The Great Vacation

I must say that I disagree with Richard Vedder’s explanation for why fewer Americans are working than ever before. In essence he subscribes to the “Great Vacation” theory of decreasing labor force size and blames the following:

  • Food stamps
  • Social Security disability payments
  • Pell grants
  • Extended unemployment benefits

I think that those measures do have some effect but probably not more than few percent of those who’ve left the labor force have done so because those handout programs have made not working so darned attractive. I think that any of the following are probably more significant in explaining what’s changed:

  • The rise of temporary and part-time work, at least partially as a response to various government requirements
  • Transportation costs
  • Two (or more) job families
  • Regulation or fear of regulation inducing companies to move jobs that people are actually able to do overseas
  • Currency manipulation by foreign governments making imported goods cheaper than domestically-produced goods

That’s just off the top of my head. I also think there’s a larger factor. People today don’t realize how hard we used to work. I used to work 60, 70, or 80 hour weeks. I didn’t get paid overtime or even receive comp time. It was just what the job required so I did it.

60 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw

    It’s nice that Vedder looks at the declining labor force participation rate trend as something going back to 2000, which is accurate. But its also true that the _male_ labor participation rate has been declining since 1980. The female increase disguises this. Increasing gender equality may be a counter-trend that disguises the longer trend.

    Part of this must be the decline in manufacturing employment, which also makes a 40-hour week important. Some people are purchasing leisure, some for parenting purposes.

  • Icepick

    Given the bullet points I’m disinclined to even read Vedder’s article. But I’ll give it a go when I get my daughter down for a nap and then I’ll speak on the matter as a subject expert.

    But the short reaction to the bullet points is that all four together can’t account for what is being seen, even a little bit, and are, frankly, bullshit.

    The problem is that there just aren’t enough jobs to go around PERIOD, FULL STOP.

  • Icepick

    Okay, his article was worse than I suspected. He did not show any cause and effect. Instead he showed rough correlations. For example, food stamp usage might be providing people incentives to stay “out of the workforce” (more on that in a moment), or food stamp usage might be up because fewer people can find jobs, or jobs that pay well enough.

    I have no doubt that some fraud is occurring in the SSDI program. Actually, I suspect a lot of the recent increase is because of fraud. But a lot of that fraud is people desperate to keep body and soul (and housing) together. Believe it or not, not everyone whose family is struggling can qualify for food stamps and other welfare programs. (This is especially true for households that used to be dual income, but now only have one source of income.) But that doesn’t mean they aren’t desperate for more funds.

    As for extended unemployment benefits: Apparently Dumb-ass, er, I mean Professor Emeritus Vedder, hasn’t heard that extended UEC is being cut. People are falling off the rolls as the programs are being cut-back. Hell, in Florida they’ve even reduced the length of the old core benefit. If this were a cause of falling participation rates, then the participation rates should start climbing again. Not to mention this annoying fact: A lot of 99ers (remember that term?) have been off the UEC rolls for more than 99 weeks now. They’re not getting jobs either.

    But let’s discuss Pell Grants, and college in general. Here he is most full of it. Quote:

    [A] study Christopher Denhart, Jonathan Robe and I did for the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (that will be released soon) shows that nearly half of four-year college graduates today work in jobs that the Labor Department has determined do not require a college degree. For example, over one million “retail sales persons” and 115,000 “janitors and cleaners” are college graduates.

    In 2000, fewer than 3.9 million young men and women received Pell Grant awards to attend college. The number rose one-third, to 5.2 million by 2005, and increased a million more by 2008. In the next three years, however, the number grew over 50%, to an estimated 9.7 million. That is nearly six million more than a decade earlier. The result is fewer people in the work force. Meanwhile the mismatch grows between the number of college graduates and the jobs that require a college education.

    Okay, so about as many college graduates are working as janitors or the like, or not working at all, as are working in jobs that require a college degree. Does this not suggest that there aren’t enough jobs out there for college graduates? If there aren’t enough jobs for college graduates, are there enough for young people that only have high school diplomas, or lack even that modest qualification? Seriously, who are you going to hire to scrub the toilets, the screw-up that dropped out of fifth grade, or the jerk-off with the Masters degree in Perpetual Victimhood? The second one is likely to be annoying as Hell, but only if you have to converse with them, and no one talks to the guy cleaning the stalls. And you know the second potential hire had enough stick-to-it-tiveness to get their masters degree, so dipshit probably won’t have to be told twice to clean the goddamned fixtures. What chance does a fifth grade drop out have even for the (literal) crap jobs?

    Given those grim employment stats for college grads, it suggest that people are taking Pell grants (and student loans) in an effort to find something to do in a crappy job market because there aren’t enough jobs.

    Not only does Vedder not show causality, in the case of Pell grants it is much easier to argue that people are taking them BECAUSE employment prospects are grim otherwise, rather than people are taking them to avoid working for a living.

    More in another comment to follow shortly.

