Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Announcing "ON TODAY'S PAGE"

Announcing "ON TODAY'S PAGE": to make my responses to other blogs more generally available (assuming anybody cares -- makes it easier for me anyway), from now on I will drop a copy at -- along with other random ideas I may deem interesting but not worth overloading "ON SAME PAGE" with; for instance:
I got the bright idea that if Adam Smith had been born 50 years later and lived to observe the industrial era he would have added an easy to understand delineation of the "race to the bottom" to his insights -- the race to the bottom being the chief difference between his era of more or less natural perfect competition among small entrepreneurs and skilled artisans, and the industrial era of 100 times more productive but interchangeable workers who are solely dependent on big entrepreneurs for the tools of their trade (e.g., steam looms).

I hope to come up with a simple delineation to serve in Smith's missed out on place -- not that I am any big brain; I just suspect that, from what I have seen so far of unfettered- free market misconceptions, untangling the economic truth may not be too un-simple. Anybody who wants to try, please have at it.
Typical Republican economic fairy tales: Newt Gingrich on Hannity the other night (same as Mailer broadcast) attacked the card check as depriving workers of the right to free unionizing elections which right he claims 90-95% of Americans support. Of course, the "Catch 22" election that Newt is talking about is the election that labor cannot get because of the gauntlet set for labor to run by current so called-labor law and super-bean counter management -- which is why labor is going for the card check in the first place, Newty baby. I assert that 90-95% of Americans might support a union election in EVERY work place (you don't have to run an obstacle course to vote for mayor), periodically, or that unionizing elections may be triggered by a 10% card check (the same percentage that triggers political party participation in nationwide presidential debates (e.g., Ross) and could plausibly be used to trigger public campaign matching funds -- or some equivalent of easy access unionizing elections.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hillary's (and Edward"s) unworkable mandate v. Medicare's working coverage

A syllogism:
a) Hillary's (and Edward's) plan can work only with a mandate.
b) A mandate is likely unworkable (see below) and is almost certainly unacceptable to Americans who don't like be told what to do (who like it less than Canadians and Europeans in any case). And, guess what: Hillary herself says she does not forsee any penalty to enforce the necessary mandate -- has so far, as far as I know, only come up with some "Brave New World" speculation about a future in which we may be forced to show proof of health insurance to get a job.
c) Ergo, Hillary's (and Edward's) plan cannot work.

Quoted from:
The Gaping Holes in Massachuesetts' Health Care Plan
Mass Failure

And 244,000 of Massachusetts uninsured get zero assistance--just a stiff fine if they don't buy coverage. A couple in their late 50s faces a minimum premium of $8,638 annually, for a policy with no drug coverage at all and a $2,000 deductible per person before insurance even kicks in. Such skimpy yet costly coverage is, in many cases, worse than no coverage at all. Illness will still bring crippling medical bills--but the $8,638 annual premium will empty their bank accounts even before the bills start arriving. Little wonder that barely 2 percent of those required to buy such coverage have thus far signed up.


(Let me try to sort this out.)

Our Dem heroes got licked last time out (1993) because the Republicans could get away with calling PRIVATE based health coverage "socialism".

But this time out our Dem heroes are afraid to propose PUBLIC based Medicare-for-all -- which ironically is the only plan Repubs CANNOT GET AWAY WITH calling "socialism" because everybody knows what Medicare is -- because our Dem heros are now that the "very industry" that (together with Repubs) knocked out private-based universal care the last time will oppose Medicare this time.

(Am I making any sense?)


Medicare is ready to go now -- no need for years of phasing in.

Medicare is almost too easy to sell to the American public.

Medicare may need to take over from Medicade -- the difference in fee payout can be so exaggerated (as much as 8X lower in N.Y. state) that it defeats LBJs original purpose which was to get care to the poor -- which is where we supposedly came into this movie. (Between Medicade's partial erasure and the 1968 minimum wage -- $9.50/hr adjusted CPI-U -- diving almost in half by the time average income doubled, LBJ must be spinning up a storm.)


Next to last gasp on Medicare-for-all:
Leaving universal coverage in the private hands leaves our industries competing with foreign counterparts who don't have to include -- ever more unaffordable -- employee medical coverage in their price structures.

Last gasp:
It would shore up the funding of Medicare if the great mass of patients -- who pay its regressive taxes -- were not so badly underpaid in these days of deunionized America, low low minimum wage (2009 version will be at least .50/hr short of 1956 minimum wage in equal purchasing power), etc. The rich don't have more livers and teeth to fix so support for doctor's incomes has to come from the incomes of the great majority.

Last gasp on private medical insurance:
If unnecessary paperwork constitutes 30% of private insurance costs (20% on the part of the insurer, 10% on the part of doctors trying to get paid -- and to not get treatment denied -- by dozens of varied insurance plans), that means that (rounded to the nearest 5%) private insurance ADDS 45% to health insurance prices -- 30% down equal 45% up in 8th grade math.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Magical Free-Market Thinking

The free market is only the "OS" (operating system) of the economy. Believing the free market inherently possesses the necessary checks and balances needed to bring to an end the age old drama of who's going to eat whose lunch -- as people of whatever politics on this side of the Atlantic tend accept on faith -- amounts to magical thinking.

Adam Smith's preindustrial free market consisted largely of skilled artisans and small entrepreneurs, tending much more towards fair play on the part the "hidden hand". The advent of less skilled (if 100 times more productive) workers who depended solely on management for capital changed the default program to the-race-to-the-bottom.

In the better paid world beyond our seas, a non-controversial answer has evolved to the race-to-the-bottom: sector-wide labor agreements or some equivalent (like the French/Quebecan rule that non-union firms must work under conditions contracted by union firms). According to Richard B. Freeman in his new book America Works, such bargaining setups typically reduce management's resistance to unionization in the knowledge that competitors will have to pay out whatever raises they have to pay out, neutralizing competitive disadvantage.
It could be surprisingly easy to raise Americans to race-to-the-bottom consciousness with two economic markers that all can the first time they hear them. First, get across a more realistic estimate of Americans in poverty today: 25%? -- based on the more realistic poverty standard of six times the price of an emergency food diet, instead of only three times (the reader should know what I am talking about).

The next simple stat that should amaze all -- if the media ever reported same -- is that the federal minimum wage paid $9.50/hr in 1968 ($1.60/hr, adjusted CPI-U)! Emphasize the point by asking how 1968 Americans might have explained such a catastrophe had someone somehow been able to predict such a "crazy future" to them -- that the federal minimum wage would retreat to 1939 level ($.30/hr, adjusted to $4.50/hr w/no tax) by the time average income doubled. Would 1968 folks have guessed a small nuclear war, multiple depressions, a mini-ice age, plagues?

None of the above are necessary. The race-to-the-bottom will do it accomplish the same thing just as surely.

The perfect fit to 25% of Americans in poverty is 25% of the American workforce -- until early this year -- earning less than that 1968 minimum wage. (This also ties in with 25% of Americans earning less than modern Europe's minimum wage ($9.50/hr at exchange rates -- not counting paid holidays and health. New*).

Would that the progressive media always (!) included the doubling of overall income with the news of the minimum wage dropping almost in half over two generations -- so folks would completely catch on.

