Friday, June 28, 2013

US comes in 27th in median wealth

 US comes in 27th in median wealth -- all time shocker~

1. Australia                    $193,653
2. Luxembourg              $153,967
3. Japan                         $141,410
4. Italy                           $123,710
5. Belgium                     $119,937
6. United Kingdom        $115,245
7. Iceland                       $ 95,685
8. Singapore                   $ 95,542
9. Switzerland                $ 87,137
10. Denmark                  $ 87,121
11. Austria                     $ 81,649
12. Canada                     $ 81,610
13. France                      $ 81,274
14. Norway                    $ 79,376
15. Finland                     $ 73,487
16. New Zealand            $ 63,000
17. Netherlands              $ 61,880
18. Ireland                      $ 60,953
19. Qatar                        $ 57,027
20. Spain                        $ 53,292
21. United Arab Emir.   $ 47,998
22. Taiwan                     $ 45,451
23. Germany                  $ 42,222
24. Sweden                    $ 41,367
25. Cyprus                     $ 40,535
26. Kuwait                     $ 40,346
27. United States           $ 38,786

[Since the chart above is news I believe I can borrow it without permission -- anyway lawyers don't take food stamps.]

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Re: Krugman v. Mankiw

What Krugman and most (not all) progressives seem to miss (as usual?) is what a difference heavy middle class bargaining power in the labor market and muscle in the political forum would have made to the current outcome of all the gains in productivity going to the top 1% and the everything that can be looted will be looted society (e.g., Chicago parking meter deal -- not to mention how the Chicago Tribune was looted by its own management).

If this country had happened to have instituted legally mandated, sector-wide labor agreement in post WWII years, like much of Europe, Wal-Mart would not be killing the previously middle class labor contracts of American supermarket workers by moving their un-unionized labor into food marketing, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum.

Right now the relative bargaining pressures of labor and ownership in this country resemble a toothpaste tube open at the top: squeeze the bottom, pressure equalizes in the middle (really only in the 90-97-98-99 percentile area fully) which keeps its relative share of overall income and everything else comes out the top.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Aggregate demand flows -- with large movement in upper or lower 50 percentile wages

Doubling upper 50 percentile wages would send prices up but not as much as upper 50 incomes.  Only 88 percent of overall income goes to them so it would lead to some lowering of prices relative to their incomes.

Businesses catering more to upper 50 earners likely hire more upper 50s employees – higher prices reflecting higher wages.  Shifting a small slice of overall income to upper 50s (from lower 50s – via inflation) likely shifts a small bit more demand toward more upper 50 catering/hiring firms – which could actually lead to upward pressure on wages in some firms!

ince lower 50s represent(ed) only 12% of overall income, businesses catering more to lower 50s could suffer in proportion to their customers investigating haircut, but the downturn might be moderate for most (much or most of their demand possibly coming from upper 50s)Lower 50 consumers would suffer horrendously -- lower 50 earners would face more unemployment.  
  * * * * * *
We can usefully imagine boosting lower 50 wages by half – on the average.  Today’s minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) being half today’s median wage ($15 an hour) we can just raise the minimum to the median.  Above 50 percentile wages would then feel upward pressure but not necessarily that much – LBJ’s median was only 20% higher than his minimum.

Adding half again to lower 50 percentile wages would raise prices only a little compared to their hefty income increases -- because only 12 percent of overall income goes to bottom half earners.  As incomes make up only 2/3 of the cost of GDP output, figure that half again of 8 percent (2/3 of 12%) = 4% added to prices (not counting other wage push ups).

Reality check: an average $8,000 yearly raise for 70 million employees = $560 billion.  Divide that by $15.8 trillion GDP and we get 3.6% direct inflation.

Businesses catering more to lower 50s tend to hire more lower 50s – lower prices generally reflecting lower wages.  Shifting a small slice of overall income to lower 50s (from upper 50s – via inflation) means shifting extra demand to lower 50 catering/hiring firms – which could actually lead to upward pressure on wages in some cases!

Since upper 50s represent(ed) 88% of overall income, businesses catering more to upper 50s would suffer only in proportion to their customers very moderate shave, but even that marginal downturn might be partially filled in by newly affluent lower 50 consumers.  Upper 50 consumers would feel a small pinch (as my doctor says, needle in hand).  Upper 50 earners could face a similar pinch in unemployment.

Reality check: if LBJ's federal minimum wage of $10.69 an hour had kept pace with both inflation and per capita income growth (click on the first link: "All Races") it would have reached $14.11 an hour by 1978 – when per capita income was only 2/3 of what it is today!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Perfect criminal defense for Edward Snowden?

Daniel Ellsberg exposed classified documents to reveal past lying by government agencies -- tricky to defend.  Snowden stole documents to expose crime -- vast, dangerous violations of (hundreds of?) millions of citizens' Fourth Amendment protected privacy -- very arguably within anyone's right to carry out.

There is not (yet) a civil rights statute criminalizing Fourth Amendment infringements.  What Snowden revealed may not even fit (depending on which judge rules) Fourth Amendment infringement.  But, it it certainly represents the tip of the iceberg of such vast, ongoing infringement -- and that makes it a public necessity to get it in front of the nation.  

