The White House’s initial defense to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on Obamacare seems to not have been well thought out, to put it mildly. If the White House wants to celebrate the reduction of workers, hours worked and take-home pay, Democrats will have a few corollary problems to address:
1. Obamacare was sold as a means of promoting job mobility, delinking insurance from work. Now the White House says it is delinking workers from work. At the opening of the Budget Committee hearing this morning, Chairman Paul Ryan remarked that “what is particularly troubling is CBO’s projection of labor-force participation. CBO says that about half of this decline is attributable to the aging of the population—most notably the retirement of the baby-boom generation. But CBO also says that government policies, especially the President’s health-care law, are discouraging work. Washington is making this problem worse. This does not have to be our fate. We need to reverse this decline.”
2. If provision of benefits gives people “choices,” as the White House put it yesterday, the choice to work doesn’t really seem to be a fair one for able-bodied, working-age people — if they are simultaneously taking free or subsidized health care paid for by their fellow citizens who have chosen not to be dependents.
3. If giving benefits to people causes them to work less, it stands to reason that removing them would spur some people to work. That has been the major critique of the Great Society welfare state.
4. The White House’s entire Keynesian theory is built on the premise that if you put money in people’s pockets (by taking others’ or borrowing) you will stimulate the economy. Now they argue that taking away wages and hours worked will have no detrimental effect on the economy.
5. The White House is all about fighting inequality — except when it comes to discouraging work, reducing hours and dissuading people to get on the road to upward mobility?
6. White House spokesman Jay Carney and others insisted the CBO didn’t have all the facts, didn’t account for all the factors, etc. Why then did and does the White House rely on CBO figures for not only its Obamacare talking points but for its entire economic program?
All this leads me to believe that the White House, as it has done with each rotten bit of news and instance of Obamacare’s unworkability, is saying whatever it needs just to get through a few news cycles. Because it will not admit any design flaws in the fundamental structure of the bill, it must resort to silly and self-contradictory talking points — or simply misrepresent facts, as the president did when he first claimed you could keep your insurance plan and later denied he said you could keep your insurance plan. The notion that all these bad things — insurance cancellations, reductions in work — simply “happen” in proximity to Obamacare is unbelievable, and does damage to the defense of legitimate safety net problems and efforts to reform those problems.
Obamacare is destroying the public’s faith in the president, in big government and in the premise of liberalism itself — that government programs have a dynamic effect on society and individual behavior. It’s more than the GOP has done in decades.
UPDATE: In this exchange at the Budget Committee hearing, Paul Ryan demonstrates how untenable is the White House’s defense: