Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Nanny State Targets Nannies

With Record Unemployment In California, Legislature Erects Further Obstacles For Job Seekers

An opinion piece by state senator Doug LaMalfa in The Union describes a bill that has already passed the state assembly and is moving toward Governor Brown's desk. Assemblymen Ammiano and Perez introduced bill AB 889 that would require that nannies, housekeepers, babysitters (age 18 or over) and other "domestic employees" be subject to employment regulations similar to - and often beyond - those of more traditional employment and that the people who hire them (e.g. parents and homeowners) be regulated like more traditional employers and subject to those requirements. That will include providing workers' compensation, bi-hourly breaks (which, in the case of babysitters, may require hiring two "employees" to ensure adequate supervision of children); keeping detailed wage rates, time cards, and payment records and providing those records to any "current or former employee, upon reasonable request to the employer"; and so on. Basically, it appears as though paying the neighbor's college kid to babysit or paying someone known and trusted from church to come by and help with housework will now require compliance will the full panoply of California employment laws and will put into legal jeopardy any "employer" who doesn't properly do so.

Why does the legislature want to make it so much harder for people to find work as nannies, housekeepers, and babysitters? Not a single Republican voted for this bill. So, why do Democrats hate the traditionally younger, poorer, lower-skilled people that seek to support themselves or supplement their incomes with work in these fields? I know plenty of people who hire babysitters for a 6 hour stint once or twice a month who won't be able to do so now. Same deal for people who pay someone (often a friend known from the PTA or church or another such affiliation) to come in and help catch up with housekeeping for a few hours on a weekly or monthly basis. Will they still want to do that when it requires compliance with laws most people aren't aware of and when it exposes them legally if they have failed to comply? This bill would seem to encourage the use of dedicated service agencies instead of casual arrangements for these services. The casual arrangements are often preferable because they are easier to arrange with people who are known personally and are trusted in private homes and around children. Use of service agencies will inevitably drive up costs, discourage employment, and, in all likelihood, lead to tragedies involving unattended children as people skimp on babysitters, knowing they could be sued for failing to provide a detailed pay stub or adequate break time.

Outside of the state capitol, is there any reasonable person who really thinks that California employment is under-regulated? Is it really time to turn the screws on parents and homeowners and the people they casually employ? Frankly, the only upside I can see to this legislation is that it might expose many more people to the real costs of living in a world where legislators control every aspect of life. If the vast majority of people think of themselves as "employers" beset by compliance and reporting requirements, then some of the classist thinking that allows this sort of law (and the election of people who would propose it) will get the serious criticism it deserves. When enough people decide that professed good intentions are irrelevant to whether a law should be passed, then people like assemblyman Ammiano et alia will have to find honest work.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fred Siegel: Who Lost the Middle Class?

