We Americans may disagree about how public assistance programs are handled, but nearly all of us are on the same page about one thing: If someone is unable to support himself, we'll step in, to the extent our resources allow, to help. That's just the way we are.
Now comes troubling news: Millions of people may choose to work fewer hours or quit their jobs solely because Obamacare makes it financially attractive to do so.
That assessment comes from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which has an excellent reputation for objectivity and accuracy. The CBO explained that Obamacare provides free or subsidized health insurance for those who meet income guidelines. Many people may decide to reduce the number of hours they work or drop out altogether in order to take full advantage of the subsidies.
And guess who pays for those subsidies? The rest of us, who keep our noses to the grindstone because we just don't think it's right to take advantage of government programs meant to help those who can't help themselves.
CBO analysts aren't just talking about a few people, here and there. The amount of work those taking advantage of the Obamacare subsidies will forgo may be equal to 2.3 million full-time jobs by 2021, the office estimates.
That's a lot of freeloaders.
And that's the right word for them.
A substantial amount of misunderstanding about the CBO's analysis seems to have occurred. Some critics of Obamacare seem to think it involves employers who reduce the hours of part-time workers to avoid having to provide them with health insurance. That is not what CBO researchers said.
What the CBO is saying is that some people who could work and take home wages they could use to pay for their own health insurance will choose instead to quit or cut back so they can qualify for Obamacare subsidies. This isn't a matter of a company forcing employers to cut back on hours, it's a question of people voluntarily reducing their time at work so their paychecks get them below the limit for Obamacare subsidies.
That's outrageous. It casts a whole new light on the advertisements the Obama administration used to persuade young people to sign up for the insurance program. You know the ones, with the fellow lounging around in his pajamas.
This isn't how our nation is supposed to work. Has anyone stopped to consider what would happen if everyone decided to let the government support them? Why on earth should many of us pay more for insurance - and in taxes - so a few million of our neighbors can stay home from work?
Defenders of Obamacare spin the issue predictably. Why, the law gives people a wonderful new opportunity to stay home and, perhaps, enjoy the children, some liberals say.
Wouldn't we all like to have that opportunity? But it's not open to most of us.
Folks, the America many of us thought we knew is changing. According to one estimate, as many as half the people in this country pay no income taxes.
Millions of them are retired and collecting Social Security. They paid their dues and are entitled to a break. They are not freeloaders.
But what of the tens of millions of others? Not paying taxes means they have no financial stake in how much money the government spends on programs ranging from food stamps to Obamacare. Hey, the more lavish the benefits, the better, as far as they're concerned.
Talk about unsustainable. We can't stay on this road.
Members of Congress, of both political parties, need to think soberly and objectively about the CBO report. Allowing people to quit jobs or reduce their work hours solely in order to take advantage of Obamacare subsidies is both wrong and, again, unsustainable. Whatever Congress needs to do to stop that sort of abuse should be done immediately - whether President Barack Obama likes it or not.
Myer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.