Monday, April 21, 2014

The Skills-Education-Employment Dodge

What sounds like a bit of good news was announced announced Wednesday:
Emphasizing skills training as key to a growing middle class, President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced $600 million in competitive grants to spur creation of targeted training and apprenticeship programs to help people land good-paying jobs.
The programs look like good news; $500 million for a competition involving colleges and businesses to see who can create innovative job training programs and another $100 million for expanding existing apprenticeship programs...all without having to involve Congress, as it uses money already allocated for spending. It's all being presented as a couple of mid-to-long term actions that will help fight poverty:
...9 out of 10 apprentices end up in jobs that pay average starting salaries of above $50,000 a year.
It's also evidence of positive forward motion in a tough political environment, which we've had precious little of, thanks to a recalcitrant Congress chock full of Republicans and Dems who no longer really represent the majority of US citizens. I should be happy because actions like this could make a positive impact in people's lives; it's hard to argue against increased funding for any sort of expansion of education that can widen a individual's sphere of opportunity. This is especially important considering that it's been tougher to get an education as of late::
...between 2007 and 2013, there was no meaningful departure from the long term trend, but that by 2014, enrollment was substantially below the long-run trend. This drop in enrollment rates is worrisome, particularly to the extent that it is due to students being forced to drop out of school, or never enter, either because the lack of decent work in the weak recovery meant they could not put themselves through school or because their parents were unable to help them pay for school due to their own income or wealth losses during the Great Recession and its aftermath.
Yes, ever-increasing costs (.pdf) are a huge barrier to getting an education or training, and the bulk of those costs are borne by individuals, either out-of-pocket or in the form of taxes.0 But something's nagging at me, keeping me from seeing this news as an entirely good thing. I look at the announcement of these programs and think, "good, but where are these newly-skilled people going to work?"
(please join me below the fold)
The problem with all this is emphasis on education and vocational training is that education really doesn't solve the core problem, which is employment and underemployment1 at wages that are stagnant2 and/or insufficient to live on. The productivity gains of the past few decades are not being passed along to the workers who are at least partially responsible for making the gains happen.3
The current conventional wisdom, however, identifies some vague references to weak educational achievement or a 'skills gap' as being a barrier to Americans' financial security and their ability to compete in a global labor market.4 This so-called skills gap is largely a myth unsupported by evidence:
• The ratio of unfilled jobs to unemployed workers today is quite low by historical standards. There are always unfilled jobs, because workers leave and employers have not yet had time or opportunity to hire replacements. This is a frictional, not structural, phenomenon. There are very few, if any, jobs today that remain unfilled because employers cannot find workers with the needed skills. • Today’s long term unemployed have skills comparable to those of recently laid-off workers “who quickly find new jobs.” The long-term unemployed face a shortage of demand for their labor, not skill requirements beyond their education and training.
•  If there really were a skills shortage, we would expect to see wages increasing in job categories where skills are allegedly in short supply. But such wages are not increasing.
At best, programs like the ones announced Wednesday allow individuals to be on par with their similarly-skilled counterparts already in the labor market when competing for a job. Train and educate as many people as you can (or cannot) afford to; it's not going to make one whit of difference if either the jobs aren't there or the jobs don't pay well enough to maintain a fair standard of living.5 If the jobs were there, we wouldn't be seeing:
...260,000 Americans with bachelor’s degrees earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour or less in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ newest annual snapshot of minimum wage workers. Another 200,000 associate’s degree holders also worked for that wage. These figures are sure to understate the total number of people with higher education degrees who are working minimum wage jobs because data does not factor in state minimum wage laws that are higher than the federal floor. That means that likely thousands of workers in the 21 states with higher minimum pay rates are likely also degree-holders.
