Obamacare a Factor in Bleak Jobs Report

by Grace-Marie Turner

Creation of new jobs has hit a wall as employers created just 18,000 jobs last month, sending the unemployment rate to 9.2 percent. The numbers would have been even worse had so many Americans not simply given up looking for work.

I talked about this on Fox News this morning in the context of health care.

It is clear that the mandates in the health-care law are an important factor in depressing job creation. Small business is the engine for job growth in America, but a recent survey found that 70 percent of them have no plans to increase hiring in the next year.

There are many reasons they aren’t hiring: They don’t have enough customers to justify expansion, they can’t get credit from the banks, and they are uncertain about the future tax, regulatory, and economic climate. But the Obamacare mandates are a big factor:

— Some businesses are worried that hiring more workers would put them over the 50-employee limit and expose them to the expensive employer mandate.

— Small businesses that already have more than 50 workers worry about the cost of providing new government-mandated coverage for their workers or the fines they would have to pay if they don’t comply.

— Larger companies are doing everything they can to pare back on hiring and automate entry-level jobs to avoid the added cost of mandatory health insurance. McDonald’s is putting in electronic ordering kiosks, and CVS drug stores are putting in electronic checkout systems to replace live people, for example. Is it any wonder that youth unemployment is at an all-time high as these entry-level jobs vanish?

Unemployment is a tragedy. It weakens our country when people who are willing and want to work simply can’t find jobs. It weakens families because of the terrible pressures of financial stress. And it weakens our future, as young people can’t get the jobs to get their foot on the economic ladder and learn the skills they need to move up.

It’s not just the fear of Obamacare, of course. Tax policy must be reformed and modernized. Regulations must be lifted so businesses can focus on customers, not federal agents. And federal spending must be controlled to avoid the tsunami of red ink that threatens to destroy any chance of future prosperity.

We can do this. The American spirit is alive, and people want to work.

When I get discouraged, I go back to a conversation I had with my good friend, economic guru Art Laffer, when I spoke at one of his company’s seminars recently.

“This economy is ready to soar,” he said. But for that to happen, he said, we must lift the burdens of outdated and oppressive tax, regulatory, and trade policies.

Art is right. We believe in America. But politicians must undo the damage of decades of burdensome public policies so the people can turn this ship aright.

Critical Condition

NRO’s health-care blog.