Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Progressive Priorities

For the entire Obama administration, poll after poll has shown that the nation's top priority is jobs. But, ask any Progressive what his top priority is and he will say "income inequality". To the rest of the country, this is a pretty low priority but the Progressives are fixated on this. This not only puts them out of step with the country as a whole, it puts them at odds with it.

Raising the minimum wage is the big Progressive cause right now. To hear them talk about it, this is easy because of some basic assumptions they made.

First, they point to studies that have shown that minor raises in the minimum wage were absorbed with little loss of jobs. Then they insist that their proposed incease of nearly 40% will also be absorbed. When the Congressional Budget Office projected that it was likely to cost a half million jobs, they rushed to discredit the CBO.

I suspect that the Progressives think that the additional money will come from top executives' salaries. Nothing else explains their insistence that raising the minimum wage will have any real effect on income inequality. This reflects the influence of Marxism on their thinking where the economy is a zero sum system. No one can make money without taking it from someone else. In many ways, Progressive thinking is stuck in the 19th century.

Another assumption is that people making more than the current minimum will be given a commensurate raise. This is even included in the CBO figures. I am doubtful because of personal experience. I was working on a payroll system back during the high-inflationary late 1970s (when companies wrote their payroll systems in-house). I was asked to write a program that would raise everyone to the new minimum wage. I asked about the people who were making more than the old minimum but less than the new. I was told that they were back to minimum.

That make sense. Companies will be squeezed by the increase. They will cut corners where they can which means that they will only raise people to the new minimum.

There will also be a squeeze on cost of living raises.

So that's what the progressives want to do to the economy. There is also what they have already done. Obamacare has a number of incentives built into it that discourage job creation. They even admitted this is the most recent executive order. Mid-range employers have to swear that they did not lay people off in order to qualify for the exemption.

All things considered, the Progressives' slogan should be "Fewer but better jobs". This isn't quite accurate but it's close and it represents how they actually think. This is born out by looking at heavily unionized states vs. right to work states. The unionized states have slightly higher wages and unemployment.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The UAW Vote in Chattanooga

A few days ago workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee voted against organizing as part of the UAW. This was unexpected since the plant was in favor of the union. So what happened?

The short answer is that unions have almost nothing to offer anymore. I have pro-union friends on Facebook who post lists of things that unions brought us. The big problem with that list is how old all of the accomplishments are.

Unions may have been needed a century ago but things have changed. The government now performs many of the functions that unions used to provide. A highly mobile workforce means that employers have to treat workers well or lose them. Automation has replaced some of the worst jobs.

At the same time, unions have become bloated. It can't have escaped the Volkswagen employees that two of the big three American car makers needed government bailouts because of union benefits.

While they seem to have cleaned themselves up, the term "corruption" often follows "union".

Unions have also become politically active and polarized. Republican workers have little incentive to vote for unions, knowing that some of their dues will be used to help Democrats.

Put it all together and there is little incentive for workers to unionize.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Privilege and the Progressives

On Downton Abby it is easy to tell who is privileged and who isn't. In the modern way of reckoning, though, everyone on the show is privileged. In fact, most of the population is now figured to be privileged by some reasoning. In fact, no matter how poor and powerless someone may be, he may still be the beneficiary of privilege. This article has a list of ways white benefit.

This list is rather strange. There are a lot of false assumptions such as the very first one: I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time. Is it really so impossible for minorities to spend time with other minorities? This is also rather perverse since a white who wants to spend time exclusively with white would be proof of racism.

Several other points assume pervasive racism. Other points are subjective. Number 6, I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented, does not apply to sports. This almost makes a case that black privilege exists. This same is true of number 12: I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented...

Note I am assuming from context that the author is black. An Asian would have more trouble with these points but would not be complaining about other points.

The point of identifying people as being privileged is to de-legitimize them. The self-identified underprivileged are easily offended. Katy Perry was roundly criticized becuase she wore a kimono at the America Music Awards even though her performance was low-key and respectful.

Wellesley College near Boston is another example of outrage over privilege. The campus recently installed an outdoor statue that is a realistic representation of a slightly pudgy, middle-age man sleepwalking in his underwear. One complaint about the sculptor was "Mr. Matelli comes from a place of great privilege which has apparently been used to place a sculpture of the white male body on campus. I find it weirdly invasive."

Keep in mind that students enrolled in Wellesley are privileged by most standards. This is an exclusive college.

