Power & Market
In November, Harvard economists Valentin Bolotnyy and Natalia Emanuel published a new working paper titled "Why Do Women Earn Less Than Men? Evidence from Bus and Train Operators."
In the study, Bolotnyy and Emanuel study unionized bus and train operators to determine whether or not a gender pay gap exists, and what its causes might be.
The use of unionized workers was helpful to the researchers because the rigid union rules meant that few pay decisions were left up to managers who might otherwise be blamed for bias in these cases.
As it is, the union rules provided clear rules for how seniority affects pay and setting of work hours.
This allowed the researchers to focus on the behavior of the workers themselves while largely ignoring the role of supervisor decisions.
The researchers did find that a gap existed:
The gap of $0.89 in oursetting, which is 60% of the earnings gap across the United States.
But, the gap
can be explained entirely by the fact that, while having the same choice sets in the workplace, women and men make different choices. Women use the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to take more unpaid timeoff than men and they work fewer overtime hours at 1.5 times the wage rate. At the root of these different choices is the fact that women value time and flexibility more than men. Men and women choose to work similar hours of overtime when it is scheduled a quarter in advance,but men work nearly twice as many overtime hours than women when they are scheduled theday before. Using W-4 filings to ascertain marital status and the presence of dependents, we show that women with dependents – especially single women – value time away from work more than men with dependents.
the earnings gap can be explained in our setting by the fact that men take48% fewer unpaid hours off and work 83% more overtime hours per year than women. Thereason for these differences is not that men and women face different choice sets in this job.Rather, it is that women have greater demand for workplace flexibility and lower demand for overtime work hours than men. These gender differences are consistent with women taking on more of the household and childcare duties than men, limiting their work availability in the process. ... When overtime hours are scheduled three months in advance, men sign up for about 7%more of them than women. When overtime is scheduled the day before or the day of thenecessary shift, men work almost twice as many of those hours as women.
Women with dependents – single women in particular – are considerably less likely than men with dependents to accept an overtime opportunity. This is especially the case during weekends and after regular work hours, times when there are fewer childcare options available.
These insights are helpful in seeing some specific of how men and women behave in the workplace. They also help to highlight the fact that even when men and women have the same job title and the same job description, the work they do is not homogenous. A worker who works at odd hours (and thus makes more overtime pay because of it) simply isn't doing the same work as a person who requires extremely regular hours. Similarly, a worker who requires sizable chunks of time off every several years (for maternity leave or childcare needs) is also not doing the same work as a worker who rarely takes time off.
If one of the workers is available nearly all the time, but the other one has a far more inflexible schedule, don't have the same job when it comes to actual executions of duties.
Yet, we still continue to hear that "women are paid less to do the same work," presumably because of gender bias. This latest study should help to expose, yet again, that this is an empirically untrue statement, and does not describe the nature of workplace behavior in the real world.
Moreover, this study found a pay gap in a single industry between workers doing similar work. How much more does the heterogeneity of work and workers explain an overall, nationwide "pay gap"? Nationwide, differences in work span across thousands of industries, jobs, and working conditions. The many differences in these cases are uncountable.
Leftists, of course, may see this data and argue that this shows women are still at a disadvantage because single women with children (which are more common than single men than children) are constrained in their choice of hours by childcare needs. Therefore, we need government policies to equalize this situation.
This is true, but only in the sense that, when it comes to earnings, people who work fewer hours are at a "disadvantage" compared to people who work longer hours. It is possible that policies forcing "equality" between people who can work longer, odder hours, and those who can't, could help those who aren't flexible. This, of course, would come at the expense of those who work odder hours right now.
But this is not at all a situation in which "women are paid less to do the same work." And we should stop pretending that it is.
