The Obama administration's response to the Congressional Budget Office's prediction that Obamacare will cause 2.5 million fewer Americans to work in the coming years is an opportunity for Republicans to seize the moral high ground on the issue of work.
Rather than dispute the CBO's analysis -- which would have been awkward, as the White House has touted CBO's predictions in the past -- the administration is spinning the jobs loss as a kind of liberation. No longer tied down to the pesky need to earn a salary, some Americans will be able to follow their bliss.
The is part of a pattern from this administration (it would be crude to call it a "war on work"), of incentives, disincentives, taxes, regulations and other decisions that make jobs more difficult to find and unemployment more entrenched.
If a Republican were in the White House, the state of unemployment in America would be on everyone's lips. As Michael Strain outlines in National Affairs, the absolute number of long-term unemployed and their share of the jobless are both at post-World War II highs. Five years after the end of the Great Recession, the economy still has 1.3 million fewer jobs than it had in 2008. The employment rate among 24-54-year-olds, the prime working population, plummeted in 2009 and has scarcely recovered since.
The Democrats have struck out in their efforts to improve the jobs picture. The $1 trillion stimulus package proved not to contain "shovel-ready jobs" (and few of any other kind). Obamacare encourages employers to reduce employees' hours, increases taxes on a significant share of the economy, and adds layers of stifling bureaucracy to an already-burdened sector. Extending unemployment compensation to 99 weeks ameliorated the pain of being out of work, but may also have dulled the incentive to search for replacement jobs. The same was true of dramatically increasing the disability rolls -- a permanent alternative to work. Increasing the minimum wage adds a barrier to employment just when we need fewer.
The administration touts the number of new jobs in the energy sector, but all of those have come from exploration on privately owned land. Pressure from environmentalists prevents the president from opening public lands to drilling and approving the Keystone pipeline. The symbol of this administration isn't a guy in a hard hat but Pajama Boy cradling his hot cocoa.
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