Or that, overall:
The long-term unemployment rate is between 2.9 and 4.3 times as high now as it was six years ago for all age, education, occupation, industry, gender, and racial and ethnic groups. Today’s long-term unemployment crisis is not at all confined to unlucky or inflexible workers who happen to be looking for work in specific occupations or industries where jobs aren’t available. Long-term unemployment is elevated in every group, in every occupation, in every industry, at all levels of education.
At worst, this competition among workers is another rationale given for reduced wages, especially in the middle wage tier which is vocational training's sweet spot, jobs-wise:
Mid-wage occupations, paying between $13.83 and $21.136 per hour, made up about 60 percent of the job losses during the recession. But those mid-wage jobs have made up just 27 percent of the jobs gained during the recovery. [...] That's put downward pressure on wages: "[M]any middle-class workers have lost their jobs and, if they have been able to secure new employment at all, find themselves earning far lower wages post-recession," the San Francisco Fed notes.
The counter-intuitive result of funding educational opportunity only may very well be less work and lower wages for everyone, not more and higher. This is especially worrisome, considering how the jobs covered under "training and apprenticeship" are not really the ones being created right now:
The result is a growth in occupations that are hard to automate, which tend to either be very menial and low-paying (such as janitorial labor) or high-paying but requiring considerable skills (like computer programming). So as the middle of the distribution gets carved out, the low and top ends grow.7
Given all this data - and it's not all new data; we've known this information for a while - why are we still being led to believe that un-, under-, and ungainful employment are education problems that requires 'reforming' the public school system and spending millions on job training programs? It smells more like a dodge and a distraction from making the real reforms needed in taxation, regulation, and the labor market. Tweaking funding for education or blaming an near-imaginary skills gap or closing public schools and opening charter schools is not going to solve the problems we're facing, regardless of how well they play on television and certain intellectual circles. A skills gap is one of those zombie lies that is easily accepted by the economic and business elite, while a 'failed education system that doesn't prepare students for jobs' plays well to the conservative free market and anti-government set. Of course, provision of more funding for education and training is an easy sell to academics and most of us lefties, who highly value education anyway...but feeling good aside, putting the emphasis on a near-imaginary skills gap is a distraction and a misdirection of blame:
The point is that influential people move in circles in which repeating the skills-gap story — or, better yet, writing about skill gaps in media outlets like Politico — is a badge of seriousness, an assertion of tribal identity. And the zombie shambles on. Unfortunately, the skills myth — like the myth of a looming debt crisis — is having dire effects on real-world policy. Instead of focusing on the way disastrously wrongheaded fiscal policy and inadequate action by the Federal Reserve have crippled the economy and demanding action, important people piously wring their hands about the failings of American workers.
Moreover, by blaming workers for their own plight, the skills myth shifts attention away from the spectacle of soaring profits and bonuses even as employment and wages stagnate. Of course, that may be another reason corporate executives like the myth so much.
Moreover, as nice as increasing funding for educational initiatives like the ones announced Wednesday will not have the desired impact; policies like those aren't effective without other changes to government policies and private sector behavior that keeps this from happening:
It’s as if companies had been using the last two recessions as an excuse to make their workforce more flexible, using people only when absolutely needed, on irregular schedules, and keeping them on stand-by the rest of the time. This is a powerful tool in bringing payroll expenses down. It makes the company look awesome on paper. It wreaks havoc on the lives and incomes of workers and is terrible for the overall economy.
But those things are hard-hard-hard to turn around, considering that our current state is the result of economic policy changes starting back in the late 1970's and early 80's. We no longer seem to understand the social utility of having vibrant unions or the value of having economically patriotic policies in place that benefit the majority of US citizens. We've almost never as a country have been truly united, but it seems as if we entirely lost our way as a single nation.

