Jana and I are quite happy to see the Affordable Care Act working just the way we expected to end job lock. We are dismayed to see the media working as we have come to expect, getting the story wrong in the urge to spin the ACA as killing jobs.
The Congressional Budget Office released its 2014–2024 Budget and Economic Outlook Tuesday. The CBO's analysis includes an estimate that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the number of hours people work by 2.0 million full-time equivalent positions by 2017 and 2.5 million FTE by 2024.
My conservative friends are quick to conclude that Obamacare is putting people out of work. My conservative friends are wrong. The Affordable Care Act is making possible what almost every one of you working stiffs will be wishing today around 3:30 p.m. (or tomorrow when you get up for the early shift at 3:30 a.m.): that you didn't have to spend so much time working.
The Affordable Care Act is not taking jobs away from people. It is reducing Americans' need to do crappy jobs:
CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor—given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive. Because the largest declines in labor supply will probably occur among lower-wage workers, the reduction in aggregate compensation (wages, salaries, and fringe benefits) and the impact on the overall economy will be proportionally smaller than the reduction in hours worked [Congressional Budget Office, "The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2014 to 2024," February 2014, p. 117].
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans won't have to take that second part-time job to cover their health insurance premiums. Americans hoping to start their own businesses will feel a little freer to let go of a job they do for someone else just to hang onto a health insurance policy. Folks approaching retirement won't be quite as stuck doing unsatisfying jobs just for the sake of keeping health coverage until they qualify for Medicare.
Yes, yes, work is noble. Work builds character. Work gives us purpose. But work also wears us down. Work makes us miss our kids' dance recitals and track meets. Work subjects us to the will of other people and corporate policy manuals. Work makes us say and do things that we would not do if we did have to take orders from the boss.
By allowing millions of people to choose to work less without risking their families' physical and fiscal health, the Affordable Care Act expands liberty. By reducing the labor supply without equal reductions in labor demand, the Affordable Care Act creates more opportunities for folks who do want to work extra hours.
Think about when you feel the greatest liberty. It's probably not when you're in the office, hurrying to finish the report the boss wants by the end of the day. It's probably Friday night when you don't have to set the alarm, or maybe Saturday when you wake up to enjoy a leisurely breakfast with your kids, or that one day a week when neither job calls you in and you can walk around town in your jeans, knowing you've paid your bills for the month and can afford to buy a book or a new toolbox. Or maybe it's that one blessed day when you can finally show your pain-in-the-neck boss your backside and leave for a job you really want.
The Affordable Care Act makes more days like that possible. The ACA doesn't kill jobs. It doesn't promote laziness. It promotes liberty—daily, practical liberty.