How The Media Is Carrying Water For GOP's “Jobs” Agenda

Media outlets have uncritically promoted House Speaker John Boehner's latest attempt to frame the Republican Congress' harmful agenda as a set of “jobs bills.” But the Republican plan offers negligible hiring incentives, will cost over a million workers their health care coverage, and will increase the budget deficit by billions.

House GOP Spins New Agenda As A  “Series Of Jobs Bills”

Boehner Announces House Will Be “Kicking Off The New Congress With A Series Of Jobs Bills.”  In a January 5 press release, the office of Speaker of the House John Boehner, announced that the new Republican-led House will be “kicking off the first week of the new American Congress with action on three bipartisan jobs bills.”  Boehner's jobs plan included the longtime conservative priorities: the “Hire More Heroes Act,” a proposal to undermine the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate known as the “Save American Workers Act” and the plan to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. From the release:

House Republicans have pledged to continue making the American people's priorities - jobs and the economy - our priorities and are wasting no time getting started, kicking off the first week of the new American Congress with action on three bipartisan jobs bills. Here's a look at what they are, and how they'll help more Americans find work:

  • Hire More Heroes Act:  The president's health care law “is prompting many” small businesses “to hold off on hiring and even to shed jobs in some cases,” CNBC reports.  The Hire More Heroes Act will help by exempting veterans who are “already enrolled in healthcare plans through the Department of Defense or the VA from being counted toward the employee limit under the health care law,” the bill's sponsor, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), explained in this week's Republican Address.   “So not only are we providing small businesses - and our economy - with much-needed relief, but we're also helping more of our veterans find work.”
  • Save American Workers Act: Thousands of workers have seen their hours and wages slashed thanks to ObamaCare's employer mandate that forces businesses to hold hours down to 30 per week or face a penalty.  Women and low-income workers are particularly hard hit by the mandate, according to an analysis by the Hoover Institution, which found that the 30-hour rule puts 2.6 million Americans earning less than $30,000 a year - 63% of whom are women - at risk of having their hours and their wages cut. The Save American Workers Act restores the traditional 40-hour work week to protect these workers and help our economy grow.
  • Approving the Keystone Pipeline: President Obama has stood in the way of the widely-popular Keystone pipeline for more than six years, putting his own political interests ahead of thousands of jobs and increased energy security for the American people.  The House will once again act where the president has not and approve the Keystone pipeline, keeping the pressure on the White House to finally move forward with what one labor union calls a “lifeline” for American workers. [Office of the Speaker of the House, 1/5/15]

Media Outlets Boosts GOP's “Jobs”  Spin

CNN Host Ana Cabrera Promoted Claim That New GOP-Led House Is “Vowing To Create Jobs.”  On the January 6 edition of CNN Newsroom, CNN host Ana Cabrera reported on the incoming GOP-led Congress, saying:

CABRERA: The freshman class probably have fresh energy being there. They're vowing to create jobs. How do they plan to do that? 

CORRESPONDENT DANA BASH: Well, the first thing that Republicans plan to do starting in the Senate is pass the beginning of the construction of the Keystone pipeline. Now Republicans argue that that creates jobs. I should say that Democrats say that they have their own data that shows that that is simply not the case, that it won't create that many jobs. But regardless, that is going to be -- that has been a Republican mantra for years that they wanted to do this. [CNN, CNN Newsroom1/6/15 ] 

Bloomberg: “Boehner Has Promised Early Action On ... Dozens Of Jobs Bills.” In a January 6 report, Bloomberg described the GOP's legislative agenda by repeating Boehner's hollow narrative of a jobs agenda:

Boehner has promised early action on familiar topics such as passage of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, dozens of jobs bills passed by the House and ignored by the previous Democratic-led Senate, and changes to Obamacare. Republicans want to let employers avoid providing health coverage to workers who put in less than 40 hours a week, up from the law's 30-hour threshold. [Bloomberg, 1/6/15]

FoxNews.com Highlights Keystone XL Passage As Part Of GOP Job's Plan. A January 6 FoxNews.com profile on the incoming 114th Congress painted the Republican-controlled House as focused on “putting the economy at the top of their agenda,” citing the House's commitment to approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

The need to help boost good-paying, full-time jobs has indeed emerged again as a goal for congressional Democrats and Republicans, with leaders from both parties and chambers putting the economy at the top of their agendas.

The Republican-controlled House and Senate could vote in the first couple weeks on legislation to finish building the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which is estimated to create about 42,000 construction jobs. A Senate bill is set to be filed on Tuesday, and the House is planning a vote Friday. Though Republicans are pushing the legislation, some Democrats are expected to support it. But some also are floating amendments which could imperil a deal. [FoxNews.com, 1/6/15]

But Boehner's Plan To “Restore 40-Hour Work Week” Will Slash Workers' Health Care And Cost Taxpayers Billions

CBO: Redefining Work Hours Could Throw 1.5 Million Workers Off Employer Health Care. In November, Bloomberg cited the CBO's analysis of the Save American Workers Act, which found that redefining work hours would likely push as many as 1.5 million workers off of their employer-sponsored health coverage, leaving as many as 1 million American workers without insurance:

The measure, which would face a presidential veto, would make it easier for employers to shift more workers to part-time status and avoid buying insurance or paying fines under a provision of the law taking effect at the end of the year.

