minimum wage

  • Source - NYT Magazine piece (PDF) January 16, 2018: "Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble: Long-term implications of blockchain"        

    It begins with a "seed phrase" - a list of twelve random words taken from the dictionary. When typed in, the seed phrase generates a patternless string of 64 characters, the same 64 each time. The character output cannot be reverse-engineered to generate the original seed phrase. The seed phrase verifies your identity and allows your transaction to become part of the blockchain, a permanent transaction record shared by everyone and updated in real time. Blockchains require no intermediary. "No intermediary brokered the deal; no social-media network captured the data from my transaction to better target its advertising; no credit bureau tracked the activity to build a portrait of my financial trustworthiness." And no one owns the platform for blockchain, it is open source.

    "The real promise of these new technologies, many of their evangelists believe, lies not in displacing our currencies but in replacing much of what we now think of as the internet, while at the same time returning the online world to a more decentralized and egalitarian system. If you believe the evangelists, the blockchain is the future. But it is also a way of getting back to the internet’s roots."

    The internet needs to be fixed. Internet evangelists in the 90's are now becoming internet skeptics. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web itself, wrote a blog post voicing his concerns that the advertising-based model of social media and search engines creates a climate where “misinformation, or ‘fake news,’ which is surprising, shocking or designed to appeal to our biases, can spread like wildfire.”

  • Article (book review): Everybody Lies  

     The bookEverybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz looks at the use of search data as a way to find previously invisible correlations and connections. Example: the prevalence of the term “n*gger” in search results was the best variable in predicting whether or not the voters in that region would vote for Trump in the 2016 GOP primaries. Search data is a game-changer because it gets at what people actually believe, not what they are willing to admit to a stranger with a clipboard.

    From the review: ‘Modern microeconomics, sociology, political science and quantitative psychology all depend to a large extent on surveys of at most a few thousand respondents. In contrast, he says, there are “four unique powers of Big Data”: it provides new sources of information, such as pornographic searches; it captures what people actually do or think, rather than what they choose to tell pollsters; it enables researchers to home in on and compare demographic or geographic subsets; and it allows for speedy randomized controlled trials that demonstrate not just correlation but causality. As a result, he predicts, “the days of academics devoting months to recruiting a small number of undergraduates to perform a single test will come to an end.” In their place, “the social and behavioural sciences are most definitely going to scale,” and the conclusions researchers will be able to reach are “the stuff of science, not pseudoscience”.’

  • Article (Opinion): "Trump Made the Swamp Worse, Here's How to Drain It"  

     Hard copyhere.

    > Trump won in part because of our eroding faith in our governing institutions. Long-term wage stagnation and income inequality has convinced many that the system is corrupt and rigged in favor of the elites - only an outsider like Trump can “clean it up”. The slow growth/income inequality economy that has been the norm for the last decade is a sign that powerful insiders (big business, the wealthy) are using the system to both increase their own wealth and protect themselves from competition.

    > Four ways in which this is done - first, the financial sector lobbies for laws (like the mortgage interest deduction) that encourage high levels of debt which can then be securitized (and monetized). With regulations removed, the financial sector has grown too large. Next, intellectual property laws protect both media and pharmaceutical conglomerates. Third, at the state and local level, occupational licensing artificially boosts the pay of those being licensed and restricts entry. And finally, at the local level, zoning laws inflate the home values of the current owners while making it more difficult for newcomers to move in.

    > High profits and wealth have been used by the incumbents to fund think tanks and policy research centers and pay for lobbyists who promote policies that support the status quo and stifle competition. Example: Big Pharma funds research that shows loosening patent laws would stifle innovation, instead of increase it. Lawmakers get only one side of the issue.  

    > Reform idea - Congressional staffs need to be expanded, upgraded and professionalized so that members of Congress are no longer dependent upon lobbyists for research.

    > Reform idea: at the federal level, the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) independently reviews the impact of federal regulations. No such agency exists at the state level. There should be one.

