Washington's Addiction to Uncle Ben's Funny Money™
The United States is evolving from the most production nation in the world to a nation which does not work. Welcome to the Total Dependency Economy.
You've probably already seen December's dismal jobs report. The headline number looked pretty decent at 6.7, down three tenths since November. But not even the panel on MSNBC's Morning Joe could mask the disheartening numbers below the headline. Joe Scarborough called last month's 74,000 net new jobs "a horrific number," and Michelle Caruso-Cabrera added that the report was "very, very bad."
Worse was the labor force participation rate as spotlighted by the scary-ass chart above from the Federalist, which dropped to a 35-year low. And perhaps most frightening was the fact that another 347,000 Americans left the labor force last month, some due to age but many due to despair. Cox Radio's Jamie Dupree notes that for the last quarter of 2013, the labor force shrank by an ominous average of 45,000 a month. October looked strong as 659,000 people entered the workforce for a change, but that gain was utterly wiped out in November and December, when not even the promise of temporary holiday work could tempt people back into the labor pool.
We can excuse some of December's lousy figures on the lousier weather, but AEI's James Pethokoukis says the weather isn't entirely to blame:
In December, the labor force participation rate sank to 62.8% vs. 63.0 % in November and 63.6% a year ago. If the participation rate had stayed steady the past 12 months, the jobless rate would be 7.9%. The entire jobless rate drop from last month was due to workers fleeing the workforce. And don’t blame the weather for this one.
The big debate in Washington -- aside from Bridgegate that is -- is over just how long to extend unemployment benefits. Republicans are eager to allow a three-month "temporary" extension, to give Congress and the White House time to find corresponding budget cuts. The White House doesn't want any cuts anywhere, because even with continuing record deficits, cowboy poets must also remain dependent on Washington's largess. The State Department last year spent $5.4 million on "exquisite crystal glassware."
Meanwhile, a record 92,000,000 Americans aren't in the labor pool, and total employment remains below where it was at the start of 2008, before the Great Recession.