April 15, 2011

Not Working: A Society in Decline

Justin Katz

A USA Today study finds that the percentage of Americans not working hasn't been higher since women began entering the workforce, and the percentage of men who are working has never been lower. Moreover:

In 2000, the nation had roughly the same number of children and non-working adults. Since then, the population of non-working adults has grown 27 million while the nation added just 3 million children under 18. ...

The aging of 77 million Baby Boomers born from 1946 through 1964 from children to workers to retirees is changing the relationship between workers and dependents.

Retirees generally are more costly to support than children.

Fewer children. More non-employed. A wave of pending retirements. Now stir this in:

A quarter of teenagers were jobless in March, representing a surprising increase from February, even as the unemployment rate for the rest of the population decreased.

So, not only are there fewer children, but fewer of them are forming the habits and skills of working.

The article about teen unemployment notes economists' expectation that increasing the minimum wage will only exacerbate things, as employers eliminate low-end positions that they can no longer afford and look for higher-skilled employees to fill the more-expensive positions that they keep. Meanwhile, the first article linked above ends with this:

Economist Eileen Applebaum of the liberal Center for Economics and Policy Research says the real problem is a lack of jobs. Another 25 million people would work in a healthy economy, and incentives such as child care assistance could help, she says: "We're getting richer. We can afford things. We just need to fix what needs to be fixed."

Those of us who are suspicious of the Left's ability to do such fixing might wonder how its solutions address the actual problem by continuing to expand and deepen dependency — of parents on government and of the young on parents and government. That strikes me as the opposite of the wise direction.

Indeed, progressives' proposed policies always represent a further step in the progression of covering up and papering over the adverse consequences of previous changes. Even with male exodus from the workforce and decreasing numbers of children, and decreasing proportions of them working, we're still hearing calls to somehow force the system to shift in favor of women to compensate for a debatable wage gap. Moreover, we're hearing calls to continue the dilution of marriage by severing the inherent link between it and childbirth.

Western civilization spent much of the past half-century undermining the family structure that secured its advancement toward prosperity. Papa Government isn't going to fill the gap, because the nuclear Western family ultimately encourages independence, while government encourages dependence. Parents will inevitably die; Big Government is eternal, unless killed.

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"In 2000, the nation had roughly the same number of children and non-working adults...."

Let me get this straight, the Bush era was period marked by the "left's ability to do such fixing?" OOOOK. One might be tempted to conclude that the legacy of the Bush administration is fewer Americans employed than at any time since women entered the workforce in large numbers.

Posted by: Russ at April 15, 2011 2:11 PM

Russ why so infatuated with Bush? This demise has to do with BIG Govt. becoming HUGE govt. The HUGE encompassing govt. is "family" for too many people. Bush expanded govt. also witness Medicare. The USA is the beacon of the world because of a belief in the individual that is served BY the govt....not the other way around. Unfortunately people can be pursuaded not to work if subsidised as such. How about 99 wks. of unemployment, food stamps,etc.?...........all paid for by (drum roll please)..the dwindling (employed) private sector.

Posted by: ANTHONY at April 15, 2011 3:57 PM

You could count the George Bush fans here on one hand and have a few fingers left over, Russ. Bush expanded government to unprecedented levels, just as Obama has done since he took office. Hence the emergence of the Tea Party Movement as a rejection of "Big Government Conservativism." Sorry to take the straw out of your strawman.

Posted by: Dan at April 15, 2011 4:24 PM

Even with male exodus from the workforce

Isn't this explained by the huge loss of construction jobs in the recent recession. A large percentage of those jobs were done by males.

Posted by: Phil at April 15, 2011 5:42 PM

I'm not a great fan of Ayn Rand, but note the following facts:
1. The recent Census tells us the state has 1,052,000 people.
2. According to today's projo the number of those employed is down to 508,000.
So we have 508,000 workers supporting 544,000 non workers.

"Turn out the lights the party's over"
Dandy Don Meredith

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at April 15, 2011 7:14 PM

Tommy Cranston,
Quickfacts.census.gov states that 21.5% of the population of Rhode Island is under 18, and 14.3% is over 65. The total for the two groups is 35.8% of the population. Multiply 35.8% by 1,053,209 (the entire state population)and you get 377,000 people either too young or too old to be in the work force. Subtract 377,000 from 544,000 non workers (your figure) and you actually get 167,000 people being "supported" (your word) by 508,000. Quite a different picture. Not a good one, but quite a different one.


Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 17, 2011 8:02 PM

"You could count the George Bush fans here on one hand and have a few fingers left over..."

Could have fooled me. This site spent the Bush years cheerleading expanding defense spending/police state powers and railing about social wedge issues. You few libertarian types are the exception (versus the many faux libertarians over here who use the language when it's politically expedient).

Posted by: Russ at April 18, 2011 10:55 AM

Russ, exactly which posts are you referring to about "expanding defense spending/police state powers", or are you "remembering" things from your own narrative?

Posted by: BobN at April 19, 2011 7:05 AM
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