In fact, in a variety of settings, women earn more than men. As Andrew Syrios has noted:
When comparing never-married women with never married-men, the wage gap doesn’t just disappear, it flips. As far back as 1971, never-married women in their thirties have earned slightly more than similar men. 2 In 1982, never-married women on the whole earned 91 percent of what men do. 3 Today, among men and women living along from the age twenty-one to thirty-five, there is no wage gap. And among unmarried college-educated men and women between forty and sixty-four, men earn an average of $40,000 a year and women earn an average of $47,000 a year! 5
And when all of this is taken into account, the wage gap all but disappears, as many studies have found:
- A study by the CONSAD Research Corp. for the US Department of Labor found that once they controlled for the variables, there was “an adjusted gender wage gap that is between 4.8 percent and 7.1 percent.” 6
- A study by June and Dave O’Neill for the National Bureau of Economic Research found that “… the gender gap largely stems from choices made by women and men concerning the amount of time and energy devoted to a career.”
- Warren Farrell conducted a thorough study reported in his book Why Men Earn More and found no evidence of a wage gap.
- A 1983 study by Walter E. Williams and the aforementioned 1981 study by Walter Block discredit the idea that the wage gap is caused by discrimination.
- Carrie Lukas notes that “In a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, the research firm Reach Advisors found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts.”
After two years of a lot of aggressive-sounding talk about reducing the Fed's balance sheet and raising the target interest rate, the Fed in recent weeks has reversed itself, and declared that now's a time to take things more slowly.
At the January FOMC meeting, officials:
widely favored ending the runoff of the central bank’s balance sheet this year while expressing uncertainty over whether they would raise interest rates again in 2019, minutes of their January meeting showed.
“Almost all participants thought that it would be desirable to announce before too long a plan to stop reducing the Federal Reserve’s asset holdings later this year,” according to the record of the Federal Open Market Committee’s Jan. 29-30 gathering released Wednesday.
This just represents more of the "we'll return to normal someday!" routine we've been getting from the Fed for about a decade. Over that time, we've repeatedly heard that once the economy is strong again, the Fed will reduce its balance sheet back to normal levels, and will raise the Fed Funds rate back to what had historically been more normal rates. Yet, after years of near-zero rates, and a Fed balance sheet of more than $4 trillion, it looks like the Fed lacks the resolve to do anything about it. Yet, if the economy isn't strong enough right now, with record-low unemployment, and surging job growth, when will it be strong enough?
The lack of Fed action has long been an indication of how weak the US economy has long been, in spite of headline numbers that suggested strength. In reality, incomes and wealth growth only reached former peak levels in the past three years, with most of the period of 2009-2016 being in negative territory when compared to 2000 or 2007.
But after what looks like three years of real growth, the Fed is still worried that even the mildest hawkishness on monetary policy will undue the moderate gains of the past decade.
For a sense of how far the Fed has come from more "normal" times, we can see how total assets remain near all-time highs, as the Fed attempts to manufacture demand in the economy:
And then there is the Fed Funds rate, which, in spite of 18 months of increases, remains well below where it was prior to the most recent two recessions:
Worldwide, we're seeing some similar hesitation from other central banks.
Yesterday, "Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the central bank would “of course” consider easing monetary policy further if the economy lost momentum toward achieving its 2 percent inflation target, the Asahi newspaper reported on Friday."
Meanwhile, the European Central Bank shows no signs of budging from its extremely accommodative monetary policy. Overall, it looks like European growth is flatlining.
Overall, if we look at major central banks worldwide, we see that only in the US and Canada have central banks done anything that might be considered "tightening." And even in the US and Canada, rates remains quite low. And in no cases do we see any significant moves toward reducing central bank assets.
This is apparently the best the central banks can do in a time of "expansion."
A summary of the most recently set rates:
- USA: 2.5%
- Canada: 1.75%
- UK: 0.75%
- Australia: 1.5%
- China: 4.35%
- ECB: -0.4%
- Japan: -0.1%
Note: All graphs by Ryan McMaken. Here are the specific key rates discussed here, with links:
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 authorizing military personnel to lock Americans of Japanese descent in concentration camps that are often euphemistically called “internment camps.”
To this day, some apologists for the internment camps — and the harsh measures carried out by the Roosevelt administration — contend that the term "concentration camp" is needlessly provocative and makes the Japanese confinement took worse than it was.
