The Chamber of Commerce humiliates itself, again

The lobby seeks an economist who will prove healthcare reform kills jobs. Oops! Did they say that out loud?

Published November 17, 2009 3:45PM (EST)

One must credit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for its consistency. Climate change legislation: Bad, because it will kill jobs. Financial reform: Bad, because it will kill jobs. Healthcare reform: Bad, because it will kill jobs.

And if you don't believe it, well, the Chamber will pay a "respected economist" $50,000 to tell you that these things must be true.

From the Washington Post: (Found via Mark Thoma.)

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and an assortment of national business groups opposed to President Obama's health-care reform effort are collecting money to finance an economic study that could be used to portray the legislation as a job killer and threat to the nation's economy, according to an e-mail solicitation from a top Chamber official.

From the e-mail:

"The economist will then circulate a sign-on letter to hundreds of other economists saying that the bill will kill jobs and hurt the economy. We will then be able to use this open letter to produce advertisements, and as a powerful lobbying and grass-roots document."

According to Post reporter Michael D. Shear, "Randy Johnson, the Chamber's senior vice president who handles health-care issues, called the e-mail 'inartfully worded.'"

("Inartfully worded" has become the political in-phrase for "oops, you caught us in a politically humiliating lie or outrageous gaffe." The first time I recall hearing this phrase was when President Obama told NBC's Brian Williams that Sonia Sotomayor's comments about the superiority of "wise Latinas" was "inartful." I assume there are previous documented uses by embarrassed politicians, but of late, the phrase is everywhere.)

One thing the Post doesn't ask in its report on the latest stupid Chamber of Commerce trick: Why isn't the business community cheering healthcare reform on because of its clear job-creating potential? Healthcare costs are a business expense that is growing rapidly year-on-year. If the government provided healthcare insurance, businesses would presumably have more funds available to hire people. I'm sure there's a reputable economist around somewhere willing to make that case, for free!

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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