Only about 3% of All Workers at any one time make the Minimum Wage

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 24th, 2014

Week in Review

If you’ve heard the left talk about the urgent need to raise the minimum wage you would think half the nation is languishing under pauper’s wages.  While rich business owners are lighting their cigars with twenty dollar bills.  As they rest their feet on the back of a minimum wage worker.  But it’s not quite that bad (see The Cost of the Minimum Wage: $20 for a Burger posted 4/24/2014 on E21).

McDonald’s high turnover rate shows that most of its workers are using the job as a stepping stone to other careers or as a transition position between jobs. One in every eight U.S. workers has been a member of McDonald’s 750,000 person workforce. Economics21 director Diana Furchtgott-Roth entered the workforce scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins at about $3 an hour. She never intended to have a career in ice cream…

Ninety-seven percent of American workers make more than minimum wage, not out of the kindness of employers’ hearts but because this is the only way that employers can retain employees. Low-skill workers need jobs, wages, and work experience too, and if the minimum wage rises, these people will be priced out of a job.

So only about 3% of all workers at any one time make the minimum wage.  And the 3% from 10 years ago are most likely included in the 97% of workers today.  Because minimum wage jobs are entry-level jobs.  And what makes them so valuable is their low pay.  For these workers gain some skills and work experience.  And then get the hell out and join the 97%.  And go on to do great things.  Even become CEOs and directors.  Which they never would have done had they stayed at those minimum wage jobs.  Which they might have had if the minimum wage was a more comfortable living wage.


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The NHS drops Life-Saving Drug as it would lead to more Rationing and longer Wait Times

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 22nd, 2014

Week in Review

In 1954 almost 35% of all workers belonged to a union.  Since then that number has fallen to about 11.3%.  As the high cost of union contracts chased manufacturing out of the country.  Today the majority of workers belonging to a union work in the public sector.  Where they enter contract negotiations with the taxpayers to secure better pay and benefits than most taxpayers have.  Of course during these negotiations the taxpayers have no say.  As politicians and unions hammer out these contracts.  Unlike trade unions.  Where the people paying the workers actually have a say.

This is another reason why national health care is the Holy Grail for the left.  They want to unionize all those health care workers.  Pay them more.  And deduct union dues from their pay to fund their political activities.  Leaving less money for patient health care.  But they’re okay with that.  But they’re not okay with a pharmaceutical company charging a lot of money for life-saving drugs.  Which, also, leaves less money for patient health care (see Breast cancer drug turned down for NHS use due to high cost by Sarah Boseley posted 4/22/2014 on the guardian).

A Herceptin-style drug that can offer some women with advanced breast cancer nearly six months of extra life has been turned down for use in the NHS because of its high cost.

In draft guidance now open to consultation, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) blames the manufacturers, Roche, who are asking for more than £90,000 per patient, which is far more than any comparable treatment…

“We apply as much flexibility as we can in approving new treatments, but the reality is that given its price and what it offers to patients, it will displace more health benefit which the NHS could achieve in other ways, than it will offer to patients with breast cancer.”

Paying health care providers more will not improve the quality of health care.  Unless health workers are doing a half-assed job now.  Which I don’t believe they are.  But Roche is helping people with death sentences live another six months or so.  That’s a pretty remarkable thing.  If the NHS can’t afford this wonder drug perhaps they should use their own.  Of course they can’t.  Why?  Because they don’t have one.  For they didn’t pour hundreds of millions of dollars in developing this drug and the all those drugs that failed.

Developing a miracle drug is costly.  Money the pharmaceuticals pay up front.  Because their employees don’t work for free.  Which is why these drugs cost so much.  That high price pays for all of the costs that went into this drug.  For all of the drugs that failed.  And provides a return for investors.  Who give these pharmaceutical companies hundreds of millions of dollars up front just in the hope they may develop a miracle drug.  Which is the only way we should invest in these miracle drugs.  Because these investors will only take a chance on a good thing.  Unlike government.  Which has a history of backing the wrong investment time after time.  And pouring good money after bad.

It’s a tough choice to make.  Take health care benefits away from other patients to pay for a miracle drug for those dying from cancer.  Or let people die 6 months or so sooner.  One thing for sure, though, unionizing our health care workers won’t give either of these patients more health care benefits.  It will only leave less money for everything else.  Leading to rationing.  And longer wait times.  Because less money will pay for fewer things.  Making those other things scarcer.  Forcing people to wait longer and pay more for treatment.


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Women and Men in the Exact Same Jobs are earning the Exact Same Income

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 13th, 2014

Week in Review

The Democrats are running out of ways to buy votes.  Which they desperately need as more people suffer the ravages of Obamacare.  Who will be entering the voting booth angry this fall.  Looking for someone to blame for taking away the health insurance and doctors they liked and wanted to keep.  And being that Obamacare was passed on purely partisan lines (no Republicans voted for it) the Democrats are sweating bullets as the midterm elections approach.  So they turn to an oldie but goldie.  The pay gap lie (see What pay gap? Young women out-earn men in cities, GOP pundit claims posted 4/8/2014 on PolitiFact).

We watched the debate play out between conservative pundit Sabrina Schaeffer and liberal pundit Elizabeth Plank on MSNBC’s The Reid Report, and again later between former White House adviser Anita Dunn and conservative pundit Genevieve Wood on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper.

