Sunday, March 30, 2008

Underpaying American labor market mass produces -- out of (their own) control -- boys.

Underpaying American labor market mass produces -- out of (their own) control -- boys.

Boys up to the age of 18 1/2 are in the emotionally dependent stage for all practical purposes as much as if they were still only 12 years old. This stage turns off over about a week's time as close as I can observe -- a pure social instinct phenomenon.

Emotionally dependent boys who think nobody cares about them literally will not care about themselves (easier to imagine at 12 than 18) -- thus no penalty can deter them from crime (very easy to believe if you deal with -- or try to deal with -- out of control boys). They are more out of their OWN control than anything else.

This out of their own control thing works as fully on kids who are merely out of parental or guardian control (typically, of a loving but unable to keep up during the "pissing vinegar" stage adult) -- every bit as much as with kids who are the very worst neglected; strange.

Our uniquely low paying American labor market mass produces families headed by unattached females -- many of whom would be unable to control heavily aggressive teen boys even in the most favorable circumstances. Thus our uniquely low paying labor market uniquely mass produces criminal activity among families who would (are?) otherwise perfectly psychologically normal.

A 1930ish minimum wage + a 1939ish prohibition = one million more jail birds

Half of our two-million jail population are there for selling drugs (street gangs) or even possessing drugs (a few movie stars come to mind).

If the minimum wage had kept up with INFLATION alone since 1968 it would be $400/wk by now. If it had kept even half pace with PRODUCTIVITY growth (that's GROWTH -- progressives got to stop being closet Malthusians and start including growth in their comparisons at all times) it would be approaching $700-800/wk by now. It should/could very plausibly be $500-600/wk by now.

The Crips and the Bloods and other street gangs -- that exist because until very recently we had a 1939ish, $206/wk minimum wage on one hand and a new prohibition era on the other (this time drugs) -- couldn't whip a decent paying Ronald McDonald (and they would be the first to tell you). Read Venkatesh's American Project and see that the Taylor Homes only became a gang infested hell as the minimum wage level dropped from 1956 level to 1939.

Egro, half the jail population would not be there if the minimum wage had kept up decently with the rise in the demand curve (on that 101 chart) as other workers got inflation raises -- not to mention the rise in the demand curve because other workers were getting growth raises.

Many of the rest of the jail population would not be there either if they were not raised in economically deprived conditions that never should have existed.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

In New York State in 1968: A police officer may not draw his gun even....

In New York State in 1968: A police officer may not draw his gun even....

....upon entering the scene of a reported armed robbery, even if the suspect has drawn his gun -- unless -- the suspect points his gun at the officer. Which newly revised deadly force rule quickly got an officer killed in Queens, New York; leading a quick legislative reversal. The equally cruel rule it succeeded had authorized police officers to fire a shot in the air to warn -- any -- fleeing suspect, and then shoot to kill (you will observe this rule re-enacted on some episodes of the late 50s, early 60s series "Naked City").

A similarly deadly to law enforcement rule change seems to have fallen de facto from the sky -- across the entire nation -- in the form of the conviction and draconian sentencing of two U.S. border patrol guards in El Paso federal court for shooting a fleeing drug smuggler whom officers believed -- but admitted were not sure -- had a gun in his hand.

The El Paso, Texas U.S. Attorney's Office's took the combination of federal civil rights law and a U.S. Supreme Court finding that "it is a violation of someone's Fourth Amendment rights to shoot [someone] in the back while fleeing if you don't know who they are and/or if you don't know they have a weapon" as a federal civil rights formula for prosecuting the (honest enough to admit they were not sure about the gun) border patrol officers.

The officers believed they acted in fear for their lives as they were chasing a suspect who had just left one of them floored and bloody in the act of breaking free (not your typical illegal job seeker) and kept looking over his shoulder while running with an object in hand, at one point turning towards them and pointing the "shiny object" they took for a gun...
....according to the convicted officers at least. The prosecution-immunized drug smuggler -- 800 pounds of marijuana were subsequently found in his van -- told a different tale under oath. He escaped at the time, making it impossible to absolutely prove or disprove possession of a gun.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously declared that "we cannot expect calm deliberation in the face of an upraised knife." To which we may add the modern day knowledge that adrenalin can diminish you judgment every bit as much as alcohol.

