Labor pains

To survive and thrive, America should change the way it does business

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Labor Day’s meaning is evolving – and not necessarily for the better.

The observance created at the turn of the 20th century to celebrate America’s labor movement is now widely considered the symbolic end of summer, a retail sales event and – for millions of hard-working Americans – a much-appreciated day off.

But for a growing number of people who choose not to work, Labor Day will be simply “Monday.”

There are fewer people working in 21st-century America.

And the problem is worse than the nation’s current 6.4-percent unemployment rate lets on. That measures only those actively seeking work. If the number included part-time workers desiring full-time employment, the nation’s “underemployment” rate is 15.1 percent, according to research firm Gallup.

But the most complete snapshot of the American worker is the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics’ labor force participation rate, which simply divides everyone of legal working age into two categories: those who are employed, and those who aren’t.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Through the end of July, the U.S. workforce rate was 62.9 percent, meaning about four out of every 10 Americans are not working, either because they can’t or won’t find a job, or feel they don’t have to.

The U.S. labor force hasn’t been this small since Jimmy Carter was in the White House nearly 40 years ago.

For a nation that became the undisputed global superpower based on the industriousness, entrepreneurship and resoluteness of its citizens, this is alarming.

Obviously, retirement-age baby boomers are leaving the work force, but not in the droves one might expect. Recent labor statistics show boomers actually are working more – not less.

Labor participation rates among people 55 and older increased from 61.9 percent in 2002 to 64.5 percent in 2012. Narrow the population to traditional retirement age – 65 to 74 – and participation increased from 20.4 percent to 26.8 percent.

Fear of running low on money is a motivator. A recent Gallup poll shows 68 percent of people ages 50 to 64 worry about having enough money to last through their retirement, and nearly 40 percent of boomers plan to keep working at least until age 66.

What’s more telling – and unnerving – is what demographic statistics say about Americans in their prime work years, ages 25 to 54. BLS figures show labor participation rates among that group decreased from 76.4 percent in 2002 to 70.9 percent in 2012.

When a growing nation sees a 7.2 percent decline in its number of young, family-supporting, household-heading workers in a single decade, something has gone terribly wrong with the nation’s public and economic policy.

Vibrant and productive labor markets make strong economies. Strong economies make stable, secure and prosperous nations. If America is to remain the world’s undisputed economic superpower, the nation must change the way it does business.

Here’s a good start:

Stop relying on excessive government “help.” Americans need to recognize governments do not create wealth. They can only consume or redistribute wealth that already is created.

It’s been proved time and time again, most recently by the Obama administration, whose first-term solution to the Great Recession of 2009 was to go on an unprecedented orgy of government spending that it predicted would produce several years of 4 percent economic growth.

Average annual growth in real gross domestic product between 2009 and 2012 was 1 percent. Compare that to the 20-year laissez-faire period from 1981 to 2000, where average annual growth in real GDP was 3.4 percent.

End regulatory “creep.” Every year, federal, state and local governments adopt new laws, codes and ordinances that are of dubious benefit to the general public but extremely costly for business and industry.

Every dollar spent complying with make-work regulations is one dollar unavailable for hiring. No wonder so many companies are avoiding full-time workers for part-timers, temps and – wherever possible – computers and machines.

Stop wage manipulation. Minimum-wage laws distort free markets and disproportionately harm small businesses and the economy’s lowest-skilled workers. Decades of studies show minimum-wage hikes correlate to reduced hours, hiring freezes, layoffs and the shifting of duties to existing employees.

If we want to grow the middle class, then work on creating middle-class jobs. Stop trying to artificially turn low-skill, entry-level jobs into something they are not.

Promote educational diversity. Generations of Americans have been brainwashed into thinking prosperity starts and ends with a four-year degree. The facts show otherwise: 14 of the 20 fastest-growing occupations require an associate’s degree or less, according to the BLS.

