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Clearing away the bullshit: Study finds that Obamacare had no effect on the labor market

The Wall Street Journal, reporting on a study by Stanford University, debunks a favorite Republican talking point and reports that “Fears Obamacare Would Be A Job Killer Were Wrong.”  As Michael Derby at the WSJ explains:

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Projections that the Obama administration’s signature health-care legislation would drive workers out of the labor force have proved wrong, according to a new paper by researchers at Stanford University.

The Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, has had no net impact on the number of working adults, according to the paper by Mark Duggan, Emilie Jackson and Gopi Shah Goda.  

. . . . While the paper noted a “substantial” increase in those who gained health insurance, “our findings indicate that the average labor supply effects of the [Affordable Care Act] were close to zero.”

The paper’s findings “weakens one of the arguments against the ACA,” that it was a job killer, Mr. Duggan said in an interview. Based on the evidence, the law “doesn’t look like it hurts the economy.”

As heartening (or obvious) as these results may be, the important task is for we, the Democratic leadership and the press to make sure that these facts are forced into the public sphere and the Republicans prevented from lazily arguing from debunked facts.  All too often, scarily often, that has not been the case.

There are also two other points from this WSJ piece and Stanford study.  First, some of the argument for reduced labor participation comes from the CBO itself, but it is important to note that the revised findings are no basis to attack the CBO overall:

While the paper finds the CBO projections were wrong, Mr. Duggan stressed that he has no issue with the agency’s work. “Their estimates are quite reasonable” and many of the CBO’s Obamacare forecasts were right on the money, he said. 

Second, much of this meme was mischaracterized bull-shit from the start.  The CBO never opined that the ACA would be a “job killer” or “destroy jobs.” Rather the CBO predicted that certain workers would voluntarily reduce their hours if they were not forced to rely on employers alone to obtain health insurance:

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Among critics’ arguments against the ACA was that government-subsidized access to health insurance and expanded access to the government-provided Medicaid health-coverage program would cause some workers to leave the labor force, because they would no longer have to rely on employer-provided plans.

Do you see that?  The argument all along was not that Obamacare would drive the economy to offer fewer jobs, but that Obamacare gave people more freedom to decide whether, and how much, to work.  So, with Obamacare, a stay-at-home Mom or a near retirement age individual would not be forced to chase employer provided health insurance over all other life considerations.  This was considered a flaw by Republicans.  Although rarely explained, Republicans were objecting to the decrease in vulnerable workers — people who stayed in the work force for health care have less leverage to demand higher pay and benefits, and less freedom to move among jobs for higher pay and benefits.  That – not some made up notion of “job destroying” Obamacare – was always the true objection on the Republican side.  For good or bad, even that objection has been found to be baseless.

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