Some of the rich are getting poorer, and some of the poor are getting richer.

The Des Moines Sunday Register published a lead article (Page 1) titled, “The rich keep getting richer”.  (See link below.)  Included were a number of misleading statistics or misleading conclusions based on the statistics.  For example, according the think tank, Iowa Policy Project, the median hourly wage in 2016 was $16.04 per hour.  37 years ago, the average wage, adjusted for inflation, which is fair, was $15.91.  The Register concluded, “This means a typical wage earner  working 40 hours per week for a full year would have seen a real increase of $270.40 over a 37 year span.”  While the statistics are technically true, you cannot logically conclude and that any specific person or group of people did not move themselves from a lower wage to a significantly higher wage.  I’m sure it is true some people moved down while some people moved up.  An interesting study would be to see how wages correlate to the number of years in the employment market.  It would be interesting to know the median starting hourly rate for a young inexperienced worker versus and an experienced worker who has been in the labor market to 30 years.  The fact that the average stays about the same my be a problem, but almost no one stays at the average wage for 37 years.

Another statistic was that the number of people who earned $1 million or more during specific years increased from 5,031 in 2010 to 8,325 in 2015.  Their “slice” of the state’s total adjusted gross income grew 37%.  Meanwhile, the number of Iowans claiming gross incomes of $40,000 to $99,999 climbed by 23%  while their slice of the state’s total adjusted gross income fell 2%.  First, I would venture to guess that a significant majority of the $1 million+ earners are people who sold their businesses or had other one-time income.  So, again,there is no logical reason to presume that the $1 million+ club is made up of the same people year-after-year.  At the same time, from 2010 to 2015 the Iowa economy was generally continuing to improve, so values and prices of businesses likely climbed.  Also, in the case of an “expanding pie”, the fact that any group gets a smaller percentage of the total does not mean that their real income is not increasing.

Finally, the Register reported that their analysis of U.S. Census data showed that the bottom fifth of earners saw practically no growth in household income – going from $13,798 in 2006 to $13,848 in 2016, again adjusted for inflation.  Here again, there is no logical reason to believe that the specific group of people who were in the bottom 20% in 2006 are the same people who were in the bottom 20% 10 years later.  It would be interesting to know what percent of the people in the bottom 20% in 2006 were still in the bottom 20% 10 years later.   My guess is there would be some, but not a majority.

As a society we need to make sure we don’t put hurdles in front of people who are trying to improve their lot in life.  In many cases this means removing government created regulatory barriers to entry into certain jobs.  The Register has done very good work exposing job licensing regulations that are in place more to protect existing businesses from competition and to protect the profits of licensing education businesses, than to protect the public.  Yet, the Iowa Legislature has done precious little to address this real problem for low income workers who are trying to work their way up in our economy.

Link to Register article:  https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/business/2017/11/25/most-iowa-wages-have-stagnated-but-rich-keep-getting-richer/818770001/

 

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Transgendered okay in the military, but sex change surgery should not be paid for by taxpayers.

A transgendered person should be eligible to serve in the military, just like just like every other man or women, and just like every other gay or straight person.  If they are qualified to do the job, then government should not discriminate against them based on their transgendered status.  That does not mean the military or taxpayers should foot the bill for sex change operations.  Just as being transgendered is not a disease, surgery to to change a person’s sex is not a medical necessity.  Transgendered folks will can be completely healthy without a sex change operation.  So, sex change operations should be considered elective, and not be required to be covered by any insurance plan, including that of the military.

No proof that unions help education of students.

In his essay in the Des Moines Regiser, T.J. Foley made at least two errors in the conclusions he drew from the statistics he used in his essay opposing changes in collective bargaining as it applies to teachers.  (See link below.)

First, assuming it is true that test scores are higher in schools with unionized teachers, he provided no evidence that the existence of unions is the cause of higher test scores.  It very well may be that unions are more often present in larger cities with higher incomes and larger schools, and that the higher scores are caused by those factors rather than the fact that a union is present.

