Government jobs are jobs, too


The New York Times weighed in Dec. 4 on an economic fact of life that I've been harping about for years now: Jobs in the public sector are ... jobs. In many cases, they're good jobs. And when conservatives and business leaders talk about reducing the size of government -- and then complain about the unemployment rate -- they're stuck in doublespeak.

I know the Times has a paywall now, so if you can't get in from that link I'll give you the main points of the editorial:

While the private sector has been adding jobs since the end of 2009, more than half a million government positions have been lost since the recession. ... The cutbacks hurt more than just services. As Timothy Williams of The Times reported last week, they hit black workers particularly hard. Millions of African-Americans — one in five who are employed — have entered the middle class through government employment, and they tend to make 25 percent more than other black workers. Now tens of thousands are leaving both their jobs and the middle class. Chicago, for example, is laying off 212 employees in the upcoming fiscal year, two-thirds of whom are black.

That’s one reason the black unemployment rate went up last month, to 15.5 percent from 15.1. The effect is severe, destabilizing black neighborhoods and making it harder for young people to replicate their parents’ climb up the economic ladder. ...

Many Republicans, however, don’t regard government jobs as actual jobs, and are eager to see them disappear. Republican governors around the Midwest have aggressively tried to break the power of public unions while slashing their work forces, and Congressional Republicans have proposed paying for a payroll tax cut by reducing federal employment rolls by 10 percent through attrition. That’s 200,000 jobs, many of which would be filled by blacks and Hispanics and others who tend to vote Democratic, and thus are considered politically superfluous.

But every layoff, whether public or private, is a life, and a livelihood, and a family. And too many of them are getting battered by the economic storm.

Something to think about as city officials try to eliminate the latest defict and negotiate new union contracts. Because Repbulicans aren't the only ones who don't regard government jobs as actual jobs; a lot of Democratic officials and business leaders in liberal San Francisco seem to feel the same way.J



I have not complaints about public-sector WORK. The problem is that these people do not fund their own pensions. Pensions will consume 1/4 of the general soon...

...forcing ongoing cuts in services to working-class and poor people.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

Great piece by Patrick Monette-Shaw illustrates why salaries (mainly management & public safety), not pensions, are the real problem:

"Public employees did not cause San Francisco’s pension problems.

"The City’s pension problems are caused by meddling politicians, billionaires operating on the fringes of City government, and especially, the great need for City salary reform — since a minority of City employees are receiving huge salaries and pensions, while the majority of City employees receive very small pensions.

"And the organizations attacking City employee pensions — the Chamber of Commerce, BOMA, and SPUR, among others — are the same guys who routinely attack City services, or alternatively keep trying to privatize City parks and other local government services.

"Now they’re claiming themselves saviors of services?

"Excessive management and public safety salaries that drive up excessive pensions, is one definition of a Ponzi scheme.

"Another definition is safety employee salary raises calculated on cross-jurisdictional comparisons, in which salary increases in one jurisdiction drives up salaries in the comparative jurisdictions (a key provision which is enshrined in San Francisco’s contract with the Police Officer’s Association).

"That’s what led Vallejo into declaring bankruptcy, though nobody admitted Bernie Maddoff would have been proud of these two Ponzi elements. [...]

"The dueling measures appear to have turned several of our local politicians into embarrassing panderers sucking up to billionaires — billionaires Warren Hellman, George Hume, Michael Moritz, and perhaps Larry Ellison — who claim they’re concerned about the loss of public services.

"Collectively, the billionaires blame increasing City employee pension expenses on the City’s 25% cut to education, 20% cut to children’s and senior services, and 50% cut to Recreation and Parks Department, among other services.

"But ostrich-like, they ignore ever-increasing management salaries, additional long-term debt voters have no control over affecting the City’s credit rating, and the City’s extraordinarily thin cash reserves — the real reasons basic services go unfunded, or are cut from the City budget. Even Moody’s downgrade of San Francisco’s credit worthiness understood this.

"To borrow a line from comedian Will Durst, a polite way of saying our politicians may be beholden to certain large contributors — say billionaires — would be to say they “resemble hookers with the appetites of hippopotamuses in heat.”

"Worse, Jeff Adachi and Interim Mayor Ed Lee aren’t telling San Francisco voters their dueling “pension reform” measures protect top earners while punishing over half of all City employees.

