The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a new report on Friday, and the right wing has jumped on it as alleged proof of Obama’s economic failures. According to the BLS, a record 93.77 million people are not in the labor force at all, meaning they’re neither employed, nor looking for work. That’s nearly one-third of the U.S. population, so it’s a staggering number. Right-wing blogs and publications are having a field day with this.
Allen West, on his blog, says that labor force participation is at a 38-year low. He believes that the BLS released this information on a Friday so that the news outlets would pick it up over the weekend when Americans wouldn’t notice. The whole post is about how disastrous this is for the nation, and how he’s tired of being one of the people who’s “pulling the wagon” of unemployed people. Thanks, Obama.
Breitbart picked up on this, too, and wrote a story about it that was short, sweet and to the point. While they did mention that the official unemployment rate had remained low, and that non-farm jobs had increased by more than 200,000, they, too, only really highlighted the 93.77 million statistic.
What’s wrong with these two stories? It’s quite simple, really: they didn’t delve into why that number is that high. That’s likely intentional, as that number makes Obama look really, really bad, and that’s what they want. Anything to stick it to the black man in the White House.
Pew Research looked into it, however, and shed some light on just what that number means. Two demographics are contributing to that statistic in a way that’s probably surprising to the economically-deaf right. Teens and young adults aren’t as interested in finding jobs as they used to be.
Why is that? Shouldn’t everyone want the dignity of having a job and knowing they’re contributing to society, and not live off the backs of hardworking Americans? With our jobs market, it doesn’t work that way. The well-paying jobs are few and far between, with the market dominated by low-paying service jobs. We also have a horrifically discouraging, ever-increasing wage gap between the average worker and executive officers.
Pew says there’s a possibility that these young people would rather stay in school, or go back to school, than risk that jobs market. This is almost understandable, since the main reason people have jobs is to support themselves and their families. This is something that the right conveniently forgets when they talk about wealth and income inequality, and the minimum wage. One question that these economically-deaf idiots on the right never ask, nor answer, is what, exactly, is the point of having a job if you can’t support yourself and your family with it?
Pew also notes that researchers actually disagree about why people drop out of the labor force. The Congressional Budget Office says that cyclical weakness accounts for only some of this startling number, while two economists over at the Federal Reserve say that’s the main reason for the number.
Of course, we can’t expect the right to report any of this until there’s a Republican in office, and they’re on the defensive. Then they’ll tell the whole story. Until then, they’re perfectly happy to try and make people say, “Thanks, Obama.”
Another demographic that’s dropped out of the labor force is people age 55 and over. They account for more than half of the 93.77 million, according to Pew. They’ve made up more than half of the people entirely out of the labor force since the year 2000 – way before Obama even thought about running for president.
Obama is limited in what he can do for the jobs market. He can’t write and sign legislation, he can’t issue executive orders that affect the whole economy, and he can’t issue ultimatums to Congress to do something. However, so many people are so sure that the president has the power to steer the economy that we have a ton of presidential candidates who are saying that they’ll bring the good jobs back to the U.S.
An op-ed on CNN, from back in April, says that the lack of wage growth is puzzling for economists. Even if it weren’t, the right would still blame Obama, because they’d rather do that than listen to what the economists are saying. Oddly enough, one of the things that author Rick McGahey mentions, as reason for stagnation, is the utter failure of companies to share their productivity gains with their workers. The right never mentions this, and the whole government is limited in what they can do to address it, except to stop pushing trickle-down theory. They won’t do that, though. They’ll continue to say that it’s Obama’s evil, socialist policies that have caused this, and not trickle-down.
So, while 93.77 million people out of the labor force entirely sounds awful, it’s important to understand what that number means, and what’s driving it. It’s not Obama, it’s considerably more complicated, but the right doesn’t care.