Sometimes you can disagree with spin from this White House while still admiring its political craftsmanship. Yesterday was not one of those days. Rocked on their heels by a CBO analysis of ObamaCare that's going to spark full-blown panic among Democrats up for re-election in 2014, White House spokesman Jay Carney ran a spin session that involved claiming unemployment is the essence of freedom - it's great that people can quit their jobs because ObamaCare will subsidize their health insurance at everyone else's expense, because they'll have more time to work on their cowboy poetry or whatever.
Keep that in mind when you're looking at your gigantic ObamaCare premiums and deductibles, young and healthy suckers. You're paying three times what you used to pay so that older people who really don't want to work can feel more free to quit their jobs.
And this comes from a President who has, absurdly, attempted to position himself as a job-creator and master of economic growth, despite a tenure marked by low growth and a collapsing workforce. Hey, those 2.5 million people who quit their jobs because of Obama's new welfare program will slide completely off the unemployment reports after a year, making the workforce even smaller, which will cause the headline unemployment rate to go down. It's got "win" written all over it!
Everyone familiar with CBO analyses knows it tends to under-estimate the damage from heavy-handed government policies, so their 2.5 million job-loss prediction will likely turn out to be very low. They didn't see the massive unemployment wave of Obama's entire term coming, did they? Nobody did. Every single bad unemployment report was described as "unexpected" by the "experts," including the one issued last month. Not only is there Big Government bias built into this perpetual state of surprise, it's also a result of the general reluctance of employers to talk about big layoffs until they happen. A few CEOs have come forward and stated they're cutting jobs because of ObamaCare... and they were mercilessly savaged by the media-dominant Left as monsters. Other executives learned their lesson, and decided to stay mum until it was time to issue the pink slips.
Even without left-wing political terror keeping them up at night, business owners usually don't like to talk about cutting jobs and hours before it's absolutely necessary, because it makes their enterprises look bad. No business benefits from positioning itself as a loser, or make its employees feel like their swabbing the decks of a sinking ship.
And as the Wall Street Journal observes, this CBO report is really soft-pedaling job losses from ObamaCare, because they didn't model the job-killing power of the employer mandate at all. That's right, Obama drones: you spent all night pushing idiotic White House spin about how the CBO didn't say ObamaCare would cause anyone to actually get fired, but your masters didn't tell you that's because the report specifically avoided the subject:
CBO's job-loss prediction is all the more remarkable because it doesn't include the impact of ObamaCare's employer mandate, which requires businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to offer insurance or pay a $2,000 penalty for each worker beyond 30 employees. CBO more or less punts on the issue because the White House delayed the mandate for a year and the changes would be hard to model. But this means CBO is probably still underestimating job losses because common sense says that labor mandates raise hiring costs and induce businesses to hire less, or pay lower wages, or slash hours, or all three.
Too bad this reality isn't permeating the liberal force field of thinking only positive thoughts. "Claims that the Affordable Care Act hurts jobs are simply belied by the facts in the CBO report," the White House declared Tuesday. By "facts," the White House seems to mean that the report is positive because "individuals will be empowered to make choices about their own lives and livelihoods" and "have the opportunity to pursue their dreams." There you have it: the new American dream of not working.
That's one of the reasons Obama violated the Constitution to delay the employer mandate. He knew CBO would publish another projection before the midterm elections, and he knew it would be bad, but bumping the mandate back by a year kept it from being catastrophic.
It also kept the number of people betrayed by his Big Lie - "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan" - down to 6 million in 2013, instead of 60 or 80 million. That will give him a big headache to deal with right before the midterms, but he's gambling that welfare-state toxins will have paralyzed the public by then, numbing the outrage that might have completely destroyed ObamaCare.
We live an an era when the President and his defenders say that welfare benefits do inspire people to stop looking for work... and it's a good thing. That's a huge concession for a liberal to make; it may turn out to be fatal to the cause of nanny-state liberalism. All the Obama drones running around and repeating yesterday's talking points don't realize they're conceding a crucial argument to the Right, one that has been raging ever since the dawn of the Great Society.
