SL 757

This weekend at the Jersey shore by Ian N.

I have 3-1/2 articles in various stages of disrepair. I’m inching them towards completion, but right now, the parts are scattered hither and yon. The engine on one article needs a complete reconstruction.

Thursday, Ian starts his Finals Week. For you and him, that means tests. For me, that means half days of school, a lot of driving, and no more full days of uninterrupted work until September.

So, I’m in crunch mode trying to finish off some articles. Just some links tonight:

Nick Hanauer: “What I’ve realized, decades late, is that educationism is tragically misguided. American workers are struggling in large part because they are underpaid—and they are underpaid because 40 years of trickle-down policies have rigged the economy in favor of wealthy people like me.”

After reading Dreyer’s English for an hour at the Jersey shore this weekend, Laura spotted this.

A fascinating article about paint. Really! I followed Farrow and Ball on Instagram after reading the article, and changed my mind about painting the bedroom white.

I’m reading Dreyer’s English as I tinker with the draft that furthest along. It’s really a fabulous read. When one is writing, one should always be reading an excellent book. I ape good writing the same way as I lapse into a Southern accent when I talk with my friend from Alabama.

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22 thoughts on “SL 757

  1. Before I even follow the Hanauer link…JFC some of us have been saying this for decades. Now, because of how the last presidential election went, this is becoming a popular subject to talk about. It will remain to be seen if anything gets done about it.

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    1. Yes, people have been saying it. It matters that Nick Hanauer says it only because he says *we* captured the productivity gains of everyone else not leaving enough of the pie for others. Also, a pretty fast change of mind on charters, from having pushed the charter initiative through in WA state only a few years ago.

      The headline saying that Google captured 4.7 billion of the value of the work of journalists is an interesting parallel, and it will matter only when Google says it and behaves differently (I’m not holding my breath) or we start interfering with the model.

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  2. “Thursday, Ian starts his Finals Week. For you and him, that means tests. For me, that means half days of school, a lot of driving, and no more full days of uninterrupted work until September.”

    Yeah, we had that for the last week of school, too.

    It is actually good preparation for college to have finals and it makes sense to only do exams in the morning as opposed to all day, but half days are such a pain. AP kids get a pass on those finals and senior year, seniors get a pass on courses they have an A in, so that’s nice.

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    1. I think this is important, AmyP – useta be a guy could get a job in a tire factory in Akron humping hot tires out of the molds and into waiting trucks. Every other job had to pay enough to compete with that job, through the economy. It set a kind of a floor. Also, you really couldn’t do an auto factory in, say, Alabama, because the support industries were not there and you had inventory problems, so you were stuck in the heavily unionized northeast. Also set a kind of a floor.
      Now, the tires are made in Ulsan or Tianjin, and factory jobs face a kind of a ceiling of how much the employer can pay compared to the Ulsan workers – AND the Ulsan tires go into a container which brings them to the US for about fourteen cents a pound shipping cost, far less than it used to be in the old days of burly longshorement hauling tires out of holds.
      So I think the Hanauer article is kind of a walled garden approach to what is going on in the economy in cutting workers’ incomes, it does as you say ignore China. And Vietnam. And the walls have been breached. Trump is talking about putting the walls up again, but polite people don’t want to listen to him, and it’s not even clear that it would be possible.

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      1. ds said,

        “So I think the Hanauer article is kind of a walled garden approach to what is going on in the economy in cutting workers’ incomes, it does as you say ignore China. And Vietnam. And the walls have been breached. Trump is talking about putting the walls up again, but polite people don’t want to listen to him, and it’s not even clear that it would be possible.”

        Because for one thing, the US wasn’t an enclosed economy during the “good old days”. We were furiously exporting manufactured goods, weren’t we? Trump’s 1980s protectionist talk assumes that the US was a hermetically sealed economic unit during the early/mid-20th century, and we weren’t. If we had been, the Great Depression would never have happened…

        I also have to point out that it’s a little crazy to want to combine the two following things:

        –1950s economics
        –21st century social norms.

        just as it’s a little crazy to try to combine 1950s social norms and 21st century economics.

        But people on left and right try to stick those two things together (in whichever combination they personally prefer).

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  3. Recognizing that it is possible for economic policy to provide jobs with decent pay and benefits to high school graduates is hardly clamoring for the 1950s. Perhaps you’d care to expand on that thought. There is ample evidence that 1950s social norms aren’t required, so I’m curious what drove you in that direction.

