Monday, August 11, 2014

I like to date Vietnam War years as After Westmoreland: A.W.


I like to date later Vietnam War years as After Westmoreland: A.W.  (numbers are approximate)

After Westmoreland the US gave up on his truly murderous strategy of killing our young men to kill more of theirs: attrition, against a Ho Chi Minh who would have been willing to see everybody in Vietnam croak as long as the last breath was taken by a communist (not much of an exaggeration).  We suffered stretches of bringing home 3,000 body bags a month -- the goal being, in Westmoreland's own words, to reach the "cross-over" point at which the North could no longer replace soldiers faster than we could kill them (his own words!).

That's the war everybody thinks we waged -- and lost!


3 A.W.  The US ambassador to Vietnam could now drive anywhere in the countryside without a military escort: the payoff of counter-insurgency.  The Viet Cong guerrilla army had been reduced to totally non-Southerners, which in turn left NVA main force units (those guys you see in We Were Soldier Once and Young) eating grass and without ammo.


North Vietnamese Army main force units -- hiding most of the time like guerrillas -- required supplies of food and ammunition to be propositioned in hidden caches before they could mount an attack.  After the countryside was wrested from VC control it was no longer practicable to cache supplies or maintain cave systems.

It was easily practicable to "win the hearts and minds of the people" simply because the Viet Cong were so hated.  The movie Full Metal Jacket portrays the Viet Cong massacre during the battle of Hue: calling in police and teachers and government office workers, etc., for "re-education" and then shooting them in mass graves (bodies depicted under white powder).  The movie said the body count was twenty,  Wikipedia calls the civilian and POW count possibly as high as 6000!

Beginning with his struggle to take over the North (more on that below) Ho and friends only approach to recruitment was to kill and kill and kill anybody who didn't see things their way.

A.W. 4 1/2  The North tried an out and out Korea style conventional invasion -- beaten off with 50% casualties.

A.W. 5  The US Congress cuts off the money and supplies the South needed to continue the war along with US air support -- all reduced to a trickle.  The South begins rationing bullets and artillery rounds.

A.W. 7 1/2  The North -- having harvested a few more crops of eighteen years olds -- finally sent them to overrun the US Congress-disarmed South in six weeks.

Two million South Vietnamese anti-communists fled the advancing forces -- one million by boat.  Good thinking; the North rounded up and shot 130,000 who did not.
 * * * * * * * * *
In the 1950s, Ho Chi Minh's began his life long approach to winning supporters typically by sending terror squads into villages, lining up some boys who may have joined some government program (e.g., education) and shooting them.  When that village was rendered sufficiently docile a maintenance squad would come in and the terror squad would move on the next village (ink blot tactic).

(N.B.  Vietnam was no longer a colony in 1949.)

After Ho won the election in the North -- population 13 million; 98% of the peasants owned the land they tilled (70% in the South) -- Ho shot 50,000 peasants as capitalist exploiters and sent 100,000 to re-education camps.  Had some formula according to how many pigs farmers owned, etc.  (Communists have to have their land reform -- even they admitted they may have gone too far.)  A year later Ho's own home province rebelled -- the army crushed this, killing 6,000 peasants (wounding?).  For the early Ho, see: The Two Vietnams by Bernard Fall -- a French political scientist who was allowed to move freely about the North while the fighting was still going on there.  Killed when his jeep hit a mine in 1967.  I found his book too dry and scholarly to read when I was in my 20s.
 * * * * * * * * * *
Why were we in Vietnam?  Why did we bomb populated cities (!) in helpless Japan?  Why did we let millions of Koreans die defending their rice and fish exporting peasant culture from collectivization -- when Russia was still on it's back, it's dictator not moving aggressively, only wanting to be Czar; and Mao not really known yet?

We bombed Japan out of force of habit.  If we had never bombed Germany -- in desperation to keep it from taking over the world -- it never would have occurred to us to bomb a single populated city (!) in Japan.

We defended Korea much out of the same force of habit.  Having just fought off two little countries (with single time zones and insufficient natural resources which ironically motivated their aggressions) we just naturally took on world communism -- even though it posed no giant threat and even though the end of the Korean peninsula offered no place else to go.  That happened to turn out just fine.

By 1965, Vietnam's decision year, communism was at high tide: the two biggest countries in the world were coming at us ("We will bury you", "Your children will live under communism" -- for those who weren't around for Khrushchev) with bombs that could literally leave a half-mile deep crater where Hiroshima used to be.  Very scary time.  Khrushchev was a true believer who challenged us everywhere (Berlin grab, Cuban missiles); Mao was as bloodthirsty as Ho (see above) -- and we feared that if the democracies just let Ho run over South Vietnam it would open up the whole world to communist aggressions

Realistic?  ???  At least there was a plausible rationale.  Also Lyndon Johnson couldn't back out on Vietnam and keep his voluminous domestic legislation moving safely past "good old boy" Southern US Senators.  What a choice.

By 1975 we had won globally -- communism was receding worldwide -- we could afford to lose locally.  We, not the South Vietnamese.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Illinois' new Medicare-Medicaid narrow networks: the older you get, the less care you get?


In Illinois elderly patients on both Medicare and Medicaid are being forced into narrow networks under one insurance company (e.g., Aetna, Blue Cross, Cigna, Humana, Ilinicare, Meridian).