“If you compare women to men in the same job with similar background, similar experiences that they bring to the table, the wage gap all but disappears,” Wood said. “Women have made great strides. Instead of celebrating that, this is a political year, the White House wants to portray this war on women…”

PolitiFact has given you the nuts and bolts about the 77 cents statistic — you can read the two most important works in this area here and here. Basically, there is a wage gap, but it tends to disappear when you compare women and men in the exact same jobs who have the same levels of experience and education.

Well, there it is.  Equal pay for equal work.  When men and women have the same education, experience and skills doing the same job there is no pay gap.  Case closed.  In fact, single women without children are actually earning more than single men.  Which is the key to this argument.  For a woman’s earnings fall with interruptions in her career as she takes time off to have children.  Or works reduced hours to care for her children.  This is where the pay gap comes in.  When you compare apples and oranges.  Comparing women who take time off or cut back their working hours or take lower paying jobs that allow her to spend more time with her children to men who don’t.  Because they’re single.  Or are married and have a wife who takes time off to spend more time with their children.

In fact, women are making great strides.  At the expense of men (see Is the Gender Pay Gap Closing or Has Progress Stalled? by Josh Zumbrun posted 4/11/2014 on The Wall Street Journal).

“There’s no question that one of the things that ‘77 cents’ doesn’t emphasize is that there’s been enormous gains,” said Harvard University economist Claudia Goldin.

Looking at the data above shows three clear trends that have emerged since the 1970s:

1) The spread between the sexes narrowed between 1970 and 2000. It has made little progress since.

2) Men have made no income gains in over four decades. Adjusted for inflation, men earn less today than they did in 1972.

3) Women continued to make gains until the recession began. Whatever forces slowed the income growth of men from 1970 to 2000 did not halt the income growth of women.

Simple economics.  Supply and demand.  Men were making more and more every year.  Until the Sexual Revolution.  When women began to flood the labor market.  With more labor available the cost of labor fell.  So as women gained education and experience the supply of educated and experienced workers grew.  Allowing employers to pay less for these now more plentiful educated and experienced workers.  Which is why as women enjoyed income gains men saw their income decline when adjusted for inflation.  Simple economics.  Supply and demand.

A long time ago in high school chemistry I remember my lab partner did not complete a homework assignment that was part 1 of a 2-part grade.  There was a homework part.  And a lab part.  Being a nice person I asked the teacher if we could share the grade on the homework part (which I had received an ‘A’ on.  Or a 4.0).  The teacher was more than generous.  He said, “Sure.  A 4.0 divided by 2 equals a 2.0 for each.”  Or, a ‘C’ for each.  Suffice it to say my lab partner did not get a 2.0 on the homework that went undone.

This is why men are earning less.  Because women have entered the workforce.  The revenue businesses use to pay their employees didn’t increase like the number of educated and experienced workers did.  So the amount of available revenue for pay and benefits was shared by more people.  Each getting less than a man did before the Sexual Revolution (when adjusted for inflation).  So instead of a single paycheck supporting a family these days it now takes two paychecks.  Because men are making less today since women have lowered the price of labor.  By increasing the supply of labor.  Not because they are paid less.  But because there are so many workers for so few jobs that businesses don’t have to pay as much as they once did to hire people.  Which is more to blame for pressure on wages than any pay gap.


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Minimum Wage Jobs are allowing Teenagers to afford Smartphones and Tablets

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 12th, 2014

Week in Review

There’s a lot of talk about raising the minimum wage on the left.  As they are running out of ways to buy votes.  And they feel they can buy a lot by paying unskilled and inexperienced workers closer to what people with a college education make.  But minimum wage jobs are entry level jobs.  They’re the first rung on the career ladder.  The left loves to point to grown adults trying to raise their families on a minimum wage. As sad as that is the minimum wage isn’t supposed to raise families.  It can supplement a family’s income by allowing a parent to work part-time while the kids are at school.  But this is extra money.  To help cover some other expenses.  Like these (see More than 60% of U.S. teens have their own iPhone and iPad, prefer Apple products to the competition: study by AFP RELAXNEWS posted 4/9/2014 on the Daily News).

Over 60 percent of teenagers already own an iPhone and excitement is growing over the much-rumored launch of an ‘iWatch…’

… teens with an average age of 16.4 years and reveals that gadgets and electronics currently account for just 8 percent of their spending, with games systems and games accounting for a further 7 percent.

And of that small percentage, Apple products appear to account for the largest outlay. Not only do 61 percent of teens say that they own an iPhone (up from 55% in Spring 2013), 67 percent say they’re planning to purchase an iPhone within the next six months. And it’s a similar story with tablets. Piper Jaffray says that 60 percent of US teens currently own a tablet and of that group, 66 percent are using an iPad. When asked, 66 percent of non-tablet-owning teens have earmarked an iPad as a future purchase…

Over recent years, branded headphones have exploded in popularity and 56 percent of teens are planning to purchase a set over the next six months.

According to the BLS, approximately 2.5% of all workers earn at or below the minimum wage (people who get tips can be paid less than the minimum wage as their tips plus their wages takes them over the minimum wage).  And about a third of these workers are teenagers.   Yet over half of these teenagers can afford costly smartphones and tablets.  And the very expensive monthly cellular charges that make them work.  Also, over half of all teenagers are going to buy an expensive set of headphones.  Which can only mean one of 3 things.  The minimum wage is sufficient to buy all of these things.  They have a parent working a second (and perhaps, a minimum wage) job to help their kids pay for these.  Or 60% of all teenagers have rich parents.  Is it worth raising the cost of small business owners (who will hire fewer people when people are more costly) so about a third of all minimum wage workers can more easily afford their toys?

