Unemployment Is Freedom Under Obamacare

For an estimated $1.2 trillion over the next decade, we can subsidize your freedom.


Obamacare will reduce American workforce participation by the equivalent of two million full-time jobs in 2017, according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Work hours would be reduced by the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs in 2024, a tripling of the previous estimates.

If you believe this report—and I'm not sure why we pay this much attention to CBO projections—you can then believe that Obamacare discourages work, pushes people out of the labor market and, consequently, leads to fewer people having jobs. Certainly, it is well within the parameters of political rhetoric for the opposition to assert that the CBO has found that Obamacare is "costing" or "killing" American jobs. It is no more a "lie" to say so than it is to claim that Mitt Romney was "shipping jobs overseas" or for an administration to assert that it "created jobs"—or to use any of the other countless shorthand terms we use for economic consequences in political debate.

But the only way to blunt the negative force of the CBO findings was to deflect from the numbers and gin up a controversy over semantics. And the synchronicity and speed in which left-wing punditry accomplished this task was pretty extraordinary: No, absolutely false, the term "killing jobs" implies that the problem is on the labor demand side, but the CBO, as any honest person can see, is talking about the labor supply side. So really, "jobs" aren't being lost; people just don't want to work.

"Obamacare is inducing labor demand to shrink!" doesn't have quite the same punch as "Obamacare is costing us jobs!"—though both are accurate. Yet all of a sudden, a precise elucidation on every underlying economic reason for what's happening must be offered with each and every mention of the CBO report. Otherwise, "lies."

Well, unless you spin the projection as good news. Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Jason Furman told reporters that Obamacare allows greater "choice" not to work. White House press secretary Jay Carney followed. And soon, left-wing media followed. The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler prepared a bizarre fact-checking piece that was helpfully titled "No, CBO did not say Obamacare will kill two million jobs." "First, this is not about jobs offered by employers. It's about workers—and the choices they make," wrote Kessler. Yes, the choice not to work at a job. Using Kessler's logic, each time some clueless reporter mentions the word "jobs" in any story about the labor force participation rate—or the unemployment rate, for that matter—he or she may be lying to the public.

Magically, liberals argue it is a good thing that Americans will drop out of the labor market and a "lie" to claim that Obamacare is the impetus for impeding job growth.

Yes, for an estimated $1.2 trillion over the next decade, we can subsidize your freedom. In ordinary times, if a projection found particular legislation to be the impetus for more than two million people dropping out of the labor force during serious economic stagnation, newspapers might have reported it in a negative light. And maybe that was their initial intent here. But within a few hours, many were changing headlines. Here are a few, according to the Post's Erik Wemple:

Politico at first: "CBO: Lower enrollment, bigger job losses with Obamacare."

Politico now: "Report reignites debate over Obamacare and jobs."

UPI at first: "CBO: Obamacare to cost 2.3 million jobs over 10 years."

UPI now: "WH disputes media claims on CBO Obamacare study."

What was once a story about Obamacare's discouraging work and impeding job creation is now a dispute about semantics. Mission accomplished.

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  1. Depends what your definition of “is” is.

    1. All of politics is a debate about semantics. Politics is the means by which people rob, kidnap and murder their neighbors without all the guilt associated with committing those crimes directly. If we want to end the semantic distractions, call things by what they are. ‘Taxation is theft’ would be a good start.

      1. In the early Nineties there were lots of noise made about where will all those English majors get jobs. Now we know: at the government & ‘nonprofits’ & ‘journalism’ where postmodern narrative-manufacturing & reframing is happening.

  2. The labor demand will remain the same but the supply will fall. It is not that difficult, partisans.

    1. Palin’s Buttplug|2.7.14 @ 4:41PM|#
      …”It is not that difficult, partisans.”

      That’s bullshit.
      Go fuck your daddy.

    2. If that’s the case, isn’t that still bad? That means we won’t have enough people to do work that needs done. A job isn’t just a paycheck. It’s genuine productivity and a contribution to society. The government is glossing over the loss of useful, if not downright necessary, productivity.

      1. But it’s not the4 case.
        The incentives to the individual make it worthwhile to quit and live off government payments of various sorts.
        The incentives to employers are such that hiring people is more expensive. That means they will hire fewer people regardless of shreeks lies.

      2. They actually have a point here.

        Productivity has been rising, and is expected to increase exponentially. We are on the verge of a sharp decrease in the need for human labor. Technological unemployment is on its way.