"The big lie from City Hall — the same lie Adachi has pushed in the San Francisco Examiner and the Westside Observer neighborhood newspaper — is the claim that the City’s 27,000 employees average $93,000 in salaries, driving up pensions.

"That’s simply untrue, on both counts. There were 36,644 City employees in 2010, including full- and part-time employees, not 27,000; the City Controller converts over 10,000 part-time employees into “full-time equivalents,” fudging the denominator.

"The average salary for all 36,644 employees is $63,000, not $93,000, but there’s some caveats in the averages.

"Of the 36,644 City employees in calendar year 2010, 18,972 (52%) earned less than $70,000, representing $665.7 million (25.6%) of payroll. Their average total salaries were just $35,091. In stark contrast, the 11,838 employees (32.3%) earning over $90,000 gobbled fully $1.47 billion (56.5%) of payroll. Their average total salaries were $123,874!

"Skyrocketing management salaries since 2003 inflate management pensions, another Ponzi scheme. These inverted ratios disproportionately penalize 52% of lower-paid employees.

"In 2003, there were 2,918 City employees earning over $90,000 in total pay, costing $314 million. In 2010, the City’s 11,838 employees earning over $90,000 is an increase of 8,920 such highly-paid employees, a staggering 305.7 percent change since calendar year 2003!

"Clearly, the unfunded salary increases affect escalating management pensions — largely driven by overly-generous top salaries — which isn’t addressed in either pension ballot measure, or discussed by City officials. Neither measure reigns in top management salaries, which the billionaires ignore. [...]

"Salary reform — the key to curtailing excessive pensions for managers — must come first, before pension reform!

“'Safety' (police, firefighters) employees recently struck another pension reform deal until 2015, announced only after Interim Mayor Leeofficially entered the mayor’s race. The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed on September 13 — 'without a peep' — the contract Mayor Ed Lee negotiated that will exempt police and firefighters if Adachi’s Prop. D passes.

"According to both Jeff Adachi and the Employee Retirement System, safety employees contribute 17% of money to the pension fund, but draw 36% of pension payouts. Non-safety “miscellaneous” employees contribute the balance, subsidizing generous “safety” pensions, an inequity unaddressed by either Prop’s. “C” or “D.”

"Source: San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System Annual Report Year Ended June 30, 2010, and Jeff Adachi

“'Miscellaneous' employees are not only subsidizing pensions of safety employees, they’re also subsidizing pay raises for safety employees and the 11,897 employees earning over $90,000 in salaries.

"Billionaires Set Six-Figure CIty Pension Caps

"San Francisco’s employee retirement system is healthy, solvent, well-managed, and performing well.

"It earned a 12.55% investment return last year — $1.65 billion — not the 7.75% annual return Jeff Adachi’s and Mayor Ed Lee’s flawed proposals are based on. Our retirement system’s portfolio is a model for other municipalities.
"But tell that to Ed Lee’s and Jeff Adachi’s billionaire backers Hellman, Hume, and Moritz. [...]

"The City’s payroll data shows fully half (50%) of the City’s 36,644 employees earned a $65,000 average salary, or less. Over one-third(37%) of City employees average salaries of less than $45,000.

"Those at the lowest end of City salaries can least afford a 6% pension contribution increase on top of the 7.5% they are already paying, nor can City retirees afford health care increases who may be forced into dropping dependent coverage for minor children or elderly parents, if either Prop.’s “C” or “D” passes.

"Prop. C’s proposed pension increases discriminates against the City’s lower-paid current employees, requiring a flat 10% pension contribution for those earning $50,000 to $100,000, rather than using a sliding scale. For instance, the 3,579 employees who earned between $50,000 and $60,000 will pay the same 10% pension contribution as the 2,333 employees who earned between $90,000 and $100,000.

"Prop “D” uses a sliding scale, but employees earning below $70,000 may pay up to 13% of their salaries towards pensions, while those earning $100,000 to $200,000 pay only15.5%. Adachi’s sliding scale has five $10,000 ranges for those earning $50,000 to $100,000, each $10,000-step increasing an additional half a percent, but only three $50,000 ranges for those earning over $100,000. Each $50,000-step increases only half a percent, which is patently unfair to low-wage earners. [...]

