by Patricia Salber

Paul Krugman accepting the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences (photo from NobelPrize.org)

Paul Krugman accepting the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences (photo from NobelPrize.org)

Paul Krugman’s opinion piece, “Health, Work, Lies” in today’s New York Times today takes on politicians’ and the media’s spin of a recent, widely covered report from the Congressional Budget Office that estimated the implementation of the Affordable Care Act “will reduce the number of hours worked in the economy by between 1.5 percent and 2 percent.”  The report, Krugman says, went on to note “unhelpfully [that it] represents a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million.”

Media sound bites widely proclaimed that Obamacare will cause the loss of 2 million jobs implying the job loss is involuntary or forced on people via layoffs, reduction in hours of existing staff, and failure to hire full-timers in the future.    Republican Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader,  tweeted the following:

 

Screenshot 2014-02-07 09.51.00

 

Krugman counters that,

“”The budget office report didn’t say that people will lose their jobs. It declared explicitly that the predicted fall in hours worked will come “almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor” (emphasis added).””

And, he points out this is a good thing.  People who were working more than they wanted to, for example people with serious illnesses such as cancer and advanced diabetes who stay at work only to keep their health insurance will now have the choice of working less.  Parents working two or more jobs to get or pay for health insurance will now have the choice of working less and spending more time raising their kids.   Hmmm, seems to me that shows good family values?

Krugman sums up by saying,

“It has always been clear that health reform will induce some Americans to work less. Some people will, for example, retire earlier because they no longer need to keep working to keep their health insurance. Others will reduce their hours to spend more time with their children because insurance is no longer contingent on holding a full-time job. More subtly, the incentive to work will be somewhat reduced by health insurance subsidies that fall as your income rises.”

The opinion piece is brilliantly provocative and it hit its mark.  730 people wrote responses to it, many of them brimming with passion.  And, as always, the responses are as entertaining as the article.  Further they provide a glimpse into the minds and hearts of our fellow Americans.

In addition to lengthy rebuttals from the right that dispute point after point of Krugman’s thesis, there are impassioned defenders from the left as well as other folks telling personal stories (aka anecdotes) to support their positions.

But there are also comments that display an incredible ignorance of the facts related to health reform – Here’s my favorite – from Steve (of  Virginia) who states,

It’s over Paul. Obamacare isn’t coming back. You can try to be graceful about it and admit it’s been a complete disaster, or you can remain in denial and pray for a miracle.

Kevin Rothstein who lives “somewhere east of the GWB” had the best response:

“It isn’t coming back? Where did it go?”

So there you go – the ferociously hot debate over the benefits and harm of Obamacare continues and will do so until everyone who wants to get signed up is signed up and enjoying the benefits (and freedom) of having health insurance that is not tied to their job. Then, just as happened with other social programs (think Social Security, traditional Medicare, and Part D), it will become a part of the fabric of American life and no one, ever, is going to be able take it away.