Bigotry is expensive

❝ It seems like every day there’s a new battle being fought over discrimination in the U.S. There was the Ellen Pao trial and its claims of sexual bias at Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firm, the continuing revelations of endemic racial discrimination in Ferguson, Missouri, and the so-called religious freedom law in Indiana that many believe is a thinly veiled cover for anti-gay discrimination.

If racial and gender discrimination were purely matters of fairness, ending them would still be a worthy cause. But there is another reason to combat discrimination — it boosts the economy.

❝ The basic reason is misallocation of resources. In an economy functioning at tip-top efficiency, people do the job that they’re most efficient at doing, relative to other jobs they could be doing, and relative to other people in the economy. That’s called the principle of comparative advantage, and it dates back at least to the famous 19th century economist David Ricardo. Notice that nowhere does the principle of comparative advantage leave room for race or gender. These things, in and of themselves, are simply not important for economic efficiency — the only thing that matters is how well people can perform their jobs.

❝ So if a society bases its decisions of who gets which job on race and gender, it’s going to be sacrificing efficiency. If women aren’t allowed to be doctors, the talent pool for doctors will be diluted, and wages will be pushed up too high, choking off output. This would be true even in a bizarro world where every man was a better doctor than every woman! Of course that’s not even remotely true, but the point is, the theory of comparative advantage doesn’t care about average differences in absolute ability. If you’re making rules about which type of people are allowed to do which type of job, you’re hurting the economy.

❝ Just how big of a difference does this make? A team of top economists has recently studied the question, and their results are pretty startling. In “The Allocation of Talent and Economic Growth,” economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and Erik Hurst of the University of Chicago Booth Business School and Charles Jones and Peter Klenow of Stanford estimate that one fifth of total growth in U.S. output per worker between 1960 and 2008 was due to a decline in discrimination…

The authors’ approach is clever. They treat discrimination as a tax. If you think about it, this makes sense — just as taxes discourage business activity, discrimination in employment or education discourages its victims from taking certain jobs or getting training for certain skills. The authors explicitly allow for the possibility that different groups might have different average ability levels with respect to different occupations. They also count home production — child care and housework — as a real contribution to gross domestic product. They put these assumptions into a Roy model, which is a very flexible general equilibrium model that economists typically use when evaluating people’s occupational choices…

❝ Simply reducing individual prejudice would be a wonderful way of attacking discrimination at the source. That’s why the continuing social movements for greater racial and gender equality are valuable — not just for reasons of fairness but for our economic future.

RTFA for more about the study’s methodology. Should be required reading for all the politicians who waste thousands of hours, million of dollar$, defending the indefensible bigotry they install to please their favorite idjit voters.

Central bankers around the world are stuck at zero — plead with politicians to take action


Christopher Sims, Nobel LaureateMercoPress

❝ Central bankers in charge of the vast bulk of the world’s economy delved deep into the weeds of money markets and interest rates over a three-day conference recently, and emerged with a common plea to their colleagues in the rest of government: please help.

❝ Mired in a world of low growth, low inflation and low interest rates, officials from the Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank said their efforts to bolster the economy through monetary policy may falter unless elected leaders stepped forward with bold measures. These would range from immigration reform in Japan to structural changes to boost productivity and growth in the U.S. and Europe.

Without that, they said, it would be hard to convince markets and households that things will get better, and encourage the shift in mood many economists feel are needed to improve economic performance worldwide. During a Saturday session at the symposium, such a slump in expectations about inflation and about other aspects of the economy was cited as a central problem complicating central banks’ efforts to reach inflation targets and dimming prospects in Japan and Europe…

❝ In an…address by Princeton University economist Christopher Sims, policymakers were told that it may take a massive program, large enough even to shock taxpayers into a different, inflationary view of the future.

“Fiscal expansion can replace ineffective monetary policy at the zero lower bound,” Sims said. “It requires deficits aimed at, and conditioned on, generating inflation. The deficits must be seen as financed by future inflation, not future taxes or spending cuts.”

The usual Reagan rationales for doing nothing infect what passes for 21st Century conservatism. Absence of backbone and craptastic excuses characterize liberal political parties outside of the milieu of European labor parties. The time for ennui is over. Bernie Sanders’ campaign in the United States proved that.

