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Is ACA undermining the American work ethic?

By
From page A11 | February 14, 2014 |

A new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the Affordable Care Act will reduce the effective size of the U.S. workforce by 2.5 million over the next 10 years.

The White House responded that the law is giving Americans more choices by removing the link between work and health insurance. But critics of Obamacare seized on the report as more evidence the president’s health-care reform law is doing more harm than good.

Is the Affordable Care Act hurting the work ethic? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the Red-Blue America columnists, weigh in.

Joel Mathis

There’s a lot to be said for work, in and of itself. A person who collects $10,000 in benefits and sits on the couch all day probably won’t find life quite as satisfying as the person who earns the same $10,000. Many of us find that our work gives us purpose and meaning, and that’s pretty great.

Before it can do any of that, though, work must give us a living. Increasingly, it fails to do so.

We have noted here before, and we shall note again: For 40 years, the productivity of middle-class workers has increased greatly even as their wages have stagnated — it often takes two full-time working parents to achieve the earning power that a single parent did a generation ago.

Problems for the middle class were exacerbated by the Great Recession, in which many workers lost lucrative jobs and replaced them with poorer-paying work that, often, doesn’t quite pay all the bills. Unless you’re rich, it’s not been a fun generation to be an American worker.

The irony in all this: Republicans have spent the Obama administration complaining about every small act that might put a dent in the earnings of America’s richest citizens. Those folks need to keep as much of their money as possible, the argument goes, or they’ll lose the incentive to work and create and produce new goods for all of us to buy and enjoy.

Apparently, incentives apply only to the rich. For the rest of us, conservatives apparently believe we should be grateful for what we have — witness recent arguments that iPads are so fun that income inequality shouldn’t matter – and that toil itself should be its own reward.

What’s this have to do with Obamacare? Conservatives worry that government is severing the link between work and reward. The private sector has done a fine job of that on its own. At least under Democrats, there’s still a reward.

Ben Boychuk

Watching defenders of President Obama’s foundering health-care reforms try to explain why a smaller workforce is a benefit of the law has been a wonder to behold.

It’s great, they say, that health insurance is no longer attached to employment. As White House mouthpiece Jay Carney put it, “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.”

That’s certainly one way of looking at it. But what the Congressional Budget Office report says actually underscores what conservative critics of the law have been warning about all along: Obamacare discourages productive work.

A spate of new economic research backs the conservative argument. As the federal government expands eligibility for Medicaid, people will have fewer incentives to work.

But that’s not all. The law’s tax increases and so-called “employer mandate,” which the Obama administration just decided to delay for yet another year, discourages employers from hiring people, because health care is terribly expensive – made more so by the new law’s requirements to cover just about everything under the sun.

More to the point, the law’s “individual mandate,” which penalizes people for not purchasing insurance, discourages people from working too much. Given a choice between working and working less, or working and not working at all, the law will nudge people away from work toward not working.

Bear in mind, the U.S. labor participation rate is already at historic lows. The sluggish economy has driven millions of otherwise productive people from the workforce. As Mercatus Center researcher Charles Blahous noted at the Manhattan Institute’s e21 blog, “With millions of baby boomers heading into retirement and unsustainable deficits on the horizon, that is a huge self-inflicted problem.”

How, then, is Obamacare progress? What kind of “dreams” does it inspire?

The kind of dreams that imagine millions of Americans living – subsisting, really – on government largesse, at the expense of an ever-dwindling class of productive citizens. The dream is a nightmare of dependency.

Ben Boychuk (bboychuk@city-journal.org) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Joel Mathis (joelmmathis@gmail.com) is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine. Website: www.facebook.com/benandjoel. They wrote this for McClatchy-Tribune.

Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 31 comments

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  • Mike KirchubelFebruary 14, 2014 - 6:07 am

    If the question is flawed, the arguments become meaningless. Did the C.B.O. actually say that the A.C.A. "will reduce the effective size of the U.S. workforce by 2.5 million over the next ten years?"

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Salty DogFebruary 14, 2014 - 1:15 pm

    Mike: if that is not what the CBO said then tell us what did they say?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mike KirchubelFebruary 14, 2014 - 2:13 pm

    Ok, monday. You guys may as well start sharpening your spears right now.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mike KirchubelFebruary 14, 2014 - 6:19 am

    Ben seems to think that unemployment causes a decrease in the number of people in the workforce, rather than the other way around. His cure would be to take away their access to healthcare. In the conservative mind, the more desparate the unemployed are, the more the wealthy job creators will create jobs. Hasn't worked yet.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • https://twitter.com/search?q=ACAValentines&src=hashFebruary 14, 2014 - 6:29 am

    Mike, your argument might make sense if the net result of ObamaCare was more people having health insurance. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. We now have over a half million less people insured in California alone as a direct result of the law. By continuing to support the law, apparently you don't care if people die.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Teach5thFebruary 14, 2014 - 7:06 am

    I love how the Dems. Keep referring to having health insurance as having health care. They're apples and oranges. You can have all the health "insurance" in the world, but if a doctor won't/can't afford to take your insurance, you have no health "care." I can see the next domino to fall - Obama's administration will force doctors to take Obamacare patients or they will face some sort of fine. Another thing to think about is what Schumer had to say last week . . . "If a single mother of 3 is (forced) to stay on a job in order to keep her health insurance, the ACA (Obamacare) will allow her to quit working. She'll have more time to spend with her children. That's a family value." WHAT??? She still needs to pay rent, electricity, etc. If she's not working, taxpayers will have to pick up the tab. Someone needs to point out to Schumer and to Pelosi (.who said something equally stupid) that having the self-esteem to be able to support those children, and thereby showing those kids why they need to work in school, instead of having grades handed to them, is the real family value.

