Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Taxe hikes on highest incomes -- cover tax cuts on middle incomes -- to cover labor prices increases of lower incomes

A $15 minimum raise hike is more likely to close down jobs in the mid wage category than in the low wage. A hike probably means money will move from the mid income-overall to the low income-overall because low wage produced goods were relatively under priced (not "marked to market" due to prior monopsony).

Think the 65% of McDonald's customer coming through the drive thru.

Consumers tend to purchase more of goods produced by employees at their own wage level. Ergo, when income flows overall from the mid to the low -- the low may disproportionately spend that new money among themselves. While some mid wage firms may lose business as prior sales money goes south and be forced to lay off workers.

Easy way to make the loss from mid to low as painless as possible: hybrid redistribution via tax hikes for the (really) top with matching tax cuts for the mids.

I am thinking (just to throw something out) 90% taxes on all income over $2 million dollars. Maybe 50% over $650,000 (the entry to the top 1%?).

Under the theory that people will enthusiastically work for $200 a week if that is the best their economic place and time can do: the very same people will not work for $400 a week if their era could and should be paying $800.

I'm thinking grossly underpaid Chicago retail clerk (could be $800 a week -- instead of $400 -- marked to market via collective bargaining) which I say explains why Chicago gangs now include an intolerable 100,000 out of my guesstimate 200,000 gang-age, minority males. I'm also thinking old American born taxi drivers like myself who wont work 60 grueling hours for today's $500 a week (did for $750). I'm thinking family raising adults who no longer show up for two-tier (thanks to Walmart) contract supermarket work.

Today's-time and US-place CEOs, professional athletes (who basically just retain feral animal skills), TV news anchors and movie stars earn 20 times what their 50s and 60s predecessors did -- they can certainly pay similarly high tax rates (though not from as low a starting point -- double per capita income later). They will work just as hard once they get used to the new (hybrid) redistribution regime representing the most anybody can squeeze out of their era.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Milton Friedman backs no unions - or all unions!?

Milton Friedman said (in 1980) that unions added 14% wages for their members but reduced wages 4% for everybody else. He might have added that unions raise the wages of employees in similar non-unionized firms by threat of expanding unionization -- which of course results in even more employees squeezing everybody else.

Going by Uncle Milty, we need either no unions or all unions. The latter effect can be achieved by centralized bargaining --  practiced in such “inefficient” economies as Germany (which manufactures eight times as many motor vehicles per capita as we do) -- and practiced all over the world from French Canada to Argentina to Indonesia.

But, first things first. Get the country organized by a spreading ink blot of free-to-collectively-bargain states. Bernie rarely shouts about unions. Why is it that upper middle class progressives lose sight of the main counterweight, the average person’s power mainspring: labor unions?

What are we prepared to do?

How about an all out effort to make union busting a felony? Not only is unfairly strangling the labor market the most economically -- and socially -- damaging species of market warping -- but firing folks who want to collectively bargain is the most pernicious way of achieving the most pernicious result.

When you sneak a recording in the movie house or collude on Wall Street the doing is not harmful -- only the result.

Criminalizing union busting can be done state by state -- starting with the most progressive of course. It being a simple matter of freedom, once folks in an old fashioned union Hell state see freedom--to-bargain in a nearby healthy labor market state (last poll I saw said 50% wanted to join a union) they may wake up and demand the same non-loaded market to labor in themselves.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

High union density = balanced satisfaction for labor, owner and consumer -- almost by definition

Labor is almost by definition able to reach a subjectively satisfactory wage level by collectively bargaining with ownership and of course with the ultimate arbiter of price, the consumer. Almost by definition because all three gravitate to similar satisfactory/unsatisfactory human emotional results – not ideal by their lights, but similar enough to other participants’.

High union density was how the “Great Compression” ran this kind of relative satisfaction regime sort of on autopilot in the late 40s, the 50s and 60s in the US (if you were white).

Relative satisfaction regime almost by definition disappears when the labor market reverts to what I call subsistence-plus wages, in which labor is paid subsistence plus whatever extra it just barely takes to procure additional increments of skill and/or effort from it – instead of paid the max the consumer is willing to up.

One (partially made up) example of relative expectations: in the 50s, $500 a week would have kept American born cab drivers satisfied for their grueling 60 hour work week – and on the job. By the late 70s, early 80s the needed incentive had become $750 (I can attest).

