Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Only So Much To Go ‘Round

The Sandwichman commented the other day on The Economist article, “Britain’s Green Party proposes a three-day weekend.” Regrettably, though, I didn’t pay much attention to their “rebuttal” to the alleged assumption of a fixed amount of work:

In fact, if people worked fewer hours, demand would drop, and so fewer working hours would be on offer.

I have seen stupid explanations before of why there is not a fixed amount of work. Layard, Nickell and Jackman argued that if work time reduction and redistribution succeeded in reducing unemployment, it would be inflationary and that would probably cause the central bank to intervene to re-establish the “non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment.” That’s pretty stupid but not nearly as stupid as what The Economist article claimed as “fact.” Pardon me for repeating the whole dreadful argument:

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Thank God it’s Boilerplate!: The Economist is lumping its labour

by Sandwichman

Thank God it’s Boilerplate!: It’s Thursday and The Economist is lumping its labour

The Economist and Jonathan Portes are at it again. “Lump of labor! Lump of labor!” The occasion? A proposal for a four-day workweek announced by the U.K. Green Party at their convention this week in Liverpool.

 The Economist pretended to find “two problems” with the Greens’ proposal:

The Greens’ proposals encounter two problems. First, the theory. They argue that the reduced hours worked by some could be redistributed to others in order to lower underemployment. They thus fall prey to the “lump of labour fallacy”, the notion that there is a fixed amount of work to be done which can be shared out in different ways to create fewer or more jobs. In fact, if people worked fewer hours, demand would drop, and so fewer working hours would be on offer.

Second, the cost. Increased productivity could cover some of the costs of paying a five-day wage for a four-day week, suggests Sarah Lyall of the New Economics Foundation, a think-tank. She points to a Glasgow marketing company that did just that, and experienced a 30% leap in productivity. But that is an astonishing increase to expect across the board.

First the theory: why does the idea of redistributing work require a “fixed amount of work to be done”? I can cut up a pie in many different ways. I can also cut two, three, many pies in different ways. In what sense does redistribution imply a constant amount? It doesn’t.

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A little bit about our supreme court and corporate power

In case you did not see this, it is my Senator’s opening comments at the Gorsuch hearings.  He sums up just what a 5/4 split court has been doing.

 

This is his discussion on Cspan about his book: Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy

 

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Crazification Factor Smashed

Kung Fu Monkey has a sad. Paul Ryan has totally crushed his crazification factor

h/t Kerry Eleveld

This issue has made Paul Ryan into the most unpopular politician in the country. At the start of the Trump administration he had a 33% approval rating, with 43% of voters disapproving of him. Now his approval has plunged to 21%, with his disapproval spiking all the way up to 61%.

I count this as a new event, because Ryan is very famous and 82% is respectably close to 100 %

But mostly, because I want to post this here

blue-eyesA

blue-eyesB

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Working class and Dems

by Peter Dorman   (originally published at Econospeak)

The Intersectionality that Dare Not Speak Its Name

The New York Times ran a Nate Cohn piece today that epitomizes the way conventional liberals spin American politics.  On the one hand we have the turnout and voting preferences of people of color—blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans.  On the other we have whites and, in particular, the white working class.  Not much happened in the 2016 presidential election on the POC side, says Cohn; nearly all the movement was among working class whites.
I suppose it’s good that political discourse can now acknowledge the presence of a working class, at least where white people are concerned.  Wouldn’t it be nice if they allowed people of other hues to be workers too?

Seriously, what’s the basis for dichotomizing the political terrain into race versus class?  Why not examine not just white workers, but workers?
The issue is not simply how many nonwhite workers switched their vote to Trump or waited out the election altogether.  The starting point should be that Trump ran the most openly racist presidential campaign since George Wallace, and this should have cost him big time among all the groups he disparaged—but it didn’t.  So let’s do a class breakdown for nonwhite voters the way it’s now becoming fashionable to do for whites.  How did Clinton do with working class black and Hispanic voters compared to more affluent POC?  How does adding the nonwhite slices of the electorate change how we assess the role of the working class as a whole in electing Trump, if at all?

The working class is multiracial, and it is also a working class.  There’s nothing either/or about it.

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Employment in coal mining

Trump is claiming he can restore coal mining to its former glory by reversing the new regulations that Obama enacted.

 

Obvious he has no idea what the history of employment in coal mining is.

Just note that it peaked in 1923.

 

Update: Today the NY Times had a very good article on coal and jobs: “Coal Mining Jobs Trump Would Bring Back No Longer Exist

COALMINING

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The 27% Crazification Factor Again

New link from Steve Bennen at Eschaton reminds us of Robert Waldmann’s post from 2014:

The 27% Crazification Factor Again

Robert Waldmann | January 27, 2014

It’s that number again. As noted by Dylan Scott at TPM, according to the latest Pew poll 27% of US adults think that the Republican party “is more willing to work with the other party” than the Democratic party.For earlier appearances of 27% see Kung Fu Monkey

John: Hey, Bush is now at 37% approval. I feel much less like Kevin McCarthy screaming in traffic. But I wonder what his base is –Tyrone: 27%.John: … you said that immmediately, and with some authority.Tyrone: Obama vs. Alan Keyes. Keyes was from out of state, so you can eliminate any established political base; both candidates were black, so you can factor out racism; and Keyes was plainly, obviously, completely crazy. Batshit crazy. Head-trauma crazy. But 27% of the population of Illinois voted for him. They put party identification, personal prejudice, whatever ahead of rational judgement. Hell, even like 5% of Democrats voted for him. That’s crazy behaviour. I think you have to assume a 27% Crazification Factor in any population.