Many entitlement programs are triggered at double the official poverty line these days. Everybody in the know knows. Why go on reporting poverty at half the actual rate? Isn't that like reporting half the war (on poverty) casualties? Do progressives want to go out of their way not to get their story across?
I am so afraid that Hillary will get elected (instead of Edwards or Obama) for the same reason I was afraid of Al Gore. I can just see her putting an inflation adjustment on the (by then below Ike era: $7.50/hr) minimum wage, signing the union card signing law and then trying to rock (by then half-awake) American labor back to sleep to make all quiet on her applause meter. I'd almost rather see a Republican get elected to carry on in the fine labor promoting tradition of G.W. Bush: acting as American labor's Pearl Harbor: now that we know the simple answer to labor's woes (sector-wide agreements) and how to sell it (at least I know :-]).


Sunday, September 2, 2007

If the (crackpot) federal grand jury rule were to spread throughout...

If the exclusive to federal grand juries (crackpot) rule that the Fifth Amendment no longer applies once you answer any question at all on a particular line of inquiry – “once you open the door” – were to somehow propagate throughout all the American court system, state and federal, the immediate result would surely be a national outcry for a constitutional amendment to get our precious Fifth Amendment back.

But as long as it only exists in one (mostly hidden) venue the federal grand jury system gets away with it.

The “once you open the door” silliness could even enter the police station: Miranda (not that I’m in love with Miranda) might no longer be able to protect your right to remain silent: once you answer any police question.

The founders’ Fifth Amendment intention was to prevent torture. Does “opening the door” permit torture?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Who's going to eat whose lunch?

The poverty line in this country is set at three times the cost of an "emergency" diet (wherein you may not purchase a can of beans, only dried beans). I move that the federal government move immediately to a poverty standard of six times an emergency diet which is much more in keeping with 2007 basic needs (eg., $40,000/yr for a family of four).

Market failure implies that markets are for some (as far as I can see) unexplained reason expected to produce "fair" outcomes. The "free market" should be seen as analogous to the operating system of a computer -- as the OS of the economy -- upon which may be imposed any fair or unfair checks and balances program.

The first such "program" imposed by industrialization in nineteenth century England was the race to the bottom. Individual weavers who made a decent living were replaced by 100 (?) times more productive steam loom operators who were reduced to, not just-enough-to-stay-alive income, but the lowest form of just-enough-to-stay-alive income: staying alive on oat cakes three times a day because they could not even afford wheat bread.

The idea that the biggest ongoing drama in human history -- who's going to eat whose lunch -- is going to be automatically fairly resolved by an unfettered free market is what psychiatrists might characterize as "magical thinking".

25% of Americans live below a realistic poverty line (double the official line -- see the 2002 book, Raise the Floor). I am willing to admit 25% below without assistance (food stamps, etc.).

This ties in neatly -- until the recent slight increase in the minimum wage -- with 25% of labor earning below the modern European minimum wage level (generally $9.50/hr). Of course in Europe that is accompanied by full medical, 4 weeks paid vacation, etc., etc., etc.

Which fits in with a New story in the "Globalist" : "The OECD recently updated its definition of 'the middle class' " -- now focusing on "the average worker" rather than on "the average production worker" -- the recalculation:

"A British middle class family with two children and two incomes of 100% and 67% of average wages still earns 40% more (in PPP terms, net of taxes) than their U.S. counterparts ($65,000 compared to $45,500). In fact, U.S. families in this category rank only 15th in the OECD."

Which also ties in with -- until the slight increase -- 25% earning less than the 1968 US federal minimum wage.

We have a near 1939 minimum wage ($4.50/hr -- no taxes) -- we have a prohibition (drugs). We have created a new organized crime base -- this time it black and Hispanic rather than Irish, Italian and Jewish.

I read Wilson's 1997 book, When Work Disappears at the same time I read Venkatesh's 2002, American Project. Wilson's study wrapped up (if I remember correctly) while the fed minimum wage was still about $7/hr. At this point the projects which had once been a place of hope (when factory work had yet to disappear and the minimum wage was closer to $10) had become crime ridden but not yet the gang controlled Hell that accompanied the minimum wage drop to $5/hr. Better to make "all of" $10/hr selling drugs.

If work paid in America like it pays in labor controlled Europe (I'm no big lefty, BTW) poverty in America would not exist any more than it does in Europe. (Minority schools would work too if the parents worked; a.k.a., were paid enough to work -- forget worrying about the teacher's union).

A $500/wk minimum wage would add less than 4% to cost of GDP output (going from the $5.15/hr level!) -- about how much we grow per capita every two or three years -- up from $380/wk in 1968; following 100% increase in average income since. All we ever had to end poverty in America, it turns out, was to pay people what we could afford to pay them.

Friday, August 10, 2007



Alan Greenspan's midbrain (a.k.a., seat of murky human emotions):
if you don't empathize with labor sufficiently you it is easy to miss how vulnerable the labor market is to distortion -- and to turn out lopsided economic theory -- no matter how smart everybody thinks you are.

One kid has enough money to buy ten packs of Cool Aid; the other is willing to put in the hours at the stand (they both get their daily needs at home). These two kids have to get together on the price of a drink. Very possibly one will want to put in fewer overall hours for more overall dollars by setting a price for his labor that reduces the number of hours the stand can stay open profitably.

But if these two are not kids; if they must provide for the daily demands of biology (and sociology), then, the one who lives paycheck to paycheck may not have the option to freely pull his labor off the market like a house seller who withdraws until prices rise enough to suit her. If the Cool Aid provider is under less such pressure (capital typically is or it would not possess capital) or can simply switch his offer to any number of other unorganized labor providers, the capital provider may be in a (market warping) position to offer what little it takes to barely keep labor alive while the limit for his profits is the sky.

Economists who insist that the oldest drama of mankind (who is going to eat who's lunch) can be resolved by unfettered markets are guilty of "magical thinking". They show themselves only smart enough to perceive market warping when occasioned by as giant an octopus as Standard Oil of as colorful a character as John D. Rockefeller -- but not equally perceptive at detecting market distorting on the everyday (e.g., fast-food) scale -- deep down because they may just not care.

Thus does the unsympathetic ideology of their mid-brains warp the forebrains of Alan and the Chicago Boyz and Republican politicians into producing pathetic economic theory. (Our same literally pea-sized limbic system has a million lawyers rising for the judge without making the connection that they don't have to salute the flag.)
Our progressive friends tend to miss a couple of vital pieces of the puzzle too. Their problem I suppose being a lack of practical upper-middle class contact with folks at the bottom half of income.

Thus does their "only so many percents of inequality caused by lack of unions" not square with New York City cops in a super strong union making only the same pay today that their predecessors made thirty years ago -- even as average income in America jumped two-thirds. Nor do their charts explain why cab driving in Chicago (my job for over twenty years beginning in 1980) now pays less than half as much per hour -- even as average income jumped by half in America.

All the while in Dublin, Ireland you cannot get a cab to take you home on Saturday night because the common ethic over there is so weighted to labor's advantage that they wont make seemingly common sense adjustments for fear it might take any bite out of labor's living.

Can those academic calculations extrapolate how much pain would have been avoided in this country if the minimum wage had managed not to drop back from 1968's $9.50/hr -- or if it had kept on climbing to $12.50/hr (I am not necessarily saying $12.50/hr with European vacations, etc -- workaholic Americans would likely work somewhere else on vacation; at least at the minimum wage level).

