Monday, August 30, 2010


Economists – males most appropriately – suffer physics envy. Economic interactions are convoluted by government formulae. Distorting their look at those wheels within wheels are mostly unheard of male pack instincts along the well understood cultural biases (we have been "domesticated" to live with us for 100s of millennia).

Pack hunter midbrains channel groupthink – with a preference for on-the-spot doability: prey not tarrying while predators squabble. Wheels within wheels of groupthink: economic pros must in turn persuade mostly unknowing political and journalistic packs if they are actually going to cause any change. There seems walls within walls to innovation – to males.

Living too remotely from the day-to-day interactions – no pitfall in organic chemistry – can fuzz out crucial ifs, ands and buts. Economists of all stripes (most are progressive) start every minimum wage dialogue with ye ole first week supply and demand chart and mostly end there – skip selling fewer units (or hours) for more dollars – miss that a raise that increases teen unemployment may have attracted more trainable adults (labor price was too low) – forever blind to the missing American-born workers behind Chicago fast food counters where the state minimum wage recently reached Eisenhower's 1956 level, $8/hr – and even behind San Francisco counters where annual inflation adjustments will maintain the city minimum wage, at LBJ's 1968 level, $10/hr. $7.25/hr ($5.50/hr!): fuggedaboutit!

The first commandment of medical practitioners is making daily rounds to observe patients. Would it really take a "small army" of economists, as recently supposed, to plow enough data to explain income inequality (a wishy-washy phrase that sounds more like a shave than a haircut)? Or are everyday bad to worse American labor experiences enough to make the culprit perfectly plain: the almost total (but one-step undoable?) coast-to-coast blackout of labor bargaining power -- and political sway.

American unionized (!) labor hell: "Dr. Pepper Snapple Group made $555 million in profits last year. CEO Larry Young made $6.5 million but says Mott’s applesauce workers must take a $1.50 an hour pay cut" [see]: specific fit to this specific occasion – where is the missing legally mandated, sector-wide labor agreement to neutralize management’s squawking about “above market pay”? Minimum wage hell: now $2.75/hr below LBJ's 1968 level, double the per capita income later: zero labor lobbying -- and going down.

The second commandment of medical practitioners is “studies show” -- even when they can’t pinpoint all contributory factors. Studies show that only legally mandated, sector-wide labor agreements (instituted originally along with welfare guarantees to contain labor costs to more quickly rebuild postwar Europe) have been proven effective in preventing the race to the wage and benefit bottom -- in decades of “trials” across first, second and third world labor markets.

Under sector-wide all employees in the same geographic locale doing the same work -- even for different employers – work under common collectively bargained contracts.

Card-check legislation would be to re-unionizing America what the $2.75/hr short-of-1968 hike was to restoring the minimum wage (in the poorest section of America, a $15/hr minimum would raise the price of: housing, medicine, transportation, food, clothing – what?). Today’s median wage is $15/hr – a teeny-tiny $2.50/hr more than the 1968 median. There appears no wholesome economic reason why the median could not have doubled to $25/hr as average income doubled. Is “shanghaied” be a better fit than “inequality”?

Will someone please shout out “sector-wide labor agreements” at their next crowded economic or political forum? They won’t cause a panicked stampede – except maybe from the outside-in. Supermarket workers and airline employees (for a start) are ready to kill (even vote) for mandatory sector-wide bargaining. 50 million voting age toilers out of 100 million say they want to be unionized – before any nationwide re-unionizing dialogue has even begun.

No comments: