Last week the Congressional Budget Office issued another report on the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Its most widely-reported revelation was that 2.3 million Americans may leave their jobs because Obamacare would make it inadvisable to them to keep them.
We should say “widely-and-variously-reported,” because our rightblogger friends first publicized the news to mean that Obama was going to fire all those people; then, when even the normally hapless American press started explaining that this was not so, came up with other explanations, most of which boiled down to this: Under Obamacare, you no longer have to keep a despised job to have health insurance — which is terrible, since keeping a job for the insurance is the American Way.
The short version is this: 2.3 million Americans are expected leave their jobs because Obamacare’s sorta-universal insurance scheme removes the necessity and/or desirability of keeping a job just for the insurance. There are several longer, more measured analyses available in the press, such as this one by Josh Barro at Business Insider, who saw two kinds of effects: “substitution effects,” which he counted as negative because “if you phase out [a] person’s health insurance subsidy with rising income, you encourage him to work less,” as “a higher income will mean a smaller health plan subsidy”; and “income effects,” by which “easy availability of comprehensive, subsidized health plans will make it easier for people to retire before age 65, quit a full-time job to start a business, or shift to part-time work and spend more time raising children or attending school,” which Barro considered “mostly good.”
But you didn’t come here for measured analysis, right? Many of the brethren portrayed this as Obamacare throwing people out of work via “work force cuts,” and other such weaselly formulations.
“Pres. Obama’s #hcr law expected to destroy 2.3 million jobs,” tweeted GOP House Speaker John Boehner. “Obamacare Could Cost North Carolina 74,000 Workers,” extrapolated the North Carolina Republican Party, “Hagan Still Silent On CBO Report.” “CBO Warns Obamacare Will Cost Millions of Jobs,” cried CBN News. “The Congressional Budget Office said today that Obamacare is likely to kill 2.5 million jobs,” bullshat Bryan Preston of PJ Media. “NBC’s [Chuck] Todd Whines: ‘Unfair’ for GOP to Say ObamaCare Will Cost Jobs,” sneered Kyle Drennan of the Media Research Center.
“The CBO’s bottom line,” said Power Line’s John Hinderaker, getting poetical, was “that working hours equivalent to two million jobs will be foregone.”
“Congressional Budget Office sends death blow to ObamaCare,” cheered John Podhoretz of the New York Post, reporting that the CBO said “2 million fewer will be working than if the law hadn’t passed.” Podhoretz had the benefit of the White House’s explanation that workers would be choosing to leave their jobs, to which he responded, “Really? Really? You know, if that’s the best they can do, certain American workers — those elected to Congress and their staffs — might find themselves forced to make new choices regarding their employment come this November and November 2016,” which you have to admit is a hell of an argument.
While the brethren went on like this, some reporters unexpectedly challenged this reading — Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post‘s Fact Checker, for example, wrote, “No, CBO did not say Obamacare will kill 2 million jobs.” Politifact‘s similar fact checking service called Boehner’s “destroy 2.3 million jobs” claim “mostly false” — which must have been awkward for those among the brethren who’d become accustomed to quoting Politifact’s earlier judgment that Obama’s “keep your plan” claim was 2013’s “Lie of the Year” (e.g., “Sebelius Refuses To Address Politifact’s Obamacare ‘Lie Of The Year'”), and so would have to change MSM outlets they pretended to trust.
When it became clear that the jig was up, rightbloggers got pissed. Reason‘s David Harsanyi bitched, “What was once a story about Obamacare’s discouraging work and impeding job creation is now a dispute about semantics.” (“Mission accomplished” — by the lieberal MSM!) Harsanyi was especially angered by Kessler’s fact check. “Using Kessler’s logic,” said Harsanyi, “each time some clueless reporter mentions the word ‘jobs’ in any story about the labor force participation rate — or the unemployment rate, for that matter — he or she may be lying to the public.” Imagine, nit-picking the press over something like that!
When Salon’s Brian Beutler called the mischaracterizations “the biggest Obamacare derp storm of the year,” Ann Althouse challenged: “Is that the way grown men talk now? In case you’re wondering, Urban Dictionary supplies this definition of ‘derp’ — with 11,000+ ‘up’ votes — from 2005: ‘A simple, undefined reply when an ignorant comment or action is made’…” Many words later: “the stupidity is running deep this morning, and even the observers of stupidity are manifesting their stupid idea of superiority by talking stupidly.”
