(Cartoon: IBD, Michael Ramirez)
By now you’re probably aware of the fact that many of America’s best-known fast food corporations are owned and operated by Christian conservatives. In and of itself, fine. But since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, aka. “Obamacare,” the owners of these corporations have taken turns bashing the law, while insisting that Obamacare will precipitate massive layoffs and fewer full-time hours.
Rewinding several years, the owners of Papa John’s, Denny’s, Applebee’s and other dealers in semi-edible crapola tossed around all kinds of threats about the impact of the law. Denny’s franchise owner Zane Tankel (real name) said he would hire fewer full-time employees because of the law’s employer mandate. Around the same time, evangelical conservative John Schnatter of Papa John’s threatened cut back hours in order to compensate for the allegedly punitive cost of the mandate. Along those lines, let’s back up for a second and lock down the basics of the employer mandate section of the law. The mandate requires that businesses with more than 100 employees (50 or more employees when it’s fully phased in) provide health insurance coverage for 70 percent of full-time equivalent employees (30 hours or more per week) and dependents up to age 26. Sounds reasonable for the workers, especially knowing how simple it’d be overcome the minimal increase in costs (we’ll circle back to this). Unfortunately, we’re not talking about reasonable people.
It’s important to note that Papa John’s pulled down $1.218 billion in revenue in 2011 alone, and the cost of the mandate would probably increase costs by around 0.4 percent in the near-term (but the law could actually help Schnatter’s bottom line due to healthier, happier workers missing fewer hours on the job). To repeat, that’s point-four percent in exchange for providing stronger benefits for the people who make the whole thing run.
That was 2012. Three years later, they’re still screeching about Obamacare.
Earlier this month, Andy Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants which controls Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, published a completely misleading editorial in The Wall Street Journal and, among other things, wrote that Obamacare “has caused millions of full-time jobs to become part-time.” Millions, he wrote. That’s a lot.
Puzder’s claim, “millions of full-time jobs,” has no basis in statistical reality. At least, that was Politifact’s determination. The popular fact-checking site examined the claim quite thoroughly and discovered that there aren’t any studies proving that millions of jobs have been negatively impacted by Obamacare. Politifact’s ruling:
The bottom line, we found, is that there isn’t enough data to state a number with any specificity. Suggesting that it’s “millions,” as Puzder did, is speculative — something he acknowledged to PolitiFact. At the same time, the number of people experiencing a cut in hours isn’t trivial, with informed estimates putting it into the low hundreds of thousands of people.
So, only after publishing this claim as fact in one of the biggest papers in the world, Puzder backpedaled when confronted by a website days after the fact, raising the important question: how many times did his “millions of full-time jobs” claim travel around the world before the truth got its pants on at Politifact, where Puzder said he had just speculated about the “millions of full-time jobs” claim? Yet there’s no speculative language in his article: “Obamacare has caused millions of full-time jobs to become part-time…” Has caused, not may have caused.
Politifact quoted several studies, one of which found a 0.6 percent increase in part time workers in the first half of 2014, but the study didn’t cite Obamacare as having caused this minuscule blip. The study attributed the bump to the economic recovery. A second study showed a “small rise” in employees working 25-29 hours per week — however, those employees had previously worked 25 hours per week, meaning that employees might actually be working more hours, not fewer. And finally, Ben Casselman from Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com told Politifact, “The health law has likely led a few hundred thousand workers to see their hours cut or capped. That’s small in the context of an economy with 150 million workers.” A few hundred thousand is a lot less than “millions.”
On top of everything else, the elephant in the room is this: the mandate was just implemented this month, January, 2015. So, if it’s true that “millions” of (more likely a few hundred thousand) workers had their hours reduced, why did the cutbacks take place many months if not years prior to the implementation of the mandate? In light of this information, the connection between Obamacare and any cut-backs taking place prior to December 31, 2014 is highly dubious, if not totally cosmetic.
That leads us back to Obama. Could it be possible that these companies are simply exploiting the existence of the divisive law in order to cut back worker hours for other reasons, creating a double-win: cutting costs while blaming the cost-cutting on Tyrant Obama? How else do we explain the disconnect between statistical reality and the whining from Schnatter, Puzder and others?
The most damning aspect of this problem is the simplicity of the solution. In Papa John’s case, Forbes determined that Schnatter could make up for the cost of the mandate by raising the price of his pizzas by an unnoticeable 3.4-cents per pie. Problem solved, that is if the actual cost of the law was the real problem. It’s not. These owners simply don’t like Obama and are willing to screw their own employees to damage the president. For what it’s worth, Schnatter donated thousands of dollars to the 2014 campaigns of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA).
If my theory is accurate, it’s difficult to point to another chapter in history when an entire tranche of major billion-dollar corporations decided they didn’t like a president or his policies and therefore manipulated the lives of workers in order to push back against the White House, effectively using employees as a political cudgel. You can bet there are more than a few newly minted Republicans and Obama-haters who had their hours cut by Schnatter and Puzder, which case, mission accomplished.