Good Intentions Mask Bad Government Intervention

Laura Hollis
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Posted: May 26, 2016 12:01 AM
Good Intentions Mask Bad Government Intervention

Good intentions are not the same thing as good results. Nowhere is this as clear, consistently, as in matters of government policies. Failed government policy is without question a bipartisan affair, but liberals and progressives tend to hide behind their intentions far more than conservative lawmakers do -- and to resist any effort to be held accountable for the unintended consequences.

The Obama administration is a repeat offender. The biggest legislative initiative of President Obama's nearly eight years in office is the Affordable Care Act -- or "Obamacare". Gallons of ink have already been spilled on the lies that were told to the American public about the law before it was passed, both by the president's policy advisors (like Jonathan "the stupidity of the American voter" Gruber), as well as the president himself, who promised Americans on over three dozen occasions that they could keep their plans and their doctors if Obamacare passed (a statement which was awarded Politifact's "Lie of the Year" award in 2013). And then there were the following facts: that the bill was 2700-plus pages long, that Congress had only a few days to read the bill, that many admitted they never read it before they voted on it, and that it passed without a single Republican vote. And let us not forget former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's infamous line, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it..."

But hey -- none of that matters, because Obamacare has been such a success, right?

Well, let's see. First, the $600 million Healthcare.gov computer program through which people were to sign up for care, utterly failed upon launch. Then nearly 5 million people lost their healthcare coverage when the Affordable Care Act made their policies illegal -- a fact that President Obama neglected to mention in his many stump speeches. Those who sought insurance through the exchanges discovered to their shock that the new premiums and deductibles were much higher than those in the plans they had lost. Far fewer people signed up for insurance than the administration predicted -- presumably opting to pay the penalty -- a trend which appears to be continuing in 2016, and which threatens the dreaded "death spiral." More than half of the state insurance exchanges that were set up under Obamacare have failed, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each, and billions of dollars in total. Insurance companies who opted to participate have lost millions of dollars, and a significant number of them have now pulled out -- including UnitedHealth Group, the largest insurance provider in the United States.

A Congressional Budget Office report published in March of this year has even more dire projections: far fewer people than the 22 million hoped for will have signed up for insurance. Premiums went up double digits in 2016 and are expected to rise again in 2017. The CBO now anticipates that 9 million people will have been thrown off their employer insurance coverage within the first ten years, as employers drop insurance to cut costs. And Obamacare is slated to cost $136 billion more than was budgeted.

Perhaps the most under-reported data is the impact on employment. A weak economic recovery coupled with skyrocketing costs under Obamacare has meant that the vast majority of new jobs created over the past few years have been part-time -- a situation that is far more likely to leave workers unable to advance or even lift themselves out of poverty. Keeping employees at less than 30 hours per week -- not to mention remaining below the magic 50-employee mark that triggers the applicability of the Affordable Care Act -- also impedes individual company growth and, correspondingly, overall economic growth.

Now President Obama has decided to impose yet another mandate on employers; this time, a new Department of Labor regulation that requires companies to pay overtime to employers earning less than $47,500. Obama proudly proclaimed that this regulation is, "... a move that will boost wages for working Americans by $12 billion over the next 10 years." The president further boasted that employers can just raise their employees' salaries to above $47,500 to avoid the mandate.

More good intentions. But are those likely to be the results?

It's doubtful. To the contrary, employers can simply refuse to schedule employees for overtime. If work still needs to get done (and you know it will), this new regulation just encourages the hiring of more part-time employees.

Second, employers now have an incentive to keep more workers as hourly employees, as opposed to promoting them to salaried.

When one adds to this, Obamacare's disincentives to hire full-time employees, the picture looks completely antithetical to economic growth.

You would think that politicians would learn. But since the vast majority of them (President Obama included) have never started or run a business, grown a company from its inception, or made a payroll in the private sector, they seem to be completely oblivious to the negative impact that their pet policies have on actual business. Nor does the press hold them accountable. It doesn't matter how bad the results are, because their intentions are good.

There may not be political consequences for this kind of economic ignorance. But the rest of us do pay the price.