Thursday, February 6, 2014

Obamacare Emancipation Proclamation

When you have a cumbersome free-market health insurance reform package like the ACA instead of, say, Medicare for All, confusion and disinformation are the inevitable byproducts. You really do have to be an economist to fully understand all the ramifications of a program that covers some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.

The latest outbreak of mass confusion revolves around headlines falsely claiming that the Congressional Budget Office had announced that there will be a net loss of some two million jobs as a result of Obamacare.  What's actually predicted is that some bosses will be told to "take this job and shove it" by wage slaves chained to crappy jobs only because they provide crappy health insurance. Such workers will now be free to either quit and get subsidized plans on the individual exchanges, or reduce their hours to part-time, and still get subsidized plans on the individual exchanges.

So claims by Republicans that Obamacare is a direct job-killer are false. The CBO report simply conflates hours worked with the number of actual jobs. That's because in the world of government number crunchers, there are no human beings. There are only temporal units of production. 

Paul Krugman explains it in terms that even math-challenged units like me can understand:
So the CBO estimates that the incentive effects of the ACA will lead to a voluntary reduction in labor supply of around 1 1/2 percent, the equivalent of 2 million full-time jobs. Labor compensation would fall less, around 1 percent, because the reduction in hours would be skewed toward the less well paid. Although they don’t say this, we would expect potential GDP to fall by roughly the same amount (assuming wages more or less reflect marginal productivity); since compensation is about 55 percent of GDP, this would mean reducing potential GDP by a bit over 0.5 percent.
Now, don't you feel relieved and elucidated? I sure do.

All over this New Utopia, we're told that poorly-paid workers will be instructing their bosses where to shove it, finally liberated to fly home to take care of the ailing spouse, move to another state, retire before they die, or just kick back and spend more quality time with the kids. The lives of up to a million abused temporal production units will be vastly improved, so the Democrats spin it, as a direct result of Obamacare. Free at last, baby!

But better watch out. This could also be the excuse for the GOP to refuse to extend unemployment benefits to a whole new generation of American Freeters they'll accuse of deliberately cutting their hours, just to suck up health insurance and avoid personal responsibility! Republicans will probably feel even more justified in their continued denial of Medicaid coverage to poor people in half the states. And just that one Social Darwinism policy alone will have the desired effect of killing an additional 17,000 units of humanity each and every year.

Meanwhile, by necessity and by neoliberal plan, a fair percentage of those newly freed work hours must now be spent in the time-consuming quest to find a doctor in the Obamacare Network. Traffic jams are unavoidable. But why work when you can shop for health care product? And think of those millions of unwanted job-hours waiting to be filled by other desperate units in the surplus labor market. Since more than one American man out of six is not working, what better way to support your fellow units of humanity than to do what the Washington insiders do -- rotate through the revolving doors, giving up the excess hours to the depressed guy slumped on his couch next door. 

It's the all-American solution: spin and win.


fahrenheit451 said...


You've got just the right tone, and good substance to handle this Beltway piece of the spinning top.

I am over 55, and had the "privilege" of exploring my options at one of the more supposedly progressive signup sites around - in the "Free State" of Maryland. Very quickly I learned that I would not qualify for a subsidy, nor Medicaid: income too high. The cheapest plans in terms of monthly premiums started at $350 per month, money I simply don't have. And to co-pays/deductibles that went with these most affordable of Maryland Marketplace plans, they had the buyer set to pay the first $4,000 to $6,000 or so...again, laughable for those experiencing the "afterglow" of the financial crisis. Yes, I could get the deductibles down to an affordable range of $2,00-$3,000 - but only by driving the monthly premium up to $450-650 per months - isn't that a wonderful dynamic if you have little savings and no monthly discretionary income?

And I should add I'm back in the private sector workforce in the realm now so in the news, one of the 28 million earning under $9.89 per hour and watching the national and state dems play "populist," while dropping labor's missing share of "productivity" gains that would put a living number on the policy table.

In a nation still taunted, haunted and yes, tortured by the work ethic of the American Dream - and there it was in the Obama state of the union - it is always ladders of escape from that difficult realm of "down below" - can't quite say "working class" or - the "mudsill" layer of Lincoln's time where no one had to remain for long (except free blacks and women - "seamstress!") - we were then, as now, all and always "on the make," improving and moving on, running away, as Lincoln did from his father and early family - lighting out as Tom did from the clutches of Aunt's always the battle between the self-determining individual and the morality play, never admitting that social and economic forces have, or don't have their own moral dynamics, interacting with the individual. I suppose this huge mass of 28 million slots has nothing to do with the cheered on passing of the industrial economy and the rise of the service sector..with all that has now come to mean: low pay, no freedom to speak and organize, work while sick...and try to find an individual ladder within reach..

