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I did, and I know kos did, but it surely didn't sound as though the BBC, say, read it, since they just parroted the Obamacare Derangement Syndrome version of the story, under the headline, "'Obamacare' will reduce US workforce, study finds."

The CBO report did estimate that by 2024, with ACA in effect, total hours worked would amount to the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs fewer than we might see absent ACA, and the ravening hordes of Obamacare haters duly climbed their minarets and broadcast the news.  But as kos points out, the report really didn't say that ACA would cost 2.5 million jobs. Below the fold, let's look at what it really did say.

Here's the actual money quote from the CBO report:

CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor—given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive... [T]he largest declines in labor supply will probably occur among lower-wage workers.


The reduction in CBO’s projections of hours worked represents a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024.

Look at that again. The reduction is "almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor—given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive." Basically, CBO concluded that workers qualifying for subsidies may choose to work less, both because the subsidy eases their financial strain, and because the graduated nature of the subsidy (if you earn more, your subsidy is smaller) acts as an implicit tax on the last hours of work. So some workers will "choose to supply less labor."

But let's be serious here. What kind of workers will "choose to supply less labor?" It'll be the ones that are glad only to have to work two jobs rather than three. The ones that might be glad to be able spare a few hours a week away from scraping together the necessities of life to continue their education. The ones that now won't have to work themselves to death to feed their children. The families where if one parent only has to have one job, then somebody might be able to be at home in the evening to make sure the kids do their homework.

Meanwhile, pity the poor employers (Papa John's, I'm looking at you) that will have to offer some inducement to workers to supply them enough labor. Yes, that's right - what CBO is really telling us is NOT that ACA will cost America jobs, but that it will drive wages higher. No wonder they're all over the CBO report on CNBC.

Well, so far, I've mostly just repeated what kos has already said. But I need to add two more points. First, the report suggests that ACA could reduce unemployment in the short term, since while there's slack in the labor market:

CBO expects the unemployment rate to remain higher than normal over the next few years, so more people will be applying for each available job—meaning that if some people seek to work less, other applicants will be readily available to fill those positions and the overall effect on employment will be muted.
If Joe can't find a job, but then Jane decides gives up one of her three jobs because ACA allows her to, then maybe Joe can land one of hers.

Second, the report goes on at some length (but far later than most reporters probably have the patience to read) about the economic stimulus that's likely to come about because of ACA.

On balance, CBO estimates that the ACA will boost overall demand for goods and services over the next few years because the people who will benefit from the expansion of Medicaid and from access to the exchange subsidies are predominantly in lower-income households and thus are likely to spend a considerable fraction of their additional resources on goods and services—whereas people who will pay the higher taxes are predominantly in higher-income households and are likely to change their spending to a lesser degree. Similarly, reduced payments under Medicare to hospitals and other providers will lessen their income or profits, but those changes are likely to decrease demand by a relatively small amount. The net increase in demand for goods and services will in turn boost demand for labor over the next few years, CBO estimates.
Bottom line, ACA will tend to put cash into the hands of people that need it, and when those people spend that cash, it adds up to increased aggregate demand, which means more economic activity, more growth, and more jobs.

So let the Obamacare haters spew their favorite talking points. The CBO report says to me that ACA should act as an economic stimulant in the short term, and a meaningful push toward economic justice in the long term. If it means that low-wage workers don't have to toil for so many hours, and that drives up wages, I won't complain. But I know who will.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Boomers Finally Allowed to Retire nt (6+ / 0-)

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 09:44:06 PM PST

    •  Funny you should mention that (7+ / 0-)

      From the CBO report again:

      Changes to the health insurance market under the ACA, including provisions that prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions and those that restrict variability in premiums on the basis of age or health status, will lower the cost of health insurance plans offered to older workers outside the workplace. As a result, some will choose to retire earlier than they otherwise would -- another channel through which the ACA will reduce the supply of labor.
      You said it more succinctly.
  •  CNN's Erin Burnett opened her show... (5+ / 0-)

    with a similar, deceptive line.

    Sometimes I wish actual facts were a lot easier to explain. It sure would make the lives of liberals trying to make this country better, a lot easier as well.

    'Cuz freedom can't protect itself ~~ EFF ~ EPIC ~ ACLU

    by markthshark on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 11:17:22 PM PST

  •  I pay no attention to the CBO because (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Protestant

    1) Congress is unreliable

    2) the Budget is a farce, a plan, wishful thinking dressed up as fact

    3) an Office is a physical space not entitled to have opinions.

    The only thing that's apparently true is that the people who perpetrate this fiction affiliate themselves with both major political parties.

    I am not sure why, after deriding the communist plans for decades, the U.S. jumped into planning with both feet upon the Soviet collapse. One suspects the antagonism had been largely fueled by envy.

    by hannah on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 12:03:25 AM PST

  •  I like your analysis.... (4+ / 0-)

    but fear it is too deep for the 30 second ad.  But  people will begin to adapt to the new reality.  People who would work less are poor, so opening up the jobs (or job hours) to others to take will require moving up their salary.

    The joke is these ass hats have been pushing people into working 30 hours a week for years.  Now people are going to ask to work 30 hours a week, because they can't be on their feet all day or have a sick kid or just plain want to ease into retirement.  And somehow that is awful.  Paying no sick leave or vacation or health insurance to the 30 hour a week employee is OK but when the same level worker asks for less work, it isn't.  Freedom is only for the "deserving" bosses, I guess.

    You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

    by murrayewv on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 03:41:36 AM PST

  •  In the culture of obedience... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Protestant

    choice is the ultimate pariah.

    Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them - Thomas Jefferson 30 July, 1816

    by Roiling Snake Ball on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 04:21:36 AM PST

  •  The CBO puts a major disclaimer on that. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Protestant, cyclinger

    They basically refuse in Appendix C to break out what percentage of that is due to Labor demand destruction, while acknowledging it is a factor.

    •  They were (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      pretty non-committal on demand for labor, but your "disclaimer" indicated that they didn't see a compelling argument one way or the other. The did point out, however, that

      The net increase in demand for goods and services will in turn boost demand for labor over the next few years, CBO estimates. Those effects on labor demand tend to be especially strong under conditions such as those now prevailing in the United States, where output is so far below its maximum sustainable level that the Federal Reserve has kept short-term interest rates near zero for several years and probably would not adjust those rates offset the effects of changes in federal spending and taxes. Over time, however, those effects are expected to dissipate as overall economic output moves back toward its maximum sustainable level.
      I read that to say that they think the short-term effect of ACA on labor demand will be positive, and the long-term effect will be neutral.  

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