Back in the late 70s when I was driving for a car service in the Bronx I had more than one almost accident with police cars -- not chasing a suspect -- but rather whose drivers had ALREADY made an arrest and were so pumped that they blew red lights forgetting lights and sirens.

If the El Paso decision holds up there should theoretically be no defense for police officers who fire when they think a suspect is even reaching for a gun -- if they were not sure. If the El Paso case holds the FBI should theoretically be prepared to investigate every police shooting in every state that fits the newly coined mis-understanding about the need for certainty about the suspect possessing a gun. Back turned doesn't mean a thing: the quick and the accurate are out there.

Last -- and perhaps most importantly: Justice White's dictum -- on which the prosecution theory lies -- did not comprehensively rule on the aspects of "imminent danger" as far as I can see. Justice White defended his opinion at the time that by explaining "It is better for all suspects to escape than for all suspects to be killed." That sounds to me like a rule that finds society's need to apprehend the suspect of less weight than the suspect's Fourth Amendment rights -- not a rule that says finds imminent danger to the officer's life automatically outweighed by the suspects rights.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

S.S. retirement age to come DOWN in future?

For S.S. Malthusians
In the same line as recognizing S.S. retirement may end up a REVERSE Ponzi scheme -- each retiring generation being potentially able to soak even more benefits in absolute terms out of their youngsters then they paid to their oldsters (based on average income more than doubling over a working life span) -- and especially after S.S. retirement settles down to a steady (6-7%) cut of GDP (about 40 years from now)...

...Social Security retirement AGE -- if sanely set; not like in the Moynihan-Malthusian debacle of the eighties -- may actually come DOWN with each succeeding generation. :-O Of course, this will depend on the relative voting power of the oldsters (which will increase for the next 40 years ;-]).

MORE for Malthusians:
Since so much formerly taxable income has shifted out of FICA cap range during the last half of S.S.'s existence, due to the rise in so-called "inequality" (a weak term if you ask me for the wage rape that has been happening) -- assuming we don't get inequality ironed out we can just remove the cap altogether (not just up it a bit -- that would not recapture the income stream that has moved to the top few percent of earners, overwhelmingly to the top one percent -- "rape" might to tough a term since American labor has mostly let it happen to itself via lack of interest or ignorance about bargaining power.)

Impracticality of RAISING retirement age:
Being employable means not just health as in lack of disabling disease, and, not just physical strength (as you point out: the requirement for that has dropped drastically) but also physical energy, attention and, yes, even fully working memory.

Problem is, even if you think people over 60 are just fine in these departments, EMPLOYERS do not. Try to get a job other than WalMart greeter over 60; good luck.

I am 64 (this week) and employers are not all wrong. When your muscles go (without heroic efforts, in your very late 50s) a portion of your energy and ambition go that cannot be compensated for by the biggest adrenal glands (which I have); short term memory can become a genuine problem too.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fairer pay distribution = lower economic growth???

The question of whether lower pay equality leads to higher economic growth seems to forget that the big creator in economic growth is advancing technology -- more precisely, maturing technologies (plural).

If a more equal distribution of output is sought by means other than high pay -- by over-regulation which makes employers hesitate to hire because they cannot fire or because they will have go on paying after they fire; or by requiring benefit levels that raise labor's price too high -- then that may cause unemployment. But even that is not the same thing as lowering output per worker (sometimes over-regulation generates higher output per worker as a way to avoid hiring). I am thinking mostly of Europe here.

On the other hand, if workers wish a higher price for their labor at the cost of fewer jobs that is not necessarily an irrational choice -- fewer better paying jobs conceivably result in the same overall amount of pay for less work. Thinking of big jumps in the American minimum wage here, too (not that I am saying that even a $500/wk minimum has to cause any job loss -- probably some shifting of demand). In any case this is labor's choice in a democratic society.

