Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More on the theme of getting males to -- actually -- think about any new approach in the American labor market (or anything else)

Tomorrow I start writing what I hope will be a "doozey" on the minimum wage.  First, let me explain what I have been doing lately.  I've spent two months crossing the country with email: hitting top newspapers in almost every state (47) with a long message, "Open letter to Oakland mayor Jean Quan -- the only law that can end gun violence", pushing my big obsession -- the only way back -- legally mandated sector-wide labor agreements.  I figured journalists could digest something long.  And hitting every state legislator with an email address (except New Hampshire state reps: all 400!) with, first, earlier versions of my $15/hr minimum wage pitch and then the "black hole theory" -- which latter I started sending that to both papers and legs once I dreamed it up.  May have sent out 14,000 altogether.  AT&T kept cutting me off for suspected spamming -- finally figured out how to restart (wait 6 hours first for a bad one -- don't do more than 200 in an hour or be cut off for an hour).

My "doozey" will take a phrase that a professor hit me with: "marginal productivity."  I had to look it up too.    Without bothering with the "technicalities" (I'm more salesman than tech) I am going to ask -- after some tech explanation:
Did LBJ consult the concept marginal productivity when he raised the minimum wage to $10.75/hr (adjusted and rounded);
did Congress consult marginal productivity when it failed to raise the minimum wage for the next 5 years ('69-'73);
or for 8 years in a row ('82-'89);
or for 4 years in a row ('92-'95);
or for 9 years in a row ('08-'06);
for for now going on 4 years?

Not impressed?  That is because you are a female -- you don't need to be coaxed that doubling the minimum wage is not an impossibly big step.  Males, OTW, are so slaved to checking in with group -- even the top progressive economists -- that they will not consider anything too novel, too different for one second  -- no matter how much sense it might make in the logical abstract.  How else are we going to cooperate going after small animals with big sticks -- can't think too independently!
Egro, my open letter to female mayor Jean Quan -- trying to get her to approach my favorite (mostly male) economic faculty up the road in Berkeley (my California driver's license says I live up that same road) on the subject of sector-wide labor agreements.
The "doozey": whisks away the concept of any (scary) established economic order in the way -- portrays just years of sleepy forgetfulness.  Then, comes the lock: I point out that double indexing LBJ's minimum wage to inflation and per capita income growth yields $20.20/hr -- leaving today's federal minimum wage at just 36% of that -- maybe not even that much to fix, just fill in part of what's missing (enough to get to $15/hr?).  
Want to get somewhere with the male animal on doubling the minimum wage: first, supply the magic numbers, the "black hole theory of the minimum wage" ($15/hr being the median wage: half the workforce will get raises percentage multiples of what their employers pass through to prices will be: wages cause demand to go up) -- and -- then, have fast food workers make a scene for $15/hr all across the nation, anywhere and everywhere you can (the absolutely needed social signal).  Last I heard they are making a stink in Missouri.

[LATE THOUGHT -- possibly to be included with the "doozey"]
Even according to Malthusian theory -- from the pre-industrial world where per capita output could not expand every year: all other things held equal, the federal minimum wage would have dropped only a third as US population grew by half (200 million to 300 million).  Instead by early 2007 the federal minimum wage had dropped almost in half.

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