Hillary Clinton Was Right in That Minimum Wage Fight and Her Rivals Were Wrong – By Helene Olen NOV. 15 2015 12:48 AM

Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley during the second official 2016 Democratic presidential candidates debate in Iowa, on Nov. 14, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley during the second official 2016 Democratic presidential candidates debate in Iowa, on Nov. 14, 2015.

Who is Alan Krueger and why did his name come up when Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Martin O’Malley were arguing over the minimum wage Saturday night at the Democratic debate on CBS? And is he a Wall Street crony like O’Malley suggested, or a progressive economist like Hillary said?

Krueger, the former chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and a professor of economics at Princeton University, published a paper in 1994—along with David Card at the University of California, Berkeley—looking at the impact on employment after New Jersey raised its minimum wage in 1992. The two men studied hiring patterns at fast food outlets located near the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, a neighboring state that did not raise its minimum wage at the time. The result? No job loss for the New Jersey dining establishments. There was, in fact, a slight move toward more full-time work.

This was an unexpected result, to say the least. Economists believed jobs would be lost when the minimum wage was increased, because employers wouldn’t be able to afford to hire as much labor. Some have since performed other studies to show that raising the minimum wage does result in job losses. (As Annie Lowrey noted in the New York Times a few years back, “As always in economics, nobody seems to agree on anything.”) So, based on these other studies, the idea that job losses go up when the minimum wage does remains the conventional wisdom in conservative and Republican circles. Jeb Bush, for example, claimed a few months ago that an increase in the federal minimum wage would “make it harder and harder” for people to get on the “first rung” of the employment ladder. It was a big issue in the last Republican debate as well, with multiple candidates adamantly opposing minimum wage increases. (There is also the idea that a higher minimum wage will lead companies to send jobs to countries where they can pay employees less, which is what Donald Trump was referring to when he claimed “wages [are] too high,” in that debate).

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The Democrats’ wage problem – By TIMOTHY NOAH 11/14/15 07:50 AM EST

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders joins low-wage workers, some who labor as cooks and cleaners at the Capitol, as he speaks during a rally. | AP Photo

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders joins low-wage workers, some who labor as cooks and cleaners at the Capitol, as he speaks during a rally. | AP Photo

Americans’ incomes have declined during Obama’s presidency.

Democrats were gleeful this week when Donald Trump blurted out in Tuesday’s debate that “wages [are] too high.” But as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley prepare to debate Saturday night, the Democrats have a wage problem of their own: American incomes have dropped during the Obama presidency.

It’s a vulnerability that Republicans haven’t figured out how to exploit, and it’s clearly one of the biggest weaknesses in the Obama economic recovery.

In 2014, the last year for which Census data are available, median household income was $1,656 lower than it was in January 2009, when President Barack Obama took office. A recent survey by the private firm Sentier Research showed household income finally rose this year above its level in June 2009, when the Great Recession ended — but only by 1.3 percent. That’s a terrible record for any presidency. But that such stagnation occurred during a Democratic one is potentially a big problem for Democratic candidates, and especially for Clinton, who’s running on her role in that administration.

“I think that there are two phenomena here,” said Stuart Stevens, a senior strategist in Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. “Those who normally are the most articulate, passionate voices for those who are doing least well in the economy have been muted over the past seven years” because they don’t want to undercut Obama. That should create an opening for Republicans.

But “Republicans have never been great at talking about this,” Stevens said.

The Republican candidates’ wage conundrum isn’t about excoriating the Democrats. They’re all too happy to call out Obama for failing to lift incomes.


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The Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics Has Deep Concerns About Income Inequality – By Alison Griswold OCT. 12 2015 2:13 PM

 Angus Deaton, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Economics. Photo by Denise Applewhite. Courtesy of the Office of Communications/Princeton University.

Angus Deaton, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Economics.
Photo by Denise Applewhite. Courtesy of the Office of Communications/Princeton University.

On Monday, Angus Deaton, a British-American economist and professor at Princeton University, won the 2015 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his work on “consumption, poverty, and welfare.” As that description might suggest, Deaton’s academic interests are quite vast. His areas of research include “poverty in the world and in India,” “health status and economics,” and “household surveys.” His list of papers and publications is similarly extensive.

In addition to all that, Deaton has also focused a good deal on income inequality. The topic has appeared in both the biannual “Letter from America” he pens for the Royal Economic Society’s Newsletter and, more prominently, in his book on 250 years of income inequality, The Great Escape. (A book which, incidentally, was released in October 2013, several months before the English-language version of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century). In his April 2014 letter, for example, Deaton pointed out how the United States appeared to have suddenly “rediscovered” income inequality following decades of stagnant median wages and dramatic wealth accumulation at the very top. “There are many unfamiliar things in a new country,” he wrote, “and one of the most immediate, for me, when I first came to America, was the lack of interest in inequality, among either academics or the general public.” And:

In politics too, income inequality had little traction. Americans, unlike the British, are not interested in or disturbed by stories of ‘fat cats’, indeed they rather approve of them. Attempts by Democratic politicians to talk about inequality or redistribution were effectively met by cries of ‘class warfare’ from the Republicans. Americans, we were told, believed in the American Dream, that everyone could get rich if they tried hard enough. It was equality of opportunity that was important, not inequality of outcomes, and America, so the story went, was the land of opportunity.

