Stock markets have been swooning, in no small part because last Friday’s U.S. employment report showed that average hourly earnings (AHE)—the average wage, excluding benefits, received by private sector workers—rose smartly in January. This prompted fears that inflationary pressures are mounting, wages will eat into profits, and the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates more aggressively than had been thought as recently as last Thursday. Or, as the New York Times put it in a headline, with its patented mix of dullness and alarm: What these scaremongers aren’t telling you is that it’s only bosses… Read More
Katha Pollitt is out with a response to my response to her review of My Turn. Once again, it’s largely free of any engagement with Hillary Clinton’s political history. It’s a short book, but there is a healthy amount of detail about some rather terrible things she’s done over her four decades in public life. Katha touches briefly on a few, but the blows are merely glancing. I understand why she might not want to engage, since those terrible things undermine some of Hillary’s supporters’ most cherished claims about her, notably all the work she’s done… Read More
I’ve long been bothered by activists’ habit of focusing on debt both as a political target and analytical center. This came to the fore during the Occupy moment, and continues today in, well, should we call it the post-Occupy era? Yes, debt is a problem, no doubt about it. Given the age of many Occupy activists, student debt is understandably very much on their minds (as are crappy job prospects, which don’t always get as much attention). Before that, mortgage debt and exotic variations on it were major contributors to the financial… Read More
I want to make it clear that my characterization of the health insurance that Stop & Shop has been providing some of its workers, which Obamacare is causing the company to want to drop, as “crappy” was entirely mine, and not Lara Shepard-Blue’s. She’s a much more responsible and measured person than I, and sorry if it looked like I was putting words in her mouth.
Memo to self: never go out without testing the links first. The URLs for the 2013 shows I just added to my radio archives were still living in /2012/ so they came up as missing. They’re now fixed. Sorry.
Sorry, this is very embarrassing to admit, but one must come clean. That last Social Security post, with its rather sensational claims, was wrong. Future initial benefits are set not by adjusting present benefits by the CPI; they’re set by the retirees’ recent average wages. Those initial benefits are then adjusted for inflation over time. So, shifting to the chained index would lower the cost of living adjustment over a retiree’s lifetime, but it wouldn’t affect initial benefit levels. But the effects of the switch would still be significant. The currently used index,… Read More
Neoliberal über-dweeb Ezra Klein just unleashed one of those “balanced” efforts on the controversies of the day that are so characteristic of his species: “Has Wal-Mart been good or bad?” The conclusion, it might not surprise you to learn: it’s “a complicated question to frame and a devilishly tough one to answer.” Drawing on—I’m not kidding—Reason editor “Peter Suderman’s 17-part Twitter defense of Wal-Mart,” Klein asserts that Walmart’s low prices are a gift to low-income consumers. (They’ve dropped the hyphen/star, folks; here’s the official timeline.) The Bentonville behemoth’s wages may be low, but not “when compared… Read More
A few weeks ago, during the Chicago teachers’ strike, I had kind things to say about education reform in Ontario after the Liberals took power in 2002 (“How much do teacher strikes hurt kids?”). The piece drew on work by the OECD, part of an attempt to refute work by Washington Post boy blogger Dylan “Minipundit” Matthews. After posting it, several emailers and commenters noted that things have changed in Ontario, as the Liberals have embraced U.S.-style austerity. Have they ever. The government has passed a monstrosity with a name that Rahm Emanuel… Read More
Word is that the Chicago teachers’ strike is on the verge of settlement. That probably means that school reform will fade as a political issue, but it shouldn’t. But before it does, a few odds & ends to address. Dylan Matthews, revisited In my critique of Dylan Matthews’ awful bit of apologetics for Rahm Emanuel (“How much do teacher strikes hurt kids?”), I spent a lot of time on his use of Michael Baker’s NBER working paper (“Industrial Actions in Schools: Strikes and Student Achievement”) that allegedly showed damage to student test… Read More
Follow-up to yesterday’s post on the Wisconsin recall (“Walker’s victory, un-sugar-coated”). I’ve been amazed at some of the tendentious misreadings of the piece that have made the rounds, mainly from left labor people. My favorite is that I just wasn’t aware of all the door-knocking and retail campaigning that union forces were doing over the last few months. Two points about that. One, months isn’t enough. I’m talking about years of education, organization, occupying. Face-to-face talk, direct action, all manner of things. And two, all that actually existing door-knocking was subsumed to… Read More
Years ago, I wrote a piece on deregulation of all kinds and developed a mini-obsession about the absurdity of the airline sort. It had produced bankruptices, savage wage-cutting, union-busting, awful service, and the abandonment of marginal cities while not producing any improvement in affordability. It’s hard to get people to believe this, but it’s true. Matt Yglesias is out with a post (“Passenger Aviation in the United States: 40 Years of Failure”) on how the airline industry is a “stunning business failure.” Is it ever. But he doesn’t mention deregulation. The industry… Read More
Republicans and business interests have been relentless in their whining about how B. Hussein Obama has the “job creators” cowering under a reign of terror, what with his socialist policies and hostile rhetoric. But how have the monied been voting their approval or disapproval in one of their favorite venues, the stock market? There, Obama’s approval rating looks even higher than Gallup’s version. Obama is now in the 40th month of his reign. Compared with the same spots in other presidential terms since 1945, Obama’s stock market is the third best, beaten… Read More
Last fall, there was a lot of buzz about moving money out of banks and into credit unions. Grand claims were made about results. I had my doubts—politically (see here) and financially (see here). One can disagree with me on the politics, but it turns out that not much money was moved. The Federal Reserve is out with its flow of funds accounts for the fourth quarter. These are a detailed accounting of assets, liabilities, and money flows throughout the U.S. financial system. And before anyone says that the Fed is lying to defend its… Read More