Second, assuming it is true that the average teacher in Iowa earns 7% less than median household income in Iowa, that statistic is meaningless.   Teachers are individuals and many households have more than one earner.  Comparing individuals to households is simply not valid.

It is very difficult to say whether it would be better or worse for students if teachers lose some of their collective bargaining power.  T.J. Foley’s essay did not clarify that issue.

Link:  http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/abetteriowa/2017/02/09/dismantling-collective-bargaining-wont-help-todays-students/97698620/

 

Income inequality is not the problem.

Madeline Cano conflated income inequality with poverty in her recent letter  letter to the editor in the Des Moines Register.  (Hunger is symptom of income inequality. 10/15/2015)  Poverty is the problem, not income inequality.  Rich people earning even more does not make poor people earn less.   Cano did not actually advocate taking money from the wealthy and redistributing it to the poor.  She simply repeated the erroneous meme that income inequality is the problem.
Cano correctly identified that, “…Iowans are not earning sufficient incomes to support themselves and their families.”  Increasing the incomes of Iowans in a sustainable way to reduce hunger in Iowa should be a priority.  The best way to do that is through education, work experience, and opportunity, not through an increase in the minimum wage.
Raising the minimum wage definitely hurts most those who have no job and those who have the fewest skills.  It makes it more difficult for them to get a job and, at the same time, has a tendency to make things more expensive.
To the extent that we want taxpayers to subsidize low income earners, it is better done through the current  Earned Income Tax Credit, which targets benefits to those with real need, and excludes those with higher incomes or who are claimed as a dependent by others.

Anti-immigration feelings – some things never change

In 1862 California passed the, “Act to protect free white labor against competition with Chinese coolie labor, and to discourage the immigration of Chinese into the State of California.” Some things never change. Even though we are not that many generations away from our own ancestor immigrants, once we get settled, we don’t want others to come in and change things.

Immigrants are both producers and consumers. They are mostly honest and hard working people – looking for a better life for themselves and their families. We need to allow illegals some way to become legal. I don’t think there should be a pathway to citizenship, but there should be a pathway to legality. The path should require payment of a penalty, and immigrants should not have access to our taxpayer funded safety net until they become legal, but deportation is not the right answer.

Newspaper should be able to fire editor for expression of religious beliefs

The Des Moines Register reported today (7/24/2014) that, “An Iowa newspaper editor fired after publishing his views on homosexuals is claiming he was the victim of religious discrimination by his former employer.”  He has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Editors of newspapers should not be protected by laws against discrimination in employment based on religious belief.  Newspapers are privately owned businesses that typically express the opinions of their owners.  They benefit our society by their independent advocacy regarding public policy.   They should not be forced by government to employ editors who hold beliefs contrary to their own – especially political or public policy beliefs.  Owners of newspapers should be free to fire editors at will, unless they have entered into an employment contract to the contrary.  For government to force a newspaper to continue to employ an editor is wrong and is bad public policy.

Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2014/07/23/newspaper-editor-fired-gaystapo/13047733/

Hobby Lobby decision correct.

A Supreme Court ruling today (6/30/2014) upheld our fundamental right to use our own private property in accordance with our own moral beliefs.  The ruling gives priority to natural religious and private property rights over the politically created guarantee that private business owners will provide employees with a health insurance benefit that covers certain birth control pills.

The owners of Hobby Lobby objected to the Obama Care legal requirement that they provide their employees with an insurance benefit that covered morning after “abortion” pills.  The law was in direct conflict with their sincerely held, honest and peaceful religious beliefs.  Hobby Lobby has never used force or fraud to get people to either work for or patronize their business.

Governments are the only organizations that can legally use force against peaceful people.  We created our government to use force, if necessary, to protect our fundamental right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.  Government force should not be used to make peaceful people act against their own religious beliefs – no matter how good the cause or the intentions.

By the way, I am a peaceful, honest, pro-choice, atheist, libertarian.