  • Regarding grants:

    Yesterday at coffee, the English teacher at Alcorn U. was telling me about the young woman evening student, mother of four, who was pursuing her degree because she couldn’t advance at Walmart without one.

    She did very well at Walmart otherwise.

  • Icepick

    Let’s talk numbers. I’m not going to link to it again, but one can find some of these numbers at the FRED site, others at Mish’s website, and others here and there.

    The Great Recession (oughtta be called the Great Rescission instead, as the social contract has been rescinded) began in December of 2007. As of December 2012, we were still just shy of 4,000,000 jobs SHORT of where we were when the recession started. In a very real sense, the recovery isn’t. We’re that many jobs short, and that doesn’t even include that the median income keeps falling, that inflation is eating into poor and middle class people the most, or that many of those working are working shorter hours and making less money than they did before the recession started.

    We’re 4,000,000 jobs short, and we’re 43 months into the recovery. Forty-three months, and we’re still YEARS away from recovering all the lost jobs!

    But that’s only part of the picture. Because the population continues to grow. We need to add about 100,000 jobs a month to keep up with that population growth.

    (A brief digression: I have seen that number as high as 150,000, but typically in the last year people that follow and propagate this stuff seem to settle between 100,000 and 125,000 a month. Additionally, I have seen the number set as low as 90,000 just within the last week. I am choosing 100,000 for ease of use, and because for the most part that is a lower estimate for that number.)

    The recession started 61 months ago. That means that over time we would have needed to add over 6,000,000 jobs just to keep steady with where we were. Add that to the almost 4,000,000 short from the start of the recession, and we get to a jobs deficit of 10,000,000 to get back to where we were.

    So we’re 10,000,000 short from where we would be to match the wonderful days of 2007. Ten MILLION jobs short!

    Now there is also a demographic component, one that the President’s people love to make, which is that as the population gets older of course participation rates will fall: We’ll have more old, retired fuckers out on the golf courses. But here’s what we’ve seen. Older age brackets are showing higher participation rates than in the past: older workers can’t afford to retire as frequently now, and probably many just don’t want to stop as soon. The youngest age brackets are showing participation cratering. And in the middle, the great 25 to 54 age bracket (the prime working years) has seen a big drop in participation too. Mish has shown that most of that drop in the 25-54 age bracket is clearly due to reasons other than demographics. (I’m not going to bother linking. Those curious can look it up themselves, I’ve linked to lots of that often enough, and Schuler has at times, and frankly people will either believe me or not regardless of any numeric analysis.)

    Participation is down amongst all but the older age brackets. Participation is much lower than can be explained by demographic shifts. (Again, MISH had some analysis recently that basically demonstrated that 2/3s of the drop cannot be demographic in nature, even ignoring that older workers are participating more than in the past.)

    So we’re down ten million jobs, and most of that cannot be explained by demographic factors. It must be economic or social factors at work.

    Now for the next comment.

  • Icepick

    Now let’s talk about employment participation.

    Let’s say I want to participate in the labor market. Yay! Another able bodied individual seeking to advance their fortune in life! A Triumph of the American Spirit!

    Great! So I decide to participate. Now I need to actually find employment. Uh-oh. That part isn’t so easy. I can find or make work for myself. If I try to make work for myself, that means I need to offer a good or service for others to purchase from me. I could write books. Well, that isn’t an easy market to break in to. I could mow lawns. Great, I have a lawn mower! I even know how to use it! Except that there’s about 100,000,000 Mexicans working in the lawn-care business, and I can’t compete with them, as they’re willing to work for about a nickel an hour. I could become an investor and go into the PE game. Um, not unless I can raise more than the 14 dollars in ones I have stashed in my sock drawer, although I could rent a bunch of Mexicans for a few days and try to start a lawn care business that way, IF I could get my hands on more equipment.

    Well, none of that is happening so much these days. Starting a business is a bitch (I’ve got friends that tried, and ultimately gave up because of bureaucratic hassle), and the overall business environment is poor. Hell, people are cutting back on their toilet paper & diapers now, and that’s no bullshit, it’s straight-up people shit, and it’s something P&G is noticing.

    So instead I can look for employment with an already established business that is looking to hire. Great, now all I have to do is find one of those!

    Well, there are lots of those. Even in bad times people are hiring SOMEWHERE. For example, they’re opening a new Target somewhere in new Mexico soon. They’ve got 200 positions open. Reports are that people lined up by the THOUSANDS for those jobs! LINED UP! That isn’t thousands of people sending in electronic resumes, that’s people showing up in person, thousands of them, hoping to get some relatively low-paying service sector jobs.

    Okay, well I’d better bring some skills to the table. SO I’ve got a BS degree in mathematics, and I did a couple years of graduate work before wising-up. I’ve passed actuarial exams. I’ve got CISCO certifications. I’ve worked as a financial analyst as well as a actuarial analyst. I’ve got skills, I’ve got a work record, Hell, I’ve got recommendations from people I worked for.

