Monday, October 20th, 2014

Judging the 'Job Killing'

Are new laws really "job killers"?
Are new laws really "job killers"?

Job-killing. Job-crushing. Job-destroying.

Whatever the iteration, the sentiment has become a ubiquitous Republican attachment to nearly anything proposed by Democrats these days.

But particularly the health care law. The phrase was even worked into the title of the Republicans' health care repeal legislation passed by the House on Wednesday: "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act."

There’s not much mystery to the popularity of the job-killing label.

"What's the biggest problem in the country right now? What is everyone focused on? The economy. Unemployment. What’s the worst thing a piece of legislation could be right now? It’s become an all-purpose epithet," said Jeff Shesol, a former speech writer for President Bill Clinton.

It's not just with health care. In a Washington Post column on Wednesday, Dana Milbank noted that Republicans have also attached the "job-killing" label to the union-backed "card check" legislation, climate change legislation, Wall Street reform, portions of a bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration and the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act.

"It’s become a prefix, almost like one, long syllable," said Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at the University of California at Berkeley. Repeated enough, phrases like that sink in (remember "death panels"?).

Overuse can lead to a phrase losing meaning, Nunberg warned, but don't expect this one to go out of style any time soon, not with presidential campaigns just around the corner.

"I’m sure that’s what he or she will be running on," Nunberg said.

So calling something job-killing is a powerful and effective sound bite, but is it accurate? At PolitiFact, we analyzed the phrase as it has been applied to the health care law and Wall Street reform and found the evidence is somewhat flimsy.

We examined the claim by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor that the health care law is "job killing" and rated it False.

And we looked at the same claim by Rep. Mike Pence about the financial regulation bill and rated that Barely True.