Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I Ain't Tongue-Tied

As Neil Young sang (in “Hawks and Doves”), “I ain’t tongue-tied/Just don’t got nothin' to say."

I’m trying to be in-world a little more often than the past year or so, but I can feel the effects of doing so after 30 minutes, which doesn’t leave a lot of time to actually accomplish anything. Add to that my continued problems with getting sustained acceptable frame rates with my aging iMac, and the in-world experience is a little frustrating.

Back in the “real” world, the U.S. Presidential election cycle is in full swing, and boy is it depressing. Vying to represent the party of FDR, HST, JFK, and LBJ are a septuagenarian Socialist and a lying, money-grubbing crook. Oh, and that other guy that no one has heard of. (Used to be Governor of my state. As much as I complain about the job he did, he is clearly the best of the three, admittedly an example of the soft bigotry of low expectations, which is no doubt why he’s around 1% in the polls.) I don’t want any of those people issuing executive orders, much less making appointments to Federal courts.

But the public’s attention seems to be on the circus on the other side of the political aisle. It was bad enough to have what seemed like every politician with an R by his name running, including yet another Bush and former governors of New York and Virginia from so long ago that dinosaurs still roamed the Earth - plus a former tech company CEO, plus a neurosurgeon -, each unable to get enough press time to articulate a coherent sent of policies, assuming he or she had one. We then had to be treated to the spectacle of Donald Trump and the accompanying media love/hate-fest. The Donald had one dynamite insight, which is that immigration of millions of unskilled workers and their dependents depresses the wages of people at the bottom of the pay scale, and that immigration of millions of people from the same area, far from increasing “diversity,” inevitably changes the social fabric of the country. Weirdly, no one else from the Republican party was willing to agree with that incontrovertible, and wildly popular, truth. Yet no matter what other nonsense comes from Trump’s mouth, or what mainstream liberal positions he espoused either recently or, indeed, currently, his popularity keeps increasing. (Apparently. We’ll see once people actually start voting in primaries.) I understand frustration with the political establishment, and I understand the populist vein Trump seems to be tapping into, but c’mon, people, consider the prospect of four years of his kind of incoherence. It would be like the Obama years, but with more charisma and humor.

However, there seems to be no point in saying all this. Indeed, if polls are to be believed, the previous two paragraphs have offended roughly 60-70% of voters. Now, unlike certain celebrities who keep promising to leave the country if so-and-so is elected, and keep disappointing me by reneging on the promise, I’m not going anywhere. But it’s a really depressing prospect that this is the best we can do.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Effect of Higher Minimum Wages on the Unskilled

More evidence that, yes, labor demand curves do slope downward.

The money quote:
My baseline estimate is that this period’s full set of minimum wage increases reduced employment among individuals ages 16 to 30 with less than a high school education by 5.6 percentage points.
It doesn't seem to matter how much research is done: far too many people persist in thinking that increases in the minimum wage are somehow a magical cure-all for poverty.