Everything about President Obama's grand takeover of everyone's aches and pains puts the pain in a new place. The only relief he can promise is that the pain is more tolerable today than it will be tomorrow.
If the failing economy doesn't kill you, Obamacare will. The only good news if that the abundant bad news over there might take your mind off your troubles over here. The jobs market here, such as it is, is likely to continue in the dumps. Come back soon.
Many businesses, some large and some small, are moving toward an ever-larger part-time roster of workers, all with no health insurance. Employers are rarely happy with a part-time arrangement; employees never are. Employers get workers only 50 percent loyal to the company, and employees are often expected to perform full-time work at half pay.
Everybody usually thinks he's getting cheated, and for once everybody is usually right. Employers complain that part-timers are often not available when the job needs them, and the part-timers complain that work schedules are erratic and subject to last-minute change.
"Part-time work is a lot better than no work," says a 23-year-old waitress in an upscale California restaurant. "But it's not what I expected two years out of college. I can't believe I voted for this. This is not the change I wanted, and it feels like there's no hope."
The number of part-timers who say they can't find full-time work has doubled and doubled again since the Great Recession jumbled everything. "There has been a surge in part-time work," Apana Mathur, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, tells NPR News. "You want to maintain flexibility so you can respond to the economy without having to carry the costs of hiring and firing full-time employees."
Many businessmen are still shell-shocked by the effects of the recession, both by its severity and the reductions in numbers required to survive. Since January, companies have added 93,000 part-timers a month and just 22,000 full time. Part-timers are easily hired and easily dismissed. A year ago, these numbers were reversed.
The harsh reality in the June unemployment figures was hidden in the headlines over the news that the unemployment rate held steady at 7.6 percent and that the economy added 195,000 jobs. The small type told a different story. The "gains" were all in part-time jobs.
Mr. Obama can continue to blame this on George W., though almost nobody any longer believes it. For decades, the Democrats pinned every hic and burp in the economy on Herbert Hoover, who was even held responsible for a shortage of rabbits. The out of work and hungry were said to have eaten the wild bunnies faster than rabbit romance could restock the meadow and woods.
Excuses eventually wear out.
Mr. Obama wasn't responsible for the recession, only for making it worse. But the health care train wreck called Obamacare is all his. Mitt Romney, in the first presidential debate last year, apologized for adopting the term "Obamacare," coined in the newspapers. The president waved away the apology, saying he liked the term. He should take his pleasure in it now, before the train collides with reality.
Many employers are looking to hire even more part-timers before Obamacare kicks in with the requirement that employers with more than 50 full-time workers must offer "affordable insurance" to employees working more than 30 hours a week.
It's this approaching reality that dampens prospects for a full economic recovery. If an employer thinks the economy won't get much better right away, he will become one of the "49ers," limiting his payroll to 49 employees.
Grateful as they may be for a job, part-timers feel too much at the mercy of their employer's needs. "Workers can get called in at any time," says Michael Wilder, a coordinator at Wisconsin Jobs Now, a union group that advocates for low-wage workers, "and sometimes you only get a couple of hours of notice before you have to start work. That makes it harder to deal with child care, transportation, doctor appointments and so on."
There's a sure cure for everyone's blues, but it will require nothing less than a Damascus road epiphany at the White House. Only a robust economic recovery — just what Barack Obama promised five years ago — will cure what ails us. More of the same won't do it, but more of the same is all this White House can offer. Excuses are all Mr. Obama and his men know, and that's a full-time fright.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.
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