unemployment

Something to Keep in Mind (Minimumawecity Mix)

McPoverty protesters outside Wendy's restaurant on Lake City Way in Seattle on Thursday, Feb. 20. (Photo: Joshua McNichols/KUOW)

Barry Ritholtz, for Bloomberg:

Consider as an example what Mark Perry, at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote a month before the first phase of Seattle’s new minimum-wage law went into effect. The city’s “government-mandated wage floor … guarantees reduced employment opportunities for many workers.”

As one of my colleagues wrote last week, the “unemployment rate in the city of Seattle―the tip of the spear when it comes to minimum wage experiments―has now hit a new cycle low of 3.4%.” Meanwhile, a University of Washington study on the minimum wage law found little or no evidence of job losses or business closings.

Although you can never declare a game over until the final whistle, this experiment is starting to look like a rout.

Given the strangely anti-labor mood in which Americans find themselves, remember this when we start hearing about what a bad idea a useful minimum wage is supposed to be.

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Image note: McPoverty protesters outside Wendy’s restaurant on Lake City Way in Seattle on Thursday, 20 February 2016. (Photo: Joshua McNichols/KUOW)

Ritholtz, Barry. “Minimum-Wage Foes Tripped Up by Facts”. Bloomberg View. 7 December 2016.

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A Brief Note on Reality

President Obama speaks at the Greater Boston Labor Council Labor Day Breakfast on Sept. 7. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

“It’s a fact that unemployment has gone down and the stock market has gone up during the Obama administration. But GOP voters treat these things more as issues of opinion than issues of fact.”

Dean Debnam

It seems worth mentioning.

And while it’s one thing to rely on Benen, and another to sit so sternly on such a reliably obvious point―

If GOP voters want to make the case that Obama’s policies don’t deserve credit, fine. If they want to argue that there are other, more important metrics than unemployment and the stock market, no problem. If they want to suggest things would be even better if the country had adopted a right-wing agenda, we can at least have the conversation.

But the polling suggests Republicans prefer to pretend reality just isn’t true. It’s as if a form of cognitive dissonance is kicking in: the president is bad, falling unemployment is good, ergo unemployment must be higher, not lower.

―perhaps the problem here is the unfortunate regularity of Republican reliance on the “reality gap”.

And if the syllogism seems clumsy to the point of being nonsensical, yes, that is actually the point.

Yes, really. This is what Republicans have come to.

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One of Those Bad Ideas (Minnesota Seven Mix)

Huang reflects on a mission barely accomplished. (Darker Than Black, ep. 14)

And then there is Minnesota, specifically the Seventh Congressional District―a rural swath in the west of the state currently represented in Congress by Rep. Collin Peterson (DFL)―and its GOP. Or, as Ed Mazza explains:

The head of the Republican party in Minnesota is apologizing after one of the GOP’s district branches tweeted about a “negro problem.”

MN #DFL now propose a "special session" to deal with their self-created "#Negroproblem". (Minnesota 7th Congressional District GOP, via Twitter, 22 November 2015)The tweet, sent out by the state’s 7th Congressional District GOP on Sunday, was a response to the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party’s call to make joblessness and poverty in the black community part of a proposed legislative special session, the Star Tribune reported.

“MN #DFL now propose a ‘special session’ to deal with their self-created ‘#negroproblem,'” the tweet said.

Now, come on. Really? Look, you might be a Republican but at what point does this sound like a good idea? Alright, alright, alright. That’s not fair, is it? Try it this way: At what point did this fail to seem like a bad idea?

This is the question the Republican Party in Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District must answer: Why are you in politics?

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Mazza, Ed. “Minnesota GOP Apologizes For ‘Negro Problem’ Tweet”. The Huffington Post. 24 November 2015.

The Jeb Bush Show (Launching the Light Fantastic)

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signs autographs from the window of a food truck afterhe formally announced that he would join the race for president with a speech at Miami Dade college, Monday, June 15, 2015, in Miami.  (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

“It depends how radically Mr. Bush plans to restructure the economy.”

John Cochrane

Okay, work with me, here: If we bear in mind that a writer should always accommodate the intended audience, then what are we supposed to think about articles like “6 takeaways from Bush’s launch” by Niall Stanage of The Hill, which actually does, in fact, feature a sentence that reads, “Here are six takeaways from a positive day for the Bush campaign”?

