Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot about fast-food workers and public assistance, after a study from the University of California at Berkeley Labor Center came out arguing that these workers get billions in public benefits. Several of my readers have hinted that I, as a welfare-hating libertarian type, should be outraged at all this free-riding.
I don’t think this argument works for a bunch of reasons. We’re about to see a lot more fast-food workers on public benefits, because of the Affordable Care Act. (Assuming it doesn’t implode, of course.) Do companies really have a moral obligation to raise wages every time the public passes a new entitlement? That doesn’t seem as if it can possibly be right. Does Obamacare give you a moral obligation to pay your lawn guy more? Do you think it might be hard to pass new public programs if it did?Read more »
Emily Yoffe is taking flack for pointing out what everyone who went to college should already know: that young women who drink to the point of insensibility are at risk of being raped. The reason her piece is supposed to be objectionable is that she is counseling the women to avoid drinking, rather than the men.
Actually, she also counsels men not to drink themselves to the point of insensibility: “If I had a son, I would tell him that it’s in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate.” But it’s true, the article focuses on pointing out to women that drinking a lot is extra-risky for them, so they probably shouldn’t do it. Not because it’s wrong, but because they could end up getting sexually assaulted while they’re not really in control.Read more »
Are you depressed by the spectacle in Washington? You may not be depressed enough. This morning I read a recent paper by Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute, and commentary by Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post, and frankly, I think I need some Prozac.
You really need to read Lindsey’s full paper, but here’s the nub:Read more »
This morning, the Wall Street Journal reports that Apple Inc. has told two suppliers it’s cutting orders for the iPhone 5c, the cheaper phone that was supposed to fend off competitive threats from lower-cost competitors. The best guess is that even the cheaper iPhone costs too much; if you’re going to pay $550 for a phone (without a contract), you’re probably looking for something a little nicer than a cheap plastic case.
Sales of the extra-expensive “gold” version of the iPhone, on the other hand, appear brisk.Read more »
Last month, some of us in Washington were captivated by an epic battle on the District of Columbia Council. At the urging of labor and community groups (with backing from local businesses that compete with Wal-Mart Stores Inc.), the council passed a living-wage law requiring businesses to pay their workers $12.50 an hour … but only if the business had more than $1 billion in corporate revenue and operated stores with more than 75,000 square feet. The council did everything but specify that the law only applied to companies whose name started with W, and rhymed with “All-Mart.” (Though the few other companies who might feasibly get caught up in this net -- Target Corp., Home Depot Inc., AutoZone Inc., Macy’s Inc. -- also protested.)
Wal-Mart responded by threatening to halt development plans for the stores it had not yet begun constructing -- three out of the original six, including one south of the Anacostia River, a pet project of Mayor Vincent Gray in an area that desperately needs both the retail and the jobs. The measure passed the council, but ultimately, the mayor vetoed it.Read more »
I’ve been trying to write about what’s happening with the debt ceiling for hours, but every time I do, something new happens, and I have to start over. This morning the proposal on the table from Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell was to reopen the government ... but only until Jan. 15, because the Democrats hope that before then they’ll be able to renegotiate the hated sequestration spending cuts, which are scheduled to take place shortly thereafter. It would raise the debt ceiling until Feb. 7, because the Republicans apparently want to have another theatrical negotiation in three months -- sort of an early Valentine’s Day gift to the nation. There would be increased scrutiny of subsidy eligibility for health insurance. And the deal would delay for one year the reinsurance fees that health insurers pay in exchange for help defraying their costs if they end up with too many old and sick people in their pool.
Later in the day, it came out that the House Republicans had their own plan, which was the same in the first three elements, but pushed back the tax on manufacturers of medical devices for two years, instead of delaying the reinsurance fees for one. Republicans also wanted to get rid of insurance subsidies for members of Congress, the president, the vice president and the cabinet. At least give them this: The deal will cost them thousands of dollars a year, which they’re willing to spend in order to make a statement. Or sort of willing; it later emerged that House Speaker John Boehner might not have the votes for his own proposal.Read more »
This is one of the most interesting pieces of news I’ve seen in a while: Netflix is looking to hook up with cable companies, allowing them to put a Netflix app on their set-top boxes. Talks are in early stages, so it’s too soon to flip out about a sea change in telecoms. But if this moves forward, it will represent a dramatic change in Netflix’s strategy -- and possibly a blow to the dreams of cord-cutters everywhere.
In the minds of many fans (including, at one point, me), Netflix was supposed to be the cable-killer. I explained why this was folly a few years back, after the brief and tragic life of Qwikster, Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings's attempt to separate its DVD business from the streaming:Read more »
A few weeks back, at a friend’s birthday party, we were served macaroni and cheese made in mini-muffin cups. Basically, this meant that the mac and cheese was all crunchy edge bits. And the Official Blog Spouse loves crunchy edge bits. In fact, he loves anything crunchy. “Could you make that for me?”
“I guess,” I said. We don’t have mini-muffin tins, but we do have regular muffin tins. And I have a pretty good recipe for macaroni and cheese. Armed with these two things last weekend, I prepared for an experiment.Read more »
Exactly how bad are things on the federal health-care exchanges? The working assumption among most journalists, including me, is that they would be fixed in a few weeks -- that is, by the end of this week. But yesterday’s New York Times brought a deeply reported piece from Robert Pear, Sharon LaFraniere and Ian Austen. There is too much information in the piece for an excerpt to do it justice, so I’ll summarize, with some editorial comments -- but you should read the whole thing to get the full flavor:
-- One person familiar with the project says it’s only about 70 percent of the way there, and has heard estimates of somewhere between two weeks to two months to fix it. As a programmer I know points out, “two weeks to two months” is the programming equivalent of “40 days and 40 nights”: “A long time, but I have no way of knowing how long.” When I used to hear estimates like that, I used to assume it would be coming in on the late end of that range, earliest.Read more »
And the Nobel Prize in economics goes to … Eugene F. Fama, Robert J. Shiller, and Lars Peter Hansen. None of these three is a surprise candidate; it’s mostly been a matter of “when,” not “if,” with the caveat that since they don’t award posthumous Nobels, there was always the possibility that the Grim Reaper might get there before the committee did. But thankfully not the case!
Robert Shiller will be known to most of you for his work on the housing market. The S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices is now the standard measure of activity in the housing market, and Shiller was the go-to economist for quotes on the housing bubble -- before and after it popped. However, this is not the work for which he is being awarded the prize; the committee’s press release cites his earlier pathbreaking work on stock markets.Read more »