The Campaign Spot

In a Booming Economy, People Could More Easily Shift to Part-Time Work

From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats, and Alleviates a Lot of Other Problems

The editors of the New York Times yesterday: “The Congressional Budget Office estimated on Tuesday that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the number of full-time workers by 2.5 million over the next decade. That is mostly a good thing, a liberating result of the law.”

This is about 90 percent nonsense, a testament to how rapidly and thoroughly a dedicated partisan can convince themselves that a bad result of a law they support is really a good result in disguise.

The 10 percent that might not be nonsense it that it’s possible to imagine a scenario very different from our current circumstances, where people shifting from full-time to part-time, or leaving the workforce entirely, would be a good thing.

If we had a booming economy, with the vast majority of American workers feeling like they could make a good living and achieve their dreams, it wouldn’t be a problem for people to choose to work part-time. If a wife who just gave birth wanted to take a few years off to raise her child and be a stay-at-home mom, or to work fewer hours in her child’s formative years, terrific! (Dads, too!) If somebody on the tail end of his career wants to downshift to part-time, and get a head start on enjoying those golden years, wonderful. In an economy that had a voracious thirst for workers, reentry into the workforce and a return to full-time work if desired later on would be easy.

But the economy we have today and can see for the foreseeable future is nothing like that happy vision at all. The plight of the long-term unemployed over the past five years suggests that losing your job can be a career death sentence.

And when we have a plummeting workforce-participation rate – people retiring earlier than they planned because they can’t find a job, staying in school longer, longer stretches on unemployment, etc. – this is terrible.

It’s rather surprising that the Times didn’t even acknowledge that fewer people working fewer hours is very bad for income-tax revenue.

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