        The question, then, is what to do to ensure that everyone who wants to work and earn a living can do so. One way is to reduce hours – so everyone can work, say, a 20 hour week – instead of half the people working a 40 hour week. In order to do that, hourly wages will have to rise, but we will also have to change expectations of what a full-time job is – and we will need to decouple medical insurance from employment. I have worked with several people who only took a full time job because it was the only way they could afford the inflated price of health insurance. Some of them made far more money from side jobs (one was re-selling items on E-bay), but it wasn’t enough to cover health insurance that might cost several times as much for an individual plan as for a group plan.

        (continued in part 2)

      3. (part 2)

        As it happens, this has happened before. In the 1800s, it was quite common for people to work a 70 or 80 hour work week. They worked such long hours they had little free time left for consumption. Work and leisure were out of balance. Through various events, a 40 hour work week was eventually determined as standard. Despite shorter hours, people actually became richer. That’s what increased productivity can do.

        It may be time to update our standards. It needn’t be heavy-handed. Decoupling health insurance from a 40 hour work week is one step. Establishing a lower threshold for overtime pay might be another (say, at 30 hours instead of 40). Decreasing the number of workers who have to work in order to maintain health insurance will decrease the labor supply, and thereby increase the value of those still wishing to work. A few people will still want to work 80 hour weeks and will be productive enough to justify the cost – and they will still be able to.

        I know such things as establishing social norms doesn’t fit into the traditional libertarian narrative, but this can still play an important part in allowing our culture to continue to flourish. We are about to experience accelerating productivity of a sort we have never seen before, and I personally expect that we will transition to something like a gift economy that remains backwards compatible with free market capitalism. It’s worthwhile preparing for it.

    3. That fall in supply will cost taxpayers money in the form of insurance subsidies. That’s the point. People will be better off on the dole than producing something other people want to pay for.

      1. The law encourages people to steal their neighbors wealth instead of producing something of value to legitimately earn a chunk of their neighbors wealth.

        This is the case for virtually every thing the government does. It’s a shame that more libertarians don’t take their philosophy to it’s logical and moral conclusion; that government as we have it is both inefficient and immoral.

        1. Exactly. The economy is more than just the flow of currency. It’s goods and services. There’s going to be a tipping point where the loss of genuine productivity becomes truly damaging to this country. Imagine if everyone had money, but nothing to spend it on because no one else was working.

          1. With automation how many people do we really need to be productive? The technology exists now to all but eliminate most of the low-level “teenage jobs” but the need to keep people employed kinda screws that. A supermarket can eliminate all it’s cashiers in favor of self-checkout systems which are cheaper, less management intensive, just as reliable and more flexible in meeting variations in demand (gone will be the days when 2 cashiers out of a potential 12 are checking out 1000’s of customers because of an unexpected snowstorm). Vending machines have long since supplanted concession stands in most places. As soon as the Roomba people come up with a lawnmower the days of mowing lawns for pocket money are gone.

            I happen to be optimistic. I would like to take a positive view of humanity and think that most people won’t become mindless couch potatoes under such circumstances. People will still create and consume and a new economy will replace the old.

            1. Not everything that can be automated necessarily will. I generally still use the human checkout. Some people prefer the ease of that experience or even a little humanity in their lives. When I’m in the right mood, I appreciate a little friendly small talk.

              Efficiency largely makes life better, but it won’t lead to a golden age of universal happiness.

              I think eventually, except in the rare cases of still doing things the old way, the new economy will have a new bottom which will be harder to reach. At the same time prices will be much lower so things will largely even out.

              A feel that capitalism would stop any potential lazy man’s utopia because people will always need money to buy things. At a certain level of advancement, I suppose we could theoretically subsist in some sort of socialist system where the vast majority of people didn’t work, but it would be the end of mankind’s progress. I could put myself on a never-ending IV. A socialist utopia, even if it worked, would be a bland, lifeless society. Capitalism allows people to dream and strive.

              1. but it would be the end of mankind’s progress. I could put myself on a never-ending IV. A socialist utopia, even if it worked, would be a bland, lifeless society.Capitalism allows people to dream and strive.

                I don’t agree. I think you’re kind of caught up in the ’80’s sitcom version of the Eastern Bloc – endless grey buildings, food lines and a bunch of fat grumpy drunks. People dreamed and strove and science and technology progressed even under the horrible conditions brought on by Soviet Communism.

                I’m not trying to defend socialism as much as I’m trying to say that Capitalism (and it’s underlying assumptions) should be adaptive rather than dogmatic.

