Open Thread and Link Farm: Me Am Play Gods Edition

I’ll be in Seattle for Jet City comic-con today; if you’re attending, please come and say hi. I’ll be the person sitting under the big Hereville sign.

This is an open thread. Post what you want, when you want.

  1. Participants Recall the Stanford Prison Experiment
  2. The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their ‘Liberated Sexuality’ – ComicsAlliance The new DC isn’t so great so far.
  3. Explaining decompression in comics. Probably shouldn’t bother clicking on it unless you’re a comics theory nerd.
  4. Danny is working on a Gender Symmetry Checklist. I think it’s a good idea, although I think I would do it a different way than Danny would.
  5. More Than Half of ‘Armed’ Suspects Shot by LA Sheriff Were Not Armed – COLORLINES
  6. The Marine Times cover celebrating the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is, in a word, awesome.
  7. An interesting article about a more nuanced way of measuring fat people’s health risks. But they could have gone a lot further — for instance, what differences would emerge (or, I suspect, fail to emerge) if the scale were also applied to non-fat people?
  8. Dresden Codak cartoon: Caveman Science Fiction
  9. Opinion: How to put America back to work – Joseph E. Stiglitz
  10. Your Brain on Politics: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Liberals and Conservatives | The Intersection | Discover Magazine
  11. The multimillionaires who cry wolf. Industry always says that environmental legislation will bring about economic Armageddon — yet the economy hasn’t collapsed every time the EPA issues a regulation.
  12. Charlie Stross suggests a different Zombie story.
  13. What happens when a disabled person politely asks for accommodation?
  14. Naomi Campbell’s new house looks like an eye. No, really.
  15. Andrej Pejic, “The Prettiest Boy in the World,” Models Through It
  16. Trout-a-verse: Taboos of Body Fat in Comics.
  17. More on drug testing welfare recipients in Florida: “The as-yet uncalculated cost of staff hours and other resources that DCF has had to spend on implementing the program may wipe out most or all of the apparent savings.”
  18. Timothy Callahan’s two-part consideration of Dave Sim’s Cerebus was excellent. I especially like the idea of Dave Sim as being from a sort of alternative comics history in which Eisner, rather than Kirby, was the predominate influence on US comics. Part one, and part two.
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53 Responses to Open Thread and Link Farm: Me Am Play Gods Edition

  1. 1
    Danny says:

    Thanks for the shoutout Amp. If you don’t mind my asking how would you go it differently? This is the first real checklist I’ve tried to do and I was trying to do it in a way that other people would want to add to it so it wouldn’t seem like I’m trying to decide on the items all by myself (because there’s no way one person could adequately make that list along).

  2. 2
    Jadey says:

    Too bad us Canadians followed up the nifty obesity and health research with an initiative to deny fertility treatment to women on the basis of their BMI scores. One step forward, eleventy million steps back.

  3. 3
    Denise says:

    I work as a phone customer service representative for a large national company and I recall a recent call with a customer who was, among other things, asking for a particular accommodation on our service for folks with low vision. And it was frustrating because there really wasn’t anything that I could do. I have no access to decision makers or website designers and obviously have no ability to resolve the issue myself. The best I could do was forward along his concerns to my supervisor. I couldn’t even leave him with the expectation of a response at a later date.

    I’m sure that a big part of the problem is that decision makers for large companies are so far removed from the individual customer that a single person’s polite request for accommodation has practically no chance of enacting change unless that person has a large soapbox.

    Which is, of course, why accessibility issues need to be addressed on a larger scale. We can’t just rely on individual people requesting accommodation because then they’ll be treated like any other small group of customers asking for a change: they’ll be pretty much ignored.

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    Danny, I think your list needs a different format from other lists; probably a table so that the flip sides of the sexist coin can be presented side by side, instead of being listed vertically.

    i.e., instead of:

    A
    B
    A
    B

    It should be
    A B
    A B

  5. 5
    Rainicorn says:

    Oh, I LOVE that Caveman Science Fiction cartoon!

    I wrote a handy print-out-and-keep guide to Fall TV: 2011 Edition.

  6. 6
    mythago says:

    I found Callahan’s piece very thoughtful about the Eisner/Kirby issue (though Eisner is a lot more influential than he lets one), but his analysis of Sim is a real head-scratcher. No, he’s not a misogynist because he’s a dialogue genius and stuff? Lolwhut?

  7. 7
    RonF says:

    @9, “How to put America to Work”, Joseph Stiglitz says:

    Unemployment peaked at 10 percent — and is still more than 9 percent. … Without the stimulus, however, unemployment would have peaked at more than 12 percent.

    That’s an interesting assertion. He gives no citations. Where did he get THAT from?

    @ 17:

    Since the state began testing welfare applicants for drugs in July, about 2 percent have tested positive, preliminary data shows.

    At Scott’s urging, the Legislature implemented the new requirement earlier this year that applicants for temporary cash assistance pass a drug test before collecting any benefits.

    I’m not familiar with Florida welfare programs. What’s the difference between “welfare recipients” and “applicants for temporary cash assistance”? Because I bet the latter is much less inclusive than the former.

  8. 8
    Danny says:

    You know Amp I had actually considered a table but scrapped the idea thinking a list would be more familiar and thus allow readers to take the info in a bit better (actually depending on it being like other lists). I shall have to take a new look at a table…

  9. 9
    lauren says:

    Danny, I think one potetial problem with your list is that it is very white middle class centric. Now, this is a direct result of the fact that examinations of gender imbalance tend to have this limit/ bias /generalisation far too often and you are building on what is already there. But it still excludes a lot of perspectives and is therefore not true for a lot of women.