They may be lucky enough to keep their personal care provider -- but he or she is stuck referring them to specialists on the network. PCPs usually refer patients to a physically contiguous medical group: in the same hospital or office building. What happens if PCPs are forced to refer the elderly (the sick elderly) to addresses all over town?

Old people see a lot of specialists. The older -- and more infirm; the more unable to shuffle all over town by themselves -- the more specialists they need to see.  Some of the medical deflation we are going to see here may not be a healthy trend at all.

Horror of horrors: If you got to a doctor or get testing off network -- from providers that accept Medicare -- your Medicare wont pay for it?  Payment is limited to network only -- I think.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Does raising the minimum wage raise teen unemployment?


Does raising the minimum wage tend to raise teen unemployment?  Very possibly.  

When wages go down -- typically in the US due to pressuring or eliminating a labor union -- the quality of hires tends to go down.  

When bottom end wages go up that naturally attracts better quality hires -- often read more adult workers.  Since one of the big (phoney) arguments against raising the minimum wage is that it is no big help because it is mostly earned by teenagers living at home -- figure out whether it is a bigger, more critical issue to fret the loss of a few teen jobs, or to pay adults enough to raise a family.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

If fast food prices were cut in half ...


If fast food prices were cut in half today, most people would not purchase any more burgers.  How many can they (we) eat?  
 
We do not know how far below most people's "maximum buy line" prices may have sunk during decades of down-drifting minimum wages -- plausibly meaning today's prices could rise 25% higher and people might buy just as many; 50% might cut into business.  We DO know today's minimum wage is $3.50 an hour below what it was in 1968 -- we DO know per capita income has near doubled over the same time frame.  (See chart below.)  It is perfectly plausible that fast food prices began dropping deeper and deeper below the "maximum buy line" decades ago!

Look at Wal-Mart: 7% labor costs.  DOUBLE Wal-Mart's average wages ($10 to $20 an hour) and ADD health benefits, paid vacations, etc., and prices might go up 10% (7% + 3%?).  If Jimmy Hoffa's Teamsters were in there that would have occasioned long ago.

Look at most of the Americans you meet working on less than specific training required jobs (like x-ray tech): they are embarrassed.  They are earning $400-$500 a week.  $500 is today's median wage.


Look at the official federal poverty line: 3 X the price of an emergency diet (dried beans only please; no expensive canned) -- a formula from the mid-fifties = $20,000 poverty line for family of three ($400 a week).  Realistic minimum needs line based on table 3-2, p. 44 (after adjusting for inflation) in the MS Foundation book Raise the Floor works out to more like $50,000 a year for family of three if it has to pay its own medical insurance ($1,000 a week!).  HALF OF AMERICANS NOW WORK FOR HALF THAT POVERTY LINE OR LESS!
 
  * * * * * * * * * *
double-indexed is for inflation and per capita income growth (2013 dollars):  

yr  per capita    real     nominal  dbl-index   %-of
68    15,473    10.74      (1.60)     10.74      100%
69-70-71-72-73              [real, low point -- 8.41]
74    18,284      9.47      (2.00)     12.61          
75    18,313      9.11      (2.10)     12.61
76    18,945      9.44      (2.30)     13.04        72%
77                                                               [8.86]
78     20,422     9.49      (2.65)      14.11
79     20,696     9.33      (2.90)      14.32
80     20,236     8.78      (3.10)      14.00     
81     20,112     8.61      (3.35)      13.89        62%
82-83-84-85-86-87-88-89                          [6.31]
90     24,000     6.79      (3.80)      16.56  
91     23,540     7.29      (4.25)      16.24        44%
92-93-94-95                                                [6.51]
96     25,887     7.07      (4.75)      17.85
97     26,884     7.49      (5.15)      19.02        39%
98-99-00-01-02-03-04-05-06                      [5.97]
07     29,075     6.59      (5.85)       20.09
08     28,166     7.10      (6.55)       19.45
09     27,819     7.89      (7.25)       19.42        40%
10-11-12                                                      [7.37]  

13    29,209?    7.25      (7.25)      20.20?     36%? 
 * * * * * * * * * *
PS.  There are places in this country where they want to take four years to raise the minimum wage to $13 an hour. What business would take four years to reach a price of $13 if they thought the consumer would pay that much today -- especially if they realistically supposed they could get all the way to $15 (if not $20!)?

Kinda brings back the big question of 1956: "Does the Negro want too much, too fast?"  In 1956, the minimum wage was $8.75 in today's dollars.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

NYC Taxi & Limousine cops -- Bloomberg's undead?


Why do drivers whose cars are seized for supposedly operating as an illegal taxi have to prove their innocence? Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? Is that how the TLC gets its 80% conviction rate?

How, indeed, could the city prove they are guilty (I've been in criminal court a lot with kids)? Shouldn't the gentleman's two girls in the New York DNA story have had to come to the hearing to testify that it was a paid ride to convict him? Nobody has to talk to a TLC cop. Do most just give up -- intimidated by the crazy legal scam -- or are they found guilty as stated above if they cannot prove they are innocent?

When I was a gypsy cab driver in the Bronx back in the 1970s the mayor instructed the cops not to ticket us for picking up by hail because the medallion cabs would not, did not serve the Bronx and Harlem and in between. Does seven times as many stop-and-seizures than a few years ago -- in the final half year of stop-and-frisk Bloomberg's admin -- sound like a familiar purpose: scare MINORITY people about just driving around doing their legitimate business -- and -- reduce cab pick-up service to zero in minority areas: the old ethnic cleansing scheme; making way for yuppies?

