Friday, May 10, 2013

Hiding the Unemployed: Disability and the Politics of Stats

Is the real rate 30%?

Some statistics cannot be understood without setting them within a political framework because they reflect politics as much as or more than they do reality.

The unemployment rate is an example and a cautionary tale.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the official unemployment rate for last February fell to a four-year national low of 7.7 percent. While the White House cautiously congratulated itself, Republicans quickly pointed to what is often called the real unemployment rate; it stood at 14.3 percent.

The BLS looks at six categories of different data, from U-1 to U-6, to analyze employment every month. U-3 includes people who have been unemployed but who have actively looked for work during the past month; this is the official unemployment rate used by the media. U-6 contains data excluded from U-3, including part-time workers and the unemployed who have unsuccessfully looked for a job in the last year; this is the real unemployment rate.

Those politicians who want to take credit for lower unemployment thrust U-3 figures forward. Those who wish to deny them credit prefer U-6.

But matters may even be worse.  Now there is fresh reason to believe that even the 14.3 percent rate may be a considerable understatement.

The Disabled and the Unemployment Rate

National Public Radio (NPR) recently published the results of a six-month investigation by reporter Chana Joffe-Walt: "Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise in Disability in America." Joffe-Walt uncovered what she called a "disability-industrial complex," which spends more on disability payouts than on welfare and food stamps combined.

About a year ago, the New York Post reported that "more than 10.5 million individuals" received disability each month, and the reserves would be exhausted in 2018. Now Joffe-Walt claims the federal government sends out approximately 14 million payments; Social Security's disability fund is expected to run out of reserves by 2016.

On March 22, during an interview with "This American Life," we learn that "since the economy began its slow, slow recovery in late 2009, we've been averaging about 150,000 jobs created per month. In that same period every month, almost 250,000 people have been applying for disability."

Why do disability figures skew the unemployment rate? In the NPR article, Joffe-Walt explains that "the vast majority of people on federal disability do not work. Yet because they are not technically part of the labor force, they are not counted among the unemployed." They become the invisible unemployed.

What Explains the Rise in Disability Payouts?

The precipitous rise in disability claims comes from the unintended consequences of political maneuvering.

"The End of Welfare As We Know It" was announced in 1996 when President Clinton signed a reform act intended to move people off welfare rolls and into jobs. Clinton "encouraged" the individual states to push for the transition by making them fund a much larger share of their welfare programs. To encourage the individual recipients, the reforms also capped the length of time a person was eligible for welfare.

The incentive worked on the states, but not in the manner intended.

Each person on welfare became a continuing cost for a state, but each person who moved onto disability saved the states money, because Social Security Disability Insurance is fully funded by the federal government.

In her NPR report, Joffe-Walt indicates how aggressively the states shifted welfare recipients onto disability. She writes, "PCG [Public Consulting Group] is a private company that states pay to comb their welfare rolls and move as many people as possible onto disability. The company has an office in eastern Washington State that's basically a call center, full of headsetted women in cubicles who make calls all day long to potentially disabled Americans, trying to help them discover and document their disabilities." A recent contract between PCG and the state of Missouri offered PCG $2,300 per person it shifts from welfare to disability.

The incentive for individuals to leave welfare also worked, but, again, not in the manner intended.

Disability is easier to qualify for than welfare, and it has no time limit. Moreover, those on disability qualify for Medicare and other benefits, as well as receive payments roughly equal to a minimum wage job. According to Joffe-Walt, only 1 percent of those who go onto disability leave to rejoin the workforce.

Conclusion: What Is the Actual Unemployment Rate?

If neither the official (U-3) nor the real (U-6) unemployment rates can be trusted, then how can we ascertain a more reliable rate?

A huge step would be to acknowledge the invisible unemployed who are not part of the current BLS calculations. They include not merely the so-called "disabled," but also those who have left the workforce for other reasons.

CNS News noted of the February 7.6 percent unemployment rate, "the number of Americans designated as 'not in the labor force' in February was 89,304,000, a record high . . . according to the Department of Labor." The economic trend-monitoring site Investment Watchblog concluded that the actual American unemployment rate -- one that includes all unemployed -- is around 30 percent. The site reasoned, "89 million not in the labor force = 29%, give or take, assuming the US population is 310,000,000 + official unemployment 7.7%."

It is not possible to render an entirely accurate unemployment picture. For example, the population figure of 310,000,000 used by Investment Watchblog almost certainly includes people under 16 who cannot legally work. Thus the unemployment rate may be higher. On the other hand, many "not in the labor force" could be retired or otherwise voluntarily unemployed. Not enough data are available.

It is possible, however, to reject the official unemployment rate. And it is necessary to cultivate a healthy skepticism of statistics produced by politics, as so many are.



The mass exodus of Christians from the Muslim world

A mass exodus of Christians is currently underway.  Millions of Christians are being displaced from one end of the Islamic world to the other.

We are reliving the true history of how the Islamic world, much of which prior to the Islamic conquests was almost entirely Christian, came into being.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recently said: “The flight of Christians out of the region is unprecedented and it’s increasing year by year.”  In our lifetime alone “Christians might disappear altogether from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt.”

Ongoing reports from the Islamic world certainly support this conclusion:  Iraq was the earliest indicator of the fate awaiting Christians once Islamic forces are liberated from the grip of dictators.

In 2003, Iraq’s Christian population was at least one million. Today fewer than 400,000 remain—the result of an anti-Christian campaign that began with the U.S. occupation of Iraq, when countless Christian churches were bombed and countless Christians killed, including by crucifixion and beheading.