    For example “women are expected to stay at home and take care of the children” is not at all true for working class women. They are (and have always been) expected to work full time and take care of the children on top of that.

    The idealization of women as mothers is also limited to those society considers “good mothers”, which excludes mothers who are disabled, who are poor, who are not hetero, who are women of colour and so on.

    Also, a lot of women are considered to be unrapeable / in a state of permanent consent not based on how they act/ dress but simply based on who they are. There is a long, disgusting tradtion of treating women of colour this way. There are also a lot of women who are disbelieved about their rape because “who would want to rape someone like that” (fat women, “ugly” women, old women, trans*women and others who are constantly devalued as “not feminine enough”).

    I don’t know enough to say if your list of male advantages/disadvantages is similarly biased.

    I am not sure how you would fit these things into your list, but without them, it is not really a comparison of male/female but one of only a selected group of them.

  10. 10
    Ampersand says:

    but his analysis of Sim is a real head-scratcher. No, he’s not a misogynist because he’s a dialogue genius and stuff? Lolwhut?

    I’m wondering if I missed something?

    Here’s what he said about Sim not being a misogynist, that I saw:

    In later volumes, when he half-jokingly, half-angrily refers to himself as “Dave Sim the evil misogynist” it’s hard to have any kind of sympathy for him, after his continuous disdain for women based around a juvenile Vulcan-esque theory that emotion is the problem, and reason is the answer. I don’t think Sim is a misogynist, by the way, because hate would imply an emotional angle that he doesn’t bring to his side of the argument. Nope, its not that he hates women, it’s just that he is dead wrong about women, about the relationships between men and women, and even his comic book shows how off-base he is, with none of his men ever able to transcend their own emotions.

    I don’t agree with that (both because “misogyny” can refer to bigotry against women, not just to overt hatred; and because I think Sim’s attitude can be described as “hate”). But that’s a semantic disagreement; he’s certainly not defending what he calls Sim’s “vile gender politics” (as all too many Sim fans do). And I don’t see where he said Sim’s not a misogynist because he writes good dialog.

  11. 11
    mythago says:

    No, he’s not that bad, but seriously, when you have to climb up your own ass to claim that Sim is not really a misogynist, he’s just a little wacky and eccentric, c’mon.

  12. 12
    Ampersand says:
    Unemployment peaked at 10 percent — and is still more than 9 percent. … Without the stimulus, however, unemployment would have peaked at more than 12 percent.

    That’s an interesting assertion. He gives no citations. Where did he get THAT from?

    I don’t know.

    However, peak unemployment was 10.2% in 2010. The Congressional Budget Office calculated that ARRA (the legislation that people call the stimulus package) “reduced unemployment by between 0.6 and 1.8 percentage points” in 2011, when the effect of ARRA was waning.

    So without ARRA unemployment would have peaked at somewhere between 10.8% and 12%. However, ARRA probably had more impact in 2010 than 2011, and it isn’t the only stimulus passed; there was also “the renewal of unemployment benefits, this year’s payroll tax cut and the extensions of the education jobs fund and the homebuyer tax credit,” all of which were stimulus measures which lowered unemployment by some amount. On the whole, Stiglitz’s statement seems reasonable to me.

  13. 13
    RonF says:

    Meanwhile, those racists in the Tea Party voted for a black man. I’m sure I’ll see an editorial in the NYT any day now analyzing why they were so wrong about the Tea Party. [ /sarc ].

  14. 14
    Susan says:

    The Florida analysis quoted does not take into account a dollar figure for administrative time.

    Since the spread between costs and savings is so narrow, I’m betting that the final numbers, if anyone ever has them (!), show a net loss from the new policy.

    From what I can tell, the primary beneficiaries of this new law are the firms doing drug testing, who are cashing in big.

  15. 15
    Jake Squid says:

    Saaaaaayyyyyy. Doesn’t the Governor’s wife own a firm that does drug tests?

    What a fortuitous coincidence for Governor Scott!

  16. 16
    RonF says:

    So I got the figures for the MIT Class of 2015. Given the interest in diversity here, especially in places and organizations where membership is often viewed as a ticket to privilege, I thought you might find them interesting. They look a little different than other elite schools such as the Ivy League ones.

    Male:Female::55:45

    Racial/Ethnic/Nationality
    Other/No Response – 1%
    Native American ancestry – 1%
    African ancestry – 9%
    Hispanic ancestry – 18%
    Asian ancestry – 28%
    Caucasian ancestry – 37%
    International Students – 10%

    Freshmen come from almost every state and 67 foreign countries.

    English not primary language – 34% (55 other languages)

    Students receiving financial aid – 61%
    Average award – $31,665
    Qualify for free tuition (Family income < $75K) – 29%

    First person in their family to attend college – 14%

    Mean SAT scores:
    Math – 762
    Verbal – 710
    Writing – 711

    There were 1,742 people admitted, 9.7% of the total number of applicants. Of those, 1,126 accepted MIT's offer.

    I’m kind of taken by the stat that 1/7th of the incoming class is the first generation of their family to go to college.

  17. 17
    Charles S says:

    g&w,

    The best thing that we can do to support the small business owner portion of the 99% is to get the economy moving again. If there were a need for employees, then businesses would be hiring. Regulations haven’t gotten any worse recently, and fear of regulation is not a driving force in the current downturn. Fear of the current downturn is a driving force. If you are worrying a lot about what will happen when you have to lay off the new employee you need to hire, that is a sign that you don’t trust the economic situation to improve, not a sign that unemployment benefits are too heavy a burden.

    There are other things we are doing currently: tax credits for new hires (which can be used to balance out the risk of having to pay UI reimbursement or a higher UI tax rate in the future), tax credits for providing health insurance to employees, huge Federal support for extended UI (which reduces the cost to the employer of UI reimbursement or UI tax rates). Maybe there are others we should be doing.