    > Reform idea: private philanthropy should fund new interest groups and think-tanks that will make lawmakers aware that other points of view exist besides those of the entrenched wealthy and powerful.

    > Authors Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles work for libertarian think-tank theNiskanen Center and have authored the bookThe Captured Economy.

  • Article (Opinion): "Trump Made the Swamp Worse, Here's How to Drain It"  

     Hard copyhere.

    > Trump won in part because of our eroding faith in our governing institutions. Long-term wage stagnation and income inequality has convinced many that the system is corrupt and rigged in favor of the elites - only an outsider like Trump can “clean it up”. The slow growth/income inequality economy that has been the norm for the last decade is a sign that powerful insiders (big business, the wealthy) are using the system to both increase their own wealth and protect themselves from competition.

    > Four ways in which this is done - first, the financial sector lobbies for laws (like the mortgage interest deduction) that encourage high levels of debt which can then be securitized (and monetized). With regulations removed, the financial sector has grown too large. Next, intellectual property laws protect both media and pharmaceutical conglomerates. Third, at the state and local level, occupational licensing artificially boosts the pay of those being licensed and restricts entry. And finally, at the local level, zoning laws inflate the home values of the current owners while making it more difficult for newcomers to move in.

    > High profits and wealth have been used by the incumbents to fund think tanks and policy research centers and pay for lobbyists who promote policies that support the status quo and stifle competition. Example: Big Pharma funds research that shows loosening patent laws would stifle innovation, instead of increase it. Lawmakers get only one side of the issue.  

    > Reform idea - Congressional staffs need to be expanded, upgraded and professionalized so that members of Congress are no longer dependent upon lobbyists for research.

    > Reform idea: at the federal level, the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) independently reviews the impact of federal regulations. No such agency exists at the state level. There should be one.

    > Reform idea: private philanthropy should fund new interest groups and think-tanks that will make lawmakers aware that other points of view exist besides those of the entrenched wealthy and powerful.

    > Authors Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles work for libertarian think-tank theNiskanen Center and have authored the bookThe Captured Economy.

  • Article (Opinion): "Trump Made the Swamp Worse, Here's How to Drain It"  

     Hard copyhere.

    > Trump won in part because of our eroding faith in our governing institutions. Long-term wage stagnation and income inequality has convinced many that the system is corrupt and rigged in favor of the elites - only an outsider like Trump can “clean it up”. The slow growth/income inequality economy that has been the norm for the last decade is a sign that powerful insiders (big business, the wealthy) are using the system to both increase their own wealth and protect themselves from competition.

    > Four ways in which this is done - first, the financial sector lobbies for laws (like the mortgage interest deduction) that encourage high levels of debt which can then be securitized (and monetized). With regulations removed, the financial sector has grown too large. Next, intellectual property laws protect both media and pharmaceutical conglomerates. Third, at the state and local level, occupational licensing artificially boosts the pay of those being licensed and restricts entry. And finally, at the local level, zoning laws inflate the home values of the current owners while making it more difficult for newcomers to move in.

    > High profits and wealth have been used by the incumbents to fund think tanks and policy research centers and pay for lobbyists who promote policies that support the status quo and stifle competition. Example: Big Pharma funds research that shows loosening patent laws would stifle innovation, instead of increase it. Lawmakers get only one side of the issue.  

    > Reform idea - Congressional staffs need to be expanded, upgraded and professionalized so that members of Congress are no longer dependent upon lobbyists for research.

    > Reform idea: at the federal level, the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) independently reviews the impact of federal regulations. No such agency exists at the state level. There should be one.

    > Reform idea: private philanthropy should fund new interest groups and think-tanks that will make lawmakers aware that other points of view exist besides those of the entrenched wealthy and powerful.

    > Authors Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles work for libertarian think-tank theNiskanen Center and have authored the bookThe Captured Economy.