Parents and educators must realize not every young person is served best by a liberal arts education. Many pushed into the system end up in jobs with salaries insufficient to cover the mountain of debt they incur. For every struggling English-major barista, there likely is a skilled welder or electrician earning three times the pay.

Give American jobs to American workers. A recent study by the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies indicates most new jobs since 2000 have been filled by immigrants – legal and illegal.

Whether it’s skilled, high-tech workers legally entering through the overexploited H-1B program, or unskilled laborers illegally crossing the southern border, the end result is the same – lower wages and lost job opportunities for native-born workers.

Immigration advocates – whose livelihoods and political clout are tied to a steady stream of low-cost foreign labor – continue to perpetuate the meme that immigrants are merely doing jobs Americans “don’t want to do.”

That myth is debunked by a July survey of likely voters by Polling Co., which showed nearly half of Americans support a zero-immigration policy – similar to what the country had from 1915 to 1964 – and that 67 percent believe jobs now held by illegal immigrants should be given to U.S. workers.

Make it in the U.S.A. It may come as a shock to a generation of soft-handed hipsters, but America cannot get by on a service-based economy alone. America actually has to produce tangible goods. It’s basic economics: A nation that produces little of what it consumes eventually will lack the wealth to consume anything.

Manufacturers require affordable energy and skilled, productive workers to thrive. Thanks to hydraulic fracturing and other new technologies, huge deposits of oil and natural gas are being discovered throughout the United States. These technologies need to be promoted, not protested.

And heavily unionized manufacturing regions in the northeast and upper Midwest should take a hint from the more-prosperous, right-to-work states in the South and West. Labor unions, once necessary and vital in America, now serve to increase costs and decrease productivity – both of which are poison to manufacturers.

Quit promoting a jobless culture. In modern America, layabouts can live in relative comfort thanks to the growing welfare state. For millions of Americans, a “job” is an abstract concept, because of the undoing of 1990s-era welfare reforms during the past decade.

The federal bureaucracy has gone full-throttle to loosen eligibility for programs that discourage work, foster helplessness and create generational dependence on the state.

Take the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as the food stamp program, for example: Only one-third of recipients report “earned income,” meaning a job, despite the fact one in 10 are “ABAWDs” – bureaucrat-speak for an “able-bodied adult without dependents.”

Many people who don’t work aren’t contributing their full potential to their households, the economy and – considering a job is a main point of community contact with society in general.

Work’s impact on individual dignity and self-worth can’t be overstated. How can a nation be proud if its residents aren’t?

If our culture of industriousness, entrepreneurship and resoluteness skips many more generations, it may be lost forever. We sincerely hope this country’s leaders can right this ship.

Only then will Labor Day be something to truly celebrate.

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deestafford
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deestafford 08/31/14 - 12:38 am
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The "compassionate" left has turned what was supposed...

The "compassionate" left has turned what was supposed to be a safety net into a hammock.

I read the other day that one-third of Americans, that's 100,000,000, are on some type of welfare. That does not count social security.

I also read that some states have such generous benefits that a person would have to make the equivalent of $20 an hour just to reach the level of state benefits received.

It doesn't take a genius (of course this leaves out liberals because they lack the common sense to understand) to see where many, many people would rather not go through the hassle of getting up every morning, getting dressed, going to work, putting up with a job and all the aggrevation a job includes, paying taxes, putting up with a boss, and all the other things associated with working to earn a paycheck smaller or close to what one gets sleeping until they wake up and then doing as one pleases all day.

The biggest motivator to finding work is a stomach eating at one's backbone and the fear of one's family going hungry. I'm talking about true hunger not the kind that surveys ask, "Have you gone to bed hungry in the last six months?" when one is just too lazy to go to the refrigerator and get a bedtime snack.

It's amazing how many people got off welfare when they had to work to get it. If a person is abled bodied and not a senior they should be working six hours a day, five days a week for their benefits. If there are children involved some of the ladies on welfare would be running day care centers and nurseries as part of their work requirement.

As it is now we like England have two, three and maybe more generations living in a house where none have ever had a steady job.