Minimum wage example (why don’t we see peak to peak comparisons instead of trough to peak?): in 1968, $11 an hour was satisfactory at half today’s per capita income. The US wasn’t yet flooded with SUVs, up-to-date kitchens and $4000 a month two-bed room apartments for the top 10% (what’s an up-to-date kitchen?). See many American born fast food workers lately (as in decades)?

Today, 100,000 out of my guesstimate 200,000 Chicago, gang-age males are in drug dealing street gangs. Getting the minimum wage up to $15 and the median wage (via collective bargaining) up to $20 – would in total add something like an average $10,000 a year to 500,000 Chicago low wages (by extremely rough guesstimate, but puts the multipliers in place), adding all of $5 billion to the cost of Chicago’s $170 billion (figuring 1% of national) economic output.

Clean up Chicago street gangs by making an offense that is not even a ticket now into a big felony (persistent abuses triggering RICO prosecutions) …

… by making union busting a felony (like every other form of market gouging) and allow, by then (at last!), unfettered-labor to do its best in the truly unfettered market. If nothing else it should be a question of freedom – people should simply be free to collectively bargain with their employer (and inherently with the consumer) if they please – that’s a form of economic satisfaction in itself.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Despair, American style ? -- ask Jimmy Hoffa :-)

Paul Krugman:  "At this point you probably expect me to offer a solution. But while universal health care, higher minimum wages, aid to education, and so on would do a lot to help Americans in trouble, I’m not sure whether they’re enough to cure existential despair."  

Unionized and (therefore shall we say) politicized: you are in control of your narrative -- win or lose. Can it get any more hopeful than that? And you will probably win.

Winning being defined as labor eeking out equally emotionally satisfying/dissatisfying market results -- equal that is with the satisfaction of ownership and the consumer. That's what happens when all three interface in the market -- labor interfacing indirectly through collective bargaining.

(Labor's monopoly neutralizes ownership's monopsony -- the consumers' willingness to pay providing the checks and balances on labor's monopoly.)

If you feel you've done well relative to the standards of your own economic era you will feel you've done well subjectively.

For instance, my generation of (American born) cab drivers earned about $750 for a 60 hour (grueling) work week up to the early 80s. With multiples strip-offs I won't detail here (will on request -- diff for diff cities) that has been reduced to about $500 a week I believe (at best I suspect!) and that is just not enough to get guys like me out there for that grueling work.

Let's take the minimum wage comparison from peak-to-peak instead of from trough-to-peak: $11 and hour in 1968 -- at half today's per capita income (economic output) -- to $7.25 today. How many American born workers are going to show up for $7.25 in the day of SUVs and "up-to-date kitchens" all around us. $8.75 was perfectly enticing for Americans working in 1956 ($8.75 thanks to the "Master of the Senate"). The recent raise to $10 is not good enough for Chicago's 100,000 gang members (out of my estimate 200,000 gang age minority males). Can hustle that much on the street w/o the subjective feeling of wage slavery.

Ditto middle class hiring results for two-tier supermarket contracts after Walmart undercut the unions.

Centralized bargaining is the gold standard: only thing that fends off Walmart type contract muscling. Done that way since 1966 with the Teamsters Union's National Master Freight Agreement; the long practiced law or custom from continental Europe to French Canada to Argentina to Indonesia.

It occurred to me this morning that if the quintessential example of centralized bargaining Germany has 25% or our population and produces 200% as many vehicles as we do, meaning Germans produces 8X as many vehicles per capita!

And thoroughly union organized Germans feel very much in control of the narrative of their lives.


Very rough figures: half a million Chicago employees may make less than $800 a week -- almost everybody should earn $800 ...

... putative minimum wage? -- might allow some slippage in high labor businesses like fast food restaurants; 33% labor costs! -- sort of like the Teamsters will allow exceptions when needed from the Nation Master Freight Agreement if you open up your books, they need your working business too, consumer ultimately sets limits.

Average raise of $200 a week -- $10,000 a year equals $5 billion shift in income -- out of a $170 billion Chicago GDP (1% of national) -- not too shabby to bring an end to gang wars and Despair American Style.

Merely make union busting a felony like every other form of unfair market muscling (even taking a movie in the movies). The body of laws are there -- the issues presumably settled -- the enforcement just needs "dentures."