Backed by mountains of empirical data, critics of the welfare state have argued that labor has an important supply factor that can be suppressed by lavish government benefits - there are people who will choose not to work, if unemployment is made comfortable for them. The Left has always resisted this case with every drop of energy it could muster, sweeping the data side to insist that unemployment is entirely a problem of demand. "Everyone wants to work," they insisted. "Nobody wants to turn the safety net into a hammock. The problem is that fat-cat businessmen care more about profits than offering jobs, so there aren't enough opportunities to lift the poor out of dependency!"
Well, congratulations, liberals. Barack Obama just threw that argument in the garbage bin of history, and you're helping him do it by repeating his dopey talking points, all because you're desperate to protect a failed health-care scheme the American people hate. The welfare debate ended yesterday, with a decisive victory for conservatives. Now, shall we return to the subject of our job-creating President's demands for endless "emergency" unemployment benefits, and the Left's insistence that unemployment extensions don't make anyone less likely to seek gainful employment?
Everything Obama promised about his health-care scheme was a lie. You can't keep your insurance, you can't keep your doctor, the average family isn't saving a few thousand dollars, the number of uninsured isn't changing much (it's going up for the next few years!), the cost of health care isn't being reduced (that's happening because of the general economic slowdown, not ObamaCare), jobs are being lost, and the deficit is not being reduced. The Congressional Budget Office was skillfully played by hiding the biggest costs outside their ten-year projection window in 2009. The window is now opening wider, and we can see what lurks beyond.
Carney topped off his disastrous press conference by claiming that "freedom" is just a "buzzword," a line that's going to show up on T-shirts for years to come. Way to make the entire United States recoil in disgust from your Administration, dude.
We find ourselves forced into an ugly debate about the nature of freedom. Liberals, as explicitly stated by Carney, think work erodes freedom - you're not really free unless you can say "the hell with it" and do whatever you want, fed, clothed, and medicated by the maternal State. To modify the old folk song, freedom's just another word for nothing left to do.
But conservatives believe work is the essence of freedom. Work is an expression of capitalist power - a voluntary decision to improve the most important capital most people own, their labor, and sell it to employers for mutual profit. You want the money in your paycheck; your employer values your labor more than the money he pays you. The ability to seek such arrangements voluntarily - instead of, say, receiving both guaranteed subsistence income and a work assignment from an all-powerful collectivist government - is a fundamental expression of practical liberty. This is where the rubber meets the road: my freedom to be the best I can be at what I do, your freedom to give me a shot at proving it, our mutual freedom to benefit from the transaction.
Every other form of liberty tends to erode when work diminishes, a point Barack Obama's tenure demonstrates with such clarity that I suspect future generations will study it in textbooks. The same law Obama is praising because it will reduce the workforce by making work unnecessary for 2.5 million people is also forcing elderly nuns to pay for contraceptives. When you're dependent on the State for your livelihood, even your ability to vote becomes a largely theoretical "freedom." They know which way you're going to vote. You can't afford to make any other choice.
When we expect everyone to seek employment, we are showing respect to our fellow citizens. Obama's attitude is outrageous in its contempt for the American people. He really does think the American dream is a reasonably comfortable dead-end existence, with the working population obliged to cover the bills of the indolent. And he's incredibly callous in his refusal to acknowledge that his policies are making work irrational for a growing number of people. They're not lazy bums. They're looking at some very tight finances, and coming to the logical conclusion that taking a job will return little net gain for the effort they invest, or perhaps even lose money, when the cost of lost benefits and infrastructure are factored in. Over the past few years, I have personally witnessed people quitting jobs that pay considerably more than minimum wage after running these calculations.
What an undignified rabble Obama and his minions must see, when they look over the nation they rule and see people who aspire to unemployment, who worked only because they needed the health insurance that will now be provided as a taxpayer-subsidized welfare benefit... and pronounce this a good state of affairs, the end stage of the American experiment. Sometimes conservatives are caricatured as cruel and heartless because they have high expectations for their fellow citizens, believing that freedom comes with responsibilities. America is getting a good, long look at what happens when government is handed over to people who expect nothing but submission.
Another tidbit buried in that CBO report is that interest on the national debt will quadruple over the coming decade. The stack of bills dropped on our children grows higher; as the workforce collapses, the share of the population paying those bills diminishes. A great many opportunities for the next generation will be foreclosed by the need to cover the spending obligations and interest payments Obama left them. That sure as hell doesn't sound like "freedom" to me.
Update: Instapundit reminds us that Marx very accurately anticipated Obamanomics. No, not Karl. Groucho: