Monday, July 3, 2017

California shills - around the block

I believe that so many registered voters in California would sign a ballot initiative to make union busting a felony -- that they might have to line up around the block.  Basic requirement: need as many registered voters to sign up as 5% of last governor’s race voters (365,000).  Basic source: 45% nationally earn $15/hr or less –- and –- bottom 45% incomes nationally down to 10% of overall income share from 15% two generations earlier (California wages higher, but prices too).

The latter means 33% less of twice as much, true -- but -- people judge their well being as compared to others -- besides -- the very bottom 10-15% are down in absolute terms (today’s $7.25/hr federal minimum wage compared to 1968’s $11.45/hr).

Shill effect: As a Manhattan and Bronx street peddler in the early 1970s I could wait for ten minutes for somebody to make a buy – but as soon as someone did, four other people might suddenly shell out too. 

I’m not suggesting fooling voters (potential signers) with fake lines around the block.  I am suggesting doing lines around the block as our primary demonstration –- the kind of image loved by TV cameras on the six-o’clock news.  We could even start "demonstration"-demonstration lines before the precise legal language of the initiative is prepared (not trying to fool anybody there) just to get the initiative idea rolling (around the block :-]).
 * * * * * *

Suppose that a few states happened to impose (they didn't) criminal law penalties for union busting, back in 1935, when Congress passed the NLRA(a) and set up the NLRB(b).  Why would anyone suppose that federal regulatory machinery would preempt state criminal court prosecutions?

Farm workers were deliberately left out the NLRA(a) in 1935 (traded for passage votes).  California (only) has a virtual mirror image of the NLRA/NLRB for farm workers -- the CALRA.  If ever a (future Democratic) Congress moved to include farm workers under the NLRA(a) -- the CALRA would presumably bow out to federal preemption.

OTH, if Congress should wake up and make union busting a federal felony -- triable and punishable in criminal court -- there is no such presumption that state union busting prosecutions would bowl over -- no more than state bank robbery prohibitions or state minimum wage regulations give way to federal preemption. 

Lest there be any doubt: With First Amendment protected freedom of association at stake (except for government workers say the courts), federal regulations or even (if) deliberately restrictive laws cannot force organizing rights down an impassable road.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Seattle supposedly "anti" min wage study -- records only raging braket creep


Either the study "proves" that you cannot safely give a substantial boost in the minimum wage even in the most outrageously runaway-reactor economy ...

... 50,000 more jobs over $19/hr (44,000 more overall -- counting the 6,000 fewer under $19/hr)
... 2.6% unemployment rate
... $80,000 median household income (up $9,374 since 2014 -- US HH median $56,000)
... more construction cranes working than any other US city
Seattle 58
Los Angeles 36
Denver 35
Chicago 34
Portland 32
San Francisco 22
Washington, DC 20
New York 18
Honolulu 10
Austin 9
Boston 7
Phoenix 5
Illustrated map:

Or, the Seattle (runaway-reactor) study might just possibly suggest that there is a lot more money there to pay labor if only bargaining conditions are right -- in Seattle's unique case such an overheated a labor market that bargaining worked even with the usual American dearth of labor unions.

Mmm; maybe the Seattle study really proves the promise of labor unions. :-O

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How Republicans can explain how we cannot afford it

Republicans have this permanent game on: they can’t explain why the most productive country in the world cannot afford what everybody else can afford today …

… so they project the “cost” 40 years out and pretend that your grandchildren wont be able to afford it. How many people can realistically forecast in their minds 40 years out? So they fall for it — the far distant mirage.

Assuming the debt does pile up — thanks to Republican tax cuts for the rich and our unwillingness to pork the poor over them — our grandchildren and great grandchildren will have more money than we have to pay it off thanks to decades of productivity growth — but they wont pay; they will leave it for their great grands — who won’t pay for … . Nothing that would get me up early in the morning to work on it.

