We all knew that Obamacare would be transformational, but I doubt any of us imagined it would radically reframe our vision of the American Dream. For two centuries, the American Dream was to come to this country, work hard and create a future for your kids and grandkids. It involved sacrifice for a better life ahead.
But in the last couple of weeks, Team Obama and Democrats in Congress have recast it: It’s to make dinner, pursue music and otherwise do whatever makes you happy.
While Rep. Keith Ellison (R-Minn.) claimed Obamacare will save future generations from…..takeout: "We are going to have parents being able to come home, working reasonable hours. People are going to be able to retire. People might actually be able to cook dinner rather than have to order out and get some takeout." (Just a little economics 101 reminder to Rep. Ellison: less takeout = less jobs).
So now we have a new American Dream. Quit that job you don’t like, because the government will provide the healthcare you need.
We already have problems with a declining percentage of Americans in the workforce. The workforce participation rate has declined since hitting a peak in 2000 (a pretty good time for the economy) and is now at a level not seen since 1979 (a pretty bad time for the economy). With Baby Boomers retiring and young and less educated struggling to find jobs, it’s a dangerous proposition to encourage more people to drop out of the job market.
But that is just what we’re doing, with the Congressional Budget Office projecting that Obamacare two million more people out of the workforce. That’s a good thing?
I was in Silicon Valley at the height of the dot-com bubble. I watched multi-millionaire 30-year-olds stop working just because they could. Or thought they could – many scurried back to jobs when the bubble burst and their stock option were worthless. It was an unhealthy thing than for the country to have able-bodied people out of our economic engine, and it’s just as unhealthy now.
We need our citizens to be hardworking, earnest and striving to build a better America – not opt out and enjoy health-care funded by someone else’s taxes.
That’s because over the last two decades the economic playing field has gotten stiffer. For fifty years we crowed to the world about what a great economic system we have, and they finally listened, adopted it and are giving us a run for our money. Right now it’s countries like China and India, but following closely behind will be Nigeria and countries most Americans couldn’t find on a map.
President Obama put it best in 2009 when talking about the Great Recession: "Many have lost jobs in this recession — the worst in generations. Many more are struggling to afford health care premiums and house payments, let alone to save for an education or retirement. Too many are wondering if the dream of a middle-class life — that American dream — is slipping away."
The solution is to create an environment where more people, not less, want to work. The workforce participation rate soared in the 1990 because Americans sensed opportunity. Government should be working to create that environment, not encouraging workers to undertake what amounts to one large Senior Skip Day.
We need all the players we can find to join the economic playing field. Pursue your dreams – but don’t lose sight that the American Dream is to build a better future for you and the next generation, not just to avoid takeout.
Galvin is a former political reporter and columnist with the New York Daily News and National Journal. He is now co-founder of 463 Communications.