"Current employees may face paying 16% to 20% of their wages towards pensions and health care, plus additional unknown health care co-pay increases, if either “C” or “D” passes.

"Fixed-income retirees will also see their health care costs soar, and will lose their supplemental COLA, which retiree’s (but not current City employees) are only paid when retirement fund investments yield a surplus.

"Similarly, while the City’s pension system data shows 1,218 retirees (6.1%) earned pensions more than $100,000, 41% (8,143 retirees) earned pensions less than $25,000, 32% (6,369 retirees) earned pensions less than $20,000, and 22.5% (4,480 retirees) — nearly one quarter — earned pensions less than $15,000.

"Prop “D” uses a sliding scale, but employees earning below $70,000 may pay up to 13% of their salaries towards pensions, while those earning $100,000 to $200,000 pay only15.5%. Adachi’s sliding scale has five $10,000 ranges for those earning $50,000 to $100,000, each $10,000-step increasing an additional half a percent, but only three $50,000 ranges for those earning over $100,000. Each $50,000-step increases only half a percent, which is patently unfair to low-wage earners. [...]

"In his May 12 San Francisco Examiner article, billionaire Warren Hellman stated “The notion that the City’s pension fund is in immediate meltdown is simply not true.”

"We’re not in meltdown mode, and the Ponzi scheme must be addressed. Until salary reform occurs first, there can never be meaningful pension reform."

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

the real economy, through borrowing and taxes. So they don't add to the part of the economy that has to pay for everything - the private sector.

That's why the most successful economies, like Hong Kong, have very low taxes and a very small public sector. The larger the public sector is relative to the private sector, the more sclerotic the eonomy - think Eastern Europe.

While your invocation of blacks is quite simply race-card playing. Not worthy of you.

Add in the unsustainably expensive pensions and benefits packages that public sector workers have, which has not been addressed yet, and which are killing economies in Europe as well as here, and the current situation is out of control.

What we need is real wealth-generating jobs, and not more faceless bureaucrats in cheap suits on the public dime. Apple has done the U.S. far more good than a small army of public sector clerks and drones could ever do.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2011 @ 4:29 pm

I'm not playing any race card, I'm simply quoting the NY Times. And I'm saying that in a recession, taking unproductive money (the wealth of the very rich) and putting it to productive use (hiring public-sector workers) is a proven method for reviving the U.S. economy. (See: Roosevelt, Franklin D.)

Posted by tim on Dec. 05, 2011 @ 5:35 pm

city and state have shown they are not good stewards of the money.

You can hem and haw about public schools and whatever else, but in reality people get more and more expensive parking tickets while unfunded government retirement packages keep climbing. We hire more and you are right back here begging next year.

It is economic suicide to keep hiring people to do redundant jobs under these conditions. There is no amount of millionaires to be found to keep the Ponzie scheme going under these conditions.

As the city has a myriad of ridiculous commissions and departments, the people paying the ever increasing, taxes. parking tickets, fines, fees and convenience charges don't see any value added.

The progressive position again is to take out of the equation the actual individual person, and that individuals view of the government.

You need to tell us why hiring more paper pushers in the department of commissions on diversity commissions is good for the tax payer. When you can sell that you might have a chance. Jabbering on about school teacher salaries when you progressive have shown to be such shitty stewards with our money isn't going to make it.

Posted by matlock on Dec. 05, 2011 @ 7:52 pm

Nonsense. money can never be unproductive. It is always working. Obviously since you have none you do not understand, but people with money in the bank are under no obligation to explain to you how the bank is using it or why you do not deserve a penny of it.

Posted by Zaius on Dec. 05, 2011 @ 8:58 pm

that an economic trend that affects blacks and hispanics more is worse than one that might affect whites and asians more, such as a slowdown in high tech.

If there's a problem, it's that blacks and hispanics too frequently choose public-sector jobs in the first place.

And a dollar bill owned by a wealthy person isn't any more "unproductive" than one owned by a poor person. In fact, the wealthy person is more likely to invest it, which is what creates jobs and wealth.

Re FDR, Keynsian inflation of an economy was a last ditch resort to fight the greatest depression the world had ever seen. It's much less relevant now that there are far more sophisticated tools available. Friedman, Hayek, Posner and Fama effectively proved that decades ago.