PS. Just who would we owe all this money to — ourselves mostly? To the Chinese can only loan us money left over when we buy stuff but neglect to sell them anything back. Cumulative GDP over next two generations something over 1,000 trillion — that would be a lot of stuff. To the great grandchildren of the rich who loaned the government money rather than pay taxes? Once unions return rule to the average person we can just confiscatory tax most of that back.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Raise US labor unions back from the dead -- tomorrow

How to raise US labor unions from the dead -- tomorrow -- practically and practicably:

In BALLOT INITIATIVE states it typically takes the number of registered voter signatures equal to 5% of the vote in the last governor's election to put your initiative on the ballot.  (OR, CA, MO, MI, OH, OK, CO, NE ND, SD, MT)

Check the numbers of who should line around the block to sign an initiative making union busting a felony:
 -- nationally, bottom 45% income share has dropped from 15% to a penurious 10% over two generations (as per capita income doubled).

Does that mean bottom 45% are ahead absolute terms: 66% of twice as much?  Not across the board: incomes are sorted on a slope.  That leaves 15% behind in absolute terms: why we have a $7.25/hr fed min wage -- down from $11.45/hr (adjusted) in 1968.

Check the numbers who should line up around the block to propose a higher state minimum wage:
 -- nationally, 45% of employees earn less than $15/hr. 

We could conceivably get 5% of registered voters (1% of population) out there collecting signatures!  :-O
 * * * * * * * * * * * *

Some states like California put a winning initiative on the law books immediately. Most, allow the legislature one shot at approval.  If it doesn't approve the measure goes back to voters for final decision.

In California you write in plain language what you want your initiative to say and a state legal office will put it into proper words for a state law. 

In California circulators (signature collectors) may be paid employees.  This has led in recent years to initiatives becoming the play thing of billionaires -- the opposite of the original intention.

If initiatives can quickly and easily take our world back, then, Fight for 15 and labor unions and others now have a new, all critical mission: register and sign up as many voters as possible.

Raising the issue of making union busting a felony to a high level of national consciousness should prompt legislatures in progressive states to finally wake up and face what they need to do -- what we all need them to do. (WA, IL, MN, NY, MA, VT, CT, RI, PA, MD, VA, etc.)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Bernie v. Hillary -- Mr. bottom up v Ms. top down

Having read the book about Hillary's political demise,  Shattered and Bernie's book, Our Revolution -- I saw Hill's campaign contention that Bernie had no practical plan to do anything, only complaints about what's wrong.

FDR had no specific plans as far as I know to accomplish what he accomplished in his first hundred days.

Hillary is Ms. top down and Bernie is Mr. bottom up.  Top downs try to work out a calculus of all problems and ways to deal with all comprehensively -- a sort of three dimensional chess game.  Try and explain that to people.  Obama made a big speech that "inequality is the defining issue of our time" (it is!) -- didn't poll well next week; forgot about it.  Endless cajoling not his game.  ("Stronger Together?")

Bernie's book spews seeming endless one-at-a-time tales of problems across all categories -- astonishingly broad and deep iteration one-at-a-time. 

Folks like FDR and Harry Truman and Bernie come at everyday folks one narrowed down complaint at a time.  If you see the world from the bottom up you never stop trying -- because you for sure never run out of individual irritations to get an ulcer over.

Top down folks have more fun.  If you think you've manipulated the matrix the most you can do -- you can relax and head for Martha's Vineyard.  Bottom up folks can be cheerful -- but cheerful ain't happy. 

Top down solutions tend to sour because life is simply too complex to get a realistic hold on looking down through too many interlocking layers.  Complexity yields more practicably to people and politicians in immediate interface with everyday reality.

 * * * * * *

Crazy thought just occurred to me: under our actual labor practices all union certification may produce is the converse of what was intended.  Since management is as likely as not to ignore the newly certified union -- the only effect of certification may be to further insulate management from anybody else trying to bargain for the employees.  Not that that comes up as a practical situation very often -- but it makes a point about the lopsided imbalance of our American labor market.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

You heard it here first: California (and other states) makes union busting a felony via ballot intitiative

You heard it here first (maybe): a quick fix. Was thinking one way to break the cultural log jam on the way to criminalizing union busting (think social inertia biggest block) might be doing ballot initiatives in states where applicable (OR, CA, MO, Mi, OH, OK, CO, NE  ND, SD, MT). Some states initiatives go to legislature first for approval — back to voters to decide if not approved. In most states initiatives need 5% of the number of voters in the last governor’s election.

Then the brainstorm. Only 400,000 signatures needed in California. Workforce there something like 16 million. Nationally, 45% of workforce under $15/hr. Maybe 6 million California employees would line up around the block (!) to sign a petition to make union busting a felony.

We might get 400,000 people collecting signatures!

Most natural practice in the world to protect one business (“a union is a business” as Jimmy Hoffa said :-]) from being strangled by a competing business, from being muscled in (or out of) the market place. Merely getting caught taking a movie in the movies, you’re doing a couple of federal years. 6% union density in private economy is like 20/10 blood pressure: starves every other economic and political process.

Like I said, the biggest barrier is probably cultural — we are just so used to our hidden behind the oceans blind ways we think this is the way things “eternally” must be. A petition(s) that millions may stampede to sign should clear off those scales.

Recruiting Fight for 15 type organizations would be an easy way to start. From grandiosity headquarters.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Single payer Medicare does nothing to prevent extortion

Single payer Medicare does nothing to prevent the hepatitis and Zika virus extortions described in the post just below.  As long as there is no countervailing force, the proliferation of the financialization of medicine -- and of every other American enterprise -- will continue unabated.  Countervailing force?  High labor union density.  

Chose any medical system you want from any country you like: 6% union density in the private economy equates to 20/10 blood pressure: it starves every other healthy process.

Nobody would argue I think that when 1935 Congress passed the NLRA(a) it consciously left criminal prosecution of union busting blank because it desired states to individually take that up in their localities. Conversely, I don't think anybody thinks Congress deliberately left out criminal sanctions because it objected to such.

Congress left criminal sanctions blank in US labor law because it thought it had done enough. States disagree? States are perfectly free to fill in the blanks protecting not just union organizing but any kind of collective bargaining more generally -- without worrying about federal preemption. Don't see why even Trump USC judge would find fault with that.

This column from the other day gives me hope that Krugman may (finally) be catching on to the centrality of re-building union density.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Gilead’s geese-that-never-stop-laying-golden-eggs viruses


Gilead has announced that a Hepatitis C virus has been introduced into the world and is now infecting 3 million Americans (and perhaps 125 million sufferers worldwide).

Gilead wants $300 billion from the US for a (99%) cure (which costs $200 a patient to manufacture, half a billion for every sufferer), but, hey, vics will pay what it’s worth to them, right?

Pay now and get cured — or stretch the payoff over Gilead’s 20 year patent and pay almost the same while the virus infects ever more victims. Gilead can extract $10 billion a year anyway — insurance will cover that much annually for sickest patients.

“The number of new [US] infections nearly tripled in five years, to about 2,400 in 2015. The virus is spread by sharing needles to inject drugs, and the increase coincided with a surge in heroin use.”

Pay up instead of dragging it out and save 400,000 US lives before the patent dies.

“Data from death certificates shows a total of 19,659 deaths in 2014, up from 11,051 in 2003. Because death certificates often under report hepatitis C, Ward said, that number could also be much higher.”

And who can guess how many hundreds of billions will go down the drain stateside dealing with the ravages of the virus: liver cirrhosis and cancer — not to mention lost work years?

California’s 600,000 sufferers would need $60 billion to neutralize Gilead’s goose-that-never-stops-laying-golden-eggs Hep C virus. World-wide elimination of Hep C at US prices (Gilead only charges about $1,000 a cure in poor countries — all the traffic is able to bear) would come to $15 trillion (with a “t”) for 150 million C sufferers (if they could get only away with it).

Gilead: pay now and don’t die — or pay almost as much (maybe more) later while almost as many (maybe more) die anyway.


Gilead has formulated a (95%) cure for all forms of Hepatitis, A, B, C, D, E — at $75,000 a treatment US. At US prices, 300 million worldwide sufferers would need to pony up $22.5 trillion (with a “t”) or whatever the market will bear …

… fast or slow, high or low: the world will pay.

Does Gilead perhaps bear more resemblance to the "Umbrella Corporation --  Ask Alice.  :-O

Here we go again: this time it's the Zika virus!

"The U.S. Army is planning to grant an exclusive license to the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, Inc. to manufacture and sell a Zika vaccine the Army developed last year."

"And that has Rebekah Gee, Louisiana's secretary of health, worried about paying for it.