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    1. Give us an example of the ample evidence. My reading of history leads me to doubt that egalitarian social structure can be combined with an individualist ethos and high levels of personal freedom. The plain fact is, that when you tell people to do their own thing, what most of them do is try to make money, and the smart, aggressive, well-connected ones eat the less fortunate. Collective action by the less fortunate might ameliorate their situation, but that requires abandoning the individualist ethos.

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      1. y81 said, “Give us an example of the ample evidence. My reading of history leads me to doubt that egalitarian social structure can be combined with an individualist ethos and high levels of personal freedom.”

        “Collective action by the less fortunate might ameliorate their situation, but that requires abandoning the individualist ethos.”

        Yep.

        Also, make it be a large (say, 50+ million), ethnically diverse country that also gives a lot of individual freedom AND achieves a high level of social and economic equality.

        There ain’t no such place and there’s never been such a place, so I don’t feel bad about the US not achieving that impossible standard.

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      2. Another thing, diversity = inequality.

        The more diverse the US is as a country, the more inequality there is going to be.

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      3. So…..the civil rights and women’s rights movements caused this:https://www.epi.org/publication/ceo-pay-has-grown-90-times-faster-than-typical-worker-pay-since-1978/

        Good to know.

        I know it’s a right-wing shibboleth that equal pay and equal job and educational opportunity to white women and people of color is what reduced the standard of living for “everyone” (meaning, everyone except the Dream Hoarders), but that’s simply not true. And who said anything about “individualist ethos”? There is one reason and one reason only that our economy ever benefited the average worker: strong labor unions. Strong labor unions are historically the *only* countervailing force to corporate power.

        Supply-side economics is what destroyed the country. That wasn’t an “individualist” ethos either, but a concerted, collective effort by a small number of very wealthy, very well-connected people to benefit themselves. They used the tools at their command to game the system to their benefit and everyone else’s detriment—including yours (see: every post here expressing anxiety about the future of UMC kids).

        No, it wasn’t “women entering the workforce” (hint: we’ve always been here) that ruined economic opportunity and living wages and benefits. It wasn’t racially integrated schools and workplaces that ruined economic opportunity and living wages and benefits. It was Corporate America and their ideologues.

        Also worth noting: shipping isn’t cheap. It’s just that costs are externalized. All the factors that make shipping artificially “cheap”, from the fossil fuels and raw materials, to the safe ocean passage guaranteed by the U.S. Navy, is heavily subsidized by the very people who don’t benefit from this system, no matter which side of any given ocean we’re on.

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    2. I want to suggest that history from before China went modern and container ships cut ship transport costs to a fraction is not real persuasive here. A world in which high quality factory goods made by people who work for $3.50 an hour can be imported for fourteen cents a pound is different from anything we have seen before. I’m not particularly happy about that, but I think that’s where we are. Trump has been suggesting walls (physical and tariff walls) to address this – I find him distasteful, so it’s hard to separate this from my feelings about him – and the Dems are mostly waving their arms.

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    3. The last ten to twelve years have really pushed me to support social democracy, whatever they’re going to call it. There are clearly multiple equilibria and the others that I can see are shitty for most people.

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    4. But you said there was “ample evidence.” Where is it? No one knows what has caused the growing income disparity in our society, but ample evidence would mean good jobs for high school graduates in racially diverse societies with high immigration levels and considerable sexual freedom. I don’t know of a society like that. It’s not Sweden, that’s for sure. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_Sweden#cite_note-scb_AM_110_SM_1704_p40-54

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      1. The income inequality in our country is because of changes in taxes and the decline of unions. If we set the marginal income tax rates and capital gains rates back to where they were (adjusted for inflation) before Reagan, most of the inequality would go away. Inequality was a deliberate policy choice.

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      2. Where is the evidence? Gee, when Aftican Americans started getting a greater piece of the econonic pie after WWII (and especially after the Civil Rights Act), did “white” incomes dive? No, they rose too. When women’s job and edicational opportunities rose after the Civil Rights Act (and especially after Title IX), did men’s opportunities plummet? No, they rose too. Everyone, and not just white men, was doing better until supply-side economics became the order of the day. Tbat’s when the bottom fell out. Not just for individual families, but entire communities. And unlike the Okies (or our grandparents in steerage), we’ve got nowhere to go.

        As a side note, I find it alternately sad and hilarious the claim that greater diversity equals greater inequality. I mean…look at the medical field. In my lifetime, women went from being rare in medical school to being the norm. And “white” doctors are fairly rare in the medium-sized cities to rural areas of flyover country. Physicians pay keeps going up though—a lot higher than the rest of us.