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Only way to clear multi-cultural American market (especially labor market): high union density

Re:  Check Your Economic Bias  --  Noah Smith

" ... some measure of welfare will lead [some] economists to oppose redistribution taxation, which makes the economy somewhat less efficient ... "

Does any rearranging economic flows make the economy less efficient or productive: even adding or subtracting rentiers and monopolists -- or just rearrange the same overall distribution?  The perfectly free market people may be right that, if left alone, the market will achieve max efficiency and productivity.  Ideology blinds them to the same eff and prod reached under almost any market configuration, e.g., no unions, half unions, all unions (equivalent of all co-ops).  Unless some human factor intervenes, e.g., the rich slow down the velocity of spending, the poor are much less productive because ill educated, etc.

" ... how much taxes discourage work ... "

Low pay (in relation to the productivity of the era) can discourage work.  I'm too old now (71) but you wouldn't find me (American born ) driving a taxi today -- as I did for 28 years in NYC, Chi and SF.  Used to make some thing like $12 an hour in Chicago, more like $18 in SF in 2004. 

Would guess they make more like $8 now in Chicago only because I cannot imagine them working for less (but don't quite see how they make that with 40% more cabs, meter 50 cents a mile lower than when I started in 1981, since when the city put on trains to both airports and unlimited limos.  SF doubled number of cabs since I left in 2004. 

In Chi new supermarket employees are much more likely below child raising age since Walmart forced two-tier contracts.

In Chi 100,000 out of I guesstimate 200,000 gang-age, minority males are in street gangs.

In 1956 folks were very happy to work for a minimum wage of $8.75 an hour because the overall productivity of their society (40% today's) led them to feel they were doing relatively well.  Ditto for 1968's $11 an hour.

Did anybody see the movie Bye, Bye Braverman (1968)?  View a bunch of upper-middle class Manhattanites.  Their small apartments would make most people today feel very constricted.  They never heard of an "up to date" kitchen.  They didn't know the difference.

Market configuration and clearing conclusion: If you have no to almost no unions (also possible with half unions but politics might ameliorate much of the clearing gap then) -- and -- you have  two segments of the work force with very different ideas about what makes at least minimally satisfactory employment  (economist call that a reserve wage I think) then you can have a huge dropout of people looking for work.

Bottom line: in a two-tier expectations workforce -- if the consumer is not being tested by labor (via collective bargaining -- especially centralized bargaining) to discover the max said consumer will pay -- if instead labor is paid according to what I call subsistence-plus (want a little more; pay a little more); according only to how much labor is worth in reference to other labor: a big drop out from the workforce is likely to happen  ...

... with all the attendant loss of efficiency (including police chasing people around) and productivity.

Upshot to all this: the only way to clear the labor market (or just the market) in a multi-cultural, endlessly inundated with immigrants labor market like America's is to reach very high union density (Continental European-like).  Testing the consumer's willingness to pay to the max across the board, everywhere much shrinks the range of income from top to bottom.  It is thus in America the only market oriented answer to so-called "inequality" -- I prefer "Great Wage Depression". 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Is market structure a zero-sum game?

I'm working up a concept to take all the umph out of the unregulated market fetish: the concept recognizes that which particular way markets are structured (e.g., union/non-union) can be just a zero-sum game -- as far as overall output results.  And that is even assuming that a more equitably power-balanced market is not for NON-MATHEMATICAL (social reality) reasons actually much more productive (and healthy).

Leaving us perfectly free to structure markets with the greatest good for the greatest number in mind.

In a high union density (or a high co-op, that is employee owned) market consumers will pay more for less goods from firm "A" -- causing some of firm "A"employees to lose jobs; and because consumers who continued to patronize firm "A" in spite of higher prices now have less money to spend over at firm "B", some employees will be laid of fat firm "B" also.  If the employees of "A" now hide their new pay raises under their mattresses that will be the end of the economic effects.

But I'm guessing that the employees of firm "A" will have a propensity to spend their new incomes at firms "X", "Y" and "Z" and don't forget "B" and don't forget even "A" -- making jobs for the formerly laid off employees of "A" and "B."  And the prepetual motion dollars just keep going round and round -- as long as they keep circulating among people with the same (middle class?) propensity to spend. 

