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“Another Great Anti-Obamacare Lie Exposed”: Data Proves ACA Not Responsible For Growth In Part-Time Jobs

One of the more popular economic myths spun by the anti-Obamacare forces is the suggestion that employers are avoiding the law by moving to an employee model based on part-time workers rather than full-time employees.

For those committed to destroying the Affordable Care act by any means possible, who can blame them for seeking to misdirect based on using only a small part of the data as it pertains to employment when telling the full story blows up the entire meme? Such a claim is, after all, ear candy for an audience looking for any reason to hate the law, even if they don’t quite know why they so are so displeased.

The problem, however, is that this popular line of attack comes with a rather significant flaw—the claim is provably false.

While there are, no doubt, a few companies out there moving to increase part-time employees at the expense of full-time workers—mostly involving retail and fast food companies that have always depended heavily on a part-time employee model—it turns out that the frantic claims arguing that the ACA is causing some massive loss of full-time work is simply not supported by the empirical data.

While we will get to that data in just a moment, to better understand how the opponents of healthcare reform are selling this bit of disinformation, it is important to know the basis of their claim.

It begins by acknowledging that 27 million Americans are currently employed in part-time jobs—a number that is, in fact, well above the historical norms.

Left on its own, that bit of information ties in quite nicely with the suggestion that we can hold Obamacare responsible for these numbers when one considers that employing full-time workers holds the potential for greater benefits obligations for a company with 50 or more employees.

However, when one looks just one layer beneath the surface—a bit of research one might expect honest brokers to perform before informing the public that the sky is falling—a very different picture emerges.

There are—as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—two classifications of part-time workers.

Those who are working 35 hours or less because they cannot accomplish the full-time employment they desire are called “part-time for economic reasons”, while those who work 35 hours or less because that is all the work they want are part-time by choice.

A more careful review of the latest BLS jobs report out last week—a review in which the anti-Obamacare forces do not want you to  engage in—reveals that while we do, indeed, currently have 27 million part-time workers in the economy,  only 8 million of these people are working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job.

That means that 19 million Americans are working part-time because that is all the work they desire to have.

What’s more, not only does the September jobs report reveal that the number of part-timers wishing for full-time work showed no increase when compared to the previous month’s numbers, the report provides a piece of data far more important—

In September of 2012, the number of part-timers seeking full-time work comprised 6 percent of the workforce. One year later, the September jobs report reveals that the number has shrunk to 5.5 percent.

Thus, not only has this supposed employer desire to avoid Obamacare not increased the number of part-time workers in the country; we actually see that the numbers are on the decline.

Now, before you launch into a cynical attack on the numbers as something ‘fudged’ by the Obama Administration, you might want to bear in mind that the opponents of the ACA have based their own argument on the very same numbers—albeit using only the top-line figures to make their misleading point rather than conveying the full data that shows a very different result.

As the old saying goes, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

There is something else you should probably know when attempting to make sense of the part-time worker picture—

As the following BLS chart reveals, the number of part-time workers as a percentage of the entire workforce has been on the decline since the numbers peaked with the onset of our deep recession in 2008—well before the concept of Obamacare entered into the public lexicon and conscious. 

Does it surprise anyone that, as the economy has improved—even if far slower than we would like—the number of part-time workers have declined?

Yet, to hear the anti-Obamacare forces tell the story, not only is part-time work increasing—when it very clearly is not—they have chosen to pretend that this is the result of the Affordable Care Act rather than obvious impact our economic circumstances would naturally play in the part-time versus full-time worker scenario.

Clearly, more part-time workers seeking full-time employment have found more success as the economy has improved.

So, should we give Obamacare the credit for the reduction in part-time numbers? I don’t think so as, to do so, would be as ridiculous as the efforts to blame Obamacare for the large top-line number of part-time jobs.

More liberal babble from an Obamacare apologist?

While you are entitled to think so if this brings some measure of comfort,  you should probably know that even the staunchly anti-Obamacare publication, The Wall Street Journal—relying on data rather than right-wing hysteria—has reached the very same conclusion.

If you find yourself surprised that so much of the part-time workforce is comprised of people preferring a shorter workweek to a full-time job, you might ask yourself who, typically, seeks part-time work?

Many of us can recall our younger days as students in need of some spending money. We were not the least bit interested in full-time employment at that time, only that weekend job to earn some gasoline and date money.

Nothing much has changed in this regard for today’s high school and college students as they continue to occupy their spot in the count of part-time workers by choice.

So, where did the growth in part-time workers by choice come from following our recession?

The answer can be found in two categories—

First, we have the homemakers who elect to make the children their priority when allocating their time.