As far as single parents struggling to raise their family on a minimum wage, is it right to diminish the value of a higher education by paying unskilled and inexperienced workers more?  Will people still put in the extra work to get an education or training and delay having fun (our young people, not those who find themselves by circumstances beyond their control working a minimum wage job due to a divorce, death in the family, etc.) to earn the skills necessary for a higher paying job when they can get nearly the same amount by taking the easy way?  People say they hate these jobs.  Will paying them more so they have no incentive ever to leave these jobs make them hate them any less?  Or will they be locked into these miserable jobs for the rest of their miserable lives?  A lot of people take pay cuts to leave jobs they hate.  So getting paid more for a job they hate isn’t going to make them hate that job any less.

Raising the minimum wage is not going to change anything.  Other than reduce the amount of jobs available for the unskilled and inexperienced.  No.  The best way to help people earn more is to create more jobs.  For when the economy is creating jobs there will be fewer people available to fill them.  Which will cause employers to bid up wages so workers choose their jobs out of the many that are available.  But when the economy is so bad that only minimum wage, entry level jobs are available there will be few people moving up the career ladder.


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The Austrian School of Economics

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 3rd, 2014

Economics 101

(Originally published February 27th, 2012)

Because of the Unpredictable Human Element in all Economic Exchanges the Austrian School is more Laissez-Faire

Name some of the great inventions economists gave us.  The computer?  The Internet?  The cell phone?  The car?  The jumbo jet?  Television?  Air conditioning?  The automatic dishwasher?  No.  Amazingly, economists did not invent any of these brilliant inventions.  And economists didn’t predict any of these inventions.  Not a one.  Despite how brilliant they are.  Well, brilliant by their standard.  In their particular field.  For economists really aren’t that smart.  Their ‘expertise’ is in the realm of the social sciences.  The faux sciences where people try to quantify the unquantifiable.  Using mathematical equations to explain and predict human behavior.  Which is what economists do.  Especially Keynesian economists.  Who think they are smarter than people.  And markets.

But there is a school of economic thought that doesn’t believe we can quantify human activity.  The Austrian school.  Where Austrian economics began.  In Vienna.  Where the great Austrian economists gathered.  Carl Menger.  Ludwig von Mises.  And Friedrich Hayek.  To name a few.  Who understood that economics is the sum total of millions of people making individual human decisions.  Human being key.  And why we can’t reduce economics down to a set of mathematical equations.  Because you can’t quantify human behavior.  Contrary to what the Keynesians believe.  Which is why these two schools are at odds with each other.  With people even donning the personas of Keynes and Hayek to engage in economic debate.

Keynesian economics is more mainstream than the Austrian school.  Because it calls for the government to interfere with market forces.  To manipulate them.  To make markets produce different results from those they would have if left alone.  Something governments love to do.  Especially if it calls for taxing and spending.  Which Keynesian economics highly encourage.  To fix market ‘failures’.  And recessions.  By contrast, because of the unpredictable human element in all economic exchanges, the Austrian school is more laissez-faire.  They believe more in the separation of the government from things economic.  Economic exchanges are best left to the invisible hand.  What Adam Smith called the sum total of the millions of human decisions made by millions of people.  Who are maximizing their own economic well being.  And when we do we maximize the economic well being of the economy as a whole.  For the Austrian economist does not believe he or she is smarter than people.  Or markets.  Which is why an economist never gave us any brilliant invention.  Nor did their equations predict any inventor inventing a great invention.  And why economists have day jobs.  For if they were as brilliant and prophetic as they claim to be they could see into the future and know which stocks to buy to get rich so they could give up their day jobs.  When they’re able to do that we should start listening to them.  But not before.

Low Interest Rates cause Malinvestment and Speculation which puts Banks in Danger of Financial Collapse

Keynesian economics really took off with central banking.  And fractional reserve banking.  Monetary tools to control the money supply.  That in the Keynesian world was supposed to end business cycles and recessions as we knew them.  The Austrian school argues that using these monetary tools only distorts the business cycle.  And makes recessions worse.  Here’s how it works.  The central bank lowers interest rates by increasing the money supply (via open market transactions, lowering reserve requirements in fractional reserve banking or by printing money).  Lower interest rates encourage people to borrow money to buy houses, cars, kitchen appliances, home theater systems, etc.  This new economic activity encourages businesses to hire new workers to meet the new demand.  Ergo, recession over.  Simple math, right?  Only there’s a bit of a problem.  Some of our worst recessions have come during the era of Keynesian economics.  Including the worst recession of all time.  The Great Depression.  Which proves the Austrian point that the use of Keynesian policies to end recessions only makes recessions worse.  (Economists debate the causes of the Great Depression to this day.  Understanding the causes is not the point here.  The point is that it happened.  When recessions were supposed to be a thing of the past when using Keynesian policies.)

The problem is that these are not real economic expansions.  They’re artificial ones.  Created by cheap credit.  Which the central bank creates by forcing interest rates below actual market interest rates.  Which causes a whole host of problems.  In particular corrupting the banking system.  Banks offer interest rates to encourage people to save their money for future use (like retirement) instead of spending it in the here and now.  This is where savings (or investment capital) come from.  Banks pay depositors interest on their deposits.  And then loan out this money to others who need investment capital to start businesses.  To expand businesses.  To buy businesses.  Whatever.  They borrow money to invest so they can expand economic activity.  And make more profits.