    I may as well be that fifth-grade drop out. Because I’ve been out of work longer than six months, no one will even look at my resume for a decent job. But it is worse than that. No one will even consider my application for some lousy job at MacDonald’s or Walmart. I know this because I have tried this.

    Now, Drew and Michael, while sipping swill, er, I mean Scotch, that sells more for the bottle than my family’s entire weekly food budget, will tell me this is because I have a bad attitude. And they might be correct that I have a bad attitude. But my attitude does not matter. Because I never, ever even get to speak to people anymore. They don’t want people to show up looking for work at most establishments these days. “Do it online. And don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Unless they can determine what my attitude is by analyzing my font choices, they can’t get much out of my finely polished resumes and cover letters, much less my online application forms.

    But that’s just me. However, I volunteer with a support group for out of work professionals. This is the experience of just about everyone I know. Once you’ve been out of work a certain amount of time, six months at most, maybe as few as a couple of months, employers just will not consider you for a job. PERIOD, FULL STOP, as I wrote earlier on this thread.

    There are good reasons for hiring managers/employers to do this. It’s because they get SWAMPED with people wanting to fill any open position. They use software to screen people out, they use deadlines to cut people off from applying, they use criteria to throw resumes in the trash so they can skip to likelier hires more quickly. I don’t even blame them for doing so – that is the nature of the times.

    For those of us that had the misfortune to be fired early on in the recession, we had few prospects of getting any work while the world continued to fall apart. (I remember interviewing with a firm in August of 2008. They told me that for a variety of work-related reasons I would not hear from them until October. In October the firm announced it was shutting down that entire division, I believe it was 6,000 people, several thousand of them local, that lost their jobs, so yeah, I didn’t get THAT one either.) If you lost your job in 2007 or 2008 there’s a good chance that you’re still unemployed now. And that’s just because everyone, it seemed, was firing people in 2008 and 2009, so there weren’t new jobs to be had. By the time that was over everyone was already LTUE, and we haven’t got a chance.

    My experience points in that direction, but that’s just anecdotal. But I’ve seen it with hundreds of other unemployed professionals. And I’ve looked at enough stats to see that this plays out much more broadly. So ignore my personal experience, look at the numbers: LTUEs have one fuck-all of a difficult time getting another job of ANY sort.

    So back to participation: Us LTUEs can drop out, or we can remain in the workforce and drive up the unemployment numbers. (And the demographic analysis of MISH and others shows that the U-3 number is a good two points lower than it should be. U-3, in a fair system, would show up as over ten percent for several years running now. Instead it is hidden from view by a corrupt BLS.)

    So what difference would it make if we “participate” or not? We’re not going to get jobs, not in any significant numbers. The same goes for all those kids in college, although for them it is worse. They’re becoming debt-slaves to the government, they just don’t realize it yet. (And Obama and everyone else in government is fucking ECSTATIC to see them mortgage their lives in such a manner. Loan sharks have more decency than those jackals.) And a lot of middle-aged people have gone back to school too, in a desperate attempt to improve their prospects, only to find themselves more indebted than ever, with no better job prospects at the end of their “re-training”. (CNN had a story about new nurses being unable to find work just last week, I think it was. So much for a nursing shortage.) Businesses don’t want newly trained people, they want experienced workers. So unless someone else is paying for your re-training, DO NOT DO IT.

    I will conclude this rambling series of comments shortly.

  • Icepick

    Here’s the big conclusion:

    Vedder mistakes participation with actually having a job. I don’t see any signs of a great hiring boom happening anytime soon. More importantly, if all those extra people were participating now, it wouldn’t have gotten them jobs.

    Just because more people are looking for work does NOT mean more jobs will be available. As an example, I will consider my wife’s old company, which she left about a year ago. My wife’s working hours had been cut steadily since 2007. She had gone from consistently having several hours of overtime a week to struggling to make 40. Is that company going to hire because more people are looking for work? No, of course not. There isn’t enough work to go around.

    (I will refrain from offering anecdotes about her current employer for obvious reasons.)

    Now that’s an anecdotal story. But look at larger trends. Hours worked aren’t exactly surging. This indicates that employers don’t NEED more workers. Furthermore, wages have been somewhat stagnant. This means that employers aren’t finding it difficult to find new hires. When labor markets are hot, employers have to offer more to attract workers – more pay, more hours for hourly folk (over-time! be-still my working-class-rooted heart!), more benefits. They aren’t doing that.

    In fact, a surge in part-time hiring seems to be underway. That suggests that far more people are looking for work than there are jobs available. Look at the U-6 numbers and that gives one an idea how many people are working part-time that want to work full-time. (Actually I believe that number is understated.) Employers are offering less in the way of hours, which means less pay, and that also means less benefits. How will more people “participating” in the labor market ameliorate that? Vedder has no answer for that because he hasn’t even considered the fucking question.

    Participation is not employment, and it doesn’t foster economic growth, either.