"God forbid we have a Zika outbreak. We're in the middle of a fiscal crisis, we're already cutting services to people and we're already potentially cutting our funding to fight the Zika virus," Gee says.

"If the Army goes through with its plan, she says, Sanofi could set a price for the vaccine at a level that Louisianans just won't be able to afford.

"Gee is among a growing number of public officials and activists who are demanding that Sanofi agree to show restraint when it sets the price for the vaccine, which was developed by the Army.
 * * *
"Sanders and Knowledge Ecology point out that Sanofi has charged more in the U.S. for many medications, including the multiple sclerosis drug Aubagio, which costs Medicare more than $5,000, but in France it's priced at about $745."

Where's Alice?

Dishonorable mention:  "Pfizer raises US prices of 91 drugs by 20% in 2017"

Monday, April 17, 2017

$700 billion Earned Income Tax Credit?! -- or organize labor :-)

Paul Krugman: " ... we can limit the human damage when they do happen. We can guarantee health care and adequate retirement income... We can provide aid to the newly unemployed. And we can act to keep the overall economy strong — which means doing things like investing in infrastructure and education, not cutting taxes on rich people and hoping the benefits trickle down."

We can rebuild union density so half the workforce isn't getting paid way less than they would be paid if we had say German union density.

If McDonald's can pay $15 an hour with 33% labor costs, Target pay pay $20 with 10-15% labor costs, Walmart can pay $25 an hour with 7% labor costs. At least that's the hope -- and labor being able to flex its bargaining muscles in the (truly) free market is the only way we are going to find out.

Labor unions are the only way to end punishing just-in-time work scheduling.

Labor unions are the only thing ever going to end endemic abuses like ...
big pharma gouging,
ever growing financialization,
etc., etc., etc.
by supplying the permanent political machinery to back up the average person.

 * * * * * * * * * *

If EITC could somehow be used to restore the 5% overall income share lost by the bottom 45% over a couple of generations -- that would come in at something like $700 billion a year, not today's $70 billion. Before we tear out hair figuring out how to distribute that -- it would obviously upend the whole (consumer) market-based direction of production.

I'm not nearly as interested in the min wage as I am in rebuilding labor union density. That would sort out production by the max the consumer will pay rather than the min labor will suffer with.

I'm guessing that, if what-I-call the "mid" 54% incomes pay 7% more of their incomes through higher consumer prices (that's 5% of overall income share) -- they in turn with their newly reconstituted labor union political power will be willing to just confiscatory-tax back that 5% income lost to higher consumer prices -- plus another 5% to re-capture the total 10% of overall income -- that the top 1% squeezed out of everybody over the last two generations.

Their moral question could be phrased as: do the mids (don't have ask the bottoms) want to keep the lower 45% in penury (may not be a choice if the 45% refuse to show up for work [strike]) or would they rather pro quarterbacks work for a million a year instead of ten million. When faced with questions like this I ask myself: what would Jimmy Hoffa do? :-)

Finally occurred to me that the bottom 45% will heartily encourage the mid 54% to lay on those confiscatory-taxes (e.g., 90% tax on all income over say $2 million?) -- so they can get at some of that money with even higher consumer prices! :-O

Friday, April 7, 2017

Could gang affiliaition qualify Chicago students to graduate, Mayor Emmanuel? ???

Chicago's Mayor Rham Emmanuel wants to require city high school students to submit a plan for future life backed by official documents (like college acceptance or promise for a job) -- or they cannot graduate! 

Given that 100,000 out of my guesstimate 200,000 Chicago minority, gang-age males are in street gangs -- because they wont commit to a long life of $10 an hour wage slavery in an economy where the same jobs could pay $20-$25 an hour -- but where there is no hope of wage betterment without a restoration of healthy union density that is nowhere in sight ...

 ... I'd like to ask the mayor if under present day dire labor market conditions, would street gang affiliation qualify?  :-O


 * * * * * *

For those who like to do eighth-grade math:
The bottom 45% of earners now take 10% of overall income instead of 20% like in 1968 -- but -- that is half of twice as much overall income: leaving the bottom 45% right back where they started in absolute terms (on average of course: less at the bottom/more at the top).

The next 54% up take the same 70% of overall income as they did 50 years ago -- but-- that is of double the overall income, therefore they have twice what they started with in absolute terms (on average of course: less at the bottom/more at the top).

