Via the Free Beacon, a video companion to this afternoon’s declaration of defeat. A clearly sympathetic National Journal calls this “the worst day that Obamacare has had in weeks” because Jason Furman, whom you’re about to meet, allegedly did such a terrible job explaining the greater work flexibility that the law’s designed to enable. But he didn’t do a terrible job; he did what he could with terrible facts. How is this guy supposed to spin the fact that, even by CBO’s measure, more than two million people will choose to work less because their health coverage is now being subsidized by the rest of the taxpaying population? It’s surreal watching him defend as a triumph of “choice” a law that’s defined in the public imagination by two mandates, one of which was litigated in the Supreme Court and the other of which was illegally suspended by the president to spare himself extra political trouble, but that’s where we are. You don’t get to choose not to pay the various taxes under the law that are being passed on to you, just as you don’t get to choose not to pay more for insurance than you used to because you’re now subsidizing premiums for the old and sick. The “choice” belongs to someone else. It reminds me of “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” in that both are attempts to sugar-coat a more bitter redistributive reality. Obama didn’t want people to understand that they had to lose their old coverage and be forced into expensive new plans to help pay for people with preexisting conditions, and now he doesn’t want people to understand that “flexibility” in this case involves making it possible for literally millions of workers to drop out of the labor force down the road because the rest of the working population is paying a little more. What’s Furman supposed to say?
And unfortunately, while the new plan introduced by Tom Coburn and two colleagues isn’t quite as bad, it would create the same problem. Exit quotation from Ross Douthat: “[W]hatever kind of insurance system you envision, insurance subsidies for working-age adults probably shouldn’t be means-tested in the way that other welfare programs usually are.”