But investment capital from savings is different from investment capital from an expansion of the money supply.  Because businesses will act as if the trend has shifted from consumption (spending now) to investment (spending later).  So they borrow to expand operations.  All because of the false signal of the artificially low interest rates.  They borrow money.  Over-invest.  And make bad investments.  Even speculate.  What Austrians call malinvestments.  But there was no shift from consumption to investment.  Savings haven’t increased.  In fact, with all those new loans on the books the banks see a shift in the other direction.  Because they have loaned out more money while the savings rate of their depositors did not change.  Which produced on their books a reduction in the net savings rate.  Leaving them more dangerously leveraged than before the credit expansion.  Also, those lower interest rates also decrease the interest rate on savings accounts.  Discouraging people from saving their money.  Which further reduces the savings rate of depositors.  Finally, those lower interest rates reduce the income stream on their loans.  Leaving them even more dangerously leveraged.  Putting them at risk of financial collapse should many of their loans go bad.

Keynesian Economics is more about Power whereas the Austrian School is more about Economics

These artificially low interest rates fuel malinvestment and speculation.  Cheap credit has everyone, flush with borrowed funds, bidding up prices (real estate, construction, machinery, raw material, etc.).  This alters the natural order of things.  The automatic pricing mechanism of the free market.  And reallocates resources to these higher prices.  Away from where the market would have otherwise directed them.  Creating great shortages and high prices in some areas.  And great surpluses of stuff no one wants to buy at any price in other areas.  Sort of like those Soviet stores full of stuff no one wanted to buy while people stood in lines for hours to buy toilet paper and soap.  (But not quite that bad.)  Then comes the day when all those investments don’t produce any returns.  Which leaves these businesses, investors and speculators with a lot of debt with no income stream to pay for it.  They drove up prices.  Created great asset bubbles.  Overbuilt their capacity.  Bought assets at such high prices that they’ll never realize a gain from them.  They know what’s coming next.  And in some darkened office someone pours a glass of scotch and murmurs, “My God, what have we done?”

The central bank may try to delay this day of reckoning.  By keeping interest rates low.  But that only allows asset bubbles to get bigger.  Making the inevitable correction more painful.  But eventually the central bank has to step in and raise interest rates.  Because all of that ‘bidding up of prices’ finally makes its way down to the consumer level.  And sparks off some nasty inflation.  So rates go up.  Credit becomes more expensive.  Often leaving businesses and speculators to try and refinance bad debt at higher rates.  Debt that has no income stream to pay for it.  Either forcing business to cut costs elsewhere.  Or file bankruptcy.  Which ripples through the banking system.  Causing a lot of those highly leveraged banks to fail with them.  Thus making the resulting recession far more painful and more long-lasting than necessary.  Thanks to Keynesian economics.  At least, according to the Austrian school.  And much of the last century of history.

The Austrian school believes the market should determine interest rates.  Not central bankers.  They’re not big fans of fractional reserve banking, either.  Which only empowers central bankers to cause all of their mischief.  Which is why Keynesians don’t like Austrians.  Because Keynesians, and politicians, like that power.  For they believe that they are smarter than the people making economic exchanges.  Smarter than the market.  And they just love having control over all of that money.  Which comes in pretty handy when playing politics.  Which is ultimately the goal of Keynesian economics.  Whereas the Austrian school is more about economics.


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Henry Ford, Bill Hewlett & Dave Packard, Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak, Howard Schultz, Ray Kroc and Richard Branson

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 25th, 2014

 History 101

(Originally published May 8th, 2012)

Capitalism allows Entrepreneurs to bring their Great Ideas to Life

Entrepreneurs start with an idea.  Of how to do something better.  Or to create something we must have that we don’t yet know about.  They think.  They create.  They have boundless creative energies.  And the economic system that best taps that energy is capitalism.  The efficient use of capital.  Using capital to make profits.  And then using those profits to make capital.  So these ideas of genius that flicker in someone’s head can take root.  And grow.  Creating jobs.  And taxable economic activity.  Creating wealth for investors and workers.  Improving the general economy.  Pulling us out of recessions.  Improving our standard of living.  And making the world a better place.  Because of an idea.  That capitalism brought to life.

Entrepreneurs Risked Capital to bring Great Things to Market and to Create Jobs

Henry Ford established the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899.  Which failed.  He reorganized it into the Henry Ford Company in 1901.  Ford had a fight with his financial backers.  And quit.  Taking the Ford name with him.  And $900.  The Henry Ford Company was renamed Cadillac and went on to great success.  Ford tried again and partnered with Alexander Malcomson.  After running short of funds they reorganized and incorporated Ford Motor Company in 1903 with 12 investors.  The company was successful.  Some internal friction and an unexpected death of the president put Ford in charge.  Ford Motor built the Model A, the Model K and the Model S.  Then came the Model T.  And the moving assembly line.  Mass production greatly increased the number of cars he could build.  But it was monotonous work for the assembly line worker.  Turnover was high.  So to keep good workers he doubled pay in 1914 and reduced the 9-hour shift to 8 hours.  This increased productivity and lowered the cost per Model T.  Allowing those who built the cars to buy what they built.  In 2011 the Ford Motor Company employed approximately 164,000 people worldwide.