Meantime YUPPIES take advantage of so-called "ride-sharing" by cars without livery plates, without livery insurance (ours used to be twice as high as the yellow cabs') and even brightly identified with big pink mustaches -- without getting arrested.

Just to hammer the latter home: legal aficionados may note some resemblance between Uber's and Lyft's dubious "ride sharing" self-description and Aereo's recently US Supreme Court disallowed self-description that it was only leasing antennas, not purveying copyrighted material.

PS. In my years as a gypsy (admittedly long ago, things may have changed) I never once picked up anyone with luggage or took anyone to a hotel downtown or to any airport, portrayed as the hot zones for catching in the original story -- it was not that kind of business.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

$100 minimum wage – what would REALLY happen? :-)


$100 minimum wage – what would REALLY happen?

Wal-Mart’s labor costs (7% – average $11 an hour) would go up 900% – Wal-Mart prices could go up 65%.
McDonald's labor costs (33% – average $9 an hour) would go up 1100% – McDonald's prices could go up 400%.


Wal-Mart wages up 900% – prices up 65%.
McDonald’s wages up 1100% – prices up 400%.

So far both their workers look to come out ahead (in our crazy scenario) – if only they could live their whole lives on these two job sites. What would happen when the rest of the employee world caught up with their wild raises is hard to say.

It is easy to say what would happen if the federal minimum wage were raised to $15. Wal-Mart wages would jump 50% – prices up 3.5%. McDonald's wages would about double – prices up 25%.  Even if Wal-Mart sales dipped 3.5% and McDonald's sales dipped 25%, their employees would be way ahead.

Easy to calculate* how much a $15 an hour minimum wage would add to the cost of producing America’s products and services: 3.5% (10X what E.I.T.C. transfers clumsily, in once a year lumps). Don’t worry; the 45% of our workforce earning less than today's minimum wage (which is, unbelievably, $1.50 below 1956’s minimum wage) is not going to be laid off over that 3.5%.

* Half the workforce, 70 million workers X $8,000 average raise = $560 million = 3.5% of our $16 trillion GDP (bottom 5% now at minimum wage get two average raises).

Friday, July 18, 2014

$15 minimum wage will force Chicago taxi meter up $1 a mile -- why wait?


If and when the minimum wage (local, state or federal) is raised to $15, the city of Chicago (and other localities) may be forced to add a dollar a mile to the taxi meter rate – or it may be left with few taxi drivers. If we honestly desire a much higher minimum wage, then, for the same reason we should want to add that dollar now. Could not possibly harm drivers (ask them).

It could be a test for today of whether our hearts will be in the right place on the minimum wage tomorrow.

I had been wondering why the price of taxi medallions multiplied something like 12 X over approximately 25 years to $360,000 – for the privilege of doing such an overworked/underpaid job?

Between 1981 and 1997, when I was still driving, the city allowed one 30 cent a mile increase, at which 1990 midpoint it began building subways to both airports, opening up unlimited limo licenses, putting on free trolleys between all the hotspots downtown (the Aquarium use a be our second hottest spot, after O'Hare) – and adding 38% more taxis! Today's meter is $.50 a mile lower then it was in 1981 adjusted for inflation.

I would guess the $360,000 explanation might be the American $400 “maximum wage” labor market – which I was recently horrified to catch on to at these two sites:
http://www.jobitorial.com/browse.php?Filter=A
http://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/AutoZone-Salaries-E610.htm

These drivers come 10,000 miles through fire and water (or whatever immigrants come through these days :-]) only to find that, in our labor  market, if they are not trained as a x-ray technician or some such skill, about $400 a week, at most $500 a week is the max they can hope to top out at.  Anything is better than facing that.

Related:

I personally am horrified (there's that word again) that most of the non specific skill set people I encounter working every day, all day may to be living close to destitution!  “The median wage in the US per person is $26,695.“
   
Then, I read that only 800 Chicago drivers own medallions.  Mmm. Most medallions were owned long before prices reached today's altitudes – up five times since 2006. If the city is able to auction off 50, wonder how many other owners are selling? Maybe it's a bubble. Maybe the bubble will burst when the minimum wage reaches $15. Which is where we came into this movie.
 * * * * * * * * * *
Uber?  I was a gypsy cab driver in the Bronx in the 1970s.  We had livery plates – making it legal to pick up by dispatch.  Our insurance was twice that of medallion cabs (reflecting that our driving skills were twice as good?).  We could not legally pick up on the street by hail – technically -- but the mayor instructed the police not to ticket us for that because the yellow cabs would not service the areas we served.

Little did we realize we were being ripped off – we and the limo companies and the taxi drivers! We never guessed we could just use any central dispatch station (VHF radios then – before cell phones) and simply "share rides" with anyone with any car! Holy mackerel!

I think it's time for taxi drivers in Chicago to begin putting in some time – perhaps during hours the city won't let them work – “sharing rides” in their own cars – especially on their days off which might become Friday and Saturday nights. Just experiment a little at first -- gradually they could shift from all taxis to no taxis.

Something for new immigrants to ponder seriously.