  • Article (Opinion): "Trump Made the Swamp Worse, Here's How to Drain It"  

     Hard copyhere.

    > Trump won in part because of our eroding faith in our governing institutions. Long-term wage stagnation and income inequality has convinced many that the system is corrupt and rigged in favor of the elites - only an outsider like Trump can “clean it up”. The slow growth/income inequality economy that has been the norm for the last decade is a sign that powerful insiders (big business, the wealthy) are using the system to both increase their own wealth and protect themselves from competition.

    > Four ways in which this is done - first, the financial sector lobbies for laws (like the mortgage interest deduction) that encourage high levels of debt which can then be securitized (and monetized). With regulations removed, the financial sector has grown too large. Next, intellectual property laws protect both media and pharmaceutical conglomerates. Third, at the state and local level, occupational licensing artificially boosts the pay of those being licensed and restricts entry. And finally, at the local level, zoning laws inflate the home values of the current owners while making it more difficult for newcomers to move in.

    > High profits and wealth have been used by the incumbents to fund think tanks and policy research centers and pay for lobbyists who promote policies that support the status quo and stifle competition. Example: Big Pharma funds research that shows loosening patent laws would stifle innovation, instead of increase it. Lawmakers get only one side of the issue.  

    > Reform idea - Congressional staffs need to be expanded, upgraded and professionalized so that members of Congress are no longer dependent upon lobbyists for research.

    > Reform idea: at the federal level, the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) independently reviews the impact of federal regulations. No such agency exists at the state level. There should be one.

    > Reform idea: private philanthropy should fund new interest groups and think-tanks that will make lawmakers aware that other points of view exist besides those of the entrenched wealthy and powerful.

    > Authors Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles work for libertarian think-tank theNiskanen Center and have authored the bookThe Captured Economy.

  • Article: "Minimum Wage - Maximin"  

    On June 21st 2016, the city council in Washington, DC voted unanimously to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020. Only California and New York have taken comparable action at the state level. But, thanks mainly to local laws, almost 17m workers have benefited from higher minimum wages since the “fight for $15” began, according to the National Employment Law Project. At least 10m of those will eventually receive $15 an hour.

    Campaigners claim that higher local minimum wages are necessary to alleviate poverty, particularly as minimum wages are often not adjusted for years at the state and federal levels. Prices are already 10% higher than in 2009, the last time lawmakers upped the federal rate. 

    These justified concerns about poverty are often mixed up with anger about stagnant median incomes or inequality. Minimum wages exert little pressure on middle-America’s earnings; neither do they restrain the pay of bankers or CEOs. Until recently it looked like low minimum wages did cause middle-earners to pull further away from very low-earners during the 1980s. But a recent study by economists David Autor, Alan Manning and Christopher Smith suggests that minimum wages explain only 30-40% of this trend.

    Minimum-wages, then, are best viewed as one route to helping the lowest earners. Since nobody thinks that low pay is desirable, the argument against minimum-wages is that they destroy jobs. Campaigners deny this, with some justification. A canonical study in 1993 found that employment in New Jersey restaurants increased, rather than fell, in response to a minimum wage rise. More recent research, from 2010, examined all county-pairs that straddle a state border and found that, for the period from 1990 to 2006, differences in minimum wages had no effect on employment in low-wage sectors.

    Other economists dispute these findings. But some jobs clearly can survive higher minimum wages. In 2015 more than half of workers earning at or below the federal minimum wage worked in restaurants, bars and the like. Such service jobs cannot be moved overseas, and many, such as cleaning the floor of a McDonalds, are hard to automate. These jobs will survive if firms can tolerate lower profits or raise their prices sufficiently. Soaring demand for services in fast-growing, high-income areas like New York and San Francisco typically enables them to do so. Seattle began raising its minimum wage in April 2015, initially from the state minimum, $9.32, to $11 for large firms. Yet the proportion of jobs in the Seattle area in the food service and preparation industry has grown from 7.2% in April 2015 to 7.4% today.