It seems more about the attitudes (which are mostly based on the accuracy of common knowledge) than anything in our friendly economists calculations.
The "25's ways" to hike American labor expectations:

25% of Americans now earn less than the (cash) minimum wage of Europe (throw in paid vacation, holidays, maternity leave, sick leave, severance AND full medical coverage and that might make 35%);
25% of Americans -- not surprisingly considering the first "25" -- now live below a realistically calculated poverty line (not the ridiculous federal line which is set at three times the cost of an emergency diet -- which doesn't allow canned beans, only dried -- before taxes).

$250,000 is the level of the better paying medical specialties (family doctor pay -- $150,000 -- actually shrunk 10% from 1995 to 2003 even while AVERAGE income rose 12%);
$250,000 is now the AVERAGE income of the top-fifth of families -- IF WE SPREAD THE WEALTH GOING TO THE TOP 1% across the top 20% --according to US Census figures (Census numbers must be adjusted for top-coding income over one million dollars out of the family survey or "only" $176,000 average income shows for top-fifth families).

New story in -- just in the "Globalist" :
"The OECD recently updated its definition of 'the middle class'. It now focuses on 'the average worker' rather than 'the average production worker'."
New recalculation:
"A British middle class family with two children and two incomes of 100% and 67% of average wages still earns 40% more (in PPP terms, net of taxes) than their U.S. counterparts ($65,000 compared to $45,500). In fact, U.S. families in this category rank only 15th in the OECD."

When is America's media -- or John Edwards -- going to tell the people the true story about the squeeze on American labor (unique in the first world). To paraphrase Tony Montana's drug boss: if America's business and labor would just work together the right way the only problem for labor would be "what to do with all the f...... money."


Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Crips and the Bloods could not whip a decent paying Ronald McDonald

I read Wilson's When Work Disappears and Venkatesh's American Project simultaneously. Wilson's narrative ends around 1980 when the minimum wage still paid $7.75/hr in today's dollars. Venkatesh's book went on into the 80s and 90s when the minimum wage dropped to the 1939 level (.30/hr adjusted).

The projects were a place of hope as Wilson's story started out, before -- reasonably paying -- work disappeared. The projects ended in gang infested hell as the minimum wage virtually disappeared to a pay level that American born workers would show up for.

My contention is that if American labor looked after its interests in the robust way that European labor does -- especially with Americans' greater tendency to be workaholics -- that the jobs left behind would have paid more than enough to keep hell from taking over urban minority life. IOW, the Crips and the Bloods could not whip a decent paying Ronald McDonald.

One Chicago U. economist found that drug dealing only pays about $10/hr for all but the very top leaders (even the economist's gang leader lived with his mother). Who would choose that over the European minimum wage (also the 1968 American minimum wage) of $9.50/hr -- supplemented in Europe with paid vacations, holidays, maternity leave, etc., etc., plus paid medical -- AND NO JAIL?

Enough money is here somewhere -- just as enough is enough in Europe (where people work one-third less (many fewer hours X many fewer family members working) -- to pay Americans enough to free all from ghetto hell (remember: the schools wont work if the parents wont work; and American born parents wont work if you don't pay them enough).

The US Census family income survey says top-fifth families AVERAGE $176,000 a year. But the survey contains a check box marked "over one million dollars" -- which means the survey "top-codes" all income over a million out of its report. Adjusting for that (by matching family growth with un-coded per-capita income growth) gives me more like $250,000 AVERAGE income for the top-fifth.

I hardly need point out that one out of five families in the US are not earning anywhere near this level (unless they live in lower Manhattan, where wealth is a plateau not a pinnacle).

Much more to the point: $250,000 a year is the average pay of the better paying medical specialties. $150,000 is the average income of today's primary care providers (the latter down 10% from 1995 to 2003 -- while average income in the US grew 12%).

Average income climbs 10-15% every decade (not even counting the free advances of technology) -- while 95-99% of American incomes stand still or go down -- and are going to keep standing still or going down until Americans realize they have to organize labor here the modern every-where-else-in-the-world way: some kind of legally mandated, sector-wide, labor agreements.

The Newt Gingrich, Chicken Littles of the world call every progressive European innovation "socialism". Interestingly, right-wing Europeans have no objections to strong unionization -- but only carp about over-regulation (cannot fire anyone) and over-welfare (automatically on the dole if out of work) as they should.

Just keep saying to yourself, over and over: "The Crips and the Bloods could not whip a decent paying Ronald McDonald", "The Crips and the Bloods could not whip a decent paying Ronald McDonald", and you will know all you need to know about untangling the multi-factor web of deep-seated urban pathologies. :-)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

One hundred million addicts saved?

The drug war:
One million prisoners doing hard time at any given time.
More millions have done hard time at one time.
Perhaps ten million with life ruining, unnecessary felony convictions -- even if they did not go to jail.

One hundred million addicts saved? Maybe not one.

A "very enlightened" policy whereby we threaten to ruin your life: we will break up your family, we will take waste your years, we will make you unemployable thereafter -- if you take the chance of ruining your life using a dangerous drug.

Meantime back at the economy: we have had a 1939 level federal minimum wage level ($4.50/hr, w/no taxes in FDR's era -- adjusted for inflation) to combine with the prohibition. What do we naturally get?: street gangs selling prohibited substances. Only difference between the today and the '30s: the gangs are African-American and Latino instead of Irish, Italian and Jewish.

What a wonderful set of ass-backwards policies.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

In defense of the Vietnam War

I think those who strongly oppose the Vietnam war or the war in Iraq mostly don’t want to watch war on television. I think if withdrawing from Iraq, for instance, would mean seeing three times as much violence on TV (there would certainly BE three times as much) they would be much less vehement. To be frank, I don’t think most of them would have supported the Civil War to free the slaves if they had to watch it on television – least of all would they have sent their kids to fight in it “that horrible mess”.

I think they just cannot understand how war could make any sense from the perspective of their rich, symbol manipulating (IOW, normal modern?) existences – have a lot harder time understanding anyway.

To fully understand Vietnam you have to look from the perspective of the time: 20 years before the decision year (1965) two little fascist nations almost took over the world (mostly Germany – we only directed 15% of our own war effort at Japan). Now, the two big communist nations that the two little fascist countries could not bite off were coming for us – one with 11 times zones; the other with a billion people; both with thermonuclear arms. Neither Kruschev nor Mao made any secret of their intention to “bury us”.

PS. At the time the Soviet economy was growing 7% a year to our 3% (as far as we knew) -- the Russkies were graduating twice as many scientists and engineers as we were – and they ahead of us in space and in jet engine technology (as far as we knew -- our intercontinental bomber had 8 little engines to their 4 big ones). In 1965, communism was at high tide.

In strategic terms, Ho’s invasion of the South represented the craziest communist dictator willing to kill millions of his own people to add on a little bit of communist real estate. Our fear: if the democracies rolled over and did not put up a fight, we might face every less crazy communist leader comming out of the woodwork to try to take over the real estate next to his.

More widely, we could expect every “Che” in the world to step up his attempt at home based revolution. You may remember LBJ’s recorded phone remarks that he was afraid if he let go in Nam “the communists might chase you right back to your kitchen.” Don’t forget: the psychological is to the physical as three is to one – just to keep folks on our side we felt compelled to win the race to the moon; we feared backing away from a fight could have far reaching consequences too.

