Archive for January, 2014


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Only in America

Posted: 30 January 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,


In a recent (and ongoing) Wall Street Journal poll, more than a third of the respondents have voted in favor of abolishing the minimum wage.


Special mention

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Volkswagen has accepted the United Auto Workers’ attempt to unionize its Chattanooga, Tennessee manufacturing plants.

Scott Wilson, a VW spokesman, said: “Volkswagen values the rights of its employees in all locations to representation of their interests.  In the United States, it is only possible to realize this in conjunction with a union.  This is a decision that ultimately lies in the hands of the employees. For this reason, we have begun a dialogue with the U.A.W.”

But Republican politicians, local businesses, and outside right-wing groups are attempting to derail the drive.

Two of Tennessee’s most prominent Republicans, Gov. Bill Haslam and Senator Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, have repeatedly voiced concerns that a U.A.W. victory would hurt the plant’s competitiveness and the state’s business climate.

A business-backed group put up a billboard declaring, “Auto Unions Ate Detroit. Next Meal: Chattanooga,” while a prominent anti-union group, the National Right to Work Committee, has brought legal challenges against the U.A.W.’s effort, asserting that VW officials improperly pressured workers to back a union.

In addition, Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, has set up a group, the Center for Worker Freedom, that has fought the U.A.W. on several fronts, partly to prevent the election of labor’s Democratic allies who might increase government spending.


Thomas Piketty’s new book, Le capital au XXIe siècle (which is supposed to be released soon in English as Capital in the 21st Century), is creating quite a stir. It is the subject of the latest column by Thomas B. Edsall and was recently reviewed by Branco Milanovic [pdf].

In fact, the chart above is taken from Milanovic’s review. It shows the growing gap between (as Piketty defines them) the rate of growth of world production (g) and the rate of return to capital (r) during the nineteenth century and, after the “special period,” from the mid-1970s onward. For Piketty, that gap is the source of growing inequality in both the functional (capital-labor) and size (top 1 percent) distributions of income.

I’ll refrain from further commentary until I’ve had a chance to read the book (which, if all goes well, I’ll probably end up adding to my Topics in Political Economy reading list in the fall). But, I’ll admit, I am both intrigued (by the model and data) and somewhat wary (especially concerning the definition of capital) of Piketty’s approach. Still, given Milanovic’s summary,  Piketty’s methodological reflections alone warrant further attention:

Appropriately for such a wide-ranging book, Piketty closes his book with an essay on the method to be used in economics. He regards economics as a social science (where the emphasis is on “social”) that can flourish only if (i) it asks important, and not trivial, questions (so adieu Freakonomics and randomistas), and (ii) uses empirical and historical methods instead of sterile model-building. These issues have been debated ad nauseum by the economists, and Piketty has nothing new to add to that, except perhaps in a most important way—namely, by showing in his own work how these two desiderata should be combined to create economic works of durable importance.


It’s very hard to keep up with healthcare bills if some or all members of households don’t have health insurance. But even people who have health insurance struggle to pay their bills. That’s both the promise (to expand health insurance) and limitation (private health insurance and healthcare in the United States still impose financial burdens) of Obamacare.

According to a recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics [pdf],

  • Families with a mixture of coverage types within the family and families in which some or all members were uninsured were more likely to have experienced a financial burden of medical care in the past 12 months than were families in which either all members had private insurance or all members had public coverage.
  • Among families in which all members had private insurance or all members had public coverage, approximately 21 percent experienced the financial burden of medical care.
  • Among families in which some members had private insurance and some members had public coverage, 35.8 percent experienced the financial burden of medical care.
  • Among families in which all members were uninsured, 39.7 percent experienced the financial burden of medical care.
  • Among families in which some members were insured and some members were uninsured, fully 46.0 percent experienced the financial burden of medical care.


Special mention

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