If collective bargaining on the part of the bottom 45% can raise prices enough on the next 54% up to recoup their lost 10% of overall share -- meaning 14% of the middle 54%'s share -- then the 54% will still end up with 172% of what they started with in 1968 in absolute terms.

To get that absolute 28% back from the top 1% ...

... who now take 20% of overall income instead of 10% like before -- which means they doubled their share of doubling per capita income ...

 ... the 54% will not be able to rely on raising the price of burgers.  More direct means will be necessary -- more likely the tax ax -- like the death tax to use one currently operating example.

When I was a kid in the 50s, the top federal income tax rate was (technically) 92% on incomes over one million dollars (today's money -- close enough I think).  The president of the United States was a five star general Republican who was not in too huge a hurry to do anything about American Apartheid.  IOW, should be nothing too alien (if that scares) about confiscatory taxes in today's culture.

In an ideal world we could tax 10% of income share back from the top 1%, first, and in turn use that pay higher consumer prices to restore the share of the lowest 45% -- painlessly.  But we really have to restore union density first to accomplish any of this.

CEOs and quarterbacks now take home 10X more than is needed to get them to show up and work productively.  When enough union density is built up tax axing this should not be a problem.  In the 60s the top paid NFLer Joe Namath made $600,000 in today's money.  Double that for doubled productivity (or what have you) and you still get only one-tenth of what Chicago Bears' Jay Cutler gets.

In an ideal world we could tax 10% of income share back from the top 1%, first, and in turn use that pay higher consumer prices to restore the share of the lowest 45% -- painlessly.  But we really have to restore union density first to accomplish any of this.

 * * * * * *

Not to mention other ways -- multiple efficiencies -- to get multiple-10%s back:
 + squeezing out financialization;
sniffing out things like for-profit edus (unions providing the personnel quantity necessary to keep up with society's many schemers;
snuffing out $100,000 Hep C treatments that cost $150 to make (unions supplying the necessary volume of lobbying and political financing;
 + less (mostly gone) poverty = mostly gone crime and its criminal justice expenses.

IOW, labor unions = a normal country.

PS.  I'm quite sure that the mayor's idea qualifies as a Fourth Amendment privacy violation: government insisting on knowing your personal plans (documented -- not just some high school essay) or suffer severe penalty.

Neither rust-belt Americans nor Chicago gang-bangers are ...

Neither rust-belt Americans nor Chicago gang-bangers are interested in up-to-date kitchens or two vans in the driveway.  Both are most especially not interested in $10 an hour jobs.

Both would be very, very especially interested in $20 an hour jobs.

80 years ago Congress forgot to put criminal enforcement in the NLRA(a).  Had union busting been a felony all along we would be like Germany today.  Maybe at some point our progressives might note that collective bargaining is the T-Rex in the room -- or the missing T-Rex.

The money is there for $20 jobs.  49 years -- and half the per capita income ago -- the fed min wage was $11.  Since then the bottom 45% went from 20% overall income share to 10% -- while the top 1% went from 10% to 20%.

How to get it -- how to get collective bargaining set up? States can make union busting a felony without worrying about so-called federal preemption:
 + a state law sanctioning wholesalers, for instance, using market power to block small retail establishments from combining their bargaining power could be the same one that makes union busting a felony -- overlap like min wage laws -- especially since on crim penalties the fed has left nothing to overlap since 1935
 + First Amendment right to collectively bargain cannot be forced by the fed down (the current) impassable road.  Double ditto for FedEx Express employees who have to hurdle the whole-nation-at-once certification election barrier

 + for contrast, examples of state infringement on federal preemption might be a state finding of union busting leading to a mandate for an election under the fed setup -- or any state certification setup for labor already covered by NLRA(a) or RLA(a).  (Okay for excluded farm workers.)

Collective bargaining would ameliorate much competition for jobs from immigrants because labor's price would be set by how much the consumer can be squeezed before (s)he goes somewhere else -- not by how little the most desperate worker will hire on for.  Your kid will be grabbed before somebody still mastering English.