And the great abundance, with all its ecological costs, forseen by Marx and Keynes alike - the bounty side, at least...hoping someday from their times to break the chains linking it to an ancient work ethic...seem today as mere whisps of dreams on a far horizon, while Chris Hedges has delivered the reality: "we have bound ourselves to a doomsday machine that grinds forward."


Unit of Production

fahrenheit451 said...

Dear Aunt Sally:

I do 'pologize, it's Huck done lit out for today's Big Muddy, Farmville, though I'se expectin' he'll find a heapin of 'civilizing goin on there too...can't get away no how from the Dukes and Dauphins ...

Virtually yours,


Zee said...


As a contrarian troll who opposed ObamaCare from the start, and who—thanks to pre-ObamaCare, conservative analysis—foresaw much of what is happening today, please understand that I am NOT mocking you. Indeed, as one who (1) read, highlighted and annotated the first 500-odd pages of the ACA bill, (2) sent many e-mails in opposition to the ACA to my legislators, (3) attended a Sen. Tom Udall townhall meeting on the topic and asked him if HE was going to sign up for ObamaCare since it was soooo good for us (“waffle, waffle, waffle” was his reply), and (4) met personally with then-Rep. Martin Heinrich's staff to voice my opposition, you have my deepest sympathy. I tried.

But didn't “Krugtron the Invincible,”

aka “Paul Krugman, Nobel-Prize-Winning, Ivy-League Economist Extraordinaire” just tell us a day or two ago that all was well with ObamaCare, the worst of the website disaster was behind us, and that

“just about every tale of health reform horror...has...fallen apart once the details were revealed. The truth is that the campaign against Obamacare relies on misleading stories at best, and often on outright deceit.”

And didn't he also tell us that for those of you who were either (1) dumped from your previous, affordable health care insurance as a consequence of new ObamaCare requirements, or (2) had to newly enroll under force of law, only to find that your new premiums and/or deductibles are unaffordable, well, this is really for your own good because your previous policies were sub-standard and:

“Health reform won’t work if people go uninsured, then sign up when they get sick. It also can’t work if currently healthy people only buy fig-leaf insurance, which offers hardly any coverage.”

Krugtron's column even had a semi-favorable, “Readers' Picks” endorsement by our own Karen Garcia.

In MY Humble Opinion, yours sounds to ME like something of a horror story, even if you don't have cancer (or so I hope) and you weren't forced by ObamaCare to be dropped by your trusted doctors and oncologists. What good is unaffordable health care insurance mandated by force of law?

But who am I to argue with Krugtron the Invincible? According to him, your story is most likely misleading or downright deceitful.

Again, please accept my apology if this sounds mocking. It is not intended to mock you. It is only intended to mock Paul Krugman and his A(Not!)CA-supporting acolytes.

It's time for single-payer health care insurance in this country.

annenigma said...

As an aside - Many thanks go to Karen and all bloggers who work tirelessly on a daily basis to help bring light to important issues with personal and real world implications - unlike the corporate controlled media.

There's an article titled 'People Powered Media Beats Corporate Media' on the Popular Resistance website, with the theme being 'Be the Media'. This is what Karen has been doing so well for all of us, giving us information and perspective that the corporate version filters or blacks out - the TPP being one of the more glaring examples. We should appreciate what Karen and all the other stalwart journalists out there have been doing in informing us about important issues in our country and world. We can each echo it through our own efforts too - be the media.

To read the article, go to

Greenwald's national security themed newsmagazine comes out next week online through First Look Media. There will be additional specialty and general news sections launched throughout the year. The well known journalists there will have independent control over their work. It's well funded so it won't have to sell it's soul to corporate advertisers.

On a related note, the NYT has finally taken their Opinion Section staff down a notch. They no longer hold the coveted top right portion of the front page online which helped contribute to their undeserved rock star status over the harder working journalists. Real journalists deserve support and recognition.

Some things are looking up for a change.

Will said...

That's it, Sardonickists. I'm officially sick & tired of only seeing 4 comments on this thread. You've left me no choice but to post this breathtakingly beautiful video. Don't blame me if you're feeling a little extra patriotic today after watching this. You've been warned:

Zee said...

Thanks, Will! Pretty awesome, especially the last couple of really high notes!