There is a very good correlation between the strength of an economy and the size and vitality of the private sector. The private sector drives wealth and prosperity; the public sector merely costs and consumes.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 7:35 am

But props to the SFBG for keeping the comment up. I don't think a similar outfit on the right-wing would allow for their writers to get put on blast like this.

But yeah... this was a great comment.

Posted by Longtime Lurker on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 10:49 am

I'm not a fan of Tim's argument that keeping jobs around for the sake of keeping jobs is a rational decision when government deficits and debt are a big part of our economic malaise, but the post that you're fawning over is wrong about a few points.

Savings does not equal investment. 'Say's Law' has been proven wrong again and again, and Keynes influence after 1930's was a perfect example. Even now the world is awash in cash, but there aren't a lot of productive investment opportunities out there right now, so the "savings" is worthless to the 'real economy.' Besides, who wants to invest in real estate, for example, when it's likely to be 30% cheaper within the next 5 years? Savers wear one economic hat; investors wear quite a different hat.

The poster also said, "The private sector drives wealth and prosperity; the public sector merely costs and consumes."

Wrong again.

The entire wealth of Silicon Valley is based on the space program, military spending, and government funded military/commercial research through agencies like DARPA and NSA, with a big assist from taxpayer funded university research. Intel, HP, Fairchild, National Semiconductor, Oracle, IBM and every other big technology company originally got rich starting in the 1960's/1970's/1980's from government contracts and funding. Those government contracts led to commercial products consumed by the masses, but the original funding and research was bought and paid for by US taxpayers.

The US has perfected reverse socialism: the public pays most of the costs, but an elite few reap most of the economic benefits. The high tech induustry and the real estate mortgage meltdown are just two prominent examples.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

The government spending the progressives advocate for does not include the things you mentioned. I agree with the premise though.

Progressives just want more government jobs for the sake of more government jobs.

Posted by matlock on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 1:10 pm

Unfortunately, that wealthy person's dollar invested is being invested overseas because demand in the US is too low. Why is that? Because so much wealth is concentrated with those already wealthy ... who are spending / investing their wealth overseas. If the wealth were more equally distributed we'd have significantly more domestic spending / demand.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 11:36 am

The idea that they flit around in yachts is ridiculous. Most of them work far harder than most others.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 12:09 pm

The wealthy 'spend' most of their money on international financial trading in order to make even more money; which leaves far less of their wealth to be spent in the local economy. And what they don't have in such financial transactions is in the economically useless grabbing of land and real estate so that they can charge other people exorbitant rent to use it; thereby producing nothing of real value whatsoever for local economies and robbing local economies of vast amounts of money that would otherwise be spent in them.

It is the working class which spends almost all of its income on real goods locally.

Hence spreading the wealth to make it more equal, and eliminating disparity gives those working class more to spend locally, making the real economy better for everyone.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

most of theor money speculkating on markets?


Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

Here you go.

The financial economy has in fact become absurdly more massive than the real economy, as can be seen in the chart at:

And of course, it is the rich, not the poor or working class, who are engaging in those financial transactions.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

Do you really think Bill Gates spends all day trading foreign exchange?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

You've got to be kidding.

'Institutions' are owned by real people, who gain wealth from them and become rich.

And, of -course- the vast majority of Gates' wealth is reinvested in global financial transactions.

That's how the modern economy works.

(Or, to put it more accurately, fails to work.)

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

Ordinary people, through their mutual fund and IRA holdings own most institutions. You don't like Goldman Sachs? Then sell your stock!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

who have majority interest in those banks.

As did Matlock, you have now descended into utter silliness.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

If you want influence, buy stock and then vote your proxy.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

Majority/controlling stockholders can out-vote the workers.

Hence, retirement funds give workers almost no control over such funds.

They are controlled by the rich who hold the majority/controlling interest.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

Blacks and Hispanics don't simply choose public sector jobs. If you ever try to get a job in this sector you would know. The way it works is, as soon as one of them gets a hiring position, that person will hire only blacks or only hispanics. My guess is that both groups have learned to help their own after being declined jobs by whites. Do I feel bad for them loosing their jobs? Not really! So many illiterate people have been hired to do administrative work. So many others go to work to get paid, not to do their job. I lost my job too but no one seems to care about it. Besides, blacks and hispanics were hit the hardest when the 2008 financial crisis began and most of them managed to get out of debt in all sorts of ways quite quickly.