To the other―

Jeb Bush had a lot riding on his official presidential launch on Monday.

Stumbles over the last few months have stripped the sense that the former Florida governor is the front-runner for the Republican nomination next year.

Bush has looked rusty at times on the campaign trail, and a reshuffling of his campaign team just last week highlighted the sense that he needs to get his candidacy in order. But the professionalism of Monday’s launch is likely to calm the nerves of some early Bush backers disconcerted by the early missteps.

Here are six takeaways from a positive day for the Bush campaign.

―it really is a pretty good primer, and carries the metavalue of aptly demonstrating the lowered expectations permeating the GOP’s 2016 nomination contest.

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Worth Keeping an Eye On

The White House

Sometimes it feels nearly head versus wall:

Progressives are angry at the president for caving in to Republicans on the CRomnibus budget bill, and rightly so—the rollback of post-Great Recession regulations on financial derivatives is simply inexcusable. But there is a way for President Obama to win back his party’s base with a bold strike on behalf of the middle class: Raise the overtime pay threshold.

Overtime pay is to the middle class what the minimum wage is to low-wage workers. In 1975, more than 65 percent of salaried American workers earned time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked over 40 hours a week, but by 2013, that number had dropped to less than 11 percent. That’s because the income threshold at which employers are required to pay overtime has been allowed to erode to only $23,660 a year, less than the poverty line for a family of four. The 89 percent of salaried workers who now earn over that threshold can be forced to work unlimited overtime hours for no additional pay at all ....

.... But it doesn’t have to be this way: President Obama could raise the overtime threshold to $69,000—enough to cover the same 65 percent of salaried workers that it covered 40 years ago—and with no prior congressional approval. Because unlike the minimum wage, the overtime threshold is set through the Department of Labor’s existing regulatory authority.

(Hanauer)

And if we find ourselves thinking there must be a catch, there probably is. The first thing to mind, for instance, is that American corporations will revisit the question of which jobs they need to keep close by, and which can be shipped overseas. Then again, even the executives will hedge before they send their expense reports to Bangalore.

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Hanauer, Nick. “Give Americans the overtime pay they’ve earned”. The Hill. 18 December 2014.

The Funky Fishscale Fog

Detail of 'La Pêche Miraculeuse', ca. 1610, by Peter Paul Rubens.

The fictional Jebediah Springfield famously explained, “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.” In the modern day, wise men like Bill Maher question the vapidity of the word “spirit”. Either way, a transfusion seems out of the question:

So, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is blocking health care benefits for low-income families in order to help them “live the American dream” and Gov. Pence is curtailing food aid in order “ennoble” people.

How very gracious of them.

In theory, the “give someone a fish” adage sounds quite nice, and in a booming economy with low unemployment and broad job opportunities, we can have a credible conversation about work requirements and the safety net.

But Pence, like Walker, runs the risk of sounding horribly out of touch – their argument is predicated on the assumption that the economy is in great shape, and everyone who wants a job can easily get one. I suspect most of the American mainstream would offer a different assessment of economic conditions.

(Benen)

We might also note that while once upon a time perhaps it was possible to teach a man to fish, such that he could do the work properly and earn a living, in a day. In modern times, though, that isn’t quite so easy. That is to say, we can certainly test the thesis, but probably need not: Go out on the street and give a job to the first unemployed person you find.

The objections and complications are easily predictable.

Who says that person is qualified, for instance? Maybe she was a waitress before the restaurant closed to make room for the McDonald’s in the Walmart, or he was a janitor who cleaned the school restrooms before being laid off for budget cuts. In either case, though, you need a “people person” with strong reading, speaking, and interpersonal skills, and maybe, just maybe you can teach that person to solicit telephone survey responses and appropriately record the data in a day.

Or maybe not. Either way, that person is going to need to eat at some point during the day.

And, you know, in most markets you’re probably going to be paying that employee less than they need to continue living in order to do the work.

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Sisyphus Weiner Galt

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal', by Zach Weiner, 18 November 2014.

Dystopia is burning, which ought to be a good thing except it is burning with the passions of the stage and just wants to dance! Which, of course, ought to be about as inspiring as Rush Limbaugh in a thong leotard.

Then again, one would think that at some point, prostitution would be the sort of thing only humans could do for each other, but I think society has yet to get through polygamy, incest, and bestiality before moving onto giant robot anime porn. Oh, wait. Rule Thirty-Four. Serves me right for trying to steal a line.