I would plead that the more prices are set on the maximum the consumer is willing to pay labor -- and less on the Iron Law of labor -- the more equitably production will be shared around.  It is more like consumer preferences v. consumer preferences doing the market clearing.

Of course, in the real world if you squeeze too much income to the top, then, you will IMMEDIATELY (as opposed to the LONG RUN; we'll get to that) slow down the economy unless the most of the beneficiaries of the squeezing have the propensity to spend of Larry Ellison.  Sort of like QE doesn't work well if the banks don't lend all that liquidity the Fed is forcing down their throats.

The long run is the real story -- even if more equal distribution meant less efficiency; even if not a zero-sum game.  

Just as import substitution, etc. by underdeveloped economies would lower world output on ONE DAY -- but -- AFTER a couple of decades of hiding behind tariffs, etc. the now more productive economy will raise overall world output ...

... even if more equal distribution made our domestic economy less productive on ONE DAY -- after a couple of decades of better education, better food, better lives for the previously poorly paid employees the economy will be more productive overall (but it really is a zero-sum game) -- and life will be better all around (e.g., much more crime free).

That's what I'm working up.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Pepper spray can restrict an active shooter

How to protect schools — and other public places — from active shooters: available pepper spray cans should be emptied into the hallways; then, doors closed and windows opened. That could make it impossibly uncomfortable for the shooter to move around the building.

Back in the early 70s, I stayed for a while in a “pre-detention center” down the block from Washington Square Park, formerly known as the Village Plaza Hotel. Every so often we had a “Mace party” — sprayed one shot of pepper spray up in the air in the lobby and then all ran outside until we could breath inside again. Once a couple of dope fiends came downstairs to the Coke machine — we yelled for them to come outside in the street but at that point in their day you could have comfortably removed their appendixes.

In grade and high schools the teachers could carry. Elsewhere managements could carry. Would definitely work sometimes.

How to protect schools — and other public places — from active shooters: available pepper spray cans should be emptied into the hallways; then, doors closed and windows opened. That could make it impossibly uncomfortable for the shooter to move around the building.
Back in the early 70s, I stayed for a while in a “pre-detention center” down the block from Washington Square Park, formerly known as the Village Plaza Hotel. Every so often we had a “Mace party” — sprayed one shot of pepper spray up in the air in the lobby and then all ran outside until we could breath inside again. Once a couple of dope fiends came downstairs to the Coke machine — we yelled for them to come outside in the street but at that point in their day you could have comfortably removed their appendixes.
In grade and high schools the teachers could carry. Elsewhere managements could carry. Would definitely work sometimes.
- See more at:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Missing "MATHINESS" in minimum wage discussions

Re: Where Does the Minimum Wage Max Out? - EconoSpeak

AT LAST! Someone actually thinks of (thinks out) the practical trade off between the size of a minimum wage raise and the possible cost in jobs. IOW, if the wage rose 100% (which $15 today would in many places) and employment in that category (below 45 percentile) dropped even disastrously, 25%, labor would still be way ahead. Average raise across the 45% would be 50%.

Noto bene: $15, five years from now is $13.50.

Differential minimum wage depending on local living costs? As hinted just above, a higher wage ($15) in, say, South Carolina could mean the same overall amount of money going to the same overall demographic cohort (low-wage workers) -- but many would get more while a some got nothing (at least in their personal short run). So in a way that could count as A WASH. OTH, a differential would encourage $15 jobs in Ohio to move to $12 South Caroling -- A GIANT LABOR DEFICIT; another version of the race-to-the-bottom.
* * * * * * * * * *
This scaled concept needs to be articulated almost every time -- and if objections to practicality of academic researchers "guesstimating" about this arise they should at least be stated and probably some such framework should at least be hazarded.

Within this framework should be delineated the different sales -- and therefore employment -- effects at different low wage businesses depending on differing labor costs. Walmart with 7% labor costs will feel much less impact on prices (not necessarily on sales) of a large wage raise than than McDonald's with 33% ($15 raise prices there 25%).
* * * * * * * * * *
There is the possibility that raising wages an average 50% for the 45% of employees who take 10% of overall income (plausible representation of $15 federal minimum wage) would actually increase employment at their level -- as 5% of overall income were shifted to them from the 55% who now take 90% -- and they spent (do spend) disproportionately in lower wage businesses.
* * * * * * * * * *
I read a couple of days ago of some samplings of economists views of the possible employment effects of raising the fed min -- mostly of the eco 101 variety. I suspected that if whether the min was $5.15 or $11.15, they would be saying exactly the same things. I suspected they took (take) whatever the min is presently as some kind of "natural" starting point -- close enough anyway. I didn't think most of these progressives had any idea or even any curiosity about how $7.25 came to be in 2015.