Yet, the term "concentration camp" is not a pejorative term. Using the term to describe the camps for Japanese-Americans is both appropriate and properly descriptive.
Nowadays, many people rightly are repulsed by the idea of concentration camps because they have become closely associated with the Nazi concentration camps which were often also extermination camps. Historically speaking, however, the term has not implied that the purpose of the camps in question are necessarily to carry out purposes of mass murder.
This is no doubt partly why Chief Justice John Roberts officially referred to the Japanese camps as concentration camps last year when Roberts wrote: "The forcible relocation of U. S. citizens to concentration camps, solely and explicitly on the basis of race, is objectively unlawful and outside the scope of Presidential authority."
Roberts is surely aware that the camps for Japanese-Americans were dissimilar to Nazi camps in a variety of ways. Yet, he still employed the term "concentration camp."
After all, the term — and the concept — both predate World War II by decades. The term was first used to describe camps used by the Spanish government against dissidents in the late nineteenth century. The term was then later used to describe camps used by the British Empire during the Boer War.
In both cases, these camps were unsanitary places where food was scarce. Disease spread easily. But, in both cases, it does not appear those who created camps intended to murder large numbers of women and children — as was the case with the Nazi camps. In the case of the German camps, for example, many witnesses reported seeing large numbers of potential camp residents executed on arrival. This alone would distinguish them from other types of deadly camps where death was usually the result of disease and malnourishment.
Moreover, in the Spanish and British cases, it appears the deadly conditions were often due primarily to a lack of funding and a lack of effort on the part of officials to keep the camp residents well supplied. Extermination need not have been a true motivation.
In the case of the Japanese camps in the United States, the residents benefited from a general and relative abundance of food which the United States in general enjoyed during the Second World War. Moreover, after 1941, at no time was the US losing the war in any meaningful sense. The US always enjoyed an advantage in terms of industrial capacity, and the physical security of the continental United States. This reduced the incentive to carry out reprisals against the camp's residents.
It's not a coincidence, for example, than many of the worst excesses against dissidents and "enemies of the state" in Nazi Germany took place after the devastating losses for the German regime at Stalingrad. As the war turned against the Germans, paranoia and internal revanchism increased, leading to an escalation of reprisals against all perceived domestic enemies.
The US did not experience a comparable situation.
So, while the American camps were relatively safe and healthy, it would be unwise to attribute to assumed American generosity. The fact is the US regime could afford to feed the residents while the general population more less forgot about them. Had the US experienced something like Stalingrad, the Roosevelt Administration — which was not above prosecuting peaceful Americans under the Espionage Act — may have turned to harsher measures against interned populations.
As it turned out, the American camps were decided non-deadly by historical standards up to that time. This, of course, did not protect the residents from the effects of confinement. Most residents lost their businesses and property since they were unable to pay rent or make mortgage payments during internment.
If you think that the “tax the rich” rhetoric from the left-wing of the Democratic Party is primarily about economics you would be sadly mistaken. After all, there isn’t enough tax revenue in the highest income bracket, even with a 90% marginal rate, to fund anyone’s pet social program for more than 48 hours. Do progressives know this? Of course they do.
The same observation holds true for the so-called ”Green New Deal” legislation recently proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the outrageous media darling from Queens. It’s true that this grab bag of environmental regulation, if enacted, would likely cost trillions and produce a systemic change in the American life-style. But you miss the deeper message if you think that the actual purpose of this legislative monstrosity is to save the planet before it expires in 12 years.
No, the current wave of extreme progressivism has a far more nefarious goal than simply higher taxes on the super-rich or carbon taxes to scrub down the environment. Indeed, the long-run objective of the new socialists and the gang of social justice warriors (SJW) is to gradually delegitimize the very foundations of modern capitalism by obliterating conventional notions of property rights, fairness and justice. If this sounds far-fetched you have not really been paying attention.
It is often assumed that capitalism is founded rock solid on economics. Not necessarily. Strictly speaking, economic considerations, though important, are secondary. Instead, it’s the relatively unique system of individual property rights that primarily legitimizes all capitalist institutions.