Legal aficionados may catch some resemblance between Uber’s “ride sharing” self-description and recently deceased Aereo’s claim it was just leasing antennas, not purveying copyrighted material without paying royalties.  But legalities may never be able to intrude as long as yuppies like “ride sharing” (and Chicago’s mayor’s brother Ari Emanuel, is a major investor in Uber?).  It is a good thing “ride sharing” did not start out on Chicago's poorer West side or South side neighborhoods or it would have been squished in the first week – literally.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cashing TF bonds impacts top 10 percentile tax payers most -- the opposite of FICA cap


If we don’t want to raise the FICA cap — currently at 83 percentile income — we should shy away from cashing Trust Fund bonds with income tax (the only way to cash them). Income tax is not much applied to bottom 47 percentile incomes (as noted by a recent Republican nominee), meaning Trust Fund payout would fall on the top 17 percentile -- most heavily on the top 10 percentile!

If we honestly wish to minimize the impact of Social Security payout on top 10 percentile incomes, then, the logical resort may be to gradually raise the FICA cap as the shortfall comes along — best we can do.

If this generation of retirees needs a Trust Fund that will last as long as they do, why wont every succeeding generation require the same size, multi-decade Trust Fund?

Practical reality: a Trust Fund that can cover FICA short fall for five years — until Congress gets around to closing the collections gap — is the only practical need (happened a couple of times).

The only practical advantage of today’s multi-decade monster may have been reaped by politicians: spared the need to raise the FICA rate for 60 years — 35 diverting FICA surplus to non-Social Security expenses to pay for bonds — projected 25 years cashing bonds to cover growing FICA shortfall.

Third way out?  Since we may cash bonds with printed money for decades, when bonds finally run out maybe we will print more of them too — out of force of habit (the Fed actually writes checks to make money).  :-)


 * * * * * * * * * *

ALTERNATE TRUST FUND REALITIES

If Congress in 1983 had set the FICA tax rate so that collections were just a bit above then current payout the Trust Fund bonds would have come into play very quickly -- and been exhausted very quickly.

If Congress in 1983 had set the FICA rate much higher than it did Trust Fund bonds might have accumulated of another 50 years before coming into play.

If -- a much more plausible could-have-been (should-have-been!) -- working incomes (the 83% that pay FICA) had shared equally in the near 50% per capita income growth since 1983 (83s keep popping up) -- and continued into the future keeping up with what hopefully would be reasonably good per capita growth -- then, the Trust Fund bond accumulation could theoretically grow, diverting retirement taxes to on budget items, never to payout a single dime, forever.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Why throw away Israel for a bowl of soup?


Why throw away Israel – the 78% of Palestine absorbed in 1949 -- for a bowl of soup – the 5%?  If by some sorcerer’s black magic the 78% went missing one morning – what would the 5% of misappropriated West Bank land amount to – a big Jewish neighborhood?

New York demographics: ”After dropping from a peak of 2.5 million in the 1950s to a low of 1.4 million in 2002 the population of Jews in the New York metropolitan area grew to 1.54 million in 2011.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_New_York_City#Jewish


400,000 Jews in the West Bank -- maybe not even so big.

I compare Israel’s fetish with West Bank settlements with the Irish Republican Army’s (IRA) fetish with Northern Ireland’s six counties – to a native New Yorker, just a big British neighborhood.  I’d love to ask the IRA dopes: If Ireland were not an island (as in surrounded by water), how would they know that the six counties were Irish?  :-)

Approaching 50 years of infinitely more serious – and totally self-imposed -- “troubles” for a little more land in the sand, must Israel go on forever being as dumb as the IRA?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Great idea? Push $1 a mile higher taxi fare -- to make way for $15 minimum wage -- and to build Chicago taxi union


Just had a “great idea” (they always seem great to me, at first): if the minimum wage is raised to a minimally liveable amount, $15 an hour (FOR WHICH THERE IS NO ECONOMIC RATIONALE NOT TO) …

… then, taxi fares in Chicago will for all practical purposes AUTOMATICALLY have to be raised a dollar a mile because nobody will be willing to drive for slave wages anymore.


Therefore: there is CERTAINLY no economic rationale to not raise meter rates to a humane level RIGHT NOW! Passengers will certainly pay the extra dollar. Right now in Chicago the rate per mile is (adjusted for inflation) half a dollar below what it was in 1981 when I started driving here (retired 10 years ago — in San Francisco) — 50% higher per capita income later.

If (terribly) low taxi wage cities are not willing to add a dollar to the meter now — then — they can stop pretending that they are hesitant to raise the minimum to $15 an hour too quickly for fear of upsetting this that or the other thing. They just don’t care.


Another idea: American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Council 31 (AFSCME 31) is signing up taxi drivers in Chicago.  One the one hand there is no employer opposition (lease drivers and owner drivers are both the CUSTOMER of the taxi companies).  On the other had it is hard to explain the benefits if it is much more impractical to strike.  IF 31 GETS OUT IN FRONT ON THE DOLLAR A MILE MORE-TAXI "MINIMUM WAGE", then, if successful everybody should join.  Even if the union doesn't succeed the first time, the drivers will see something practical coming from the union.  Remember there is no employer resistance.


