Monday, December 09, 2013

Lefties, Pay, and Hypocrisy

Enjoy the juxtaposition of these two posts linked from Instapundit:
WAR ON WOMEN: Gender wage gap in Obama’s White House: Female staffers earn less than 87 cents on the dollar compared to men. “So I guess some obvious questions for Obama would include: Did you know that women working in your White House are paid less than men? Specifically, are you aware that female White House staffers earn 87 cents on the dollar compared to your male staffers? And shouldn’t your targeted initiatives to close the gender wage gap start in your own White House?”

Yeah, I’m sure the White House Press Corps will ask these hard-hitting questions real soon now.  link

For example, Organizing For Action, that kind of creepy newfangled 4H political arm of President Obama, is looking for talented, hard-working, ambitious folks to fill 14-week unpaid intern positions.
Among the work you might perform there free of charge? Agitating for an increase in the minimum wage!

Similarly, among those fabled dens of journalistic rabble rousing that do so much to stoke the rage against evil huge employers like Wal-Mart, Subway, McDonald’s and so many others, there are plenty of outlets looking for bright young people to man the barricades.

Again, for little or no pay.

The left-wing heroes at Mother Jones, bothered by the appearance of having unpaid interns, raised the job status to “fellows” and began paying them the royal wage of $1,000 a month. Assuming a normal work-week, alas, that’s well below the minimum wage mandated in its California editorial home.

Across country, in the cheap space of Manhattan, editorial interns at Salon are, alas, unpaid. That hasn’t stopped the magazine from publishing pieces excoriating the allegedly underpaid masses.

Well, at least former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich is one man who won’t stand for that sort of thing. At the left-wing American Prospect magazine he helped found, interns get a healthy $100-per-week stipend. That’s less than a third of what some exploited slob would get working 40 hours at minimum wage, but, hey, are you only in it for the money?
Hey, rules are for the little people.  link

One thing's for sure, you can always tell a leftie.


maxutils said...

Those gender gap salary figures are meaningless. Too many unknown variables: they aren't corrected for experience, seniority, type of work done, or position in the administration. The only way they would be relevant would be if they compared people whose job descriptions and length of service are equal ... and the fact that their ware many more high level positions filled by men will skew the figures higher for them (and, yes, I know that that makes the median a better measure than the mean). That said's only 13 cents on the dollar less. Not too bad. On the minimum wage, though? No way it should be raised. Better to eliminate it and strengthen pro - union laws.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Of course rules are for little people and, by inference, not for the rule-makers. They're a different, more refined breed and don't need the rules they make for lesser mortals.

Sorry max but those gender gap salary figures are meaningful since the Obama administration aligns itself with the utterly unjudicious radical feminists who would never allow the meaninglessness of gender gap salary figures to deter them from demanding legislatively-mandated pay equality. As far as they're concerned any difference in salary is due to male privilege. If you lie down with dogs you ought to get up with fleas.

As for strengthening pro-union laws, to hell with that.

I've been a member of two unions and a shop steward in one of 'em so I know whereof I speak, or write, with the claim that the unofficial union motto is "screw you, I've got mine".

I hope I live long enough the see all the pro-union laws repealed because if it's one thing a nation founded on the principle that all men are created equal doesn't need it's a class of people who can legally coerce what they have no legitimate right to expect.

maxutils said...

allen... I don't disagree with you about the propagandizing of salary gap figures. Sure, it's fun to point out that they're also true in the Obama administration, and you can wag you finger at him and shout, "Hypocrisy," but that's not really fair. My point was that the conclusion was based on a bad statistical model, and should be ignored. I'm more than happy to mock Obama, but I want to do it fairly ... there's more than enough to do it but this isn't the case to base it on.

We will probably never agree on unions, although I will continue to suggest you get any basic microeconomics text and read the section on monopsony and labor.

allen (in Michigan) said...

I'm not disagreeing with your view of the statistics, merely the context in which they're applied.

I know full well that when adjusted for time on the job and various other relevant factors women actually make slightly more then men. But left wing Democrats have set the bar deliberately low and I feel no responsibility to raise it. Sauce for the goose, etcetera.

With regard to unions I suspect you're right although not because I fail to comprehend their legitimacy but because you've chosen to turn a blind eye to their illegitimacy.

A union carpenter isn't more valuable then a non-union carpenter, he's just paid more. The reason a union carpenter's paid more is because the carpenter's union can coerce a wage higher then is commensurate with the value of the work the union carpenter produces. The essence of unions is arm-twisting and no amount of studying economics is going to legitimize such arm-twisting.

