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Feb 11 2014

The GOP’s Sudden, Inconsistent Concern for Jobless

After the release of a CBO report last week about the economy and Obamacare, the Republican party immediately and predictably began distorting one of its findings, despite the fact that the report went out of its way to preempt that distortion in the text.

The distortion involves a conclusion in the text that the availability of affordable insurance will allow about 2 million people to quit jobs that they were keeping in order to keep the health insurance. This would be a good thing for the economy, as it would open up those jobs for people who don’t currently have them. Ezra Klein points out how Republicans are being dishonest about that finding:

The finding that made the news, however, concerned the Affordable Care Act’s long-term effect on labor supply. In past reports, the CBO has estimated that the law will, on net, lead some people to drop out of the labor market or cut back on their hours because their health insurance is no longer tied to their job. Imagine a 62-year-old who would like to shift to part-time work but can’t because he can’t afford — or, due to pre-existing conditions, wouldn’t even be sold — insurance on the individual market. Now, because Obamacare has made that insurance affordable and available, he can — and will. As a result, his work hours will be (voluntarily) reduced.

Previously, the CBO had estimated this would reduce total hours worked by about 0.5 percent. Now, it estimates the effect at 1.5 percent to 2 percent of hours worked — a reduction in hours equivalent to more than 2 million full-time jobs.

The CBO was very clear about what this means: “The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in business’ demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment.”

The CBO’s clarity didn’t forestall a festival of motivated misreadings. The conservative Washington Times, for instance, featured this headline: “Obamacare will push 2 million workers out of labor market.” That has the distinction of being not only untrue but also the very opposite of the truth. Workers are choosing to cut back hours — not being pushed to do so.

And he notes the hypocrisy at the core of this claim:

In context, the freakout over the CBO estimate is perverse. Is it really the Republican position that we should do nothing – - in fact, cut aid — for the millions of long-term unemployed, but express shock and terror that employed people will, in a few years, cut back their hours or leave the labor force by choice? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about people desperate to join the workforce, who can’t, than about people voluntarily leaving the workforce, who can?

Some Republicans will say, of course, that they don’t oppose helping the jobless. They just oppose increasing the deficit or increasing taxes to do so. But repealing Obamacare raises the deficit, too! So rather than increasing the deficit to help people who want jobs get them, we would be increasing the deficit to make sure people who want to leave their jobs can’t. That’s insane.

It’s pure partisan nonsense.

19 comments

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  1. 1
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    ^ So typical tea party shit then.

  2. 2
    Mr Ed

    Republicans used to be so good a trolling now it seems like they aren’t even trying. Will their response to next years state of the union be “Oh yeah!”

  3. 3
    abb3w

    From what I can make out, it’s also inaccurate to say that this will reduce the number of jobs. Rather, it will reduce the number of workers seeking those jobs — in economics parlance, confusing a drop in labor supply for a drop in labor demand.

  4. 4
    colnago80

    Re abb3w @ #3

    Absolutely correct and accurate. I suspect that the real motive behind the Rethuglican angst is the fact that a reduction in the labor force might cause an increase in remuneration. Supply and demand on the labor side.

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Modusoperandi

    When I found out that Obamacare would free my employees from “job lock”, as a Job Creator I was behooved to look in to why my employess hate their jobs and quit when they can. It turns out it’s because I’m an asshole.
    Let me tell you, the revelation that The Common Man neither loves nor respects me shook me up so bad that it took a round of staff layoffs and a round of bonuses for the Board to calm my nerves.

  7. 7
    scienceavenger

    After the release of a CBO report last week about the economy and Obamacare, the Republican party immediately and predictably began distorting one of its findings…

    Big time, all the time, they are talking about this on Fox. “2 million jobs cost” has become a matnra.

    The Democrats should sell this as “opening up 2 million jobs”, since effectively what will happen is that 2 million people will leave jobs they don’t want, to be replaced by people who desperately want them.

  8. 8
    Crimson Clupeidae

    I saw somewhere that the 2 million figure was ‘equivalent job hours’ lost, so it considers 2 people cutting their hours back to 20 hours each would be 1 job equivalent, I assume.

    What I don’t get is if that’s actually lost, or just changed. Just because the employees have more freedom (and more freedom is good, right?), doesn’t mean the employer won’t need to hire someone to pick up the difference, so it seems like a net gain all around, not a net loss.

    I guess I’ll have to read the actual report at some point to see if it’s clearer.

  9. 9
    smhll

    I saw somewhere that the 2 million figure was ‘equivalent job hours’ lost, so it considers 2 people cutting their hours back to 20 hours each would be 1 job equivalent, I assume.

    Is any of the total of hours dropped due to some people being able to drop their second jobs?

  10. 10
    corwyn

    Since when do retirees show up on the unemployment figures?

  11. 11
    fmitchell

    As colnago80, workers voluntarily cutting hours or retiring is bad for bosses, because it reduces competition for jobs and therefore raises wages. Benefits for the out of work (Republicans think) reduces competition for jobs and slightly raises the taxes that corporations take great pains not to pay. Minimum wage increases will force employers to pay unskilled labor more.

    So really, the GOP’s concern for workers is that there won’t be enough of them desperate enough to work for a pittance.

    (At least, that’s the most rational interpretation. One alternative is that they’re so focused on “winning” they’ll denounce and obstruct any solution that their “opponents” propose.)

