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In defense of not working: We need a nation of free agents unafraid to bail on a lousy job
The Week ^ | 02/11/2014 | Matt Lewis

Posted on 02/11/2014 7:51:15 PM PST by SeekAndFind

Y

ou might have heard Republicans claiming last week that 2.5 million Americans would lose their jobs as a result of ObamaCare. This claim was based on a Congressional Budget Office report on ObamaCare. The report suggested that the U.S. workforce might shrink by 2.5 million people as a result of ObamaCare.

This distinction is critical: The CBO didn't predict that people would lose their jobs, but rather, that more people would choose to work fewer hours, since they might no longer put in a ton of time at work simply to get health insurance through their employer.

While there are plenty of serious philosophical reasons to lament this aspect of ObamaCare (the people choosing not to work as much are being subsidized by the taxes of folks who do work), as the Washington Examiner's Tim Carney argues, there may be a silver lining for some Americans:

If a low-income mother is working — and paying through the nose for child care — just because her job has insurance and her husband's job doesn't, then the family's lot is improved by a policy that makes it easier for them to afford insurance outside of work, enabling her to stay at home with their children.

Or imagine a young employee at a tech company. He's itching to get out and launch his own startup, but he stays in his job because he needs the insurance. This is bad for him, and bad for the economy deprived of his innovation. [Examiner]

Now, maybe the benefits of this policy outcome won't outweigh the costs. That's a fair argument. But let's not pretend the benefits don't exist. As Carney hinted, there are some conservative, aspirational elements to this, including a family values argument about allowing moms to stay home with their children. There's an entrepreneurial argument as well.

The irony, of course is that ObamaCare is essentially fixing a problem that liberal policies (wage controls and distortions in the tax system that coupled employment with health insurance) created in the first place.

I have long opposed ObamaCare for a variety of reasons. Of course, that doesn't mean that every aspect of it will be pernicious. But instead of acknowledging any possible salutary outcomes, my fellow conservatives have generally assumed the worst — that people would take advantage of this to sit on the couch and play video games. The truth is that a lot of hardworking Americans might actually benefit from this one component of a bad law.

Conservatives believe that work is a good thing, and, indeed, we cannot disconnect the spiritual and psychological benefits of a good day's work from our policies. Sitting around the house won't give you fulfillment or happiness that you get from accomplishing a goal. But guess what? Neither will working a horrible job.

This quote, from Studs Terkel's book Working might help us remember:

This book, being about work, is, by its very nature, about violence — to the spirit as well as to the body. It is about ulcers as well as accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the dog around. It is, above all (or beneath all), about daily humiliations. To survive the day is triumph enough for the walking wounded among the great many of us. [Working]

There is also an argument here about increasing mobility. The American dream is about your children having opportunities you didn't. I'm a product of that.

Just as I don't want men and women to be servants of the state, putting them in thrall to their employer for the sake of health insurance isn't my idea of a good society idea, either. Ideally, we would have a free-agent nation where more Americans are afforded the opportunity to pursue their dreams and exploit their God-given talents.

My guess is that at least some of the people who are now able to work less without losing their employer-sponsored health care will go on to do much bigger and better things than they would have by just continuing to grind out 40-plus hours a week in a job they didn't like. Some, I suspect, will invent things and create jobs that wouldn't have otherwise existed.

That's not to say this CBO report was full of wonderful news. Just as there may be some surprising salutary benefits from ObamaCare, there are still some horrible perverse incentives.

This may be an opportunity for some people to better themselves, but, for others, ObamaCare will be a rational reason to turn down opportunities for growth and advancement. I recently spoke with AEI Resident Scholar Michael R. Strain. And while he generally agreed with Carney about people who were working solely for health insurance, he also had this warning:

"The real problem is not people who are working only for health insurance no longer have to work because now they have health insurance. The problem is that as the subsidies for ObamaCare phase out, you're imposing implicit marginal tax rates that are very high. So if you make an extra $1,000 — and you lose your subsidy — that's a big cost. And that's a big disincentive not to make that extra $1,000. And what that's going to do is to put extra pressure on people not to advance in their careers, not to work full time, and to kind of stay where they are. And that, I think, is a very serious flaw in ObamaCare."

(You can listen to our full conversation here or download the podcast on iTunes.)

This whole debate is more nuanced than either side would care to admit. On one hand, we have a system that is freeing people from having to work simply in order to obtain health insurance. On the other hand, we are creating a disincentive for people to better themselves. Conservative reformers hoping to replace ObamaCare would do well to try to enhance the former and diminish the latter. That means disconnecting health insurance from employment, creating a free-agent nation where people can own and manage their own health insurance, and fostering an environment where hard work pays off.


