Skip to comments.Lower Benefits, Higher Jobs -- Paul Ryan Has It Right
Posted on 08/10/2014 8:22:02 AM PDT by Kaslin
Co-written by Robert Sinche
Neel Kashkari, the Republican candidate for governor of California, just recounted in The Wall Street Journal his week on the streets of Fresno posing as a homeless man looking for work. At the end of his op-ed, Kashkari lamented that he didn't need a higher minimum wage, paid sick leave or a health care plan. What he needed was a job.
And Kashkari made the important point that all those government benefits, especially extended unemployment benefits, are work disincentives that may actually block job creation.
To be sure, there are signs that employment in the country is rising more rapidly these days. The February-July period was the first six-month stretch of consistent employment gains above 200,000 since 1997. And that came without any new programs from the federal government to "create jobs." Even more surprising, those gains overlapped a quarter in which the gross domestic product actually contracted.
So what drove the increase? University of Chicago professor Casey Mulligan put his finger on it: "Major subsidies and regulations intended to help the poor and unemployed ... reduce incentives for people to work and for businesses to hire." And guess what happened when federal emergency job assistance ended. Job increases were the best they had been in 17 years.
Economists tend to focus primarily on the demand for labor in analyzing employment trends, giving short shrift to the supply of labor. Indeed, given the harsh winter weather and first-quarter drop in real GDP, it's hard to believe that the demand for labor increased significantly in February and March. But is there anything about the supply of labor that could explain the improvement in employment?
Well, there is a very good reason to believe that extending unemployment benefits to a maximum of 99 weeks in recent years held back the labor supply. Rather than take a job, potential workers could more easily lengthen their job searches, hold out for higher-wage positions or just choose not to work.
However, supply-side theory would also suggest that as extended unemployment benefits expired at the end of last year -- despite major hand-wringing from the president and Democratic leaders -- workers would go back to work. And they did. Technically, this would be visible as an outward expansion of the supply-of-labor curve. Without the crutch of continued unemployment benefits, workers are willing to take jobs, even at a somewhat lower wage. They know that work is its own virtue.
Now, if the demand for labor is steady, what would be the implications of an increased labor supply? Here, as the supply curve shifts, economic analysis would suggest that wages might fall somewhat but the level of employment would increase. And guess what. Since the month after extended unemployment benefits expired, the number of employed workers has increased, the employment-to-population ratio has increased (59 percent in July, versus 58.8 percent in February) and the civilian labor force has increased (to 156 million in July, from 155.7 million in February). Average hourly earnings growth remains sluggish, at only 0.2 percent per month over the past six months, but at least wages have risen modestly while employment gains have increased markedly.
The lesson here is that if you pay people not to work, you get less work. In fact, this is a universal problem. Record-breaking increases in recent years in food stamps, disability benefits and various forms of welfare have reduced incentives to work and earn. But it's clear over the first half of the year that lower unemployment subsidies have generated higher employment, which helps explain why employment growth accelerated and the unemployment rate fell another half-percentage point when overall GDP growth slowed to nearly a 1 percent pace.
Rep. Paul Ryan has the right idea to solve the wrong-way incentives generated by big government. He would block-grant all the transfer assistance programs and send them back to the states. Importantly, Ryan wants to restore lower eligibility requirements and reduce benefit assistance time limits. Plus, he would expand the earned-income tax credit to ease the transition from welfare to work without prohibitive increases in marginal tax rates.
Policymakers should listen to Ryan. And they should carefully observe what's been happening with lower government employment assistance and higher job growth.
As Kashkari pointed out, many in our country just want to work. They just need a job, which is the greatest form of welfare. But for a change, let's get policies that actually increase the incentives to work and earn. The whole country will benefit.
Kashikari will lose in November.
“And Kashkari made the important point that all those government benefits, especially extended unemployment benefits, are work disincentives that may actually block job creation.”
This was no secret or news; it was an issue 50 years ago (when there were jobs to be had).
What is wrong with wanting to send programs back to the states?
It was embarrassing.
The man knows nothing about blue collar employment.
He violated the first principle of finding low skill work in a new town where you have no local references.
He just walked into businesses randomly and filled out applications or asked if they needed workers.
What do real blue collar workers do in the same situation?
First, unless they are desperate for cash, they contact the establishment temp agencies like Manpower.
That takes a few days to get hired there because you need to schedule an interview, they run a criminal background check, they drug test you, etc.
If you can't wait for a Manpower type job, every town also has day labor agencies.
There, the standards are lower, and you might go to work faster, and usually get paid faster.
Bottom Line - employers want to get a good look at you before they commit to a job offer.
Unless you have verifiable local references, almost no employer is going to hire you because you walk in the door and promise to work hard.
Paul is a Big Government guy. All his solutions are Big Government solutions.
I’m a triage interviewer at a local food and clothing bank. Fortunately, relatively few people that I interview are homeless. But the vast majority of them do not have a job. Here’s a typical part of the interview:
Me: Do you have a job?
M: Are you looking for a job?
I: Don’t have to. I’m getting Unemployment and I’ve applied for Disability.
M: When will your Unemployment Benefits end?
I: I don’t know. Some time next year, I think.
M: Are you aware it can take up to two years to get on Disability? Your Unemployment Benefits will run out way before then.
I: I know. I’ll figure out something then.
This is why Unemployment Benefits need to be cut back to a maximum of six months.
Disability (don’t get me started) is the new welfare.
Another typical interview along these lines (I hate this. I really, really hate this when it happens.):
Me: Do you have a job?
I (Who is typically less than 40 years old): No, I get a government check!
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