--------------footnotes/comments/more links-------------
0used to be that a company would find and hire a good person first and then put him or her through some form of paid training...whatever happened to the practice of companies paying to train their employees?
1 see here and here and this chart here for a little more on underemployment.
2 stagnant/decreasing since the 70's, but recessions have their effects.
3 The other part being robots and better technology...which falls short as an explanation, given that other countries such as Germany had similar tech improvements and didn't hulk-smash their middle and working classes like the US has. It's more due to the decline of unions and unwillingness to pay for a decent standard of civilization.
4international comparisons don't work; comparing Singapore to the entire US is like comparing Massachusetts' test scores to those of all of Russia...not to mention that globally-average test results for American students may not matter all that much anyway.
5put into perspective, $21.13 is around $44K/year...the President's mention of jobs that are 'above $50K/year' is roughly $24-25 dollars an hour...not exactly the same, but not so different as to be dissimilar.
6which is not the same as saying education level is irrelevant; people with post-secondary education make more money overall and are unemployed less than those who don't have a degree. It does, and you will fare better as an individual in the cutthroat job market if you have the education and skills that your peers don't.
7 those high-paying-high-skill jobs - saying this based on personal experience - tend to be outsourced overseas; 70% of the software dev people I work with are not located in the US.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Ark and the Intersection of Faith, Politics, and Finance

