Michele Bachmann and "facts" about lost jobs

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., on 'Face the nation,' Sunday, June 26, 2011.
CBS/Chris Usher
Rep. Michele Bachmann
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., on 'Face the Nation,' Sunday, June 26, 2011.
CBS/Chris Usher

Sometimes in politics, the truth gets in the way of a good story, or at least the appearance of a good story. President Obama is keen on saying that his opponents are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. But politicians are human, and they often stretch facts or leave out some context to the information they are citing.

Michele Bachmann, who is often described as playing fast and loose with some facts, continued that tradition on today's "Face the Nation." When asked by Bob Schieffer about what she would do to create jobs, she quickly cited a favorite fact of hers:

"So if we cut back the corporate tax rate, if we would zero out the capital gains, right, allow for a 100 percent expensing when a job creator buys equipment for their business, that would go a long way towards job creators recognizing that this is a pro-business environment. But right now, businesses are looking at the uncertainty. They know that 'Obamacare' is coming down the pike. The Congressional Budget Office estimated 'Obamacare' will cost the economy 800,000 jobs," she said.

Schieffer quickly pointed out that some disagree with her statement about the President's health care reform law. "Again, that is data that other people would question," he stated.

Not to be tripped up, Bachmann went to the source: "That's, well, that's the Congressional Budget Office. That's not Michelle Bachmann. That's Congressional Budget Office figures saying that we're - we have the potential of losing 800,000 jobs. Why, in this economy, would you put this very expensive, unwieldy program that's going to cost jobs when job creation - that's our real problem right now?" she asked.

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A few weeks ago she made the claim in a debate with fellow Republican presidential candidates. "The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, has said that 'Obamacare' will kill 800,000 jobs," she said. "What could the president be thinking by passing a bill like this, knowing full well it will kill 800,000 jobs?"

On its face, it seems pretty unbelievable that the President - any president - would knowingly destroy 800,000 jobs. In fact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning found Bachmann's statement to be "barely true,"

To her credit, the 800,000 number IS in the CBO's report, but Bachmann fails both in the context of the number and in the way she uses it.

She uses the fact to suggest that the law will force employers to lay off 800,000 workers, hinting that regulations and taxes from the law will mandate a mass layoff.

The CBO suggested that employment - not necessarily job positions - could be reduced because some low-income and older Americans who work solely to provide health insurance for their families would leave the workforce, because the new law provides them easier access to insurance. These would be people who are no longer looking for work, because they would choose to leave the workforce.

In testimony from March 2011, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf wrote, "the legislation will affect individual's decisions on both whether to participate in the workforce and the number of hours they work." The health care law could "diminish people's incentives to work," he wrote, if they didn't need to other than to obtain health coverage.

While the CBO notes that employers' decisions to hire workers "will also be affected," it does not suggest any sort of jobs lost number. The CBO says that some firms may hire more part-time or seasonal workers. The report goes on to say that some workers may be able to take better jobs if employer-provided health care is not an issue. It also states that a healthier workforce could lead to a more productive economy.

"To the extent that changes in the health insurance system lead to better health care among workers, the nation's economic productivity could be enhanced," it said.

Overall, Bachmann uses the 800,000 number to suggest that employers would trim 800,000 jobs as a result of health reform. The CBO is not suggesting that at all, and in fact, the report does not make any projection on the effect of health reform on the unemployment rate.

Politifact described Bachmann's citation of 800,000 jobs lost as "an exaggeration of what CBO said," and that her statement "leaves out so many qualifiers that it becomes misleading."

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    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.