One of the most valuable and productive commodities in the world is American labor — that’s why it costs so much. Even as global competition puts pressure on wages at the lower end of the market, American workers remain extraordinarily productive.
That is why mass unemployment is a calamity not only for those unemployed, but for the country. Thus the Congressional Budget Office’s latest report on the real costs of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, is so worrisome: The CBO now estimates that Obamacare will put some 2.3 million Americans out of the full-time work force, mostly because of the extra expenses it attaches to the hiring of full-time workers. The cost to those would-be workers and their families is very high, but think of the cost to the economy as a whole: We are throwing away a tremendous amount of wealth. Preventing the entry of 2.3 million people into the full-time work force is like burning down 1,000 factories. For a sense of scale, consider that during the great technology boom of 1995-2000, only 172,000 new tech-firm jobs were created in Silicon Valley. That 2.3 million workers exceeds the current work forces of McDonald’s, IBM, UPS, Target, Hewlitt-Packard, and General Electric, combined.
Cheap health insurance may turn out to be the most expensive thing we’ve ever bought.