Much unemployment in Europe can undoubtedly be blamed on the automatic -- and high -- dole, in combination with over-regulation. All of which, once again, is not the same thing as lower productivity growth which is the only thing that can really devastate a national economy. As long as technology is kept up with, the GDP can always catch up -- come to think: technology can always be caught up too.

It all adds up to: the sky ain't going to fall because of more fair slicing of the economic pie. Didn't that go out with Ricardo or somebody?

More pro single-payer stuff

More pro single-payer stuff:

Worried about unemployment caused by layoffs in the health insurance industry -- should Medicare for All be adopted. Worry about our OTHER industries (our PRACTICAL, making something or serving someone industries) suffering v. foreign competition (think GM) because they have to pay for workers' health care (think $1100 extra per car).

Remember the typing pool? Not if you went to work in the mid 70s by which time millions of typists had been replaced by copying machines. It's called creative destruction (the alternative is called Luddism).

How many manufacturing and other jobs are we willing to lose to keep medical insurance offices filled?
Single payer would not be "insulated" from -- what -- political pressures once adopted? I thought that once the big health insurance was out of the way there wasn't supposed to be any more (supposedly out sized) political pressures.

On insurance industry (supposedly irresistible) resistance to single-payer: even before big insurance is out of the way, are there not countervailing political pressures from an industry that represents 15% of the economy and doesn't particularly like the way private insurance pays it? What about doctors; they are a powerful interest group -- they would surely love to see (the hundreds of sets of rules and care deniers) of big insurance out of their way. What's next: are hospitals in love with big insurance? What's next?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Social Security Malthusians -- Chicken Little Economics

It just occurred to me that people who fear that Social Security tax income must eventually fall short of benefit outgo are Social Security Malthusians. They don't factor in -- most never heard of -- economic growth: more than two hundred years after economic growth made Malthus obsolete.

That the modern industrial economy grows four times as fast as the population per person -- that means that by the time population double the economy will produce eight times as much; four times as much output per person -- doesn't get through to them. I guess that makes Peter G. Peterson America's greatest Social Security Malthusian.

Come to think of it: I guess a lot or even most of so-called conservative economics is unconsciously Malthusian, from trying to privatize Social Security to attempting to "starve the beast" -- all see the sky falling because they just never catch on that output per person grows four times (4X!) as fast as the population. From Voodoo economics to Chicken Little economics: that's Republicans.

Friday, March 7, 2008

It's the pay -- not the pain of poverty -- brain

Being barely above poverty, barely meeting minimum needs is not a satisfactory political or social goal -- not if we are talking about a quarter or a third of families it is not! A satisfactory life is a satisfactory social goal.

A materially satisfactory (that's what we are talking about today: economics) life is about Disney vacations and big screen TVs and nice vehicles -- it is if we are talking about a quarter or a half of the country -- which it is when the American median (50 percentile) wage has grown only 10% while average income has grown 70% over the last 35 years -- albeit with a lot more family members working. A satisfactory life is even about keeping up with the Joneses -- it is when between a quarter to three-quarters of the country has not kept up even closely with overall economic growth.

Eliminating poverty is nevertheless a satisfactory social goal when a quarter of the workforce is earning less than the federal minimum wage of 1968 (double the average income later!). It is when that quarter cannot afford replacement teeth and their kids join gangs to make $10/hr and children have children because they cannot have anything else. Nevertheless, the genesis of much social pathology (not talking mental pathology) is stated in the opening proposition in this paragraph: unavailability of a living wage even if willing to do the most strenuous work.

The materially unsatisfied in America are for the most part not left back because they are undereducated or pathological or because America is undercapitalized -- neither are they satisfaction poor because they are short on some kind head start in life. Most are short on life's goodies because they are short on sheer bargaining power in the free labor market. All this is why I worry more about pay than the pain of poverty as America's core social and economic concern. In any case it may be easier to kill these two birds with one stone than one at a time.

I do think about pain more than pay when thinking about taxing high incomes: how much will they actually suffer? Not enough for me to worry about.