Jeb! Bush May Be The Best Gift To Unions We’ve Had In Years

You’ve probably seen the Jeb!* Bush quote making the rounds on the Interwebs this week, but let me go ahead and drop it in here just to make sure we’re all on the same page:

“My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours” and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.”

Wow. He packed a whole heap o’ wrongness into one statement, didn’t he? Where to start? So many choices!

Let’s start with the idea that American workers need to be more productive. The New York Times noted:

From 1973 to 2011, worker productivity grew 80 percent…

Worker productivity is already at a high-water mark. Call me crazy…wait, no, call me “someone who can recognize really obvious things,” but if the premise is that the economy stinks and productivity exceptionally high, then “more productivity” may not be the right answer.

Now, is “workforce participation” at an all-time modern low? Well, only if you narrowly define “modern” as “post-1977.” Otherwise, no. Now, it is trending downward, so even though Jeb!’s statement is false, it hints at the truth.  If productivity is up, then each worker is doing more work per hour which tends to reduce the need for more workers. There are strong reasons to suspect that productivity and workforce participation are inversely related.

He then applies the Limbaugh-esque conclusion that the solution is to “work more hours.” That is, of course, the opposite of what the situation he’s describe calls for. If workforce participation is already too low (and I agree that it is), then asking the people who are already in the workforce to work more is going to reduce the amount of work available. This is not terribly complicated.

The best bit, the cherry on top, is the claim that increased productivity will lead to more income for their families. You’d think so, but you’d be oh-so-very wrong. Let me complete that quote from the New York Times:

From 1973 to 2011, worker productivity grew 80 percent, while median hourly compensation, after inflation, grew by just one-eighth that amount, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group. And since 2000, productivity has risen 23 percent while real hourly pay has essentially stagnated.

That makes sense if you think about it in a capitalist mindset (and it would be un-American to do otherwise): If one worker can now do twice as much work, and there’s no increase in demand, it makes no sense to pay them twice as much. The smart move is to ask one worker to do the work of two, and then fire the second. This is super-duper important: Increased productivity, in a vacuum, decreases workforce participation and does not increase earning power. It’s great for the job creators, but the job doers kind of take it in the shorts.

Look at it this way: Let’s say you are a wheat farmer and someone comes up with a process that doubles everyone’s yield. So hurray, everyone produces twice as much wheat. Unfortunately, there’s not need for twice as much wheat, so all you’ve accomplished is cutting the price you get for your wheat in half, thereby getting paid the same amount for producing twice as much.

Now, it’s entirely possible that Jeb! is sending a coded message to the captains of industry that he “gets” it and he’s on their side. I honestly don’t think it’s anything that sinister; I think it’s just an incredibly tone-deaf and naive bit of campaigning. It’s disappointing in the sense that he’s supposed to be the moderate, level-headed one, and he’s prescribing a cure that would have seemed needlessly cruel in a Dickens novel.

The good news is that most every news outlet has picked apart Jeb!’s plan and said that this is pretty much the opposite of what a good policy would look like. The question is: What would a good policy look like? It would encourage more people to work, it would protect jobs against the temptation to cut them when productivity increased, and it would reduce, not increase, the hours each person worked. And, it would increase demand by increasing the amount of money in the hands of the people who will spend it, rather than increase the wealth of those who won’t. That, my friends, is what unions do. It doesn’t necessarily follow that if Jeb! is wrong, unions are right. But it makes a whole lot of sense, doesn’t it?

* I hate that we have so many Bushes in the American political scene that we have to specify which one we’re talking about. Please let’s not have Chelsea Clinton go into politics as well.

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Congratulations to the U.S.A. on winning the World Cup


That was a dominant performance. The final result, 5-2, was flattering to Japan. The U.S. team played with swagger, technical and the kind of teamwork that should have Jurgen Klinsmann taking notes. Up 4-0 on 16 minutes, the U.S. could have just have just put it in cruise control.

Instead, hat-trick scorer Carli Lloyd was sliding into tackles in the defensive end of the pitch in the 85th minutes.

It was a master class in team football and the U.S. were deserving of winning their record third world cup. I’d like to give a special shout-out to Title IX for helping to make this possible. It turns out that, when you open the door, some pretty amazing people make their way through it.

P.S. Vox has this nice piece on the same subject.

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To my friends in the U.S.A.