  • jan

    They don’t want people to show up looking for work at most establishments these days. “Do it online. And don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

    Yep, this is the current trend, which, if I were looking for work, would drive me crazy. It’s so impersonal!

    I agree that many of the college grads are screwed — burdened by massive debt, while oftentimes holding a liberal arts degree which is almost worthless in the employment market.

    Regarding nurses not being able to find work — I find that hard to believe. They have long been in demand. I used to get letters offering signing bonuses just to go back to work.

  • I’m trying to figure out how to weasel my way back in after nearly 20 years. This might take some imagination.

  • steve

    “So we’re down ten million jobs, and most of that cannot be explained by demographic factors.”

    It is actually more complicated than this I think. Employment at the recent peak in 2006 or early 2007 was clearly bubble generated. Absent that artificial construction employment, numbers would have been worse.


  • Icepick

    Finally, a long anecdote about participation in strong and weak labor markets.

    Back in the day when I had a job, I was an analyst that primarily worked on benefits payments to the largest private employer in my region, Orlando Florida. (I’ve mentioned the name before, but will skip it for now.) The last major job I did for them before getting sacked was a five-year plan (fucking communists!) that commenced in 2008 and ended in 2012.

    Now obviously, if you’re going to analyze benefits you need to know how many employees you have, what type of employee they are (salaried, hourly, full-time, part-time, seasonal, union or non-union, etc.), how much they work and how much they make. (I’m sure Drew is nodding his head at all this redundancy, and I’m sure Michael is saying that employers would never bother with such trivialities. Score one for the PE guy.) With all of that information (and much else besides) you can estimate how much healthcare they will utilize, how much PTO they will use, how much they will pay in taxes (if you don’t know that some taxes should be considered a benefit, then you don’t know shit about the topic), how much will have to be paid in union dues, 401(k) expenses, etc.

    Anyway, at that time, in early 2008, the company was estimating underlying GDP growth of 4.5% in 2008, and 5% growth for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. No shit! That was the assumption! Because that growth would determine how many future customers we might have and how much they would be willing to spend. From that we would project head-count and all the rest, remembering to consider things like new attractions or hotels being built or opened, attractions or hotels being closed for refurb and so on. (Did I mention attractions and hotels? Perhaps you can guess the employer.)

    Anyway, as I would often have to do work at home, and not having a work-laptop (As a mere analyst I wasn’t deemed worthy of having independent computing power. My boss, on the other hand, was deemed important enough to have a laptop and a Blackberry (cutting edge for the time) with which he played fantasy baseball and sent inane emails covering his ass or complaining about HIS boss.) I had to bring data home on flash drives and work at my desktop. Soooo, I still have lots of data from that 5YP period. In fact I have almost everything but the final output. (There was no need to bring home something already completed.)

    This means I can compare what’s happened with what had been planned.

    Lo! Last week this company announced a major reshuffling of execs in my old unit. It made the local paper, along with some interesting stats about how many employees the company has in certain locations.

    Here was the upshot: The local site now has ~66,000 employees. That’s about ~2000 more than what my records had projected. That’s not too far off, and within historic norms. What is skewed about that is regular customers of this company constantly complain that there seem to be a lot fewer employees there to handle business. How can this happen? It might be that more workers are back stage. But seriously, that ain’t what’s happening. What’s happening is that hours have been cut, and there are more part-time employees now than had been projected. That’s something that seems pretty obvious to someone with experience there and knowledge of how the firm operates.

    Let me give you an example of how the firm thinks. Back in 2004, not too long after I started working there, some directors and junior VPs pitched an idea to cut benefits expenses. Full-timers are a lot more expensive than part-timers. The big thing is healthcare coverage, but one shouldn’t overlook things like PTO either. Here was the crux of it: Two part-timers can do the work of one full-timer (it’s a little more complicated than that, but not much, and the idea is essentially correct), and the company would save about 34 cents on every dollar paid out in wages. (Drew is creaming his pants at these numbers, and rightly so from the perspective of management.) It would be easy to implement such a policy. This company has great turnover in its hourly staff (which was where the policy was to be applied), so just stop hiring full-timers and hire part-timers instead.

    Almost by accident, I happened to be there at the meeting where this was decided. (My boss was trying to make himself look more important by bringing extra staff to the meeting.) At that meeting, a man who had the reputation (mistakenly, it turned out) of being a butt-kisser put up a serious argument why it would never work. It was a masterful performance full of data, informed history, understanding of the local labor market and demographics AND economic trends, and well thought-out positions. And the most amazing thing to me was that this mere manager managed to take on a room full of directors, junior veeps, a senior veep and even an executive Veep, wiped the floor with them during the argument phase, and managed to do so without offending a one of them. After that I could understand how he got the butt-kisser rep, but it was wholly unjustified. He had just mastered the art of disagreeing with superiors, besting them in intellectual combat, but not offending them in the least. I came out of that meeting with greet respect for his abilities all the way around.

