Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Let them eat movies

Earlier, we were talking about how 2014 was the year when people started losing hope. Here is a pretty good example of why that happens.

This is one of several blurbs this week superficially expressing "hope" for a better jobs and wages situation in the months ahead.

And here is Robert Reich to explain why that is very probably bullshit.
Jobs are coming back, but pay isn’t. The median wage is still below where it was before the Great Recession. Last month, average pay actually fell.

What’s going on? It used to be that as unemployment dropped, employers had to pay more to attract or keep the workers they needed. That’s what happened when I was labor secretary in the late 1990s.
It still could happen – but the unemployment rate would have to sink far lower than it is today, probably below 4 percent.

Yet there’s reason to believe the link between falling unemployment and rising wages has been severed.
The reasons are easy enough to discern for anyone who pays attention.  Outsourcing is easier and cheaper than ever. There are enough "discouraged workers" not counted among the labor force to make the unemployment numbers deceptive.  Employees have lost so much ground in terms of overall compensation (diminished retirement and health benefits) and job security that they're quite far from being in anything like a favorable bargaining position.   There's also this.
Meanwhile here at home, a whole new generation of smart technologies is taking over jobs that used to be done only by people.  Rather than pay higher wages, it’s cheaper for employers to install more robots.

Not even professional work is safe. The combination of advanced sensors, voice recognition, artificial intelligence, big data, text-mining, and pattern-recognition algorithms is even generating smart robots capable of quickly learning human actions.
The fundamental issue we're seeing is chronic structural underemployment.  There are more people than the labor market will support at much more than bare subsistence levels.
More than half of Louisiana families do not earn enough money to cover basic costs, a new report says.

An analysis released Tuesday by Loyola University’s Jesuit Social Research Institute found that 52 percent of Louisiana families with children are not making enough to live “a modest, dignified life.”

Based on those findings, the authors are asking policy makers and community leaders to aid struggling families by taking steps to raise wages, expand the state-level earned income tax credit and improve access to health care.
This is going to present new political challenge to "policy makers and community leaders." We need to find ways to  base our survival and comfort on something besides the increasingly arbitrary concept of a job. That will take more imagination than just expanding the earned income tax credit.

In New Orleans, though, policy makers and community leaders have determined that the thing to do is give away tax breaks to movie studios.  
A proposed $63.5 million movie studio complex inched closer to a reality Tuesday with the approval of tax breaks worth at least $3.1 million, according to the Industrial Development Board, which approved the subsidy.

If completed, the Deep South Studios complex would be one of the biggest investments in the local film industry to date. Its 19-acre campus, an as-yet undeveloped plot near the foot of the Crescent City Connection bridge, is slated to include a 262,000 square-feet of floor space spread over six sound stages, two production buildings and a half-dozen ancillary structures. 
That seems wrong.  But they did come up with it while sitting around a fancy table at premier corporate lawfirm so maybe they know something we don't.

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