Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) falsely blamed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this week for keeping “single moms” in part-time jobs, ignoring his own opposition to policies that could actually help single parents living in poverty.
Speaking at a campaign rally Monday in Las Vegas, Nevada, ahead of the state’s Republican primary, Cruz suggested that the ACA has worked as a barrier to keep single mothers from working full-time because they are instead forced to work multiple part-time jobs:
You know, the media tries to tell us that the Obama-Clinton economy is the new normal. That stagnation is what we should come to expect. That there’s nothing better. We have the lowest percentage of Americans working today since 1977. Wages have been frozen for 20 years. Median wages today are the same as they are, as they were in 1996. Now that has been driven by illegal immigration that Washington refuses to solve, and that has been driven by economic policies that hammer the living daylights out of small businesses …. Single moms, struggling to feed their kids, working two, three, four part-time jobs because Obamacare doesn’t let them work full-time. Seeing their wages held stagnant, driven down—all of that can turn around. And if we do the two major legislative initiatives I’m campaigning on—if we repeal Obamacare and pass a flat tax—we will see millions and millions of high-paying jobs for people struggling to achieve the American dream.
But this assessment was utterly wrong. Not only did Cruz get the basic facts about the ACA’s effects on jobs incorrect, he also failed to take into account the policies that could actually help improve the lives of single mothers—many of which he has actively opposed.
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A January study in policy journal Health Affairs found “little evidence” to support some lawmakers‘ fears that the ACA’s employer mandate, which requires those with more than 50 full-time employees to offer health insurance, would shift many full-time workers to part-time as employers attempted to side-step the law. Although the study found small changes to part-time work among some groups, CNBC reported, this “could not be attributed to the Obamacare employer mandate.”
A September 2015 survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust similarly found that between January and June 2015, the vast majority of employers did not push employees to part-time work or reduce the number of people they hired because of the ACA:
The percentage of firms that offer health benefits to at least some of their employees (57 percent) and the percentage of workers covered at those firms (63 percent) are statistically unchanged from 2014. Relatively small percentages of employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees reported switching full-time employees to part time status (4 percent), changing part-time workers to full-time workers (10 percent), reducing the number of full-time employees they intended to hire (5 percent) or increasing waiting periods (2 percent) in response to the law.
This is not the first time Ted Cruz has falsely claimed the ACA pushed people to part-time work. During a January GOP debate, Cruz said that the health-care law “is the biggest job-killer in this country, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, have been forced into part-time work.”
Fact-checkers and media outlets quickly called out the statement as a falsehood. Politifact gave Cruz’s assertion a “pants on fire” designation, writing, “By every measure, millions more people are working and millions fewer are stuck unwillingly in part-time work since the time the Affordable Care Act became law. The law might have affected part-time work for certain kinds of people, but that didn’t change the improvement in the overall numbers.”
There is one thing Cruz was right about, however: Wage stagnation is a huge problem for Americans. But according to economic experts, it isn’t health-care reform or “illegal immigration,” as Cruz suggested, that is primarily at fault.
Instead, the real culprits responsible for wage stagnation, which continues to fuel economic inequality in the United States, are policymakers who have prioritized raising the incomes of the top 1 percent of earners. Lawrence Mishel, Elise Gould, and Josh Bivens explained in a January 2015 report for the Economic Policy Institute that “wages were suppressed by policy choices made on behalf of those with the most income, wealth, and power.”
Among those policy changes listed by Mishel, Gould, and Bivens has been the failure to raise the minimum wage, which they write “had especially adverse effects on women” and people of color.
“Less than half of all workers are women, but they account for 75 percent of workers in the 10 lowest-paid occupations and about 60 percent of minimum wage workers,” explained Laura D’Andrea Tyson, the former head of the Council of Economic Advisers and the National Economic Council, in a 2014 article for the New York Times.
“And most women earning the minimum wage are not teenagers, or wives who can rely on a spouse’s income. About three-quarters of female minimum wage workers are above the age of 20, and about three-quarters of these women are on their own. Many, of course, are working and taking care of children,” Tyson continued.
In other words, many of the single mothers Cruz expresses such concern for would disproportionately benefit from increasing the minimum wage.
Yet Cruz has steadfastly opposed doing so. Speaking at a private donor event in January 2015, the Texas senator claimed that the existence of a minimum wage at all “hurts the most vulnerable.”
Cruz also voted against raising the minimum wage during his time in Congress. In 2014, he voted against the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, and in 2015 he voted against a budget amendment introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), which would have established “a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to promoting a substantial increase in the minimum wage.”
The worry Cruz showed for single mothers and their children also seems to fall short when it comes to other policies advocates say could make a difference in the lives of that group. Take paid leave, for example, which would provide paid time off to care for a new child or sick family member. Single parents face a greater risk that “caregiving will conflict with work,” according to the Center for American Progress.
A 2015 study of low-income mothers in New York City conducted by the Community Service Society found that, lacking paid family leave, many women with a new child experienced “financial hardships and anxiety about holding on to their jobs, forcing them to return to work quickly, some when their infants were just two or three weeks old.” Many were also forced to leave the workforce altogether because of lack of accommodations and job security.
“Because most of these women quickly exhausted their accumulated sick leave or few vacation days, and because they received no other form of compensation, they soon fell behind in their ability to pay their bills—even if they returned to work only a few weeks after having given birth,” the study found. “When employed, these women had lived very close to the edge, so the absence of a regular paycheck, even for only a short time, was enough to put them over the brink.”
Yet Ted Cruz does not support federal mandates for paid family leave that could help relieve some of the financial pressures parents face that force some out of the workforce altogether. Last September, Cruz told a representative of Make It Work Iowa that while he thinks “maternity leave and paternity leave are wonderful things” that he supports “personally,” he nevertheless doesn’t “think the federal government should be in the business of mandating them.”
Although Cruz may feign concern for “single moms, struggling to feed their kids,” his policy positions show a clear lack of desire to enact changes that would actually help those families.