    But needless to say, all those dollar signs were dancing in the Veeps heads like sugar plum fairies, and there was no chance they WOULDN’T implement the plan.

    So in 2005 that branch of the company adjusted hiring practices, doing its damnedest to hire only part-timers. It was an EPIC failure! The local U-3 rate at the time was down around 3.5%, maybe lower. Only retirees and high schoolers looking for a little extra cash would take those jobs, and there just weren’t that many people in those demographic classes to handle the large number of hours that needed to be worked. At the end of the year not only had Hourly Full-time heads not decreased, it had INCREASED substantially! Oops.

    Naturally, someone had to explain this epic failure. The people in charge of hourly hires came up with a novel (to me, at least) solution, which was to explain how much worse things WOULD have been if their magic policy hadn’t been in place. I would remember this years later when the President went from talking about “jobs created” to “jobs created or saved” – something else he had stolen from the corporate world!

    Anyway, at that time, with 3.5% U-3 (or less) in the area, that hiring plan could not work. By 2009 the local U-3 was up over 11% (or higher) – can you guess what they did? I can. And it’s obvious from all reports that that’s exactly what they did. Incidentally, that company is once again talking about layoffs. Not in the local branch, oh no, never in the local branch, but layoffs to boost profits nonetheless. (They almost never layoff hourly workers, they just stop hiring replacements for the ones that are quitting. It’s a great tax-dodge, and again, I’m sure Drew and Schuler know all about notifying governments when you lay off a certain number of people. Not calling it a lay off, just not hiring replacements, is awesome!)

    So I am certain, based on the numbers reported plus the reports of customers that this company has transitioned to many more part-time workers than before.

    But that’s only one location. The newspaper also mentioned how many employees were at the major west coast location. That number was 25% HIGHER than what had been forecast. And we’re not talking about going from five workers from a projected four workers. We’re talking about having 25,000 when the plan had been for 20,000.

    Nothing has gone on out there that wasn’t already underway when I worked for the company. Business is no better than had been projected (which is counter to some public reports). That means a LOT of full-timers have been replaced by part-timers. But then, California is the shit-hole of the nation right now, from an employment perspective. An employer can pretty much write their own ticket now, or turn and E-Ticket ride into an A-ticket ride for employees current or prospective.

    (Incidentally, California’s U-3 rate is worse than all but two states, Rhode Island and Nevada. California’s U-3 rate is almost a full point HIGHER than Michigan’s. Golden State no more….)

    And sorry for the lengthy digressions. I’ve stopped commenting most places, but I’ve had trouble breaking myself of the habit of reading all the old haunts. And this topic is even juicier for me than the monthly employment reports showing what a colossal failure the current economic “recovery” has been. I’ll pretty much go back into black-out mode now, unless I realize I left something out. (I’ve got a LOT of experience being unemployed, and being around unemployed people. Much more than that dipshit Vedder.)

  • Icepick

    Regarding nurses not being able to find work — I find that hard to believe. They have long been in demand. I used to get letters offering signing bonuses just to go back to work.

    Jan, I was talking about newly minted nursing school graduates. You are talking about someone with experience. I skipped that article and just heard a summary. I’ll see if I can find it quickly and get back to you. But there are all kinds of jobs out there – for people with experience in those fields which doesn’t help the vast majority of us who have no experience in those fields.

  • Icepick

    Ah, here it is,

    For nursing jobs, new grads need not apply

    Here’s the core of the thing:

    It’s a problem well documented by the nursing industry. About 43% of newly licensed RNs still do not have jobs within 18 months after graduation, according to a survey conducted by the American Society of Registered Nurses.

    “The process has become more and more discouraging, especially since hospitals want RNs with experience, yet nobody is willing to give us this experience,” said Ronak Soliemannjad, 26, who has been searching for a nursing job since she graduated in June.

    Some fucking recovery – even people with the right credentials in the hot field can’t get work.

  • Icepick

    It is actually more complicated than this I think. Employment at the recent peak in 2006 or early 2007 was clearly bubble generated. Absent that artificial construction employment, numbers would have been worse.

    The tragedy, you see, isn’t that so many of us are now unemployed. The tragedy is that we were ever employed in the first place. Truly, Joe Biden couldn’t have said it better.

    And incidentally, according to seasonally adjusted data employment peaked in December of 2007. Non-seasonally adjusted has the peak a month earlier.

  • Icepick

    Jan, I found the article but the comment containing the link is in moderation (too many links, I suppose). It’s there and states that 43% of new RN grads can’t find work as RNs within 18 months of graduation.

  • Icepick

    And steve, even if those jobs were bubble created, it shows that people wanted to work and WOULD work if the jobs were available, which is counter to Vedder’s oh-so-educated opinion. I’ll also point out that food stamps, UEC and/or SSDI do not fully compensate for a decent paying job. While claiming UEC I was making about one-quarter of what I had been making while working. That was a huge incentive to find a job.

