Corporate America Is Suppressing Wages for Many Workers – By ALAN B. KRUEGER and ERIC POSNER – NYT

“Even after eight years of economic recovery and steady private-sector job growth, wages for most Americans have hardly budged. It is tempting to think that wage stagnation is intractable, a result of long-term trends, like automation and globalization, that government is powerless to do anything about.In fact, a growing body of evidence pins much of the blame on a specific culprit, one for which proven legal weapons already exist.

But they are not being used.The culprit is “monopsony power.” This term is used by economists to refer to the ability of an employer to suppress wages below the efficient or perfectly competitive level of compensation. In the more familiar case of monopoly, a large seller — like a cable company — is able to demand high prices for poor service because consumers have no other choice. It turns out that many corporations possess bargaining power over their workers, not just over their consumers. Their workers accept low wages and substandard working conditions because few alternative job opportunities exist for them or because switching jobs is costly. In other words, in the labor market, effectively a small number of employers are competing for their labor.Monopsony power is frequently created through noncompete clauses and no-poaching agreements and is aimed at the most vulnerable workers.

Employers like Jimmy John’s have discovered that they can control and intimidate workers by putting terms in their contracts that limit their ability to find new jobs even after they leave their old one. Jimmy John’s discontinued this practice in response to public outcry and litigation, but noncompete clauses remain ubiquitous.In a new study for the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project, we report survey results in which we find that one in five workers with a high school education or less are subject to a noncompete. A quarter of all workers are covered by a noncompete agreement with their current employer or a past one.”

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How $225000 Can Help Secure a Pollution Loophole at Trump’s E.P.A. – The New York Times

“CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — The gravel parking lot at the Fitzgerald family’s truck dealership here in central Tennessee was packed last week with shiny new Peterbilt and Freightliner trucks, as well as a steady stream of buyers from across the country.But there is something unusual about the big rigs sold by the Fitzgeralds: They are equipped with rebuilt diesel engines that do not need to comply with rules on modern emissions controls. That makes them cheaper to operate, but means that they spew 40 to 55 times the air pollution of other new trucks, according to federal estimates, including toxins blamed for asthma, lung cancer and a range of other ailments.

The special treatment for the Fitzgerald trucks is made possible by a loophole in federal law that the Obama administration tried to close, and the Trump administration is now championing. The trucks, originally intended as a way to reuse a relatively new engine and other parts after an accident, became attractive for their ability to evade modern emissions standards and other regulations.The survival of this loophole is a story of money, politics and suspected academic misconduct, according to interviews and government and private documents, and has been facilitated by Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has staked out positions in environmental fights that benefit the Trump administration’s corporate backers.”

Source: How $225,000 Can Help Secure a Pollution Loophole at Trump’s E.P.A. – The New York Times

I Was a Marine. I Don’t Want a Gun in My Classroom. – The New York Times

“Here is something I didn’t think about: I did not think about arming myself to protect my students. President Trump on Thursday specified that he wants only certain teachers — “highly adept people, people that understand weaponry” — to be armed. I will immodestly state that among professors in the United States, I am almost certainly one of the best shooters. But I would never bring a weapon into a classroom. The presence of a firearm is always an invitation to violence. Weapons have no place in a learning environment.

Last month, the State Legislature in West Virginia, where my university is located, introduced the Campus Self-Defense Act. This would prohibit colleges and universities from designating their campuses as gun-free zones. If this act becomes law, I will resign my professorship. I will not work in an environment where professors and students pack heat.When I was a young Marine, I had to learn how to use many weapons. It was part of my mission to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” My mission these days is to write books and teach literature and creative writing. It’s a noble calling, too. But no one should be asked to put his life on the line for it.”

The Left Is Energized. Now It Needs to Vote. – David Leonhardt – NYT

“The Trump presidency has brought a political awakening for American progressives. It began even before he took office, with the organizing for the Women’s March. Then came the citizen activists who protested at airports and later helped save health insurance for millions of people. Now high school students are trying to transform the gun debate.