Take, for example, the most obvious and essential capitalist institution: the private stock corporation. It is solidly rooted in the notion that individuals have rights; that these rights include the right to incorporate; the right to instruct managers of corporations to maximize profits; and the right of owners to sell their shares. These individual rights (entitlements) are the “moral” foundation for the existence and operation of all modern business organizations.
This particular theory of property rights was made explicit in the 18th and 19th centuries by philosophers such as Adam Smith, John Locke and John Stuart Mill. It holds generally that it is morally appropriate for individuals to own property including, of course, their own labor; to exclusively determine its use; and to enjoy the benefits (income or otherwise) earned from production or exchange. Adam Smith, who taught “moral philosophy” (not economics) at Glasgow University in Scotland termed these rights “natural” and once famously observed that free markets and voluntary exchange were morally appropriate because they were “consistent with liberty and justice. ”
Modern progressives and socialists reject this classical approach to rights theory. They hold, instead, that rights to property (and capitalist institutions such as the corporation) are arbitrary constructs of an elite and conservative legal system; that there is nothing “natural” or legitimate about them; and that, therefore, they have no special moral status. But if they have no special moral status, then neither does the income and privileges that these “rights” currently generate for owners. Indeed, government may now alter these arbitrary property arrangements and redistribute income and privileges to, say, anyone in the name of fairness and social justice.
It is now apparent that this radically different approach to property rights can be employed by critics to rationalize higher taxes on the rich, a drastic reduction in CO2 emissions, an increase in the legal minimum wage to $15/hour, and even the federally chartering of corporations (an Elizabeth Warren pet proposal) in order to make them “socially responsible.” Indeed, there is almost no tax or regulation that cannot be justified from this perspective. And that’s precisely the point.
In conclusion, the social justice warriors and the new socialists are not primarily concerned with economics as such. The tragic lessons of, say, Venezuela are not their concern. Instead, their objective is to continue to delegitimize the classical foundations of property rights and then implement, through legislation and the courts, a radically different theory of justice in social affairs. Whether such a program will be successful has yet to be determined.
Sales of Class 8 trucks (18-wheelers) hit the ditch in January, with orders down 58 percent from a year ago hitting a level not seen since October 2016, near the end of the transportation recession, “when Class-8 truck orders had plunged to the lowest levels since 2009, and truck and engine manufacturers responded with layoffs,” writes Wolf Richter.
The other day I posted about the plunge in the Baltic Dry Index and now news is the Cass Freight Index dropped in December. The Cass “index covers shipments of merchandise for the consumer and industrial economy but does not include bulk commodities, such as grains or chemicals. It was the first year-over-year decline since the transportation recession of 2015 and 2016 — and trucking companies have seen this coming for months:”
Baltic Dry Index
Shipping indexes provide a barometer for how the economy is doing. Less shipping means less buying, selling, and producing. Government interference in the form of low interest rates and the threat of tariffs pulled economic activity forward. However, now the economy is digesting that bubble (malinvestment) of activity. Richter explains,
The trucking business is a barometer of, and dependent on, the goods-based economy. In late 2017 through the summer of 2018, demand for transportation services, such as shipping by truck, surged under the simultaneous impact of a strong goods-based economy led by red-hot e-commerce; a buildup of inventories; pandemic front-running of potential tariffs, a resurgence of drilling activity in the oil patch that required equipment and supplies to be trucked in, etc. Freight rates spiked. Squeezed shippers wheezed in their earnings reports about these spiking transportation costs, while truckers were on Cloud-9 and ordered new trucks to meet the demand, and truck manufacturers were swamped with orders.
Now shipping activity has cooled off and trucking capacity has improved.
The Flatbed Monthly Load-to-Truck Ratio by DAT tracks demand-capacity imbalances. After skyrocketing, the industry figured out how to deal with ELDs just as a slowdown in the industrial sector set in, particularly oil & gas. Now, the average load-to-truck ratio has plunged, down 41% from December a year ago.
After a month of “will he, won’t he” drama fitting for reality television, Donald Trump has announced his plans to declare a national emergency in order to get the funding he desires for his border wall. While the wall itself invites debate on subjects such as practical immigration policy, eminent domain, and government contractors – the use of a national emergency has brought a renewed look at executive power.
