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Politics and Economics

Junk Science: Invoking "Systemic Barriers" to Explain Unequal Returns to Education

To simplify the authors’ argument:

“There are a few standard explanations for unequal outcomes. But those explanations do not explain all the variance in outcomes. Therefore, unobservable facts reflecting systemic barriers explain the rest and they are the ultimate cause of injustice. Elimination of these barriers will require fundamental change in the nature of our society.”

Motivating Constructive Behavior: A Matter of Payoff, Markers of Progress, Doability, Consequences, and Less Attractive Alternatives

The program was funded by the city of Chester and had previously been managed by a local non-profit - rather poorly it would seem, given its dismal job placement and dropout rates. My employer - Associates for Research in Behavior - took over the city’s contract with the promise of improving outcomes by applying the principles of motivation to the business of training adult students. The main principles were: …

Housing the Chronically Homeless - Affordably! Part II: Breaking Down The Costs

Bottom line: this is doable. Rental income covers the developer’s costs and profit and the ongoing building management and rental subsidy cost per resident is just $1103 a month. A few years ago, the average cost of supportive housing in San Francisco was $17,353 a year per person. Given Bay Area inflation rates, let’s say it’s $24,000 now, or $2000 a month. The above scheme is a lot cheaper. Now if only local politics would align with my vision.

Housing the Chronically Homeless - Affordably! Part I: Some Concrete Suggestions

Straight off the street, no money, get a totally subsidized 8x10 SRO, with bathrooms down the hall. Those with at least $600 for monthly rent could get a studio. Couples with at least $600 for rent each would qualify for bigger studios or a small one-bedroom apartment. All in the same building, as an incentive for individuals to aspire for something better, something that is within reach, and with help available (e.g. completing benefit paperwork, arranging monthly rent transfers).

American Conservatives Could Use Some Fresh Ideas: A Few Suggestions

There is no reason conservatives can’t embrace goals like universal healthcare, affordable housing, elimination of poverty, or increased social mobility. With the above safeguards in place, they may go forth and advance bold policy initiatives without violating their core principles.

The Bipolar World of the American Left: A Chart

The inspiration for this post was Elizabeth Warren’s website, which lists her various Plans for America. I read through her introductions to each Plan and noticed certain themes that kept repeating:

The Politics of Making People Invisible

Over the next few decades, millions of hotel units disappeared. Why did the residents let the bigwigs get away with it?. Because they were invisible, by design. As explained by Paul Groth, in “Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United States”:

“Because officials did not consider hotels to be permanent housing, during the official massive downtown clearances from 1950 to 1970, people living in hotels were not tallied as residents. Hence, when a city demolished an SRO [single room occupancy] building, ‘no one’ had been moved, and no dwelling units were lost in the official counts and newspaper reports. In reality, of course, hundreds of thousands of SRO people and homes were removed. Deliberate ignorance had become a cultural blind spot that made hotel residents invisible both to officials and to the public.”

Coveted Endorsements: a Key to Political Influence. Here's a List.

This post was inspired by a current events group I attend weekly. The group is composed of what’s often called in political science papers as “high-information voters”. During one gathering, a question was put to the floor: “what shortcuts do you use to decide which candidates or propositions to vote for?” The overwhelming response: endorsements in the voter’s pamphlet. And that got me to thinking….

California's Gig-Worker Law Just Passed - to the Advantage of Some Workers and Detriment of Others

Occupations granted exemptionsd from the new law include physicians, accountants, direct sellers, real estate agents, hairstylists and barbers, aestheticians, commercial fishermen, marketing professionals, travel agents, graphic designers, grant writers, fine artists, enrolled agents, payment processing agents, repossession agents, and human resources administrators.

Occupations that were not granted an exemption include: franchise owners, owner-operator truck drivers, nurse anesthetists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, optometrists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, radiation therapists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, respiratory therapists and audiologists, language translators, janitors, youth sports coaches, construction workers, manicurists, medical technicians, nightclub strippers, and software coders.

Behind The Headlines: How Much Do Uber Drivers Really Make?

Excuse me, but if you’re going to compare the earnings of independent contractors and employees, you have to consider the tax consequences of being an independent contractor. Why? Because they get very generous expense deductions by virtue of being self-employed. And if you’re referring to the wage of an employee, then you need to also indicate the pre-tax wage. After all, political arguments for a higher minimum or living wage always use the pre-tax wage as the aspirational reference point, e.g. $15 an hour (which would be roughly $12.51 an hour after taxes). ….So here are the right comparisons and the right figures…

Which is More? What Profit Takes or What Profit Gives Back?

Of course, the spill-over effects of capitalist greed are not all conducive to the common good. And so the government must step in and tame the wild beast without killing its spirit. Not an easy task but a task made easier by a clear understanding of how capitalism works its magic in specific cases. It’s one thing to say a free market lifts all boats and quite another to appreciate how this happens on the ground (or in the water).

Reconciling the Politics of Responsibility and the Politics of Conviction

As an imaginary politician, I care deeply about the environment, affordable housing, universal healthcare, maintaining a robust economy, the value of work, and the “American Project”: the idea of unity in diversity as we work together for the common good. Then I chill the passion to develop specific policy goals and proposals. And I make sure my proposed policies do not become an end in themselves but are easily scaled back, revised or reversed if they don’t work.