Friday, February 14, 2014

Living Poets Society

Charles Krauthammer expands upon his earlier comments concerning the CBO estimate of workforce losses due to Obamacare disincentives.

Pelosi spoke lyrically about how Obamacare subsidies will allow people to leave unfulfilling jobs to pursue their passions: “Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance."
Nothing so lyrical has been written about work since Marx (in The German Ideology) described a Communist society that “makes it possible for me to . . . hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner.”
Pelosi’s vision is equally idyllic except for one thing: The taxes of the American factory worker — grinding away dutifully at his repetitive, mind-numbing job — will be subsidizing the voluntary unemployment of the artiste in search of his muse. A rather paradoxical position for the party that poses as tribune of the working man.
In the reductio ad absurdum of entitlement liberalism, Jay Carney was similarly enthusiastic about this Obamacare-induced job loss. Why, Obamacare creates the “opportunity” that “allows families in America to make a decision about how they will work, and if they will work.”
If they will work? Pre-Obama, people always had the right to quit work to tend full time to the study of butterflies. It’s a free country. The twist in the new liberal dispensation is that the butterfly guy is to be subsidized by the taxes of people who actually work.
...The honest liberal reply to the CBO report is that a disincentive to work is inherent in any means-tested government benefit. It’s the unavoidable price of helping those in need because for every new dollar you earn, you lose part of your subsidy and thus keep less and less of your nominal income.

A personal note. I am close to someone for whom the work disincentive for means tested government benefits has had a real effect. Any time this person takes a job, even one offering meager compensation, she is threatened with the loss of her health insurance and food stamps. A regular, full time job paying anything higher than the minimum wage would be out of the question unless it included subsidized health insurance. 
Of the many failures and shortcomings of Obamacare, this is arguably the worst. Very low income earners benefit. Others, struggling to escape poverty, are discouraged from doing so by the disincentives of which Krauthammer writes. President Obama lies when he states that there are no conservative alternatives to Obamacare. There are many. Recently a plan was developed which addresses the issues of insuring more people; the problem of preexisting conditions; and lowering costs. It also helps groups that Obamacare neglects - the near poor, the near elderly and the young. Bill Kristol and Jeffrey Anderson at The Weekly Standard give this example:

...a typical 26-year-old man who makes $35,000 would get no Obamacare subsidy whatsoever for the cheapest-priced “bronze” plan. Nor would a 36-year-old woman who is making that same $35,000.  Under our alternative, by contrast, they would get tax credits of $1,200 and $2,100 respectively, which they wouldn’t have to use for a government-run “exchange” plan but could use for any plan they’d like. 

Krauthammer -

Healthcare plan -

Kristol and Anderson -

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