Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Who’s Going to Work?

America is in a peculiar situation: Many able-bodied working age men 25-54 years old are not working. About 7 million men of working age are in this group.  The percentage of non-working men of the age group 25-54 is higher now that it was at the end of the Great Depression in the 1930’s! Is this because of an economic decline in gross domestic product (GDP); or is it because they are significantly disabled and unable to work; or because they do not have any family responsibilities that need monetary income? The answers to all these options is NO. These men are not working because of other reasons. What are the reasons?

This trend of work place drop-out has been evident since the mid 1960’s. This trend of voluntary unemployment has followed a persistently upward trend line not correlated with economic booms and recessions, indicating that weak market demand is not driving this tendency. Again, what is causing this exodus from the American work force?

This phenomenon in our culture may fairly be called a “flight from work.” This situation of working-age men not working is not because jobs are not available. As a matter of fact, manufacturers are finding it difficult to fill job vacancies because qualified men do not apply for the jobs.

No, I think we must look elsewhere for the cause of this “flight from work.” In years gone by, working men were called “tradesmen,” men who might rightly identify themselves as carpenters, plumbers, stone masons, brick layers, cement and asphalt workers, etc. They had jobs that required the application of hands and muscles. Those jobs gave these men their identities, they had real concrete work to do. Those men could look at a house and say, “I built that.” They could take satisfaction in a job they had done well.   

Now, however, many of those jobs have been taken over by machines or other kinds of technologies. The jobs that are left are on assembly lines tightening a thousand bolts every day on automobile chasses as they pass by the worker on a conveyer belt. That kind of work is humiliating and demoralizing; few workers can tolerate it for long. The drop-out rate from that kind of work is significant; and the drop-outs retreat to the couch or the soup kitchen.

In 1913 when Henry Ford launched his first fully automatic production line, he encountered something he had not expected. Every time the company wanted to add 100 men to their factory personnel, it was necessary to hire 963 men! The drop-out rate was huge.

The only part of this cohort of non-employed working-age men who largely hold jobs are married men living with their families and recent immigrants. The rest are lounging on the couch watching TV, binging on alcohol, sugar, pornography, and pain killers. Three out of five of these men are receiving at least one disability benefit from the government. It is conceded by thoughtful observers that this government financial benefit may not be the cause of all this unemployment, but it is certainly financing it!

Even though there may be reasons for the “flight from work,” one may still suspect that government handouts might be part of the cause for the phenomenon. A look at the numbers on government subsidy is enlightening. At this time, approximately 275 million people are receiving government financial support. Some people receive more than one kind of subsidy. Let’s look at the figures taken from the U.S. census for 2013. When looking at the figures below, bear in mind that we are considering a total population in the United States of 307 million: (numbers in the table are given in millions)

Food stamps
Women, infants, & children (WIC)
SSI (disability payments)
Subsidized housing
Veterans’ benefits
Social Security

One category that is rapidly growing is the category of Medicaid. In 1990 9% of the population was on Medicaid. By 2015, 19% of our population was on Medicaid. The people on Social Security and Medicare are mostly retired persons who have paid into those programs out of their working income from earlier years; I do not consider them to be recipients of welfare spending.

These figures are alarming; and it can be seen that our nation is fast becoming an entitlement organization. When one learns that Congressional Democrats are pushing for more Medicaid spending, one might wonder where all the money is coming from.

Think about it!

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