  • Icepick

    And really, steve, for those of us without jobs, or with part-time jobs that want full-time jobs, or with jobs that pay far less than our training or talents or experience would otherwise dictate, it’s really simple:

    THERE AREN’T ENOUGH JOBS period, full stop

    But this is what the President wants, and this is what his voters want, and this is what at least half of Congress wants (probably more like 80%), and this is what the media elite want, and this is what the financiers want, and this is what the government unions want, and this is what the private unions want. They want more misery, less economic opportunity, more poor people, more violence, reduced prospects for our children (but not your own).

    It’s what you want, and there’s not a goddamned thing I can do about it, because the nation is ruled by people who are insane, stupid and evil, and enough of the voters are insane, stupid or evil that there’s no hope of changing things.

  • jan

    Thanks for the clarification on RN’s, Icepick. I’m still shaking my head that even recent nursing grads wouldn’t be in demand, in some kind of medical setting.

    You bring up good points regarding unemployment. I don’t agree with all of it. However, you are living the life and certainly have first hand knowledge of the obstacles. So, I take what you have to say into consideration.

  • jan


    I think you are right that many jobs lost will never come back. It seems to me that economic growth’s best friend is the start-up of new small businesses. But, these are being discouraged and imposed upon by Obama’s zealous drive to regulate anything that moves. He is also bent on financing green energy ventures, while putting fossil fuel, natural gas ones under more regulatory scrutiny/demands. Basically, private enterprise is being squeezed out, while big government grows filling out the public sector, rather than the source of revenue — the private sector.

    Where Vedder’s analysis is applicable is how many out-of-work people are reacting to such a restricted job market. They have adapted to a new lifestyle model, whereby capable of subsisting on far less, and much of it may be supplied by government help. Food stamps have been upgraded to credit cards. Getting disability, welfare, housing assistance, and more recently health care, has also become more a normalized/acceptable less transitional/temporary mode of living.

    That’s where it is all falling into place at the moment. The next phase will be when the safety net breaks due to the unsustainable monetary burden…then it seems public unrest will commence.

  • Icepick

    jan, it doesn’t matter if those people have “adapted” to the lifestyle or not. If they didn’t adapt, they’d be homeless or dead. (And there are a fair number of each.) No matter how bad LTUEs want it, there just aren’t enough jobs for them to get back to work. Vedder’s analysis is total fucking garbage for that reason alone.

    The next phase will be when the safety net breaks due to the unsustainable monetary burden…then it seems public unrest will commence.

    What, you think trillion dollar deficits aren’t scientifically guaranteed to work for ever?

  • Icepick

    Oh, one more thing. My family doesn’t qualify for food stamps. I’m not on SSDI (although rumors claim I could probably get it because of “depression”), my Pell Grant days are twenty or more years in the past, and my extended unemployment compensation ran out almost three years ago. Am I also unmotivated because of those programs? Am I unmotivated? Truthfully I am. That’s because I know people still losing jobs, and almost no one actually GETTING a job. And I know hundreds of UE folks at this point in my life, because of the group I work with.

  • jan


    I’m kind of looking at government help and UE in kind of a chicken and egg comparison. I think UE came first, creating a greater need for help (duh), and that it has now become commonplace, enabling, and finally acceptable to be government-dependent. Jobs — good paying, meaningful jobs — are the antidote for all these side effects of unemployment.

    You and I agree…

    As for your own situation — I’ve never thought public assistance helped people in positive ways. Someone like you should qualify for food stamps, especially if you are open to work opportunities. Basically welfare benefits seems to do little to throw monetary help where it will actually benefit a person upward. It only pays when you are down and fully cooperating with the government system.

  • TastyBits


    Holy crap! I read everything, and I think you nailed it.

    I suspect college loans are being used to replace lost income, and it can be used to fill in the holes in a resume. I am planning on doing what is necessary for my stepson to get an internship. It will probably be out-of-town, and it is going to cost me a ton of money.

    I am always wary of numbers. The numbers Professor “Dipshit” uses tell the truth, but they do not tell the whole truth. He has no understanding of what underlies the numbers. Your takedown tells the whole truth.

    For all the reasons you state, one of my biggest worries is losing my job. I think it is a different world for the LTE’s, and the non-LTE’s just don’t get it. For them, it is good now, and it can always get better. For others, it is bad now, and it can always get worse. It is not much, but I feel for you and the other LTE’s.

    I am confused about one thing. If I am in this situation, why would I vote for the party that believes I am leaching off the government? For many voters, these “goodies” are slowing their decline.

  • Anyway, I’m bored now. I need a new project. I miss Rocky.

  • Hey, there’s that online statistics course. Ice, would you help me?

  • TastyBits


    The world @Icepick describes is beyond your worst nightmares. When many of your bills are fixed, there is no way to adapt. The mortgage company its money. If the house is underwater, you cannot refinance to lower the payment, and you probably cannot sell the house. You cannot move somewhere where there may be work, and you cannot move somewhere more economical. Bankruptcy is no longer a viable option for many.

