February 5
Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

I often bemoan the lack of candor in American politics. In Washington, almost any negative revelation – whether it is pure bad news or just news that contradicts the talking points du jour – is greeted with denial, spin and weasel words that infuriate the public and contribute nothing to a solution. Yesterday, after reading the Congressional Budget Office’s startling facts on job losses because of Obamacare, I was so stunned that I thought maybe the administration and the Democrats would have reason to pause and think. (See The Federalist’s “Five Devastating Obamacare Facts from CBO’s Latest Economic Report.”) I hoped that after some reflection, they would say something like, “We take these findings seriously. We may take issue with how the data was compiled, but we’re going to give this study the attention it deserves. We certainly don’t want to disincentivize work or erode the potential of Americans to find good jobs, etc., etc.

But my hopes were in vain. Instead, the White House and the Democrats were immediately defensive. They began spewing a bunch of pabulum that was, at times, incoherent. But perhaps some candor inadvertently broke through as the Democrats struggled to contort the CBO report. In front of the White House press corps, in a not-quite-ready for-prime-time performance, the chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, Jason Furman, was asked whether families would have less money if their work hours were reduced as a result of Obamacare. He responded, “They had something before, which was a 65-hour job, and maybe no health care and no great health-care options. You now give them a new option they didn’t have.” The “new option” he is speaking of is to simply rely on the government instead of working to support themselves. The Obamacare option he was advocating is to get something for nothing, not to work more. Presumably, Furman is suggesting that the idea that people should have to work to earn their keep is the opposite of what the Obama administration finds desirable.

In case there was any misunderstanding, White House press secretary Jay Carney drove home this line of thinking later in the briefing, saying, “When somebody decides for himself or herself not to work 64 hours, but to work instead for 35 hours, even though the option of working more hours and potentially having the extra money that that option provides is available to them, they’re making a choice about their overall quality of life.” What these White House spokesmen said is astonishing in what it reveals. The White House and the left are admitting that they think less work and less initiative in the workplace is perhaps a good thing.

And finally, this morning, the New York Times — a White House mouthpiece and message delivery vehicle for the Democrats — made the point even clearer. The lead in today’s editorial reads, “The Congressional Budget Office estimated on Tuesday that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the number of full-time workers by 2.5 million over the next decade. That is mostly a good thing, a liberating result of the law.” The New York Times thinks government should liberate people from having to work. And that it is actually good if fewer people work because of Obamacare.

Am I reading too much into this, or can we take what the White House and the New York Times said at face value? If Democrats pursue their line of reasoning, it will represent something of a pivot point in American politics. Previously, Democrats have acted indignant when Republicans suggested they are trying to breed Democratic voters by enticing them with entitlements and making them dependent on government. Well, here, for the first time that I can remember, the left is honestly making government dependency part of its pitch, saying that it is desirable to work less. This means there could be an additional, vivid, undeniable contrast drawn between the two parties.

One party wants to provide incentives and rewards for work, ambition and personal responsibility. The other party finds those traits to be unbecoming and misguided and hopes people with jobs will just quit — with the understanding that the Democrats will keep them supplied with benefits.

What does this say about Democrats trying to keep the poor poor? In a show of hypocrisy, they try to convince people to work less and then bemoan “income inequality.” Will the left give up all pretense and start encouraging Democratic voters — in a matter-of-fact, upfront manner — to stop working and take the handouts they are given? Who will be the first Democratic politician to seize on this and tell voters, “Vote for me, work less, and Washington will take care of you”? Incredible.

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