On Friday night, MSNBC host Chris Hayes and I discussed Obamacare on the Bill Maher show.
Among other things, I made the point—not original to me—that Obamacare's rules are accelerating the trend to part-time work.
On Monday, Chris returned to his own MSNBC show to deliver an after-the-fact rebuttal.
Chris even brought a chart, to buttress his contention that the trend to part-time labor was driven by the 2008 recession, not 2010 Obamacare regulations:
There's some truth to what Chris says. But mixed with that portion of truth is a larger portion of polemic and apologetic.
The reporter who has most closely studied the question of Obamacare and part-time work, Jed Graham of Investor's Business Daily, makes the important point that not all part-time jobs are created equal. To see Obamacare's effects in action, Graham argues, you have to focus on the low-wage end of the work force. In these sectors, a legislated increase in costs can have big impacts on hours and wages. To demonstrate this impact, Graham has charts of his own: four of them.
The overall economy has been recovering since the summer of 2009. In a recovery, you'd expect to see more people working—and working longer hours. What we're seeing instead is a continuing trend away from full-time work in the most wage-sensitive economic sectors.
That's the point Chris Hayes ignored.
As a general rule, I have a lot of time for Hayes, who I think is more interested in facts and data than most people on cable TV. But cable TV can do bad things even to good people. It's just too tempting to use cable TV's monologue format to propound comfortable dogma and ignore unsettling counter-evidence. If the goal were to inform the audience, Chris should have invited Jed Graham onto his program and worked through the evidence with him. Instead, Chris indulged in the MSNBC variant of epistemic closure. Rather than encounter an interlocutor who would have forced the audience to confront all the facts in all their complexity, Hayes used a partial selection of the facts to reaffirm his audience's prejudices—and his own.