Soon enough it became necessary for rightbloggers to acknowledge the New Reality: That Obamacare would free up workers to quit their jobs, which was what was so terrible about it.
Some of the brethren reverted to historical form: Because Obamacare involves subsidies, it’s like welfare, and therefore those receiving Obamacare were like the “welfare queens” conservatives have been using as outrage bait for decades. Since Obamacare isn’t associated with black people, except for You Know Who, their quivers were missing a few arrows, but still they made a valiant attempt.
“Just as extending unemployment benefits discourages people from taking a job,” said Hoppy Kercheval at West Virginia Metro News, “prorating health insurance premium subsides to income will discourage some people from trying to move up the economic ladder.” We wonder how many of Kercheval’s readers felt a double blush of shame because they were unemployed and had Obamacare coverage. It’s like they’re ripping off America twice!
Similarly, Arnold Ahlert of FrontPageMag brought up Nancy Pelosi, who years earlier “spoke about musicians and other creative types who could quit their jobs and focus on developing their talents” — but since subsidies were involved, “much of those costs will apparently be borne by those less artistically inclined and/or creative.” America, you’re paying Obamacare queens to write beat poetry, pop their fingers, and, who knows, maybe cultivate beards.
At Real Clear Politics, Carl M. Cannon told readers Obamacare subsidies would be financed by “Americans who remain in the workforce, most of whom are middle class” and “future generations of Americans” — that is, one group Republicans hope to win back, and a catchphrase they hope to win them back with. Then Cannon talked about how much he respected Bill Clinton (ha ha) and complained, “for years, it seemed that although Democrats profess to love jobs, they couldn’t stand employers. Now they’ve gone a step further: They don’t even favor work.”
Thomas Lifson of American Thinker donned his deerstalker and revealed the killer truth: Welfare and Obamacare are in fact — one and the same! “The cold hard facts are that CBO says that the availability of subsidies will induce people to work less,” he deduced, but “the traditional liberal assertions” say that “welfare availability does not induce people to work less. Now they are admitting that people choose to work less when government subsidies are available. And they are celebrating it as liberation from drudgery. The only problem is that the rest of us remained chained to drudgery in order to support their self-fulfillment…”
If only the subsidies were going to corporations instead of working Americans — oh wait: Mostly, they still are!
The more ambitious rightblogger angle, though, was that Obamacare was destroying America morally as well as financially, because by freeing some citizens from jobs they don’t want, Obamacare is in fact destroying their will to work at all.
At the New York Post, Michael Goodwin lamented the good old days of “men and women toiling on railroads, skyscrapers and factory floors… my, oh, my, how times have changed.” Some might think, yes, it’s too bad Americans have more trouble finding living wages on such work than they did in the mid-20th Century. But Goodwin saw a different problem: “America now has a government that views work as a trap and celebrates those who escape it” because of Obamacare.
“This anti-job, pro-dependency tilt is the crux of the nation’s polarization,” complained Goodwin. “In essence, it pits those who believe in the sanctity of work against those who believe in penalizing wealth and redistributing its fruits.” Sort of like Social Security, only Obamaworse!
In a moment of weakness or perhaps editorial conference, Goodwin admitted that “work itself has changed and many manufacturing and factory jobs have disappeared,” but added, “yet the most troubling change has nothing to do with the kind of work and everything to do with attitudes and values about work. The stigma attached to getting something for nothing is being replaced by an endless demand for more free stuff.” So the minimum-wage day laborer who once patriotically busted his hump for the subsistence wages such jobs now bring may cut some hours thanks to the honey trap of Obamacare. In time there might not be enough Mexicans in the Home Depot parking lot to shore up your retaining wall whenever you want it.
“Democrats Now Officially The Anti-Jobs Party,” announced The Lonely Conservative. “…They’ve created yet another division between the productive and the idle,” just like Mitt Romney predicted! “Obamacare Creates Incentive to Work Less,” said Mike Shedlock at The Project to Restore America. “Why is the White House cheering disincentives to work?” asked Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.
