Monthly Archives: February 2021

Minimum Wage

I was never cut out to be an economist. I took undergraduate economics in the early 1970s. When I took economics in graduate school in the late 1980s, many economic theories had swung 180 degrees. Up was down and down was up, but that’s not too surprising since they’re all theories, not facts.

One of the theories of economics is that as the economy improves, it helps everybody–“a rising tide raises all boats.” This would be great if true, but to this non-economist, it does not seem to be so. The current discussion of minimum wage is one such example. It’s complex, since people who work for minimum wage include entry level workers, such as high school students who have a part time, after-school job, as well as adults. When I pick something up at a fast food restaurant I usually see a number of adults. Although I can’t say that they are working at minimum wage, I doubt that they are at the median US income of $68,400.00. Median, as you recall, is a number that reflects the point where half of the population is above that number and half below.

Adults at minimum wage may include those without the skills for better employment. However, the pandemic has thrown so many people out of work that those with advanced education or skills may work at a minimum wage job since that is all that’s available.

Below is a chart of non-farm productivity. In the United States, the productivity of nonfarm workers is measured as the output of goods and services per hour worked. Labor productivity is calculated by dividing an index of real output by an index of hours worked of all persons, including employees, proprietors, and unpaid family workers.

United States Nonfarm Labour Productivity

Productivity has obviously increased significantly over the past 10 years, but productivity is measured as a percentage. To find out how much money this reflects, we can look at a different measure. Gross domestic product (GDP) is a monetary measure of the market value of all the final goods and services produced in a specific time period. (The following chart is in billions of dollars.)

Both charts reflect the same period of time and show an increase in both productivity and GDP, yet for the same period, minimum wage has remained at $7.25 per hour.

To this non-economist it appears that the rising tide missed at least one boat.

Texas Power Repercussions

The Texas electrical power outage can teach us a few lessons. First, the Texas “we don’t want the Federal Government involved” attitude does not interfere with Texas’ expectation for that same Federal Government to bail them out when things go south. In fairness, the emergency assistance is to help the regular folks. I’m sure that the rich and powerful have whole-house generators that automatically switch on when power from the grid is lost–they may not have even noticed.

However, he biggest lesson here is to be aware of the difference between us and the elites. It’s not just Ted Cruz’s Mexican vacation that differentiates the haves versus the have-nots.

If you or I were responsible for 30 deaths and millions of dollars in damages, we’d be held accountable. We’d face a variety of civil and criminal charges and possibly be sitting in jail, waiting for our court date. On the other hand, what is the fate of those who were responsible for the decisions that led to his debacle–the board of directors of the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)?

They resigned.

Wow! What severe consequences! What a sincere penance for them to undertake! Who needs sackcloth and ashes or self-flagellation when resigning your seat on the board of directors is such a major atonement.

So what are they giving up?

Boards tend to meet monthly (what an exhausting schedule!) and are primarily the venue for rich people to get together and chat with other rich people. The board meeting normally starts with a catered meal, often with an open bar, after which the directors sit around a big table and talk about grand ideas. There are lots of boring PowerPoint slides and equally boring handouts. When the oldest member of the board nods off,it’s the signal that the meeting needs to end..

I certainly hope they survive the experience.

Yesteryear

I’m taking a break from the news, so today’s blog is about a long time ago.

Long ago in a grade school far, far away, normally sane people decided that it would be a good thing to educate me. They succeeded in most regards; the one exception was my penmanship. Even though the good Dominican nuns kept me in at recess to spend one-on-one time helping me, it came to naught. Note: as the shortest kid in my grade, not having to go out at recess and be the last one picked for every sport was a minor blessing.

It was a different world in the late 1050s and early 1960s. The desks we used in school had a circular hole in the upper right corner, which was left over from the use of inkwells. The only alphanumeric keyboards were on typewriters, most of which were manual.

We were required to use fountain pens, with allowance for cartridge pens. In any case, it had to have a nib, rather than a ballpoint. We had to turn our papers about 30 degrees counterclockwise so that the characters would be at a slant. The combination of the paper position and the ink meant that the left-handed kids wrapped their arm so that after they wrote a line, their arm dragged across it, sometimes smearing the ink.

In the Palmer Method of cursive writing, many of the letters are quite different than how they look in typeface. The capital “F” looks like a “T” with an extra line. The only place I see the cursive “G” today is in the General Mills logo. The “Q” looks exactly like a “2” to me, and no one will convince me otherwise.