    In any case, UI costs were not the point that Robert raised. He raised the non-issue of fear that more than two years from now, the costs associated with health care might be different than they are now. That is just flat out not a significant component of the source of uncertainty in the current economic environment. Uncertainty over where the economy is going, over whether an uptick in business that would justify hiring a new employee is just a blip and you might have to lay them off (which has the cost of carrying them for a while when business drops off and you try to figure out if the drop is blip and you should hold onto them as well as the cost of eventually having an increased UI tax rate), that is definitely a big factor in the current lack of hiring.

    And, of course the biggest factor in the current lack of hiring is massive layoffs by state and local government (the private sector has (had?) been making decent hiring gains for the last few years, but those have been nearly balanced by ongoing layoffs in the public sector). So the biggest hurting employer is not actually a private employer at all. One of the best things we could do for the 99% small business owner is bail out the state and local governments with a massive wave of Federal money. Put the teachers and janitors back to work and let their income give added custom to the private businesses.

  18. 18
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Charles S says:
    October 5, 2011 at 11:53 am

    g&w,

    The best thing that we can do to support the small business owner portion of the 99% is to get the economy moving again. If there were a need for employees, then businesses would be hiring. Regulations haven’t gotten any worse recently, and fear of regulation is not a driving force in the current downturn. Fear of the current downturn is a driving force.

    I think you’re dead wrong here.

    The functional cost of some regulations is the same in a recession as it is in a boom. It costs the same amount for the same ADA accommodation, for example, whether you’re in a boom or a bust.

    The functional cost of other regulations, however, is LESS in a boom and MORE in a recession. In a boom, you pay unemployment insurance… but even if you fire someone, it’s more likely that they’ll find other work and go off the system, saving you money. In a boom, you pay health benefits… but you have more employees whose spouses also have jobs with benefits, so you often end up paying for fewer of them; and your departing employees are more likely to substitute their own insurance, so you don’t carry them as long. In a boom, people are more concerned about re-employability, and they want references…so you have fewer concerns that unhappy employees will stay and sue you, instead of just moving somewhere else that they’re happier.

    Moreover, not only does the ABSOLUTE cost increase, but the PERCENTAGE cost of those regulations increases significantly in a recession. Of course, businesses always want to make money. But spending an extra $40,000 is a a hell of a bigger concern when the net is $300,000 than it is when the net is $1,300,000.

    It also impacts a business’ decision to spread the wealth. Social policy has a lot to do with who gets a job.

    Say that you have 150 hours of work you need done? Well, From a social perspective, it’d probably be better to have five people working 30 hours/week, than three people working 50 hours/week. Less disparity, more time off, and so on. In fact, there are many benefits to the employer as well.

    But from a business perspective, there are a lot of social costs measured per employee, not to mention that the # of employees can “qualify” you for even more stringent regulations. So businesses prefer to hire fewer employees.

    I dunno. I hear a lot of this stuff and I wonder “do these people run businesses?” because it seems to me that some of these suggestions and comments aren’t really going t work,l

  19. 19
    Jake Squid says:

    In a boom, you pay health benefits… but you have more employees whose spouses also have jobs with benefits, so you often end up paying for fewer of them; and your departing employees are more likely to substitute their own insurance, so you don’t carry them as long.

    But most employers only pay a portion of health benefits. Either a percentage or, more commonly, a set amount. IME, the most common method is that the employer pays 100% of the cost for the employee’s health benefits and the employee must pay the cost of adding their spouse and/or children. Since the employer pays 100% of the premium for the employee, it’s extremely rare to have an employee waive coverage. Is my experience unusual?

    In any case, I’m not sure how HCR impacts hiring decisions now. The question for employers wrt health benefits comes at renewal time and that question is, “What kind of policy can we afford to give our employees?”

    Also, departing employees don’t cost anything after the end of the month in which they left (premiums are paid for a month before the beginning of that month). After that the cost is entirely on the employee if they decide to go COBRA or State Continuation.

  20. 20
    Robert says:

    He raised the non-issue of fear that more than two years from now, the costs associated with health care might be different than they are now. That is just flat out not a significant component of the source of uncertainty in the current economic environment.

    I think you’re wrong, and I think it as someone who every day decides whether to hire people or not hire people. Do you have any data?

    If there were a need for employees, then businesses would be hiring.

    Would that this were true.

    Even interpreting your sentence as broadly and as kindly as possible, it isn’t true. Interpreting narrowly, there is always a need for employees, even as things are spiraling into the abyss.

    Even assuming you mean a need for a net increase in labor being done, you’re simply wrong. Enterprises that need more labor done have a number of options for making that happen, and “hire more people” is only one of the options. Existing people can be worked for more time. Existing people can have their equipment base augmented, so that they are more productive per unit of time. Existing people can (sometimes) be reorganized and additional efficiencies gained. Existing people can be augmented, or outright replaced, by machines which do the work faster or cheaper. Workflows can be reordered to eliminate redundant capacity, so that net work per person goes up while total people goes down. There are about a billion other possibilities.

    Each of those possibilities has its own cost. It costs money to retrain, to reorganize, to buy robots, whatever you want to do – including hire more folks – it’s gonna cost. Businesses compare those costs. Uncertainty over labor costs – and UI costs could well be a major part of that – makes the error bars on the “hire people” solution waaay bigger, which in turn makes all the other options that much more attractive.

  21. 21
    Robert says:

    Also, consider the consequences of something like a 5-year unemployment benefit. Even granted that the fraud problem would be small and even assuming no moral hazard (which I’m not ready to assume), what kind of employability does someone have who has spent five years on the benefit? The automatic assumption is going to be that only the very bottom of the talent pool in terms of abilities or attitudes are going to go jobless for this long, and that assumption won’t be totally without merit.