        It isn’t controversial to admit thag supply-side economics is the cause of economic inequality. The jury is in on that one. It also isn’t controversial to admit that this inequality is completely incompatible with a healthy, stable, representative democracy.

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  4. Our housing supply has not kept pace with our population.

    A few charts.

    Real Median Household Income in the United States: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MEHOINUSA672N

    1984: $50,511
    2017: $61,372
    (adjusted dollars)

    Average Sales Prices of Houses Sold in the United States: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/ASPUS

    1984: $94,700 Population: 286 million
    2017: $399,700 Population: 326 million

    So the average sales price of a home changed from a less than twice the median household income in 1984 to almost seven times the median household income in 2017.

    other links:
    https://www.brookings.edu/research/unpacking-the-housing-shortage-puzzle/
    https://blogs.wsj.com/dailyshot/2018/01/31/the-daily-shot-the-u-s-housing-shortage-is-worsening/

    That doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that there are a few metro areas in the US that offer lots of opportunity (Silicon Valley, greater NYC) and other areas that offer very little opportunity (Appalachia?) Looking at my family’s history, moving to chase opportunities works.

    Zoning laws must change to allow denser development in existing metro areas. YIMBY. It would offer employment to high school graduates. It would allow greater access to functioning school districts (which right now is rationed by zoning laws restricting family housing). If enough housing stock is built, it will make middle-class housing affordable for the middle class.

    I would love it if developments with small, starter homes were being built in our wealthy suburb. They would sell out in a minute. Instead, the new houses are enormous, well out of the reach of young families.

    This isn’t a federal issue, though.

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    1. It’s partially a federal issue. The mortgage market at the high end isn’t as much a government creation as at the lower end, but it still wouldn’t exist to support large houses as cheaply without the federal government. And the roads that connect those suburbs to jobs are mostly federally funded.

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  5. Great discussion in the 11D salon. I like “multiple equilibria.”

    But, maybe multiple systems of entropy and chaos (rather than equilibria). Perfection isn’t going to be reached. Sweden isn’t it. But, neither is an unfettered world in which the mighty crush the weak and everyone who doesn’t win lives nasty, short and brutish lives. The second certainly isn’t an equilibria.

    There never before been a world in which we tried to demand that every human to be treated like a human. We progressives are proceeding forward on a continued grand experiment. I don’t know if there are conservatives who think segregation is still a good thing, that people with disabilities should be removed from society and institutionalized, that women should be under the control of their husbands (well, I guess there are some conservative religionists who believe that). There will be costs and benefits to any society we try to build and there is no ample evidence that any set of principles creates the values we want without balancing against other values.

    For example, the days of the pioneers, the wild west, or the post-war boom were not those in which individual freedom was valued more than other values (say fairness). It was one in which one group benefited from a system of laws that were unfair to others, collective benefits hoarded and reinforced. There’s nothing inherently more natural, inevitable about that system.

    Take one law as an example, in celebration of Loving day: One result of that law against intermarriage among socially constructed races was to reinforce the divisions between the group that benefited from hoarding and the other groups, by preventing the evolutionary consequences of family building (and connections among groups) by making illegal the creation of that family in the first place. So was, in a previous age, “one drop” rules and the legal and emotional and pseudoscience to continue the enslavement of those like Sally Heming. The point being — there are human tendencies and behaviors that we can’t ignore (in this example, preference for in groups). But laws do not have to be designed to perpetuate and exacerbate the results of those tendencies and behaviors. When we make laws, we can try to create systems of incentives that produce the values we want. They won’t work perfectly, but perfection is impossible. The goal is to bring the chaos closer to the values we want (while acknowledging imperfection).

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  6. The increase in income inequality over the past 50 years affects pre-tax income as well as after-tax, so it’s hard to see how lower tax rates are responsible, except in the meaningless sense that high tax rates encourage people to avoid taxes by disguising personal expenses as business expenses, e.g., having their employer pay for country club memberships, automobiles, etc. Disguising personal expenses as business expenses reduces measured income, but not actual economic well-being.

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  7. Income inequality in America began its increase in the late 70s. Of course, it’s possible that there was a brief golden period, after the civil rights acts, immigration reform, gay rights movement, and other liberal measures of the 1960s, and before income inequality started to increase, but my reading is that it took time for the changes we associate with “the sixties” to percolate through society. Once they did, social cohesion declined, and income inequality increased, for the reasons I suggested. It isn’t possible to answer questions about causality from a single sequence of events. Therefore, I turn to various smaller studies, e.g., by Robert Putnam, which tend to show that diversity and individualism correlate generally with lower social cohesion and greater economic inequality.

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