    The canonical study for minimum wage comes from Card and Krueger - "Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania". 

     

  • Article: "Minimum Wage - Maximin"  

    On June 21st 2016, the city council in Washington, DC voted unanimously to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020. Only California and New York have taken comparable action at the state level. But, thanks mainly to local laws, almost 17m workers have benefited from higher minimum wages since the “fight for $15” began, according to the National Employment Law Project. At least 10m of those will eventually receive $15 an hour.

    Campaigners claim that higher local minimum wages are necessary to alleviate poverty, particularly as minimum wages are often not adjusted for years at the state and federal levels. Prices are already 10% higher than in 2009, the last time lawmakers upped the federal rate. 

    These justified concerns about poverty are often mixed up with anger about stagnant median incomes or inequality. Minimum wages exert little pressure on middle-America’s earnings; neither do they restrain the pay of bankers or CEOs. Until recently it looked like low minimum wages did cause middle-earners to pull further away from very low-earners during the 1980s. But a recent study by economists David Autor, Alan Manning and Christopher Smith suggests that minimum wages explain only 30-40% of this trend.

    Minimum-wages, then, are best viewed as one route to helping the lowest earners. Since nobody thinks that low pay is desirable, the argument against minimum-wages is that they destroy jobs. Campaigners deny this, with some justification. A canonical study in 1993 found that employment in New Jersey restaurants increased, rather than fell, in response to a minimum wage rise. More recent research, from 2010, examined all county-pairs that straddle a state border and found that, for the period from 1990 to 2006, differences in minimum wages had no effect on employment in low-wage sectors.

    Other economists dispute these findings. But some jobs clearly can survive higher minimum wages. In 2015 more than half of workers earning at or below the federal minimum wage worked in restaurants, bars and the like. Such service jobs cannot be moved overseas, and many, such as cleaning the floor of a McDonalds, are hard to automate. These jobs will survive if firms can tolerate lower profits or raise their prices sufficiently. Soaring demand for services in fast-growing, high-income areas like New York and San Francisco typically enables them to do so. Seattle began raising its minimum wage in April 2015, initially from the state minimum, $9.32, to $11 for large firms. Yet the proportion of jobs in the Seattle area in the food service and preparation industry has grown from 7.2% in April 2015 to 7.4% today.

    The canonical study for minimum wage comes from Card and Krueger - "Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania". 

     

  • Source - NYT Stephens opinion piece (PDF) December 15, 2017: "The Real Russia Scandal"         

    In 2006, Russia seemed to be a problem. They were at that time bombing Chechnya into submission and had killed dissidents Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinenko. This was before the annexation of Crimea and the trouble in Ukraine. And before their involvement with the Assad regime in Syria. None other than Mike Flynn wrote in a 2016 book ("The Field of Fight") that "there is no reason to believe Putin would welcome cooperation with us". Once part of the Trump transition team, Flynn moderated his stance on Russia (in addition to his consulting firm receiving $65,000 in payments from Russian companies).

    Review of Trump's positions on Russia. He refused to fully accept the verdict of the intelligence services that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 US Presidential election. Trump told Bill O'Reilly that our behavior as a nation was "no better" than Putin. In the spring of 2017, he actually proposed a joint cybersecurity task force with the Russians and then quickly backpedalled after the idea was roundly condemned. Trump fiercely resisted Congressional efforts to sanction Russia for the 2016 interference. He ended US support for anti-Assad Syrian moderates, which helped Russian ally Assad consolidate his hold on power. 

    How to explain these behaviors? The ideological explanation is that Trump is very sympathetic to autocrats - like Erdogan, like Duterte, like Putin. That he is sympathetic to the elements of "Putinism" - crony capitalism, foreign policy opportunism and general hostility to critics. There is also a possible financial explanation - Trump may be deeply in debt to Russian oligarchs. 

    "No need to obsess about electoral collusion when the real issue is moral capitulation."