Matt K. Lewis writes for The Daily Caller and co-hosts The DMZ on Bloggingheads.tv. In 2012, the American Conservative Union honored Matt as  CPAC "Blogger of the Year." Matt lives in Alexandria, Va.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: jobs; obamacare; unemployment

1 posted on 02/11/2014 7:51:15 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind
This quote, from Studs Terkel's book Working

Quoting Commies like Terkel doesn't help his argument.

2 posted on 02/11/2014 7:54:05 PM PST by dfwgator
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To: SeekAndFind

Leftists define Freedom as: you don’t have to do anything, but people just hand you free stuff.


3 posted on 02/11/2014 7:59:18 PM PST by ClearCase_guy
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To: SeekAndFind
RE :”My guess is that at least some of the people who are now able to work less without losing their employer-sponsored health care will go on to do much bigger and better things than they would have by just continuing to grind out 40-plus hours a week in a job they didn't like. Some, I suspect, will invent things and create jobs that wouldn't have otherwise existed.”

And so we need illegals to do the jobs they escaped with this handout?

4 posted on 02/11/2014 8:00:40 PM PST by sickoflibs (Obama : 'Any path to US citizenship for illegals HERE is a special path to it ')
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To: SeekAndFind

From the article: “......and that, I think, is a very serious flaw in ObamaCare.”

The serious flaw of Obamacare is Obamacare.


5 posted on 02/11/2014 8:05:20 PM PST by rockinqsranch (Dems, Libs, Socialists, call 'em what you will. They ALL have fairies livin' in their trees.)
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To: SeekAndFind

For any trolls out there (and the NSA), let m put it in terms that a brain dead zombie can understand:
1. Less hours worked = less income
2. Less income = lower standard of living
3. Lower standard of living = More poverty
4. More poverty = Need to work more

While it is true that working fewer hours means mom doesn’t have to work to pay day care. That choice, however, existed before DeathCare.


6 posted on 02/11/2014 8:07:20 PM PST by NTHockey (Rules of engagement #1: Take no prisoners. And to the NSA trolls, FU)
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To: SeekAndFind

How pathetic. People are ony dependent upon insurance companies if they are stupid. There is plenty of information available to teach people how to stay healthy.

Per Adelle Davis, one study demonstrated that 80% of all automobile accidents are caused by one or both drivers having low blood sugar. Imagine that. If everyone took enough responsibility for their own health, 80% of all accidents could be prevented.

Free markets work. Government compulsion always does more harm than good. Just because there is a smidgeon of good is no reason to ignore the overwhelming destruction of this despicable law.


7 posted on 02/11/2014 8:10:36 PM PST by gspurlock (http://www.backyardfence.wordpress.com)
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To: SeekAndFind
What an article- ugh

Conservatives believe that work is a good thing,

Conservatives think that - that's it? Just Conservatives?

and, indeed, we cannot disconnect the spiritual and psychological benefits of a good day's work from our policies.

What are those polices? Not work? (the un-work)

Sitting around the house won't give you fulfillment or happiness that you get from accomplishing a goal. But guess what? Neither will working a horrible job.

Whose house, exactly, are you sitting around in?
I work to fulfill exuberant tax obligations...that give Progressives happiness....

8 posted on 02/11/2014 8:12:33 PM PST by libertarian27 (FreeRepublic Cookbooks 2011 & 2012 - Click Profile)
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To: SeekAndFind
“Ideally, we would have a free-agent nation where more Americans are afforded the opportunity to pursue their dreams and exploit their God-given talents.”

Yea, and who pays to support these “free agents” who sit around all day getting high or whatever. These “free agents” should never go without anything, and if they have children their children should never go without anything. And they should never have to lift a finger to support themselves or their children.

This is the liberal message. It is very popular among politicians. And Democrat voters.

9 posted on 02/11/2014 8:15:10 PM PST by detective
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To: NTHockey

Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.


10 posted on 02/11/2014 8:15:48 PM PST by dfwgator
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To: SeekAndFind

I can’t believe we’ve got a government encouraging the people to sit home on their fat arses and do nothing all day. Whadda country. We’re spiraling into the ground rapidly.


11 posted on 02/11/2014 8:15:50 PM PST by FlingWingFlyer (ObamaCare. The "global warming" of healthcare plans.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Now I get it. The only reason the economy is terrible is because people are working for companies that provide health insurance as a benefit.