    There are problems with the “War on Poverty”, but they are a lot more complicated than most conservatives understand. The liberals do not understand there are problems.

  • Icepick

    I am confused about one thing. If I am in this situation, why would I vote for the party that believes I am leaching off the government? For many voters, these “goodies” are slowing their decline.

    yeah, and the (R)-tards don’t get it.

    On the other hand, why would you vote for the party that thinks this economy is so fucking fantastic that everyone should just vote for them anyway? Seriously, guys like Reynolds and steve think the President has done a fantastic job. What the fuck has he done, other than insure that we’re deeper in the hole and give steve’s tribe more federal money? What the fuck have any of them done? Voting everyone out of office would be a good start. A few good eggs might be in there, but so what, they haven’t accomplished jack or shit.

    But that’s not happening. The only thing to do now is to wait for it all to fail. Maybe when the bad times come enough of the right people will end up dead. It won’t solve anything, but by then there won’t be anything to play for but revenge anyway.

  • jan


    Much of what I was saying, re: “adapting,” was not aimed necessarily at people in Icepick’s position.

    For instance, when I did a rotation in public health nursing, years ago, I had a varied caseload of people — some trying to get assistance to assist them out of depending on assistance. The higher up’s called these clients ‘trouble makers,’ as they made their work more complicated. Instead of simply accepting welfare checks, they wanted help in finding work or vocational programs, which also required finding childcare for their special needs dependents while they attended classes etc. The clients they preferred were the ones who passively accepted welfare, calculating increases in benefits oftentimes by getting pregnant, which then gave them bigger checks.

    Closer to home: when my son turned 18 he left home to become an independent ‘adult.’ The first thing his buddies did for him was drag him to social services to apply for food stamps. These ‘friends,’ who were on food stamps themselves, counseled him that he could live off of welfare and not have to work. Well this didn’t pan out for him. But, that is the mentality of many young people today, even those enrolled in expensive colleges. The ins and outs of attaining free government help is well known and very accepted in these circles of younger people — especially in the generation entitled ‘millennials.’

    I also have plenty anecdotal stories of people (one an ex-Marine friend of my husband’s in his 30’s) who, once he was receiving a disabiity check from his service, and a welfare check, he discovered he could make ends meet on a meager amount of money and lost all incentive to look for work. He admitted that he had adjusted to a new lifestyle, and was not motivated to readjust….

  • TastyBits


    I have a lot of problems with President Obama. I would prefer to have President Romney, but I am not ready to open a vein. Some people do not agree with President Obama’s vision, but they are terrified by President Romney’s vision. I can understand why somebody who is not a liberal would vote for the liberal.

    I think more legal immigrants will have consequences beyond anything envisioned today. Legalizing the illegals will not necessarily result in more liberal voters, but they are not going to vote for a party which disrespects them.

  • Icepick

    The liberals do not understand there are problems.

    No, to the “liberals” these aren’t problems at all, they’re features.

  • Icepick

    I can understand why somebody who is not a liberal would vote for the liberal.

    That is unacceptable. This president has been an abject failure in every way conceivable. He hasn’t even offered a plan for how to improve, well, anything, except for plans that increase the government’s power over its subjects. Regardless of anything else, Obama has failed. Voting for more failure is stupid, evil or insane, or some combination thereof.

  • steve

    “And steve, even if those jobs were bubble created, it shows that people wanted to work and WOULD work if the jobs were available, which is counter to Vedder’s oh-so-educated opinion. I’ll also point out that food stamps, UEC and/or SSDI do not fully compensate for a decent paying job. While claiming UEC I was making about one-quarter of what I had been making while working. That was a huge incentive to find a job.”

    A point I have made many times. If the jobs are there, people will work. That said, a lot of those jobs that existed in the 2000s were there because of our credit financed economy. I think it will take a long time work off that debt overhang. When income and savings were not confined to so few, it used to be possible for families and friends to contribute to someone starting up a new small business. Not so much anymore.


  • jan

    Regardless of anything else, Obama has failed. Voting for more failure is stupid, evil or insane, or some combination thereof.

    It’s all a matter of one’s definition, Icepick. “Failure” to a someone who is fiscally accountable is different from what social progressive term as ‘failure,’ To them a presidency is a ‘failure’ if it hasn’t redistributed assets in a communal way. Any negative by-products, such as no work, lower across-the-board lifestyles, diminished civil liberties are all but ignored or ceded over to someone else as their failure.

  • steve

    “Seriously, guys like Reynolds and steve think the President has done a fantastic job.”

    ?????? It is a zero sum game. Obama has governed as a moderate who stopped the crash we had at the end of 2008. I dont think there is much the press can do to create jobs now. So, he has been ok on foreign policy. Ok, but not great on domestic. We got mediocre health reform. With Romney? Big potential for disastrous foreign policy. No more jobs, and even worse debt issues as he refused to address Medicare.