At the New York Times, Ross Douthat worried that Obamacare “might reduce financial hardship while actively disincentivizing upward mobility overall… when a good is provided gratis there’s always an incentive for some people to work less.” Later Douthat explained that there were “people we should want to be attached to the workforce, for their own long-term good and the good of the economy as well.” He didn’t tell us who that was, but we suspect if someone told Douthat himself to shovel coal 50 hours a week for his own long-term good and the good of the economy, he would swiftly preclude himself.
“Remember, one of the big pushes was insurance portability, not having to lose your insurance if you switched jobs,” intoned William Teach at Right Wing News. “Now, people aren’t going to be worried about working.” Next they’ll be getting annual checkups, maybe even taking up exercise. Then, chaos!
At National Review Charles C.W. Cooke lamented “Obamacare’s Attack on the Work Ethic” with a giant bowl of word salad and a side of Debate Club. This will give you some idea of his approach: “Does the Obama administration really plan to make the case that negative liberty is but a mirage and that, the state of nature’s ‘forcing’ one to work being akin to actual compulsion, the state must step in everywhere to liberate the citizenry from reality’s harsh claims? One suspects not.” One barfs, actually.
Cooke was by no means the only nor the most tendentious word-diddler at National Review: Jonah Goldberg attacked the issue from a couple of angles. In one essay, Goldberg made fun of Pelosi’s jobless artists (“spending $1.2 trillion just so we could liberate the Job-Locked Poets!… Obamacare lets people keep their health insurance even if they quit their jobs to master iambic pentameter,” etc) for several painful paragraphs before acknowledging that Republicans don’t want people stuck in jobs just for the insurance, either, but they don’t like poetry, so they win.
Next Goldberg went on a long rant about how “contemporary liberalism,” a syndicate operating in the bowels of George Soros’ death-star, is Utopian, but to Goldberg’s irritation its membership refuses to admit it. “The Marxists were honest about the dream of the classless society blooming from the withered-away state,” he sighed. “The Social Gospel progressives openly promised to create a ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ on earth,” etc., but “liberals are annoying in that they have the itch to immanentize the eschaton but neither the courage nor the vocabulary to state it openly.” You just have to take his word for it, based on an airy sentiment from Robert F. Kennedy via George Bernard Shaw (“one of the worst people of the 20th century,” Goldberg added with understandable literary jealousy).
Anyway, “Today’s liberals have a utopian impulse but it only comes out in hints and nods,” continued Goldberg. “If you look for it, you won’t find it.” But Goldberg, sharp fellow, did find it, in the modern college campus, where the typical student “drinks with abandon when he wants to” and “sex is as abundant as it is varied,” and even worse, this stereotype studies “the Coalition of the Oppressed,” and “is taught that it is brave to be ‘subversive’ and cowardly to be conformist.'”
Having tittilated his readers with Kids Gone Wild, Goldberg advanced, “if you think about it, the spin that Obamacare is awesome because it breaks the iron shackles of ‘job-lock’ is a good example of what I am getting at.” That is, “government gives you freedom by giving you stuff” — in this case, a chance to drop a job you were keeping just for the insurance. Returning to Pelosi’s poets, Goldberg said they were really saying that “quitting your job is like changing your major from business administration to French literature.” Normal people will never go for this absurd idea that “everyone should have a job if they want one, but nobody should have to take a job they don’t like. From design your major to design your life.” Good God, it involves studying French literature! When would you find time to watch Duck Dynasty?
Something we’re wondering about here:
Conservatives have had pretty good luck spreading the idea that Obamacare isn’t good for its beneficiaries — that it’s hard to get a plan, that you may not have the same doctors when you do get it, that there may be problems getting covered services, etc. — all problems previously and widely experienced under private insurance, but now attachable to the Democratic Party.
But in this instance conservatives have chosen to argue on the grounds that beneficiaries are getting away with something — that is, because they’re able to abandon jobs they only kept for the insurance, these citizens are wastrels, cadgers, moochers.
That doesn’t sound like a winning political proposition to us. But what do we know? Maybe The Daily Caller’s Heather Smith knows better. Her headline was “Dem defends Obamacare job loss: Americans work too hard anyway.” She quoted Democratic Representative Keith Ellison: “Americans work way more than the average of industrialized countries around the world… if Americans can have more choices to open up a new business they have been wanting to start, this is a good thing.” Seen a certain way, we supposed this is anti-American. The question remains, though: Does that mean it’s unpopular?