Legions of Lazy Strawpeople

So, as I mentioned yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Affordable Care Act could, over the next decade, reduce the number of full-time workers by as many as 2.5 million. This has been wildly misrepresented by conservatives as proof that "Obamacare is a job killer." Which is not accurate.

The point of the CBO's report, as noted by the New York Times editors, is that, "thanks to an increase in insurance coverage under the act and the availability of subsidies to help pay the premiums, many workers who felt obliged to stay in a job that provided health benefits would now be able to leave those jobs or choose to work fewer hours than they otherwise would have. In other words, the report is about the choices workers can make when they are no longer tethered to an employer because of health benefits."

By any reasonable calculation, this is a good thing—especially given the high unemployment rate. Detaching healthcare access from full-time employment makes more room for more employees, and also encourages entrepreneurship.

But ha ha reasonable doesn't find a place in much of our national discourse anymore.

In today's Chicago Tribune, there is this incredible passage, even following a similar clarification about what the CBO report actually said:
But, and here's where the impact is likely pernicious, some will quit or work less precisely because they'll now qualify for Medicaid or for subsidies under the law. In effect, they'll have a government incentive to be less productive. ...Government subsidies that persuade people to be less productive are not healthy for the nation.
First of all, most of the people who make enough money and/or have enough accumulated wealth that they can continue to support themselves and any dependents making half of their current salary, or on no salary at all, aren't going to qualify for Medicaid if they cut back or stop working. This idea that people on the cusp of Medicaid qualification are going to quit working so they make little enough money to earn subsidized healthcare is patently absurd! They still need to make enough money to survive—despite narratives about generous hand-outs from The Government.

Secondly, we need to be honest about the fact that, while there are many jobs at which people are overworked as a result of profit-prioritizing chronic understaffing, there are also lots of jobs at which people are obliged to spend at least 40 hours a week, even though the job itself doesn't require 40 hours of work. Or: May require 60 hours one week, and only 20 the next.

It really would not be the worst thing in the world if people were allowed to work the number of hours they need to work to fulfill their job requirements.

I mean, not that we all don't love the incredibly stupid game of Staring Intently at Minesweeper on a Monitor Like We're Seriously Working on a Difficult Problem (or whatever variation one's job may require), but we have some truly asinine conceptions about productivity that make hand-wringing about people working fewer hours pretty pointless. For a lot of people, "working fewer hours" might realistically translate into "spending fewer hours being visible at the office," not actually being less productive.

There's a very weird work culture in lots of US workplaces where the thought of letting employees work as much as they need to get their jobs done, and then letting them use the rest of their time outside the office to have the best quality of life possible, is somehow letting workers "take advantage." So, instead, we designate a fixed work week, and then whinge about "productivity" at the mere suggestion that people might have the freedom to work fewer hours and own more of their time.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus