by Tyler Cowen
on May 13, 2010 at 11:39 am
1. Economists on crime and anatomy.
2. Can Greece cut its deficit by ten percent of gdp? And an NYT fiscal symposium, including yours truly.
3. Robert Frank responds to David Friedman.
4. World's strangest vending machines.
5. Via Chris F. Masse, never underestimate the power of a good story (one minute video).
6. The business model of Wall Street?
7. Matt Yglesias on spending cuts for the UK.
8. Bernanke commencement speech (footnote 13 cites MR).
9. How changing labor markets have made fiscal stimulus less effective.
Regarding link #9, since it’s Harold Meyerson and the American Prospect, he can’t bring up that Davis-Bacon Act requirements make it nearly impossible for the government to hire a lot of unskilled workers and pay them at unskilled labor price a la WPA as he’s suggesting. The federal law steers work towards skilled and union construction firms, towards doing things with fewer workers.
However, I give him some credit for admitting that “Big government — spending, that is — ran into good government — regulation, competitive bidding, environmental safeguards, the works.”
Re you on #2) What if the dollar was not the international reserve currency? Is this thought not even worth considering? Is history over?
All of the references in Bernanke’s are interesting. The speech reminds me of Seneca, albeit not as pithy.
“#2: Galbraith doesn’t even attempt to present a compelling argument. Pretty pathetic.”
Doubt you’ll give him a fair reading anyway.
Concerning link #1, I feel that some very dangerous conclusions are being drawn here. While it seems the actual researchers realize that being “overweight, unattractive or short” CAUSES discrimination, and it is this discrimination that then makes them more likely to become frustrated with the system and turn elsewhere for income, people in general are stupid. How will this not lead to more fat-shaming? More people saying that it is unacceptable to be someone who is “overweight, unattractive or short”? Especially when the Times graces this with the title “For Crime, Is Anatomy Destiny?”
Regarding link #9, since it’s Harold Meyerson and the American Prospect, he can’t bring up that Davis-Bacon Act requirements make it nearly impossible for the government to hire a lot of unskilled workers and pay them at unskilled labor price a la WPA as he’s suggesting.
Sorry, but Davis-Bacon doesn’t apply to government hiring, only to private firms getting government contracts.
Davis-Bacon might explain why fighting wars or merely running a peace-time military costs twice as much as the same would in the 50s and 60s – soldiers do not get paid prevailing wages for driving trucks, operating warehouses, guarding US embassies, repairing military equipment, cooking for soldiers, building forward operating bases in combat zones, training other soldiers. Privatizing the non-combat parts of the military increased wages plus added accounting costs and profit margins, while increasing the make-work requirement for soldiers not in some form of active soldier duty. Rather than soldiers being rotated into non-combat jobs which they do inefficiently, they need to be given leave and then time killing over training before returning too soon to combat.
Davis-Bacon doesn’t apply to Peace Corp or Vista or other WPA like programs.
Hoover started and FDR continued the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) which is the model for the spending part of the ARRA. And according to the measuringworth.org calculator, the ARRA RFC part is half the size in relative GDP per year the two year Hoover-FDR funding rate.
The problems with the RFC were too slow to get the spending going because the anti-corruption rules caused too much paperwork, too many earmarks restricted the spending where most needed, and the requirement to pay prevailing prices to firms which were very efficient and used the most efficient and highest paid skilled labor using labor reducing machinery, failed to quickly reduce unemployment for the masses who most needed it.
Thus Obama again has been too much a Republican, this time Hoover, in response to the financial crisis, and not like FDR. Hoover didn’t think the government should compete with business. FDR was convinced there was no way to get business to hire the unskilled poor who needed aid just to get to work, a place to live and food to eat and job training.
US businesses have at times provided lots of aid and training to workers when labor was in high demand. Consider the mills where workers, often girls from farms, were housed in dorms, fed, and clothed and trained to operate the cloth making machines. Or the mineral related projects, mining, drilling, and pipe laying projects.
The high growth years of the computer industry (50s-70s) involved lots of training and lots of aid to get workers situated where they were needed.
So, how do we as a society create the kinds of job opportunity that will provide meaningful job training to the unskilled, or wrong-skilled. The military once had lots of jobs that are now private contracts, to train soldiers for, that a soldier got once paying his dues in combat. Basic training, Vietnam, then training as a mechanic or electronics specialist and duty someplace other than Asia resulted in vets with skills as mechanics or heavy equipment operators with lots of experience in team work and taking orders, prepped many for the civilian workforce. The Air Force trained all the airline pilots. And if nothing else, pay your dues in Vietnam and get college paid for. The WPA and CCC hired unskilled workers and trained them and educated them.
Eliminating Davis-Bacon, as was done in response to Katrina, only resulted in bringing illegal immigrants who couldn’t object to violation of a century worth of labor law – minimum wages then were historically low, but not low enough for Halliburton et al subcontractors, and Americans wouldn’t work for such wages and under the contractor rules without filing legal actions. Those Americans who got hired were fired if the objected to labor law violations.
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