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard established Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 1939.  In a garage.  They raised $538 in start-up capital.  In that garage they created their first successful commercial product.  A precision audio oscillator.  Used in electronic testing.  It was better and cheaper than the competition.  Walt Disney Productions bought this oscillator to certify Fantasound surround sound systems in theaters playing the Disney movie Fantasia.  From this garage HP grew and gave us calculators, desktop and laptop computers, inkjet and laser printers, all-in-one multifunction printer/scanner/faxes, digital cameras, etc.  In 2010 HP employed approximately 324,600 employees worldwide.  (Steve Wozniak was working for HP when he designed the Apple I.  Which he helped fund by selling his HP calculator.  Wozniak offered his design to HP.  They passed.)

Steve Jobs had an idea to sell a computer.  He convinced his friend since high school, Steve Wozniak, to join him.  They sold some of their things to raise some capital.  Jobs sold his Volkswagen van.  Wozniak sold his HP scientific calculator.  They raised about $1,300.  And formed Apple.  They created the Apple I home computer in 1976 in Steve Jobs’ garage.  From these humble beginnings Apple gave us the iPad, iPhone, iPod, iMac, MacBook, Mac Pro and iTunes.  In 2011 Apple had approximately 60,400 full time employees.

Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker opened the first Starbucks in 1971 in Seattle, Washington.  About 10 years later Howard Schultz drank his first cup of Starbucks coffee.  And he liked it.  Within a year he joined Starbucks.  Within another year while traveling in Italy he experienced the Italian coffeehouse.  He loved it.  And had an idea.  Bring the Italian coffeehouse to America.  A place to meet people in the community and converse.  Sort of like a bar.  Only where the people stayed sober.  Soon millions of people were enjoying these tasty and expensive coffee beverages at Starbucks throughout the world.  In 2011 Starbucks employed approximately 149,000 people.

Ray Kroc sold Prince Castle Multi-Mixer milk shakes mixers to a couple of brothers who owned a restaurant.  Who made hamburgers fast.  Richard and Maurice McDonald had implemented the Speedee Service System.  It was the dawn of fast food.  Kroc was impressed.  Facing tough competition in the mixer business he opened a McDonald’s franchise in 1955.  Bringing the grand total of McDonald’s restaurants to 9.  He would go on to buy out the McDonald brothers (some would say unscrupulously).  Today there are over 30,000 stores worldwide.  In 2010 McDonald’s employed approximately 400,000 people.

Richard Branson started a magazine at 16.  He then sold records out of a church crypt at discount prices.  The beginning of Virgin Records.  In 1971 he opened a record store.  He launched a record label in 1972.  And a recording studio.  Signing the Sex Pistols.  And Culture Club.  In 1984 he formed an airline.  Virgin Atlantic Airways.  In 1999 he went into the cellular phone business.  Virgin Mobile.  In 2004 he founded Virgin Galactic.  To enter the space tourism business.  His Virgin Group now totals some 400 companies.  And employs about 50,000 people.

The Decline of Capitalism and the Rise of the Welfare State caused the European Sovereign Debt Crisis

And we could go on.  For every big corporation out there will have a similar beginning.  Corporations that use capital efficiently.  Bringing great things to market.  Introducing us to new things.  Always making our lives better.  And more comfortable.  One thing you will not find is a great success story like this starting in the Soviet Union.  The People’s Republic of China (back in the days of Mao Zedong).  East Germany (before the Berlin Wall fell).  North Korea.  Or Cuba.  No.  The command economies of communist countries basically froze in time.  Where there was no innovation.  No ideas brought to life.  Because the government kind of frowned on that sort of thing.

There is a reason why the West won the Cold War.  And why we won that war without the Warsaw Pack and NATO forces fighting World War III.  And why was this?  Because we didn’t need to.  For the communist world simply could not withstand the forces of living well in the West.  Whenever they could their people escaped to the West.  To escape their nasty, short and brutish lives.  In the command economies of their communist states.  Where the state planners failed to provide for their people.  Even failing to feed their people.  The Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and North Korea all suffered population reducing famines.  But not in the West.  Where we are not only well fed.  But our poor suffer from obesity.  Which is not a good thing.  But it sure beats dying in a famine.

Sadly, though, the West is moving towards the state planning of their one time communist foes.  Social democracies are pushing nations in the European Union to bankruptcy.  Japan’s generous welfare state is about to implode as an aging population begins to retire.  Even in the United States there has been a growth of government into the private sector economy like never before.  Which is causing the Great Recession to linger on.  As it caused Japan’s lost decade to become two decades.  And counting.  As it is prolonging the European sovereign debt crisis.  With no end in sight.  The cause of all their problems?  The decline of capitalism.  And the rise of the welfare state.  Which just kills the entrepreneurial spirit.  And the creation of jobs.  Which is one cure for all that ails these countries.  And the only one.  For only robust economic activity can pull a country out of recession.  And for that you need new jobs.  And the entrepreneurial spirit.  In short, you need capitalism.


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Henry Ford built a Strong Middle Class with Nonunion Labor

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 9th, 2014

Week in Review

President Obama’s new message is the horror of income inequality.  As his friends on Wall Street and in Hollywood make so much more money than the ‘folks’ do.  Of course, if it weren’t for his abysmal economic policies the ‘folks’ would be able to get a better-paying job.  Since he’s been president his policies have destroyed some 11,301,000 jobs (see The BLS Employment Situation Summary for December 2013 posted 1/13/2014 on PITHOCRATES).  The Affordable Care Act, new taxation, costly regulatory policies and his support for union labor all help to kill jobs.  Forcing a lot of people to work a couple of low-paying part-time jobs to pay the bills.  While his friends on Wall Street and in Hollywood have never been richer.

