No, the Safety Net Is Not a Job Killer

Now that the economy is improving, we have the wherewithal to assess some of the predictions made by conservatives that this or that progressive policy would doom the recovery. At TNR Adam Nathaniel Peck looks at three of the more common ones and finds them almost entirely lacking in merit:

On January 1, 13 states raised their minimum wages as part of a larger nationwide effort—not only by progressives, but moderates and even a few conservatives—to help low-income workers who were struggling to make ends meet.

Still, such hikes were not without opposition. Notably, fast food companies sounded the alarm over the possible consequences of minimum wage hikes—namely, that consumers would pay higher prices and companies would be forced to cut jobs….

Six months after California’s minimum wage rose to $9, the state’s job growth continues to outpace nearly every other state in the country. In November, California added more than 90,000 jobs, its highest single-month total in almost two decades.

The Golden State is not alone. Of the 13 states that saw minimum wage hikes go into effect on January 1, all but New Jersey saw positive job growth in 2014. And as a group, those 13 states averaged significantly higher job growth than states that did not raise the minimum wage.

Then there’s the argument that allowing long-term unemployment benefits to expire, as Congress did at the end of 2013, would be good for the unemployment rate. Wrong.

2014 has come and gone, and the rate of long-term unemployed has shown exactly no relationship to the loss of benefits. The unemployment rate had been falling at a steady pace for years even with 99 weeks of benefits, and in the last 12 months the rate of decline has not quickened—meaning that the upside of eliminating unemployment insurance for nearly 5 million people was a fiction, and families were left without a safety net.

And finally, we have the suggestion that Obamacare would lead a vast number of companies to reduce the hours their employees worked to avoid Obamacare mandates:

A recent study from the Urban Institute concluded that, nine months since the insurance marketplace opened, there was little evidence that employers were hiring more part-time workers because of Obamacare.

There was some evidence of job losses related to the ACA in 2014, though: States that refused to expand Medicaid are expected to lose out on thousands of jobs and millions of federal dollars over the next several years. A George Washington University report estimates that North Carolina will lose out on 43,000 jobs by 2020, while a White House Council of Economic Advisers report said that rejecting expansion will cost Florida 64,000 jobs by 2016.

Think we’ll hear any mea culpas from the false prophets on these three topics? I sincerely doubt it.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.