  22. 22
    Ampersand says:

    Robert, regarding the issue of if employer uncertainty is the major problem, is there any evidence that would convince you that you’re mistaken? What sort of evidence would that be?

    Regarding your comment in #21, I’m a little confused. Is there some evidence to show that someone who is jobless for 5 years and never had an unemployment benefit is a more attractive job candidate, to most employers, than someone who was unemployed for 5 years and benefited from unemployment compensation? What would prevent an applicant from just not mentioning that he’s received unemployment compensation?

  23. 23
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Well, someone who has been unemployed for 5 years is screwed either way. Their receipt of UE benefits is moot IMO (and usually private, FWIW.)

    Employers prefer to hire from the ranks of the already-employed, and otherwise from the ranks of the recently-employed. There are good reasons for both of those preferences, in many settings, though of course there are also many exceptions.

    Evidence: Well, at least a little anecdotal evidence would help. But frankly there’s near-unanimity (anecdotally) on the extraordinarily high cost of hiring actual employees, and near-unanimity on the effect of that cost on hiring decisions. I’m in Mass.; it’s worse here.

    Note that unlike Amp’s question, I was talking about the GENERAL EFFECT of social justice movements when I made the post that started this thread. It’s quite possible that a particular measure–health care, UE, ADA accommodations, etc.–is not, in and of itself, sufficient to drive 100% of decision making. I’m talking about the aggregate effect of the various issues. Just like people talk about the aggregate effects of capitalism, or the aggregate effects of other things.

  24. 24
    Myca says:

    that assumption won’t be totally without merit.

    In this economy? Yes it will. That’s what you don’t understand. That’s how bad it is.

    I think you’re wrong, and I think it as someone who every day decides whether to hire people or not hire people. Do you have any data?

    Sure, here and here.

    —Myca

  25. 25
    Robert says:

    Robert, regarding the issue of if employer uncertainty is the major problem, is there any evidence that would convince you that you’re mistaken? What sort of evidence would that be?

    A statistically/scientifically-valid survey of employers who didn’t hire in the last quarter that asks “what fraction of your total decision not to hire is driven by is uncertainty about the cost of labor,” where the average comes in at some pathetic percentage. That’d be a darn good start.

    Regarding your comment in #21, I’m a little confused. Is there some evidence to show that someone who is jobless for 5 years and never had an unemployment benefit is a more attractive job candidate, to most employers, than someone who was unemployed for 5 years and benefited from unemployment compensation?

    Quite right. What I meant was that the guy who can get benefits for five years is probably less motivated to get back into the workforce than the guy who gets them for one, and my actual concern is “more people who stay out of the workforce”.

    Not to get all anecdatall on you, but I was on unemployment for a year or so back in the 1990s. And I stayed on until my benefit was about to run out, then looked for work again.

    In this economy? Yes it will. That’s what you don’t understand. That’s how bad it is.

    No, it won’t. Even in “this economy” the majority of people – the vast majority – have found paying work. Someone who cannot find paying work in five years, possibly, is that statistical outlier who has done no wrong and has no bad attitudes. Much more likely, they’re the guy who would rather not work and so did not, when the chance came along. Is it an absolute rule? Certainly not. Is it a bankable trend? Bet you a dollar it is.

    Your data cites are unpersuasive. One is mostly hot gas and opinion and the other is full of people misinterpreting the data that’s in front of them. Case in point, the figures for investment in automation show that this recession has shown way higher increases in money going into machines instead of people…but the author’s thesis is that there’s a demand shortfall. If there’s a demand shortfall, why invest in new machines? They clearly have a favored position (just as do the advocates whose positions they’re trying to undermine) and they seem pretty nakedly partisan in putting their message out. Reads like an advocacy piece accompanied by graphs, rather than as a scholarly examination of the data.

  26. 26
    Charles S says:

    Robert,

    How many millions of people are there currently actively looking for work who have been unemployed for more than 2 years (and so have no UI)? Those people are not staying out of work because they have been given an incentive to stay out of work, they are out of work because they can’t find work.

    I’m fine with the 5 year benefit extension being tied to the unemployment level (as the 2 year extension should be) or it simply being temporary (and yes, temporary UI extensions during recessions have, historically, been temporary). I agree that most people who are out of work but actively looking for work for 5 years are a group better provided with support by some method other than UI.

  27. 27
    Charles S says:

    I’m fine with restructuring the UI tax system so that it has more of a counter-cyclical structure than a pro-cyclical structure, although I don’t have any suggestions for that other than raising the base UI tax rate and establishing a larger rainy day fund for the UI system. I’m also fine with providing a greater degree of Federal aid to supplement the UI system to keep the current crisis from temporarily driving up rates. I suspect that if either of these were a substantial concern for business that they would have been addressed, but maybe I’m wrong.

    At least in Oregon, there is a smoothing effect applied to UI (3 years of UI tax and benefits for your business are used to calculate UI tax rates), which would be adequate for most recessions over the past 70 years, but not for the current one, so providing some aid now that we are 4 years into the current recession would seem justified. However, this can really only be done by a Federal government bailout, as Oregon doesn’t have any spare money lying around to soften the UI tax rate increases.

    Oregon UI tax rates:
    “In 2009, the average tax rate is 1.97% and the taxable wage base is $31,300. This means the average amount of tax per employee in 2009 is $617. In 2010, the average tax rate is 2.76% and the taxable wage base is $32,100. The average amount of tax per employee will be $886. In other words, an increase of $269.00 per employee per year. Each employer’s rate is different of course, these are just averages.”

