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Sunday, Jun 24, 2018
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Tom Jackson Columns

Jackson: Mulling Obamacare’s perverse incentives

The increasingly hilarious Affordable Care Act (you have to laugh, or you’d be reduced to tears) drops banana peels on the national sidewalk at every turn, but Tuesday, at least, the Congressional Budget Office was there to point them out.

The headline: By 2024, Obamacare’s perverse incentives will reduce employment by the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time jobs. Well. If you thought there’s no way that news could be anything but bad, you have underestimated the capacity of the White House to whip meringue out of rotten eggs.

Those dropping out of the workforce (as if we didn’t have a participation problem already), said Council of Economic Advisors chairman Jason Furman, will just be an indicator of people making “choices.” Yeah. Between bad and worse.

What the administration also isn’t telling you is those who choose to sideline themselves, or who work less to avoid having their subsidies reduced or cut off (a perfectly logical response) will be doing so on the dimes of others who choose (heaven knows why) to keep working.

Yep. Your taxes will go to support those who have rationally calculated that it makes more sense to be idle than to punch The Man’s time clock. I mean, really. All that getting out of bed and showering and commuting and being on time, then doing the job only to go home at the end of the day and wait to do it all over again tomorrow. Who needs that?

Indeed, your taxes will encourage folks who are on the sidelines to stay there, and still others — 2˝ million over 10 years, the CBO says now, after low-balling (by two-thirds!) the figure once already — to wander over to join them. And the White House wants our congratulations.

OK. Heck of a job, Obamacare.

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Speaking of perverse incentives, here’s another from that stunning CBO report.

“Taking that research (by independent economists) into account, CBO estimates that expanded Medicaid eligibility under the ACA will, on balance, reduce incentives to work.”

Keep in mind, those most likely to be affected by expansions of Medicaid (in those 25 or so states that have welcomed it, unlike Florida) are younger adults who do not have children. In other words, they are responsible only for themselves. What economists have been saying, and the CBO now confirms, is Medicaid expansion encourages those people to drop out of the labor force, increasing their dependence on other forms of government support.

This tendency will be worth recalling when the push for Medicaid expansion returns to the Florida Legislature next month, and House Speaker Will Weatherford,R-Wesley Chapel, again rallies the Republican majority to resist.

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Residency isn’t a deal-breaker for The Right Stuff, which speaks from personal experience. If living in the vicinity was a requirement, I would have been disqualified from the last four jobs I’ve held. But America is a mobile society, and it is not at all uncommon for an employer to decide the best candidate for a plum position is someone who lives in another ZIP code, or even another time zone.

This does not mean I wasn’t the subject of exceptional scrutiny. It goes with the territory. When it comes to political races, it’s not unreasonable to apply similar scrutiny to interlopers, and, plainly, it’s fair to include longtime roots when weighing a candidate’s qualifications.

That said, before Pinellas County voters decide who will complete the late Bill Young’s term in the U.S. House of Representatives, the question Democrat nominee Alex Sink, formerly of Thonotosassa, ought to have to answer is this:

Your residency in District 13 was established by becoming a renter (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But ahead of Election Day, voters should be able to gauge your commitment to their community, for better or worse. If you don’t win, will you still live in Pinellas County?

She’s been evading a straight answer since she signed her lease in November, and was still bobbing and weaving when the question arose again at Monday night’s first of three candidates’ “conversations.”

So. Is Alex Sink committed to Pinellas County, or is she simply committed to occupying a Pinellas County seat on Capitol Hill?

District 13 fence-sitters should take her evasiveness into consideration.


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