There’s no shortage of explanations offered for the ongoing worker shortage — a shortage that has left our nation with more than 11 million unfilled jobs. Some blame delayed or early retirements. Others point to unreliable access to school and childcare. And some say the tight labor market has empowered workers to hold out for ever higher wages in ever more purposeful jobs.
But the best place to look for an explanation of the worker shortage is right over your shoulder: Big Brother.
While some of Big Brother’s most overt attempts at socialism have stalled, his methods for wreaking havoc on American lives through big-government policies have quietly continued unabated. The unemployment bonus which drove much of the initial worker shortage has already ended and months have passed since the federal government sent the last stimulus checks, but these blatant efforts to promote dependency were never the only big-government attacks on work.
At nearly every turn during our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, federal government policies have incentivized government dependency. Putting aside unemployment bonuses and stimulus checks, we can’t forget the months-long eviction moratorium and the Medicaid rule that forces states to keep millions of able-bodied Americans on Medicaid even after they become ineligible. Nor can we forget that this administration has prevented states from adding proven work requirements to Medicaid to help more able-bodied Americans get back to work.
But sadly, that’s not all. The federal government has even suspended existing work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents on food stamps. At the same time, the Biden administration announced it would increase average food stamp benefits by a whopping 25 percent. A family of four can now receive a maximum monthly benefit of $835, while the average American family of the same size only spends $537. It’s become clear that you don’t have to work, or even show interest in working, and the government will pay for your grocery bill — and some — all the same.
When welfare pays more than work, why go look for a job?
Too many Americans have learned big government’s intended message. To get all your basic needs met, from health insurance and housing to hundreds, or even thousands, more dollars in other government handouts, you only need to do one thing: submit.
Surely, you might say, there is more to blame than big government policies for this whole mess. But don’t forget that the government has had an indirect hand in the other serious causes of the worker shortage, causes like unreliable childcare and school closures. After all, government mandates have driven both.
With all these incentives that promote dependency and mandates that prevent work, it’s almost hard to believe the worker shortage isn’t worse. But it’s already bad enough, even without our imagination. While the unemployment rate has continued to drop over the past few months, the labor force participation rate remains stagnant at just 61.7 percent. Millions of working-age Americans simply won’t go to work, and the blame lies squarely with big government policies.
We have paid American workers to stay at home — and they have.
Sam Adolphsen is the policy director at the Foundation for Government Accountability.