Washington Post Trumpets Partisan ‘Study’ Saying Health Care Law Will Swell Deficit

April 10, 2012

by Jeremy Leaming

A Washington Post front-page headline declares that the Affordable Care Act “will add $340 billion to deficit, new study finds.” It’s an eye-catching title, especially in light of the Congressional Budget Office’s assessment that the law would lead to a decline in the deficit.

Jonathan Chait writing for Daily Intel says The Post’s article is hardly the blockbuster story it is dressed up to be.

For starters there is no such study. Instead, Chait points out that The Post is actually talking about a partisan paper “published by the Mercatus Center, a Koch-funded organization that produces some quality work as well as a fair amount of schlock that does not meet the standards of your typical university economics paper. This paper is an example of the latter.”

The paper, by Charles Blahous, a research fellow at the Koch-funded organization and former Bush administration official, relies, Chait writes, on a simplistic conceptual trick producing a “bizarre assumption” that the new health care form law can only add to the deficit because of new spending.

The White House has also weighed in on The Post’s coverage of the Blahous paper. Writing for The White House Blog, Jeanne Lambrew blasts the paper for promoting a false claim, and cites the work of the CBO and the Office of Management and Budget, which projects “lower Federal budget deficits as a result of the law.”  

So how did the Blahous paper become a study worthy of front-page coverage from The Post?

Chait writes:

The author of the Post story, Lori Montgomery, is the author of a recent debt-negotiation narrative that seems to have been spoon-fed to her by John Boehner. Montgomery inserts a few cautionary notes into the story, but basically frames it the way Blahous would like.

The next step, Chait concludes is “for conservatives to adopt Blahous’s figure as the ‘true’ figure – but of course never to apply his strange assumptions to the GOP budget or to any other proposal – and browbeat the media into citing that alongside the CBO figure, for ‘balance.’”