Happy 4th of July, you crazy nutters. Congratulations on winning your independence some 239 years ago (a prime number!). For all of my snark aimed at your ridiculous politicians and celebrities, you’ve done a pretty good job in these ensuing centuries. America was founded on the idea that power should reside in the hands of the people and, while your definition of “people” started out pretty restrictive, you’ve made steady progress on that front.

Still a lot of work to do, of course, You’ve still got a lot of racist DNA in you, you’re not quite there with respect to gender equality, and your treatment of your poor is absolutely appalling. Like I said, you’ve done pretty well moving the bar, and I’m not sure you’ll ever get it 100% right. Just remember, when you’re deservedly patting yourself on the back, that you’ve still got a way to go.

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It’s probably mean to keep picking on Ted Cruz

…but man, is he the gift that keeps on giving or what?

Cruz has decided that Supreme Court rulings only apply to the states who are party to the particular case being decided. No really. Here’s what he said:

“Article III of the Constitution gives the court the authority to resolve cases and controversies. Those cases and controversies, when they’re resolved, when you’re facing a judicial order, the parties to that suit are bound it. Those who are not parties to the suit are not bound by it.”

I don’t think I’m misreading that. This isn’t just “novel,” this is “pulled completely out of his ass.” I’m reasonably sure that Cruz himself doesn’t believe it. He seems smarter than that.

I’ll be the first to admit: I’m enjoying watching conservatives twist themselves into knots trying to find a way to oppose a pro-liberty ruling by the courts. It’s like watching Democrats trying to line up behind the President on the TPP.

Cruz is, I think, sunk as a serious candidate. He’s gone so far out on a limb trying to appease the Brotherhood of the Incredibly Credulous that he’s lost the ability to appear rational. If he gets any further out there, he’ll be claiming that the U.S. is now a theocracy because gays can marry. Surely no one would be that wacky

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Cruz and Huckabee completely miss the meaning of Obergefell v. Hodges

The Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges effectively legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, but that’s not really what the decision was about. The Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the government to discriminate with regards to the legal right to marry. It’s an important distinction. This wasn’t the Court saying “Yes, gay marriage is in the constitution,” despite what some pundits and presidential candidates would tell you. Instead, the Court say “You cannot extend the legal right to marry to some people but not others just because a majority of people in your state don’t want the minority to have that right.”

That’s an important distinction. It means that, rather than legislating from the bench, the Court was doing nothing that is outside of it’s normal scope of work. Or, more succinctly, the Court was simply doing its job.

So, when Mike Huckabee says:

“The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do-redefine marriage. I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”

He’s flat-out wrong. He says this is a religious liberty issue, and it is, but not the way he means. Huckabee is fighting for the right of the government to enforce his religious views on other people. This isn’t religious liberty he’s talking about; it’s about establishing a state religion.

When Ted Cruz says:

“This radical decision purporting to strike down the marriage laws of every state, it has no connection to the United States Constitution. They are simply making it up. It is lawless and in doing so they have undermined the fundamental legitimacy of the United States Supreme Court.”

He’s either a liar or a fool. Cruz fancies himself a constitutional scholar, so he’s got to know he’s the one who’s simply “making it up.” The 14th Amendment makes this sort of discrimination Cruz longs for illegal, and the 1st Amendment makes it very clear that the government has no business recognizing one faith’s practices as gospel.

I’ll close by noting a section of Justice Alito’s dissent:

“I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers and schools.”

I happen to agree. I don’t see this tag being applied to people who marry someone of the opposite gender any more than it’s applied today. However, people who believe that marriage is a privilege reserved, by law, for people who their church believes should be allowed to marry will very likely be labelled “bigots.” As well they should.

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I Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself (about flag-removal)…

…so I’ll let Will B. Mackintosh say it:

But I think it’s important to remember: removing the Confederate flag and other Confederate symbols from public display is not nothing.  Sure, it’s symbolic, but as historians we should recognize how incredibly important and powerful symbols can be.

Just so. It’s a symbolic thing to remove the confederate flag from government buildings, but it’s not an unimportant symbolic thing. That message is:

…removing Confederate iconography sends and equally important symbolic message: overt defenses of white supremacy are now beyond the bounds of acceptable political sentiment.  This has not been the case, even recently.  So a national, bipartisan consensus that the iconography of the Confederacy is fundamentally white supremacist and has no place in mainstream politics represents very real progress.