                1. Capitalism is adaptive. Governments are not.
                  Technology advancements should be making it easier and easier for people to support themselves and be entrepreneurs rather than cogs in someone else’s business.
                  Unfortunately, government puts up the road-blocks to entering the market for yourself.
                  Technological advances free the individual to think of more ways to improve their lives. Instead of folding shirts in Marshalls all day, a person freed by a robot could produce art, food, new technologies, an investment strategy, etc.
                  Look at Europe realistically and there are terrible crises under the covers – strained resources, bigotry and violence, unsustainable borrowing, and a reliance on American technological advancements.

            2. Agreed. I see some of these events happening as a consequence of an unprecedented rise in productivity. Technological unemployment is coming, and we would be better off with a society where everyone worked 20 hours a week than one where half the people worked 40 hours and the other half are unemployed. To do this, however, we will need to find a way to make sure everyone can benefit from this increase in productivity – and decoupling health insurance from a 40 hour work week looks like a good start.

              Incidentally, we have already had robotic lawn mowers for a while – they just have not reached the level of utility where they are worth wide deployment.

      2. That fall in supply will cost taxpayers money in the form of insurance subsidies.

        OK, fine. How much? With only 3-4 million signed up for Obamacare it will be an insignificant amount from a federal level.

        We’re talking 1% of the population.

        1. So what? The interesting point is the Democrats are openly celebrating the fact that some people will be “liberated” from the responsibility of earning a living. Because it’s so awesome that other people will be forced to support them.

          1. Not necessarily liberated from earning a living, but liberated from the requirement to work 40 hours a week in order to get health insurance.

            I have worked with several people over the years who would have preferred to be small entrepreneurs, but were forced into working for someone else in order to get the benefits of group rates on insurance.

        2. OK, fine. How much?

          Who fucking gives a shit how much? The law creates perverse incentives. It’s going to result in a non-trivial number of people dropping out of the workforce. That doesn’t suck any less below some percentage of the population.

          Pull your head out of your ass.

        3. Palin’s Buttplug|2.7.14 @ 6:10PM|#
          “OK, fine. How much? With only 3-4 million signed up for Obamacare it will be an insignificant amount from a federal level.
          We’re talking 1% of the population.”

          You fucking sleaze-bag, YOU pay for it; it’s your fave lying asshole’s program.

        4. Fine, then you shouldn’t have any trouble paying for it out of your trust fund.

        5. One percent change in employment figures is huge.

    4. The labor demand will remain the same but the supply will fall.

      Right, which is why the “job growth” the last five years hasn’t been able to keep up with population growth, hence the continued drop in labor participation.

      Looks like you’ve been fucked in ear by basic math and government data again, PB.

    5. And the supply will fall because the law is incenting otherwise able-bodied workers to drop out of the labor force and freeload.

      It’s not that difficult, dumbass.

  3. If the unemployed are free, what does that make the employed?

    1. Slaves. Because all work is inherently exploitative.


    2. Wage Slaves

    3. Suckers.

    4. Suckers. You should all be happy to work for $2/hr

      1. american socialist|2.7.14 @ 6:23PM|#
        “Suckers. You should all be happy to work for $2/hr”

        I hope you’re not paid that much.

        1. awww… did someone lose alot of money on their bitcoins today? sucks to be you, wage slave.

          1. american socialist|2.7.14 @ 7:37PM|#
            …”sucks to be you, wage slave.”

            Uh, sucks to be you, imbecile.

          2. Way to make the argument for your cause.
            I guess if you don’t really know anything simply insulting people enslaved by your system wins the day.
            Socialism is a refuge for cowardly slavers.
            Nothing changes.

  4. To a true liberal, freedom means freedom from responsibility.

  5. Those were just junk jobs!

    1. People need to be liberated from the need to do something that other people actually want.

      If I want to pursue my dream of being a famous novelist, who are the taxpayers to deny me the money I need to live on while I pursue that dream? Let alone those suckers who work in STEM careers.

      1. May my fingers drop off if I ever type a true defense of Obamacare but still isn’t that line of argument a bit disingenuous? I think what they’re saying is that someone who needs insurance has greater flexibility in choosing work now that insurance really isn’t tied to work – meaning someone with a pre-existing condition doesn’t have to stay with an otherwise unsuitable employer under onerous terms that may be required to get and keep that insurance (and I’m not considering merely “doing your job” as an onerous condition. Employers do require minimum hours worked, PT/FT status and/or time with the company to qualify).

        Okay, there are the subsidies and entitlement expansions to take into account, and yes, that’s not good but I don’t think you’d be able to be a moocher without consequences.

        1. You aren’t dropping out of the workforce if you are switching employers.

          The CBO report is specifically about the fact that people will cut back their hours or quit working in order to qualify for more subsidies.