Could happen: today's slave wage taxi drivers could open the way -- psychologically -- to quickening the adoption of $15 an hour minimum wage across the country -- emphasis on the word "quickening."
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Quick history of Chicago's (dying) taxi wages — 1981 to 1997:
One 30 cent increase in the mile rate …
… at which 1990 mid-point the city (a) started building subways to both airports, (b) opening up unlimited limo licenses, (c) and putting on free trolleys between all the hot spots downtown (the Aquarium used to be our second hottest spot after O’Hare) …
… and 40% more taxis!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

No union would wait 5 years for $15 an hour (minimum wage)

I was shocked, going through salaries at Jobitorial and Glassdoor to find that most of the people I interact with at businesses I attend everyday are lucky to be making $400 a week. How is it possible for most of the American workers I deal with every day to live on such impossible to live on salaries? It’s like it’s one big Depression era workforce out there.
http://www.jobitorial.com/browse.php?Filter=A
http://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/AutoZone-Salaries-E610.htm

(Let’s get it straight: a true poverty line is about $45,000 for a family of three – if they have to pay for their own medical – which is about 40 percentile. Compute this from the minimum needs table (3-2) on p.44 of the 2001 book Raise the Floor – ignore the official federal guideline based on three times the price of an emergency diet; which some people still carelessly cite.)

This impossible American wage scale is some kind of emergency that cannot wait for five years for a couple of progressive locales to take five years to phase in a $15 minimum wage (and then five more for everybody else to sit around and wonder if they should phase it in). If a strong union were the active agent here it would not take five years to raise wages as long as in knew the money was there.

We’ve gotten over worrying about workers losing their jobs – let’s get over worrying about putting anybody out of business. Fortune magazine currently has an article explaining why Wal-Mart should not even lose stock share price if it voluntarily raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour (we should note w/o even other firms being forced to do the same, flooding Wal-Mart with newly flush customers).
http://fortune.com/2013/11/12/why-wal-mart-can-afford-to-give-its-workers-a-50-raise/

If the federal minimum wage jumped to $15 tomorrow, then, taxi fares would have to be raised a dollar a mile overnight all over the country. Otherwise all the terribly exploited foreign born drivers would jump ship overnight. Will the taxi business survive? The only difference will be an influx of new American born (including African American) drivers. Any progressive reason not to jump the fares right now? (Chicago fare almost 60 cents a mile below 1981 – adjusting for inflation; 50% per capita income increase since then.)

Currently 100,000 out of 200,000 (the latter my guesstimate) gang-age, minority Chicago males are in street gangs – wont work for Egyptian wages. That’s an emergency.

The ultimate social/political/cultural game change – the only possible economic and political rebalancing path – if of course legally mandated, centralized bargaining (ask James Riddle Hoffa).

Centralized bargaining seems the only labor market setup in history that — new theory here? — not exactly puts labor on the same bargaining power level in setting its pay as ownership; but more like puts labor on the same bargaining power level as ownership to set the price of the PRODUCTS with the CONSUMER.

In this setup the hidden hand — the ultimate arbiter of who gets what production — ends up being the wishes of the consumer (we are mostly all employees and consumers).

Imagine if early steam loom operators could have bargained — and not just with their employer but — with every employer at once. Not only would they have had a better life than the individual weavers who preceded them (who had had a good economic life) but they would have tested the max the consumer would pay for their product (with the alternate of cheap, what I call subsistence-plus labor, segregated from the consumer you never know how much consumers might have paid).

Instead, as we historically know, the hundred times more productive steam loom operators were reduced to feeding their families oat cakes three times a day because they could not afford wheat bread.
http://www.amazon.com/The-Making-English-Working-Class/dp/0394703227/ref=sr_sp-atf_title_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404222789&sr=8-1&keywords=history+of+the+english+working+class

PS. Forget the Koch brothers once we have the same number of lobbyists, the same aggregate amount of finance and 99% of the votes. It will be time to re-institute what Robert Kuttner calls financial repression, right down to confiscatory taxation — sold to a very eager to please Congress.
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It should be obvious to you ladies that legally mandated, centralized bargaining is the only way — in the world, in history — to go. Ladies are willing to talk about anything even if there is no immediate practical result — in any case ladies define practical as how the thing works (what “practical” means, no?).

No; not to gentleman.

Gentleman only want to talk — or THINK — about things they can practicably do something about. “Practical” to an — instinctively pack hunting, much more totally group oriented than he ever suspects — is defined by whether he may PRACTICABLY TALK about how the thing might work — gauged almost purely by what his hunting pack (of 300,000,000) is thinking already. Nothing more intellectually intimidating and mind freezing to a gentleman than a topic that is not currently topical.

All I can say is: Instinctive individual gatherers (and individual thinkers): rock your boys!
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Moan progressives moan.

I read everybody from Joseph Stiglitz to Nick Hanauer to David Kay Johnston, moaning about how the right monopolizes the national conversation with their silly big government and big deficit fobias. Whoa, Whoa, Whoaaa is us!

Progressives could completely dominate the national conversation tomorrow if they ever came up with true game changing issues — not phobias — that would capture everyone’s’ imaginations and make an opportunity to really educate the public to what is happening to them. The issues are of course as fast a jump as possible to the minimally survivable $15 an hour minimum wage (not the virtual/impossible $10 minimum of the present — see above) and the ultimate labor market AND political forum make over, legally mandated centralized bargaining.

YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO WIN (at first)! The scales will melt away from everybody’s eyes when you take the opportunity to teach them what they really need.