The likely result: A million people would lose employer-paid health care and have to look for subsidized coverage on government insurance exchanges or go on Medicaid, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That's just the opening round.

[...]

The Congressional Budget Office foresaw just that kind of rejiggering of work hours when it prepared cost estimates on the House legislation earlier this year.

“Without changing the total number of hours worked by its employees, an employer might reassign hours worked so that there are more employees just below the 40-hour threshold than there would otherwise be,” according to the CBO report in February.

As a result, CBO estimated, between 500,000 and 1 million people would be moved into Medicaid or onto health exchanges, and half a million would wind up without insurance. [Bloomberg, 11/7/14]

CBO: GOP Plan Would Increase Deficit By $73.7 Billion Over A Decade. The CBO also found that the plan would allow companies to shift their employees' health care costs onto taxpayers and would increase the federal deficit by as an estimated $73.7 billion over 10 years:

Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation estimated a 40-hour-per week threshold would increase the federal budget deficit by $73.7 billion over 10 years. [Bloomberg, 11/7/14]

Health Care Law Expert: I Call This The 'Send People Home A Half Hour Early On Friday And Deny Them Health Insurance Bill." Washington and Lee health care law scholar Tim Jost told Mother Jones that the GOP's proposed Save American Workers Act would hurt workers by making it far easier for companies to deny them health coverage:

“I call this the 'send people home a half hour early on Friday and deny them health insurance' bill,” says Tim Jost, a health care law scholar at the Washington and Lee University School of Law who has consulted with the Obama administration on implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The 30-hour threshold was intended to discourage companies from cutting workers' hours. Nearly half of Americans work 40 hours a week or more--meaning that, under current law, employers would have to cut those workers' hours by more than 25 percent to avoid buying them health insurance. But if the threshold were 40 hours, as the GOP envisions, many employers would only have to cut workweeks a tiny bit to avoid buying health insurance for their employees. “Raising the threshold to 40 hours would place more than five times as many workers at risk of having their hours reduced,” Paul van de Water, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote in 2013.

If Obama approves the 40-hour legislation, a half million workers could lose health insurance entirely, according to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office. And up to a million people could be moved into Medicaid or the health exchanges created by Obamacare, increasing the federal deficit by $73.7 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. [Mother Jones1/6/15]

GOP's Keystone XL Job Estimates Are Wildly Inflated

The State Department Estimated That Keystone XL Would Only Create 35 Permanent Jobs. In its “Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement” on the Keystone XL pipeline, the State Department estimated that Keystone XL will produce only 3,900 construction jobs if construction occurred over a one-year period and 1,950 if construction took two years, resulting in only about 35 permanent jobs after construction. That is microscopic in comparison to 145,669,000 jobs, the most recently reported total number of jobs in the United States:

[Media Matters5/6/14]

PolitiFact Rates Fox's Claims Of “Tens Of Thousands” Of Keystone Jobs “Mostly False.”  PolitiFact rated Fox's claims that the Keystone XL pipeline would create “tens of thousands of jobs” mostly false. PolitiFact reported that “more than 99 percent are temporary” jobs. PolitiFact also noted that the State Department's estimates show the pipeline would “only create 35 permanent, full-time jobs and 15 temporary contractors.” [PolitiFact, 11/11/14

GOP's  “Hire More Heroes Act” Will Only Affect A Handful Of People

The Week"As A Jobs Agenda, This Doesn't Even Rise To The Level Of Pitiful." As The Week magazine pointed out, the Hire More Heroes Act would benefit  a “handful” of veterans, but wouldn't substantially impact the job market at all:

But as a jobs agenda, this doesn't even rise to the level of pitiful. It's the latest evidence that Republicans continue to struggle with basic macroeconomics -- and it does not bode well for the nation should they win the White House in 2016.

Let's examine the Hire More Heroes Act first. ObamaCare requires that all businesses that have over 50 full-time employees provide health insurance benefits. This law would exempt veterans from counting towards that cap, thus making it easier to expand a business over 50 employees if you hire veterans.

On its face, this might not even be a terrible idea. Health care policy experts have long argued that funneling American health care through employer subsidies is bad, locking people into jobs they don't like for fear of losing coverage, and increasing health care spending. Rolling that system back very slightly might be a good thing. My problem is that there's no reason to direct general social spending to veterans so preferentially.

But make no mistake, this is a tiny, tiny policy involving a relative handful of people and jobs. [The Week1/6/15]

National Small Business Association Spokeswoman “Doubts It Will Be A Huge Stimulus For Jobs. A spokesperson for the National Small Business Association admitted that the “Hire More Heroes Act” would have a negligible impact on the nation's job market:

Molly Day, spokeswoman for the National Small Business Association, says the organization thinks it's a positive bill, though doubts it will be a huge stimulus for jobs. It could help certain small businesses that hire a lot of veterans, such as defense contractors, she says, or those that already may be considering hiring a veteran.

“Will it have a huge impact on small businesses? Probably not,” she says. [U.S. News & World Report1/5/15