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The “Missing Millions” from Biden’s Economy (and What to Do About It)

The Left and the liberal media are working overtime to convince us the economy is just fine. 

Unfortunately for them, we can see the cracks with our own eyes. The American people know that bank failures, grocery inflation, unaffordable housing, and $50 to fill up the tank are not the signs of a working economy. 

Adding to the anxiety, a new report has identified a warning sign below the surface—more than two million workers who should have returned to the labor force, but didn’t. Based on paycheck data and direct deposits, Bank of America found that work is way down compared to before the pandemic. Highlights from the report:

  • The “Missing Millions”: More than “two million workers should have come back to the labor force but haven’t.”
  • Not Just Baby Boomers: “[P]rime-age workers (Millennials and Gen X) are exiting the labor force too, specifically lower-income workers in the restaurant and retail sectors.” Boomers are retiring—and Gen Zers are dropping out.
  • An Ongoing Problem: This isn’t going away on its own. According to the report, this is “unlikely to be resolved in the near term, [and] we think labor supply could face more persistent headwinds.” 

Unfortunately, the very same liberal policymakers and talking heads are actively opposing a solution in Washington, D.C., that could give a major boost to the workforce: work requirements for able-bodied adults as part of food stamps and Medicaid. Work requirements are already a part of public housing and childcare assistance, because government programs were never supposed to be a replacement for work.

Before the pandemic, we knew what worked in lifting people from welfare to work—work requirements. Some, especially the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program included measures to encourage an end result of rejoining the workforce. 

However, that goal seems to have changed in Washington, D.C.

In the federal food stamps program, a work requirement for program eligibility was suspended during the initial response to COVID-19. That suspension remains on the books today until the public health emergency is formally lifted, even as businesses are desperate for workers and millions remain out of the workforce. 

But even before the pandemic, that work requirement was riddled with loopholes and, in many states, waived completely. Closing those loopholes and ending waivers would build a true, nationwide work requirement in food stamps and represents one of the best opportunities to bring workers off the sidelines and back into the economy. 

In the Medicaid program, the federal government placed congressional handcuffs on states that locked them into paying for enrollees who are no longer eligible for the program. These handcuffs restrict states from passing program-integrity measures like basic eligibility checks, contributing to an enrollment explosion in the program. After years under these federal handcuffs, the omnibus passed in December once again gives states the option to remove ineligible enrollees beginning on April 1, but enrollment has already skyrocketed—as of this week, the Medicaid program is estimated to have more than 100 million enrollees, up from less than 57 million a decade ago.

The weak economy is a major, ongoing concern for Americans. Earlier this month, a national survey found that nearly half of Americans (46 percent) believe the United States is already in a recession, with another 22 percent believing we’ll be in a recession in the coming year. 

There are nearly 11 million open jobs in America, a figure that more than two-thirds of Americans find concerning. With more than two million Americans missing from the workforce Congress has a chance to address the problem and help get America back to work. 

Read more: Congress Could Boost Economy by Allowing Medicaid Work Requirements Without Bureaucratic Intervention

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