The 2010 Baghdad church attack, which saw nearly 60 Christian worshippers slaughtered, is the tip of a decade-long iceberg.

Now, as the U.S. supports the jihad on Syria’s secular president Assad, the same pattern has come to Syria: entire regions and towns where Christians lived for centuries before Islam came into being have now been emptied, as the opposition targets Christians for kidnapping, plundering, and beheadings, all in compliance with mosque calls telling the populace that it’s a “sacred duty” to drive Christians away.

In October 2012 the last Christian in the city of Homs—which had a Christian population of some 80,000 before jihadis came—was murdered.  One teenage Syrian girl said: “We left because they were trying to kill us… because we were Christians….  Those who were our neighbors turned against us. At the end, when we ran away, we went through balconies. We did not even dare go out on the street in front of our house.”

In Egypt, some 100,000 Christian Copts have fled their homeland soon after the “Arab Spring.”  In September 2012, the Sinai’s small Christian community was attacked and evicted by Al Qaeda linked Muslims, Reuters reported. But even before that, the Coptic Orthodox Church lamented the “repeated incidents of displacement of Copts from their homes, whether by force or threat.

Displacements began in Ameriya [62 Christian families evicted], then they stretched to Dahshur [120 Christian families evicted], and today terror and threats have reached the hearts and souls of our Coptic children in Sinai.”

Iraq, Syria, and Egypt are part of the Arab world.  But even in “black” African and “white” European nations with Muslim majorities, Christians are fleeing.

In Mali, after a 2012 Islamic coup, as many as 200,000 Christians fled.  According to reports, “the church in Mali faces being eradicated,” especially in the north “where rebels want to establish an independent Islamist state and drive Christians out… there have been house to house searches for Christians who might be in hiding, churches and other Christian property have been looted or destroyed, and people tortured into revealing any Christian relatives.” At least one pastor was beheaded.

Even in European Bosnia, Christians are leaving en mass “amid mounting discrimination and Islamization.”  Only 440,000 Catholics remain in the Balkan nation, half the prewar figure.

Problems cited are typical:  “while dozens of mosques were built in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, no building permissions [permits] were given for Christian churches.” “Time is running out as there is a worrisome rise in radicalism,” said one authority, who further added that the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina were “persecuted for centuries” after European powers “failed to support them in their struggle against the Ottoman Empire.”

And so history repeats itself. One can go on and on:

*    In Ethiopia, after a Christian was accused of desecrating a Koran, thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes when “Muslim extremists set fire to roughly 50 churches and dozens of Christian homes.”

*    In the Ivory Coast—where Christians have literally been crucified—Islamic rebels “massacred hundreds and displaced tens of thousands” of Christians.

*    In Libya, Islamic rebels forced several Christian religious orders, serving the sick and needy in the country since 1921, to flee.

To anyone following the plight of Christians under Islamic persecution, none of this is surprising.  As I document in my new book, “Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians,” all around the Islamic world—in nations that do not share the same race, language, culture, or economics, in nations that share only Islam—Christians are being persecuted into extinction. Such is the true face of extremist Islamic resurgence.



Creating the Stasi American

The Palm Beach, Florida police program is the first of its kind in America. The Community Partners Against Terrorism (CPAT) initiative sprang out of the half-billion dollars dropped into Urban Area Security grants by the Department of Homeland Security. CPAT's founder Sheriff Ric Bradshaw explains the purpose of the new police hot line that solicits anonymous tips: “We want people to call us if the guy down the street says he hates the government, hates the mayor, and he’s gonna shoot him. What does it hurt to have somebody knock on a door and ask, ‘Hey, is everything OK?’” Bradshaw wants to know who mutters against “the system” and who hangs a “Don't Tread on Me” banner on a bedroom wall. A video on his website urges local citizens to report on suspicious activity such as the photographing of a bridge.

Local authorities can often perform functions that are legally forbidden to the federal DHS. In 2002, President George W. Bush introduced a domestic-spying program called Operation TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System) by which average citizens reported suspicious activity. It especially appealed for information from workers who had access to private dwellings such as plumbers or television repairmen. TIPS was eventually abandoned due to a backlash that persistently compared the program to the domestic spy structure of the Stasi in communist East Germany.

Many critics of CPAT have zeroed in on discrediting Ric Bradshaw, the man. For example, whistleblower Mark Dougan is an ex-deputy from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office; he runs a website devoted to documenting Bradshaw's extensive corruption. Bradshaw's response? A massive criminal investigation that resulted in five felony charges being lodged against another officer for leaking information to Dougan's site. Dougan commented, “They couldn’t charge me criminally so in February 2013, so the Sheriff’s campaign manager attempted to purchase my web site in the amount of $75,000 using taxpayer’s money. I refused...”

Bradshaw is less interesting than the dynamics of the hot line itself. Utterly ruthless and depraved civil servants are a dime a dozen. The more compelling question is how their policies affect average citizens who are suddenly able to wield the power of government against their neighbors. Bradshaw has assured the public that the police “know how to sift through frivolous complaints.” But the respected law enforcement expert Jim Donahue has argued that the Sheriff's office “is led by the kind of people my dad fought in WWII to defeat. They are threatening the very fabric of our republic.”

The impact of being able to turn in your neighbor for their opinions or other peaceful behavior is well documented. It is a power that encourages the worst within human nature and rewards those people who lie and betray all trust. A network of citizen-informers not only creates the Stasi or Nazi state but also the Stasi or Nazi human being.



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1 comment:

PattersonD said...

Great thoughts on the politics of stats. This blog also talks about the issue.