by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[W]e still don’t have nearly enough adult Americans in the work force. Why? Government welfare policies are clearly keeping Americans — millions — from taking jobs.
Here is what we know: Across the country, there are between 5 million and 6 million unemployed Americans, but also an all-time record 10.1 million job openings. These are in construction, warehousing, retail, manufacturing, trucking, business services and so on. These aren’t “dead end” or even minimum-wage jobs in most cases. Open factory and truck driver jobs pay $50,000 to $100,000 a year with benefits.
But economist Casey Mulligan of the University of Chicago has found that when counting all government benefits, a family of four in high welfare-benefit states like New York and Connecticut and with two unemployed parents can receive up to $100,000 in cash, food stamps, etc.
Why work? In some cases, workers would see a cut in their income if they returned to their jobs.
Former Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow notes that President Biden and the Democrats in Congress have “done away with the successful bipartisan welfare reforms of the 1990s. Those required work.”
Now, it is almost as if Washington is intentionally discouraging work — even though COVID’s worst is behind us. Biden recently recommended that states like New York and New Jersey with high unemployment rates continue to extend bonus unemployment benefits for more months past the Labor Day deadline. He also increased food stamps by 25 percent.
There is another problem facing employers and workers. Inflation is running ahead of wages. So even though wages are up 4 percent, the cost of living is up more than 5 percent. Workers’ paychecks are shrinking as massive government borrowing and the multi-trillions of dollars of money being printed to fund the spending stampede in Washington sends the price tag for everything from gas to hamburger to airline tickets higher each week.