The economy wouldn’t as bad as it is if President Obama didn’t attack business so much.  And, instead, embraced it.  Like Henry Ford (see The Internet Is the Greatest Legal Facilitator of Inequality in Human History by Bill Davidow posted 1/28/2014 on The Atlantic).

In the past, the most efficient businesses created lots of middle class jobs. In 1914, Henry Ford shocked the industrial world by doubling the pay of assembly line workers to $5 a day. Ford wasn’t merely being generous. He helped to create the middle class, by reasoning that a higher paid workforce would be able them to buy more cars and thus would grow his business.

Yes, Henry Ford did want to pay people enough so they could afford to buy his cars.  But this did something else.  It attracted the best workers to his company.  Because of the incentive of the higher pay.  And if they were lucky enough to have gotten hired in they busted their butts so they could keep those high-paying jobs.  It was a meritocracy.  If a worker wasn’t performing they got rid of that worker.  And offered that job to another person willing to bust their butt to keep that job.

Of course, the unions changed all of that.  The Keynesians will point to Ford to justify their consumption policies (putting more money into consumers’ pockets as the be-all and end-all of their economic policies).  And NOT on how attracting the best workers with the best pay helped make Ford the most efficient.  Allowing Ford to produce cars at prices working people could afford.  Once the unions came in they decreased efficiencies.  Slowed down those assembly lines.  And raised the cost of cars.  So only unionized working people could afford them.  While most other working people had to settle on used cars.  Unless they had a relative that worked for one of the automotive companies that could give them a car at an automotive worker’s discounted price.

Surprisingly, the much-vilified Walmart probably does more to help middle class families raise their median income than the more productive Amazon. Walmart hires about one employee for every $200,000 in sales, which translates to roughly three times more jobs per dollar of sales than Amazon.

Why do some vilify Wal-Mart?  Because like Henry Ford was in the beginning they are nonunion.  Helping them not only to hire the best workers but to provide goods at a lower price so those not in a union can afford to buy them.  So Wal-Mart helps middle class families in two ways.  They help to raise the median family income.  And they allow that median family income go further.  Perhaps the greatest weapon in the arsenal to fight income inequality.  As they help those not in privileged jobs (such as a UAW job or a government job) to live as well as someone in those privileged jobs.


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Minimum Wage, Obamacare and Unintended Consequences

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 3rd, 2014

Economics 101

The Affordable Care Act greatly increased the Cost of Unskilled and Inexperienced Workers

The Affordable Care Act has changed the employment landscape.  In particular it changed a lot of people from full-time employees to part-time employees.  Especially at entry-level jobs.  Or minimum wage jobs.  Jobs that may be physically demanding but require minimum skill or experience.  Making them ideal for unskilled and inexperienced teenagers entering the workforce.

Not everyone, though, is a teenager in these minimum wage, entry-level jobs.  Some adults find themselves in them, too.  Older adults.  Single parents.  Widows.  Widowers.  People whose circumstances have changed.  And who don’t have the skills or experience for other employment.  So they find themselves struggling to get by on their entry-level, minimum wage job.

Then the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare) made their struggle more difficult.  For it required employers to offer health insurance to anyone working 30 hours or more per week.  Greatly increasing the cost of unskilled and inexperienced teenagers.  And their other entry-level, minimum wage workers.  So they did the only logical thing.  They cut their hours below 30 hours per week.  Shrinking the paychecks of both teenager.  And those who are struggling to live on their minimum wage paychecks.

The Unintended Consequences of Obamacare changed Full-Time Workers to Part-Time

We call it unintended consequences.  When a government program to solve one problem creates another problem.  In an attempt to give people with insufficient income to buy health insurance Obamacare forced their employers to provide health insurance for them.  This caused employers to cut hours for these employees.  To keep the cost of their entry-level, minimum wage workers from rising.  Thus reducing their insufficient income even further.

The rollout of Obamacare did not go well.  In the effort to give people affordable health insurance a lot of people actually lost the health insurance they liked and wanted to keep.  Another unintended consequence.  (Unless the Democrats designed the Affordable Care Act to destroy the private health insurance industry as many believe then things are going exactly as planned as people may soon start demanding that the government step in and provide national health care).  Causing a bit of a problem for the political party that gave us Obamacare.  The Democrats.  In the upcoming midterm elections.

It’s one thing causing people with individual insurance policies to lose their health insurance that may or may not have voted for you.  But to further impoverish the impoverished working those entry-level, minimum wage jobs was another.  For thanks to endless class warfare the Democrats put the impoverished into the Democrat camp.  So they needed to do something to replace the income they lost when Obamacare changed them from full-time to part-time employees.  And chose further class warfare.  By forcing those ‘rich’ employers to pay their entry-level, minimum wage workers a ‘living wage’.  By increasing the federal minimum wage.

Obama wants to Raise the Minimum Wage to replace Earnings lost when Obamacare made Full-Time Workers Part-Time

In the State of the Union address President Obama said he wanted to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10.  But why $10.10?  The current federal minimum wage is $7.25.  And if you earned that working 40 hours each week for 50 weeks (assuming you take 2 weeks off over the year for personal reasons, holidays and vacations) that comes to $14,500 per year.  Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 brings those annual earnings to $20,200.  Or $5,700 more at the higher wage rate.  It’s a lot of money.  But probably not enough for someone to quit a second job.  For if someone is working 20 hours a week at a second job that would come to an additional $7,250 a year.  If they work 30 hours a week in a second job that would come to an additional $10,875 a year.  And some people have to work 70 hours or more a week to approach a ‘living wage’ when they don’t have the skills or experience for a job that pays more than an entry-level, minimum wage job.  So raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour probably won’t solve everyone’s financial woes.  But it will do something else.