When the recession hit, many of these people found that the breadwinner in the family was being adversely affected by the poor economy and resolved to help the family finances by getting a part-time job to augment income. Now, as the economy slowly improves, some of these people are able to leave the workforce entirely and return full-time to their desired day job—”stay-at-home” mom or dad. This is, no doubt, playing a role in the declining number of part-time workers in the workforce.

Secondly, we have those who hit retirement age only to discover that their savings and Social Security payments were insufficient to support the lifestyle they had hoped to experience during their sunset years.

It is no secret that the lack of sufficient savings to support of seniors in retirement is turning into an epidemic problem. If you are, somehow, unaware of this, I recommend that you read a piece entitled, “The U.S. To Face A Married  Couples Retirement Crisis” written by my Forbes colleague, Richard Eisenberg, to get up to speed.

As a result of the difficulties facing retirees, it can come as no surprise that, as the baby boomers have reached the age of retirement, they play—and will continue to play—a major part in increasing the number of part-time workers in the country. These are people who want to, at the least, accomplish semi-retirement if they cannot afford to fully retire and opt to augment their savings and Social Security with part-time work.

When you consider how and why the numbers of part-time by choice employees grew following the onset of the recession and the arrival of baby boomer retirement, only the hardest of heads can fail to see how the top-line number of part-time workers grew, why it is now decreasing and why a full two-thirds of the part-time work force chose to be part-time workers. It would also take a very committed ideologue to avoid the stark fact that these part-timers by choice are not relevant to an analysis of the impact of Obamacare on the availability of full-time work.

What is relevant to the question are the eight million part-timer for economic reasons.

Given that the data is crystal clear that these numbers are falling year-to-year, it defies logic to claim that Obamacare is forcing these numbers upward. Indeed, even if the number of people forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time work was on the rise, it would not make the case that Obamacare is to blame as the weak economy would present a better explanation. Such a result would, however, at least give some basis for the possibility that the ACA is as fault.

But with the numbers of those who are part-time because they can’t find full time work falling, the argument becomes absurd.

As I often note, there are some valid arguments—even if I might disagree with the much of the logic behind theses arguments—to support those who wish to take a stand against the Affordable Care Act.

However, when the opinion-leaders who seek to guide your point of view away from a fair, reasonable and rational assessment of the law by feeding you false arguments and half-stories easily disproven by readily obtainable data, it defies reason that anyone—whether for or against the law—would believe anything else these people are trying to peddle.

Simply put, if you are going to hate this law, don’t you think you should hate it based on actual information and data rather than half-truths and misrepresentations?

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, October 27, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Jobs, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Truth About Jobs”: The Good News That The Deranged Right Just Can’t Handle

If anyone had doubts about the madness that has spread through a large part of the American political spectrum, the reaction to Friday’s better-than expected report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics should have settled the issue. For the immediate response of many on the right — and we’re not just talking fringe figures — was to cry conspiracy.

Leading the charge of what were quickly dubbed the “B.L.S. truthers” was none other than Jack Welch, the former chairman of General Electric, who posted an assertion on Twitter that the books had been cooked to help President Obama’s re-election campaign. His claim was quickly picked up by right-wing pundits and media personalities.

It was nonsense, of course. Job numbers are prepared by professional civil servants, at an agency that currently has no political appointees. But then maybe Mr. Welch — under whose leadership G.E. reported remarkably smooth earnings growth, with none of the short-term fluctuations you might have expected (fluctuations that reappeared under his successor) — doesn’t know how hard it would be to cook the jobs data.

Furthermore, the methods the bureau uses are public — and anyone familiar with the data understands that they are “noisy,” that especially good (or bad) months will be reported now and then as a simple consequence of statistical randomness. And that in turn means that you shouldn’t put much weight on any one month’s report.

In that case, however, what is the somewhat longer-term trend? Is the U.S. employment picture getting better? Yes, it is.

Some background: the monthly employment report is based on two surveys. One asks a random sample of employers how many people are on their payroll. The other asks a random sample of households whether their members are working or looking for work. And if you look at the trend over the past year or so, both surveys suggest a labor market that is gradually on the mend, with job creation consistently exceeding growth in the working-age population.

On the employer side, the current numbers say that over the past year the economy added 150,000 jobs a month, and revisions will probably push that number up significantly. That’s well above the 90,000 or so added jobs per month that we need to keep up with population. (This number used to be higher, but underlying work force growth has dropped off sharply now that many baby boomers are reaching retirement age.)

Meanwhile, the household survey produces estimates of both the number of Americans employed and the number unemployed, defined as people who are seeking work but don’t currently have a job. The eye-popping number from Friday’s report was a sudden drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent, but as I said, you shouldn’t put too much emphasis on one month’s number. The more important point is that unemployment has been on a sustained downward trend.