Just when I think liberals can’t get more stupider they find a new way to get more stupider.


12 posted on 02/11/2014 8:20:27 PM PST by Organic Panic
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To: NTHockey

I think they want to raise the minimum wage so they can work half-time without taking much of, if any, pay cut.


13 posted on 02/11/2014 8:33:25 PM PST by lonestar (It takes a village of idiots to elect a village idiot.)
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To: SeekAndFind

The big question is what this will do to Social Security. It will, in effect, decrease the number of working SS taxpayers by well over 2 million at exactly the time they’re needed the most to keep Boomer retirement checks flowing. Libs don’t care about that, though. The next election is all they care about.


14 posted on 02/11/2014 8:50:31 PM PST by Gluteus Maximus
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To: dfwgator
And this moron got an award from the American "Conservative" Union. How many other faux conservatives has this money laundering operation "honored" with their cracker jack box awards?
15 posted on 02/11/2014 9:09:26 PM PST by hinckley buzzard
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To: SeekAndFind

Would you want employees that only show up for the health insurance?

Seems like a risky scheme to me.


16 posted on 02/11/2014 9:18:48 PM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi)
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To: SeekAndFind
the people choosing not to work as much are being subsidized by the taxes of folks who do work

That's a pretty solid philosophical reason, and one that the author chooses not to rebut. He chooses rather to give us sob stories about how taking from others "helps" people.
17 posted on 02/11/2014 10:00:13 PM PST by andyk (I have sworn...eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Wow. I thought the article itself was insanity. Then I read some of the comments on that site. Think I lost about 10 IQ points just reading that stupidity. (I’d have to lose about 100 to get close to where those morons are at. Not really joking.)


18 posted on 02/11/2014 10:44:51 PM PST by piytar (The predator-class is furious that their prey are shooting back.)
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To: SeekAndFind

I always thought that Poverty was an Incentive.

Now the Government rewards Poverty and punishes Incentive.

Third World here we come.


19 posted on 02/11/2014 10:49:38 PM PST by Kickass Conservative (Nobody owes you a living, so shut up and get back to work...)
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To: SeekAndFind

If these people are choosing not to work then they should not be eligible for food stamps, section 8 or Obamacare subsidies!!


20 posted on 02/11/2014 11:11:45 PM PST by GeronL (Vote for Conservatives not for Republicans!)
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To: SeekAndFind

“... since they might no longer put in a ton of time at work simply to get health insurance through their employer.”

That’s patent Boo Chit right there.

ObamaCare® mandates full time employees receive insurance.

It describes and regulates that full time shall be considered 30 hours per week.

Just how many hours less per week are they going to work?

Why are you promoting bouquets of flowers, unicorns and settles?

Isn’t the American Ethos hard work? Self determination?

If people work less hours that will necessarily have a negative impact on payroll taxes.

That can’t be good for the treasury.

If they work less hours won’t they take home less pay?

That would result in them spending less money on clothes, movies, concerts , etc.

Heck, working less hours, taking home less pay might result in a down grade from your abode to something more affordable.

Maybe they will choose to ride a bike everywhere as they can’t support car ownership.

Maybe they Flintstone it everywhere and lie through their teeth about how much they love to walk.

But, let’s face it; you were on some psychedelic when you wrote this trope of contrived intellect.

I’m guessing you get paid by the word.

People aren’t going to work less. Everyone wants stuff. Hell, they want lots of stuff.

They will continue to work 40 hour weeks or look for jobs that will give them 40 hours so the can make more money.

Yer a fiction writer of sheep dip drivel.


21 posted on 02/12/2014 12:14:22 AM PST by Vendome (Don't take life so seriously-you won't live through it anyway-Enjoy Yourself ala Louis Prima)
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To: NormsRevenge

You’ve got a point.

If individuals purchased health insurance directly, the U.S. would move closer to a market-based healthcare economy, which could start containing healthcare costs.

Until the CONSUMER of health care is the person bearing the responsibility for costs of both insurance and health care, we will have a system that is unworkable.

Would this increase choice or limit it? Would it increase individual freedom or limit it?

Are individuals too stupid to choose from 20 self-purchase plans as opposed to the 2 or 3 offered at work?

And what happens when you’re 50 and lose your job and health insurance ? (good luck )


22 posted on 02/12/2014 10:40:12 AM PST by TurboZamboni (Marx smelled bad and lived with his parents .)
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