Marc Thiessen–Altered Reality

February 24, 2014

Opportunity–A Concept Abused by the Right

Marc Thiessen, conservative editorialist, speechwriter for George Bush, offers another typical right wing attach on Obama, using the key word “opportunity,” which I commented on in the just previous post.

He titles this opinion piece “Obama’s War on Opportunity.”

“Opportunity” is the preferred term for both the right and the left–neither camp is willing to touch the word “redistribution,” preferring to focus on a word which is deeply embedded in the Horatio Alger ethic of Americanism. The idea from the right is that if government just gets out of the way, anyone (regardless of your lack of advantage) can pull yourself up by the bootstraps and become wealthy. And, if you do become wealthy, the idea is that you did it all on your own–not due to any advantages you had by birth or along the way. Based on this idea, you deserve to keep all that you accumulate. Furthermore, the idea goes, if you are allowed to keep all you accumulate, you will choose to invest it in production which needs workers, and thus you will be creating “trickle down” that the conservatives like to argue as the solution to all the ills of the poor and the middle class.

But…if this is really the way it works, what happened across the last three decades before Obamacare came along? Inequality steadily increased to it’s dangerously high levels–all that increase with several Republican Presidents and without any Obamacare. Wealth for the highest income classes rose astronomically. If they invest in jobs with their added wealth, as goes the conservative argument, then why are we so lacking in jobs now? Could it be because they do not (lately) invest so actively in production, preferring to hoard their wealth in liquid investments, or assets such as lavish homes, and some in foreign bank accounts? Of course, this is not intended to suggest that none of that investment in production is happening. Of course, some is–e.g., Google hired 52,000 workers to date. But, in essence, not nearly enough is taking that route. Much of that added wealth is not adding to growth of the economy.

Thiessen has this to say about the Affordable Care Act (which, of course, he refers to by another intended pejorative name beginning with the demon named Obama): “Obamacare will reduce overall employment by the equivalent of 2.5 million workers by 2021,” claiming to be quoting the Congressional Budget Office. In fact, this is what Douglas Ellendorf, actually explained: “Because the longer-term reduction in work is expected to come almost entirely from a decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply in response to the changes in their incentives, we do not think it is accurate to say that the reduction stems from people ‘losing’ their jobs.” So, here is another very selective way of interpreting the analysis–chosen to slant the news in a highly negative manner. On the other hand, if this Act only enables people to make choices–i.e., they don’t have to work quite as much just to pay health care, couldn’t that possibly be a good thing? In the business of our first objective of late, to create jobs, is it necessary for us to force into employment those who do not choose to make more, who are happy to enjoy a more modest life with a little less work?

Thiessen goes on to attach the Obama minimum wage raise proposal, as costing jobs. Here is what the conservative Economist magazine has to say about that (Dec 13, 2013): “[…] a moderate minimum wage [is not] as undesirable as neoclassical purists suggest. Unlike those in textbooks, real labour markets are not perfectly competitive. Since workers who want to change jobs face costs and risks, employers may be able to set pay below its market-clearing rate. A minimum wage, providing it is not set too high, could thus boost pay with no ill effects on jobs.” The analysis goes on to explain that when the new wage is at or below 50% of the median, it does not cost jobs and helps poor people, possibly increasing growth of the economy (they spend the money). So, they conclude, it works for the US, but not for Germany.

For another, more accurate viewpoint, consider Paul Krugman’s opinion of the Affordable Care Act, in the NY Times Feb 23, 2014 ( It looks like the Right cannot find any real examples of people who have been hurt by the new Act.

But let’s acknowledge one thing about this Act: It IS a form of redistribution. There, I said the hated word–redistribution. And a little redistribution is just what we need. Health care is one very good arena in which to do a little redistribution.

I’m waiting for the Right to make their own proposal regarding health care? Are they simply afraid to do so?

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