People don’t really sit around coffee shops and discuss what the deficit will be 40 years from now or whether big government is the problem — unless there is nothing else to distract them. And they don’t spend a lot of time discussing climate change or Wall Street re-regulation. Single payer would be great (win OR lose) but most people are covered and everyone was/is scared of Obamacare.

What else can I say? Individual gatherers: Rock your boys!

I was shocked, going through salaries at Jobitorial and Glassdoor to find that most of the people I interact with at businesses I attend everyday are lucky to be making $400 a week. How is it possible for most of the American workers I deal with every day to live on such impossible to live on salaries? It’s like it’s one big Depression era workforce out there. http://www.jobitorial.com/browse.php?Filter=A http://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/AutoZone-Salaries-E610.htm
(Let’s get it straight: a true poverty line is about $45,000 for a family of three – if they have to pay for their own medical – which is about 40 percentile. Compute this from the minimum needs table (3-2) on p.44 of the 2001 book Raise the Floor – ignore the official federal guideline based on three times the price of an emergency diet; which some people still carelessly cite.)
This impossible American wage scale is some kind of emergency that cannot wait for five years for a couple of progressive locales to take five years to phase in a $15 minimum wage (and then five more for everybody else to sit around and wonder if they should phase it in). If a strong union were the active agent here it would not take five years to raise wages as long as in knew the money was there.
We’ve gotten over worrying about workers losing their jobs – let’s get over worrying about putting anybody out of business. Fortune magazine currently has an article explaining why Wal-Mart should not even lose stock share price if it voluntarily raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour (we should note w/o even other firms being forced to do the same, flooding Wal-Mart with newly flush customers). http://fortune.com/2013/11/12/why-wal-mart-can-afford-to-give-its-workers-a-50-raise/
If the federal minimum wage jumped to $15 tomorrow, then, taxi fares would have to be raised a dollar a mile overnight all over the country. Otherwise all the terribly exploited foreign born drivers would jump ship overnight. Will the taxi business survive? The only difference will be an influx of new American born (including African American) drivers. Any progressive reason not to jump the fares right now? (Chicago fare almost 60 cents a mile below 1981 – adjusting for inflation; 50% per capita income increase since then.)
Currently 100,000 out of 200,000 (the latter my guesstimate) gang-age, minority Chicago males are in street gangs – wont work for Egyptian wages. That’s an emergency.
The ultimate social/political/cultural game change – the only possible economic and political rebalancing path – if of course legally mandated, centralized bargaining (ask James Riddle Hoffa).
Centralized bargaining seems the only labor market setup in history that — new theory here? — not exactly puts labor on the same bargaining power level in setting its pay as ownership; but more like puts labor on the same bargaining power level as ownership to set the price of the PRODUCTS with the CONSUMER.
In this setup the hidden hand — the ultimate arbiter of who gets what production — ends up being the wishes of the consumer (we are mostly all employees and consumers).
Imagine if early steam loom operators could have bargained — and not just with their employer but — with every employer at once. Not only would they have had a better life than the individual weavers who preceded them (who had had a good economic life) but they would have tested the max the consumer would pay for their product (with the alternate of cheap, what I call subsistence-plus labor, segregated from the consumer you never know how much consumers might have paid).
Instead, as we historically know, the hundred times more productive steam loom operators were reduced to feeding their families oat cakes three times a day because they could not afford wheat bread. http://www.amazon.com/The-Making-English-Working-Class/dp/0394703227/ref=sr_sp-atf_title_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404222789&sr=8-1&keywords=history+of+the+english+working+class
PS. Forget the Koch brothers once we have the same number of lobbyists, the same aggregate amount of finance and 99% of the votes. It will be time to re-institute what Robert Kuttner calls financial repression, right down to confiscatory taxation — sold to a very eager to please Congress.
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It should be obvious to you ladies that legally mandated, centralized bargaining is the only way — in the world, in history — to go. Ladies are willing to talk about anything even if there is no immediate practical result — in any case ladies define practical as how the thing works (what “practical” means, no?).

No; not to gentleman.
Gentleman only want to talk — or THINK — about things they can practicably do something about. “Practical” to an — instinctively pack hunting, much more totally group oriented than he ever suspects — is defined by whether he may PRACTICABLY TALK about how the thing might work — gauged almost purely by what his hunting pack (of 300,000,000) is thinking already. Nothing more intellectually intimidating and mind freezing to a gentleman than a topic that is not currently topical.
All I can say is: Instinctive individual gatherers (and individual thinkers), rock your boys!
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Moan progressives moan.

I read everybody from Joseph Stiglitz to Nick Hanauer to David Kay Johnston, moaning about how the right monopolizes the national conversation with their silly big government and big deficit fobias. Whoa, Whoa, Whoaaa is us!
Progressives could completely dominate the national conversation tomorrow if they ever came up with true game changing issues — not phobias — that would capture everyone’s’ imaginations and make an opportunity to really educate the public to what is happening to them. The issues are of course as fast a jump as possible to the minimally survivable $15 an hour minimum wage (not the virtual/impossible $10 minimum of the present — see above) and the ultimate labor market AND political forum make over, legally mandated centralized bargaining.
YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO WIN (at first)! The scales will melt away from everybody’s eyes when you take the opportunity to teach them what they really need.
People don’t really sit around coffee shops and discuss what the deficit will be 40 years from now or whether big government is the problem — unless there is nothing else to distract them. And they don’t spend a lot of time discussing climate change or Wall Street re-regulation. Single payer would be great (win OR lose) but most people are covered and everyone was/is scared of Obamacare.
What else can I say? Individual gatherers: Rock your boys!
- See more at: http://angrybearblog.com/2014/07/open-thread-july-1-2014.html#respond

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How unionizing America would end the milking of America -- and when are we going to get around to it?


