The Party of Less Work
By RICH LOWRY
February 05, 2014
The Democrats once styled themselves the party of workers. Now, they are the party of people who would have been workers, if it hadn’t been for Obamacare.
The Congressional Budget Office released a new analysis of the economic effects of the health care law on Tuesday that estimates that it will reduce the number of workers, in effect, by 2.5 million in 2024.
This unleashed a torrent of arguments from the Democrats implicitly denigrating the value of work. Perhaps not since Southern fire-eaters attacked Northern “wage slavery” in the mid-19th century has a good honest day’s work been talked about so dismissively. It turns out that discouraging work is just another one of the wonders of Obamacare.
The old jobs crisis was people not having jobs; the new jobs crisis is people having to work. The party devoted to combating inequality is now blithely unconcerned about a law discouraging people — especially people down the income scale — from earning more. So much for its championing of economic mobility.
White House press secretary Jay Carney declared the CBO report a validation of the law: “At the beginning of this year, we noted that as part of this new day in health care, Americans would no longer be trapped in a job just to provide coverage for their families and would have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. This CBO report bears that out.”
If only the number of people effectively dissuaded from working were 5 million, or 7.5 million, the health care law would be an even more stunning triumph of sound public policy and true American values.
A few caveats are in order: We aren’t talking about jobs that are eliminated in the usual sense of discouraging employers from hiring, as some Republican talking points suggested. That would be the demand side for labor; this is the supply side. And the 2.5 million number isn’t for jobs per se, but for “full-time equivalent” positions, i.e., the cumulative lost hours of millions of people deciding to work less.
Nonetheless, the number is devastating. Democrats like Jay Carney want to pass it all off as ending the “job lock” that keeps people in a job only to preserve their health insurance. This is what Nancy Pelosi was getting at when she airily described Obamacare before its passage as “an entrepreneurial bill, a bill that says to someone, if you want to be creative and be a musician or whatever, you can leave your work, focus on your talent, your skill, your passion.”