    How many people really decide not to hire a new employee because the UI tax is $886/year? Is that really the major driver of the current situation?

  28. 28
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Charles,

    Are you seeing the “look at it all” issue I’m bringing up? There may not be many people who would identify a particular issue as decisive, but there are lots of folks who generally (and correctly) feel that the accumulated benefits make it very expensive to hire.

    UE is sort of a funny animal anyway, insofar as it pays a %age of wages rather than a straight benefit. There are pros and cons to that approach as well, of course.

    But:

    “In 2009, the average tax rate is 1.97% and the taxable wage base is $31,300. This means the average amount of tax per employee in 2009 is $617. In 2010, the average tax rate is 2.76% and the taxable wage base is $32,100. The average amount of tax per employee will be $886. In other words, an increase of $269.00 per employee per year. Each employer’s rate is different of course, these are just averages.”

    How many people really decide not to hire a new employee because the UI tax is $886/year? Is that really the major driver of the current situation?

    No, because that’s not the right statistic IMO.

    Averages can be misleading. UE contribution rates in my state (i’m not familiar with other states) go up when you have an employee who actually collects UE. The tax rate–a bit less than average, actually–is the rate that you pay, basically, if your employees DON’T collect UE. (The average gets pulled up by the % who collect.)

    It’s a bit like making a home insurance claim. Your future rates go up to cover the benefits that are provided to you. If an employee goes on UE after they’re laid off, then the business contribution rates go way up. The longer that they stay on UE, the higher the business total contribution.

  29. 29
    Charles S says:

    g&w,

    I accept that non-wage costs of employment may go up in a recession. I accept that increased non-wage costs of hiring may have a small marginal effect on hiring decisions (although they could equally have a small marginal effect on wage offers). I think if this were a large component of the current situation that hiring tax credits would be more effective than they have been. I’d be willing to consider the idea of a temporary Federal UI tax credit (an idea I have never seen anyone suggests, which may mean it has some serious problems as an idea or that it would not be addressing a serious problem).

    The start of this discussion was Robert claiming: “Right now nobody knows what it will cost to hire a warm body, because nobody knows what health care reform is going to do in the courts.”

    This is completely different from your claim that pro-cyclic UI taxes and pro-cyclic health insurance costs make hiring slightly more expensive than they would be outside of a recession or your claim that the uncertainty in UI taxes makes small businesses hesitant to hire the marginal worker who might get laid off down the line. Nothing you have said has made me even marginally more a believer in the claim that uncertainty over the future of the ACA in the courts is a major source of uncertainty for businesses. I’m not even sure that you are a believer in Robert’s claim. Are you?

    Wait a second, the parts of the ACA that have been challenged (the individual mandate) aren’t the parts that directly effect business (a $2,000 per employee penalty for not providing insurance if you have more than 50 employees), so there is very little uncertainty (the lack of a severability clause doesn’t mean that the court can’t sever unconstitutional parts of the law, and the employer mandate is not a part that the administration argues is unseverable). It is almost certain that a company that doesn’t provide insurance to its employees will pay a $2000/person penalty if it has more than 50 employees (I believe there is a phase in, so it doesn’t go from $0 to $102,000 when you add the 51st employee). There is a faint possibility that the court will strike down the entire law and that penalty won’t exist. I don’t believe for a second that anyone has held off on hiring because they can’t calculate that cost.

    If Robert had made what I take to be your argument, I would not have responded with mockery. I still think it is completely inadequate as a statement of why businesses aren’t hiring, rather than as a statement of one small part of why businesses aren’t hiring (and, as I mentioned, it is state and local governments that have been laying people off in droves for the past year or two, not small businesses, small businesses actually have been hiring).

  30. 30
    nobody.really says:

    Even in “this economy” the majority of people – the vast majority – have found paying work. Someone who cannot find paying work in five years, possibly, is that statistical outlier who has done no wrong and has no bad attitudes. Much more likely, they’re the guy who would rather not work and so did not, when the chance came along. Is it an absolute rule? Certainly not. Is it a bankable trend? Bet you a dollar it is.

    Oy.

    Look, statistics tells us that every population is likely to appear as a bell curve. Yes, people will differ in their “willingness” to work. Some will have worse attitudes than others; some much worse. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the ranks of the unemployed include a disproportionate share of people with bad attitudes. So Robert gets this much right.

    What Robert neglects to acknowledge is that this was equally true in 2007 as it is today. So, what accounts for the fact that there are a lot more people out of work – and out of work for longer periods – today than in 2007? Robert seems to suggest that recessions are causes by sudden epidemic of bad attitude and malingering. This is the business-cycle-as-morality-play theory. “Unemployment is caused by the personal failings of the people who are unemployed!” Not much in vogue with academic economists, but it’s always in style among free market fundamentalists.

  31. 31
    nobody.really says:

    Robert, regarding the issue of if employer uncertainty is the major problem, is there any evidence that would convince you that you’re mistaken? What sort of evidence would that be?

    A statistically/scientifically-valid survey of employers who didn’t hire in the last quarter that asks “what fraction of your total decision not to hire is driven by is uncertainty about the cost of labor,” where the average comes in at some pathetic percentage. That’d be a darn good start.

    Well, how ‘bout this? The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) regularly asks small business what their biggest concern is. They always complain about regulation and taxes. In the most recent survey, almost 14% say that regulation was their biggest concern — comparable to what they said during the Reagan Administration. In contrast, far and away the biggest concern they have – bigger than any concern they have ever named since the survey began in 1973 – is poor sales. That is, LACK OF DEMAND.