Feel free to address the coercive nature of unions rather then carefully avoiding that issue which to date has been your response, such as it is.

maxutils said...

allen ... fair argument. I poke sticks at either side when they bring up bad data and try to make a point with it. But, certainly, both Ds and Rs are equally guilty of manipulating stats.

As for the unions? First, if they aren't coercive, they won't work. It's unfortunate, but it's true. If you know you can get the same wage as the guy who's paying union dues, without paying union dues, why on earth would you join? Then again, if everyone else has that same entirely logical thought, you no longer have a union, and everyone winds up getting the lower wage.

The question is ... are they really coercing an unfairly higher wage? The answer is no. The only thing they do is balance the bargaining. The firm won't pay more than they can; the workers won't take more than they will. It is pure supply and demand. A union that negotiates too high a wage loses jobs; a firm that negotiates too low has no work force. Without a union, the firm can reach out to each individual worker and offer the lowest wage possible, and t he worker, who has fewer options, must take it. That is pure excess profit for the firm.

That said ... public employees unions do not fit that model, since there is no profit motive for government. I don't know what to do about that, save encouraging privatization.

Thank you for a very measured response ... I always enjoy dialogue with you even when we disagree.

maxutils said...

correction: workers won't take LESS than they will

allen (in Michigan) said...

"First, if they aren't coercive, they won't work."

And what part of "they won't work" is supposed to justify the "coercive" part? That's the logic of the mugger and if unions hadn't found a political party to make common cause with that coercion would be, properly, illegal. Legalizing coercion means only that you've achieved a political victory. But it's a political victory that's antithetical to the principles upon which this nation was founded. Sooner or later the forces that drove that political victory dissipate and the ugliness of the deal becomes sufficiently apparent that it starts to unravel.

That's what's in the process of happening, helped along by the, ultimately irresistibleness, forces of the free market.

But to return to the ethical illegitimacy of unions in a representative state, the power to coerce for private gain creates a class of citizen privileged above the class without the power to coerce for private gain. Hardly the situation that ought to apply in a nation "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal".

But that's just the intent upon which this nation was founded. It wouldn't be much of a representative state if only our good and worthwhile traits were represented. Stupidity, gullibility, greed and hate are also human characteristics and it's no surprise that those traits are also enshrined in law as well.

So the self-evidently illegitimate concept of the labor union as they are currently defined is sold to the public on the basis of some of the arguments you advance. But they're poor arguments and in some cases, like yours, contradictory.

For instance:

"First, if they aren't coercive, they won't work."


"The question is ... are they really coercing an unfairly higher wage? The answer is no."

So unions are coercive and they're not. Leaving aside the "balance the bargaining" eye-wash unions only work where not only the employer but the employer's customers have no recourse. So unions aren't just coercive, they're coercive within a monopolistic setting.

The worker, like any participant in a voluntary exchange of considerations of value, i.e. the free market, has just as many options as does the employer. The relationship is based on the worker doing a job that has some value for which the employer compensates them. The worker wants the highest wage possible and the employer the lowest.

Where the supply of labor is tight the worker has the advantage and where the supply of labor is great the employer has the advantage.

Not too terribly long ago the minimum wage issue was dead because the economy was strong and so was demand for labor. The much-maligned "burger flippers" were, in the Detroit area no less, getting $12/hour. Where were the greater options enjoyed by the employer then?

In fact, there are no inherent advantages enjoyed by the employer in the employer-employee relationship but it would be difficult to even make the specious "balance the bargaining" argument without that convenient untruth. The advantage, like all advantages in a free market economy, is transient and always redressed if redress is allowed.

Well look, this response is getting kind of long and I have the pleasure of shoveling snow to look forward too but at this point I'll tender an apology. The last sentence of my previous post was not in keeping with the tone you've so far set. Being a "golder rule" kind of guy the snippiness of that last sentence was inappropriate.

maxutils said...

allen... no snippiness was taken, but thank you anyway.
i agree with you on most of your points. For example, the $12/hr burger flippers are perfect evidence that there should not BE a minimum wage. At all. It's a license for firms not to have to compete for workers...I also agree that supply and demand inevitably influence the eventual wage, and that those are also dependent on the consumer.

The only place you and I disagree is on the issue of the union. If you have unique skills (actor, second basemen, nuclear physicist) you don't really need a union, because you are on the same bargaining plane as your employer, and can negotiate on a relatively equal level. (Which makes it ironic that actors and sports stars have unions ... they really don't need them) On the other hand ...If you have a job where you can be easily replaced (fast food, retail, manufacturing, etc.) or a job where it's difficult to measure your quality (teaching) you do not have the same power. If you don't take the lowball offer, someone else will. The employer doesn't really care.

