Catching up with links, and a quick word on Harvey (w/ more to come)

August 30th, 2017 at 1:15 pm

–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true cost of building homes and businesses in flood zones is masked by highly subsidized federal flood insurance and outdated information on the true risk profiles of the zones themselves.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…

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6 comments in reply to "Catching up with links, and a quick word on Harvey (w/ more to come)"

  1. Dude says:

    Regarding unions, this looks like a good scapegoat for the fascists. Hear that people? They’re going to force you to risk yourselves by attempting to organize yourselves! They will take no responsibility for you. I’m sure they’ll comfort themselves by passing irrelevant laws.

  2. Smith says:

    Right to work is hardly even a major impediment to unions and worker rights. Unions make a big deal out of it because it severely restricts the amount of money they have to finance their activities, especially as regards union officials paying themselves. It is emblematic of union corruption that they make such a big deal out of this instead of more important issues which more directly affect workers and organizing. Unions are in no small part to blame for their bad reputation. When have liberal voices ever proclaimed this, admitted this, confessed this? Maybe never.
    It is pretty sick to read about the Obama administration’s last minute attempt after eight years in office to affect “exempt” status and restore the 40 hour work week, effective after the administration left office. Blame regarding an inability to fill NLRB positions merely displays the political ineptness which prestaged the Supreme Court disaster. Republicans learned the lesson Obama was an easy mark.
    It can be pointed out that bargaining by sector exists in France but is under attack by the new government and more strangely, was attacked by the previous socialist government and economic minister, now president.
    The $15/hour minimum received crucial support from unions, but sill relies on legislation, not negotiation.
    Worthy goals to end the closing of profitable factories, end the exploitation of immigrants and requirements for employer sponsorship, pass universal health care, offer quality child care, mandate minimum paid vacation and sick leave, are again laws to be passed, though needing union support.

  3. Nick Batzdorf says:

    It seems like a meaningful profit-sharing requirement for every public contract would be a sensible policy here. I like the idea of expanded capital ownership in general, but in this case it’s the best safeguard against plunder I can think of.

  4. Ed Viguerie says:

    Rrgarding the second item, is there a link for the “piece based on some new work by EPI on the benefits of unionization.” Thanks