Is the current labor price just a little low because of past moderate neglect -- or is today's price world-turned-upside-down low because of decades of mad, mad neglect -- just to state the outside ranges? Employees in Fight-For-Fifteen have no "mathi" idea for their price points either -- or do they? They are in touch at least intuitively with how much their wage demands would push prices up in different businesses -- and at least intuitively with how customers will react.

The chart below should have no trouble answering the range of neglect question (not that it will necessarily get past ivory tower intuition). In a nutshell: LBJ's 1968 min wage was $11 an hour -- per capita income has about doubled since.
* * * * * * * * * *

yr  per capita    real     nominal  dbl-index   %-of
(2013  dollars)

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)         9.42        40%
10-11-12                                          [7.37]  

13     28,829     7.25       (7.25)       19.32        38%

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Mexican-only open border more efficient and more humane at same time
“Yet some economists and demographers who have studied Mexican immigration suggest that stricter security at the border could actually increase the number of undocumented immigrants in the country. One group of researchers estimates that by 2010, increased border enforcement over the decades had increased the number of unauthorized migrants in this country by 44 percent."

If this is so, then, maybe we should give thought to making the border with Mexico open to Mexicans only. They could move freely back and forth through designated check points — thinning out to the point of manageability all the other illegal immigration which now hides among the movement of millions of undocumented Mexicans. Make things much easier for the border patrol which would be much less inundated with numbers.

Be infinitely more humane for Mexican families too who are now sealed on this side of the border once they get here.

Monday, July 27, 2015

My labor market -- any labor market

The American labor market I see traveling around my (middle) middle class Chicago neighborhood:

Bus drivers: American born (mostly), decently paid, unionized;
Drug chain employees: American born, $400-500/wk;
Supermarket employees: American born, a little bit better;
Fast food employees: (all) foreign born, $300/wk (can't get 40 hours);
Taxi drivers (my 3 decade gig): foreign born, don't know how they make minimum wage in Chicago (50 cents/mile below 1981 when I started here -- post 1991 built subways to both airports, opened up unlimited limos, put on free trolleys between the hot spots downtown and added 40% more cabs.)
UPS drivers: American born, well compensated, Jimmy Hoffa's union.


Almost forgot one cohort of American born workers who like the former cab drivers wont work for today's sub-LBJ-minimum wage: 100,000 out of my guesstimate 200,000 Chicago, gang age, minority males.
 * * * * * * * * * *
The labor market -- any labor market -- as I see:

Large swings in wages may effect small to even no changes in product price -- and very little or very big changes in profit. If labor is 10% costs and ups its price 50% (5% more cost), sales and profits may suffer only 5%.  Conversely, If labor costs are 15% and a firm can squeeze down 5% (33% cut) of that the firm may double profits at the same product price.

Labor must sell what it has to offer every day or what it offers disappears. If labor does not sell what it has to offer labor itself may disappear (into the "workhouse").

Given the giant incentive to squeeze labor costs and labor's intrinsic vulnerability in the market, some mechanism(s) must be put in place to give labor a chance to extract the highest price the market (meaning the ultimate consumer) is willing to pay for its efforts. Which means a useful collective bargaining function and/or a sensibly calibrated minimum wage. 
  * * * * * * * * * *
Acquire an effective American collective bargaining function by simply treating labor market arm twisting the same way every other form of market arm twisting -- or arm twisting in every other market -- is treated: as a felony (state or federal invokes 33 state and federal RICO statutes).

Only Sovaldi can save us! For 300 billion dollars!

Sovaldi: Hepatitis C can be wiped out for $300 billion (that's a "b") -- the same amount we now pay for all other prescriptions. Cost to manufacture: half a billion dollars.

Now comes: "Amgen scores a victory for PCSK9, halving cardio risks after one year"  " ... new [cholesterol] drugs could eventually add as much as $150 billion to the national health-care bill." 