  • TastyBits


    Young middle class adults like you son’s crowd are slackers, and a lot of them abuse drugs. This is a middle and upper class problem, and it has nothing to do with government assistance.

    Your experience working within the system is an example of tar pit trapping many of the poor. Rather than being drawn into the honey pot of government money, they are trapped in the tar pit created by outsiders, and I suspect the motives of anybody who benefits from doing good.

    I do not believe that most of the poor are poor because of government assistance, but there are some who are. The “safety net” creates a floor to help people, but that floor is covered with glue trap carpet.

  • 3 points for that first paragraph, TB.

  • jan


    You’re right. How many times have I said that in a post addressed to you?

    My son is a ‘slacker’ example. But it still pencils in as an example of the inherent abuses existing, and even growing, of social service assistance programs.

    If I were in charge of these programs I would not cut off funds to people once they got outside jobs. I would wait, or at least marginally taper funds, until they had stabilized their lives — the continuation of said benefit being an incentive to keep going in the direction of self reliant employment.

    As for the concept of a ‘safety net’ — there are those who simply need help, perhaps for a lifetime, and I have no issue with that, as long as the help is not holding them back.

  • And I’m not really understanding how it can be so cross-cultural.

  • Jan and her husband are hard-working people. Where they son come from?

    Maybe the Russians did put something in the water.

  • Got to be fluoridation, don’t you think? /sarc

  • jan

    Obama has governed as a moderate who stopped the crash we had at the end of 2008.

    Obama has neither governed as a moderate nor did he stop the crash of ’08. In addition, Obama’s policies, his stimulus, has not done much to light a fire under this economy. In most other recessionary times, it was followed by an abrupt rise in the economy. Why has that not happened this time? A lot of people are asking, “What recovery?”

    As for health care reform…it is more of a fascist way of controlling health care — controlling something you don’t own. The costs are not going down. We have yet to get into any of the ‘care’ fiascos, as it is still too early to assess that.

    I agree that Romney’s foreign policy was an unknown factor — although his Benghazi response certainly was a lot more forthcoming than anything Obama has been able to come up with, to date! As for the economy, it would have boomed, if Romney were the President-elect at the moment. People were on the edge of their seats awaiting someone competent and capable to take charge of this ailing economy. He at least had some idea of what to do, including regulation management so that business could breathe and start hiring again. Obamacare would have been thrown out as well, ridding the populace of another program leaching money out of the private sector.

  • jan


    Kids don’t always follow in the footsteps of their parents — especially when they are young, rebellious and still trying to individuate from them.

  • Individuation seems to be going on a long damn time these days, don’t you think?

    Maybe it is lead poisoning.

  • Michael left home at 16, I left home at 17, you left not long after. You say yourself that you married young.

  • My sister and my cousin Linda left home right after high school. Linda said she made sure she had a job waiting for her.

    She doesn’t understand her drug-addicted, slacker son any better than the rest of us do. And these women are 63.

  • jan


    Yep, but everyone has different wiring, different temperaments, different expectations of themselves and others… I am more of a worker type. Our son is an ‘artist’ type. What can I say…

  • And upper-middle class.

    Well. my sister was until her husband left her after 28 years and founded a new family.

  • I think your son is a jerk, like my stepsons are.

    They’ll use you to your last breath.

  • They don’t want to man-up.

  • If your son is 26, I’ve done it nearly as long as you have.

    Forget powdering his cute butt as a baby. He’s taking you for a ride now.

  • TastyBits


    We got mediocre health reform.

    The problem is that 20% of people use 80% of the healthcare budget, and the bill does not address this problem. Instead, the bill solves a problem that did not exist, and it creates a problem where there was none.

    What would complete failure look like?

  • What the hell are we going to do next?

    I like windows. Maybe I’ll wash windows. Nobody does that.

  • That doesn’t begin to address Icepick’s problems, but it might mine.

  • Residential windows.

  • How do you price it?

    People will trust me. I’m Travis Gore’s daughter-in-law.

  • I like physical work. It’s a problem when it comes to income.

  • Dammit, I look just like Daddy.

  • Icepick

    Janis, I will not help you with statistics. I never liked the subject. It lacks the elegance of algebra, the trickiness of analysis and the mind-warping properties of number theory. When the time comes I will teach my daughter, but she is the only person for whom I would make that sacrifice.

  • Cool. Preserve your best for your daughter.

  • I think it will take a long time work off that debt overhang.

    The terribly sad thing is that so little attention has been paid to working off the debt overhang compared to, for example, ordinary pump-priming efforts via infrastructure spending or tax cuts. The assumption of the pump-priming effort was that we were experiencing a conventional cyclical recession. That was wrong.

    Tax cuts don’t do much about debt overhang for the simple reason that the people who have large debts aren’t the same as the people who pay lots of taxes. What good is a couple of grand in tax cuts when you’ve got a half million in debts you can’t pay off?

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