Flying that flag on the statehouse and putting it on license plates provided the thinnest hint of legitimacy to people who used the flag to send it’s most obvious message: “You are not welcome here. We are still in control. Know your place.”

As per usual with Mackintosh, the entire article is well worth your time.

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Sailing the stars with the Science Guy

I’ve been wallowing in the ugly side of human nature for so long, I decided it was time to post something positive. So, here ya go: Bill Nye’s LightSail Kickstarter has exceeded its original goal by almost a million dollars. Not only is this a pretty awesome project, but it’s an awesome project that has found an enthusiastic audience. In theory, this will encourage more projects of this ilk. Win/win/win.

I guess the only dark lining to this silver cloud is that it’s kind of disappointing that this kind of work is being done on Kickstarter and not the ESA or NSA or the ФКА or some such governmental body. I love entrepreneurial science, but I love public science even more.

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Driving Old Dixie Down

I have to admit: I’m shocked we’re having this discussion about the confederate flag in 2015. To my mind, this issue’s been settled beyond any reasonable measure for many, many decades. It’s the flag of people who took up arms against the United States in order to preserve their way of life which, as you may be aware, involved keeping human being as property. We hear all the time about enemies who “hate us for our freedom,” but this was literally the only time when that hyperbolic statement was true.

Was slavery the primary, direct cause of the Civil War? No. Were all southerners slaveholders? No. Were many northerners racist bigots? Of course.

None of that matters. It would be incredibly obtuse (not to mention historically inaccurate) to suggest that the confederate flag had nothing to do with slavery. This is not a matter educated people debate. It is a fact beyond any question. The association exists. Insisting that it does not, that it represents “heritage;” does not change that fact, it just makes you look like an ass.

The only thing that surprises me is that it’s taken yet another racially-motivated killing to bring this issue to the forefront. This was decided a long time ago. Flying the confederate flag let’s people know you’re a racist. That was true long before Dylann Roof was born. Get rid of the damned thing, at the very least banish it from public buildings, and be done with it.

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Retraction regarding the Sad Puppy John C. Wright

I don’t do this sort of thing very often, but I’m retracting my last post. Let me explain why. In repose to charges of homophobia, Wright said the charges were a lie and responded in a fashion which could be described as equally “homophobic” and “bizarre.” I wrote a long-ish piece taking him to task for this. It’s a solid bit of work, but I’d like to disavow it as of now. Since posting this piece, I’ve read a good deal more of what Wright has written outside of his novels. I’ve come to the conclusion that Mr. Wright has enough going on his life that piling on like this is neither fair nor necessary. I stand by the content of what I wrote, but, given Mr. Wright’s situation, it was needlessly mean of me to write it.

NOTE: I’m leaving the retracted post visible for the time being because, aside from the intellectual honesty issue, it’s pointless to try to make things “disappear” on the internet.


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A Sad Puppy-Related Thought Experiment

NOTE: I have retracted this post. If you’re interested in the reasons, please click this link. I’m leaving the retracted post visible for the time being because, aside from the intellectual honesty issue, it’s pointless to try to make things “disappear” on the internet.

Let’s say I tell you that I am a Christian.

I tell you that I am  a Christian, but I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in Jesus. I don’t believe a single word of the Bible. But, I nonetheless insist I am a Christian, and I will call you a liar if you say otherwise.

How would you react to that? Personally, I’d say I was full of shit. If I don’t believe anything that Christians believe, then how can I say I’m a Christian?

This is, however, exactly how Sad Puppy-favorite author and homophobe John C. Wright responds to claims that he is homophobic.

I am not unrepentantly homophobic. I am nothing of the kind. It is a lie.

I follow the Catholic teaching on same sex attraction and how one deals with it. In public, I have heaped scorn on those who use a children’s cartoon, one I loved, to insinuate their pro-perversion propaganda in a cowardly and craven way.

I have no hate, no fear, nothing but respect for homosexuals.

You and people like you who use the false cloak of compassion for homosexual to lure them into ruining their lives, you are the ones for whom I have no respect. You are the ones who hate them; you are the one who urge them down ever darker paths.

See? He’s not a homophobe! He just believes everything that homophobes believe including that people who aren’t homophobes have homosexuals. Just because he espouses homophobic beliefs doesn’t make him a homophobe.

This will probably shock you, but Wright’s bio on Wikipedia describes him as a “former lawyer.”