  12. 12
    mjmiller

    I didn’t pick up on this whole story as I was trolling through the radio stations on my way to work, but it went something like this. A man with a reasonably well paying job living in New York quit said job to move to a smaller community to help a relative start up a new business (involving some sort of social media idea, but that’s not relevant). The man was willing to work for what amounted to no money until the start up became profitable. The reason he was able to do so was because the ACA allowed him to leave his previous position and then purchase health insurance not tied to his employment. I thought “great, not only will this man help to create new jobs (if the start-up is successful) but he provided still another employment opportunity by creating a demand to fill the position he left. That’s a win all around!” Of course the local (Austin) wingnut radio host saw it as, I’m paraphrasing here “ZOMG another job lost to Obamacare and decreased tax revenue because of the job lost by this man”. It’s amazing the mental gymnastics these baggers can accomplish when they concentrate.

  13. 13
    doublereed

    I saw somewhere that the 2 million figure was ‘equivalent job hours’ lost, so it considers 2 people cutting their hours back to 20 hours each would be 1 job equivalent, I assume.

    What I don’t get is if that’s actually lost, or just changed. Just because the employees have more freedom (and more freedom is good, right?), doesn’t mean the employer won’t need to hire someone to pick up the difference, so it seems like a net gain all around, not a net loss.

    I guess I’ll have to read the actual report at some point to see if it’s clearer.

    Yes, this is accurate. Employers would just hire others to fill in the replacement hours. It would essentially lower the unemployment rate. It is a good thing.

    In fact, Job Lock is one of those things that Republicans say they are against, because it stops people from owning their own business. Of course, republicans use this essentially to argue that employers shouldn’t have to provide health insurance at all, because they’re assholes.

  14. 14
    cry4turtles

    I hope my company gives Highmark the boot and buys into the exchange. With my company’s 2/3 coverage and my 1/3, we pay $1200+ a month for insurance. And then, through legal extortion (IMHO) they tacked on a $1000 deductible trying to price my very expensive insurance out of my reach! Health insurance for profit is a dismal failure. If all small businesses sign up, we’ll be a force to contend with.

  15. 15
    arakasi

    There was a study a couple of years back that rated Denmark as being the most “entrepreneur friendly” country in the world, with Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland close behind. One of the reasons given was the strong social safety net – especially in health care. Apparently, people are more likely to take a chance on a startup business if they know that a trip to the emergency room won’t bankrupt them.

  16. 16
    uncephalized

    @dobulereed if completely disentangling employment from healthcare access is a Republican talking point these days, I guess I’m with the Republicans. On that one point only, mind.

    As far as I understand it, the practice of offering health insurance as compensation through employers has basically no upsides when compared to simply allowing people to pool risk in a decently-regulated, federally-insured system similar to how the retail bank system is managed today. You would never let your employer control your access to your bank, would you? Why does it make more sense to allow them any say over your doctor or hospital?

    Of course, I’d combine sane regulatory policy with a redistributory basic income scheme (to replace the bloated bureaucracy of means-tested welfare) and higher progressive income- and wealth-taxes, putting me so far out on the “wacky left” that I expect no card-carrying Republican would ever willingly speak to me in public.

  17. 17
    Michael Heath

    cry4turtles writes:

    Health insurance for profit is a dismal failure.

    I went to college at Michigan State U. in the mid- to late-1980s. I took a lot of economics classes and enjoyed them immensely so I remember many of the lessons. (Most students I met hated econ, and stats.) Many of my econ profs were consultants to politicians, primarily Republicans though it should be noted many Republicans from this area were moderates. E.g., these moderate Republicans sought out experts; such GOP politicians no longer exist with very few exceptions. I even had one prof who was one of President Nixon’s economic advisors.

    One of the most consistent narratives coming out of all those classes was that the U.S. private health insurance industry was already broken and would increasingly harm U.S. economic growth and U.S. global competitiveness. They were right and their predictions came true. It wasn’t just these profs, I recall repeated case studies in my econ text books holding up the health insurance industry as an illustration of a failed market, that was almost thirty years ago.

    This is why President Clinton laudably pushed for Hillarycare in the early-1990s. This is why I so proudly identify and support Barack Obama. Yes President Obama is attempting to hand over tens of millions of Americans as new clients to private health insurers rather than kill off this market. But this is the necessary first step we effectively had to take if we’re to eventually evolve to a single-payer system. Even Howard Dean noted this in his benchmarking study of success stories in other countries who reformed healthcare financing. You can’t jump from A to Z, you need to go whatever letter follows where you are now. Those that could make the leap, like the U.K. did so given the implosion of their own system due to the catastrophe of WWII.

  18. 18
    smrnda

    Conservatives seem to believe that proles exist to do nothing but work, and that they see it as a horrible sin for a person NOT to view work (as in paid employment) as the primary source of value for their life. A lot of this comes from Ayn Rand, but it’s really just the lazy ruling classes and their puppets in government trying to use shame and guilt to make people feel obliged to work more.

    The connection of work to virtue seems tied in with Protestant religious ideas as well, which views any sort of fun as somehow morally suspect.

    In the end, the only people who they seem to think should be entitled *not to work* are wives of very wealthy men.

  19. 19
    democommie

    “But this is the necessary first step we effectively had to take if we’re to eventually evolve to a single-payer system.”

    A cogent statement and valid point.

    It’s sort of like giving black Americans the right of electoral enfranchisement; you first had to make them, legally, people.

    The analogy might be inapt, but I know what I’m saying, even if nobody else does.

    “Just because the employees have more freedom (and more freedom is good, right?)”

    Dear Wylann:

    Two things; I think that you’re new here, so I’ll try to be kind.

    1.) Employers should have more freedom–to fire everybody, move their plants, get “enterprise zone grants” for doing fuck all for enterprise and other good, pro-business stuff; Otoh, giving employees freedom? That’s fuckin’ commnunism!

    c/1f(5b>.) I am the only person allowed to use (open/unclosed OR unopened/closed) parenthetical comments. It’s a mark of respect by my fellow bloggers. True story.

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