On Wednesday’s “Special Report” on the Fox News Channel, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer and National Journal’s Ron Fournier debated the merits of ObamaCare amid the controversy created by the release of a Congressional Budget Office report earlier this week that revealed discouraging projections for full-time employment.
Partial Transcript as Follows:
KRAUTHAMMER: I’m glad I’m back tonight because the statement that Carney made is going to be emblazoned on the tombstone of liberalism. He says opportunity — this is what he’s heralding in this achievement, that the government is giving opportunity for people to decide if they want to work. This is the liberals’ ideal of the opportunity society. Of course, in a free society, you can decide if you want to work. But what Obamacare does, and so the essence of liberalism, is now can choose not to work, and the people who do work end up subsidizing you. Those people have to send their money to the government and then shift it to the people who choose in this ideal new opportunity society not to work.
And in fact, what Elmendorf said, the head of the CBO, today is obviously, Obamacare with a disincentive, is creating an incentive not to work. And Ryan is right. It’s particularly in the one place where you want the incentive because it is the only way out of the ladder, of people who are unsuccessful in society is to work, to get the training and the habits and the dignity of work. And this does exactly the opposite.
Now, you can argue it’s an inevitable side effect of any kind of benefit of this sort, but that’s not the argument the administration is making. This is a benefit, a wonderful thing that we’re giving people the opportunity not to work and to live off the sweat and work of other people. Is that the American way? That sounds odd to me.
SHANNON BREAM, Fill-in host of “Special Report”: And Mara, America is seen around the world as a place of opportunity, and maybe people don’t think of opportunity in these terms, the opportunity to not work. You know, it’s different than the fabric of what a lot of people think our country is.
MARA LIASSON, NPR: I can tell you that this whole debate over the CBO report and the Affordable Care Act has been a terrible, terrible conversation for the White House and for Democrats, because we have now gotten into down the rabbit hole of whether this is going to encourage people to not work. I don’t think that the health care subsidy is enough for people to live on, so they’re not going to work. It just helps them buy health insurance. It’s not a guaranteed income. It’s not like we’re giving a check to somebody.
BREAM: But it makes more sense when they do all the calculations, more sense for them financially to stay home.
LIASSON: They could be somebody older. They could be a mother who wants to stay home with her kids, which Republicans would applaud. The problem with this entire debate is that the Democratic argument is complex. It’s nuanced. It’s very, very hard to explain in a way that people will accept. The Republican side is simple. Hey, the CBO report says that the Affordable Care Act subsidies are going to be an incentive for people not to work full time. That’s pretty simple.
BREAM: Ron, I know you think the reality is somewhere between the two arguments.
FOURNIER: What really frustrates me if you look at the CBO report, it talks about two very big systematic changes. One is how do we extend health insurance to 50 million people who don’t have it and maybe bring down costs and fix this broken system. And two is how do we address, and this hasn’t been covered at all, how do we address this long-term pernicious debt problem we have in this country.
The numbers in the report about where we’re heading with the deficits and the long-term debt are really scary. Instead of talking about the problems like adults in a mature way, we’re going to our battle stations, running to the easiest talking point, and not solving these problems.
KRAUTHAMMER: I don’t think it’s a talk point if the CBO says, I’m assuming they are, everybody accepts impartial, that built into this is a huge disincentive for anybody who is getting this health insurance to end up working —
FOURNIER: We should get rid of Medicare and Social Security as well because they’re just incentives.
KRAUTHAMMER: Medicare is meant for the elderly.
LIASSON: No, 52-year-olds work. You don’t have to be retired to get Medicare.
KRAUTHAMMER: You’re talking about the only people who cannot work. There’s no argument other those who are either disabled or elderly or children who can’t work. What we’re talking about is people who can work and don’t. What Carney is saying is we’re now granting the opportunity of people to decide how they want to work and if they want to work. Is that an achievement that the government subsidizes you and uses the money of people who do work to enable an able-bodied 20-year-old, 30-year-old, to decide I’m not going to work?
FOURNIER: That would not be a good achievement. My understanding of the CBO report and the testimony today, is first it would create more opportunity — more demand for work force, instead of lowering the unemployment. Secondly, it doesn’t give people, especially young able- bodied people, the ability to stop working and retire on the dole. It gives you more freedom to go into small business if you want to. It gives you more freedom to be able to stay home with your family if you need to. It unlocks you from your job. There’s a lot of people out there right now who are tied to their job. They can’t leave it because of health insurance, and they want to go to other jobs or other opportunities.
KRAUTHAMMER: But when they choose not to work, where do they get the money from? From other people who are working.
FOURNIER: You’re twisting it.
KRAUTHAMMER: Where do the taxes come from? It doesn’t grow on trees.
FOURNIER: This is not a retirement system, though. What it is, is a subsidy to help you get health insurance so you’re not tied to had job you have.
LIASSON: If you’re not working, you can’t have a subsidy. You have to have a certain income to get a subsidy.