PS. The “big lesson” of WWII – which I have only realized is bunk lately – is that if Chamberlain had not “appeased” Hitler, there would never have been any WWII – obviously if the guy was going to invade Russia there was going to be war.

Is this going on too long?: it is the justification for a way that killed 60,000 of us – and millions of dead Vietnamese.

By 1975, when we lost locally, we were winning globally (even if the locals weren’t) – communism was receding.

The best portrayal I have seen of the struggle with communism over those ten years is Thomas Lipscomb’s “Prosperous Southeast Asia Proof the U.S. Did Not Fight In Vain”. Note: the free Southeast Asia nations are the ones that showed the world (including China) how to raise the poorest people in the world to near Western prosperity.

Oh, did I forget, after all this – definitely too long – we might have won the war after all but then threw it all away. Seems that for the last three years the South Vietnam Army took over all the ground fighting – AND WE CRAZILY (!!!) WITHDREW THEIR FINANCIAL SUPPORT AND THEIR AIR SUPPORT. Congress was upset so we took our bat and ball and went home. According to a book by ex-CIA employee Frank Snepp, Decent Interval, we had a guy on the politobureau in the North who reported they voted to throw in the towel after Nixon’s Hanoi bombing – but when they realized the South had to ration how many bullets a soldier could fire a day, etc., they started up all over again.

Saving the best (policy) for last, there was a proposition to call up the reserves and send four times as many troops (two million – saw this in Glenn… ). This would have ended it all fast and relatively bloodlessly, if very expensively.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Is Israel just a big Jewish neighborhood -- or a real county?

Is Israel just a big Jewish neighborhood -- or a real county?

I am afraid that after two thousand years of going without a country Jews no longer know what to do with one when they've got one (some might claim "got one back"). After two thousand years on the move, maybe all they can think is: "neighborhood", "neighborhood", "neighborhood".

How else to explain well fed -- liberal -- Israelis living complacently down the road from painfully poorer Arabs within Israel proper: the Arabs seeming to them more from unrelated neighborhoods than from any overall society.

Ditto for settlements in the occupied territories -- just more neighborhoods. If poor Arabs are not content to be poor somewhere else (move down the road; "How much difference can that make?"), but actually have the temerity to fight back (if often immorally -- but who invented the truck bomb?), they are always terrorists, never patriots.

The geopolitical concept of "sovereign-territory invading sovereign-territory" endlessly eludes Israelis where Palestine is concerned -- which is why the dots between Israel's American giant military/political/economic support and mad (by both definitions) Arabs blowing holes in New York City fail to connect also (Americans by and large fail to connect the dots, too -- 2 far for 20/20 vision?).

Word to Israel: You have been away for two thousand years. Two, two hundred year old technologies have "lately" altered the psychic landscape: the railroad and the telegraph, which made national borders feel both much less flexible and much more "sacred".

Back when the furthest you could extend your personal influence was how far you could ride your horse in one day (if you could afford a horse), the further reaches of your political realm might seem like the far side of the moon -- life was mostly "neighborhood". The railroad and the telegraph pulled the continental US together to the point where African slavery that was tolerated in the North in 1800 had become too close for psychic comfort by 1850.

The medium could be the message in the nineteenth century, too.

If Israelis ever get the message -- to go along with their country -- they will at last heed the need to cease, 24/7/365/40, provoking a billion-plus potential Palestinian adherents to wage violent jihad against David -- and his big friend Goliath.
If I were President of the United States I would send the Marines into Gaza to liberate that country. There being no Israeli troops there, the most important intention would be to develop the psychological concept of Gaza as a real country who can invite whomever it pleases.

I would follow that up by sending American or coalition troops into the West Bank (by Palestinian invitation) to promote the same psychic-geopolitical notion there. Israeli troops would not dare to fire on American troops -- geopolitical suicide.

Coalition troops would open the Israeli-only highway system to all (except perhaps one day a week when it would run only one-way: out), end check-points, allow Palestinians to drill water wells wherever they would, block new settlements of course and most importantly move all Israeli military without a shot being fired...

...all of which should make continued residence untenable for the great majority of Israeli settlers -- without so much as addressing a word to them.

I don't believe that Palestinians would harm a hair on Israeli settlers' heads -- at first; while waiting on a negotiated shake-out. I take the Palestinians to be the easiest people on earth to get along with -- after ever mounting Israeli abuse all they seem to ask is to be left alone. I suspect the Irish would have stormed Tel Aviv, by now, swinging broom sticks if that were all they had, if they had been subject a tenth of the same abuse (authority: I have 5 Irish grandparents counting my mother's step-mother).

My method would be to "fester" -- not "force". All would be calculated to firmly establish in Israeli psyches that the West Bank and Gaza are in fact another country -- not Israel's outback. The psychological can outweigh the physical as three is to one when opposing an illegal occupation, too.

How hard would it be for settlers to move back to Israel? How hard was it to move to the West Bank in the first place -- or would it be to move to Brooklyn? Moving would be much cheaper in the long run than maintaining as many tanks at the ready as Western NATO and the US armies combined -- on 1% of the population base -- and infinitely less costly to the Western liberal psyche.

Maybe the settlers might not have to go; not all anyway -- as long as the Palestinians held complete sovereignty and control. Seems a shame to waste all that nice real estate development that Palestinians could not afford to keep up, when both sides can profit. Perhaps the poorer Palestinians will rent the settlements back to the richer Israelis; maybe not even to the same Israelis; maybe to all comers; all the market will bear (and sell the Israelis the water resources they have been raiding, too)! Could mean a humongous amount of money for third world Palestinians to catch up on lost development with and hopefully not too much for first world Israelis to fork over (hey; this is the Middle East; you bargain) -- all hinging on the Palestinians keeping total and absolute control.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Constitutional counter-revolutionaries on the Court?

A judicial counter-revolution against "objectively legitimate" decisions -- like Roe v. Wade?

Wherein the Court found a species of privacy in the Constitution that was so broad in nature that it doesn't prohibit the legislature from prohibiting anything specific (if you want to constitutionally protect abortion you really need to specify abortion) -- just requires legislatures to balance the state interest against privacy, which is what legislatures are in business to do anyway.

The right to privacy does give the Court a peg to hang its substantive hat (the comparative worth of the fetus) on...

...which the Roe Court then incongruously declined to do. Lawrence Tribe: "One of the most curious things about Roe is that, behind its own verbal smokescreen, the substantive judgment on which it rests is nowhere to be found." (HLR, Vol. 87:1, p. 7)

I would speculate that because even possible human life should add up to a compelling state interest (Roe's "fundamental" privacy sets up a compelling interest test) Roe was forced to switch off at the last minute to what I term a CONSENSUS test: "... we do not agree that, just by adopting one theory of life, Texas may override the rights of the pregnant woman that are at stake." Roe's deux ex machina?

Oh, and don't forget Roe's non-explanation for why the fetus becomes compelling at viability: "... at this point the fetus is presumably capable of meaningful life outside the womb." Tribe, again: "Truly this mistakes a "definition for a syllogism" and offers no reason at all for what the court has held." (ibid. at p.4)

Got to watch out for those "unprincipled" conservatives appointed by Bush, though.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The last word on hedonics: "unfungible"

Hedonics fails because it wants to factor unfungible (non-transferable) added value into inflation indexing. Are retired people living on Social Security supposed to eat fewer potatoes as TV performance improves for the same price? Let them eat high definition?