Life expectancy vs. health expenditure in the Greatest Land on Earth – or so we are told


Click to enlargeThe visual capitalist

Understand and appreciate one thing: our politicians, liberal, conservative and populist nutball all prate about the wonders of American-style capitalism. When, frankly, there’s a lot going on where we suck. On the largest scale – being the leading economy no matter the decay – means that we can bring down most of the world when we get caught out as in the recent Great Recession. The inanities of reactionary and racist history dear to the hearts of the class warriors running the show distort every aspect of our lives – from the dream of equal opportunity to classifying healthcare as a privilege not a right.

Our healthcare system and crap results are an outlier on the face of global political economy. Someday, somehow, the broad populace of this nation will wake up, stand up and shake off this foolishness and the pimps selling it to us.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Democrat gun control sit-in became a social media sensation – a Republican FAIL

A blackout of television cameras in the U.S. House Representatives during the Democrats’ gun control sit-in may have spurred public interest in the protest as it forced the demonstrators to use social media to broadcast their message.

Democrats leapt on Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope after the cameras, controlled by the House, went dark Wednesday when presiding House officer and Republican Representative Ted Poe declared the chamber not in order during the protest.

As Democrats took to alternative forms of video broadcasting, their message gained tremendous momentum from social media. On Twitter, the hashtags #NoBillNoBreak and #HoldTheFloor have been tweeted at least 1.4 million times.

Of the roughly 20 members of Congress who remained at the sit-in overnight, 19 of them used Facebook Live for a total combined viewership of 3 million.

❝ “It really connected with people out there,” Congressman Scott Peters told Reuters.This whole phenomenon with [live video] struck a nerve.”

Peters used the application Periscope, which is connected to the social media platform Twitter, to send out video.

“Without that, think about it, it would have been a caucus meeting where we talk to ourselves,” he added…

Even C-SPAN, which typically broadcasts footage recorded by the House cameras, picked up live video from four different members of Congress roughly two hours after the House cameras shut down, according to communications director Howard Mortman. It marked the first time the channel broadcast a live social media feed from the House floor.

All this in violation of rules designed by anachronistic fools for stodgy politicians.

What can we look forward to? Sooner or later, something approaching an equivalent of the Arab Spring – without ordinary citizens being shot down in the streets by coppers obeying criminals holding government office.

Oh, BTW – over the timespan of the sit-in, 88 people were shot in the United States.

If politicians had man buns

It all started when @FigDrewton on Twitter uploaded a photo of Donald Trump with a man bun. The Internet applauded and everyone was happy.

That’s when design crowdsourcing website DesignCrowd decided to host a contest, challenging their community to imagine what other politicians and world leaders might look like with a man bun.

101 submissions were received and some of them were pretty hilarious. Click here for some of the Sifter’s personal favourites, but you can see all of the entries on DesignCrowd along with the winners here.


My personal favorite

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Anyone expect Congress to pay attention to folks who don’t vote?

…Americans who vote are different from those who don’t. Voters are older, richer, and whiter than nonvoters, in part because Americans lack a constitutional right to vote and the various restrictions on voting tend to disproportionately impact the less privileged. In 2014, turnout among those ages 18 to 24 with family incomes below $30,000 was 13 percent. Turnout among those older than 65 and making more than $150,000 was 73 percent. The result is policy that is biased in favor of the affluent. As I argue in a new report, “Why Voting Matters,” higher turnout would transform American politics by giving poor, young, and nonwhite citizens more sway…

But would boosting turnout actually change policy? We have reason to think so. Research suggests that voters are indeed better represented than nonvoters, but the historical and international record lend support to the thesis as well…

The expansion of the franchise to women is…instructive. As women gained access to the franchise within the United States, state government spending increased dramatically… Indeed, the enfranchisement of women boosted spending on public health so significantly that it saved an estimated 20,000 children each year.

Later, the civil rights movement mobilized the Southern black electorate, which led to more liberal voting patterns among Southern Democrats and a boost in government spending going to black communities. The elimination of poll taxes and the subsequent mobilization of poor voters also lead to an increase in welfare spending.