As for what such newly rediscovered gaps in equality might mean, The Great Divideoffers the following commentary (via Cardiff Garcia):

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All Work and No Pay: The Great Speedup

Illustration: Mark Matcho

Update (9/3/2015): The US economy has roared back since the Great Recession, but many employees are grappling with the same overwhelming crush of work that was a hallmark of the downturn. The phenomenon has fueled an extraordinary rise in corporate revenues, but it has also stretched workers to the breaking point. Here’s why: 

On a bright spring day in a wisteria-bedecked courtyard full of earnest, if half-drunk, conference attendees, we were commiserating with a fellow journalist about all the jobs we knew of that were going unfilled, being absorbed or handled “on the side.” It was tough for all concerned, but necessary—you know, doing more with less.

“Ah,” he said, “the speedup.”

His old-school phrase gave form to something we’d been noticing with increasing apprehension—and it extended far beyond journalism. We’d hear from creative professionals in what seemed to be dream jobs who were crumbling under ever-expanding to-do lists; from bus drivers, hospital technicians, construction workers, doctors, and lawyers who shame-facedly whispered that no matter how hard they tried to keep up with the extra hours and extra tasks, they just couldn’t hold it together. (And don’t even ask about family time.)

Webster’s defines speedup as “an employer’s demand for accelerated output without increased pay,” and it used to be a household word. Bosses would speed up the line to fill a big order, to goose profits, or to punish a restive workforce. Workers recognized it, unions (remember those?) watched for and negotiated over it—and, if necessary, walked out over it.

But now we no longer even acknowledge it—not in blue-collar work, not in white-collar or pink-collar work, not in economics texts, and certainly not in the media (except when journalists gripe about the staff-compacted-job-expanded newsroom). Now the word we use is “productivity,” a term insidious in both its usage and creep. The not-so-subtle implication is always: Don’t you want to be a productive member of society? Pundits across the political spectrum revel in the fact that US productivity (a.k.a. economic output per hour worked) consistently leads the world. Yes, year after year, Americans wring even more value out of each minute on the job than we did the year before. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Except what’s good for American business isn’t necessarily good for Americans. We’re not just working smarter, but harder. And harder. And harder, to the point where the driver is no longer American industriousness, but something much more predatory.

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Uneven Wages Cast Shadow Over Labor Day – By Andrew Soergel Sept. 7, 2015 | 12:01 a.m. EDT

Labor Day has been around in the U.S. for more than 100 years. So, too, has wage inequality.

Americans' paychecks vary by more than just job titles.

Americans’ paychecks vary by more than just job titles.

Millions of American workers for more than a century have welcomed the beginning of September – and the three-day weekend accompanying it – with open arms, ironically enjoying a day off on a holiday known as Labor Day.

But not everyone is celebrating. A recent Bloomberg BNA poll found that 41 percent of employers will require at least some of their workers to punch in on Labor Day. About 80 percent of firms with at least 1,000 employees will require some of their staffers to work, while only 29 percent of smaller companies said the same.

It’s understandable that not all employee vacation plans in the U.S. are created equal. But as America prepares to celebrate a holiday dedicated to the diverse body of workers that help drive the country’s economy forward, it’s worth taking a step back to look over the labor market’s deeply uneven landscape that extends far beyond workers’ vacation schedules.

Worker pay, for example, is up all over the U.S. Average hourly earnings for private, non-farm workers in August increased 2.2 percent year over year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But that doesn’t mean everybody’s 2.2 percent better off now than they were in August 2014.

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$7.50 For 1 Day’s Work (Extra Scene from ‘The Fruits of Cheap Labor’) – Vice News Published on Aug 27, 2015

In northern Mexico, farm workers who pick produce bound for US supermarkets earn as little as $7 a day. They follow the harvest, traveling between the states of Sinaloa and Baja California as internal migrants in their own country. With daycare not an option, children join their parents on the job, sometimes working in 100-degree heat.

In this extra scene, farm workers receive their daily wage. For a 52-year-old laborer working six hours a day, her salary is $7.50 — plus a marshmallow.

Read: Mexican Laborers Want Americans to Know Who Picks Their Fruits and Vegetables – http://bit.ly/1hsteFf

Watch: The Way Americans Eat – The Business of Life (Episode 8) – http://bit.ly/1MW5K6Q