But isn’t that just because people have given up looking for work, and hence no longer count as unemployed? Actually, no. It’s true that the employment-population ratio — the percentage of adults with jobs — has been more or less flat for the past year. But remember those aging baby boomers: the fraction of American adults who are in their prime working years is falling fast. Once you take the effects of an aging population into account, the numbers show a substantial improvement in the employment picture since the summer of 2011.

None of this should be taken to imply that the situation is good, or to deny that we should be doing better — a shortfall largely due to the scorched-earth tactics of Republicans, who have blocked any and all efforts to accelerate the pace of recovery. (If the American Jobs Act, proposed by the Obama administration last year, had been passed, the unemployment rate would probably be below 7 percent.) The U.S. economy is still far short of where it should be, and the job market has a long way to go before it makes up the ground lost in the Great Recession. But the employment data do suggest an economy that is slowly healing, an economy in which declining consumer debt burdens and a housing revival have finally put us on the road back to full employment.

And that’s the truth that the right can’t handle. The furor over Friday’s report revealed a political movement that is rooting for American failure, so obsessed with taking down Mr. Obama that good news for the nation’s long-suffering workers drives its members into a blind rage. It also revealed a movement that lives in an intellectual bubble, dealing with uncomfortable reality — whether that reality involves polls or economic data — not just by denying the facts, but by spinning wild conspiracy theories.

It is, quite simply, frightening to think that a movement this deranged wields so much political power.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 8, 2012

October 8, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Distracting Crazy Talk”: Will Bureau Of Labor Statistics Trutherism Backfire?

Well, I had hoped for better news fare, but the BLS Truthers are kind of blotting out the sun at the moment, infecting a lot of people who should know better right along with the crazy people and the stone hacks. I’ll just quote Greg Sargent here on the possibility that this frantic effort–born, I suspect, of over-reaction to the first presidential debate, which had conservatives cackling with insane glee before the first poll came in–could actually backfire. After citing other examples of the “closed conservative information feedback loop,” Greg says this:

This latest — unemployment trutherism — strikes me as having the potential to be a bit more damaging to Romney. It’s very likely that these claims are now going to break through to the nightly news, drawing still more attention to the dropping unemployment rate.

Of course, there’s always the danger that news outlets will cover this stuff in a he-said-she-said manner, reporting on the assertions of the unemployment truthers without calling them out, thus injecting them into the discourse. But that seems unlikely. This is really out there stuff, and hopefully the networks will say so outright. If so, it’s hard to see how it’s helpful to Romney for undecided voters to be treated to the sight of fury and panic about improving economic news among those who want him to be elected president.

On top of that, of course, if the freak-out is about the BLS report distracting attention from Mitt’s Triumphant Vanquishing of the Evil Obama, then the crazy-talk is a much bigger distraction: like turning on the local news and watching the weatherman have a nervous breakdown because his forecast turned out to be wrong.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 5, 2012

October 7, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Jobs | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“War Against Reality”: Neutron Jack Welch And The Jobless Numbers Conspiracy

Opening yet another front in their endless war against reality, right-wing conspiracy-mongers have moved on from polling data to federal unemployment statistics, apparently because – like the political polls they’ve disputed in recent weeks — the latest jobless number is not sufficiently damaging to President Obama.

Shortly after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its September unemployment numbers on Friday morning, showing that the jobless rate fell last month from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent, outraged expressions of doubt began to appear on the Internet.

Nobody cited any substantive evidence to support allegations that the BLS had suddenly “cooked” its data to promote the president’s re-election, of course. Evidence isn’t required or expected in Fox Nation.

What sustained at least momentary interest in this new “truther” flurry, however, was a Twitter effusion from Jack Welch, the former General Electric chairman, who described the BLS number as “unbelievable” and complained that “these Chicago guys will do anything” because Obama “can’t debate.” (He later admitted to Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s Hardball, “I have no evidence to prove that [the White House influenced the BLS], ” adding disingenuously that “I just raised the question.”)

Although Welch is superficially a credible figure — indeed, still an idol in certain quarters of American business — he is also a particularly enthusiastic and volatile Romney surrogate. “Neutron Jack,” as he used to be known, admires Romney deeply, perhaps because both have become symbols of “corporate greed, arrogance, and contempt for workers.” His tweet about the BLS was a political expression, not an expert assessment, and invites skepticism. But Welch certainly is familiar with dubious numbers and political manipulation.

Several years after he retired from General Electric in 2001 — where his legendary managerial successes brought him accolades as the “CEO of the century” in the business press — the Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation of the company’s accounting practices. What the SEC eventually uncovered were long-running schemes to inflate earnings, reminiscent of Enron.