[how much will we be willing to pay to cure the incurable?]

"Of the 2,644 patients, eight exhibited signs of dementia. Two were younger than 65, five were aged from 65-74 and one was aged between 75-84."
"for the first time in human subjects, our notion that calcineurin inhibition has a protective effect on the development and possible progression and even reversal of Alzheimer's disease,"

C-Pulse - a cuff that wraps around the aorta and pumps blood from the heart around the body - has proved effective in reversing [formerly incurable] heart failure, even in some patients with severe cases.

[the list of potential pharma rent collectors grows by day]

"And they also found that azoramide greatly improved blood glucose levels in obese mice and mice with type 2 diabetes. They showed this improvement was the result of two things: better functioning of insulin-producing beta cells and greater insulin sensitivity in tissues." 

My $500 Pill Revealed -- Revlimid -- by Kevin Drum

[just a sample of monopoly possibilities; more -- surely -- to come] 

Potential target for future Huntington's disease treatment discovered
"... MNT reported on a study that confirmed an activating protein called Rhes plays a pivotal role in Huntington's disease. This protein could become a drug target in future treatments.  

PLEKHA7 -- puts brakes on cancer -- better get ready to sell the Statue of Liberty back to France
"He notes this is like a speeding car that has a lot of gas (E-cadherin and p120) but no brakes (the PLEKHA7 complex), and concludes:"By administering the affected miRNAs in cancer cells to restore their normal levels, we should be able to re-establish the brakes and restore normal cell function. Initial experiments in some aggressive types of cancer are indeed very promising." 

[just another day for potential new drug monopolies -- we will all owe our souls to the corner drug store]

Why Insulin Costs So Much
July 19th, 2015 by David Mendosa
"Dr. Hirsch reviewed the cost of insulin from 1921 when Drs. Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered it. “In a generous gesture that unfortunately didn’t start a trend, they sold the patent for $1 so that cheap insulin would quickly become available.
"By 2005, people worldwide were spending more than $7.3 billion for insulin. “But no one could have predicted what would happen over the next decade,” Dr. Hirsch said. By 2013 we were spending $21 billion for it.
"Between 2005 and 2015 the cost of a lispro vial went up 264 percent, while a vial of insulin glargine went up 348 percent, and a vial of NPH went up 364 percent. That’s a lot, but other insulins went up even more.
"The cost of an aspart pen rose in this 10-year period by 389 percent. And the cost of a vial of U-500 regular insulin jumped a staggering 508 percent.
Price Fixing?
"Dr. Hirsch noted that one year ago Sanofi increased the price insulin glargine 16.1 percent. “And literally the next day, Novo Nordisk increased the price of insulin detemir (Levemir) 16.1 percent. In fact, this pattern repeated six months later, and this has actually happened 13 times for these two products that have total U.S. sales of $11 billion.” 

[Such an collection of greed-driven price bleeding that I cannot encapsulate it -- yet.]

Drug Goes From $13.50 a Tablet to $750, Overnight
Andrew Pollack   The New York Times|finance|headline|headline|story&par=yahoo&doc=103012076&ref=yfp 

That Guy Who Is Price-Gouging AIDS Patients (see just above) Also Did It to Kids with Kidney Disease

"The former hedge fund manager whose pharmaceutical company has come under withering attack for allegations of  egregious price-gouging on life-saving medication (just above) ... and it turns out he once tried a similar price hike scheme ... During Martin Shkreli's tenure as CEO of Retrophin ... the company increased prices on a decades-old kidney medication by about 20 times its original cost ... ."

[One Washington Post story]

The drug industry wants us to think Martin Shkreli is a [unique] rogue CEO. He isn’t [unique at all].

Plant used for gout 3,000 years -- in pill form since 1800s.  Pharma somehow got exclusive rights (normal apparently) -- price shot up from 9 cents a tablet to $4.85.
2013 increase in price of brand name drugs (higher every year): 12.9%.  That approaches 200% added (300%) every 10 years.
Tetracycline, 1948 drug: 5 cents a capsule until 2013 -- now $11.
Clomipramine, 1960s antidepressent, 22 cents a pill up to 2012 -- now $8.17.
In Australia, 2010, Amedra Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to abendazole, off patent, intestinal parasite drug selling for $6 a day -- raised to $120.