A much more virulent example comes from the Huffington Post. In a piece entitled "The Blindness of Privilege in a Time of Oppression", Writer James Peron, takes issue with a (lesbian) member of the Austrian Olympic team who said that Russian oppression is blown out of proportion. Peron's argument includes this assertion, "Iraschko-Stolz speaks from a unique position of privilege, one denied to actual victims -- namely LGBT citizens of Russia." Peron's assert, "No one suggested gay athletes would be harmed by the laws -- on the contrary, the Russian government would make sure privileged athletes are protected from anti-gay vigilantes. Given that Iraschko-Stolz is unwilling to challenge those laws -- medals are more important to her -- it is unlikely she will be bothered in any way." This is inaccurate. There were very real fears that gay athletes would be discriminated against and despite numerous assurances by the Russian government, there was still some apprehension. Peron seems to be upset that an athlete who is gay and who has fought for years to have her sport (women's high jump) included would be more concerned with competing than crusading for gay rights.

Later in the same piece, Peron takes on Rachel Maddow. Maddow, who is gay, says she sees no need to get married. Like the athlete, Maddow is apparently expected to do what is best for gays instead of herself. Peron continues:

A lot of the problems created by the second-class status of gays can be mitigated if you are wealthy enough. Maddow is, and then foolishly acted as if all LGBT people were in her position. Maddow's special financial situation means she can protect herself in ways that other people cannot. She looked at things from a position of privilege and falsely assumed everyone else had the same status.

Iraschko-Stolz is doing precisely the same thing. While "privilege" is often used to describe the position of straight, white men, that is not entirely accurate. Many people -- even lesbian athletes -- can have privileges that others do not, some by circumstance, some as the result of government policy.

This whole thing of defining people by privilege is destructive in a democracy where all people are supposed to have an equal voice.

Friday, February 07, 2014

What the CBO Really Said About Obamacare and Jobs

The Republicans seized on the summary - the equivalent of 2.5 million people will exit the workforce over the next ten years due to Obamacare. The Democrats, lead by the White House, are insisting that this is a good thing since it allows people the choice of spending more time with their kids.

I listened to the director of the CBO's testimony. What he said is that the way Obamacare is structured, it acts as an indirect tax on employment. If you do not work then you receive government subsidies for healthcare. If you get a job these subsidies are reduced or eliminated. If you get a job that does not offer health insurance then you will have to make up the difference out of your own pocket, reducing your net income.

The expectation is that many people (2.5 million) will prefer to stay home and accept government subsidies than work.

The left has been arguing this point in reverse for years in justifying an increase in the minimum wage. The theory says that if you raise the minimum wage then more people will want to work because they will receive greater benefits.

Arguing that enticing millions of more people to accept government subsidies instead of working is a strange point of view.

Ironically, an administration that worries over income inequality has created a program that will hurt the lower-end of the wage-earners more than the upper-end.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Global Warming and a Cold Winter

One cold January in the US does not prove anything one way or the other about Global Warming. It does have a lot of people wondering about the more extreme predictions. Al Gore had predicted that well before now the world would have warmed so much that Washington DC would never see another snowfall. This was demonstrably wrong.

One flaw in the warming theory is the 15 year pause in warming. Eugene Robinson recently published an answer for that. If you just discount 1998 as an outlier then everything is fine (except a closer reading of the paper in question calls for ignoring three years out of 15 instead of just one). Who is actually cherry-picking that data when you have to throw out yeas of actual weather to prove a model?

A side-note: I doubt that any true believer in 1998 said, "This year is an outlier. You can't use it to prove Global Warming."

Then there is this which explains away the cold winter. According to the embedded cartoon, winters used to be really cold then they warmed up because of Global Warming. What used to be normal now feels cold to us.

It's a very glib explanation but there are some major problems. The graph of cold days only goes back to to 1970. Even with that it is clear that the late 1970s and early 1980s were anomalous. Winters got a lot colder then they warmed up again. I remember the 1960s and days below zero were rare. A chart showing a longer period would show that there are naturally occurring warm and cold period. I'm also old enough to remember that the reason for those cold winters in the 1980s was the same reason that this winter was cold - Canadian air got deflected further south than usual.

Another major problem with this explanation is the summers. The same years that we had bone-chilling winters, we had record hot summers. A chart of days over 100 would resemble the one of days below 0. There would be a few leading up to some really hot summers in the early 1980s then a cooling. For the last couple of decades, we have not exceeded 100 in most summers.

Bottom line - the defenders of Global Warming are still on weak ground.