After engaging in a quick bit of schadenfreude over the probable failure of the fundamentalist Answers in Genesis (AiG) ministry's - yes, they're the same organization who gave us the Creation Museum - to keep its very-behind-schedule "Ark Encounter" theme park from sinking, the more settled side of me started thinking. The constitutionality of using public financing to promote religious dogma aside, how does something like this get such strong support on little more than overly optimistic promises of future benefits? Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced the kickoff of the project back in 2010, providing the following estimates of what it means for tiny Williamstown and the rest of Kentucky:
The project is expected to create more than 900 full- and part-time jobs after its completion and attract 1.6 million visitors in the first year, with the number increasing after five years. Beshear said the park could have a $214 million economic impact in the first year and bring $250 million into the state by the fifth year.
Looks good, right? Here's why those estimates were probably too optimistic. Since it hasn't been built yet, it's tough for anyone to say exactly how attendance will pan out, but there's a couple of more recent examples indicating the numbers Governor Beshear used in 2010 are overblown. First up are the attendance numbers for the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park, which at its peak in 1998-99 never got over 1.4 million visitors. Second are the not-so-strong attendance numbers from AiG's aforementioned Creation Museum; reported attendance in 2012 was 254,074, lowest in four years of steady decline, despite additions to the museum, with a corresponding drop in revenue.
On its 2011 federal income tax return, Answers in Genesis reported a 5 percent drop in museum revenue to $5.1 million. Worse, AIG slumped to its first-ever financial loss -” $540,218. As of deadline for CityBeat's print edition, AIG hadn't provided financial results for fiscal 2012, which ended June 30.
But...900 jobs when completed, right? Given its three-year delay, the finished park is only concept drawings at this time, accessed by clicking "Future Phases" link from the Ark Encounter's home page. Of the namesake Ark attraction itself,
It was originally slated for completion this spring, when $37 million worth of tax breaks offered by the state are set to expire. Now, with construction still not started on Ark Encounter, the earliest it could be finished is 2016, AIG says.
If the planned expansion materializes, it won't be until some unknown point in the future and employment will be mainly low-wage menial service jobs consistent with other theme parks. Given this, the estimation of economic impact is suspect. Admittedly, some of this is hindsight given Beshear's announcement was in 2010, but enough information was there to raise some warning flags. Probably the most telling flag was ignored:
If the Ark Park is such a good deal, why didn'™t any other state want it? Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio already turned down versions of the park, but not Kentucky.
It's at this point that the political environment comes into play. Despite its substantial representation of Democratic politicians, Kentucky is at best purple in its overall complexion. If Democrats want to maintain their representation (even improve upon it, given the upcoming Senate race between Alison Lundergan Grimes and probably Mitch McConnell) they need to win outside of Louisville. This means courting more conservative voters in smaller districts.
Beshear doesn'™t care about the numbers or Louisville. He cares how the Ark Experience plays in Owensboro, Somerset, Corbin, Covington and Pikeville. Beshear is using the Ark deal to drive a wedge between David Williams'™ religious base in eastern, northern and western Kentucky. We can hear the governor now: "œYeah, I know I have a big-city Jewish mayor (sort of) running with me, but I want to show you all with this Ark Park how I'™m one of you." (Wink, wink.) As far as politics goes, it'™s a pretty interesting development, one that could turn Beshear into a two-term governor. Louisville'™s a gimme, so we'™re not getting squat. By appealing to the religious preferences of ultra-conservative voters outside the big metros, Beshear is vying to block any attempt by Williams to take those voters for granted. That forces Williams to put resources into courting voters who should already be firmly planted in his camp, and that wastes Williams'™ time and money.
This sort of gamesmanship wastes money budgeted for infrastructure that could be spent elsewhere and explains why the Ark Encounter project received more favorable consideration from the state than the once-successful Kentucky Kingdom theme park. From 2011:
A few months ago, Ed Hart, Kentucky Kingdom entrepreneur and the park'™s original "œbaby daddy," went to the state with a plan to reopen the regional amusement park, which Dallas-based Six Flags Inc. abandoned in a 2009 bankruptcy. The ambitious plan included a little matter of the state guaranteeing $50 million in bond issues Hart says it will take to reopen Kentucky Kingdom. What Hart got from legislators including Rep. Larry Clark, (Dem., Louisville), wasn'™t just "œno," but "œhell no." The governor never weighed in publicly. So, Hart is negotiating with Metro Mayor Greg Fischer on a more modest $20 million proposal. Yet, last week, the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority voted unanimously to grant œArk Encounter more than $40 million in tax rebates.
But again, that's all pretty much in the past; Kentucky Kingdom is set to be opened back up this year while Ark Encounter is...still seeking funding. To that effect, AiG partnered with the town of Williamstown to generate a $62 million dollar bond offering intended to keep the project afloat.
The town is offering the securities on behalf of Answers in Genesis, a Christian nonprofit that operates the Creation Museum 48 miles away in Petersburg. Bond documents project the Williamstown venue will attract at least 1.2 million visitors in its first year. Investors who buy $100,000 of the securities, which are not tax-exempt, will get a lifetime family pass to the park, bond documents show.
A poor history of repayment for unrated municipal bonds in general combined with offering documents that are less than encouraging and biblically-inspired has caused would-be investors to shy away; reportedly, no institutional investors have purchased the bonds. At the start of the new year, AiG and Williamstown are still around $29 million dollars away from what's necessary:
Even though $26.5 million of securities have been sold, the project needs to sell at least $55 million in total to avoid triggering a redemption of all the bonds, Ken Ham, the nonprofit'™s president, said in an e-mail to supporters yesterday. Without the proceeds, construction funding will fall short, he said.
This bond offering is in addition to other forms of financial incentives provided by the city and state:
The state also agreed to an $11 million interchange upgrade at the KY-36 Williamstown exit off I-75; about $200,000 has been spent on design so far, according to Transportation Department officials. The city of Williamstown agreed to give the project a property tax discount of 75 percent over the next 30 years, and the Grant County Industrial Development Authority gave them almost $200,000 to keep the project located there, along with 100 acres of reduced-price land.
The project's founder and AiG president is apparently in panic mode.
"œWe still need those Ark supporters who weren'™t able to purchase the Ark bonds at closing to prayerfully consider participating in a secondary bond delivery at the level they had indicated to us," Ham said. "œWill you please step out in faith with us?" [...] "œThe associated complications and struggles have been beyond our control," said Ham, who cited impediments such as atheists registering for the offering and disrupting it. "œI urge you to please prayerfully consider the options and help us get this bond offering completed."
There is time for someone to come in and purchase those unrated bonds offered by the small town of Williamstown and its taxpayers to allow the Ark Encounter theme park to be built. It's not unimaginable that some wealthy interests with a Christian predisposition will take on this debt at the last minute as a demonstration of devotion. There is such a thing as faith. There's also such a thing as a sucker being born every minute.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