In a new article in the journal Democracy, two academic researchers tell the story of the energized progressive movement. The leaders are most often suburban women alarmed by President Trump’s assaults on decency and the rule of law. The movement is more bottom-up than top-down, more face-to-face than virtual, more Middle American than coastal. It does not always identify itself with the Democratic Party, even if it supports almost exclusively Democrats.

The movement is “pervasively pragmatic,” write the researchers, Lara Putnam of the University of Pittsburgh and Theda Skocpol of Harvard. It spans “the broad ideological range from center to left” and (despite media coverage to the contrary, they argue) spends little time on Bernie-versus-Hillary fights. Above all, it is trying to elect progressives, including to oft-ignored local offices — and it’s now focused on the 2018 midterms.

That’s smart. Elections are precisely what progressives should be emphasizing. Protests can have an effect, as happened with Obamacare repeal and is happening on guns. But major progress on almost every issue — climate change, immigration, middle-class living standards and gun deaths — depends on electing people who want to make progress. Trump and the current leaders of Congress plainly do not.

Political movements have two main ways to win elections: persuasion and turnout. On persuasion, I think progressives’ best hope is an economic message that focuses the white working class on the working-class part of its identity, rather than the white part. But today I want to concentrate on turnout, because it has an even greater potential to change American politics.”

America Is the Gun – by Charles Blow – NYT

“There are things that we could do right now that could lessen the lethality of the guns currently available and we could ban some guns — neither of which is likely to happen.

I’m convinced that we must think big and systemically. We must treat gun violence in this country as a public health crisis, because it is

First, we must repeal the N.R.A.-backed Dickey Amendment, named for the man who sponsored it, former Representative Jay Dickey, an Arkansas Republican. It reads: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” “

The Consequences of Judicial Activism on the Supreme Court – The New York Times

“The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today on one of the most impactful labor law cases in decades, but most people already know how it’s likely to turn out. In Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the court will consider whether all public-sector workers have a First Amendment right to be under so-called right to work, which allows workers to opt out of paying fees to unions that bargain on their behalf.

The Supreme Court is widely expected to rule in favor of Janus on a party line 5-to-4 basis and overturn a 1977 precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. Abood permitted fair-share fees, which cover only organizing and collective bargaining and do not include social or political activities in the public sector.Why are we so sure about the Janus outcome? The court heard a similar case in 2016, and it split 4-4 after Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death. Neil Gorsuch has proved himself more conservative than Justice Scalia on most issues, so there is little hope that labor will win this time around.Many observers have noted that if the court bans fair-share fees, it will hurt unions by, first, depleting them of funds and, second, undermining solidarity through the encouragement of free riding.

But fewer people have considered what conservatives are risking: Union fair-share fees do not exist in an employment vacuum; the same logic and legal framework that permits the government to mandate these fees allows the government to conduct itself as an employer. Janus is largely being discussed as a case that is likely to defund and disrupt labor unions, but the case cannot simply injure unions and leave everything else intact.”

The Case for Allowing Felons to Vote – By DANIEL NICHANIAN – NYT

“In the 1870s, the woman’s suffrage movement claimed the right to vote by citing the new 14th Amendment’s promise that no state “shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

Their opponents didn’t see it that way. “Citizenship no more carries the right to vote than it carries the power to fly to the moon,” The Rochester Union and Advertiser scoffed in an 1872 editorial.But suffragists insisted. The right to vote, they argued, cannot be carved away from citizenship. “Is the right to vote one of the privileges or immunities of citizens?” Susan B. Anthony asked in an 1873 speech. Her answer: “It is not only one of them, but the one without which all the others are nothing.”

Anthony’s call remains unfulfilled today, as suppressive voting rules in nearly every state deny many Americans their voting rights. Six million otherwise eligible individuals are stripped of the right to vote because of a felony conviction, removing them from a key arena of public life.But Anthony’s words are a reminder that the right to vote is a bedrock of our ability to govern ourselves democratically. While citizenship need not be a necessary condition for enfranchisement — for example, San Francisco has enabled noncitizens to vote in school board elections — it should be a sufficient one.”

