There was a young mother out there working 40 hours a week who wanted to work fewer hours so she could spend time with a child.
Then there was a 62-year-old who had saved enough money to retire and wanted to.
There was a person with a great idea who wanted to develop her own product or open her own shop.
And the person who was fighting cancer and wanted to move to another state.
And the reason they did not follow their heart’s desire? For many, it has been the impossibly high cost of health insurance for an individual, a single family, a start-up business or a person with a pre-existing condition.
One of the goals of the Affordable Care Act was to help people buy their own health insurance, freeing them to make better choices for themselves.
Now, as people begin using their ACA health insurance, it should come as no surprise that people will start taking advantage of those new opportunities.
Last week, the Congressional Budget Office reported that as many as 2 million Americans under the age of 65 will choose to either work fewer hours or leave the workforce during the next 10 years.
Which you might think would be good news, the fulfillment of the ACA’s promise.
But in the way only Washington politics can do, daylight was mistaken for doom-and-gloom for political purposes. The report was twisted to say our economy will lose 2 million jobs during the next decade.
It took some wilful misreading of the report to call it a “job-killer,” but that’s what critics did by pretending that when an employee goes part-time the work they were doing disappears.
In the real world, employers want the most motivated person available.
They understand it is far better to have people enthusiastic about working than feeling trapped by our antiquated health insurance system.
Economists, meanwhile, like those at the CBO, realize that if a 62-year-old chooses to retire, it simply opens up a slot for another person, perhaps someone eager to do that job, to step up and take it.
That may open up another position in a company, or it might allow the company to hire someone from the outside.
And remember, we have about 10 million people actively looking for work who would be happy to take up the slack.
Much is made of the large number of Americans who have simply dropped out of the work force, usually followed by speculation that they are all welfare cheats or young guys contentedly playing video games in their parents’ basement.
While many people complain about what appears to be a spreading antipathy toward work in the U.S., AOL Jobs actually tried to account for these “missing” workers.
They started with the basics: 55 percent of Americans do not work, then broke it down from there.
About 38.7 percent of the total number not working are children, 19.7 percent are retired and about 8.8 percent of them are unemployed.
(Remember, these unemployed account for 8.8 percent of the total number of people not working, which is different than the unemployment rate of 6.6 percent.)
About 8.3 percent are non-working students over 16 years of age, 1.3 percent are in prison, and about 1.3 percent stopped looking for work. About 7.5 percent are disabled and 3 percent are stay-at-home moms.
Another nearly 1 percent of those technically counted as “not working” are in the military and about .03 are under psychiatric care.
So, where are the 10 percent of those missing non-workers hiding?
Here’s where things get fuzzy because no one has a firm count of a few well-known groups: rich people and their children who have no reason to work, early retirees, the homeless, dependent spouses and full-time caregivers of children, parents and relatives.
Count them as unproductive bums if you want, but we wouldn’t.
Then there’s a very large group of people working, but off the clock and under the table. They are invisible, but they are working.
You can now count that mysterious group of non-workers largely accounted for.
None of which means we don’t have serious economic challenges, largest among them a stagnant birth rate combined with a rapidly aging population.
But allowing people to set their hours by their stage in life is a solution, not a problem.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.