The late David Broder, dean of the Washington press corps, told a young reporter that the biggest difference between today and when he arrived in D.C. 50 years ago was that all the lobbyists were union back then.

Without unions supplying the advocacy people power — the gross numbers of employee reps minding the legislative store(s) — every form of chicanery breaks loose just for lack of anyone to specifically oppose every specific con job — it’s the missing numbers (stupid :-]).

In a recent week I gathered news stories of unchecked scams — I say unchecked because there are not enough good bodies to keep up with the bad bodies, there are almost NO good bodies — for just one week, just at random. Noting the kinds of rip offs like some management group last year or before temporarily taking control of Burger King, milking it for half a billion dollars, then departing the scene. The following were of just one random week, by one not overly observant observer. 

Accidental Tax Break Saves Wealthiest Americans $100 Billion — BLOOMBERG

Absurdities of Copyright Protection — CONVERSABLE ECONOMIST

Still Don’t Care About Net Neutrality? Give the Internet Slow Lane a Try — SLATE

Why Did AIDS Ravage the U.S. More Than Any Other Developed Country? Solving an epidemiological mystery — NEW REPUBLIC

In North Dakota, there will be blood
The state has highest rate of worker deaths in country, thanks to lax regulations and the favor of the oil industry

[+]
Enron-style price gouging is making a comeback
Wall Street makes naked attempt to jack up electricity prices in New England
ALJAZEERA, DAVID CAY JOHNSTON


No unions; nobody minding the store(s); the whole economy is like one big game show where they give you a shopping cart and set you loose with X amount of time to grab all you can.
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Krugman: Mr. Obama is Looking Like a Very Consequential President Indeed

Indeed?

Even if Obama had succeeded over the top with (1) single-payer health care, (2) climate control to end all global warming, (3) full financial re-regulation of Wall Street …
… the country would still be going down the drain as more and more of us are worked harder and harder for less and less pay — and as the country is wide open to endless variety of high-end looting …

… because of massive deunionization …

… which, Paul, Obama (and almost nobody else) is doing anything at all about. So, go celebrate Obama scoring well in a couple of rounds in a fight that win or lose will leave most of us suffering in 19th century hell. 
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PS. Louise Marie Rantzau, a 21-year-old McDonald’sworker in Denmark … said she earns about $21 an hour because of the collectiveagreement.  [Plus health benefits, vacation time, etc. I would presume.]
Krugman: Mr. Obama is Looking Like a Very Consequential President Indeed
Indeed?
Even if Obama had succeeded over the top with (1) single-payer health care, (2) climate control to end all global warming, (3) full financial re-regulation of Wall Street …
… the country would still be going down the drain as more and more of us are worked harder and harder for less and less pay — and as the country is wide open to endless variety of high-end looting …
… because of massive deunionization …
… which, Paul, Obama (and almost nobody else) is doing anything at all about. So, go celebrate Obama scoring well in a couple of rounds in a fight that win or lose will leave most of us suffering in 19th century hell.
- See more at: http://angrybearblog.com/2014/06/open-thread-june-17-2014.html#comment-770300

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Deleting our doubly dubious trillion dollars of student debt?


In Ha-Joon Chang’s "23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism” he explains that so many more people going to college isn’t really that big a plus for economic output — that they have to go only because everybody else goes; meaning without it they wont be competitive -- on a relative basis.

He gives the example of Switzerland having had only 15% college educated up to 1990 — with about the highest worker productivity in the world — up to 40% by now; same reason.

What occurs to me is that if a college education is not that much of an INHERENT plus economically — then — the gigantically jumping costs of recent years are not justified even the slightest little bit. If everybody understood that — or had understood that all along — then, whatever has was added to college costs that has ballooned them so high and put everybody into such a deep pit (now there’s the mixed metaphor of the week) APPARENTLY FOR NO REASON could have been cut to the bone without hesitation.
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Given that this generation’s unnecessarily (super) deep college debt was just that, UNNECESSARY — maybe that gives us an opening to give them extraordinary one-time relief (one-time assuming we can reverse the crazy high cost trend) — perhaps putting all such debt under the Income Based Repayment program (and not charging tax on unpaid at the end — should be easier in a presumably more sane 25 years from now).
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Too add to the forgiving justification: this generation has also been subjected to the results of 30 years of Republicans getting every last Voodoo economic wish (following written in 2011):
80′s Reagan got his 25% across the board income tax cuts — building unprecedented peacetime debt – his dereg’ing savings and loans crashing the industry. ’90′s Sen. Gramm and friends tore down the Glass-Steagall Chinese wall between retail and investment banking – not without help from Clinton Democrats — setting the stage for our much troubled 2000s. ’90s Greenspan noted Wall Street partying too hard while failing to remove the punch bowl – the burst bubble end gave us the 2001 recession.

