Pelosi: Fighting “Job Lock” Lets Americans “Follow Their Passion” – Like Leaving the Workforce

posted at 5:01 pm on February 5, 2014 by Kevin Glass

The budget update from the Congressional Budget Office yesterday predicted some important information: Obamacare will cause the labor force to shrink. At a time when the American labor force is already projected to shrink due to an aging population, the widespread availability of taxpayer-funded health insurance will also cause some people to just decide not to work any more.

The White House spins this as good news, and Nancy Pelosi is standing by them:

“What we see is that people are leaving their jobs because they are no longer job-locked,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters after House votes Tuesday afternoon. “They are following their aspirations to be a writer; to be self-employed; to start a business. This is the entrepreneurial piece. So it’s not going to cost jobs. It’s going to shift how people make a living and reach their aspirations.”

Pelosi said she hadn’t “fully” seen the report, but, “this was one of the goals. To give people life, a healthy life, liberty to pursue their happiness. And that liberty is to not be job-locked, but to follow their passion.”

“Liberty to pursue their happiness”! But Pelosi has this all wrong. The CBO projections aren’t finding that people will “follow their passion” and become self-employed, or start a business. The CBO projects that people will simply stop working. “Job lock” is the term used for when people are hesitant to leave their jobs for fear of losing insurance coverage. But there’s a difference between being freed from job lock to become an entrepreneur and being freed from job lock to just leave the workforce. The CBO is predicting the latter.

Republicans have bemoaned job lock for years, and have centered previous health reform plans on disentangling employment from insurance. But they’re focused on the entrepreneurial side, not on the liberation that comes from being able to stop working. Any form of combating job lock will result in people leaving the workforce voluntarily, but as Ross Douthat noted, it’s the size of the effect that matters:

2 million is a much, much uglier number than the 800,000 figure the C.B.O. cited in its last report. Maybe the early estimate was right and this one is wrong, or (just as likely) maybe both are off in one direction or the other. But it does seem like we may be dealing here with something that isn’t just a consequence of rejiggering the employer-provided model, and that actually reflects a more universal dilemma of welfare-state liberalism: Namely, that when the government moves to help people at the bottom of the income distribution, its assistance often creates perverse incentives, both by making it easier for the beneficiaries not to work at all and (when the assistance is means-tested) by imposing a steep marginal tax rate on upward mobility of any kind.

That’s what’s at the heart of the progressive project here: all people should be insulated from fear, from risk, from luck. If they want to work, great! If they don’t, that’s okay too! They’re free to be writers. Or to leave the workforce altogether. People shouldn’t have to labor if they don’t want to.

That’s what this really about – if society should be structured to incentivize people at the lower rungs of the income scale to join the workforce and provide a better future for themselves and their families. The distinction between entrepreneurialism and voluntary unemployment is important.

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And here all these decades when I have labored away to keep a roof over my head and food on the table, and thanked the heavens above that I was able to do so…I was suffering “job lock”? Daayum. Who knew?

I am praying for “job lock”…to be able to continue to keep the doors open in our small business and work at a job I love and not be homeless and hungry…and just about everyone I know feels the same.

We don’t want government charity, we want to work and earn a living and keep our self respect, Nancy…but then, self respect is probably something you kicked to the curb when you entered politics…so you wouldn’t understand that.

merleliz on February 6, 2014 at 11:51 AM

“They are following their aspirations to be a writer; to be self-employed; to start a business. This is the entrepreneurial piece. So it’s not going to cost jobs. It’s going to shift how people make a living and reach their aspirations.”


True entrepreneurs don’t need a government handout like Obamacare. Those she must be talking about are the guitar-strumming, tambourine-banging weedmedical marijuana-smoking “artists” on city sidewalks producing nothing tangible to support that very sidewalk or anything else for that matter. Much like the ilk she represents.

monkihead on February 6, 2014 at 11:58 AM

Many Progressive types believe that getting more old people into retirement is stimulative to the economy because they free up jobs when they leave the workplace.

Soooo…Obamacare encourages people to retire earlier, and that’s a feature! While we are at it, lets drop the retirement age to 60, start paying social security a couple of ears earlier. If 60 is good, why not 55? Think of all the jobs those young people could get!

theosdad on February 6, 2014 at 12:03 PM

That all.

Walter L. Newton on February 5, 2014 at 6:32 PM

I think that’s awesome.

merleliz on February 6, 2014 at 12:04 PM

2014 is going to tell me if there is a way to get back to decency and responsibility and self-reliance or if we really have lost our nation to those that would submit to centralized government control as long as they got paid for it.

— The people are responsible for the Character of their Congress.

CharacterOfCongress on February 6, 2014 at 12:11 PM

Freedom’s just another word for no jobs left to chose.
What the use of work’n when it’s free?
Feeling good is easy, man, when others pay the bills
and we owe it all to Dems and Nancy P.

Calzini on February 6, 2014 at 12:45 PM

And that includes my plan of eating graham cracker and chocolate cake frosting sandwiches, with SE Cupp. Naked. On the Beach.

Those sound amazing!!!!

E.Normus.Balzac on February 6, 2014 at 9:17 PM

I am sure there are competent studies that discuss the economic effects of “employment mobility”, in which health concerns are just one of many factors.

Pure idiocy! The CBO refers to JOB LOSS, not the ability to change jobs.

virgo on February 8, 2014 at 1:21 AM