If the government cut red tape, enforced strict immigration laws, and got out of the way there would be plenty of jobs. There may not be cushy white collar jobs but it would be that dreaded word--WORK.

It's not the government's place or function to create jobs. It' function is to create an environment whereby free market capitalism, the greatest economic system in history, can flourish. It does that by being small, having low taxes, and the bare minimum of regulations.

Rhetor
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Rhetor 08/31/14 - 06:22 am
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uninformed

There are, indeed, people who abuse the system. However, the big problem is that conservative economic policies, imposed by the Republican-controlled House, which have utterly failed everywhere they have been tried, have crushed the job market. Most people would like to get jobs, but there are not enough jobs available.
Your view that the government cannot contribute to the economy is an article of faith among movement conservatives, but it is (like most of your movement) unsupported by the facts. We could end this depression in November by electing Democrats to public office. The continuing depression is the consequence of well-meaning but wrong austerity policies in Congress.
I am sorry to be so blunt, but no one with a knowledge of economics could endorse the position in this editorial, which owes more to talk radio and right-wing propaganda than it does to reality.
By the way, since you good people are apparently not reading your own financial pages, note that American business is thriving. The drop in available jobs is in the public sector. The explosion in government spending that the right wing likes to talk about never happened; government at all levels has at best been almost flat under Obama as a percentage of GDP.
Most of the unemployed are not lazy; they can't find work.

ymnbde
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ymnbde 08/31/14 - 08:36 am
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Democrats caused this problem

because their policies are simply to pay for votes
marxism simply does not work
it was said, accurately, long ago that this country will fail when people realize they can vote themselves money
democrats are voting themselves money

cush1944
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cush1944 08/31/14 - 08:50 am
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"However, the big problem is

"However, the big problem is that conservative economic policies"
'Conservative economic policies' are what has made this country the greatest in history. The policies of the liberals like the moron in the WH are what are destroying our country.

deestafford
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deestafford 08/31/14 - 09:09 am
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There is an anti-capitalist movement..

There is an anti-capitalist movement in the US and it's really getting entrenched in the colleges as well as those on the left in politics and in the media.

If people do not understand and believe in market capitalism, they will ask their government to undertake actions that in the long run will make us less wealthy and free. This is what lies at the root of the anti-capitalist movement.

hoptoad
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hoptoad 08/31/14 - 09:33 am
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I have gotten to the point

I have gotten to the point where I don't even read the likes of Rhetor, Bod and a few others who are totally uninformed, misinformed and ignorant.

Whatever they write is obviously from some left wing news or social media outlet and not worth wasting the time and effort to refute them.

carcraft
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carcraft 08/31/14 - 09:44 am
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Burger King under the

Burger King under the direction of Obama's good buddy Warren Buffet is moving it's head quarters to Canada to avoid American taxes.
John Kerry hide his Yacht in New Jersey to avoid Massachusetts taxes. So yes, as taxes increase people alter behavior or take measures to avoid them like Kerry and Buffet did. Buffet's company owed about a $billion in back taxes at one point. Hypocrisy is completely lost on liberals. Regulations are insane. I constantly point out that when I bought luggage there were about 6 tags on it describing the regulations it complied with. I suppose the tags are displayed because there is a regulation saying they must be displayed. I was glad I didn't live in California because chemicals used in the manufacture had been identified as causing cancer in California. These regulations cause two problems. They increase the cost of goods and services and the regulations are a deterrent to people going into business. How would you like to get investors to put millions into a plant, have your life savings involved then get shut down because the wood you are using doesn't meet some crazy EPA standard? Hello Gibson guitars! This has been one of America's weakest recoveries because employers are scared to death of Obama care regulations. The IRS is out of control, audits Can we say Lois Leaner and the fact the IRS is violating it's own government regulations? So way start a business and face taxes and regulations ad nasium? Why work when you can live off welfare?

deestafford
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deestafford 08/31/14 - 10:28 am
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The left is so wrapped up in the elite...