An Increase to the Minimum Wage is Inevitable

Typical answers as to why we should increase the minimum wage include boosting the economy and reducing the overall poverty level. Raising the minimum wage is even popular with a majority of Americans, regardless of political affiliation. Those reasons should be enough justification to make it happen...

...But they aren't enough, are they? Despite some victories here and there, we see slow or no change because there are certain interests who, for fiscal and/or ideological reasons, will never accept evidence contradicting what they think they already know. They will not believe that paying people a livable wage is a good thing for everyone and does not impact employment or the economy in a greatly negative manner.

Combine that with the reality of our political system; too divided and dysfunctional, unable to do anything that's considered controversial, even if said controversy is mostly imagined or fabricated to push back against necessary and good changes in policy....and we don't have a single shared source of truth in our media who either can or is willing to judge the veracity of an argument and no mutually-respected leaders who can give the nation the 'come to Jesus' talk we need in order to get our collective head on straight.

That's all a recipe for minor or no action and a means to preserve the status quo just a little while longer so the quarterly earnings report is positive and executive management can make their bonuses larger and stock more valuable before cashing out. Such inaction satisfies the small-c conservative impulse to both preserve wealth and hinder change until reality's ticking clock dictates otherwise.

So, given that tendency toward inertia, what makes an increase to the minimum wage inevitable?

I'll explain below the fold.

I think that there are two answers to that question.

The ugly answer is that a minimum wage increase acts as a short-term pallative* for the economically disadvantaged. An easing of pain, but not a cure. In order to maintain control over a non-affluent underclass who has grown increasingly frustrated with their economic circumstances, bones will inevitably be thrown...and a raise in the minimum wage to $9 or $10 an hour is, ultimately, a small bone to throw. It's small because the also-inevitable-and-subsequent price increases can be blamed on said raising of the minimum wage. It weakens other calls to action regarding economic fairness and reinforces class distinctions (and disunity) already in place.

We've all seen the right's reactions to the Affordable Care Act; it's considered crazy to discuss expanding Medicare or Social Security and Obamacare is just a handout to 'the 47% of takers' that are a drag on society. Ugly, dismissive sentiments about what is the lesser of the available options for necessary change. Better to make a mild concession and then throw distractions around than risk a wider, unified revolution in thought and deed that changes the way Americans do business and affects personal and corporate profitability. The bank bailout or the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act can be viewed along similar lines.

Just enough gets done to placate the general public and get things limping along again before continuing business as usual. The granting of these sort of mild concessions to prevent disruption to the economic or social status quo isn't a new concept, mind you. It's as American as apple pie:

Those upper classes, to rule, needed to make concessions to the middle class, without damage to their own wealth or power, at the expense of slaves, Indians, and poor whites. This bought loyalty. And to bind that loyalty with something more powerful even than material advantage, the ruling group found, in the 1760s and 1770s, a wonderfully useful device. That device was the language of liberty and equality, which could unite just enough whites to fight a Revolution against England, without ending either slavery or inequality.
Simply put, a raise to the minimum wage is inevitable because it is an effective tool for manipulating the public. Raising the minimum wage alone* isn't enough to fix poverty in America, even if it will ease the pain for a while.

The not-ugly reason is that we are being slowly driven towards making a serious change in our approach to economic fairness. As income disparity rises and economic security shrinks for most Americans, it serves as a driver of change. That ticking clock becomes louder and more insistent. More inevitable.

There are historical precedents for this type of movement-style change. The labor and suffrage movements of the first part of the previous century and push for civil rights in the middle part where radical - for their time - changes resulted from widespread demonstrations of public unrest...only with those sustained movements, doing the minimum was no longer possible and there was no bone small enough to throw. The downside is that these progressive gains were sometimes centuries in the making. You can even argue that the unrest occurring now is a continuation of the workers' strikes of the 1930's. The subjects of that unrest, economic fairness and civil rights, are not much different today. Movement-style change is usually a very long effort that can experience multiple setbacks .

Call it the 'Arc of the Moral Universe' argument. The day will come, justice is inevitable, don't give up.

So keep pushing for that minimum wage increase. Make it inevitable sooner...but don't accept that as the end goal, only as one of the many things we need to do to change how we define what makes our national economy healthy and inclusive of all citizens.

* To me, the only argument that counters raising the minimum wage is that any increase will be likely absorbed into the generally rising cost of things by the time it's adopted, much like easier credit contributed to the housing bubble and federal subsidization contributes to the high cost of education. Note that this is not an argument against raising the minimum wage generally, only against raising the minimum wage without other, greater reforms.