    This same conclusion is echoed by such liberal bastions as the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics asks employers who engage in mass layoffs to identify reasons for the layoffs. Government regulation is cited as accounting for 0.2 – 0.4% of the layoffs; LACK OF DEMAND accounts for 30-40%.

    The average employee worked 34.6 hrs/wk in 2007, but works 34.2 hrs/wk today. In other words, employers could increase production without adding any more employees simply by paying their current workforce to work as much as they did in 2007. Yet employers aren’t doing that. It’s hard to see how “uncertainty” would explain this outcome; it’s easy to see how a LACK OF DEMAND would explain it.

    Private sector employment has grown during the current recession at about the same rate as it did during the 1999 recovery, better than during the 2001 recovery, less than during the 1982 recovery. The major difference in the current recovery is that public sector employment has plummeted 600,000 , whereas public sector employment grew during the prior recessions. It’s hard to explain why public sector employers would be more concerned about “uncertainty” than private sector employers. But it’s easy to see how the decline contributes to a LACK OF DEMAND.

    Finally, the US Dept. of Commerce reports that domestic consumption is lower today than it was in 2007, even though the population has grown. In common parlance, we call this proof of a LACK OF DEMAND.

    Reviewing this and other data, both Republican policy analyst Bruce Bartlett and The Economic Policy Institute conclude that the “uncertainty” claim is simple political opportunism. Recall, W advocated for big tax cuts because government surpluses were too large — and then advocated for the same tax cuts when the economy faltered and revenues plunged. Republicans pursue the same policy objectives regardless of circumstances.

  32. 32
    Robert says:

    Robert seems to suggest that recessions are causes by sudden epidemic of bad attitude and malingering.

    No, I suggest that a broad comparison of the population “people who don’t work for five years for whatever reason” vs. the population “people who found some kind of job in that period” will not show the two populations to be identical in their thriftiness, perseverance, adaptability, [insert list of Protestant virtues here]. Outcomes are not purely random; times being hard does not cause a change in this general statement. Myca believes that when times are hard, that means people showing bad outcomes are automatically innocent of wrongdoing that would lead to such outcomes; I don’t think that’s true. Times being hard means that outcomes will be depressed across the board, but lazy/dishonest/shirking people will continue their trend of doing worse overall than their opposite numbers.

  33. 33
    Robert says:

    All that said, in the current situation I suspect it might be more productive to identify the places where left-wingers and right-wingers are in agreement about the economy. You’re not going to get buy-in from me that we should establish a lifetime income benefit and I’m not going to get buy-in from you that rich people are getting rich because they’re making better moves in a changing economy.

    But I think we can mutually agree on some things. Crony capitalism is a Bad Thing; you might be more concerned with the Capitalism than with the Crony but we’re in agreement that the bank bailouts just ended up funneling taxpayer $ to bad actors. Where else can we find agreements? Those places of agreement are where things like this protest movement can find some traction…if they don’t just turn into Obama election rallies. Many in the protest movement seem to find the new addition of the labor unions an exciting sign of respectability; to me it seems a step backward away from finding an apolitical consensus about how our economy ought to operate.

  34. 34
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Charles,

    Why are you and I debating Robert’s claim? You were responding to me (or so it appeared) when you moved this to an open thread. Robert wasn’t even mentioned in the “let’s take it to an open thread” post.

    In any case, I do not think that the ACA is a primary determinant of hiring. (I do think, as I’ve made pretty clear, that increases in health care subsidies by employers–which is not necessarily the case in the ACA–would be yet another straw on the camel.)

    I also think that there seems to be a tendency to discuss cumulative effects when it comes to arguing for a liberal policies ( the life stories of the 99%ers are sort of in that vein) but similarly to discount the cumulative effects of those policies when it comes to arguing about the policies’ effect on employers. That makes sense if you’re on a talk radio show, but it seems like ducking the issue if you’re trying to have a reasoned discussion about the pros and cons of policy choices.

    I don’t like the outcome of the conservative “work or starve” position. From a moral perspective I prefer more social support. But I continue to be troubled by the magical thinking of the liberal position, in which it is apparently believed to be possible to get more from employers without having any effect on employers’ decision making.

    Everything has downsides. As a random example: Unions are great for pre-existing union members, and provide good benefits in that context. But they make things worse for non-members (those people are important as well,) for employers, and have other collateral effects which are sometimes bad. Are unions, overall, a good thing? I’m willing to discuss it. But I cannot trust the conclusion of people who don’t/won’t acknowledge the cons as well as the pros.

  35. 35
    Robert says:

    Why are you and I debating Robert’s claim?

    Because my claims and statements are always the most awesome and interesting claims and statements. Wrong or right, I always bring the sexy. That’s why!

  36. 36
    Robert says:

    Also, I have Charles’ bank account number memorized and he knows if he thwarts my will by not arguing with whatever random stuff I come up with, it alllllll goes to Michele Bachmann.

  37. 37
    Charles S says:

    g&w,

    Why are we arguing over Robert’s claims?

    Charles S says:
    October 5, 2011 at 12:12 am

    “Right now nobody knows what it will cost to hire a warm body, because nobody knows what health care reform is going to do in the courts. ”

    Oh good God.

    Do any of you know a lot of employers? I do. i represent tons of consumers, but businesses as well.

  38. 38
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    …and there was a considerable post after that, which you didn’t quote. And another post in this thread.

  39. 39
    Charles S says:

    I agree with everything nobody.really said.

  40. 40
    Charles S says:

    Yes, after slamming me for disagreeing with a ridiculous claim that you also disagreed with, you went on to say some things I don’t disagree with and a few things I do. It is a pity you decided to use the pointless and nonsensical slam as your starting point, but so it goes. I actually think your larger point of “Will no one think of the upper middle class and the employers?” would fit in perfectly nicely on the “We are the 99%” thread. The struggling employer and the struggling upper middle class are still part of the 99%.

