Transcript: Q&A w/ Rep. Jim McDermott on the CBO’s 2014 budget & economic outlook

Partial transcript of Q&A with Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Washington) on the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) 2014 federal budget and economic outlook. The House Budget Committee hearing was held on Feb. 5, 2014:

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Washington):
…Now, if anybody bothered to read Mr. Elmendorf’s report all the way to the end…I want to point out again, if they would read the conclusion in appendix C about the labor market, it is subject to – these are Mr. Elmendorf’s words – “substantial uncertainty.” And they would find this quote even more, “In CBO’s judgment, there is no compelling evidence that part-time employment has increased as a result of the ACA.”

So, all this disaster put out on the airwaves is simply fear-mongering. This speculating about a disaster without evidence and before the reforms are fully implemented, that’s a strategy – a political strategy for the campaign. It goes nicely with the classic deficit boogeyman that we’ve been hearing about for 3.5 years.

The Affordable Care Act isn’t going to kill any more jobs than our deficit is threatening our economy. Our economy is coming back, but I still hear the boogeyman waved around – “Oh God, the deficit, the deficit, the deficit.”

Bad math and paranoid speculation might make it seem so, but the facts don’t add it up.

If you read that article in the Washington Post, it’s their fact checker who looks at the facts and comes up with the facts that what’s being said and all the headlines in the country is simply not what the report says.

What’s hurting us is the persistent notion that as our economy is gasping for breath, we believe we should tighten our belt and ration our air.

The only way we’ll ever get these numbers to improve is by investing, from education to research to development of America’s resources. We have the knowledge, the ability, and the exceptional people to build the economy back up but we won’t do it on scraps.

Now, this is a Congress that in the House of Representatives we have let the R&D tax credit expire. We have not passed a transportation bill. We are going to come up to the summer season and there isn’t going to be any money in the states to build roads and bridges and all the infrastructure. We’ve cut research to our universities. And it’s in that venue that we say, “Well, the ACA is killing all the jobs.”

We can’t do it without trainings and loans, without investing in our social programs.

And, Mr. Elmendorf, my view is that if you have any kind of subsidy, you have some disincentive to work. We’re at 400%. But the Senate’s talking about 300%. They’d have a disincentive to work as well, right?

Douglas Elmendorf, Director of the Congressional Budget Office:
Yes, Congressman. This problem is intrinsic in any program that provides benefits to people who don’t have much earnings in the labor market, and the amount of the effect on people’s decision to work, how much to work, depends on the size of the benefit and to some effect on the structure of the program. But the basic issue here is the same for any program that would try to provide benefits to people.

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Washington):
…Let me put you to the far end of that then. If we had a universal system…no one would go to work right?

Douglas Elmendorf, Director of the Congressional Budget Office:
No, that’s not true, Congressman.

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Washington):
Oh, the Fins go to work and the Swedes go to work and everybody else goes to work, right?

Douglas Elmendorf, Director of the Congressional Budget Office:
Yes, Congressman.


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