Posted by No name gal on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

The book is a bit dated since being published in 1973, but some of its observations remain very astute. The government is both an enabler of concentrated economic power as well as a safety net from its worst excesses.

The author's Marxist bent isn't for everyone (and it's not my favored approach-Thorstein Veblen and Henry George have more useful economic constructs from my perspective), but the O'Conner book adds some very useful insights about the relationship of government and government debt to the larger economic world.

Rapid technological advancements over the past 30 years – many of them based on federal government funding for the space program and advanced military weaponry – have dramatically reduced the need for labor. When I first started working in the 1980’s there were over 40 people in my department. When computers started to be introduced in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s the headcount was reduced by 75%, with most of people let go because their lower level skills were no longer needed or competitive. The 10 of us remaining doubled the output of the department when we all got computers, with far fewer errors and far less overtime.

If a machine is cheaper, faster and makes fewer mistakes, what rational person won’t use a machine instead of a worker? Even if the productivity between the two is equal, machines don’t call in sick, cause interpersonal disruptions with other employees, or want expensive benefits.

The only rational choice for societies going through rapid technological changes – or anytime really – is to divide the work up relatively equally among the *entire* workforce. All of us spend at least a few hours at our paid jobs that could be done by someone else with a little bit of training. Unemployment becomes a non-issue if we allow people to work fewer than 40 hours, or reduce the work week to 3 or 4 days at the largest employers including governments, or give everyone the option to choose how many days a week they want to work at a reduced weekly income.

Job sharing increases employment and allows everyone to find other productive *non-paid* uses for their time, if they desire: volunteering at a child’s school; working with community police force; writing poetry; tending the community parks and gardens, helping care for the elderly, etc., etc.

My older siblings said they learned as much from “free classes” taught on college campuses during the turbulent 1970’s than they learned in the classroom. Apparently subjects like gay and women rights, employment discrimination and mortgage red-lining were often ignored inside the classrooms, but were hotly debated in the freeform discussions outside the class walls. These efforts led to changes to local, state and eventually federal laws as a result of people brain-storming amongst themselves and implementing an action plan.

I suspect our personal economic philosophy is similar to our sexual preference or our religion: it’s influenced by our families or is formed at an early age, but rarely changes during our lifetime. These lifelong biases make it extremely difficult to get people from different economic persuasions to agree on priorities or legislative changes. It’s easier for most of us to agree that gays and women deserve equal rights; but less easy to agree on the best economic structure. Class issues are important too. What liberal who comes from family wealth wants to push for a wealth tax on multi-millionaires? What big landlord or bondholder - no matter how hip or socially liberal - wants to see higher taxes on rent and interest income?

If The Occupiers want to have a lasting legacy on the country’s history they will have to continue to address these contentious and difficult economic issues, and propose and implement meaningful solutions.

It’s not getting easier. New technology reduces thousands of jobs every day. Companies learn new techniques to shift production and profits outside the country. Wealthy people find it easier to change their domicile to places all over the world that have the lowest tax rates, without giving up residency in their favored US hometowns.

And even though these are some of the worse times that millions of families have faced in the past couple hundred years, the government still hasn’t fixed the problem that caused both the S&L crisis and the most recent real estate melt-down: housing speculators, private landlords, banks, and hedge funds gaming the system for huge profits, leaving the rest of us to pay for trillions of dollars of bad real estate debts.

Finally today on the Federal Reserve’s website is an article that explains the phenomenon well. It’s about 30 years too late, but it’s a start. The research shows that in 2005 and 2006 almost 50% of all mortgages in California were by speculators and landlords. No society can build a stable economic system or strong communities with speculators and landlords buying the housing stock.

General info about two people with some useful ideas about society and economics that are still relevant for our time.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 12:59 am

They imposed a maximum 35 hour week and the government had to reverse that after a few years when it was clearly failing.

The most obvious problem is that you have to provide every worker with benefits. So 100 workers doing 20 hours costs you FAR MORE than 50 workers doing 40 hours.

The idea of "spreading the work across everybody" also doesn't allow for the wide disparity of skills. It would mean that you'd have incompetent people doing some of the work.

The real key is to ensure that the right people are doing the right jobs. Adam Smith understood that in the 1800's.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 7:39 am

and has only made minor changes in the law.

