Despite President Biden’s rosy jobs announcement Friday, America is heading into an economic crisis. What’s to blame? The Democratic Party’s disrespect for work and the people willing to do it.
Over the last two years, millions of Americans have quit working or even looking for work. Since they’re not looking, the US Department of Labor doesn’t count them as unemployed. If they counted, the unemployment rate right now would be 5.5% instead of the official 3.6% figure.
Joe Biden and the Democratic Party aren’t leveling with us. Biden is bragging about the latest jobs report, which showed 372,000 jobs added. What he’s not admitting is the bad news: Too few Americans are willing to go to work. They’ve decided to sit on the couch instead.
There are 500,000 fewer people working today than before the pandemic. And 11.3 million unfilled jobs. The labor-force participation rate remains well below pre-pandemic levels. What does that mean for the future? Lower productivity per capita, a scarcity of goods and services and a lower standard of living for all. Too few people carrying the load for the entire society.
The labor-participation rate is 62.3%, down from 63.4% before COVID. Retiring baby boomers account for some of the drop, but what’s worrisome is the number of working-age people, especially men, just throwing in the towel and counting on working stiffs to support them.
Why work at all?
What’s to blame? The most recent cause is an excessive expansion of social-welfare programs during COVID.
Andy Puzder, a former restaurant-chain CEO, explains that “during most of 2021, supplemental federal unemployment benefits” and other add-ons paid “entry-level workers more to stay home than to return to work.” No wonder restaurants and stores everywhere have had “Help Wanted” signs in the windows.
A June 2021 analysis by the Committee to Unleash Prosperity found that a family of four with two parents out of work earned around $72,000 in unemployment benefits. That’s more than the national median household income. Why work?
Welfare is important for anyone who’s unable to work. But it shouldn’t replace work for the able.
Face it, there’s a longer-term problem, as well. The Democratic Party has popularized the ethos that work isn’t necessarily a virtue and government should help you avoid it.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi advocated for the enactment of ObamaCare, promising it would liberate people from “job lock.” They wouldn’t have to work to get on-the-job health coverage. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, people could quit their jobs and become poets or whatever they wanted and still have coverage. Courtesy of the chumps still working and paying taxes.
Now California Democrats are pushing state legislation to slash the workweek to 32 hours for employees of large companies. Same pay for fewer hours. One of the bill’s sponsors, Cristina Garcia, argues preposterously, “There has been no correlation between working more hours and better productivity.” That’s la-la land.
America cannot afford to lose its work ethic. Europeans work fewer hours than Americans, and no surprise, their gross domestic product per capita is less, too. They produce fewer goods and services and have to settle for a lower material standard of living than Americans enjoy, including smaller homes and fewer appliances.
Now GDP is starting to decline in the United States because too few people are working and too many are sitting on the sidelines, mooching.
The Joe Biden of decades past — blue-collar Joe — used to say: “A job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about your place in the community.”
Biden needs to embrace that message again instead of misleading us as he did by praising Friday’s jobs report. Behind that report is a dire warning. Millions need to get off the couch and back to work.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York. Twitter: @Betsy_McCaughey