The Mandate is No Big Deal. Defeating it Would Have Been

I keep reading that requiring us to do something, as opposed to requiring us to not do something, is a new step, and conservatives are sounding alarms all over the internet that freedom died as a result of the Supreme Court upholding the health care mandate, and that we’ve crossed a line into government mandated oblivion. But the health care mandate is not the first mandate. Several months ago the story of George Washington’s gun mandate was making the rounds. Other examples are in a discussion about the draft, posted by Greg Sargent, and in a post in Daily Kos about a railway case, which quotes NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel (1937):

The decree which we affirmed in that case required the railway company to treat with the representative chosen by the employees and also to refrain from entering into collective labor agreements with any one other than their true representative as ascertained in accordance with the provisions of the act.

In other words, the railway company was required to do something, and face penalties for not doing it.

With all of the power that the federal government already has, much gained with the support of right wing ideologues, the idea that this power to enforce a mandate represents a bold new step seems petty and hypocritical. The court didn’t grant any new power, it affirmed power that already exists and refused to carve out a special exception. It should have affirmed this power under the commerce clause, as argued by the administration. As a Kos commenter noted, referencing Gonzales v. Raich:

Growing pot on your patio to smoke yourself is clearly interstate commerce, but a central issue facing any effort to reform a sector that occupies 18% of our economy, well that’s just going too far.

But instead, the Supreme Court affirmed the power as falling under the power to tax. Either way, the power was there.

If freedom died, it died long before the Affordable Care Act. It was dead on or before 1942, when Roscoe Filburn was told that he couldn’t grow his own wheat for his own use because doing so interfered with interstate commerce. So don’t blame Obama.

Abuses of eminent domain and laws against personal use of home-grown medicine are examples of overreaching government that I’m all for rolling back, along with all of the Monsanto and factory-meat friendly laws which make it almost impossible for a small farmer to legally sell his product. But I don’t want to go back to the days before equal rights, national fire codes, child labor laws and environmental protection.

Unlike eminent domain abuses, invasive drug laws, and overregulation of home-made produce and meat, the Affordable Care Act won’t prevent us from doing things that we’re free to do. There are plenty of examples of over-regulation and abuses of federal power. But we didn’t suddenly become unfree last Thursday and we didn’t cross a line into new territory.

There are plenty of ways for Americans to become freer. Allowing health care companies to keep increasing the cost of health care isn’t one of them.

Lying about Employment with Charts and Numbers

In response to Mitt Romney’s boldface lie that Obama is a “job destroyer”, Greg Sargent has been calling on Romney to explain himself. The truth is, as soon as the stimulus took effect, the hemorrhaging of jobs that occurred as a result of deregulation and lack of oversight started to turn around, and jobs have been created; not destroyed. How can so many people be fooled when the numbers are readily available and how can pathological lier like Mitt Romney be hailed as the Republican candidate most likely to beat Obama?

Take a look at these two charts:

Series Id: LNS11300000
Seasonally Adjusted
Series title: (Seas) Labor Force Participation Rate
Labor force status: Civilian labor force participation rate
Type of data: Percent or rate
Age: 16 years and over

Series Id: LNS12000000
Seasonally Adjusted
Series title: (Seas) Employment Level
Labor force status: Employed
Type of data: Number in thousands
Age: 16 years and over

Both are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. One was pointed to in a Hot Air article to suggest that Obama’s policies, specifically health care reform, destroyed jobs (The article is titled “ObamaCare, the Job Destroyer”). The other is similar to a chart in Paul Krugman’s blog demonstrating that Obama has created jobs.

How can two charts about employment data look so different? Because only the second chart, “Employment Level”, shows whether jobs have been created or destroyed after the President’s fiscal policies took effect.

The other chart represents a problem and is concerning, but it does not indicate what Hot Air wants you to believe and does not undermine the fact that after the stimulus passed, the job decline turned around and our economy created over two million new jobs.

What the first chart, titled “Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate”, shows is the percentage of U.S. population who are either employed or looking for work. Employed or looking for work means you’re part of the labor force. How does a person fail to be counted as employed and also fail to be counted as looking for work? Certainly, when someone gets fed up after weeks of not finding a job and becomes discouraged, that person drops out of the labor force. Like I said, it’s concerning. But also people who stay in school rather than finding a job, stay at home parents, and retirees are not in the labor force.

The baby boomers are retiring, and that’s having a real effect on labor force participation, as are discouraged workers.

To get a feel for the meaning of employment level vs labor participation, and whether a drop in labor force participation makes Obama a “job destroyer”, imagine a group of 10 people. 8 are working, and 2 are looking for jobs. One new job appears and one of the job-seekers snatches it up. The other gets discouraged and stops looking. Has employment improved or have jobs been destroyed?

When someone says that Obama is a Job Destroyer, they are mistaken or lying. And you cannot trust any news source or presidential candidate that promotes such a fallacy.

Update: I had the first chart labeled incorrectly, and incorrectly referred to the second chart in the text when I was talking about the first chart. I had mislabeled it “(Seas) Civilian Labor Force Level” instead of “Civilian labor force participation rate”