Saturday, March 09, 2013

Health Care Tax

"Low-wage, temporary jobs have become so widespread that they threaten to become the norm...Many argue that it was the inevitable result of macroeconomic forces — globalization, deindustrialization and technological change — beyond our political control. Yet employers had (and have) choices. Rather than squeezing workers, they could have invested in workers and boosted product quality, taking what economists call the high road toward more advanced manufacturing and skilled service work. But this hasn’t happened. Instead, American employers have generally taken the low road: lowering wages and cutting benefits, converting permanent employees into part-time and contingent workers, busting unions and subcontracting and outsourcing jobs. They have done so, in part, because of the extraordinary evangelizing of the temp industry, which rose from humble origins to become a global behemoth." Erin Hatton, NYT

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Okay...no. The truth is that we have temp jobs because of the enormous burden our ridiculous health care system imposes on hiring full time workers. Until we move to single payer, used in Germany, Chile, Singapore--in short, in the countries we trade with--we will not get new and better jobs.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Visuals on Being an Academic

This is long, and takes forever to load, and it hangs.

BUT....it's genuinely hilarious.  With thanks to the Ward Boss.

Frampton Comes Unglued

As the continuing story of Prof. Frampton, UNC physics professor and babe magnet...well, as it continues.  The latest.  A nice summary of the whole thing.

Prof. Frampton says he has "a large ego."  Now, folks, Angus and I have large egos.  Large egos are friends of ours.  Prof. Frampton....you are no large ego.  You are something else.

Jobs!

The jobs report for February is out and the news is decent. 236,000 net new non-farm jobs and the unemployment rate is down to 7.7%.

While we've still never had the really big job numbers that historically occur in recoveries, this was a good number in terms of beating expectations.

About the only bad news in the report is that last month's job number was revised downward from 157,000 to 119,000, a 24% downward adjustment.

Given that the confidence interval on these initial numbers is something over  + / - 50,000, we shouldn't get too excited or too upset at any single initial job number.

Pipeline Follies

Did somebody hack the NYTimes?

If the Times starts using actual logic and evidence again, there are going to have to be some changes made. They'll have to fire Paul Krugman, for example.

But, for now, it appears that someone made a mistake and published something that attacks liberal orthodoxy. Amazing.

Nod to Anonyman

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Hand down, man down

People. I got an email from David Boren yesterday afternoon telling me that "shots were fired" in Central Normatopia.

Would you like to know why?

Massive stupidity.

Dude #1 puts a microphone up for sale on Craigslist.

Dude #2 stops by to check out the merchandise. Asks if he can take it outside and show it to his girlfriend.

Dude #1 laughs in his face agrees and lets him go outside with the mic without following him.

Dude #2 prepares to make tracks.

Dude #1 runs outside with a handgun and starts shooting at the rapidly retreating car of Dude #2, then gets in his own idiot-mobile and starts chasing after his beloved microphone.

I like to think Dude #1 was screaming, "Momma there goes that man" as he gave hot and lethally intended pursuit to the miscreant.

Hat tip to D. Boren and RK Gaddie.




Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Leigh Stein

Leigh Steinberg on sports, agents, and athletes, on EconTalk.

Leigh Steinberg, legendary sports agent, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his career as a sports agent. He discusses the challenges of building a clientele, how sports agents spend their time, strategies for building a brand as an athlete, and safety issues currently affecting the National Football League.  

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Nick Gillespie on 5 Things You Should Know

Five Things You Should Know About Sequestration

 

Speedometers: Immoral?

It appears that people like to have speedometers that, like the amps for Spinal Tap, go all the way to 11.   The story.

Okay, in this case it's a little different, because Spinal Tap really could turn up the amp all the way.  But there is NO way that a Corolla is going to do 160.

This may be silly.  Fine, in fact it is silly.  But should the government regulate it?  And is this the reason government should regulate it?  It's IMMORAL?

The rising speedometer numbers aren't surprising to Joan Claybrook, the top federal auto safety regulator under President Jimmy Carter. She's been fighting the escalation for years and says it encourages drivers _ especially younger ones _ to drive too fast. During her tenure, she briefly got speedometer numbers lowered.
"They think that speed sells," she said of automakers. "People buy these cars because they want to go fast." ...For years, most speedometers topped out at 120 _ even though that was 50 mph over the limit in most states. Then, in 1980, Claybrook, who ran the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, limited speedometers to 85 mph, even though cars could go much faster.
The move, designed to end the temptation to push cars to their limits, drew outrage from gearheads nationwide. Some automakers got around the rule by ending the numbers at 85 but leaving lines beyond that to show higher speeds. The government also forced automakers to highlight 55 mph, which at the time was the fuel-saving national speed limit.
The limit was short-lived, overturned two years later by President Ronald Reagan, who campaigned on a pledge to end onerous government regulations. Cars with 85 mph speedometers lingered for several years until they were redesigned and the maximum speeds for most returned to 120.
By the 2000s, however, the speedometer speeds crept higher. Even compact cars showed 130 or 140 mph. The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette speedometer and some Jaguar models now peak at 200.
Claybrook concedes there's no data to show the 85 mph limit saved lives, but she believes it did. She calls the ever-higher speedometer numbers "immoral."
 Lagniappe:  "The fuel-saving national speed limit"?  The fuel-saving limit would be zero.  Further, there is only one resource we can't get more off:  time.  Fuel we can work around, get more of, etc.  The 55 speed limit was a "time-wasting national speed limit."