          It has NOTHING to do with “job lock”.

          1. Oh, I see. Still, it doesn’t strike me as that big of a deal. Nor does it merit the phrase “unemployment is freedom”. Living off welfare and subsidies is no joke – you’ve really got to work to game the system – and it’ll amount to a dip at best in the numbers.

            It’ll be like those people who get themselves fired because they heard that they can make more on unemployment.

            1. No, they don’t have the game the system. The structure of the ACA subsidies is EXPLICITLY formulated in such a way that you get $4000 more in subsidies if you make $1000 less in income.
              This is for a family of 4 right at the limit of $94,000 a year. Make a dime over the threshold and your effective after-tax, after you lose your subsidies income drops by $4000.

              1. I think that’s assuming everyone’s getting the same thing. Now I’m willing to accept that my source (http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/) is wrong but the the Kaiser Foundation calculator tells me that your assertion is only correct if it’s 2 non-smoking adults and two 26+ “children” all on a silver plan. Two kids under 20 and the subsidy goes down to about $1500 and no kids enrolled means no subsidy (and remember that all this is “up to”.

                1. I think the CBO knows what it’s talking about when it says that marginal tax rates resulting from the subsidy loss will cause people to cut back their hours. They are talking about people losing more in subsidies than they are gaining in income.

                  1. Not necessarily. I’ve worked with people who would have been happy to quit their full time job or cut back hours because they had sufficient income elsewhere – except for insurance at individual rates.

                    They would not be cutting back hours in order to get a subsidy, but in order to have more time with their family.

          2. Hold on a second….who said it was employees who are choosing to leave jobs or cut back hours.

            Obamacare gives employers an incentive to limit their workforces to 49 full time equivalents, and to limit part time employees to less than 30 hours of work per week. Isn’t it far more likely that employers are responding to these incentives and are cutting back on employment?

        2. The idea is that you could choose to work part time, and still make as much money as you did working full time because of the subsidy covering so much of your insurance cost.

  6. David Harsanyi is known for his virulent Anti-Semantism, so clearly we should be suspicious of his criticisms of the administration.

    1. Obo doesn’t LOOK Jewish.

      1. I have no idea why you think Oboes have anything to do with this

        Also, I think we shouldn’t make fun of the speech disorders of sailors. You know, ‘Seamantics’


        1. I know; Tip the veal and try the waitresses!

  7. Start working from home! Great job for students, stay-at-home moms or anyone needing an extra income… You only need a computer and a reliable internet connection… Make $90 hourly and up to $12000 a month by following link at the bottom and signing up… You can have your first check by the end of this week?????????????????….

    1. Wrong link. You want the one to healthcare.gov.

  8. Well this has got to be good for employment and food deserts.

    The Trader Joe’s grocery-store chain has dropped a plan to open a new store in the heart of the city’s historically African-American neighborhood after activists said the development would price black residents out of the area.

    It sent the city a letter saying it would “remain opposed to any development in N/NE Portland that does not primarily benefit the Black community.” It said the grocery-store development would “increase the desirability of the neighborhood,” for “non-oppressed populations.”


    1. Portland has been getting stupider by the decade, but this shit achieves peak derp. WTF

    2. Let’s keep employment and access to decent food out the neighborhood because…we may be oppressed but there’s no ineqality, that someone could maybe get a decent job is not fair. You just can’t make this shit up.

    3. Its store would have been the anchor of a two-building development that included space for four to 10 shops and 100 parking spaces. A company owned by African-Americans in Portland had been slated to build it.


    4. Geeze, it could run up property values and how can blacks remain oppressed if their houses are worth more.

      1. Well, higher values means higher taxes.

        1. Dunno how Oregon handles that; could be. In CA, good ol’ Prop 13 caps the rise at some minimal amount.

      2. tell me… does libertarian also mean racist bigot? let me know would you, fuckhead?

        1. american socialist|2.7.14 @ 7:54PM|#
          Quite sure american socialist means ass-sucking twit.

        2. Very original with the ‘racism’ angle.

    5. So why don’t these “activists” pool their own resources and start up a black-owned grocery store themselves?

      Oh, right, they think blacks can’t do anything productive without a government handout. They do everything they can to ensure businesses don’t want to remain in their neighborhoods, then look around and cry about “racism” when those neighborhoods increasingly become known as crime-infested, dilapidated hellholes and bawl for MOAR GOVT $$$$ and OUR SUFFERING IS ALL THE FAULT OF OLD WHITE MEN.