For weeks Trump has been warned by Republican leadership about the dangers of the precedent being set by such a decision. Nancy Pelosi has already suggested that a Democratic politician could use a “national emergency” to enact gun policy.
While such concerns are justified, it’s amusing to see such objections being raised by conventional beltway-types as the long-standing trend within Washington has been the gradual expansion of the executive branch. What is the practical difference, for example, between a president going around Congress for a border wall and a president going around Congress for military action? Or President Obama’s own immigration-related executive order that granted protection to “Dreamers” after Congress refused to bend to his will?
After all, if we are to buy in to the idea that political action is validated through participation, then it makes sense for the single political office voted on by the entire country to gradually expand its power – particularly given the obstructions to majority rules the Constitution purposefully placed on the legislative branch. The preference for general majority rule at the expense of state-based representation is also what motivates the modern lefts interest in effectively abolishing the senate and Electoral College – both of which act as checks on the imperialism of democratic excess.
While the 20th century set the stage for the modern state, it was Andrew Jackson who was the first American president to understand how the promotion of democracy could directly feed an imperial presidency. While Jackson could be praised for his views on central banking and federal debt, his presidency offered some of the most flagrant examples of hostility towards both states rights and limits to executive power.
In his first address to Congress, he outlined his vision of a truly democratic executive. He called for the abolishment of the Electoral College, and criticized the role of a large legislature in frustrating popular rule. In his view, “the first principle of our system…[is] that the majority is to govern.” As the best representative of what he saw as the will of the people, he placed his own interpretation of the Constitution as equal to all other branches of government – best illustrated by his rejection of John Marshall’s decision regarding the property rights of Native Americans leading to the Trail of Tears.
While Trump has gone the furthest in openly inviting comparisons to “Old Hickory,” Jackson’s view of the democratic presidency has long prevailed. In the words of John Yoo, “Jackson remains one of the greatest Presidents because he reconstructed the office into the direct representative of the American people.”
Unsurprisingly, it was Yoo who provided the legal defense for many of the excesses of the George W. Bush presidency.
Mr. Mark Lautman has given me permission to share the following letter:
When I started reading Rothbard’s book, I gave the three-line summary to my wife. “It’s a book written by Murray Rothbard in the 1950s about libertarian economics. It’s published by the Mises Institute. Rothbard was a disciple of an Austrian economist Mises.”
“Mises?” she asked. “Ludwig von Mises?”
“Yes. Do you know about him?”
“Do you know who Ludwig von Mises was? He was my grandfather’s cousin!”
Sure enough, Paul Lourie, my wife’s grandfather, mentions Ludwig von Mises in his memoirs!
David Rosenberg tweeted a graph of the plunging Baltic Dry Index with the comment, “Is there a more deflationary chart than the Baltic Dry Index of global freight rates?”
Perhaps, or there is the New York Times business headline, “ Some Central Banks Have Gold Fever, and It Might Be Sensible .”
However, central banks are notoriously bad in timing gold purchases.
Swaha Pattanaik slams gold enthusiasts while praising central bankers.
Gold bugs aren’t always rational. That’s not the case for central banks, whose purchases of the yellow metal last year were the highest since the United States broke the link between gold and the dollar in 1971.
Pattanaik gives us the numbers.
Central banks bought 651.5 tonnes of gold in 2018, the second highest annual total on record and up 74 percent from the year earlier, according to the World Gold Council. As in the past three years, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkey were significant buyers, but were last year joined by the likes of Hungary, India and Poland.
Gordon Brown’s infamous sale of UK gold cost the Bank of England nearly £5 billion.
Christopher Hope wrote for The Telegraph in January 2009,
The sale of more than half of the country's gold reserves between 1999 and 2002 has proved to be deeply controversial. Critics say that signalling such a large sale of bullion to gold traders helped to drive the precious metal to a 20-year low. In 17 auctions, Mr Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer sanctioned the sale of 395 tonnes of gold.