Reality Check: 34.3 % of Americans Don’t Want a Job

someecard-work-homelessDuring the 2012 presidential campaign, as I listened to the competing slogans from Republicans and Democrats, phrases repeated endlessly on the campaign trail, I had a bad feeling that the traditional GOP message was failing to recognize a hidden truth about modern America. A truth that the Democrat campaign understood, and successfully tapped into. Many Americans actually don’t want a job.

It was a subversive, nagging thought. I wanted to dismiss it. Because I wasn’t just thinking about the welfare-dependent, or Occupy Wall Street anti-capitalists, or the the aimless couch-surfers in their parents’ basement, or members of the undocumented criminal economy, or the federal and state workers, the privileged, well-connected political classes who enjoy job security and fat pensions—the other, perfectly legal criminal economy–I was thinking about a lot of normal, regular people. People for whom the tried-and-true GOP-playbook phrases about the ‘Great American Work Ethic’ fails to impress.

Women move into the wartime labor force - NARA...

Women move into the wartime labor force – NARA – 292121 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Work does suck. Even for those that don’t want a get-out-of-work-free card, the modern workplace is a numbing, soul-sucking, hamster-wheel cage that’s increasingly unrewarding, humiliating, and for tangible less reward.

Between the nanny middle-managers, human resources rule-makers, petty tyrant bosses, the modern workplace a less dynamic environment than it used to be.

Add to that the diminishing opportunities for advancement, portable technology invisibly leashing employees to workplace concerns even when they’re not on the clock, and flat wages, the American workplace has become a treacherous, all-bullshit, all-the-time environment that doesn’t exactly inspire industrious, risk-taking, enterprising folks the way it did a few elections ago.

How many times did we hear Romney/Ryan repeat the old GOP chestnut about jobs jobs jobs, Americans don’t want welfare, they want a paycheck, Americans want to work! A voice in my head kept saying “are you kidding? No they don’t! Who the hell wants that? The Democrats have a much better message:

“You’ve been wronged. Those mean old capitalists screwed you. They don’t care about you like I do. Come to mommy, let me take care of you. You want free birth control? You want a mobile phone? Did you have a baby already? We can take care of that too. You want some spending money, sweetie? Don’t listen to that mean old man who wants to make you work, earn your own money. Listen to your heart, it’s okay, let go. There’s no shame in being taken care of. He doesn’t know what’s good for you, like I do. It’s okay, let me take care of you”. 

The statistics suggest my fears are confirmed. The 2012 GOP message, as it turns out, failed to detect the unspoken, unseen trend.

Over in the Greenroom writes: At some point in our lives, each of us has said to ourselves, “Wow I really wish I didn’t have to work.” Shortly after making that statement, we snap back into reality and understand we should be productive members of society. This typically includes being employed. Because of this basic economic fact, I found it alarming that more than 1/3 of the work force just doesn’t want a job. The Wall Street Journal has the numbers:

34.3%: Share of Americans over age 16 who say they don’t want a job, up from about 30% two decades ago. Americans aren’t just leaving the labor force — those who have left it are drifting further away.

 photo Screenshot2013-11-04at12037PM_zps4d20d754.png

Being unemployed is a major problem. Not wanting to be employed is an even bigger one.

In a new paper, economists Regis Barnichon and Andrew Figura divide up those out of the labor force using a simpler standard: whether or not the person says they want a job. And they uncover an interesting previously unnoticed trend: As a share of all those “not in the labor force,” the number of people who want a job has been generally declining since the early 1980s.

The Greenroom.


3 Comments on “Reality Check: 34.3 % of Americans Don’t Want a Job”

  1. rmnixondeceased says:

    Reblogged this on Dead Citizen's Rights Society.

  2. Doug S. says:

    How many of those people who don’t want a job are over 65?

    • The Butcher says:

      Your point is..? That the data is misleading because some (unknown percentage) of those people are old anyway, too old to be a valid part of the world of folks seeking work and income, and it skews the numbers? Your case would look better with data to support it, rather than in the form of an insinuating question, don’t you think?


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