      1. Prog Plantation: gotta keepem from gettin too uppity.

    6. It’s incentives all the way down.

  9. I don’t get it. Why do people still call it ObamaCare? Now that we’ve found out what’s in it, we know that it’s really…


  10. Of course, the argument used to paint the CBO report is so overtly communist i’m sure most people will see it for what it is. People are choosing not to work as much because they get subsidies not to. Those subsidies are paid by whom?

    1. Free money!
      The RICH!
      Anybody but me…

      1. And what a reliable, unbiased source that it!

        1. …that IS.

      2. american socialist|2.7.14 @ 7:52PM|#
        Hey, ass-sucking twit! Whatcha got there? More lies, ass-sucking twit?

      3. A libertarian doesn’t care if he or she specifically will be footing the bill. We care about other members of society, too. And yet we’re the ones who are supposedly anti-social.

  11. Yes, its a tragedy when people who get paid part time shit wages and get shit insurance won’t have to work like serfs so they can keep their medical insurance. boo frickin’ hoo… we need to pay people that run Fortune 500 companies more so they can run their companies into the ground and grovel to the taxpayer about how they are too big to fail and how important they are to freedom.

    1. Your point is wrong on so many levels that believe it deserves a response. No libertarian wants the government to set wages at all. If you think that is what was asserted by the author, I would encourage you to read the article. Your comments, in general, seem to imply that all libertarians want poor people to not have health insurance, and want rich people to get richer. That is not the case at all. The point is when the Government tries to manage complex programs, and these attempts have severe and unintended consequences, the media provide cover for the Government by slanting their coverage.

      I genuinely encourage you to read the article.

      I would also encourage you try to understand what libertarians are about and what we stand for before you comment. Your comments on this website remind me why, in general, I try to avoid debate with liberals – I don’t think it’s fair to engage in a battle of wits with someone who is so woefully and obviously unarmed.

      Please think for yourself. Then, before you waste time with another inane, obtuse, and off-topic comment, think again.

      1. It doesn’t want to learn anything. It doesn’t argue in good faith, just let it go.

        1. Yup. Feeding the troll.

    2. american socialist|2.7.14 @ 7:45PM|#
      “Yes, its a tragedy when people…”

      Yes, it’s a tragedy when ass-sucking twits who are infantile excuses for moral agents project their fucking ignorance on everyone else.
      Get fucked with a garden implement, ass-sucking twit.

    3. It’s a tragedy when people who work part time and get paid shit wages effectively MAKE LESS MONEY the second they advance beyond that point.

      This is the exact same problem with welfare and disability. You are disincentivized from working your way to a better income because you will lose your welfare/disability/insurance benefits.

    4. It is fictions and ideology like yours that causes people to have to work for shit wages and live with shit healthcare, while a few party functionaries are having a party. We know that because half the world used to work that way.

  12. Welfare discourages you from working because you get income from the government. You can spend it on booze or porn and precious nothing can be done about it.

    I don’t think ACA will work the same way. If you can’t find a doctor or a hospital of your choice, then the bonus of having to keep your insurance despite working less seems like a moot point.

    Would anyone really willing quit or ask for less hours just to qualify for subsidies? “Yeah, I only want to work 10 hours a week because ACA lets me keep my insurance or allows me to enroll in medicare, so it’s all good” – that seems possible if you don’t have to pay rent or someone else feeds you.

    1. But buying insurance is MANDATORY anyway. The difference is, that you start having to pay the full price for it – so you don’t get the benefit of having earned more. You are forced to spend all of your extra income (and more, in some cases) on health insurance.

      The CBO report is about this fact – that your effective marginal tax rate is over 100% at some levels, so you’re stongly disincentivized from earning more at certain points.

      Basically between $50000 and $110000 a year in income your marginal tax rates are so steep that a lot of people are just not going to want to bother.

      This is what the squeezing of the middle class is all about. It’s easier to go on the dole and stay poor, than to work your way into the upper middle class.

    2. According to recent reports, people are doing just that. Maybe their food and rent are paid for by a partner, and if they receive subsidies, they don’t need to worry about wiring in order to receive health care. They may also be receiving housing assistance, food stamps, etc. It won’t allow everybody to stop working, but ACA clearly allows some people to stop working and have others pay them hundreds of dollars a month for health care.

  13. If taxing 1.2 trillion to re-distribute to everybody suddenly makes us free to not work, then why not just tax all money, redistribute it, and then no one would have to work?

    1. Just give it some time…

    2. I know its sarcasm, but there are actually people who believe that individuals will continue to labor and provide the jobs necessary for modern society to function after results are divorced from rewards.

  14. Geeze, it could run up property values and how can blacks remain oppressed if their houses are worth more.

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