While nobody held Welch personally accountable, the violations that cost the conglomerate $50 million in fines occurred on the watch of the chief financial officer he had appointed in 1998. Other accounts of questionable business practices at GE date back much further.

More pertinent than GE’s accounting misadventures is Welch’s controversial role in the 2000 election, when he became known as an outspoken supporter of George W. Bush. (Considering the dismal history of the Bush presidency, voters might think twice before taking Welch’s political advice this year.) At the time, GE owned NBC and its cable networks CNBC and MSNBC, and Welch was known to make his presence felt in the studios and newsrooms. Nobody at 30 Rock had the slightest doubt about Welch’s hatred toward President Clinton and the Clinton administration, or about his desire to see Clinton replaced by Bush.

On Election Night, as witnesses later told Rep. Henry Waxman, Welch came into the NBC newsroom while the network’s political staff tried to determine who had won the historically-close contest between Bush and Vice President Al Gore. In what news executives later acknowledged was a serious mistake, they called the election for Bush, following a trend started by Fox News, where a Bush cousin was running election coverage under the watchful eye of former Bush consultant and Fox boss Roger Ailes.

According to Waxman’s findings, Welch blatantly tried to influence the decision by NBC election producers to name Bush the winner, based on Florida numbers that were too preliminary and too close to support that call.

Witnesses said that Welch personally examined the raw election data and told the NBC director of election coverage, Sheldon Gawiser, that he believed Bush had won. When Fox called the election for Bush, Welch could be overheard asking Gawiser why NBC had not yet done the same. Not long after that alleged conversation, NBC announced that Bush had won.

NBC News strongly disputed Waxman’s stated concerns over undue influence by Welch. But an internal evaluation later “recommended that the network [should] sequester the election decision desk and protect its election analysts from “unnecessary interruptions.”

Welch himself dismissed the Waxman investigation as “pure crazy” — which is pretty much how economists and government experts are describing his BLS tweet.

But whatever Welch’s present attitude and past behavior, is there any real reason why he should doubt the BLS jobs data — compiled by a corps of dedicated civil servants (not political appointees), many of whom are Republicans, month after month and decade after decade?

The short answer is no.

But before closing this pointless episode, there is another bit of sordid irony involving a different Romney associate. There was once a White House that sought to manipulate BLS statistics for its own partisan purposes. Before the Watergate scandal toppled him from power, Richard Nixon was constantly frustrated by his inability to exercise political control over the agency’s professional civil servants. In his paranoia, Nixon blamed this “problem” on “the Jews” that he believed were running BLS and their animosity toward him – so he and Charles Colson instructed Fred Malek, one of their political stooges, to ferret out the Jews and get rid of them.

Their anti-Semitic plot failed, Nixon resigned to escape criminal prosecution, Colson went to prison for Watergate offenses, and Malek languished in disgrace. Eventually he recovered his reputation, got rich working for Marriott, and buddied up to the Romneys. Last April, he and his wife hosted a “birthday party” fundraiser in Washington for Ann Romney, at $1,000 a head.

So the Republican accusations about gaming the BLS statistics may simply be another case of projection. Perhaps they think Obama is doing it because they always wanted to.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, October 5, 2012

October 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“God Must Be A Kenyan”: Hey Conspiracy Theorists, It’s Showtime!

I assume that several of our house conservatives have been sitting around this morning waiting for this post on the new BLS data so they can trot out their conspiracy theories or note that the “real” unemployment rate is 11 percent. So, go have fun.

I think it’s a little sad to see people so openly rooting against America and against people finding work. That much-discussed Jack Welch tweet was an abomination. As TNR’s Alec MacGillis tweeted back, it’s always nice to see a leading figure of American commerce cheer against his country and its economy. And “BLS cooked-the-numbers” theories are just silly. This monthly gathering of data is a massive job that goes on all month long involving thousands of people and inputs.

The great news about this report and the new jobless rate of 7.8 percent, down below 8 for the first time since Obama took office (how’s that for a stump-speech line?), is that it happened for the right reason: The labor force grew, meaning that more people are out there looking for work, which is a contrast to some previous months when the rate fell because the labor-force participation rate decreased. And the revisions to the last two months, adding 86,000 jobs, is especially heartening.

In substantive terms, it is certainly true that the participation rate is lower than it was in January 2009 by a couple percentage points. And it’s also true that 114,000, the new number, isn’t enough to keep up with the growth in the size of the labor force. So substantively, it’s not a great number.

But we’re in the home stretch of a presidential campaign. So politically, the number is really good for Obama. Just what he needed. God must be a Kenyan.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 5, 2012

October 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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