Furthermore your basic statement is clearly shown to be utterly absurd when we simply assess what happened in the U.S. economy after it enacted the 8 hour day and 40 hour week. Both were established nationally by law in 1938, and the period following this change has marked the moss successful economic boom in all of human history.

You are completely full of crap.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 10:56 am

week, and that's a big part of the reason for the greater productivity in the US over places like Europe where they have a 9 to 5 mentality.

Here only government workers have a 9 to 5 mindset.

It's far more expensive to hire twice as many half-time workers, unless we abolish all employment benefits.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 11:12 am

Hence your argument is still revealed as nonsense.

The real work week was powerfully shortened by the 1938 law, and that shortening was followed by an unprecedented economic boom.

And your contention about the '9-5 mindset' and Europe is equally weak.

Lots of European countries which do not share your '9-5 mindset' have far better economic outcomes, and much higher standards of living for their citizens.

Being full of crap twice doesn't make you less full of crap.

Care to try for round three?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 11:38 am

It's just another pie in the sky idea

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

Then why did the U.S. adopt them under advice of 'serious economists' in 1938?

And to repeat, this move, guided by 'serious economists' then led to the greatest economic boom in human history.

That's round three of your coming off as a complete imbecile.

Shall we go for four?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

Just because working hours laws preceded an up market does not mean it caused it. There were many other factors.

But you don't have to be an economist to realise that more work equals more productivity. And that a 9 to 5 attitude doesn't make you rich.

You're fighting a losing battle here, as you always are.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

You said that shorter work weeks were bad for the economy.

And I pointed out that


(the biggest economic boom in human history following the most extensive reduction in work hours in human history)

clearly shows that you are completely full of crap.

That's four times inviting me to easily make a complete fool out of you.

Are you game for five?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

War industry had many if not most factories and suppliers with 12 hour shifts. Other than the hourly costs, the costs were a fraction of what they are now per employee.

Hiring another full time employee will cost an employer thousands now, not counting wages.

Back then it probably cost a few bucks.

That war thing and the arms exporting before the US got involved, removes causality from your position.

Posted by matlock on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

'I wasn't arguing for causation.' did you not comprehend?

The U.S. economy continued to boom for three decades after the war during which workers progressively gained more and more pay and benefits the entire time.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

world was a wreck after the war.

It didn't help that by the mid 70's US was making garbage cars.

None of this is new to you, you just have the will to believe.

Posted by matlock on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

Now that you have descended into utter silliness, I think we're done.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

ridiculous, and I have no idea where Eric gets that from.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

even during the worktime reductions and wage/benefit gains of the boom years.

The problem is that the excess profit from productivity created by technology is not being shared equally and is instead being stupidly hoarded by the rich. This is causing an excess capital crisis, and is also draining the real economy of the real exchange and vitality that it needs to create real wealth for everyone.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

technology has helped us so much? By your account, the opposite would be true.

Equality harms productivity because why work hard if everyone gets the same pay anyway?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

The top 1% have so effectively accumulated nearly all productivity to themselves that real wages and benefits for workers have declined.

And at the same time, to keep their absurd financial profit bubble expanding, the rich/banks have extended ludicrous amounts of credit to those workers.

The result is that the workers never have enough income to catch up with credit debt and even expenses, and have to work more and more hours to make up the difference and pay the interest on their debt.

Richard Wolff does a good job of explaining this whole problem in the first 20 minutes of 'Capitalism Hits The Fan'. See:

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

Having employers be responsible for funding of our health care and retirement are two of the worse decisions ever made. It puts two of society's most important social polices into the hands of a paternalistic employer and makes workers dependent on them and weakens their bargaining power for higher wages.

An employer shouldn't be involved with my health care or retirement decisions. It's my decision if I want to save some current income so I don't have to work into my very old age, and that decision shouldn't be dependent on the future solvency of my employer or their bad investment decisions.

Getting employers out of the healthcare and retirement funding process let's them focus on their only important function in society: producing goods and services at the lowest price possible. Health care and retirement are far too important decisions for everyone in society - including the unemployed, youth and elderly - to have biased employers involved with the decision-making process as to how these important social programs should operate and get funded.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

The US became an arms exporter and then WW2 happened.

causation and causality again suck.

Posted by matlock on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

This comment was posted on naked capitalism today. It seems relevant to the discussion:

"Any trickle down right wing corporate economic discussion about increased productivity is immediately tied to the idea of fewer workers. Lighter work weeks are simply left out of the article.