Nasty- Brutish and Trump – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“On Wednesday, after listening to the heart-rending stories of those who lost children and friends in the Parkland school shooting — while holding a cue card with empathetic-sounding phrases — Donald Trump proposed his answer: arming schoolteachers.

It says something about the state of our national discourse that this wasn’t even among the vilest, stupidest reactions to the atrocity. No, those honors go to the assertions by many conservative figures that bereaved students were being manipulated by sinister forces, or even that they were paid actors.Still, Trump’s horrible idea, taken straight from the N.R.A. playbook, was deeply revealing — and the revelation goes beyond issues of gun control. What’s going on in America right now isn’t just a culture war. It is, on the part of much of today’s right, a war on the very concept of community, of a society that uses the institution we call government to offer certain basic protections to all its members.

Before I get there, let me remind you of the obvious: We know very well how to limit gun violence, and arming civilians isn’t part of the answer.No other advanced nation experiences frequent massacres the way we do. Why? Because they impose background checks for prospective gun owners, limit the prevalence of guns in general and ban assault weapons that allow a killer to shoot dozens of people before he (it’s always a he) can be taken down. And yes, these regulations work.”

The Virtue of Radical Honesty – by David Brooks – NYT

“This week I asked a group of students at the University of Chicago a question I’m asking students around the country: Who are your heroes? There’s always a long pause after I ask. But eventually one of the students suggested Steven Pinker. Another chimed in Jonathan Haidt. There was general nodding around the table.

That was interesting. Both men are psychology professors, at Harvard and N.Y.U., who bravely stand against what can be the smothering orthodoxy that inhibits thought on campus, but not from the familiar conservative position.One way Pinker does it is by refusing to be pessimistic. There is a mood across America, but especially on campus, that in order to show how aware of social injustice you are, you have to go around in a perpetual state of indignation, negativity and righteous rage. Pinker refuses to do this. In his new book, “Enlightenment Now,” he argues that this pose is dishonest toward the facts.

For example, we’re all aware of the gloomy statistics around wage stagnation and income inequality, but Pinker contends that we should not be nostalgic for the economy of the 1950s, when jobs were plentiful and unions strong. A third of American children lived in poverty. Sixty percent of seniors had incomes below $1,000 a year. Only half the population had any savings in the bank at all.Between 1979 and 2014, meanwhile, the percentage of poor Americans dropped to 20 percent from 24 percent. The percentage of lower-middle-class Americans dropped to 17 from 24. The percentage of Americans who were upper middle class (earning $100,000 to $350,000) shot upward to 30 percent from 13 percent.”

Protecting America’s Last Great Animal Migrations – By ARTHUR MIDDLETON – NYT

“The interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, recently directed the agencies in his department to work with states and private landowners to minimize development and disturbance in migration corridors and winter ranges used by elk, mule deer and pronghorn antelope.Because the Trump administration has otherwise reduced many land and wildlife protections, the move was immediately dismissed by some environmental groups as “greenwashing.” But Mr. Zinke’s order is based on solid ecological science, and it reflects broad support in conservative Western states for protecting a natural wonder important to ecosystems and rural communities.

These animals make long, arduous journeys across the most rugged of Western landscapes. My colleagues and I have tracked herds that travel a hundred miles or more each year, struggling across snowbound mountain ranges and raging rivers. They endure all this because the rewards outweigh the risks: The herds can fatten up on green grass in the high country all summer, then shelter all winter in the valleys and on the plains, away from the deep mountain snow.These migratory herds are the lifeblood of many Western landscapes. They sustain apex predators like wolves, grizzly bears and mountain lions; diverse scavengers like eagles and foxes; and businesses that cater to hunters and wildlife watchers. That’s why protecting the migrations of these big-game animals is becoming a priority for a wide spectrum of Westerners from environmentalists to hunters to ranchers.”