–Ben Spielberg and I have a new piece out today on the drip of anti-worker rule changes, executive orders, and legislation from the Trump administration targeting worker safety, pay, and unions. I suspect that even for those who are paying attention, some of this wasn’t on your radar.
–Speaking of unions–and we should be doing so, especially as Labor Day approaches–I recently penned this piece based on some new work by EPI on the benefits of unionization. I tried to take a slightly different angle on this one. Instead of focusing solely on what I consider the central problem facing many workers today–the lack of bargaining clout–and unions’ role in alleviating that problem, I wanted to also amplify EPI’s points regarding the forces responsible for unions’ decline. The rise of the union-busting industry, the need for modernizing labor law, including moving to bargaining by sector, not by firm–these are essential factors that must be dealt with if there’s any hope of bending the trend. Key point: the trends you see in the figure–negative for unions, positive for inequality–are not the result of natural forces. It’s policy.
–Finally, I haven’t written yet about the disaster and suffering in Houston and other parts of the state–the extent of devastation takes your breath away, and my heart goes out to the people trying to deal with this.
From a policy perspective, one thing that’s going on here is the intersection of three dangerous forces: bad price signals, climate change, and hyperbolic discounting.
I’ll have more to say about this soon, but here’s what I’m talking about:
–The true cost of building homes and businesses in flood zones is masked by highly subsidized federal flood insurance and outdated information on the true risk profiles of the zones themselves. The true cost of paving over the natural water-absorptive capacity of the ground in Houston is, as we are learning, part of the problem, though no storm management system could have dealt with a deluge of this magnitude, which brings us to point #2:
–Much good writing on climate change and Harvey suggests that while the hurricane itself may or may not be associated with the warmer climate and warmer seas caused by human activity and carbon emissions, the unprecedented extent of rainfall surely is a side effect of global warming.
–We as humans are programmed to heavily discount the future. So, building in flood zones and not recognizing the threat to an especially vulnerable city from the clear increase in extreme weather comes naturally to us (this was written over a year ago).
We must work against this unfortunate instinct and getting the prices right should be the easy part. More to come…