If the Timex I wear today cost half what it would because it is made overseas, that frees up money for potatoes. That it keeps immeasurably better time (almost immeasurable error) cannot be traded off for more of anything else.

Add value that cannot transfer should be counted as unfungible added income. Lucky American consumers; we get to keep up with some part of average income increase -- that the market could not squeeze out of us.

Only God could figure the right inflation number for by a more powerful computer at the same price (and I am sure He would have a very interesting explanation). Meantime, for we human beings, it is enough to know that the price of the computer went up or down so much and the power went up or down so much. Any attempt to melt the two together would leave us with something akin to Heisenberg's uncertainty: unable to delineate cost and value (as in, position and momentum) -- in other words, a not very helpful measurement.

Ironically (hypocritically?), Hedonics believers advocated an inflation measure (C-CPI-U) that would have skipped over changes in value if they pushed inflation numbers in the wrong direction. If the price of pork went up -- forcing consumers to eat more rice (because cheaper; not because they are going macrobiotic) -- C-CPI-U would have allotted less weight to pork in the basket of goods used to track inflation and allotted more weight to rice -- as if the substitutes were voluntary instead of led by price changes. Republican logic.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Had a billion American Indians inhabited the million square miles of America's Midwest...

Had a billion American Indians inhabited the million square miles of America's Midwest, our settlers would faced the same population density -- one thousand per square mile -- encountered in the West Bank by Israeli settlers -- that is, before Israeli first worlders battered West Bank third worlders back into half the space (affluent moderns needing more room to breath -- and swim).

To fill out the billion Indian comparison: 150 million American settlers would have to have carved out -- extra -- room for themselves. What today's 300 million Americans face are the least rational responses of the Palestinian people's billion-plus co-religionists for what they deem our role in the "dozerkrieging" of Islamic land.

The accidents of history make it easier for America to take the rap for Israel's mis-doings: Israelis speak the same language, live the same lifestyle, the other half of their ethnic group lives by and large in the United States, their people even gave rise to our Christian-Judaic culture.
An Israeli defense analyst recently worried that, for all Israel's local conventional and nuclear preponderance, her continued existence could be called into question by a single nuclear strike on Tel Aviv. Enough Israelis might, then, take flight for safer climes to insure others followed and so on.

Country emptying could be just as likely to play out with nuclear material-free bomb works* (no plutonium core) -- snuck into Tel Aviv and left to be discovered -- with no one to blame and no reason to fully retaliate: the perfect nuclear blackmail?

Could the shadow of nuclear blackmail drive Israel to the ultimate mad option?: go Stanley Kubrick and deploy a doom's-day device -- that does its dirty work without the possibility of human intervention? (Witness Israel's recent nation blasting over a couple of POWs.)

In real life Israel hasn't the thermonuclear technology to build a full-fledged, civilization ending weapon (see Herman Kahn). Possibly Israel could improvise a poor man's version -- arraying half (100?) her Hiroshima type bombs widely and deeply enough underground to blow millions of tons of matter into the upper atmosphere, triggering nuclear winter.

-- or -- alternately --

Israel could adopt the ultimate sane option (practiced by successful first-worlders everywhere): no more "dozerkrieging" next-door neighbors, no-choice returning misappropriated land and homes and no fair waiting until resistance ends before doing both (it works the other way around). A growing Arab consensus can assure Israel that withdrawing the unbearable occupation would do more for her genuine security than embarking on mutually assured destruction.

In the twentieth century, a smart Jew gave the world E = MC squared.

Twenty centuries earlier, a Smarter Jew (by me) gave the world: "Love thy neighbor as thyself, already" [A certain amount of "lingo" was culled from the New Testament for wider distribution -- always going to be more Gentiles, right?]
It does not take a Solomon to calculate that a nation of 5 million who occupies a neighbor of 4 million -- to park a few hundred thousand of her own on half their ancestral land -- will be condemned to exist always half-concentration camp and half-free. Oy!

Denis Drew
[*Anyone could sneak nuclear-free bomb works into any city in the world in the hope someone else catches the blame. Anyone includes Mossad. Red Star Rogue recounts a credible tale of old Soviet hard-liners attempting to provoke a war between the US and China -- leaving the USSR the winner -- by staging what was to look like a Chinese sub nuking Honolulu, only to have the sub blow a hole in itself upon the attempt (and be later recovered by the Glomar Explorer). Any such event should be investigated as painstakingly as any airline crash in the expectation that the explanation may take the same kind of time to work its way out.]

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Settlements that work -- 1949 Israel -- high settler to native ratio:

Settlements that work -- high settler to native ratio -- 1949 Israel:
Jews made up 86% (see chart V) of the population.

Settlements that fail -- low settler to native ratio -- long list:
South Africa: blacks outnumbered white settlers five to one (settlers allowed to remain -- after yielding power -- because they had something to offer);
Algeria: North Africans outnumbered French settlers ten to one (all gone);
Today's West Bank: Palestinians make up 86% (see chart VII) of the population.

Settlements that can work -- 1 native per square mile -- 1850 American plains:
A farming nation of 23 million people (growing 35% a decade) expanded into a million square miles roamed by a million plains Indians -- territory previously dwelt in by 20 million hunter gatherers before Spanish diseases took their overwhelming toll, a century earlier.

Settlements that cannot work -- 1000+ natives per square mile -- the West Bank:
400,000 Israelis bulldoze aside two and a half million subsistence farming Palestinians (with world's highest birth rate) who were already over-packed into 2,000 square miles.

Settlements not overly dangerous -- no natural allies:
American plains Indians had no one to back them up.

Settlements very, very dangerous -- unnaturally militant allies:
Just beyond the subjugated Palestinian homeland begins a civilization of a billion plus (!) co-religionists whose shared faith contains a template for terror -- which template has lately (1983) added a fearsome new instrument, suicide bombing -- which has been tragically experienced not only by David but by David's big brother Goliath.

Almost forty years ago, a disturbed loner whose family had been ethnically cleansed from Palestine assassinated a possible next president of the United States, Robert Kennedy for supporting Israel. Sixty years might have healed the scars of Israel's initial intrusion on world Islam. But, recent decades of piling on doubly-undoable settlements has created enough facts on the ground to motivate multiple attacks on America's greatest downtown -- what else could have?

[Check out the correlation between increasing settlements and increasing suicide bombings in former US Air Force instructor Robert Pape's book "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism" -- just received here; haven't read yet.]
Israel may have as many as 200 Hiroshima type nuclear weapons -- actually enough, if Israel had the deliver systems, to flatten most of Europe's and America's downtowns (would need to rent and rig cargo planes for the day to hit continental USA) -- just to emphasize that Israel's strategic bulwark is no fragile eggshell.

Saddam was an Armageddon kind of guy: he set fire to the Kuwaiti desert (600 oil wells), flooding the adjoining gulf with oil and was prepared to dump all his WMDs on Israel in 1992 -- to avenge the destruction of half his armed forces. If he could have bought or built nukes he might have been happy to die using them.

Israel has now serially attacked the core infrastructure of one defenseless neighbor while making Lebanon's adjoining land mass as unlivable as 1,000,000 unexploded bomblets can -- and bombed what amounted to the only infrastructure (power station) of an even more toothless next door neighbor and screwed down Gaza's financial lid so tight that many residents have been reduced to one meal a day -- in both cases to force the release of a single military abductee.