The left is so wrapped up in the elite controlling more and more of our lives because statism/Communism has failed in the past because the people trying to implement these centralized forms of government were not as smart as they are.

For reasons that are strange and unknown to us on the right who support free market capitalism, the left doesn't understand that only free markets are capable of producing on a scale that affords even the poorest person a standard of living well above what would have been unthinkable just a few hundred years ago.

To see what non-free market, non-capitalistic, non-private land owning forms of governments do, just look at many of the Central and South American countries. Think of how they would be flourishing today with all of their natural resources if only the English had settled there rather than the Spanish.

Today's labor movement in the US is nothing more than a socialistic front. If you listen to Trumpka you might as well be listening to the most Marxist labor supporter in history. The private sector workers have wised up to the futility of the labor movement and that is why the percentage of private sector unions is falling and the parasitic movement has moved to the public sector where it can tap into Other People's Money---that of the taxpayer.

hoptoad
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hoptoad 08/31/14 - 10:53 am
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This article was in the

This article was in the business section, but kind of appropriate to address it here also.

"Mimicking airlines, hotel fees go sky-high". It talked about the outrageously high fees hotels are now charging.

My comments:
This country is continuing its march toward the two-level society. The very rich - and those will be decided by the politicians - and the lower/poor class. Between the high air fares and hotel rates, only the rich will be able to take nice vacations.

The middle class is slowly disappearing and will soon be just peons who will have to pack a tent and a grill and head to the camp ground for a vacation. Hopefully, we'll still be able to purchase gas so we can get there.

What a joke it'll be on the liberals who voted for this Marxist and don't fit into the "upper class". Just a shame they are dragging down the entire country with them.

carcraft
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carcraft 08/31/14 - 11:49 am
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The poor are manipulated by

The poor are manipulated by the media and ignorance. The left by the same. I often talk about a book called "The Rich and the Super Rich " that was popular in the 1970's. We have a rehash of the same garbage every fought years or so to stir up class warfare.

ultrarnr
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ultrarnr 08/31/14 - 12:25 pm
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Spot On
Unpublished

This editorial is very accurate. I am sure there are millions of people who wake up every morning and say "Wow, it is great being poor." They are living very well in the average $3.60 a day SNAP provides. I am sure the 50% of Wal-Mart employees who make less than $25,000 per year stay because they love the lifestyle their job provides. I totally agree with the ACES that a social safety net which represents compassion and "christian values" does nothing but encourage people to enjoy the fabulous lifestyle

carcraft
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carcraft 08/31/14 - 01:13 pm
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Look at Obama's Justice

Look at Obama's Justice Department operation Choke Point. Craft people and very small businesses rely on third party credit card processors. Choke point is going to really hurt the very small business because increase in regulations increases costs for these small businesses. Then things like Christmas made in the south etc get hurt. This creates a ripple effect. Of course Obama never having really ran anything other than his mouth is clueless!

Angela H
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Angela H 08/31/14 - 01:19 pm
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" However, the big problem is

" However, the big problem is that conservative economic policies, imposed by the Republican-controlled House, which have utterly failed everywhere they have been tried, have crushed the job market."

You mean the numerous bills that the Senate refuses to even vote for? Why don't you name these policies that have failed everywhere they have been tried? Give us specifics, and prove that they have failed. You know....something isn't true, simply because you say it is.

Angela H
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Angela H 08/31/14 - 01:23 pm
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"The explosion in government

"The explosion in government spending that the right wing likes to talk about never happened; "

That's why the number AND percentage of people on public assistance such as SNAP is at an all time high.

_________________________

"We could end this depression in November by electing Democrats to public office."

What evidence do you have to back up THAT loony statement? They had all 3 branches of Government for 2 years, and look what that got us.

deestafford
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deestafford 08/31/14 - 03:35 pm
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Irony as it pertains to "income inequity"...

Irony as it pertains to "income inequity"...