France was, pre-Euro, famous for taking their increased wealth in increased leisure. Now the ECB, through its local representative, is complaining about an easy going middle class life. Wonder if they saw that one coming?"

The comment was to an article about the Baltics, which could apply to California as well. One solution to reduce the unemployment problem is net migration out of the state/country, which works just as well as increasing employment. Not that I advocate this (job-sharing is a far better idea), but no one can say it isn't happening here as well as in the marginal economies in Europe.

You may want to rethink this statement of yours as well: "The idea of "spreading the work across everybody" also doesn't allow for the wide disparity of skills. It would mean that you'd have incompetent people doing some of the work."

You apparently missed this sentence from the post, "All of us spend at least a few hours at our paid jobs that could be done by someone else with a little bit of training."

When we think we're the only ones who have enough skills for our job, no matter how complex the assignment, we enter the delusional state. All of us have likely worked with people who thought they knew more than anyone else or were the only ones who could do a particular job well. As always, their arrogance and anti-social behavior lead them to get fired or reassigned. Shockingly, the organization goes on without them, often even better than before since the arrogant, delusional, self-centered worker is gone, which lets the remaining team members be much more cohesive and supportive of each other.

Almost every succcessful organization has very active cross-training and job rotation assignments. It improves each person's skill set and makes the organization far more adaptable and resilient.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

How is it productive when corporations use their vast cash reserves to buy back their own stock, raising stock prices for their own employees and investors instead of hiring new workers?

The most productive use of money right now, in an economy driven by consumer demand, is to spend it. Most of the 99 percent spend most of their money. Most of the One Percent spend very little of it.

Yeah, I think Keynesian inflation has a role -- in the short term, modest inflation helps net debtors (most of us) and hurts net lenders (most of the One Percent). But it's very clear that an economy that is as unequal as ours is not sustainable; redistributing income and wealth right now is necessary to any real economic recovery. And one good, easy, simple way to do that is to tax the rich and create public-sector jobs.


Posted by tim on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

increases the values of employee stock options, bonuses, mutual funds, IRA's and retirement plans, which everyone benefits from.

While hiring staff if the demand isn't there is irresponsible misuse of shareholder wealth.

Wealth inequality isn't necessarily a problem - that's the politics of envy. Our poor are much wealthier than the poor in most of the planet. If you're comfortably off what does it matter if someone else is super rich?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

Most of that increase simply goes straight back into financial transactions, not the real economy.

And equality is indeed a problem because greater disparity creates bottle necks in access to standard of living. Other countries in Europe which have far less wealth disparity have far greater standards of living than we do, especially among the lower classes. So your last claim is totally specious as well.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 1:12 pm

despite having more inequality.

Social engineering is a demotivator for success.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

have no clue what it's like there.

We are MUCH better off deapite being more unequal.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 2:59 pm

I've been to most of Europe (I actually lived in Spain for a while). I've spent time in Australia, New Zealand and Canada as well. I only wish that we had the same kind of quality of life they do over there. If most Americans knew how good it could be, how much security they could have, they'd rebel. Unfortunately, very few Americans travel -only 20% or so even have a passport. And the ones who are least likely to travel are precisely the ones most hurt by our system. We've even seriously looked into leaving the country. Unfortunately with our work and family situations at this point, it's nearly impossible for us to move without some seriously negative repercussions. If I was starting over again, I'd be in Australia or New Zealand in a heartbeat. As it is though, my only realistic option is to stay here and fight for change.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 11, 2011 @ 8:42 am

about how little he earns. It seems unlikely that someone with so few means would have traveled to the extent to allow for credible comparisons to be made.

Anyway, most people perceive things overseas according to their opinions and beliefs. So you go to Spain and claim to see more equality (which is probably true) and a better standard of living (which is probably false). I might come away with very different opinions.

There are some more affluent (per head) places than the US but they are generally small places like Switzerland, Bermuda, Dubai, Luxemburg etc.

I stand by my contention that inequality doesn't drive poverty. The average family income in the US is about 45K per annum. Not huge but a fortune in most of the rest of the world. The fact that it doesn't do much in the Bay area only matters if you insist on living in an area you can't really afford.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 11, 2011 @ 10:17 am