I don’t know, something about mechaphilia or mechasexual goes here. Still, in the Weiner dystopia at least the labor conditions for human prostitutes has improved. To the other, though, it would seem there is not so much difference between the Luddite punch line and a PG-rated future, which on this occasion means post-Galtian.

In the end, perhaps that is the point; people are what the really pointless labor exists for. Maybe that is why we must presume Sisyphus happy. Fruitless labor? Hey, it’s job security.

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Weiner, Zach. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. 18 November 2014.

The Republican Jobs Agenda

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH8)

“That’s the cruel irony in Boehner’s tweet. It would be funny, but it represents the massive economic damage that the Republican Party has unnecessarily inflicted on the country the past six years. And that’s not funny at all.”

Danny Vinik

It is easy enough to enjoy something that sounds like refreshing honesty from Speaker Boehner (R-OH8), an admission that the GOP does not have a jobs plan nearly four years after employment and economic concerns won Republicans a majority in the House of Representatives.

(1)(2)(3)(4)(5) #5pts4jobs→Speaker.gov/5pointsCertainly, there have been signs along the way, and many Democratic sympathizers have become familiar with the Maddowism, “Jobs, jobs, jobs, j’abortion”. But beyond the record number of reproductive health prohibition bills sponsored in the states since 2010, Republicans have managed to highlight their own dearth of ideas and actions on the employment front. Northeastern carpetbagger Senate candidate Scott Brown, formerly of Massachusetts and now seeking office in New Hampshire, recently explained his outlook: “Here’s the thing. People say, ‘What are you going to do to create jobs?’ I am not going to create one job, it is not my job to create jobs.” Supporters will certainly point to the rest of the quote, which is about keeping government out of the way because it’s an individual person’s job to create his or her own job. And while that is a tremendously unrealistic outlook in and of itself, a twist of rhetoric conservatives have used for years, Brown’s amateurish phrasing reminds of two things at least; first, the former Senator still isn’t ready for the office, and more importantly to our consideration at the moment, that unreadiness opened him to a Kinsley gaffe. Remember that to Republicans, child labor prohibitions, workplace safety regulations, anti-harassment rules, and the need to pay wages in general are all examples of government getting in the way. If only we would kick the kids out of school and send them to work in unsafe factories and mines where they are vulnerable to bullying, harassment, and exploitation by others, everything in the world would be great. Really, isn’t this the sort of argument we should have settled about our labor politics a generation ago? Except, of course, that some aren’t ready to let go of their hopes for such regal privilege in American society, so here we are amid a slow economic recovery from damage inflicted by related conservative economic policies, Republicans are doing everything they can to stall the recovery and inflict more damage against their society, and all so they can complain about the unemployment rate.

Can we at least stop pretending Republicans are decent people? Sure, say what you will on behalf of the rank and file voters, but this has been going on so long that if they wish to claim some sort of ignorant detachment from the actions of their chosen political representatives they are either lying or in need of psychiatric intervention.

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Irony

Don't ask me, I'm just the Speaker of the Fucking House

Irony can be toxic, even pestilent. To the one, we might note that there are so many things wrong with Richard Cowan’s story for Reuters, though chiefly we might wonder what the hell the article is trying to tell us.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Thursday expressed his dissatisfaction with a chronically high jobless rate and complained of a “very sick idea” that the unemployed would “rather just sit around.”

The top House Republican said there were a “record number of Americans stuck” and that government had an “obligation to help provide tools for them to use to bring them into the mainstream of American society.”

The U.S. unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in August, down from 10 percent in October 2009.

Boehner’s remarks were in response to a question following a speech he delivered to the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute in which he laid out broad ideas for improving the U.S. economy.

The question was about plans that have been offered by politicians ranging from Democratic President Barack Obama to Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to expand an earned-income tax credit for the poor.

And for Reuters’ part, the telling becomes even less articulate as we go. Then again, perhaps the problem lies with the Speaker; articulation has never been an emblem of his tenure.

Still, though, irony insists:

It’s official: The House is closing up shop until after the midterm elections.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office announced Thursday there will be no votes on Friday and said the four-day session originally scheduled to begin on Sept. 29 has been canceled, pending Senate approval of the continuing resolution that passed the House Wednesday.

That means lawmakers will be sprinting to the exits — and the quick trip to the airport — after the close of business Thursday.

(Eldridge)

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