    Unsurprisingly, I disagree with you about the negative effects of unions on non-union workers (I’m sure you could come up with some example I’d accept as true, but overwhelmingly the effects are positive). All the research I’ve ever seen has shown positive knock-on effects from unions (e.g. non-union workers in heavily unionized fields are better paid than in areas where the same field is less unionized). However, I don’t feel like doing the research necessary to argue the subject with you right now, so I’ll pass on discussing it now beyond that.

    I think increased UI benefits should be paid for by Federal money (oh surprise, the 2 year extended benefits are) and that the states should not be sticking employers with those costs (since they aren’t costs to the state UI funds). I don’t know how well that second part has been implemented (I found that CT appears to be sticking employers with half the costs of extended UI, but I didn’t follow up on the details). I think a further extension of UI (5 years is more than is currently needed, but we are getting to 3-4 years since the start of the recession, there are a lot of people who are falling off the 2 year extension), should be Federally funded as well. I suspect that employers have actually played a large role in setting up the UI system as it is now, as a flat rate across all employers would be a lot easier to implement. I seriously doubt it was unions or lefties who fought for a system in which struggling employers get massively increased UI taxes (but maybe I’m wrong). I’d be fine with a UI tax credit for very small businesses (say less than 8 employees) if there is anyone who can show that it would meaningfully increase hiring.

    Employer health care benefits are entirely voluntary in the US. There are plenty of businesses that don’t provide them, so I’m not sure how those can be blamed on the left (hell, we fought to try to get some form of non-employer based universal coverage, so blame the corporations that fought against that if you want someone to blame for health care costs to employers).

  41. 41
    nobody.really says:

    I agree with everything nobody really said.

    Thank you; this statement pleases me for various reasons.

  42. 42
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Unsurprisingly, I disagree with you about the negative effects of unions on non-union workers (I’m sure you could come up with some example I’d accept as true, but overwhelmingly the effects are positive). All the research I’ve ever seen has shown positive knock-on effects from unions (e.g. non-union workers in heavily unionized fields are better paid than in areas where the same field is less unionized). However, I don’t feel like doing the research necessary to argue the subject with you right now, so I’ll pass on discussing it now beyond that.

    Fr future discussion, then, here’s a simple example:

    One of the main effects of unions is to deter companies from hiring people other than through a union. What that means for Joe is that he can’t get a job unless the union says so, even if he wants to work and even if the employer might otherwise hire him.

    That setup is a great thing for everyone who is already in the union. But it’s not a great thing for people who aren’t. You may move to a city and be a skilled laborer, but not be able to get hired on your own unless you’re a union boy. You may be an outstanding teacher, but you won’t get a job unless you meet union rules.

    Although unions certainly provide benefits for their members who have jobs, they do so by passing the cost of those benefits to folks outside the union. This isn’t surprising–it’s pretty much the point of a union. but what nobody likes to discuss is that “outside the union” includes a lot of employees as well as every employer. And because this particular issue deters entry int the marketplace, it’s not measurable looking at the conditions of those who make it in. the cost is incurred when you can’t get in the door.

    I think increased UI benefits should be paid for by Federal money (oh surprise, the 2 year extended benefits are) and that the states should not be sticking employers with those costs (since they aren’t costs to the state UI funds).

    Why are we even giving mega-extended UI at all?

    I understand that one goal of UI (as compared to welfare) is to provide an incentive to work, rather than to stay on the dole. But at some point (and a 2- or 3-year unemployment stretch could well be that point) that incentive wanes.

    I also understand that UI is designed to prevent immense income swings, by giving you some percentage of your prior earnings. But at some point it makes no sense to treat people unequally and give them different government benefits based on what they used to make years ago.

    I’m not positive precisely where I’d draw the line, but I’m sure that 3 years is on the wrong side of it. By that point it seems much more equitable to drop the UI and increase either flat-rate or need-based benefits instead.

  43. 43
    Charles S says:

    g&w,

    We have 1.5 million people who are competent, willing workers who are actively looking for work, who had full-time employment prior to the crash and have not been able to find a job since. That is why we should have extended UI beyond 2 years ago some time last year.

    Our social safety net beyond UI is deeply inadequate for unemployed people (no EITC, which is one of our larger forms of welfare). I’m all in favor of improving the safety net, but I don’t think we are going to get a substantial increase in the safety net for people who are not seeking work right now. Anyway, we should be continuing the temporary increases in all those programs as well as extending UI. The two are not contradictory.

    Sure, I’d be happy to substitute a guaranteed income for UI beyond some point, but that isn’t anywhere near on the table. Extending UI beyond 99 weeks was seriously discussed (in congress) last year but didn’t go anywhere, so I consider that a policy proposal that could actually be implemented that would help millions of people (1.5 million now, plus millions more in the next few years).

    I’m not clear why you are allergic to providing temporary benefits through UI rather than through some other program.

  44. 44
    Myca says:

    I think we’re losing sight of the larger issue, which is that Robert made an easily debunked claim, and offered an example of the kind of evidence that would convince him it was nonsense. Then Nobody.Really offered the evidence (at length) debunking his claim.

    Is Robert ready to admit that his claim was untrue, and, more importantly, to stop making it?

    —Myca

  45. 45
    Robert says:

    I’d have to read Nobodys link more closely and today is not the day that will happen, but yes, offhand I would say that it does seem like the role of regulatory uncertainty is not strongly reported by nonhiring employers. At the very least, I will soften future claims.

  46. 46
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    I’m not clear why you are allergic to providing temporary benefits through UI rather than through some other program.

    Because UI is functionally inequitable. Do you realize that?