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Poor Salesman Great Grasp of Policy

I am aware of all internet traditions (with notably rare exceptions) and I think this might be another classic.

In a generally very good article in Politico Tim Alberta wrote “Ryan is poor salesman with a great grasp of policy” [skip] “After he unveiled the bill, leading health care experts on the right like Yuval Levin and Avik Roy trashed it as a poorly conceived mess; ”

So having a great grasp of policy is consistent with writing an immensely important poorly conceived mess. I am googling [Ryan salesman "great grasp of policy"] which only gives 142 results. Does seem twitter has taken over the snark industry. This thread burns. Also at least 1% of the US Senate took Alberta to task.

update: I was wrong. The classic is actually

TimAlberta

So the fact that Ryan’s polics don’t withstand scrutiny shows that Ryan has a great grasp of policy. OK I fell for it. Tim Alberta is just trolling me. He. will. not. make. my. head. explode. No he won’t.

end update:

I think the crazy claim shows a few things. One is that conventional wisdom is invulnerable to evidence. Ryan has been declared a super wonk by the cool kids, so the assertion is riskless. Another is that Alberta wasn’t thinking about policy (he wrote almost nothing about the content of the AHCA). Another is that he assumes that the problem for Ryan with Levin and Roy was that he didn’t flatter them enough and not that his bill was a poorly conceived mess (the preceding sentence was “There was no such effort on Ryan’s part, and it showed. (Several allies argued he had done some outreach, but they failed to provide any specific examples.)”). Finally, symmetry is dangerously tempting. The whole crazy claim is “If the bill failed because Trump is a great salesman with a poor grasp of policy, it also failed because Ryan is a poor salesman with a great grasp of policy.” This is symmetry at the expence of accuracy. Ryan is a brilliant salesman who has a weak grasp of policy.

I foolishly said that ignoring policy and discussing inside baseball is what Politico does, then found out that they also published an excellent article by Harold Pollack “Paul Ryan Failed Because his Bill was a Dumpster Fire”

update: Ouch

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Complacency Or Community Commitment? Human And Social Capital Reconsidered

by Barkley Rosser (originally published at Econospeak)

Complacency Or Community Commitment? Human And Social Capital Reconsidered

I have been poking at Tyler Cowen’s recent book on The Complacent Class, along with those who have praised it unstintingly, with my main complaint being that what he calls complacency may really be fear.  In an exchange posted today between Tyler and Noah Smith at Bloomberg, Noah makes many of my points, saying that what people who are not moving or changing jobs are doing is seeking “safety and security,” with “complacency” sounding like “blithe optimism.” Tyler then admits that “many people are afraid,” but then says that they are still complacent because they are not reacting “with urgency.”  He also says that a lack of increased income volatility shows that they do not have reason to feel they are facing more risks than those in the past did, although it looks to me like the greater risks they face are more due to higher payments they must make for health or education rather than greater volatility of income.  But this is not what I want mostly to address here, at least further.

I wish to go back to the implications of people not quitting jobs and not moving as much as they used to. Rather than rerunning the fear versus complacency point, I want to think about how this relates to human and social capital accumulation.  In particular, I think  that while people may increase their individual human capital by moving around more, there may be an increase in social capital from people staying in one place more.  This greater social capital may result in more committing by people to the quality of their communities, more engagement in civic groups, and so  on.  It may be that the human capital part means that greater mobility improves economic growth, but this may be at the expense of better quality of life and other parts of economic growth associated with having high quality communities with high social capital.

Since I am setting up in effect a competition between human and social capital, I must admit that some of  the early work on these matters,  especially by sociologists like James Coleman and political scientists like Robert Putnam, initially argued that they were linked, that social capital enhances human capital.  Now I am not going to deny that. Certainly a person with a larger network of trusting acquaintances may be able to be more productive in their work and have essentially higher skills than someone who does not. Nevertheless, I am going to note how they may also be in conflict.

A crucial issue here involves externalities.  I  think that social capital involves and leads to more externatities than does human capital.  Or, even if I am wrong, they will involve different kinds of externalities.

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Repeal of the PPACA Vote On Hold

House leaders postponed a vote Thursday on their plan to overhaul the nation’s health-care system, casting doubt on whether President Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) can deliver on one of the GOP’s central promises to the voters who placed Republicans in power.
Lawmakers and White House officials continued to express confidence that the revisions to the Affordable Care Act would pass by week’s end, and talks resumed soon after leaders announced the postponement. As evening came, members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus filed into the office of Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), as did White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon.”

It would be nice to snatch their healthcare at the same time or make sure some of those old folk get to pay for premiums at a 5:1 ratio. New CBO scoring after changes to the bill shows only $150 billion saved. Also the changes to the bill do nothing to prevent 14 million from being uninsured in the next year.

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