In trying to debunk election year myths, Kevin Drum writes the following:
Obama should have focused like a laser on jobs instead of fiddling around with health care reform. To some extent, this is obviously a matter of opinion. If you're David Brooks and you think the health care bill was a lousy idea, then of course you think Obama should have spent less time on it. But the question is, would that have helped Democrats?
There's not much doubt that actually increasing employment would have helped. See No. 2. Employed people are people with disposable income, and people with disposable income are more likely to vote for the party in power.
But what could Obama have done to get more people working? Within a month of taking office, he had signed an $800 billion stimulus, 36 percent of which came in the form of tax cuts. Two months later, he announced a rescue plan (PDF) for GM and Chrysler, saving perhaps another million jobs. And later in the year, he proposed a further $200 billion jobs program, using unspent money from Bush's bank bailout.
By preventing health insurance companies from excluding people on the basis of pre-existing conditions, setting lifetime limits, and so forth, health care reform makes health care prospectively more expensive. Since employers pay for a lot of the health care in this country, that makes health care more expensive, a little bit now, a lot more in future. When employers hire, they are often or usually thinking about the long run, since there's usually a big expense involved in training a new employee and integrating them into a team. If employers know that (a) employee benefits are likely to be more expensive, and (b) nobody really knows how much more, naturally, they will be less eager to hire. So what could Obama have done in order to get more people working? Well, ... nothing would have been good. In particular, not passing health care reform would probably have worked like a charm. Not raising the minimum wage would have been another clever idea.
It's worth noting that the view (a) that health care reform cost America jobs but was worth it anyway because it's more humane, is much more tenable than (b) that health care reform was a free lunch and didn't cost America jobs at all. Yet no one seems to take position (a).