The ACA Con: Livin’ La Vida Loca

LFU_DumbStruck_Smash_vFIn 1999, Livin’ La Vida Loca sent singer Ricky Martin to the top of the pop charts. The song was about a young guy seduced by a woman who makes him forget his troubles and live for the moment. Fifteen years later it is the perfect theme song of the ACA Con with its seductive message of the crazy life on your neighbor’s dime. But, will it send the Affordable Care Act to the top of voter polls?


At this moment, it doesn’t look likely. There’s been a lot of negative fall out swirling around the President’s signature legislation. It came first from the website, then from Obama’s implementation delays and finally from the ugly reality of the law’s impact on most people’s lives. Not only are doctors, hospitals and policies lost. But, the cost of the law is not borne by the “rich”. It is shouldered by the upper 80% of those getting a pay check.


The 21% – 50% income range is not usually described as “upper”. People who fall into that category should be ecstatic about finding themselves on a higher rung on the American dream ladder. This happy circumstance will doubtless be showcased in ACA promotionals very, very soon.


But in the here and now, it seems that every week, if not more often, another Obamacare bomb blows up. Just last week, people were up in arms over the law’s encouragement to stop working. They were even more upset about the Dems hallelujah chorus of approval.


But, the endorsement is not new. In March 2010, even before the law passed, that verse of the ACA Con was in full throat. Then Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, made the same stop-working argument in favor of Obamacare. Her spiel of going on the dole was as seductive as Madam Speaker could make it:


“Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance or that people could start a business and be entrepreneurial and take risk, but not job loss because of a child with asthma or someone in the family is bipolar—you name it, any condition—is job locking.”


That politicians don’t miss a beat in spinning obviously harmful laws to their own advantage is not the most surprising outcome of ACA’s anti-work bias. The most surprising thing, stunning really, is that able-bodied, employed people will actually choose to live on their neighbors’ income. Hardly the spirit that settled the West or any place else except on the couch.


Among those with no apparent problem with the idea are the Millenials. Those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s have been shaped both by the Great Recession’s depravations and commonplace displays of opulence. These opposite ends of the spectrum send a single message – being supported by others, whether the government or parents, is one of life’s natural accommodations. It’s hardly surprising that they are described as confident, upbeat, liberal and receptive to new ideas and ways of living.


On Friday one of their number was on TV celebrating the prospect of taking from others while searching for something to be “passionate” about. Hopefully, it will be a job, but the jury is still out. Meanwhile, there’s a Get To Work poster that’s been around for quite a while. It admonishes, “You aren’t being paid to believe in the power of your dreams.” That sentiment is definitely losing traction in some quarters. 


Champions of the crazy life chat up a companion argument that claims the jobless provide an economic advantage. This pitch has been around at least as long as Pelosi’s life-of-an-artist patter. Back in July 2010, the Speaker asserted that benefits paid to the unemployed are “one of the biggest stimuluses (sic) to our economy.”


That statement may be true in a parallel universe, although probably not, but it’s definitely untrue in this one. The unemployed spend their money on necessities not on investments in industries that build genuine economic power such as technology, energy innovation, construction or manufacturing. And, whether calculated directly and/or indirectly, they contribute very little to the Federal revenue stream that funds scientific advances.


To put it succinctly, eating more Big Macs didn’t get us to the Moon. Although, to be fair, the Big Mac was introduced nation-wide in 1968, the year preceding the first lunar landing. But you get the point.


There’s one other thing. If unemployment benies were such a boon to the economy we’d all quit working and create a huge economic surge. Of course, there wouldn’t be anyone flipping burgers any longer so we’d just sit around gambling away our benefits checks to kill time. La vida muy loca.