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Dark Enlightenment

A 10-part series, by Nick Land:  On "Dark Enlightenment."  (I've linked to Matt Leslie's presentation of it, which is where I found it, and also because the original links don't work, it seems.)

Long, complicated, interesting.  Basic question:  Is democracy simply incompatible with individual liberty?  Not in tension with, mind you.  Incompatible.  You may know "Dark Enlightenment" from Mencius Moldbug, of course. See also "Left Singularity."

with thanks to Jeremy B.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

So was it a $10 million Contribution, Then?

So, everybody was all excited that the Dems were going to have their convention in Charlotte.  NC is a key state and all (though the Dems ended up losing the state, in every way possible).

And there was some "formality" about guaranteeing a small loan, just $10 million (gulp!).  As we were told in the Democrat-owned press (i.e., McClatchy, the company tasked with writing ads for the Democratic party, thinly disguised as editorials or news stories):


Duke Energy Corp., whose CEO is leading the fundraising for the Democratic National Convention, is guaranteeing a $10 million line of credit for the event. 

The credit line from Fifth Third Bank is apparently the first time such an arrangement has been used by any Democratic convention organizers. A Duke spokesman said stockholders, not rate-payers, would be on the line if the convention's host committee defaults. 

But the head of the committee said it may never have to draw on the money. "It is just security in the event of a cash shortfall," Will Miller, acting executive director of the Charlotte organizing committee, said Friday. "The host committee is obligated to pay it back, and the host committee will pay it back." 

Some suggest the arrangement is tantamount to a large corporate contribution at a time when the party is touting new rules that bar corporate cash and individual contributions over $100,000. Democrats have pledged "a people's convention" and say the line of credit doesn't violate the new rules.

More after the jump... 

The culture that is India: Luxury living edition

Fascinating article in the NYT about booming property values in desirable areas of New Delhi, where teardown properties can allegedly go for over $10 million.

There are some specific points in the piece that do not bode well for India's chances develop.

First, the best areas of New Delhi seem to be government owned and given out to politicians as perks:


Few properties come available in the leafiest, most prestigious section of the capital, known as Lutyens’ Delhi, because the area is mostly dedicated to government housing. Powerful government ministers live in British-era bungalows with stately lawns of several acres, while lesser officials are eligible for different categories of government housing in an oasis largely separated from the rest of the chaotic capital, where many people live crowded into slums or shanties. “This is the best part of Delhi, the core of Delhi,” said Munish Kumar Garg, who oversees the allocation of government housing. “If these properties in Lutyens’ Delhi were put on sale, there would be a queue two kilometers long.” Mr. Garg, the director of the government’s Directorate of Estates, controls one of the more valuable residential real estate portfolios in the world. Asked how many New Delhi properties fell under his agency, he shrugged. “It would be difficult to know,” he said. “Maybe 10,000.”

Yes, in 2013, the Indian Government is managing 10,000+ residences for government employees, just in New Delhi.


Second, the process of buying a house is not extremely transparent. There aren't often public real estate listings and purchases frequently require large amount of unreported cash payments that avoid tax issues:

Though India’s economy has cooled, the demand for property in elite areas remains so strong that even finding a house for sale is tricky: formal listings do not exist; prices usually circulate by word of mouth. Transactions often require some “black” money, or stacks of cash paid under the table to avoid taxes. The buyers are often Indian industrialists looking for a trophy property, a real estate Rolex. Or, real estate agents and sellers say, they can be politicians or their proxies, who often pay with trunks of cash.


Almost cut my hair

People, we almost lost the semi-sacred KPC monthly tradition of Christina Romer writing an Economic View column in the NY Times and then me mocking it here.

Almost but not quite.

Almost,  because 90 percent of the column about the minimum wage makes total sense.

Not quite because of the following two passages:

1.  some minimum-wage workers are middle-class teenagers or secondary earners in fairly well-off households. But the available data suggest that roughly half the workers likely to be affected by the $9-an-hour level proposed by the president are in families earning less than $40,000 a year. So while raising the minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour may not be particularly well targeted as an anti-poverty proposal, it’s not badly targeted, either.

Yikes! What a low bar Romer has for government. A program that under the most charitable of definitions only hits an intended target less than half of the time is "not badly targeted"?

The official "poverty line" for a family of 4 is $23,000. So less than half of the policy effects hit a population defined as almost double the poverty line. Even for our poor blind doddering Uncle Sam, that is shitty targeting.

2. Then there are the last two sentences of the piece:

And pre-kindergarten education, which the president proposes to make universal, has been shown in rigorous studies to strengthen families and reduce poverty and crime. Why settle for half-measures when such truly first-rate policies are well understood and ready to go?

Please note that pre-K had not been mentioned at all in the previous 16 paragraphs of the op-ed. Only in the penultimate sentence does Romer pull the pre-K rabbit out of her hat, informing us that "rigorous studies" show it reduces poverty, among other wondrous things. She links to a review article which does not present any evidence that pre-K reduces poverty!

Yes, the EITC is a much better targeted and effective anti-poverty program than is the minimum wage. Good on Romer for saying so. But throwing in universal pre-K as a "well understood and ready to go" poverty reduction program is what kept our KPC tradition alive for another month at least.

I feel like I owe it so someone.