    In massachusetts, for example, “claimants receive a weekly benefit of approximately 50 percent of their average weekly wage, up to the maximum set by law. The maximum benefit rate is $625 a week.”

    If you made $1250 before you got fired, you get a payment of $625/week. if you only made $800/week before you got fired, you get a payment of $400/week.

    That might make sense short term. It gives incentives for people to try to get higher paying jobs (as if that incentive wasn’t already there) and it perhaps takes into account the reality that a lot of fixed expenses are difficult to avoid. It also accounts for the fact that the higher-paying employers contributed more to taxes, and/or that they can afford to contribute more now.

    Short term UE is specific. It’s not just about being unemployed, it’s also about what job you’re unemployed FROM, and why (quitting kills your eligibility, for example.)

    But those incentives and balances don’t hold in the long term. Once folks have been out of work for a while, there’s no equitable justification for linking benefits to work history. Having made an extra $200/week a long time back isn’t good reason to score $100 more in benefits than your equally-poor neighbor. And arguably, having quit a job in 2008 (if you’ve unsuccessfully been job hunting ever since) isn’t a good reason to be denied benefits in 2011 as compared to someone who was fired at the same time.

    I’m not suggesting that we avoid paying benefits to people who are starving. I’m suggesting that we don’t condition the amount of those benefits on their long-irrelevant work history.

  47. 47
    nobody.really says:

    I’m not clear why you are allergic to providing temporary benefits through UI rather than through some other program.

    Because UI is functionally inequitable. Do you realize that?

    I share this concern. UI forthrightly discriminates in favor of the (relatively) rich. Does it make sense to use job history as a basis for discriminating in the size of the social safety net available to each person?

    1. True, typically a more highly paid employee will contribute more* to the UI fund than a less highly paid employee would, so arguably there’s some equity in more highly paid employees receiving greater benefits. But this dynamic merely reflects the structure of the government program creating UI. So the question becomes, why do we design UI programs this way?

    (*Classical econ theory says that employEEs, not employERS, bear the cost of unemployment insurance premiums. While the cost is nominally assessed against the employer, the net effect is to depress other forms of compensation the employer offers to the employees. )

    2. Arguably UI exists not to promote equity, but stability. Bankruptcy is costly for all concerned. If a little support can help people get from a period of downward slope to the next period of upward slope without hitting rock bottom, everyone wins. Targeting funds to people who are already at rock bottom, and show no signs of leaving, would not achieve the same benefits. To paraphrase a Reagan official in Doonesbury, “If we can’t alleviate suffering, let it fall on the poor; they’re used to it.”

    3. Perhaps UI exists to subsidize the finance industry. We want to encourage people to make long-term commitments (e.g., mortgages, car loans, etc.). UI underwrites the ability of people to make such commitments, helping them make good on payments. Poor people presumably lack the capacity to enter into such commitments, so targeting funds to them wouldn’t achieve the same stability-enhancing goals.

    4. Arguably the people who created the UI program were highly-paid people, and therefore cared about protecting themselves. Then again, legislators and lobbyists also tend to over-represent the views of employers. Do employers have an interest in increasing UI premiums for highly-compensated employees?

    5. My current hypothesis: UI is yet one more program to subsidize people while avoiding the appearance of subsidizing POOR, SHIFTLESS, LAZY people – often shortened to “poor people.” Yes, we have various forms of welfare – and we STIGMATIZE THE HELL OUT OF THESE PROGRAMS. And we also have other subsidy programs that escape stigma, in part because they escape our notice, and in part because middle-class people get much of the benefits. But the longer we extend UI, the more the similarities to other welfare programs become apparent, and the greater the threat that the stigma of welfare will spill onto recipients of UI.

  48. 48
    Ampersand says:

    What that means for Joe is that he can’t get a job unless the union says so, even if he wants to work and even if the employer might otherwise hire him.

    That sounds like a closed shop — but closed shops are illegal in the US. All the union workers I know got hired and then joined the union as a condition of employment, but the union didn’t have a veto over their being hired.

  49. 49
    Jake Squid says:

    In NYC in the ’80s, the projectionists union was nearly impossible to get into and you couldn’t get a job at a movie theater without being in the union. Unless, like me, you worked for a theater that snuck around the union inspections and you could be a scab projectionist for 1/8 the salary.

  50. 50
    Ampersand says:

    Oh, yeah, there have definitely been abuses. But that was a quarter-century ago; my impression is that it’s much harder for unions to get away with that now.

  51. 51
    Charles S says:

    Actually, it looks like that is still the case for the projectionists union. You need to go through a 1-2 year apprenticeship to qualify as a union certified projectionist, and you can’t work in a union theater unless you are a certified projectionist. The same is true to a lesser extent in a lot of the skilled trades (I researched how you go about becoming a union electrician a while back for a role-playing game, and it isn’t simply learn how to be an electrician and then get a job on a union site and pay your dues). The hiring hall system also serves as a gateway to determine who gets union jobs. The required credentials for projectionists and the system of job assignment at hiring halls has to be explicit and formally non-discriminatory, but it does function as a relatively closed shop.

    Sort of like how lawyers restrict their profession to people who pass the bar, or engineers restrict their profession to certified engineers.

  52. 52
    Ampersand says:

    I stand corrected. I wasn’t thinking of the skilled trades, but yeah, of course they’re like that.

    Of course, as you point out, licensing schemes often work that way — even if there’s no union.

  53. 53
    Jake Squid says:

    One way around the near impossibility of getting into the projectionists union in NYC was to get into a projectionists union somewhere else. Once you did that, you moved to NYC and, since you were already a member of the union, you could work for union wages. I imagine that’s still the way to do it.