An idea would be to have a cost-of-living-indexed minimum wage and a revision of business tax regulations to increase taxation on employees paid the minimum with declining rates for paying more than the minimum. The rate decline would be the inverse of the amount paid the wages go up, the amount in tax goes down. The justification for the increase in taxation would be that low-pay employees lean more heavily on public services funded by public monies, so employers unwilling to pay livable wages should be contributing more to the public coffers.

And no, I haven't worked out the detail on this. I can see a move to fewer, higher-paid employees which would have the undesirable effect of increasing unemployment...but there are ways to deal with that as well. As I'm saying, this would be just once piece of an larger effort.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The other Detroit pension fraud

Answering a question asked elsewhere.

 @gysgt213  > Just how generous are Detroit's pensions? 

It's not the amount that's at issue (except in the minds of right-wingers); Pension benefits overall are middle-of-the-road, income-wise. Pensions - deferred compensation, really - are not the issue. Mismanagement of the funds is an issue. Corporate welfare is an issue. Not paying into the funds is an issue. Bad investments are an issue.

Yet, somehow, it's the retired librarian's fault.

What's making this all legit in the eyes of the news media? Manipulation of numbers. By one actuarial interpretation, Detroit's pension funds are funded at levels consistent with public plans nationwide:

"Among the top 100 that Pensions & Investments tracks, the average funding ratio dropped slightly during the fiscal year, to 73.64% from 74.29%. The median funding ratio, while higher than the average at 74.59%, also slid 204 basis points from fiscal 2010."

The Detroit pension plans' independent assessment shows:

"The funded status of the General Retirement System was 83%, while that of the police and fire fund was 100%, according to June 30, 2011, independent valuations."

while another method of accounting has:

"Recalculations based on “more reasonable assumptions” substantially lowered the funded status of the General Retirement System to 65%, and the police and fire system to 78%, according to Mr. Orr's creditor plan."

So there's not even agreement on how to correctly value the pensions' funding and liability. I would argue that the numbers Orr is working with are more short-term in nature, placing greater weight in the fiscal years affected by the Great Recession. If you assume a 10-year window starting from 2011,

"The median 10-year annualized return was 5.6% among plans that disclosed investment performance over the period. "

over 30 years,

"...funds have been able to achieve returns in excess of a 7% to 8% expected rate of return.

The Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service reveals that public pension funds with a total market value greater than $5 billion in assets had a median total return of 10.29% in the 30-year period ended June 30, 2012."

I'm not saying there is no crisis...only that the causes of the crisis is not what's getting play in the news media.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Out of touch

And in 1992, it was Bush The Elder that was amazed* by a grocery store scanner.

 (Sure enough, touch screens were developed - in part, and very early on - with government dollars)

(*'amazed may have been a wee bit of media exaggeration)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fun with something The National Review editor wrote

Context here.

I get too busy to pay attention to this site for a few weeks and they start bringing in the right-wing B-team brain trust? Lowry's argument amounts to saying, 'Obama BAD' and parroting the current, flawed talking points.  

All that stands between us and a robust economic recovery, in his view, is yet more deficit spending on more government workers and more public-works projects.

 This is false. Lowry is lying.  

That still leaves us 4.6 million private-sector jobs shy of the number the economy boasted in January 2008.

 I see what you did there; on the surface, that appears shocking; but when you fairly present the context, it changes a bit. The bulk of the job losses occurred in Bush's last year, we were on the edge of a housing-driven financial bubble, and businesses were in the midst of a global off-shoring boom which hasn't abated.  

Clearly, one man’s “fine” is another man’s “anemic.”

And one man's "anemic" is another man's "what the hell did you think was going to happen when businesses don't have the demand to justify hiring, much less having laws that favor 'made in America' goods and services?"  

State and local workers perform important functions. Never before, though, have they been considered engines of short-term economic growth.

 Bullsh*t. You can point to something like the Civilian Conservation Corps as an example of a popular program that served that purpose (among others). If anything, Obama is to the right of New Deal-era policy because some of the stimulus money went to private sector contractors to do infrastructure work instead of public-sector persons.  

Teachers aren’t entrepreneurs. Cops and firefighters don’t hire people.

