radar during the political debate:

[A]verage premiums for coverage through the marketplaces are about 15 percent lower than the CBO previously projected….. The rate of increase in real health spending per person is at its lowest point in 50 years and more than 3 percentage points under the historical average ….

Just by phasing out the infamous “donut hole” created in the 2003 prescription drug law, the ACA has saved almost 8 million seniors nearly $10 billion. On top of that, real growth in Medicare spending per beneficiary has averaged virtually zero since 2010—that means lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs for our parents and grandparents. And, since the law’s passage, actuaries have extended the life of the Medicare trust fund by almost 10 years….. Since the law passed, average Medicare Advantage premiums are down by more than 9 percent, enrollment in plans has increased by 38 percent and the quality of plans has steadily gotten better.

And slowing down the growth of health care spending doesn’t just benefit policyholders, it benefits the country’s bottom line:


Obamacare Charts: More Jobs, Lower Deficit, Stronger Medicare