After loudly and falsely claiming that a new Congressional Budget Office study reported that the Affordable Care Act will “kill” more than two million jobs in coming years (it did not), Fox News talkers and the right-wing media industry quickly opted for a second (and equally phony) line of attack this week. They condemned the sad state of the American worker, suggesting they're shiftless and lazy and blamed the Obama administration is turning them into ungrateful sloths.
Focusing on the CBO projection that Obama's health care reform may prompt two million workers over the next ten years to voluntarily leave their jobs, or cut back their hours, Bill O'Reilly announced the administration is “creating a class of layabouts.” Stuart Varney compared the worker choice trend to “extending the hand-out society.” And Brian Kilmeade bemoaned how “the whole work ethic and self-esteem” thing was being undercut by Obama.
A miffed Greta Van Susteren was also deeply offended by the prospects of American workers choosing to work less in order to strike a better balance in their family lives without living in fear of not being covered by health care insurance. “Do you know anyone who has gotten successful by working less?” she asked Staples CEO Tom Stemberg, a longtime critic of Obamacare.
Why the anti-workout freakout?
After all, the key point here is that Obamacare will soon give a portion of workers a choice of whether they want to work or not (perhaps even temporarily) or whether they want to cut back the hours they work. Why the new choice? Because Obamacare will allow people in lower income brackets access to affordable health care coverage regardless of whether they're employed. So people who feel trapped in jobs that are used primarily as a way to obtain coverage will suddenly have options. (That workplace condition is known as "job lock," something Republicans had previously opposed.)
Millionaire Fox pundits might not realize it but most Americans, and certainly most young American families with two working parents, lead complicated lives as they juggle responsibilities that entail more than taping a 60-minute television show five times a week. (Bill O'Reilly earns approximately $80,000-per episode.) Flexibility for them is a good thing.
Still, the condemnation rained down.
It's a rather startling, judgmental attack when you consider that the employees in question might opt out of their jobs in exchange for early retirement, to better care for family members, or to start a company of their own. None of those scenarios would even remotely reflect poorly on the workers.
But obsessed with all things Obamacare, Fox has led the charge to demonize workers for the personal employment decisions they make. It's part of a larger trend to lecture and castigate everyday American workers.
Keep in mind, Fox News and the far right are almost religiously opposed to raising the minimum wage, they mock unemployment insurance and call it "paying people not to work," and they present efforts to expand sick and paid leave days for employees as a scam that's abused by conniving workers.
Now in the wake of the CBO report which suggests a small portion of U.S. workers (less than two percent) might choose to opt out of the workplace without the fear of losing health care coverage, Fox preemptively piles on by denouncing workers as indolent. (Question: Does anyone doubt that the phrase “compassionate conservative” lives on only as a punch line?)
It's like Scrooge on steroids.
And it's such a contorted, contemptuous view of the American worker, millions of whom want to find a job but can't. It's built around the premise that most people are unmotivated and don't want to work, don't want to provide for their families, and instead live in some kind of endless pursuit of government dependency.
“The GOP argument takes a dim view of Americans,” noticed Ron Fournier at National Journal. “It assumes that the only reason millions of people work is for company health care insurance - that there is no inner drive to ascend economically and socially.”
And by the way, nobody is claiming that if these two million people exit the workforce they're going to be showered in government handouts. If they quit their jobs they're going to make less money. Period. That's their decision. But thanks to Obamacare they will still have access to health care coverage.
Meanwhile, additional contradictions abound. Fox News often focuses on the unemployment rate, and specifically the shrinking workforce, and points to it as a signature failure of the Obama administration. But as the CBO report makes clear, with two million workers possibly leaving their jobs, that will open up positions for new applicants - the millions who want jobs and don't have them -- and lower the unemployment rate.
And remember last year when Fox host Lou Dobbs convened an all-male panel to bemoan a new report detailing how more women were becoming breadwinners for their families? The equity equaled nothing less than the dissolution of the American fabric. It showed “something going terribly wrong in American society,” according to Fox News contributor Juan Williams.
The message was simple: For the good of the country, moms should stay home and raise their kids.
Now the CBO report suggests some working mothers might do just that, they might quit their jobs because of Obamacare and spend more time with their kids. But those moms, as part of the targeted two million, are suddenly being denounced on Fox News as would-be laggards.