Again, demand for goods and services hire people. What your public sector employees do - along with things like food stamp programs, unemployment - is provide a 'consumer of last resort' that acts as a backstop when the private sector isn't employing or as is more the case now, not paying the wages they did at the height of the bubble.

This is elementary economics that you would expect an editor to understand.  

Lacking the discipline of the market, the public sector is woefully inefficient.

a) The is no such thing as market discipline, there's only market darwinism. If Lowry had experience outside of the rarefied air of The National Review, he'd understand that. If he does understand that, then he's being a partisan hack.

 b) The private sector is driven by maximizing their profit by fulfilling a need while the public sector fulfills needs that cannot or should not be profit driven.  

In the decade prior to 2008, states and localities added public-sector workers at a double-digit clip. This wasn’t sustainable.

 And why was it not? Recession, tax cut fever, and unfunded pension obligations compounded by a stock market crash...primarily caused by the same policies being pushed in Lowry's magazine.  

With federal support receding, states and localities can’t–and shouldn’t–keep workers they can’t afford.

When you believe that government is the problem, that's a natural conclusion to make. It's the wrong conclusion, however. I'm less worried about the size of government than whether or not it is an efficient one that fulfills the needs of its citizens. Given that, there are services (and people providing those services) that we need to have, even if it means raising revenues through taxes.

 As a “timely, targeted, and temporary” measure, the stimulus was never supposed to subsidize elevated levels of public-sector workers in perpetuity.

 And it was never meant to. It was meant to place the government in the position of being the consumer of last resort, and the stimulus worked although it should have been larger and less allocated towards cutting taxes.

 ...the president’s administration has been hyperactive and ineffectual, a fatal combination, and all he can offer is more of the same. He is stuck on stimulus.

Again, the stimulus worked. Tax cuts, de-regulation, and trickle-down economics has not and is what put us in this mess to begin with...and what's funny is that Lowry doesn't even bother mentioning it because he knows that it does not work.

What's even more funny is that the policy - like that delusional bad joke of a Ryan plan - being pushed on the Right would create jobs and build demand more slowly than the undersized stimulus package did. Lowry mentions no proven, workable solutions. He's just doubling down on the Stupid.  

They are the Keynesian equivalent of the Communist sympathizers who used to insist that socialism never failed, it just had never really been tried.

And Lowry is the Austrian School equivalent of Capitalist sympathizers who insist that the free market never failed, it just had never really been tried. Thing is that it has, and that's why we (used to) place Business subordinate to Government.

Monday, March 26, 2012

So, why *aren't* minors allowed to stand their ground?

Context here. Right-winger in italics.

You have to be licensed to carry a gun. He was a child.

So, arguing the right wing cases for gun possession and Dodge City laws, why shouldn't a minor be allowed to carry a weapon in order to defend himself?

You can't argue that 'it's against the law', as laws are written, re-written, and amended all the time. All you're doing is making a circular argument; "minors can't carry guns to defend themselves because it's against the law, and the law says that minors can't carry a gun because they are minors."

The argument that you are avoiding is the why behind under-majority age possession of firearms: it's the idea that a minor doesn't have the life experience/sound judgment necessary to use a weapon responsibly. However, if you admit that, you have to examine the facts around this Martin case and also state that his shooter - an adult - also did not possess the sound judgment necessary to use his weapon responsibly.

Which says a lot about these 'Dodge City' laws in that people in general aren't sophisticated enough gun owners to make these sort of life and death decisions. If anything, Martin-as-a-minor displayed better judgment when he ran away than Zimmerman when he pursued against the advisement of the 911 operator, started an altercation, and shot a kid.

That fact a liberal would advocate a minor carry a fire arm...

No, you're wrong again. What I'm saying is that it's a special hypocrisy on the part of right wingers such as yourself to push for legislation that enables the commission of incidents such as the Martin shooting, and that Trayvon Martin has as much of a right - even more of a need - to defending himself as George Zimmerman does.

If you would argue differently, you would have to admit that there was no reason that either Martin or Zimmerman should be making the kind of life and death decisions that these laws allow them to do...and that it's a bad law based on a unrealistic, flawed right-wing idea about how un-civilized society can actually be.