Did the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times read the same CBO report on Obamacare?

Jim Huffman Dean Emeritus, Lewis & Clark Law School
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“Health Law to Cut Into Labor Force” read the headline in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. “Health Care Law Projected to Cut the Labor Force” read the headline in yesterday’s New York Times. Sounds like both newspapers had a similar take on the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) estimate that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the total number of hours Americans work by the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time jobs over the next decade. But not so on their editorial pages.

The Journal lamented that the CBO report shows “that the law is a job destroyer that is removing rungs from the ladder of upward economic mobility.” The Times celebrated that “the new law will free people, young and old, to pursue their careers or retirement without having to worry about health coverage.” Did they actually read the same report?

Yes they did. Their remarkably different explanations of the significance of the CBO projections say nothing about those projections and a whole lot about the ideological predispositions of the two leading lights of American journalism.

Just as the Journal suggests that the CBO projection fails to permeate “the liberal force field of thinking only positive thoughts” about Obamacare, it would not be unfair to suggest that there has been something of a conservative force field of thinking only negative thoughts on the same subject at the Journal. But my bet is that the Journal will prove to be right far more than wrong as Obamacare continues to unfold.

The effects of Obamacare aside, just think about the broader implications of the Times’ rosy analysis of the CBO projection. According to the Times, the health care law allows “those who have needed to keep working to pay for health insurance … to leave their jobs.” Thanks to the subsidies provided by Obamacare, workers “need no longer feel locked into a job they don’t like because they need insurance for themselves or their families.”

And what about those who feel locked into jobs they don’t like because they need food, transportation, shelter, clothing, entertainment, you name it, for themselves or their families? Why shouldn’t they, too, be freed from the drudgery of work. If Obamacare is so liberating, imagine what we could do for freedom with even more subsidies for more of life’s desires and necessities.

So FDR’s freedom from want is to be replaced with the Times’ freedom from work as the liberal mantra. What a great thing that would be, and how utterly ruinous it would be for a country that once was the gold standard for entrepreneurship, hard work, and individual responsibility.

What is truly scary about their celebration of Obamacare’s projected liberation from work of 2.5 million Americans is that the cloistered Times editorialists are not alone in thinking that freedom is a gift from government, not something requiring vigilant protection from government.

If Obamacare proves to be the financial and health care disaster long-anticipated by the Wall Street Journal editorial board, repeal or amendment will be, at least, possible. But if Obamacare represents an American embrace of the view that freedom will come in the form of government subsidies, our republic is in big trouble.