The so-called "progressive" leftists did, that's who! They did it to New York first, and California appears to be following.
Forty years from now, politicians, writers, and historians may struggle to understand how America, once the quintessential middle-class society, became as socially stratified as Europe or even Brazil. Should that dark scenario come to pass, they would do well to turn their attention first to New York City and New York State, which have been in the vanguard of middle-class decline.
It was in mid-1960s New York—under the leadership of a Barack Obama precursor, Hollywood-handsome John Lindsay—that the country's first top-bottom political coalition emerged. In 1965, Gotham had more manufacturing jobs than any other city in the country. But the city's political elites used eminent domain to push manufacturing aside in favor of business services; they also expanded social programs to help African-Americans and Puerto Ricans. The service sector proved rough going for the less educated, and the social programs failed. New York City responded by inflating its unionized public-sector workforce to incorporate minority workers.
John Lindsay was more like an Arnold Schwarzenegger precursor, really. The quintessential RINO.
Higher taxes to pay for bigger government joined higher crime to produce a massive exodus of manufacturing and middle-class jobs. Over the last 45 years, New York has led the country in outmigration. A recent study by E. J. McMahon and Robert Scardamalia of the Empire Center for New York State Policy notes that since 1960, New York has lost 7.3 million residents to the rest of the country. For the last 20 years, "New York's net population loss due to domestic migration has been the highest of any state as a percentage of population."
New York City, meanwhile, solidified its standing as the most unequal city in America. Twenty-five percent of New York was middle-class in 1970, according to a Brookings Institution study. By 2008, that figure had dropped to 16 percent, and the numbers have only plunged further since the financial crisis, with virtually all the new jobs in the city's hourglass economy coming at either the high end or the low. Only high-end businesses can succeed in a local economy that has the nation's highest taxes and highest cost of living—and even those businesses, in many cases, weathered the downturn only by living off the Fed's policy of subsidizing banks. Despite the federal largesse, more of the city's new jobs are in the low-wage hospitality and food-services industries than in the financial sector. The middle has lost its political voice in a city dominated by the politically wired wealthy and the public-sector unions that service the poor.
New York is the picture of what the Tea Party fears for the country at large. In the 1970s, liberal mandarins seized the high ground of American institutions in the name of managing social, racial, gender, and environmental justice on behalf of the disadvantaged. Their job, as they saw it, was to "protect" minorities from the "depredations" of middle-class mores. In the wake of the Aquarian age, the U.S. developed the first mass upper class in the history of the world.
What some other commentators have called "bourgeois bohemians" or "limosine liberals".
These well-to-do, often politically connected professionals—including the increasingly intertwined wealthy of Wall Street, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley—espoused what might be called gentry liberalism, a creed according to which the middle classes had to be punished for their racism, sexism, and excess consumption.
And they have been punished—with job losses. These losses are the inevitable result of the costs of an ever-expanding, European-style public sector; environmental restrictions on manufacturing, mining, and forestry, which push the higher-paying manufacturing jobs offshore; and illegal immigration, which reduces overall wage levels. At the same time, the decline in the quality of K–12 schools has undermined what was once a ladder of economic ascent. After completing high school today, students are likely to require a raft of remedial courses in college. Then, after college, many middle-class students graduate not with an education but with a credential—and a bag of enormous college loans that paid for the intermittent attention of a highly paid, tenured faculty.
The private-sector middle class's plight has been exacerbated by international competition and technological innovation, which have undermined job security, including for unionized manufacturing workers, who had enjoyed an unprecedented prosperity for about a quarter-century. Median household incomes have grown only marginally since the early 1970s, despite the mass movement of women into the workplace. Many dual-earner families have been caught in the two-income tax trap: on the one hand, they pay for services once performed by the homemaker; on the other, notes economist Todd Zywicki, they're pushed into a higher tax bracket when the wife's salary is added to the husband's.
Adding to the woes of the middle and lower classes is that their families are far less stable than they were a generation ago. The decline of marriage has been driven not only by changing mores but also by a decline in male employment. In 1970, only one of 14 working-age men was out of the workforce. Today, notes Nina Easton, one in five is either "collecting unemployment, in prison, on disability, operating in the underground economy, or getting by on the paychecks of wives or girlfriends or parents." Whites who don't attend college now have out-of-wedlock birthrates approaching those that triggered Daniel Patrick Moynihan's concerns about the black family in 1965. Today, four in ten American babies are born out of wedlock.
During the current downturn, the black and Hispanic middle class has been particularly hard hit. From 2005 to 2009, according to a recent Pew survey, inflation-adjusted wealth fell by 66 percent among Hispanic households and by 53 percent among black households, compared with 16 percent among white households. These families worry with good reason that in the face of continuing high unemployment, they may fall out of the middle class. For the Obama administration and the public-sector unions, the solution to this slide is to force the nearly one in four employers that have contracts with the federal government to pay above-market wages. Here again, New York has been a pacesetter. Recently, public-sector unions and their allies tried to force a developer rebuilding a decayed Bronx armory to follow their wage and hiring guidelines; the deal collapsed, leaving one of the poorest sections of Gotham in the lurch.
There's a major difference, though, between New York and the country as a whole. The New York option—move somewhere else—doesn't apply to private-sector middle-class workers fighting adverse conditions that exist throughout America. So they've exercised the classic democratic right of political action, organizing themselves to compete in elections. The Tea Party is the national voice of the private-sector middle class—despite the demonizations heaped upon it by public-policy elites whose own judgment and competence leave much to be desired.
Middle-class decline should be front and center in 2012, which is shaping up as a firestorm of an election. It's likely to be a bitter contest, in which the polarized class interests of those who identify with the growth of government and those who are being undermined by its expansion face off without the buffer of mutual goodwill. Liberals, unless they change their tune, will blame Tea Party "terrorists" for the tragedy of a fading middle class. They will continue to delude themselves into thinking, as Al Gore said in 2000, that their rivals represent "the powerful" and that they themselves act on behalf of "the people," even though President Obama's policies have poured money into Wall Street and the politically connected "green" businesses that form the upper half of his top-bottom electoral coalition. The question is whether the country will buy this line and, more broadly, whether it will follow the New York model. Should it do so, those future historians will no doubt look at the election of 2012 as the contest in which the middle class staggered past the point of no return.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Computer Models are wrong---AGAIN

But does that stop the man-made global warming hoaxers? Of course not!

NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth's atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.

Study co-author Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA's Aqua satellite, reports that real-world data from NASA's Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into alarmist computer models.

"The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show," Spencer said in a July 26 University of Alabama press release. "There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans."

In addition to finding that far less heat is being trapped than alarmist computer models have predicted, the NASA satellite data show the atmosphere begins shedding heat into space long before United Nations computer models predicted.

The new findings are extremely important and should dramatically alter the global warming debate.

Scientists on all sides of the global warming debate are in general agreement about how much heat is being directly trapped by human emissions of carbon dioxide (the answer is "not much"). However, the single most important issue in the global warming debate is whether carbon dioxide emissions will indirectly trap far more heat by causing large increases in atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds. Alarmist computer models assume human carbon dioxide emissions indirectly cause substantial increases in atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds (each of which are effective at trapping heat), but real-world data have long shown that carbon dioxide emissions are not causing as much atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds as the alarmist computer models have predicted.

The new NASA Terra satellite data are consistent with long-term NOAA and NASA data indicating atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds are not increasing in the manner predicted by alarmist computer models. The Terra satellite data also support data collected by NASA's ERBS satellite showing far more longwave radiation (and thus, heat) escaped into space between 1985 and 1999 than alarmist computer models had predicted. Together, the NASA ERBS and Terra satellite data show that for 25 years and counting, carbon dioxide emissions have directly and indirectly trapped far less heat than alarmist computer models have predicted.

In short, the central premise of alarmist global warming theory is that carbon dioxide emissions should be directly and indirectly trapping a certain amount of heat in the earth's atmosphere and preventing it from escaping into space. Real-world measurements, however, show far less heat is being trapped in the earth's atmosphere than the alarmist computer models predict, and far more heat is escaping into space than the alarmist computer models predict.

When objective NASA satellite data, reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, show a "huge discrepancy" between alarmist climate models and real-world facts, climate scientists, the media and our elected officials would be wise to take notice. Whether or not they do so will tell us a great deal about how honest the purveyors of global warming alarmism truly are.