So have you noticed all the “help wanted” signs around the county?

They’re everywhere.

That makes sense because our county’s unemployment rate is 2.4 percent, which is actually lower than the rate that gets us to full employment.

The Federal Reserve considers a base unemployment rate (the U-3 rate) of 5.0 to 5.2 percent as "full employment" in the economy. It’s known technically as the Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment.

So we here in Kosciusko County are more than twice “fully employed.”

Our county is not some strange outlier, either. The national unemployment rate has fallen to 4.3 percent, so it’s fair to say that there are “help wanted” signs posted all across this great land.

This is a good thing.

But at the same time, something about this is troubling to me.

If you peruse the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you find that the civilian labor force in the U.S. as of July numbered just a little more than 160 million. That’s people who have jobs or are seeking a job, are at least 16 years old, are not serving in the military and are not institutionalized. Basically, it’s all Americans who are eligible to work in the U.S.

That’s roughly half the total U.S. population.

Next, take a look at the  labor force participation rate. That’s the active portion of the economy's labor force. It refers to percentage of the total population over age 16 who are either employed or are actively looking for work.

The labor force participation rate last month was 62.8 percent.

If you apply that rate to the number of people in the U.S. over age 16, you find that roughly 95 million of them are not in the workforce.

As of June, the actual number of people over age 16 not in the labor force was 94,813,000, according to the BLS.

Now, to be sure, a pretty good chunk of those, in the range of 30 million, are baby boomers over the age of 65 who have retired. And if you look at the numbers through the filter of people in their prime working years from 25 to 54, the numbers look less troublesome.

Nonetheless, we still have literally tens of millions of people in this country who have simply made the decision not to work, even though there are plenty of jobs available to them.

So how do these people live?

Well, they get some sort of government assistance.

Disability rolls are swelling, for example. The number of Americans receiving disability payments at the end of 2016 was 8.8 million, up from 5.5 million in 2002. That’s a 62 percent increase.

And the cost of all other entitlements is on the rise.

The obvious problem with all this, of course, is that there are only so many people working to generate the tax revenue necessary to write all these government checks.

A recent article in City Journal was reprinted in the National Review under the headline “The War On Work And How To End It.”

It says:

In 1967, 95 percent of “prime-age” men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. During the Great Recession, though, the share of jobless prime-age males rose above 20 percent. Even today, long after the recession officially ended, more than 15 percent of such men aren’t working. And in some locations, like Kentucky, the numbers are even higher: Fewer than 70 percent of men lacking any college education go to work every day in that state.

The rise of joblessness — especially among men — is the great American domestic crisis of the 21st century. ... The jobless are far more prone to self-destructive behavior than are the working poor. Proposed solutions that focus solely on providing material benefits are a false path. Well-meaning social policies — from longer unemployment insurance to more generous disability diagnoses to higher minimum wages — have only worsened the problem; the futility of joblessness won’t be solved with a welfare check.

I think everybody in Washington knows that’s true. But at the same time, they simply do not have the political will to take the steps necessary to address the problem.

Entitlement programs across the board are stumbling toward insolvency.

Yet any talk of restructuring programs, cutting programs or even reducing the future growth of any entitlements is met with immediate demagoguery.

Remember when Paul Ryan suggested that perhaps Medicaid could be privatized?

The next thing you know there’s a political ad showing Ryan dumping a grandmother out of her wheelchair off a cliff.

All politicians know that current levels of government spending in these programs is unsustainable.

Right now, “conservatives” have control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

When the perpetually occurring government shutdown is threatened in September and it’s time to raise the debt ceiling yet again, let’s see if these conservatives have the guts to do the right thing.