[Another day, another drug]

Nitropress, generic blood pressure drug went for $44 a vial way, way back in the year 2013.  Now sold by Valeant Pharaceuticals for $806. 

According to a spokesman, no one will ever be denied this medication: “These are drugs that are only used by hospitals — they are not sold in pharmacies — in accordance with specific surgical procedures. This means that whenever the protocol calls for use of these drugs, they are used.”

[$2,000 in far away Canada -- $20,000 for us in the US]

"The price of a 30-milligram injection of the drug, according to the bill, was $19,827.90. Because at least four shots would be needed, they were looking at pharmacy charges approaching $80,000 and nearly $16,000 in copays.

"A 30-mg dose of Lupron Depot is available from Canadian pharmacies for under $2,000, according to the website"

The list keeps growing -- I've moved the ever elongating version of this post to On Today's Page Links -- which only has about 10 posts.

[Post Script]

Is it too late to recount the tale off a sleeping pill whose name I forget, but which cost $10 a month in 10mg dose -- and $200 a month in a lower 5mg dose: a "new drug"; trials having shown that some patients do better on the half dose.  That's how today's law is written. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Tom Geoghegan -- in his recent book "Only One Thing Can Save Us" -- portrays US auto manufacturers dumbing assembly jobs down (it’s called “simplicity”) — I’m just starting to write about this for the first time — it genuinely means gutting productivity nationwide in the usual short-sighted quest to squeeze labor.

In Germany (labor having a big say because of the co-determination worker councils) employees are brought into the design and manufacturing process to the nth degree. Which makes them productive enough to average $66 an hour including benefits.

In the US manufacturing jobs are now being reduced to simpler and simpler component portions — why auto workers can be reduced from $28 an hour to $14.

Thing is we only have X amount of workers — a fixed number. If we are now on a nationwide race to shrink the productivity of individual workers — that may look good for an individual company — fallacy of composition — but we are on a head long charge to lower and lower our overall output per worker. !!!

Meantime all other economies in the world — especially in the third world — are desperately attempting to pick up (and/or steal) product manufacturing skills so they can achieve maximum possible prosperity some day. We can wave to them going up while we are going down.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

90% income tax for the top 1%?

I just had one of my usual eighth-grade math flashes.

The way things are going nowadays the top 1% will continue to garner 95% of all income growth to themselves into the foreseeable future.  In 25 years per capita income should grow 50% -- meaning top 1% should go from 25% of today's 100% to 75% of tomorrow's 150%.  40 or so years down the road top 1% incomes should take 125% of 200%.

Just tax future top 1% income at 90% -- we have 99% of the votes, don't we? -- and redistribute to government programs (e.g., health, education) and/or helicopter money, etc., whatever -- and we should all live happily ever after. 

Come to think of it we could start that 90% tax today (say on income over $2 million). 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Americans under 30 support unions almost two-to-one

Pew poll reports 55% of Americans under 30 years of age approve of labor unions -- only 29% disapprove.  Among Republicans under 35, approval edges out disapproval 45% to 44%.  The propaganda hasn't worked – the culture is ours.

All that remains is to graft onto existing labor organizing laws those itty-bitty structures they are plainly short of: call them dentures.  Imposing compelling economic pressure to obstruct employees from exercising a legally spelled out process for organizing collective bargaining units is every bit as free market warping as anything the Rockefellers or the Carnegies carried off -- while atrophying the political sinews of the majority of Americans to boot. 

Making union busting a felony at state level (job loss not core offense -- free market warping core offense) opens the door for federal RICO prosecution.  33 states have their own RICO statutes.  All other forms of free market arm twisting are heavily sanctioned by law.

“But when Pew sliced and diced its responses (which Gallup did not), it found that young Americans were unions’ most fervent supporters. While 46 percent of its respondents in each of its three older age groups (30 to 49, 50 to 64, and 65-plus) viewed unions in a favorable light, fully 55 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 held a favorable view of unions, while just 29 percent held unfavorable ones. Pew even found that a slim plurality of Republicans under 35 thought well of unions: 45 percent held positive views, 44 percent negative. For that matter, 65 percent of Democrats (of all ages) thought favorably of unions, and given the towering share of Democrats (or left-of-Democrats) working in the media, new or old, the Gawker vote should have surprised no one.”