As if that weren’t complicated enough, several lower case letters had different forms. If a word ended in “t,” there was a variation; the character was not crossed, but the last pen stroke looked like an upside down Nike swoop, although Nike did not yet exist. Similarly, there was a lower case “s” that looked more like a cursive “f.” Fortunately, these were optional so no one, except a few of the girls, used them. Girls’ hand muscles mature sooner than boys, so their overall penmanship was already near-perfect, not to mention that most grade-school boys were too impatient and not in the least inspired by cursive.

I could wax poetic about what a wonderful time it was back then–Black and White television, three or four channels, asbestos covered plumbing in the school hallways and restrooms, school uniforms– but I won’t.

Hawai’i

Visiting Molokai, Hawaii's forgotten island
Molokai, Hawai’i

I’ve noticed lately that more frequently there’s an additional character in the name of our 50th state. I don’t have any problem with that–not that the Hawai’ians should care about my opinion.

It’s kind of like how, in Spanish, the question is not “What is your name?” but “How do you call yourself?” It just seems civil to defer to the owner of a name as to how it is spelled or pronounced.

However, I’m a curious person and did a little digging. Here’s what I found.

What looks like a single open quote mark is an okina, the 8th consonant of the Hawai’ian alphabet. It indicates a glottal stop, such as what we use when we say “uh-oh.” The Hawai’ians view the addition of the okina as a spelling correction and not a name change. The effort has been going on for years, but seems to be gaining traction of late.

One suggestion, though. It might be wise to update computer spell checkers. That will cause the transition to be much faster.

Random Thoughts

DOGS

Dogs’ sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times better than humans. In a dog’s nose, the air for breathing takes a different route than the air for smelling. Dogs can even smell while exhaling.

The human sense of taste is largely dependent upon smell. In dogs, this is not true. In fact, they have a relatively weak sense of taste–which explains some of the nastier things dogs will eat. It makes me laugh when a dog food company runs a commercial to assure me that dogs will love the taste of their product. My dog basically inhales his food.

HAZARDOUS MATERIALS

Many unlikely materials are considered hazardous, for example White Out (Thank Heaven that we’ve progressed to computers from typewriters!).

Heavy metals, such as lead, silver, and especially mercury are hazardous. If you go to the mirror and open your mouth, you are likely to see amalgam (metal) fillings in your teeth. These are about 50 percent mercury, along with silver, tin and copper.

If your hobby is making or repairing stained glass windows, you fill the space between the individual pieces of glass with lead. Does this mean you need to have experts ensure your hobby room is decontaminated before you sell your house?

Flat Earth, The Marines, and MRI

https://d.newsweek.com/en/full/1508883/flat-earth-soccor.jpg
How Flat-Earthers Perceive the Planet

From time to time I am exposed to the flat-Earth believers.

I have to wonder. Do these people honestly believe that the Earth is flat? Personaly, I believe that the majority of them are just having fun at the expense of the rest of us, particularly those people who try to convince them that the Earth is a somewhat imperfect globe. Kind of like the Monty Python “I’d like to have an argument” sketch.

I have to believe that whoever started the flat Earth movement, did so after a few drinks at the local bar. There’s nothing wrong with that–the US Marine Corps trace their founding to Tun Tavern (althoughsome historians believe it may have actually been the Conestoga Wagon, another tavern).

In my mind–and without a shred of evidence–I have always imagined that Ray Damadian came up with the idea of the MRI and scanning humans while having a few, particularly since the initial idea, well, sounds crazy. I imagine this.

Ray: “If you could build a hollow magnet big enough to put a person inside and then aim radio waves at them, you could produce an image of their internal organs.”

Bartender: “We’d better take Ray’s keys and call him a cab. Obviously, he’s had too much.”

To my knowledge, Ray Damadian was not a Marine, does not believe the Earth is flat, and did not actually invent the MRI in a bar.

Are You Surprised?

Marilyn Manson Announces New Album 'We Are Chaos,' Shares ...
Marilyn Manson

Evan Rachel Wood has accused Marilyn Manson of abuse.

Three other women have come forward and also accused him of abuse.

I abhor abusers. Likewise with misogynists.

However, weren’t there some clues that might have warned these women?