In the United States, the federally supported but state-administered unemployment insurance (UI) system typically provides someone who has lost a job through no fault of his or her own with unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks. In states that have experienced a sharp rise in unemployment rates, the extended benefit (EB) program kicks in, providing an additional 13 to 20 weeks of jobless benefits. And in times of severe economic distress, Congress routinely votes to provide extra weeks of aid beyond EB. The most recent Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program was authorized by Congress in June 2008 when the overall unemployment rate was 5.6 percent, the long-term unemployment rate (the share of the labor force that has been unemployed for 27 weeks or more) was 1.0 percent, and the average duration of unemployment was 17.1 weeks. It was allowed to lapse in December 2013, with the overall unemployment rate standing at 6.7 percent, long-term unemployment standing at 2.5 percent, and average duration standing at 37.1 weeks.
But using cheap labor—and vulnerable labor—is a business practice that goes as far back as you can trace private enterprise, and unions emerged in response. In the universities, cheap, vulnerable labor means adjuncts and graduate students. Graduate students are even more vulnerable, for obvious reasons. The idea is to transfer instruction to precarious workers, which improves discipline and control but also enables the transfer of funds to other purposes apart from education. The costs, of course, are borne by the students and by the people who are being drawn into these vulnerable occupations. But it’s a standard feature of a business-run society to transfer costs to the people. In fact, economists tacitly cooperate in this. So, for example, suppose you find a mistake in your checking account and you call the bank to try to fix it. Well, you know what happens. You call them up, and you get a recorded message saying “We love you, here’s a menu.” Maybe the menu has what you’re looking for, maybe it doesn’t. If you happen to find the right option, you listen to some music, and every once and a while a voice comes in and says “Please stand by, we really appreciate your business,” and so on. Finally, after some period of time, you may get a human being, who you can ask a short question to. That’s what economists call “efficiency.” By economic measures, that system reduces labor costs to the bank; of course it imposes costs on you, and those costs are multiplied by the number of users, which can be enormous—but that’s not counted as a cost in economic calculation. And if you look over the way the society works, you find this everywhere. So the university imposes costs on students and on faculty who are not only untenured but are maintained on a path that guarantees that they will have no security. All of this is perfectly natural within corporate business models. It’s harmful to education, but education is not their goal.
Obama Attributes Washington State Wildfires to Climate Change
A wildfire that has burned nearly 400 square miles in North-Central Washington was only about half contained as of Thursday morning, and Obama minced no words Wednesday when describing its cause.
What if the public speech on Facebook and Twitter is more akin to a conversation happening between two people at a restaurant? Or two people speaking quietly at home, albeit near a window that happens to be open to the street? And if more than a billion people are active on various social networking applications each week, are we saying that there are now a billion public figures? When did we agree to let media redefine everyone who uses social networks as fair game, with no recourse and no framework for consent?
But where Ryan and others get it wrong is in their pervasive assumption that all you have to do to get a job is want a job. In this regard, here is what you need to know about work requirements: in the absence of strong labor demand, such requirements are a recipe for more, not less, poverty. And even in strong labor markets, the low-wage labor market is often characterized by weak demand. So the only way I and other progressives should even begin to entertain the idea of requiring work is if there’s a guaranteed job. And by the way, adding a work requirement without adding new money to administer it is a cut relative to current spending.
That this is not obvious to Paul Ryan, his GOP cohorts, and his supporters is beyond me.