They start to care if you get together. If the choice is you as an employee, or someone else, they take someone else if they will work for less. By unionizing, the workers prevent that from happening. Everyone with similar circumstances makes the same wage and is no longer disposable. That said...each group has an interest in a 'fair' outcome - fair being defined as, what can the firm pay and still make a reasonable profit, and the workers, at what rate do I value my labor? If either side crosses the line, both fail. That IS free market economics ... one of the most basic assumptions that Smith made was that there should be many identical buyers and sellers, and that's just not true in the labor market. You have vastly fewer buyers of labor than sellers of labor... they are at an inherent disadvantage.

So ... finally to coercion. There are two separate instances: coercion to join the union, and coercion to negotiate a wage. The first is necessary: if you're going to have a union, you can't have free riders. If I could get the same wage while not having to pay union dues, I would in a heartbeat. But that collapses the system and I get a lower wage ... so it's a trade-off: I pay a relatively small amount in union dues in return for a wage higher than I would have received without a union. The issue of coercion with the firm though? Possible, but unlikely. The firm knows what it can pay and still remain profitable. The union CAN'T coerce anything, and they shouldn't even want to, because it will cost jobs ... and I'll once again cite the example(s) of every major airline, whose unions negotiated wage DECREASES due to the fact that the airlines demonstrated that they weren't profitable ... I'm not saying there aren't abuses, but the concept of the union is economically correct, even from an Adam Smith standpoint.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Well, yeah, the only place we disagree is on the legitimacy of unions. You feel that there are reasons why some groups of people should have the power to coerce compensation greater then they'd get in a free market exchange and I don't.

You see, it's in the suborning of one of the founding principles upon which this nation is built that unions gain their power. Previous to the passage of laws that gave unions special privileges unions were explicitly and unapologetically thugs and, not uncommonly, murderous thugs. Unions have never strayed very far from their antecedents and it's only a combination of appeasement and the sure knowledge that beyond that appeasement there's an iron will that will brook no return to the union's storied history that's kept unions from being every bit as vicious as they were historically.

So save your "fairness" argument, it's specious and save your wage argument because you're trying to gild a, well, not a lily. Unions, as they are currently constituted with their special privileges, have no place in a nation built on principles of representative government. Were it up to me I'd repeal the Wagner act, the NLRB act and every other piece of legislation that enshrines into law the power of unions to screw their fellow Americans.

And, it's beginning to look like that view may be gaining adherents.

maxutils said...

It frustrates me that I continue to have to have this argument with people who otherwise agree with me on virtually every issue of economics. But, I guess I need to keep fighting. Free market economics works really well, except when it doesn't. I don't want to gloat, but I have a master's in econ ... I actually know what I'm talking about. There are times when th free market doesn;t work ... and many workers vs. few employers is one of them. You can believe it, or not, but it's true both in theory and practice.

maxutils said...

All I can say is read the economics. It's exceptionally frustrating to argue with people who won't inform themselves, and argue based on emotion and not logic and mathematical sense.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Learn to embrace frustration then because unions are on their way out and not because I won't learn some illusory economics lesson you claim will illuminate my path to a pro-union epiphany. Unions are on their way out because the only people who benefit from a union are its membership and they benefit only to the extent that society at large suffers.

Rather then being frustrated you should celebrate that for so long the fraudulent underpinnings of unions were successfully masked from public understanding and unions members could, for those decades, screw their fellow citizens.

If anyone has a right to be frustrated it's me. You've carefully avoided dealing with any of the points I've raised in preference to a repetition of your unsupported beliefs. But I'm not frustrated. I realize that the era of unions is coming to an end so discussions such as this are becoming pointless. I'm OK with that.

maxutils said...

I believe I have responded to everything you've asked ... you, on the other hand, have not read the literature. It's not illusory ... it works. My beliefs are not unsupported. I think I've dealt with every point you've raised ... if I haven't remind me. I don't shy from debate.

maxutils said...

Ok ...
1) My 'beliefs' are not unsupported, they are based on 7 years of educated study, which I keep suggesting you learn about.
2) I am a huge proponent of the free market, as clearly you are as well
3) Free market economics is great ... but at times it doesn't work... and the proponent of free market economics, Adam Smith, recognized this and addressed it... and the labor market is one of those cases. Free market competition ASSUMES equal number of buyers and sellers ... do you really want to try to convince me that the number of employers equals the number of workers? Because if you do, you're off you're rocker. The minute you violate one of the assumptions, everything else falls ... that's why there are exceptions.

I'd agree with you ... if everyone made everything the same, and everyone could move freely from firm to firm, you'd be right...but that isn't how it is. the smaller group has the advantage, always, and if you agree with that being fair, you support monopoly as the end goal.