Can Israel be trusted with weapons of mass destruction? Doesn't matter; nobody can take them away from her. Israel has twice as many tank formations on short notice as today's US army -- and it takes three to one to invade. China or Russia could field three or four to one respectively but they suffer inferior equipment and training. All of NATO might be able to put together one to one.

Israel may field the world's fourth strongest army and its sixth most powerful nuclear deterrent -- she is held protectively to the breast of the world's only super power. Yet Israel refuses to negotiate peace with the Palestinians unless they, first, formally agree to Israel's right to exist -- while daily chipping away at the Palestinians' own homeland, which is guaranteed to leave them in no mood to.
Settler overload can give rise to peculiar institutions, the chief example being the West Bank's "wormhole" road network which connects settlements to Israel and to each other and which is reserved for the use of Israelis only (Palestinians lately banned from riding on them in Israelis' cars without a permit) -- making it possible to travel the length and breadth of West Bank "Israeli World" without making contact with the Palestinian dimension.

The West Bank's "wormholes" are all too reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson's odd Monticello mansion setup, where racially divided floor levels and physical gimmickry (e.g., dumbwaiters) contrived to allow free whites to live without the conscience pricking sight of enslaved blacks.

Extremist Israeli settlers are certain God granted Palestine to their people in perpetuity, but that doesn't mean God would not "allow" Palestinians the "use" of the remaining 22% of Palestine -- if vacating would cause prior residents unbearable hardship and if the fight they put up against vacating in accord with their own beliefs is likely never to end. The constraints of humanity and prudence here should outweigh the right to property. Ask your Rabbi.

Every year we run a vast test sample of the minimum wage raise/job-loss correlation

Every year we run a test of the wage-hike/job-loss theory on a sample 20 times larger (!) than the 6 million who would be directly affected by the current minimum wage hike proposal: the 120 million American workers who get raises every year -- and do not lose their jobs over it.

It works like this: everybody gets a raise every year to make up for everybody else getting a raise every year -- everybody that is except minimum wage workers who have had two, two-step raises since Jimmy Carter was president.

If they finally get a raise, we may confidently assume that everybody else will just get a teensy higher annual raise to match the teensy higher cost of living.

Education of workers has not kept up with demand?:

Education of workers has not kept up with demand?: why then is it that when technology slows and productivity LAGS that most workers in America fall far behind average income growth -- but when technology races ahead and productivity soars most or our workers keep much better pace with average income growth?

Too simple answer: how human nature responds to boom and busts when there are no checks and balances in the labor market. During the boom, bargaining pressure is down, everyone is allowed to make money -- during the dip the pressure is on and those with small bargaining power will lose the share they had previously gained.

This works in CEO favor at all times: today's firms are flush with money either because of boom times or because unionless workers are being squeezed to keep profits up during the down cycle, leaving little pressure to keep CEOs from looting.
None of this exists in Europe -- not because of heavy market regulation there but because of fair labor market balance of power there: sufficient unionization.

Everybody seems to understand the need for a free market for efficiency and innovation. Nobody, even progressives -- at high academic levels -- seem to catch on to the unconditional need for checks and balances in the labor market to achieve fairness.

Around about 1968 in New York State: A police officer may not draw his gun....

As it was in 1968 in New York State: A police officer may not draw his gun....

....even upon entering the scene of a reported armed robbery, even if the suspect has drawn his gun -- unless -- the suspect points his gun at the officer. Which newly revised deadly force rule quickly got an officer killed in Queens, New York; leading a quick legislative reversal. The equally cruel rule it succeeded had authorized police officers to fire a shot in the air to warn -- any -- fleeing suspect, and then shoot to kill (you may observe this rule portrayed in action on "oldies" TV stations featuring the early 60s series "Naked City").

A similarly crackpot deadly force rule change seems to have fallen de facto upon law enforcement across the land in the form of the conviction and draconian sentencing of two U.S. border patrol guards in El Paso federal court for shooting a fleeing drug smuggler whom officers believed -- but were not sure -- had a gun in his hand.

The El Paso, Texas U.S. Attorney's Office's took the combination of federal civil rights law and a U.S. Supreme Court finding that "it is a violation of someone's Fourth Amendment rights to shoot [someone] in the back while fleeing if you don't know who they are and/or if you don't know they have a weapon" as a federal civil rights formula for prosecuting the (honest enough to admit they were not sure about the gun) border patrol officers.

The officers believed they acted in fear for their lives as they were chasing a suspect who had just left one of them floored and bloody in the act of breaking free (not your typical illegal job seeker) and kept looking over his shoulder while running with an object in hand, at one point turning towards them and pointing the "shiny object" they took for a gun...
....according to the convicted officers at least. The prosecution-immunized drug smuggler -- 800 pounds of marijuana were subsequently found in his van -- told a different tale under oath. He escaped at the time, making it impossible to absolutely prove or disprove possession of a gun.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously declared that "we cannot expect calm deliberation in the face of an upraised knife." To which we may add the modern day knowledge that adrenalin can diminish you judgment every bit as much as alcohol.

Back in the late 70s when I was driving for a car service in the Bronx I had more than one almost accident with police cars -- not chasing a suspect -- but rather whose drivers had ALREADY made an arrest and were so pumped that they blew red lights forgetting lights and sirens.

If the El Paso decision holds up there should theoretically be no defense for police officers who fire when they think a suspect is even reaching for a gun -- if they were not sure. If the El Paso case holds the FBI should theoretically be prepared to investigate every police shooting in every state that fits the newly coined mis-understanding about the need for certainty about the suspect possessing a gun. Back turned doesn't mean a thing: the quick and the accurate are out there.

Last -- and perhaps most importantly: Justice White's dictum -- on which the prosecution theory lies -- did not comprehensively rule on the aspects of "imminent danger" as far as I can see. Justice White defended his opinion at the time that by explaining "It is better for all suspects to escape than for all suspects to be killed." That sounds to me like a rule that finds society's need to apprehend the suspect of less weight than the suspect's Fourth Amendment rights -- not a rule that says finds imminent danger to the officer's life automatically outweighed by the suspects rights.

End poverty in 30 years: said John Edwards a few months back. Better to return 40 years back, to when....

End poverty in 30 years: said John Edwards a few months back. Better to return 40 years back, to when....
....L.B.J's, 1968, federal minimum wage of $9.50/hr (adjusted);
....and income was distributed fairly enough to end poverty overnight were the same pattern applied to 2006's doubled average income.

Happy paydays played through 1973, following which 12%* of overall income shifted from below 90 percentile to above 5 percentile earners -- pumping top-5 share from 20% to 32% -- depleting bottom-90 share from 69% to 57%.

Practical repercussions: a quarter of today's jobs pay below L.B.J.'s (and Europe's) minimum wage -- middle and upper middle family income grew half as fast as average income from 1973 to 2001 (30% compared to 60%) -- today's real poverty line may be as high 25% (imagine if the media would report that; the official federal line having been adjusted for the price of food only for the last 50 years**).

For happy paydays to be here again, top 5 percentile incomes will need to give back a third of their swollen 32% share -- but the next to last 4 percentile would only have to yield a sixth of their 15% share (by slower growth alone?).

