The Jobs Problem: Life on the Margins

The sad reality is that poverty is not as complex as the left seems to want to make it out to be, and the solutions to the poverty problem don’t actually need to be complex or even expansive.

What do we do about the poor and disenfranchised?

This question in many ways defines the political landscape of the United States, and there are so many stark divides, even within the political parties, that it’s difficult to discuss this issue without hyperbole. We need to focus on the reality of the problem, if there’s any hope of making headway on the issue. Everyone can agree that it is a real social moral good to alleviate poverty and suffering as much as possible, but we can’t kid ourselves. This problem has plagued mankind since the dawn of civilization, so if there were some magic bullet policy that could totally eliminate suffering and poverty for all people, everywhere, surely, it would have been discovered by now.

The reality is that we live in an imperfect world, with limited resources, and quantifiable but effectively unlimited demand. We are stuck with people who have various motivations, some good and some bad, with no way to tell the difference. The whole problem with the “principle of fair“, then, is that there is no way to distribute limited resources to everyone equally in the real world. And worse, to impose this “fairness” on everyone, we necessarily have to violate the rights and liberties of tens of millions of people. Clearly, to the rational person, there is no question that such a solution would not only fail utterly to address the problem of inequality, but would also increase general unhappiness of the people. Incredibly, this is exactly what the policy of this nation has been for the last 50 years.

In a Gallup poll taken in 2009 regarding income tax rates, a plurality of Americans (48%) said that their tax rates were “about right“, while almost as many Americans (46%) said that their taxes were too high. Only a tiny fraction of Americans (3%) thought that their tax rates were too low. Now this was while the Bush era tax cuts were still in place. Obama not only allowed those tax cuts to elapse, he has also imposed new additional taxes, increasing the burden on all Americans. The current Gallup polling shows that the majority of Americans (51%) now think that taxes are too high. A minority of Americans (42%) believe that taxes are “about right”, and the same tiny minority of Americans (3%) still believe that taxes should be higher.

Leftists will regularly (and inaccurately) assert with great conviction that we live in a “democracy”; though isn’t it curious that they then imposed tax increases that were opposed by 93% to 94% of Americans and only 3% of Americans supported? Why is it only a democracy when it’s convenient for their arguments, but those democratic principles are ignored when they are imposing taxes?

As far as welfare spending, Americans are fairly split on the issue of welfare, but a shift in popular perception of welfare is occurring in the political debate. Another collection of polls found that a plurality of Americans (47%) believe that the government programs for the poor are actually causing actual harm to the welfare of the poor. Many Americans are beginning to realize that dependency on the State is not the same thing as increasing opportunity, and, in many ways, the two goals are mutually exclusive.

The Definition of Insanity

The sad reality is that poverty is not as complex as the left seems to want to make it out to be, and the solutions to the poverty problem don’t actually need to be complex or even expansive. While some individual situations may be more difficult than others, the best solution to poverty is creating a robust jobs market with greater opportunity for all, not just the educated, not just the privileged and well connected, but for everyone. From the kid on the street who might not even finish high school to the single mother who had to put aside aspirations of higher education to take care of ailing parents, all citizens of all stripes deserve a shot at a future of opportunity, not simply of welfare.

Not every person out of the work force or on welfare is a charity case. In fact, millions of Americans are out of the work force simply because they can’t find a job where they live, even if they live in large cities where jobs were once plentiful. A total of 9 million Americans lost their jobs in the recession of 2008 through 2009. And every year, from 2008, through now, about 2 million workers (at least 18 years old) have been entering the job market every single year. Since the beginning of 2008, that’s 16 million new workers who needed jobs of some kind. All together, that is about 25 million Americans who either entered the job market for the first time or lost their job during the recession. Every single one of them not only just needs a job, they deserve one.

So the needs of the country are clear, how many jobs has the economy under this administration created? According to the White House’s own numbers, the economy under Obama has failed spectacularly to create even half of the jobs needed, creating only 11 million private sector jobs since the end of the recession in 2010. Even if we account for 200,000 Baby Boomers leaving the job market (a conservative estimate based on assumptions about the delay of retirement caused by the recession), that is 3 million jobs short of what was needed, with even generous assumptions. In fact, in order to get back on track in the remaining 16 months of his presidency (including October) and to accommodate an additional 2 million new workers entering the work force in 2016, the economy will need to create 312,500 jobs every month, until January 2017 when Obama’s second term comes to an end.

The most jobs in a month created under Obama was 518,000 in May 2010, right before four consecutive months of losses, totaling 282,000 jobs lost, for a net job creation rate of 47,200 jobs per month from May through September of 2010. Over the 81 months since 2009, there have only been 8 months with more than 312,000 or more jobs created. And since 2013, there have only been 5 months that met this requirement. Suffice to say, the chances of hitting a stride of 16 months of consecutive jobs created on target a month are pretty slim. It’s clear by now that the administration, fully influenced by a tiny minority of far left elite, is set on continuing with more of the same. It’s unlikely that we are to experience different results, so how do we get out of this mess?

The Red Pill

The left and the right come at this problem with two very different answers, the reality is that the left has owned this issues since the 1930’s and the New Deal, 1960’s and the start of the “War on Poverty”. And the economic policy since 2009 to today has been the standard “democratic” socialist/Keynesian playbook of the last century. As the recent weakening employment numbers continue to show, the economy continues to slip further and further behind.

The last time the economy was in such a place (1978-1981), it required a bold new vision to turn the economic situation around. America got only a taste of what conservative ideas can do, and we sorely need that kind of bold vision again today, because the leftist playbook that’s been in force since the 1960’s is clearly not only not working but is actually hurting the American worker and the American poor. It’s time to put someone else behind the wheel and try the conservative solutions to employment and poverty, because America and her people deserve better.

We’ll deal with the solutions in the next article.

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