There are many reasons the United States doesn’t have an expansive welfare state, like nearly every other high-income country. However, one important part is low voter turnout…There is a dramatic divergence between the United States and other countries in terms of both voter turnout and government spending…

But deep differences in turnout based on income, age, and race only serve to further reduce the poor’s say. In the status quo, politicians don’t have incentives to listen to ordinary Americans, because it won’t cost them anything. That won’t change until turnout among nonwhite and poor voters increases. There are a number of ways that government can encourage voting: by fixing the Voting Rights Act, by enacting automatic voter registration, by repealing voter ID laws. All would give the poor more voice, and give policies they support a better chance of passage.

Of course, the changes advocated by McElwee don’t stand much chance of enactment without replacing most of the conservative Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Who needs to be convinced of the usefulness of that?

Bloomington, Minnesota addresses 3rd-grade literacy before kids get there

I volunteer at a local elementary school on Monday mornings, tutoring children who are behind in reading. This week, I worked with Carla [name changed], a third-grade dual language learner who is reading at a first-grade level. She knows that she is behind and her confidence is low. She told me how much she disliked reading and insisted that she would never catch up to her peers. I could see Carla’s frustration mounting during our hour together. She’s feeling pressure from the invested adults in her life–teachers, school leaders, parents, and tutors–to get up to speed quickly.

That pressure isn’t without reason: Third-grade reading proficiency is predictive of future success, both inside and outside of the classroom. It has become one of the most commonly cited indicators of student achievement. To use one example: students who aren’t proficient readers by the end of third grade are less likely to graduate high school. Readers who are not yet proficient by the end of third grade are ill-prepared for fourth, a transitional year in which content and texts become much more complex. Children who are not up to speed by then continue to fall further and further behind.

Continue reading

Canada’s ruling Conservatives have a wee problem

A Toronto businessman who ran for parliament with Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s party is out of the race, after being caught on video urinating into a coffee cup.

The news about Jerry Bance, who was filmed while working as an appliance repairman, capped a bad week for Harper, who faces re-election as Canada has entered a recession.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation used hidden cameras in 2012 to record Bance peeing into the cup and pouring it down the sink while on a service call. The homeowner was in the next room.

Bance runs an appliance repair company; the CBC was reporting on home repair companies.

Bance had been running in a Toronto district in the 19 October election, but a Conservative party spokesman said on Monday: “Mr Bance is no longer a candidate.”…

The opposition New Democrat leader, Tom Mulcair, did not miss a chance to mock Bance and the Conservatives.

“He must be someone who is adept at Stephen Harper’s trickle-down theory of economics,” Mulcair said.

When I mentioned this to my wife, she responded – “What’s happening to the Canadians? That’s certainly not a very Canadian thing to do. What do your relatives in the Maritimes think?”

I explained – it’s not that Canadians are adopting the crass ethos of their southern neighbor – which is living through the transition from Imperial Overlord to Mediocrity not really in charge. It’s just that Canadian Conservatives have decided to emulate American conservatives. So, racism, nativism, male supremacy, ignoranus economics are the rule of the day. That leads inevitably to the extension of boorish behavior to every aspect of life.

No doubt some True Believer will stand for office calling for the expulsion of First Nation folks from some chunk of terra firma capable of squeezing out something profitable.

Oh.

L.A. County politicians didn’t get the drought memo – I guess

Despite a devastating four-year drought that has forced strict water conservation measures across California, most Los Angeles County supervisors still have their cars washed two or three times a week…

The multiple weekly car washes carry on despite Governor Jerry Brown’s admonitions to Californians to take shorter showers and stop watering their lawns and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s own “Save the Drop” campaign, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

The five supervisors can either collect a car allowance or have the county buy them a vehicle, which is washed, maintained and kept fueled at taxpayer expense.

The Daily News determined through public service records that two of the supervisors, Don Knabe and Michael Antonovich, have their SUVs washed by county workers an average of twice a week and that a third, Mark Ridley-Thomas, has his car cleaned three times a week.

The remaining two, Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, wash their cars about once a week…Ridley-Thomas, Knabe and Antonovich actually increased the frequency of their car washes after the governor ordered the first statewide mandatory water restrictions in April, directing cities and communities to reduce their water usage by 25 percent…

Unlike many commercial car washes, the county’s facilities do not use recirculated water, the Daily News said.

The supervisors declined to answer questions from the Daily News about the car washing.

How about admitting they’re foolish, self-serving jerks? How about stopping the silliness immediately?

How about adopting practices already part of the daily lives of sensible Californians?