The next to last 9/10 of 1% must learn to live without two-fifths of their bloated 10% share -- the last 1/10 of 1% need to return to earth without three-quarters of their bulging 7.5% share [percentages rounded].
The first step to a fair and balanced labor market could be a minimum wage adjustment that, as much as practicable, catches up with 38 years of lost time on both inflation and growth. Adjusting the 1968 minimum for inflation and GROWTH would yield $19.00/hr ($9.50/hr X 200% average income growth).

Eighth-grade arithmetic can demonstrate that a less cosmic $12.50/hr minimum wage should add less than 4% to the cost to GDP output. ***

My guess: a $9/hr minimum wage (today's 25 percentile wage) would cost incomes somewhere above 50 percentile more than they gained -- with about 2% inflation and wages above the new minimum pushed up.

My guess, again: a $12.50/hr minimum wage (today's 40 percentile wage) would cost incomes somewhere above 60 percentile more than they gained -- with 4% direct inflation.

Today's federal minimum wage earner has to work one hour to pay for a $5.00 fast food meal -- if he could afford it. A $9.00/hr minimum wage earner would need to work only 40 minutes for a more expensive, $6.25 meal (fast food has one-third labor costs) -- thus did McDonalds expand coast to coast while paying almost double today's minimum wage in 1968; at half today's average income, yet.

60-90 percentile income earners can only reset their earnings by resetting their bargaining power via coast-to-coast unionization -- which can be spurred via an eighth-grade math educational effort (above) -- which should hurry the necessary legal changes (see below).

Hopefully American labor can be sold on something called sector-wide labor agreements (most extensively used in Germany; also known as de-facto minimum wages): where all workers performing the same tasks in the same geographic area work under a single collective bargaining contract -- even for different employers. This would mark the end of the race to the bottom and to (contractless) scabs.
It is possibly arguable that today's federal unionizing setup violates First Amendment protected freedom of assembly -- the legally mandated unionizing process being needlessly prejudicial to organizing labor (commercial assembling?): logical, but not necessarily promising.

What organized labor probably needs is a constitutional amendment to clarify the -- inalienable -- right to organize, in the image of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment supposedly clarified the full equality of the slaves freed by the Thirteenth Amendment (only to have the Supreme Court putrefy that into separate but equal) and enabled Congress to write laws in defense of civil rights.

A "Right to Organize Amendment" would prohibit unjustified legislative obstacles being placed in the path of union organizing. An enabling clause could empower Congress give Congress unquestioned authority to write laws to maximize the usefulness of collective bargaining; for example, mandating (German style) sector-wide labor agreements.

Just proposing a "right to organize" amendment could cause productive aftershocks.... would wake up working folks to the notion they always should have been perfectly free to organize all along -- that today's run the management gauntlet deal was not handed down from the mountaintop;
....which reminder should supercharge heavy pressure for federal card check legislation (w/o management's OK)....
....which could quickly add the 50% of the American workforce who state they would prefer to be unionized to the 10% who happily are unionized -- overnight.

[ * -- info and source of 12% income shift measure NEAR BOTTOM of blogger comments]

[ ** The federal poverty level was set in 1965 (using a 1955 formula) at three times the cost of an emergency diet (which diet doesn't even permit canned beans, only dried), before taxes yet -- meaning the poverty line has been adjusted for the price of food only for 50 years. Today's real poverty line could be more like 25% (officially reported at 12.4%). Republicans could argue that things like food stamps -- they opposed -- would bring it down to 20%; still 5% more than in L.B.J.'s era. IMAGINE THE CHANGE IN POLITICAL CLIMATE IF THE MEDIA WOULD JUST REPORT THIS ONE STAT!!! For a current bare needs income breakdown, see Raise the Floor, p. 44-47, tables 2-3,2-4,2-5,2-6.]

[ *** $12.50/hr = $7.50/hr more than today's federal minimum wage = $7,500 AVERAGE adjustment (1000 hours). Currently 54 million workers earn below $12.50/hr + 6 million at federal minimum wage ("who get two average raises") = 60 million average adjustments = $450 billion divided by $12 trillion GDP = 3.75% added cost of GDP output. ]
PS. Another federal stat quirk is the Census family income survey practice "top-coding", of not reporting family income above $1 million -- which, pre-1973, had a rationale -- but today hides most of the income share that has shifted from bottom 90 percentile to top 1 percentile.

Who can fault the education or self-discipline of thrid and fourth-quintile American families....

Who can fault with the education or self-discipline of third and fourth-quintile income American families....

....whose annual earnings grew only 30%, from 1973 to 2001, as average income swelled 60%. (First-quintile 8%; second 15%.) To whom did the lost growth go -- and why?

Filling in the lower quintile growth gaps would bleed $45,000 off top quintile mean income (reported above $160,000 for 2001).

Another $40,000 of fifth-quintile earnings may* be hidden from the Census report by the practice of "top coding" family income above one million dollars (fully reported fifth-quintile income might read $200,000) -- so right away we have a hint about where to look for the missed-out growth; we can slice thinner.

If one-percentile income families had evenly split the missed-out money, they would have had to add $900,000 (20 X $45,000) to their (million plus?) annual incomes. If top 1/10th of one-percentile families had soaked the gap, they would have added $9,000,000 (200 X $45,000). And if top 1/100th of one-percentile families had racked up the gap: $90,000,000.

The latter two computations more realistically tally with the day-to-day sight of American CEOs taking home 25 times what their counterpart CEO's in Europe earn, not to mention 25 times more than their predecessor CEOs of 25 years ago made -- and with the ever ballooning incomes of the winners of America's newly emerged economic star system: from network news anchors to pro ball players.

American corporations go out of their way to reward -- and retain -- the uniquely talented. The only way the interchangeable can make themselves indispensable is by holding out all together.

The best "all together" arrangements in the world have to be Germany's, sector-wide labor contracts -- where everyone performing the same job in the same geographic area, by law, must work under a single collectively bargained agreement. This stalls the race to the bottom before it starts and makes (contractless) scabs a thing of the past.

Note: super strong German unions never wrought the kind of stagnating interference with management that old-time British unions fomented -- it's mostly in the culture (not that Germans don't share European welfare wishes).

Education can even become less in demand as machines get better at what we do -- depending on the industry. But, who can doubt, after decades of observing economic growth trickle into an upper income torrent, that a quantum resurgence of union made bargaining power has become the necessary and sufficient condition for American labor to get it's pay groove back.

[ * To calculate the 2001, top code effect: sum all 1973 mean quintile incomes -- add 10% to the fifth quintile report to approximate 1973 top coding -- boost that sum 60% to match per capita growth. Sum all 2001 mean quintile incomes -- the shortfall from the 60%-added sum should approximate uncounted income.]

Denis Drew

America's free upgrade to plug-in hybrid?

Free upgrade to plug-in hybrid?

Reported by Tom Krishner, AP Auto Writer Monday, July 21, 2008: ..."lithium-ion battery packs needed to power even a small car now cost in excess of $10,000..."
A couple of years back I wrote that, if America needed only half as much imported oil (only 5 million bbl/day) and if we needed to pay only half the price ($30/bbl) due to the lowered demand, we could save $165 billion a year (5,000,000 bbl/day X 365 days X $30 instead of 10,000,000 bbl/day X 365 days X $60 = a saving of $164,250,000,000/year)...

...or, just enough to subsidize buidling the 16.5 million cars and trucks we manufacture every year as LITHIUM, PLUG-IN hybrids -- at $10,000 per vehicle!

