Obamacare Anniversary Nothing to Celebrate

Published April 4, 2015

Obamacare recently passed the five-year milestone, and etiquette would suggest an anniversary gift is in order for the politicians who passed and implemented the law. The traditional gift for five-year anniversaries is wood, and the more modern gift is silver. In this case, I’d recommend silver pieces – more than 29 but fewer than 31 – in light of the betrayal against American workers this law represents.

Consider the promise of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, who predicted in February 2010 that Obamacare would create “400,000 jobs almost immediately.”

Let’s look at the numbers.

Obamacare was passed and signed in late March 2010. By that time, the U.S. job market had been steadily improving since its collapse at the start of the Great Recession, having lost jobs every month from February 2008 through December 2009.

By January 2010, job growth finally turned positive, temporarily, as the economy added 32,000 jobs before a net 68,000 jobs disappeared in February. In March 2010, however, 168,000 jobs were added, and April job gains came in at 247,000. May was even better, with 518,000 jobs added.

If you stop looking at this point, it looks like Pelosi may have been right.

But we shouldn’t stop looking at this point, because in June, the jobs market promptly tanked again, with the workforce losing 132,000 members. July, August, and September also brought job losses, totaling 152,000.

In fact, for the six months following passage of Obamacare, a reasonable enough definition of “almost immediately,” monthly job growth averaged just 80,500, a pitiful job creation record.

That doesn’t prove Obamacare caused the job market to perform so poorly, but it does suggest Pelosi’s claim of 400,000 jobs being created “immediately” has no basis in reality. The Obama-era jobs recovery has been the most lackluster on record, which makes it hard to believe those 400,000 jobs will ever appear anywhere but in Pelosi’s imagination.

More damaging than failed predictions of job gains has been the impact on many hourly workers hit by Obamacare’s definition of “full-time” work as 30 hours per week along with the additional mandate employers provide health coverage to their full-time workers. The obvious response by employers trying to stay in the black was to cut back the hours of many employees to fewer than 30 hours, lowering their income.

For months, the White House insisted the 30-hour definition wasn’t having any impact on employment decisions and that the stories popping up around the country of employers planning to cut hours for employees were just anecdotes. Recent evidence seems to suggest the regulation did have a negative economic impact.

A new survey by the Society for Human Resource Management shows 14 percent of U.S. employers have already cut back employees’ hours in order to avoid the mandate, and another 6 percent plan to do so.

This is not an anniversary worth celebrating; certainly not for those who are being hurt by the perverse incentives created by Obamacare.

[Originally published at Press-Enterprise]