Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

The Poverty Retirement Non-plan

conundrum, employment, unemployment, Gerald P. O’Driscoll, poverty, retirement

A “conundrum” is “an intricate and difficult problem” or “a question or problem having only a conjectural answer.”*

In his June 8 article, “The Jobs Conundrum,” economist Gerald P. O’Driscoll focuses on a very big problem that we do not have sure answers to, yet.

Unemployment figures are down, but the number of non-working adults in the prime of their lives is up. O’Driscoll explains: “Unemployment” is a term of art and does not mean simply the number of people not working. It comprises the number of people not working and who are looking for a job.” Many aren’t “unemployed” for the simple reason that they are not trying to be employed.

They are, I suppose you could say, in early retirement, mostly a kind of poverty retirement.

Economists call it a drop in “labor force participation.” It used to be that men in the prime of life not looking for work constituted a mere 6 percent of the population. Now it’s 15 percent.

O’Driscoll, I notice, doesn’t engage in much conjecture to explain why. He merely insists, instead, that the trend is big, unemployment figures don’t track it, and that it has huge consequences.

I’ve heard some interesting (and puzzling) theories about the whys, of course. Blame feminism; blame the welfare state; blame the Chinese!

But even before we settle on a definitive answer, many movers and shakers now contemplate establishing — and are even experimenting with — a universal basic income as a way to alleviate this problem.

My conjecture? It would make the problem worse.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.


* The original, primary meaning of “conundrum” — “a riddle whose answer is or involves a pun” — is not relevant to this pun-free column.

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  1. James J Kovalcin says:

    As for your “conjecture” that a “universal basic income” would only make things worse, how about we collect some real evidence one way or the other? What your gut tells you has nothing whatsoever to do with what is real or not. I am NOT saying that a universal basic income will work or not, but only that this is a conjecture worth investigating. How you Personally “feel” about is irrelevant.

  2. Carl Fisher says:

    These facts and the fuzzy math that was invented by Obama and Hilda Solis, at the Labor Department to misstate the actual unemployment stats are all part of Obama’s glorious legacy, which we allowed (twice) to be created, during the eight years that he devoted to bringing America down.

  3. Brian Wright says:

    Yes, I hear you. But I’m convinced the mainstream economy is this bulk illusion of productivity, when it really just enables the DIPS (Dominant Inbred Psychopaths) to run and herd the masses. I don’t see these bulk numbers to be of much use… except for comparisons.

  4. Pat says:

    The story I heard years ago was that the unemployment numbers reflect those who are receiving unemployment benefits.   This means only those who have lost their job within the last six months (generally). are counted   Once your benefits have been exhausted, the Labor Department no longer counts you as ‘unemployed’.
    Aren’t more and more of those who are in this situation doing whatever they can to qualify for disability benefits?   I call that a ‘universal basic income’.

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