Security rules cannot force concealment of crime -- especially when the crime threatens the most basic freedoms of 300 million people.  At the least the evidence Snowden has argues "probable cause" of national class Fourth Amendment violations which investigation of must be forced forward by the revelations.

Probably the best book on madly expanding surveillance is TOP SECRET AMERICA by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin -- which describes a mind boggling extent of not just governmental but also extra-governmental (private contrator) machinery being put in place to gather information -- expanding at a rate that can only be described Parkinson's Law: "Work expands to fill the time available; expenses rise to meet income."

Neither does the book make out the FBI to be necessarily happy about all this.  They do the real work scooping up the bad guys while "top secret America" scoops up much too much funding and too many qualified (would have stuck with their government jobs) people.

[See next post on this blog for how easily -- almost necessarily -- a civil rights bill criminalizing Fourth Amendment violations can drop almost accidentally into our laps (the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act criminalized conspiracy to infringe First Amendment freedoms).]

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A state felony to annoy police once? -- How about a felony civil rights violation to stop-and-frisk kids 25X?

The New York State Senate wants to make it a felony to annoy one police officer -- one time? After all cops take the job to avoid conflict, stress or real danger.

How about federal civil rights legislation that makes it a felony to infringe whole classes of citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights --
day-in-and-day-out?  Did someone say stop-and frisk? The privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment is important enough to be a part of the Constitution because it is an important part of our DNA.  Treating supposedly (supposed to be) free people like prisoners in their own neighborhoods truthfully ruins their whole lives.

According to a New York Magazine story Officer Pedro Serrano, who dissented from massive unconstitutional intrusions by secretly recording superior orders
to perpetrate abuse and making those recordings public, he “lost count of the number of times he was stopped and frisked [growing up], but he estimates somewhere between 25 and 50.”  [p.2]  

From the same story: “As for his fellow cops at the 4-0, Serrano discovered that they fell into three camps. One third supported him (“They were like: ‘We get it, no problem’ ”); another third were furious (“They think what I did is wrong”); and the rest were neutral (“They were like, ‘We don’t care either way; we just  don’t like the bad stuff that’s coming because he’s pissed off now’”).  [p.7]

 It is heartening to know that only one third of the cops turn out to be yahoos. Yahoos are not inherently evil – most are just  bureaucratically insensitive doing their job (human nature; have to be some). But when yahoos are put in charge of a whole police department – and then told to make everyone else into yahoos – at a very quick step, yet – you get the kind of all pervasive Fourth Amendment violations upsetting New York City neighborhoods; in turn giving departments across the country (Oakland?, Boston?) bad ideas.

The caption under the picture topping the first pages describes three teens being thrown on a wall and groped "on Seneca Avenue in the Bronx, on their way home from school in September 2012." 

Here is my first question -- which fits so many of these stops: If these kids are stopped for resembling descriptions of perpetrators of a crime, why did the police not hold them for a witness or victim to come and identify?  Second question: Given it is a 1000 to 1 shot (more like 10,000 to 1? – never happened to me) that any one person is exhibiting a suspicious bulge in their clothing resembling a knife or gun, making it 1,000,000 to 1 to find two in a row and 1,000,000,000 to 1 to find three in a row, how can police explain habitually frisking whole gaggles of kids -- or any other category -- at once?

Nothing seems capable of guaranteeing Fourth Amendment protections at the local level. Even federal courts can only do so much against determined executive opposition.   [[ Opps; I guess not -- have to rewrite this section.  The 1964 federal Civil Rights Act makes it a felony to conspire to infringe First Amendment rights while acting under color of law. ]]   Unfortunately, as late as 2013, there may be a growing need for federal civil rights legislation to put teeth into Fourth Amendment protections.

Federal civil rights legislation criminalizing Fourth Amendment prohibited intrusions at some level (I cannot suggest precise language) could do double and triple duty.

Double duty: the crazy business in the Boston suburb of invading every house within a 20 square block area without warrants in pursuit of a 19-year-old who might be in possession of a handgun would have been deeply discouraged by the existence of federal privacy wrong doing penalties. Triple duty: President Bush's warrantless wiretaps never would have been considered in the first place. Nor possibly would much of the unconstitutional data-gathering we all strongly suspect is going on behind closed government doors these days but are totally barred from discovering, were a felony civil rights conviction attached.

Where are we going to find a new Lyndon Johnson dedicated to pushing through the new civil rights bill?  (Hint: Elizabeth Warren for president. :-])

Fictionalized Account

Real Account 

Crime was already down 4X when Mad Mayor Bloomberg took office -- whence he upped stops and frisks 7X by the year 2011 (from 100,000 to 700,000).  4 X 7 = 28 times as many stops per reported crime.  Last year down to only 20X.  ("Mad  Mayor" alludes to hizzoner building a brand new $400 million courthouse in the Bronx -- after we already opened a brand new $120 million court in 1977, to catch the then criminal case overflow, which new court was almost as nice as the 1939 landmark courthouse and architectural anchor of the neighborhood up the block on the Grand Concourse.  He blew another $630 million presumably doing the same trick in Brooklyn -- also after crime went down 4X!)