I still listen to Rush Limbaugh. In the past, I faithfully listened to the entire program. Now, I turn him off when he goes on some ridiculous rant or goes on at length about some point my real-life experience has taught me he is wrong about. Lately, he's been lamenting the fact that so many Americans are not working, even though they are still able to eat. He sees this as a bad because it does not encourage people to look for work. Like many Conservative commentators, he drones on about the poor labor force participation rate. Limbaugh never says that these people are too lazy to look for jobs, although this is the unspoken assumption. The truth is far more complicated.
The decreasing unemployment numbers do have to do with the number of Americans who have given up or who are no longer on unemployment or similar programs. Someone who falls off of the unemployment rolls because they have given up longer for work does not count against the statistics. Some, perhaps, have given up because they are lazy and do not want to work. Most people simply cannot find a job. Republican legislators, including the Republican governor of Indiana, seem to think that forcing people into job search programs will increase the labor force participation rate, or that involuntary self-directed job search programs will give the people they skills they need to maintain employment.
These are popular talking points among the Republican-controlled legislature of the Hoosier State, but they ignore the reality. The talking points reinforce the stereotypes that poor people are lazy and morally deficient. Their constituency loves this message and continues to vote them into office. Meantime, the actual statistics are ignored. Indiana has 20 counties that have unusually high rates of poverty, and Vigo County has the third highest poverty rate in the state. (This is something I learned from members of the Vigo County School board.)
As even the Deseret News pointed out, if someone wants the workfare programs to be useful, they need to provide incentives to both the participants and the companies who run these programs to find people jobs. Otherwise, the only thing that will change is forcing people off of the SNAP program. If that and reinforcing the image of the state as being hard-working is the only thing that matters, then the welfare reform programs in the United States have succeeded in their goal. If their goal is to get fewer people to eat or to depend more on food pantries, Pence is succeeding in his goal.
Pence thinks the IMPACT program targets able-bodied adults without dependents. It even says it in the program description. Political paperwork, however, seldom matches reality. People with severe depression, suffering from other mental illnesses, or people using canes or crutches frequently find their way into this program. The people in the program are expected to get notes from their doctors, which they may not be able to get if they do not have health insurance.Pence wants Hoosiers to have skin in the game. Neither he nor the people who use this phrase have any idea what this phrase means. If he means having a stake in it, I already do. I paid sales taxes and Indiana state income taxes this year.