According to the US census data in each of the 435 congressional districts, the 32 of the 35 districts in which "income inequity" is greatest are represented by Democrats, two by Republicans, and one is vacant. These districts are spread across the country from the northeast to the southeast, to the west, and even the midwest.

As Obama did nothing to improve the situation in his IL senatorial district and his community organizing district, the Dems do nothing to improve the situation in their own backyards.

KSL
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KSL 08/31/14 - 04:47 pm
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dee

That is good information to know.

corgimom
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corgimom 08/31/14 - 07:49 pm
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Oh, honestly. Another

Oh, honestly. Another "CRISIS" from the ACES.

Take a look at what computers have done to businesses. I started accounting where we posted everything by hand, and everything was on handwritten spreadsheets.

I don't even know if they make those accounting worksheets anymore, it's all done by computer.

CPA's and bookkeeping services thrived on monthly write-ups. Now they do very little of that, everybody has a personal computer now and cheap, easy to use software.

And take retail.

I almost never shop in a store anymore. It's too easy to shop online, and it appears that other people feel the same way I do, because Internet sales are growing in leaps and bounds.

And there is less inventory in the stores, less customers, and less need for employees.

And it's not going to ever get better, it's going to get worse, now that the robots are getting to be more popular. Robots don't take holidays, vacations, or sick days. They don't have sick kids or have fights with their spouses. They are uniform, and deliver a consistent product, unlike humans.

Burger King bought that Canadian chain for growth reasons. They had to, McDonalds and the Taco Bell chain was going to drive them out of business if they didn't. The tax situation is an added plus; but that wasn't the #1 reason.

The loss of low-paying jobs was, and is, a natural consequence of industrialization. England used to be the superpower. Then America could deliver the same product for cheaper wages, and then America became the superpower.

Now it's China's or India's turn. And when they are done, there is a huge untapped market in Russia and all of Africa.

When computers and the Internet came into America, and became cheap and easy to use, what did people think was going to happen?

This was predicted years ago, and it's here. Now it's predicted that personal computers and cell phones will become obsolete.

Years ago, I was in a factory, and the employees proudly showed me a machine that could read blueprints and manufacture parts to a tiny fraction of an inch variance, using a computer. And I thought, "Don't those people see, that machine is going to put them out of work?"

deestafford
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deestafford 08/31/14 - 08:22 pm
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I agree that technology has and is changing....

I agree that technology has and is changing so many things; however, that is all the more the more reason to get the government out of the way and let the free market decide.

It's ludicrous to think some bureaucrat in DC can decide what is best for the people in Augusta or Charlotte. No country the physical size with the size of economy as the US is has ever done well with centralized planning.

Decentralization to 50 states and thousands of cities is the best way to run an economy. The people in DC are no smarter than the aggregate of the people of Georgia or North Carolina.

carcraft
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carcraft 08/31/14 - 08:54 pm
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Burger King bought the

Burger King bought the Canadian company for ONE REASON, to avoid American taxes. The deal was engineered by Warren Buffet. This will be lost revenue and demonstrates how tax policy hinders economic stability and growth. Just as John Kerry tried to avoid yacht taxes in Massachusetts so people in business try to get to low tax areas. Why else would New York have a national ad campaign about how business friendly (read low tax rates) New York is.

carcraft
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carcraft 08/31/14 - 09:00 pm
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Corgimom, there oz a demand

Corgimom, there oz a demand for CNC machine operators. The machine still has to be programmed, proper cutting dies for material being processed etc. CNC machining allows repeated production to close tolerances but does require skilled operators!

TrulyWorried
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TrulyWorried 08/31/14 - 09:53 pm
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To deestaffford

I did not read all the comments but your first one needs a reply - don't put welfare and Social Security in one basket. We earned ours - i.e. Social Security - needed to be mentioned.

KSL
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KSL 08/31/14 - 11:00 pm
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What the heck happened to

What the heck happened to R&R? I was posting a very pleasant post to corgi when it got shut down.

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