The Rabid Puppies are fairly easily dismissed because I don’t get the sense that there’s anything there beyond the trolling. They’re just another branch of GamerGate; a group of folks who get off on harassing people and “winning” arguments without any apparent attachment to or belief in the arguments they’re making.

The Sad Puppies are trickier, though. I get the sense that there is a strong sense that these folks truly believe in their positions. I personally don’t buy into the premise that there is a liberal cabal at the head of Sci-Fi today, forcing stories of political correctness down the throats of unwilling readers. I don’t buy it. I don’t see any evidence of it. I think the method of selecting a slate of writers for their political beliefs and getting the entire slate nominated is, at best, childish. But…even though I don’t buy all of it, I can at least respect the viewpoint.

Or, at least, I could, until this ridiculous boycott of Tor kicked off yesterday. If you’re not familiar with the story, I’ll give you a brief version. A Tor employee made some over-the-top comments about the Puppies on her Facebook. The head of the Rabid Puppies took a screen shot of it and made a huge deal of springing it on the world at a time which was determined would embarrass Tor*. The head of Tor threw the employee under the bus and made a big deal of it. This just emboldened the Puppies, who then used the opportunity to make a series of very-unrealistic demands on Tor with the threat of a boycott if those demands weren’t met.

Tor ignored the demands. The boycott began.

I hate to bag on Free Republic-favorite Wright*, but his post regarding the boycott is a masterpiece of both self-martyrdom and incredible hubris:

Since I am Tor author and hitherto have been very proud of my association with that fine and famous imprint, I am fascinated (if mildly aghast) that the Tor management has allowed the situation to degenerate to this point.

Of course, Wright is bright enough to know that “Tor management” isn’t the instigator here. He’s just playing silly buggers with this entire post and he’s announcing it in the first sentence.

Because of a financial conflict of interest on my part, it would be untoward of me to express fulsome support and applause for the boycott, and tell the boycotters their position is the principled and correct stand.

“Principled and correct stand.” Yes, thank you very much for telling people what to believe. Seriously, though, am I right about the lawyer thing? “I can’t tell you to boycott my employer *wink wink*…”

Nor will I point out, because it is obvious, that if you buy my books from Tor, then some part of your precious book-buying dollars goes into the wages of several people at Tor (but by no means all, or even most) who hate both you and me with a sick and soul-destroying hatred, a hatred like a disease that withers the heart and rots the brain.

Wow. “…a sick and soul-destroying hatred, a hatred like a disease that withers the heart and rots the brain.” Poetic, but of course, utter nonsense. Dude, no one even cares that much about you, or at least, we didn’t, until you started throwing your tantrum and gaming awards and supporting-while-not-supporting a boycott. Oh, and spilling your homophobic nonsense. That got you a lot of attention, if not a lot of sympathy. But “soul-destroying hatred?” Nope. Don’t care that much.

Nor will I point out, because it should also be obvious, that any Christian gentleman would be willing to forgo a worldly reward of your generous book-buying dollars if he may have your spiritual reward of your loyalty instead. If the gentle reader feels compassion for me in my hour of need, or fears the boycott will harm my finances, I have a tip jar on this page.

Even with the florid prose, it’s pretty transparent what Wright is after here. This could be shortened to: I love Jesus, give me your money.

So I cannot express support for this boycott.

“I am covering my ass.”

The people with whom I work, my editor and cover art director, have a perfect right to expect me not to undermine their position, untenable as it may be. If the management wants to set the company policy as one of indifference to our patrons and clients on whom our livelihood depends, or contempt, or enmity, or loathing, that business decision is in their bailiwick.

Understand, Wright’s complaint here is that Tor did not give in to demands from the Rabid Puppies, demands which were never going to be met, and he is re-casting this as contempt, enmity, and loathing.

John C. Wright is a very clever man. He can be incredibly dishonest while at the same time never technically “lying.”

He’s also a real turd. I was starting to have a little sympathy for some of the Puppies’ positions, but so long as they’re trying to push this piece of work down our throats at the Hugo Awards? No thanks. As long as guys like this one are the poster boys for the movement, I’ll do what I can to support Tor.

By the way, I’m really looking forward to finally reading Scalzi’s Redshirts. Bought it yesterday, in fact…

* This, I think, tends to support my belief that this isn’t about any principle other than “winning”…except, maybe, “trolling.”

**  That’s a lie. Wright’s a real jerk, and the fact that the Freepers like him doesn’t exactly mitigate in his favor.

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