Centralized bargaining (sector wide labor agreements) practiced by the Teamster's National Master Freight Agreement -- also by French Canada, continental Europe and I think Argentina and Indonesia -- blocks the Walmart-killing-supermarket-contracts race to the bottom.  Airline employees would kill for centralized too.

Republicans would have no place to hide -- rehabs US labor market -- all (truly) free market.

Truly populist up politics in the long run reduce financialization, for-profit scams, phara gouging, etc. etc., etc.  Dean of Washington press corps said when he came to Washington (1950s?) all the lobbyists were union.

PS. After I explained the American spinning wheels labor market to my late brother John (we were not even talking about race), he came back with: "Martin Luther King got his people on the up escalator just in time for it to start going down for everybody."

Friday, March 31, 2017

Converse connection: much pharma innovation achieved much sooner but for the patent string outs

While looking at this headline in Medical News Today, this morning …

How to use long-acting insulin: Types, frequency, peak times, and duration by Alyse WexlerReviewed by Alana Biggers, MD, MPH

… I thought the normal thought of how a lot of “innovation” (not necessarily this story’s) is just to stretch out patents — to retain top prices.

Then a converse connection: a lot of these innovations could be achieved at a much earlier date if it were not for the patent string out.

We know that Gilead was on its way to a much less harmful version of its HIV drug (“old” version harms a percentage more of patients’ bones and kidneys every year) — but stopped for five years to let the patent run five years later.

There are really hundreds of thousands of university researchers all over the country begging for grants. I believe 300,000 are doing government paid pharmacy research right now. Makes no difference to them whether you and I or big pharma pays.

What this adds up to is that for-profit patent research may not speed up new drugs — but that it can and does slow them down. Not to mention that when big pharma actually comes up with a new drug, they price it so high nobody can utilize it. (See Angry Bear Open Thread, 3/28/17.)

From John LeCarre’s (author’s note) at the end of The Constant Gardner:
“There is no Dypraxa, never was, never will be. I know of no wonder cure for TB that has recently been launched on the African market or any other— or is about to be— so with luck I shall not be spending the rest of my life in the law courts or worse, though nowadays you can never be sure. But I can tell you this. As my journey through the pharmaceutical jungle progressed, I came to realize that, by comparison with the reality, my story was as tame as a holiday postcard”

Gilead wants $300 billion to cure every Hep C case in the US
($100,000 X 3 million sufferers) — not some poor African country — 600 X what it costs to manufacture. That’s how much the whole country spends on all drug research ($25 billion tax paid; $50 billion private) every years. Can’t wait to find out what you’ll be bled to cure your Alzheimer’s. 

Wonder what the Manhattan Project cost in today’s dollars? — wait; Goggle says $27 billion (2017 dollars).

Almost forgot: don't forget all the research efforts (plural) wasted in the search for copy-cat molecules -- solely to cut in on the profits.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Cheaper teachers revitalize neighborhoods?!

Would bringing in more, better trained police turn around one of LA's poverty stricken ghettos (where half the young males are in street gangs)?  Then how will bringing in so-called charter schools staffed with higher turn over, lower paid, min-benefit teachers revitalize schools, not to say neighborhoods?!

All across the country the understanding has been gained that ghetto schools under perform because students (and some teachers!) don't expect anything remunerative enough waiting for them in the job  market to make the extra effort.

For-profit schools can load up on programs because saving money on teachers?  Don't want to pay your employees a fair living -- then admit to yourself that you are not a progressive.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Underlying principle: monopoly of union balances monopsony of employers

My caveat about one concept in a great, comprehensive survey:

Unions in the Precarious Economy, How collective bargaining can help gig and on-demand workers
Katherine V.W. Stone February 21, 2017

“If gig workers in the United States are found to be independent contractors rather than employees, they cannot benefit from federal and state laws guaranteeing” … “as independent contractors, any collective action they might take to change their working conditions could make them liable for antitrust violations.”

I’m thinking, UPS and FedEx are identical companies (UPS 550 planes, 60,000 trucks; FedEx 650 planes, 45,000 trucks). If the First Amendment guarantees the right of UPS truckers to collectively bargain, how to justify denying the same right is possessed by FedEx Express drivers -- even if they had been (are) found to be individual contractors, not employees.

Underlying principle: monopoly of unions needed to balance the monopsony of employers. Country founded on balancing competing interests.