Tuesday, February 4, 2014

'Liberal' media lies: Obamacare will cost 2 million jobs

So did the CBO really mean to forecast that 2 million people would lose their jobs because of Obamacare? No. But that's how the mainstream media -- including the "liberal" axis at the New York Times and Washington Post reported it.

As Weinstein clarifies, here's what the CBO actually said:

CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor—given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive.

Is that just wonkish liberal-progressive spin?  Is that just "figures lie, and liars figure?"  No again:

When workers no longer have to rely on full-time employers to get affordable health care, they suddenly have the freedom to not work full-time. That could mean people stuck in crappy hourly jobs 40 hours a week at, say, the local big-box store. Or creatives jammed in underpaying urban admin assistant jobs. Indeed, the CBO adds:

Because the largest declines in labor supply will probably occur among lower-wage workers… the impact on the overall economy will be proportionally smaller than the reduction in hours worked.

Weinstein sums it up [emphasis mine]:

The problem here is truly philosophical. It is ideological. It is rooted in the two Americas' distressingly divergent answers to a simple question: What is a job for?

For pundits and pointy-headed analysts, it's to keep The Economy and Growth flowing. That is its good. That is its end. Workers are the means. For most workers (the vast majority of whom aren't leaving their families and schlepping through megastorms to cubicles or factories for the love), the job is the means to a different, individualized end: the ability to buy one's own way, to keep loved ones fed and happy and healthy, to stave off poverty.

So what the CBO said today, in essence, was that if this Obamacare thing works out, people won't need to work full-time jobs just to keep health care benefits. They may actually be able to spend more time with those families. They may be able to freelance, to split hours between two parents rather than having one stay-at-home parent and one full-time earner. They may be able to take a chance on that novel or Etsy shop, instead of staying at the office until death.

That's not what conservatives hear, though, because that's not what conservatives care about. Their concern for people is subverted by their concern for commercial output, or economic abstractions that appear to impact commercial output.

People are real. They are not economic abstractions. And health care (and Medicare and food stamps, for that matter) is not single-sided accounting, with all costs and liabilities and no assets or benefits.  Health insurance that is not tied to employment facilitates Americans' labor mobility, unleashes their creativity and risk-taking, simply because they don't have to make one of the most important decisions in life -- where to work -- based solely on where they can get decent health insurance.  

By Adam Weinstein
February 5, 2014 | Gawker

UPDATE (02.082014): Check out Matt Taibbi's somewhat nuanced take on the media flap over the CBO report: "Latest Health Care Flap Shows Media at its Most Boring."

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