Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute, author of the book Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis, joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Monday’s Breitbart News Daily to discuss the enormous social crisis posed by men dropping out of the workforce and its political ramifications.
“The Invisible Crisis goes back two generations. This is something that has been going on steadily since 1965,” Eberstadt explained. “It’s almost like a straight line down. And now we have a lower rate of work for men in America than we had in 1940, at the tail end of the Depression. I’m glad that the New York Times finally caught on. Welcome to the party the rest of the world is having.”
This sardonic comment was a reference to the New York Times editorial published on Sunday, entitled “Millions of Men Are Missing from the Job Market.”
“It’s obviously a big, enormous change in American life, so there are lots of things involved,” Eberstadt continued. “Some of it is change in the economy. Some of it is change in family breakdown. Some of it has to do with the increasing disposition to accept a no-work lifestyle, and to finance it through government and other sources. And part of it is the rise of criminality in America. We now have 20 million ex-cons, people with felonies in their background, who are in the society at large, not behind bars, or one of eight adult guys. It’s much more difficult for those people to get back into the mainstream.”
He said this crisis is obviously “not invisible to the people who are suffering from it.”
“It’s not invisible to people who live in the bottom half of America. If you live in a bubble in Washington, you’re in the talking class and the deciding class, you may not know anybody who is affected by it. But yes, it’s very evident in America, just not to our elites and our deciders.”
Eberstadt said readers of his book will see “there is now an army of 7 million guys, between the ages of 25 and 54, who are neither working nor looking for work, that there are three times as many of them as unemployed men – guys who are out of a job and actually looking for work, that the guys who are checked out from the economy are also checked out from civil society. They don’t do volunteering. They don’t do religious activities. They don’t even do much in the way of care or help around the house.”
“They’re spending a full-time 2,000 hours a year or more in front of TV, video, and the Internet,” he continued. “We now know some more, of course, about the pain pill aspect of this, but other people knew about that, of course, already, via oxycodone and other opioid explosion.”
“The criminality aspect of it, I think, is also important – the huge increase in the number of Americans who have felonies in their background. The government, for some reason, for some unfathomable reason, just has not collected information over the last fifty years on what happens to people once they are out of jail, but also out of trouble. We don’t know anything, really, about their health, their income, their living arrangements, or their employment,” Eberstadt said.
He said he was “pretty light on policies” in his book, seeking mainly to outline the problem, “since I want to get lots of people in to recognize the problem and offer their own solutions.”
However, he suggested “three big avenues for government and a couple of avenues outside of government” to resolve the Men Without Work crisis.
“Number one, we’ve got to revitalize small business,” he said. “We now have a net business death environment in America, more businesses closing than opening each year. Obviously, that’s part of the problem.”
“Number two, we’ve got a very badly broken government disability system. It incentivizes people for raising their hand and saying they’re helpless, rather than having a work-first principle in trying to get people back into the game,” Eberstadt continued.
“Number three, we’ve got to do something about trying to reintegrate people who have paid their debt to society back into society,” he urged. “We don’t even have the evidence for evidence-based policies on this.”
“There are lots of things government can do. One of the things government can’t do is to fix the broken American family,” he warned. “That’s something that can only happen in civil society. And another thing related to that is obviously the whole question of faith in America. People of faith can help to create strong communities to get men back to work. I sure wouldn’t want a government Ministry of Religion doing this, but I think that people in America can think about this, and see how it goes.”
Marlow found it interesting that Eberstadt’s work focused on the problems facing men in society, when most of our political debate and cultural conversation is focused on problems facing women “and how women are just so oppressed in American society.”
Eberstadt says he focused solely on men because “it’s the elephant hiding in the room. It’s the enormous social problem in America that’s connected to so much of the other bad, sad things that are happening to our country.”
“It’s connected to the slow growth, to the widening of economic gaps, to the bigger budget deficits and greater government dependence, to the lower mobility, to the weaker families. It’s almost at the epicenter of so many things that are wrong in America today,” he said.
Eberstadt agreed with the proposition that “American men, especially of working age, are not a designated victim class, and maybe that’s one of the reasons that our friends in the media have not focused on this as much as they should have over the past fifty years.”
“It’s also true that the bubble in America, as my friend Charles Murray at AEI describes, has become so thick that people in Washington don’t know, personally, so many of these millions and millions of people who are affected. If we didn’t have that bubble, and we didn’t have these preconceptions about victim classes, maybe we would be more effective in looking at the real problems in our country,” he suggested.
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