Forum

Obamacare doesn't care for economy

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“The Affordable Care Act will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the 40-hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”

Sounds like typical Republican slander, right? What’s surprising about this quote is that it doesn’t come from any right-wing nutjob, but from a letter penned by three of the nation’s largest labor unions: the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and UNITE HERE. These are Democratic supporters and donors that, at the time of Obamacare’s passing, supported the law and, in fact, provided some of the political pressure that eventually secured the law’s passage. What changed?

In a word, nothing. The economy didn’t recover. Jobs haven’t been created. While unemployment has nominally fallen from 7.8 percent from when Obama took office to the current rate of 7.4 percent now according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), that number doesn’t mean anything. If unemployment were calculated today the way it used to be — counting the number of workers that have been discouraged and left the job market, as well as the number of workers who have work well below their skill level or can only find part-time work — it’s actually 14.3 percent, says the BLS.

To help paint this dismal picture of American reality, home ownership is at an 18-year low, according to the United States Census Bureau; Labor Force Participation is at a 31 year low, according to the BLS; and middle-class median income has fallen 5 percent since Obama was sworn in, according to Sentier Research. Fifteen million more Americans receive food stamps now than when Obama took office according to the Department of Agriculture, and the poverty rate has increased from 14.3 percent to an estimate from the Census Bureau of over 16 percent during Obama’s reign.

After four years of recovery, the middle class is unequivocally worse off than it was at the start of the recovery, let alone before the Great Recession.

To circle back to Obamacare, the law is directly responsible for some of the middle class’ economic woes. The U-6 unemployment number — which counts part-time workers and people “marginally attached to the labor force” — is steadily rising according to figures from the BLS because Obamacare requires companies with 50 or more workers to provide health benefits to all workers working more than 30 hours a week.

Since Obamacare passed, you’d be hard pressed to find a chain restaurant worker, or any other low-skilled laborer, working more than 30 hours a week. It makes more sense for companies to hire four 30-hour employees without laying out for their healthcare instead of three 40-hour employees with healthcare benefits.

Unions, the organizations responsible for putting laborers securely in the middle class, are understandably upset.
Shockingly enough, the people who have benefited the most from Obama’s presidency are the rich. From 2009 to 2010, the top 1 percent saw their incomes increase by 11.6 percent while everyone else’s grew by just 0.2 percent, according to Emmanuel Saez, professor of economics and director of the Center for Equitable Growth at the University of California, Berkeley.

This underscores a truth about big government known for decades. As former president Ronald Reagan put it, “You can’t be for big government, big taxes, big bureaucracy, and still be for the little guy.” Big government can only serve to help special interests, the well-off, and the well-connected. Obamacare exacerbates this problem by putting the government even more directly in control of healthcare, 18 percent of our nation’s economy. We can’t expect the middle class to start doing any better than they are now until Obamacare is repealed.