If people who were working 40 hours a week went to working only 29 hours a week after Obamacare they would lose 11 hours of pay.  At the current minimum wage that comes to $79.75 less in their paycheck each week.  A significant amount for someone struggling to make it on something less than a ‘living wage’.  But look at what happens when we raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for those 29 hours.  If we multiply the additional $2.85 per hour to those 29 hours that comes to an additional $82.65 a week.  Which is a little more than the $79.75 they lost when Obamacare cut their hours.  So it would appear that the new push to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 is to put the money the Obama administration took out of these workers’ paychecks back into their paychecks before the fall midterm elections.  So they still won’t be angry and vote Republican because of what the Democrats and their Affordable Care Act did to their paychecks.

They want to sound compassionate to those with insufficient income by wanting to raise the minimum wage to replace what they took away from them with Obamacare.  To give these people a ‘living wage’.  For the current minimum wage is actually worth about 20% less than it was during the Reagan administration.  When it was $3.35.  Wait a minute, you say.  How can $7.25 be worth less than $3.35?  Because of the Democrats’ embrace of Keynesian economics.  The government wants to print money to spend.  To provide economic activity when the private sector is not.  And when President Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold in 1971 they ramped up those printing presses.  And have been depreciating the dollar ever since.  Because they made the dollar worth less and less over the years the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage fell.  Even when people were earning more dollars.  And raising the minimum wage won’t address this problem.  Only voting the Keynesians out of office will.


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Corporate Politics, Bureaucracy and Obamacare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 5th, 2013

Politics 101

(Originally published April 4th, 2013)

You won’t find many Union Workers filling out TPS Reports

In the movie Office Space we see how frustrating it is to work in a big corporation.  The office politics.  The bureaucracy.  The policies and procedures.  The frustration of having to answer to 8 different bosses after making a mistake.   Bumping heads with management at all levels.  And the mind-numbing frustration of getting your paperwork right.

Anyone who has ever worked in an office no doubt had their own TPS report moments.  And dealt with their own Bill Lumbergh.  So we laugh at poor Peter.  For we’ve been there.  And know his frustration.  For there is nothing worse than trying to work through a company’s bureaucracy.  Or dealing with layers of management that often appeared to be working at cross purposes.  And suffering under bad bosses.

Which is the whole purpose of labor unions.  To protect their workers from a business’ management.  And bad bosses.  Because unions say if they don’t management will just abuse their workers.  So unions shield workers from these unfeeling and inefficient bureaucracies.  Who are always introducing new policies and procedures to improve business efficiencies.  Things like TPS reports.  Which unions say only makes things worse for the worker.  So you won’t find many union workers filling out TPS reports.  Just the non-union office workers.

Dealing with a Bureaucrat is like a Grizzled Sergeant with 20 Years Experience reporting to a Junior Officer

Junior officers get no respect.  Comedian George Carlin served in the Air Force.  And said a common joke was to say when someone broke wind, “Captain who?”  They get no respect because they are bureaucrats.  They come out of their officer training with only book-learning.  While enlisted people have been gaining experience and learning how to do things on the job.  Then these junior officers come in with their book-learning.  And start telling these enlisted people how to do their jobs.  Despite these junior officers having never done their jobs.  Or understanding how to do their jobs.  But they will tell these people how to do their jobs better.

This is less of a problem in combat.  As junior officers typically have a short lifespan in combat.  For all the book-learning cannot replace the experience gained in actual combat.  Which is why lieutenants may command units but it is the grizzled sergeants with the combat experience that lead men into battle.  And a smart junior officer will learn everything he can from his senior sergeants.

Small business owners feel the same way about government.  For a lot of small business owners often go into business after working for someone else.  They’re like those grizzled sergeants in the military.  They’ve learned and done pretty much everything in a business.  Then decided to quit and start their own business.  And one of the first things they have to deal with is the mind-numbing bureaucracy of government at all levels.  City, county, state and federal.  A bunch of bureaucrats who never ran a business.  Who have no experience in their field.  And here they are.  Telling them how to run their businesses.  Like a junior officer out of the academy trying to tell a grizzled sergeant with 20 years experience how to do his job.

Under Obamacare Professional Bureaucrats will tell our Doctors how to administer our Health Care

In these complicated times if there is one thing everyone can agree on it’s this.  Bad managers, bosses, and officers are insufferable.  No one likes putting together ‘TPS reports’.  Or being told by 8 different bosses that they did something wrong.  And they sure don’t like people who don’t understand the first thing about their job or business telling them how they should do their job or run their business.  They especially hate people that can cite rules and regulations by chapter and verse who mete out some penalty or fine because they can’t cite those same rules and regulations by chapter and verse.

This will be the world of Obamacare.  And as much as EVERYONE hates these things at their workplace there are some who still want these same clueless bureaucrats and politicians to take over health care.  As if somehow these people who don’t know the first thing about treating sick people can do a better job than the grizzled veterans working in the health care industry.  Who spend more and more time filling out paperwork these days than actually seeing patients.  And the last thing they want is an even more bureaucratic system where they will have to report to 8 different people and agencies to treat a patient.  Where bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the IRS will have their own coversheets for their ‘TPS reports’.