2000′s Bush cleared away more financial reg’s — while smiling on little reg’ed shadow banking’s proliferation – converted Clinton budget surpluses into trillions in tax cuts for the better off — which cuts flooded by now much degreg’ed banks and never much reg’ed non-banks with too much savings to be lent to too many borrowers – inflating an oversize real estate bubble whose burst aftermath left said prolonged illiquidity contraction and said low demand dips — while trillions of piled up Reagan-Bush debt inhibit routine Keynesian easing of low demand dips with temporary deficit spending.
 

[Coming up?  A possible end run of the Constitution's bar to legislatively altering contracts -- for public contracts only (Chicago's parking meter rip off, restructuring student loans) -- under eminent domain?]

PS.  Thomas Frank's (of What's the Matter With Kansas fame) Salon article "Colleges are full of it: Behind the three-decade scheme to raise tuition, bankrupt generations, and hypnotize the media -- Tuition is up 1.200 percent in 30 years.  Here's why you're unemployed, crushed by debt -- and no one is helping" exposes the exponentially rising costs of (fundamentally unnecessary?) college degrees as just another financial game (#1001) where Americans are being squeezed because the alternative of not buying at exaggerated price will be even worse.

Everything we do in this country seems to be turning into a LOSING casino game — manipulated by the sharpies. (Hint: legally mandated, centralized bargaining will make everything healthy and happy again — make a completely different power setup.)

exposes the exponentially rising costs of (fundamentally unnecessary?) college degrees as just another financial game (#1001) where Americans are being squeezed because the alternative of not buying at exaggerated price will be even worse.
Everything we do in this country seems to be turning into a LOSING casino game — manipulated by the sharpies. (Hint: legally mandated, centralized bargaining will make everything healthy and happy again — make a completely different power setup.)
- See more at: http://angrybearblog.com/2014/06/ny-feds-bogus-estimate-of-return-on-college-and-brookings-misses-the-student-loan-crisis.html#more-25278
exposes the exponentially rising costs of (fundamentally unnecessary?) college degrees as just another financial game (#1001) where Americans are being squeezed because the alternative of not buying at exaggerated price will be even worse.
Everything we do in this country seems to be turning into a LOSING casino game — manipulated by the sharpies. (Hint: legally mandated, centralized bargaining will make everything healthy and happy again — make a completely different power setup.)
- See more at: http://angrybearblog.com/2014/06/ny-feds-bogus-estimate-of-return-on-college-and-brookings-misses-the-student-loan-crisis.html#more-25278
exposes the exponentially rising costs of (fundamentally unnecessary?) college degrees as just another financial game (#1001) where Americans are being squeezed because the alternative of not buying at exaggerated price will be even worse.
Everything we do in this country seems to be turning into a LOSING casino game — manipulated by the sharpies. (Hint: legally mandated, centralized bargaining will make everything healthy and happy again — make a completely different power setup.)
- See more at: http://angrybearblog.com/2014/06/ny-feds-bogus-estimate-of-return-on-college-and-brookings-misses-the-student-loan-crisis.html#more-25278

Links to: Cost of College Degree in U.S. Soars 12 Fold: Chart of the Day

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Labor extracting the max consumers will pay -- versus -- the road to subsistence-plus serfdom


What I call a subsistence-plus labor market exists when employees have no mechanism with which to withhold labor from employers in attempt to extract the maximum price consumers may be willing to pay -- pay levels set to suit employers needs only.

Examples: Fast food pays subsistence (or less).  Starbucks -- pays up a rung -- a couple of dollars an hour more plus benefits for more yuppie-attuned employees (English as a first language).  Starbucks employees may expect they are headed for better things (likely) -- may be why they endure pay too close to bottom money.  Whole Foods -- up another rung -- pays a couple of more bucks plus benefits (to the 80% who turn over) because it needs what Starbucks needs plus some additional industry.

My (un)favorite example of subsistence-plus is regional airline pilots whose pay and benefits may hover around Whole Foods level – with typically $100,000 educations and years of building flight hours – but who hope for much better things (which may be getting less hopeful all the time).

When employees whose wages extract the max consumers will pay have the opportunity to purchase products made by employees whose wage potentials are skinned (skimmed) under subsistence-plus, then, the labor price/value spectrum as assessed by consumers only becomes distorted.  Ditto for any labor-price extraction differential.   

If all employees were paid according to the maximum price their products could command from consumers – instead of too many by how little (how few rungs) above subsistence the boss can skin them – the working rubric would be: from each consumer according to their needs; to each employee according to their abilities.  (You had it all backwards, Vladimir Ilyich. :-])

There is only one modality -- introduced by legal mandate in late 1940s continental Europe, since picked up elsewhere in the world and established 
by the Teamsters Union National Master Freight Agreement in 1964 in the US -- that ownership cannot work its ratcheting-down, subsistence-plus ways around: centralized bargaining – where all employees doing the same category of work in the same locale (nationwide where applicable) work under a single collectively bargained contract with all employers.  (This should eliminate the use of scabs who don’t have a legal contract – I've never heard of scabs in Europe.) 

My old Teamsters local 804 (left in 1970, age 26) recently won (as they like to phrase it) a 30-and-out retirement benefit of $3900 a month.  Which may double what regional pilots earn while still active.

Time is a-waisting.  Not extremely long ago, Northwest Airlines squeezed a billion dollars in givebacks out of its major airline flight crews only to next year award a billion dollars in bonuses to a thousand of its execs.  The pace on the road to serfdom may be speeding up.  Help!  Now!