WH backs away from Obamacare as economic plus

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney implicitly retreated from President Obama's argument that Obamacare was a crucial part of his economic agenda.

Asked why President Obama has been silent on the law as its second anniversary approaches, Carney explained that the president is now focusing on the economy rather than health care reform.

"The president does speak about health care on occasion and will continue to do that," Carney told reporters, "but he is focused on a forward agenda right now -- and working with Congress and doing the things he can through executive action -- to grow the economy and create jobs." 

When Obama faced criticism for focusing on health care rather than economic policy in the first year of his presidency, the president responded by portraying Obamacare, to some degree, as a jobs bill. "Rising health care costs are a major driver of our long-term deficits, and getting them under control is crucial if we want to grow the economy, create jobs and compete in the world economy," the White House website says.  Carney argued that the law is saving money for seniors and keeping young people insured, but he did not connect Obamacare to job creation or economic growth.

Obama's economic advisers went to great lengths to argue for health care reform as an economic spur. "Health care reform is incredibly important not just for the American people but for the American economy," Christina Romer, Obama's chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said during the health care debate. "Good health care reform is essentially good economic policy," she added.

The Council of Economic Advisers said that "success is not guaranteed" in a report on health care reform, but argued that "the economic benefits of achieving successful reform would be very large."

The Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard observes today that the Massachusetts health care law implemented by Mitt Romney -- which served as the model for Obamacare, according to the White House -- "cost employees $6,058 in wages annually."

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