Last week, the Congressional Budget Office released a report discussing the ramifications of Obamacare. The report revealed that the work-hour equivalent of approximately 2.5 million jobs would disappear from the workforce, thanks to Obamacare, in a voluntary process in which employees would simply dump out of their jobs, knowing they could get health care through expanded Medicaid and federal subsidies they would lose by working.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., an ideological leftist thought leader, spun the report as a massive positive for Obamacare: “The single mom, who’s raising three kids (and) has to keep a job because of health care, can now spend some time raising those kids. That’s a family value.” And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., celebrated the report as a defeat for the dreaded condition known as “job lock” — the situation in which you have to stick at a job you don’t like for the benefits. “We have the CBO report,” Reid stated, “which rightfully says, that people shouldn’t have job lock. If they — we live in a country where there should be free agency. People can do what they want.”
But, of course, people can only do what they want by taxing other Americans, borrowing from foreign creditors, and burdening future generations with unsustainable debt. And unfortunately, Schumer’s proclamation that the greatest beneficiaries of Obamacare will be single mothers turns out to be false: One of the studies relied upon by the CBO stated that those who benefit from the end of job lock are disproportionately white, single and of work age.
In reality, the Democratic vision of the world centers on the notion that work itself is a great evil to be avoided, and that any program allowing people to free themselves of work — whether to finger-paint or start a garage band — is an unmitigated good.
“Job lock,” according to the definition Reid gives, goes by another name, according to those who live in the real world: “having a job.” There are times that everyone hates his or her job. Were they freed from the economic consequences of having these jobs, they’d drop out of the workforce.
There are only two problems with this strategy: First, someone has to pay for it; second, it is not the recipe for human fulfillment. Leisure time is only leisure time when it is earned; otherwise, leisure time devolves into soul-killing lassitude. There’s a reason so many new retirees, freed from the treadmill of work, promptly keel over on the golf course: Work fulfills us. It keeps us going.
This doesn’t mean every job fulfills us, naturally. But we have all worked rotten jobs in order to get to jobs we like. Capitalism doesn’t mean, as my grandmother used to say, that you don’t have to walk through some manure to get to the roses. It just means that if you walk through enough manure, you’ll likely get to the roses sooner or later. In the leisure-first world of the left, however, wallowing in mire is a preferred road to happiness over the hard work that brings true fulfillment.
The European style of living is seductive: fewer hours worked, more hours at the cafe, less concern over self-betterment. But that style of living does not produce a purposeful life. Perhaps we’d all be happier in the short run were we somehow freed of our job lock. But we certainly would not contribute to the betterment of ourselves or the community around us. We’d leave the world worse than we found it. The opt-out society opts us out of societal happiness.
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