As we creep ever closer to a government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act (ACA – affectionately known as Obamacare) Republicans and Democrats alike are pressing their version of events hoping to shift public opinion. Michigan Representative Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, recently used the Detroit News Opinion section to assert the Republican case.
His narrative hits on familiar themes: The legislation was jammed though Congress, people don’t like it, the implementation is not going well, and, of course, it kills jobs. It should be noted that Republicans have jammed though plenty of legislation using the reconciliation process – which is credited for the “jamming” of the ACA – 14 times including the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. And while the ACA may have a slightly unfavorable rating it polls better than shutting down the government to defund it, which all but one House Republican voted to do.
It can certainly be argued that the implementation has not gone as planned, however, there are plenty of individual items within the ACA that poll very well. At this point the House has attempted to repeal the ACA 42 times. But they have not once voted to fix the bill and keep the parts that people like while making the implementation process easier.
The most ironic argument against the ACA is that it kills jobs. While most Republicans would argue that the government can’t create jobs, apparently government can destroy them.
It is certainly true that austerity measures have cost nearly 600,000 public sector jobs, which stands in stark contrast to the recessions under Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush where public sector hiring helped stabilize the economy instead of creating a drag. According to the New York Times, the U.S. government employs around 22 million Americans – or 7 out of every 100 people – which is below the 7.3 per 100 that we have averaged since the late 1980′s.
So while the recession and subsequent government response certainly offers a glimpse of how the government can kill jobs and cost the economy nearly 2 million jobs, the ACA will have very little impact on jobs. Data shows that of the companies that would be impacted by the ACA 95.7 percent already offer health care insurance. These companies will not suddenly face a new burden that will require drastic changes to their current systems.
On the other hand tcompanies that are close to the 50 employee limit where cutting staff or pushing people to part time could help them avoid the ACA requirements, represent only 1 percent of job growth. The head of the right-leaning Small Business Chamber of Commerce for South Carolina says that the insistence that Obamacare will negatively affect small business is “strictly a talking point by those who want to kill off the ACA.”
If concern about government spending and jobs is truly the reason for a full repeal, then one assumes Congress could find better uses for the $1.45 million it costs per symbolic repeal vote or the $109 billion repeal would add to the deficit.
Is it possible that some companies will be negatively affected by the ACA? Sure it is. But anecdotal evidence doesn’t prove a systemic problem.
No one is arguing for fewer jobs, so if there is a way to insure more Americans, reduce the deficit, and create jobs, Democrats would be more than happy to have those conversations. Unfortunately, Republican legislators would rather push the government to the brink in petulant gamesmanship than provide a single solution. Perhaps this is good for their position in the Republican Party but if any jobs are going to be lost due to Obamacare it would be poetic justice if it was that of the congressmen that put the will of their party ahead of the good of the people.