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ObamaCare and part-time employment: Shame on who?

President Obama thinks he’d make a great private-sector CEO. How else can you explain his recent criticism of office supply company Staples for cutting some employees’ hours? “Shame on them,” he said last month of the company’s executives. But before he comments again on a business’s employment decisions, the president may want to step back and ask why some companies are making such a difficult decision.

This will inevitably lead him to confront the real-world effects of his own policies—especially ObamaCare.

{mosads}Thanks to his signature health care law, employers throughout the country are being forced to make the same hard choices. ObamaCare’s employer mandate and redefinition of full-time work are the primary culprits.  Effective January 1, 2015, large employers like Staples must provide health insurance for 70 percent of their full-time workforce or face penalties of up to $3,000 per employee, with the exception of the first 80 employees. It also happens that the ACA defines full-time work as only 30 hours per week. The law’s architects assumed this 30-hour work week provision would force employers to cover more employees. 

That assumption proved wrong. The costs of providing health insurance are staggering under the ACA: Small businesses, which are the least able to handle cost increases, report paying an average of $11,868 more per employee per year since the ACA’s passage. Large companies have also seen their costs increase. As a result, some of them have cut employee hours to avoid triggering the coverage requirement altogether. The only other choices are to cut jobs or to raise prices to cover the higher costs—an unattractive option in today’s tepid economy.

This unsettling reality is apparent everywhere you look, with countless businesses having already made similar decisions. And it’s not just limited to multinational corporations: movie theaters, grocery stores, retirement homes—they’re all having to shift employees to part-time to avoid the ACA’s steep penalties.

Nor is this only happening in the private sector. Public school systems from coast to coast have been effected. K-12 districts have limited hours for their support staff, including janitors, drivers, cafeteria workers, and teachers. As one school board member in Virginia recently put it, a substitute teacher who works five days a week has essentially been “laid off a day and half” every week once their hours get cut.

Many public universities and community colleges have made the same cuts. For Ivy Tech Community College in Carmel, Indiana—a college which President Obama visited earlier this month– the employer mandate would have increased their health insurance costs by up to $12 million annually. Unable to afford the increases, school administrators were forced to cut the teaching hours of adjunct faculty. Miami-Dade College in Florida even instituted the same policy for which the president criticized Staples, capping part-time employees at 25 hours worked per week.

Who is being hurt by this trend? People who need every hour of work they can find. These are some of our neediest neighbors for whom economic conditions were already precarious enough without the added danger of losing work and wages. This partially explains why the country’s “underemployment rate”—unemployment as well as people who are involuntarily working part-time—stands at 12 percent, more than double the official unemployment rate.

Yet even when faced with these facts, President Obama still declares that ObamaCare has had no effects on employment. Just last month the White House claimed, “There is no evidence that [the ACA’s employer mandate and 30-hour definition of full-time work] has caused a broad shift to part-time work to date.”

Tell that to the line cook who used to work 35 hours per week but now works only 29. Tell that to the Virginia substitute schoolteacher who was effectively laid off a day and a half each week, or to the Ivy Tech students who no longer have the classes they want and need. At what point do facts outweigh narratives?

Obama might have a better answer to that question if he ever dealt with the day-to-day issues facing American businesses, large and small. In the White House, where you can run up trillions of dollars in taxpayer losses and still keep your job, it’s easy for him to second-guess a company’s hard decisions and call them shameful. The thousands of businesses which are now struggling to stay in the black aren’t so lucky, nor are the countless Americans who the president has pushed into part-time work.

Oelke is the VP of Operations at Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy organization..


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