In the movie The Usual Suspects the character played by Kevin Spacey said, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”  For if you don’t fear the devil you may live a life more in line with the devil’s wishes.  Making it easier for the devil to get your soul.  Government is a little like that.  For it has a horrible track record of doing anything right.  Even in the finest military in the world the bureaucrat side of the military pays $100 for a $15.00 toilet seat.  And yet the government has tricked so many people into believing they want more government in their lives.  Even though government is nothing but the managers and bosses people hate where they work.  Bureaucrats who tell others how they should do their job by citing rules and regulations by chapter and verse.  But who really don’t know what you do.  Or how you do it.  Now these professional bureaucrats will tell our doctors how to administer our health care.  And God help you if you get sick and put the wrong coversheet on your Obamacare health care services requisition form.  Or leave an important income tax field blank.


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Communism, Karl Marx, Marxism, Surplus Labor and the Labor theory of Value

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 20th, 2013

History 101

(Originally published December 13, 2011)

Some would call Putting Profits before People Heaven if they had Lived in the Caring Hell of Communism

No ideology killed more people than communism.  In total numbers.  Such as Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union.  Or Mao Tse-tung in the People’s Republic of China.  Or as a percentage of population.  Where Pol Pot’s Cambodian genocide holds this honor alone.  These communist leaders killed their people directly for political purposes.  Or starved them to death because of agrarian reforms that produced famines.  All in the name of freeing their people from the horrors of capitalism.

Heaven and hell.  That’s how a defector who escaped communism and made it to capitalism would describe what it’s like to live under each system.  Capitalism would be heaven.  And communism would be hell.  The problem with communism was that it didn’t work.  Economically.  People lived in want of the basic staples of life.  And often went hungry.  When they didn’t starve to death by yet another famine.  And if they complained or spoke out against the system they risked torture.  Or they simply just disappeared.  Banished to a work camp.  A reeducation camp.  Or killed.  So it’s no surprise that people trapped in these countries tried to escape.  Which is why communist states were oppressive police states.  To prevent people from escaping their horrible lives.

And yet to this day some people still hold up communism as the ideal socioeconomic system.  The one that cares about the people.  The one that puts people before profits.  Unlike capitalism.  Which puts profits before people.  Of course some would call putting profits before people heaven.  Especially if they had lived in the caring hell of communism.

Communism as an Economic System is an Utter and Abject Failure

Those who champion communism don’t blame the ideology.  They say it’s the people.  The few who use the ideology for personal gain.  And by few they mean basically everyone.  But if everyone is doing it it’s not the people.  It’s the ideology.  And it goes back to its utter and abject failure as an economic system.

Communism goes back to Karl Marx.  The guy that coauthored the Communist Manifesto in 1848.  And from which we get the terms Marxism.  And Marxist.  To describe varying forms of communism.  And communists.  He’s the guy who said that capitalism exploited the working man.  Those with money (capital) who owned factories, the industrial bourgeoisie, charged more for their goods than they paid their workers to make those goods.  Because Marx believed the value of any good was the labor that made it (the labor theory of value), this excess value (profit) was a labor surplus.  And belonged to the worker.  So he encouraged class conflict.  For the proletariat (the working class) to rise up and take over the means of production from those who owned it.  These middle class capitalists.  The industrial bourgeoisie.  And establish a dictatorship of the proletariat.  So the bourgeois capitalist pig-dogs couldn’t exploit the proletariat any more.  And everyone would then live happily ever after.

But no one ever did.  Like in capitalism.  Where happiness abounds.  Because, in capitalism, the market determines prices.  Not some bureaucrat counting up labor inputs through the manufacturing process.  From the mining of resources.  To the final assembly.  Which can make things very expensive.  And, worse, unwanted by the people.  Because when the market sets the price and assigns value, the market tells people what to make.  Normally when something is a hot seller it tells manufacturers to make more of it.  To cash in on those high prices.  So they do.  And people tend to buy this surge in products.  But when the market isn’t setting the price and assigning value, the market can’t tell people what to make.  So a bureaucrat must.  Which is what happens in communism.  Bureaucrats decide everything.  From what to make.  To the allocation of resources.  To the selling price.  And the things they decide to make are rarely what the people want.  Explaining why stores in communist countries were full of stuff no one wanted to buy.  And why people had to stand hours in line to get the things they did.  Or paid more on the black market.  Which is why communism as an economic system is an utter and abject failure.  And why people wanted to escape it.  Their only obstacle being that brutal and oppressive police state.  Which was necessary because if everyone left that wanted to the communist leaders wouldn’t have anyone to provide for them.

There are no Such Things as Market Failures under Capitalism

Communism was one of the worst man-made tragedies to ever befall man.  Karl Marx was wrong.  And his asinine theories killed tens of millions of people.  People enjoy life and prosper under capitalism.  Under communism they set records for genocide.  Why?  Because the communist economic model is an utter and abject failure.

The struggle between communism and capitalism was an economic one.  And pitted the market against bureaucrats who thought they were smarter than the market.  But it turned out they weren’t.  Not by a long shot.  And despite this history people are constantly talking about market failures and the evils of capitalism.  Much like Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and Pol Pot.  But for them it was never about the economics.  It was about the power.  Much like it is today.  Because there are no such things as market failures under capitalism.  It’s the bureaucrats who fail.  Not the markets.  At least, based on all recorded history.

Markets fail only when they aren’t free.  They fail when bureaucrats insert themselves into the economic process.  Via regulatory policy.  Or high taxes.  When they try to shape market forces to a political end.  And when they do it is capitalism no more.  It’s crony capitalism.  Or worse.


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