Politics

02.11.14

Obamacare Is Wayne’s World

Health care reform will let people work less, and that means young adults mooching off their parents have one less excuse to get or keep a job.

Welcome to President Obama’s war on the work ethic. On Friday, the Department of Labor announced that workforce participation still hovered at a 35-year low, and that only 113,000 new jobs were added in January. Meanwhile, last Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that Obamacare would result in “a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024.” (PDF)

Significantly, the CBO did not point the finger at business for the anticipated drop.  Instead, the CBO explained that the “estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor.”  Great, so Wayne and Garth—the basement dwelling metal-heads first made famous on Saturday Night Live in the 1980s, can keep on living with their parents for the rest of their lives.

Except, the White House and its friends don’t want you to think that it will be the young, fit, and fancy-free who will be the ones most likely to go on welfare—I mean Obamacare.  No, instead they want you to believe that those who would work less are 55 year olds who would stay home to care for a sick parent, simultaneously embark on a second or third career, and become Pulitzer Prize-winning writers.

Just listen to White House Spokesman Jay Carney or to his de facto back-up Paul Krugman.  According to Carney, “Because of this law, individuals will be empowered to make choices about their own lives and livelihoods, like retiring on time rather than working into their elderly years or choosing to spend more time with their families.” Earth to Jay, 28-year-olds without college degrees or technical training don’t have a whole lot of empowered choices to make.

Meanwhile over at the New York Times, Krugman writes, “It has always been clear that health reform will induce some Americans to work less.”  Now he tells us.

 “Some people will, for example, retire earlier because they no longer need to keep working to keep their health insurance,” Krugman continues. “Others will reduce their hours to spend more time with their children because insurance is no longer contingent on holding a full-time job.” If only.

We have seen this movie before, and it’s not about noble-minded middle-aged folks juggling competing responsibilities in the midstream of life.  No, it’s actually about healthy young people lacking college degrees turning off and dropping out sooner than later.

Don’t take my word for it.  Instead, look at what happened in 2005 after Tennessee downsized its Medicaid program and dropped 170,000 adults it was not required to cover. 

According to Craig Garthwaite, a health economist at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business, those who were bounced from TennCare and reentered the workforce tended to be “able-bodied” adults regardless of family status, without college degrees, but with higher incomes than the average Medicaid recipient. Oh, and they were “far more likely to be white” and under 65. 

And this should come be no surprise.  In this administration, work is meaningful only if it’s “cool,” while toil for its own sake is barely given a second thought.  Remember the 2009 stimulus?  Back then, Obama & Co. had no trouble ladling out billions of dollars on “renewable energy”—spending more on renewables than it even did on basic energy infrastructure.

In Obamaworld, bankrupt Solyndra was cool.  So too were bankrupt electric car battery maker A123 Systems,  bankrupt solar panel manufacturer Abound Solar, bankrupt Beacon Power, and Ener1.

But the jobs or failures that the children of Obama’s donor base wouldn’t deign to touch, now they’re uncool and unworthy of this administration’s respect.  And so, if a late 20-something decides to work fewer hours, but play more Xbox One, and get an Obamacare subsidy why not?  They were never the Obamans’ or Professor Krugman’s kind any way, and what’s the harm of trying to buy them off now, when they may just vote Democratic in the midterms?  That is, if they want to get off the couch.

Yes, in the aftermath of the disastrous roll-out of Obamacare the president talks about infrastructure.  And he is spot-on when he says that infrastructure “creates jobs,” and “puts people to work.” The problem, however, is that no one really believes Obama.  The fact is that when Obama had the chance to do something about infrastructure early on, he made infrastructure the handmaiden of the Democrats’ electoral and donor bases.

The Obama stimulus was more about pumping dollars to state and local governments, doling out one-shot tax gimmicks, and shelling out money for food stamps, than it was about infrastructure.  Or as Michelle Obama admitted, it was an anti-poverty program. 

As Jonathan Alter wrote in his book, The Promise:  “A congressman approached the first lady at a White House reception after the [stimulus] bill’s passage and told her the stimulus was the best anti-poverty bill in a generation. Her reaction was ‘Shhhh!’ The White House didn’t want the public thinking that Obama had achieved long-sought public policy objectives under the guise of merely stimulating the economy, even though that’s exactly what had happened.”

So here we are, the working class gets gored for the sake of Obamacare, and the White House tells us that Obamacare is a about empowerment, not unemployment. Obamacare may feel like party time for some, but unlike Wayne’s World, it sure ain’t “excellent.”