Now, with oil in range of $150/bbl, we are shipping $500 billion more a year overseas; potentially justifying any form of subisidy for the manufacture of lithium plug-in hybrids. At the very least we could re-direct the flood of dollars into our own pockets -- even if the subsidy only broke even on savings -- even if the subsidy did not save multiples of itself (which is much more likely and which trend will grow over time).
For 30 years it has been known that building lithium ion batteries with silicon wires (instead of carbon wires) could yield ten times the power holding ability but, because silicon wires expanded and contracted too much as they cycled, they quickly destroyed themselves. The development of silicon nano wires – about a thousandth of the width of a sheet of paper -- has solved that drawback -- while potentially making lithium ion batteries more stable (safer) at the same time!
Near term, only the anode side of the batteries will be manufactured with nano wires, yielding the quadruple jump (up powering GM’s Volt to go 160 miles on one charge instead of 40?). Long term, manufacturing the cathode side with silicon nano wires is expected to reach the ten multiple target (introducing hybrid, long distant trucks?).

Nobody ever expects the Industrial Revolution :-O

Who would dispute that today’s Americans were living through a wage depression if a quarter of our workforce earned minimum wage – or if most, somehow, earned substantially less – and if the minimum wage we were talking about was that of two generations before?

In 1968, L.B.J.'s minimum wage was $9/hour (inflation adjusted, CPI-U) – our 25 percentile wage has become $9/hour (“State of Working America, 2004/2005”, table 2-6) – double the per capita income later!

Today’s federal minimum wage take-home is no better than F.D.R.’s, 1939 minimum of $4.20/hour (no tax) – meaning today’s just-above minimum wages must be comparable to just-above wages in the depression era – quadruple the per capita income later! I wonder how far up the wage curve the depression parallel holds.

Science fiction writers dream up wrongheaded Malthusian futures in which population growth outstrips earth’s resources (“Make Room! Make Room!; “Stand on Zanzibar”) – though advancing technology promises the opposite. Exponentially expanding production aside, the average American could be on the way to a bottom of the barrel future (who builds housing for the median income anymore?).

It all happened before – it was called the industrial revolution.

1800s English factory workers out-produced their individual artisan forbearers ten to a hundred times but ended up subsisting on oat cakes three times a day because they could not afford to eat wheat bread (Thompson’s “Making of the English Working Class”).

The common denominator of schizoid prosperities – then and now: the evaporation of labor’s bargaining clout.


Raising today’s federal minimum wage a dollar an hour would add six percent to fast food cost – but twenty percent to minimum wage purchasing power. Admittedly, raising the minimum from $206 a week to $246 a week won’t send any rush of new customers to the cash registers.

Raising the minimum wage from $5.00/hour to $12.50/hour would hike a six-dollar meal to nine dollars (the two dollar labor cost growing to five) – but the price of that meal relative to a minimum wage weekly paycheck would drop from 3% to 1.8% (the same percentage of a $330 a week income that a six dollar meal represents, today).

Should we keep fast food cheap for $500 a week earners at the expense of making life miserable for $206 workers? A $500 earner who spends $60 a week at McDonalds would need but $30 a week more to maintain his fast food fashion at 50% higher prices.

Overall inflation caused by a $500 minimum wage should only be 4%* -- not counting other wages pushed up.


Inflation can redistribute wealth from those who don’t get a raise to those who do – but recapturing labor’s share from CEOs, ballplayers and TV anchors who make 25 times their 1960s predecessors pay would take ruinous levels. Only a seriously unionized workforce can practicably re-take share from that high up the income scale.

1800s British workers designed to rebuild labor’s market muscle via protective legislation (‘twas to be their non-violent “French Revolution”) – but for them to so much as promote the vote (for all males) guaranteed, first, jail, and then, Australian exile (“1984” in 1804). The only thing perpetuating American workers on track to a “Freejack” future is their own complacency – even the 50% who would “rather be” unionized don’t sense any pressing “national emergency” – aided and abetted by an asleep-at-the-switch press corps (at least on labor matters).

Most untold story**: under the federal, stopped-clock-was-right in 1955, poverty formula (three times a crisis food budget), the poverty line for a family of four would be $72,000 a year by today -- had food prices risen twice as fast as other goods in the meantime -- instead of half as fast, leading to as foolish an official guideline of $18,000 (“Raise the Floor”, table 2-4). How alive to the great wage divide all America could be had a more alert media informed us poverty was rising from 15% in L.B.J.’s time to 25% – as it happened!

If and when America wakes up and smells the prosperity:

The most comprehensive approach – perhaps the only realistic hope – to end the American race to the bottom is (Germany’s tried and proved) sector-wide labor agreements, wherein employees working in the same occupation in the same geographic area must – by law – work under one and the same collectively bargained contract – even for different employers!

Sector-wide agreements could rebuild American labor’s bargaining power overnight – and reconstitute its political muscle – while eliminating pesky (contractless) scabs. A 1700s American scientist and philosopher might say: “Be not the first by whom the new is tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside.”


Denis Drew


PS. A Republican baked inflation formulation (C-CPI-U) would lower Social Security cost of living adjustments by going in opposite directions at once:

(a) taking fuller count of technological deflation (a same price TV now comes with a remote):

(b) while ignoring rising prices when consumers substitute less desirable,cheaper goods (less gasoline for more subway rides; less pork for more rice).

[ * A $7.50 hourly raise translates to an average yearly raise of $7500 for earners between old minimum wage and new. To the 54 million now below $500/week (“State of Working America, 2004-5” table 2-6) we add 6 million who get a full raise -- to get 60 million half raises. (1/3 up,1/4 down simplifier >) $10,000 X 45 million = $450 billion raise -- divided by $12 trillion GDP = 3.75% inflation.]

[ ** More missed misreporting: the Census reports top-fifth families taking 50% of all income – up from 40%, two decades back -- by “top-coding” family income above one million dollars out of its survey – adjust for “top-coding” by assuming overall family income doubled (over the same span per capita income did) and top-fifth rakes 60%!]

July, 2005
$9/hour has become the minimum wage norm in modern Europe – for now! England’s and Ireland’s minimums are scheduled to rise above that in 2006. The minimums of such poor countries as Greece, Malta and Cyprus cluster around $170/week (E600); a little less than America's.

The United States of America of 1968” featured a minimum wage of $9/hour (at half of today’s labor productivity!) – scheduled to drop in future years (if we had had a crystal ball) to $8/hour by 1974, $7/hour by 1981, $6/hour by 1991 and $5.15/hour by today (which remits the same take home amount as the untaxed $4/hour minimum of 1939 -- in adjusted 2005 dollars).

European minimum wages – and their negotiated equivalents -- are adjusted annually – excepting the Netherlands (at $350/week) and Latvia every two years). The USA's 1997 minimum has stuck still for 8 years, now; 1991’s stuck for 4 years; 1981’s for 9 years.

The interesting thing here is that, if L.B.J.’s minimum could pay $9/hour at half of today’s American and European labor productivity, does that mean economies on both sides of the Atlantic could practicably support an $18/hour minimum wage today?! Just to pose the question.

A $12/hour, USA minimum wage would raise the cost of GDP output by only a manageable 3.5% -- not counting other wages being pushed up – and could effectively eliminate most poverty and crime levels that Europe hasn't had for a long time.