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  • The MisterFebruary 14, 2014 - 7:40 am

    Great points!

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  • Mike KirchubelFebruary 14, 2014 - 9:09 am

    Yeah, great, imaginary points. Now try using Schumer's actual quote.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mike KirchubelFebruary 14, 2014 - 9:03 am

    Great use of right wing "logic" mr/ms valentine google. It's plain to see why you are a repub. You care about people... in your mind.

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  • Salty DogFebruary 14, 2014 - 10:01 am

    Mike: if not supporting obamacare makes you a republican then with your logic makes you a liberal democrat for supporting it.

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  • Mike KirchubelFebruary 14, 2014 - 11:02 am

    Another wun.8ner in the use of right wing "logic." And the hits just keep on coming. You guys deserve each other. Happy Valentine's Day.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksFebruary 14, 2014 - 2:07 pm

    Salty Dog, this is what you folks do, jump on the bandwagon without a clue then turn around and ask what's in something. If you don't know look it up and stop trying to get others to do the work for you. BTW, context is King...

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rudolph MadronichFebruary 14, 2014 - 5:17 pm

    CD: I guess Nancy Pelosi jumped on the bandwagon when she said we have to pass it to see what is in it. Voting on a bill without reading it is like signing a contract with out reading it. But i guess it is ok for her and all of you liberal democrates to force something on the american people.

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  • CD BrooksFebruary 14, 2014 - 6:06 pm

    Mr. Madronich, you and yours are going off the deep end. I know what Pelosi said, I printed it here. No. I have no problems with my party. Going to have a wonderful dinner with family. Enjoy your crow! :) Good evening.

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  • Salty DogFebruary 14, 2014 - 6:27 pm

    CD You have a great dinner with the family and Happy Valentines day to you all. it is always fun to debate you in this blog.

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  • rlw895February 14, 2014 - 9:56 pm

    RM: Come back when you've actually read what Pelosi said in context and not what someone told you she said and what it meant. You're sheep being led to slaughter. Either that, or you own a piece of the slaughterhouse.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • https://twitter.com/search?q=ACAValentines&src=hashFebruary 15, 2014 - 5:46 am

    Pelosi's comment was irresponsible and patronizing to all Americans even in the correct context.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895February 14, 2014 - 9:59 pm

    Mathis gets the better of this argument. I can't believe Boychuk is so stupid. I just figure he has to write a counterpoint so he retreats to the junk the Right has in its playbook.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • The MisterFebruary 14, 2014 - 7:39 am

    "Is ACA undermining the American work ethic?" Yes... by design.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. SmithFebruary 14, 2014 - 2:07 pm

    Since the Dems have wrecked the economy and job market--mostly through Obamacare-- they have been forced to declare "work" a non-essential facet of modern-day American life. Their "war on work" is progressing nicely for them so far in 2014. This must be good news to the millennial generation. They can now pursue their inner creative muses without worrying about being that stultifying notion of "holding down a job."

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mike KirchubelFebruary 14, 2014 - 3:57 pm

    "Since the dems wrecked the economy, mostly through Obamacare..." what have you been smoking? Did you miss out pn G.W.Bush's two terms and the massive destruction of the American economy? You think that the last six years of misery was caused by something that is just now coming online??? How confused and misguided are you?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. SmithFebruary 14, 2014 - 4:26 pm

    Not confused OR misguided, Mike. But please continue to wallow in your BDS/FDS (Bush and Fox Derangement Syndromes) and I will continue to comment on the events of the present day as I see them, especially the Dems War on Work and the effects of Obamacare on ALL of us.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. PracticalFebruary 14, 2014 - 5:24 pm

    Mr. Smith, Mike is the poster boy for the old Wrestling with a Pig analogy. Like many liberals he is ideological and superficial. He has no regard for reality or the negative impact that ObamaCare is causing. He refuses to respond to the fact that over a half million less people now have insurance in California because of the law. He can't things through to understand how the law is costing us jobs directly and thwarting job creation. He probably believes extending the extended unemployment benefits is also a good idea, in spite of the job loss it's responsible for.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Salty DogFebruary 14, 2014 - 5:39 pm

    MR. Smith The is how the Democrats fight the war on poverty. Let the people quit their jobs and we will take care of them.

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  • Mike KirchubelFebruary 14, 2014 - 9:33 pm

    MS, please DO continue to post here. It's better than Saturday Night Live.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Salty DogFebruary 14, 2014 - 5:51 pm

    Mike so tell us what has President Obama and the Democrats done in the last 6 years to improve the economy.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. SmithFebruary 14, 2014 - 2:09 pm

    Strike the word "being." Dang!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. SmithFebruary 14, 2014 - 5:38 pm

    Mr. P.: I have to chuckle when I see how Mike and some others here seem to think of the conservatives among us as ignorant, uninformed, or duped-by-Fox into believing what we believe. Not once do they question their own perceptions and biases. But, hey. To each his/her own.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. SmithFebruary 14, 2014 - 5:43 pm

    Mr. P and Salty Dog: In Mike's comments, we are seeing the epitome of the mindset that produced modern day Europe. To me it's kind of repugnant.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. PracticalFebruary 14, 2014 - 5:50 pm

    Mr. Smith, Mike is also the poster boy for repugnancy.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. SmithFebruary 14, 2014 - 6:13 pm

    Lol!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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