Comment from Australia
Are lower youth wages a form of `age discrimination' in the workplace? Yes, according to three panellists at the NSW Young Labor conference on Sunday.
The ALP is considering abolishing youth wages so that workers between 18 and 21 years would receive the same minimum wage as adults. The argument that most resonated with the predominantly young audience was equal pay for equal work - the premise being that a young employee doing the same work as an adult should be paid the same wage as the adult. The fact that youth are paid less is age discrimination.
This argument does make sense at an intuitive level. Why should people doing the same work be paid different wages?
First, although young workers do the same work as adults, their productivity and competency levels differ. Adult employees are on average more productive and ought to command a higher wage. If young workers really were as productive as adults, then their wage would have risen to the adult wage. The fact that this hasn't happened is telling.
The second reason - risk - is far more important but most often overlooked. Although there are exceptions, young workers are on average less experienced, less mature, and less responsible than their adult counterparts. They are also less accustomed to the demands and responsibilities of working life. I was a young worker until not too long ago and know this from my own experience.
Young workers represent a higher risk to employers. If employers had to pay young and adult workers the same wage without receiving adequate compensation for taking the higher risk, they would have no incentive to hire a young worker.
Young workers should be careful what they wish for. Abolishing youth wages effectively denies young workers the most effective weapon they have - lower wages - to compete against adults. Denying themselves this weapon means denying themselves a job.
Obama didn't mean what he said? Really?
The latest spin is that when President Barack Obama put his foot in his mouth saying: "If you've got a business - you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen," he didn't really mean it.
Yeah, and if you believe that, you probably think he was talking about voluntary charitable donations when he said, "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
The spinsters attempting to contain the damage the president did to himself by being honest about what he thinks, say his most recent comments didn't refer to "a business," but something he said earlier in that speech. Here are his words in longer context:
"Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that."
From that we are to conclude "that" referred back to "roads and bridges," not "a business."
There are problems with this conclusion from these plain words. The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto explains the most glaring of the problems with that strained interpretation:
"That's bunk, and not only because `business' is more proximate to the pronoun `that' and therefore its more likely antecedent. The [Obama] Truth Team's interpretation is ungrammatical. `Roads and bridges' is plural; `that' is singular. If the Team is right about Obama's meaning, he should have said, `You didn't build those.'
"Barack Obama is supposed to be the World's Greatest Orator, the smartest man in the world. Yet his campaign asks us to believe he is not even competent to construct a sentence."
It's always fun to catch politicians actually saying what they believe. Then it's even greater fun watching them skin back to repair the damage. It's more fun yet when the excuse-making has to make the pol look dumb on top of it all.
In New Zealand, Farmers Don't Want Subsidies
Every five years or so, members of Congress from rural areas team up to push through a costly extension of farm programs. They are at it again this year. The Senate recently passed legislation to keep billions of dollars in subsidies flowing to farm businesses, and the House just passed a similarly bloated bill out of committee.
Farm bills are an inside game. Politicians never give the public a good reason why U.S. agriculture needs to be coddled by the government. Members of Congress focus on grabbing more subsidies for home-state farmers, and they rarely discuss or debate whether all this federal aid is really needed.
It isn't needed. New Zealand's farm reforms of the 1980s dramatically illustrate the point. Faced with a budget crisis, New Zealand's government decided to eliminate nearly all farm subsidies. That was a dramatic reform because New Zealand farmers had enjoyed high levels of aid and the country's economy is more dependent on agriculture than is the U.S. economy.
Despite initial protests, farm subsidies were repealed in 1984. Almost 30 different production subsidies and export incentives were ended. Did that cause a mass exodus from agriculture and an end to family farms? Not at all. It did create a tough transition period for some farmers, but large numbers of them did not walk off their land as had been predicted. Just one percent of the country's farmers could not adjust and were forced out.
The vast majority of New Zealand farmers proved to be skilled entrepreneurs - they restructured their operations, explored new markets, and returned to profitability. Today, New Zealand's farming sector is more dynamic than ever, and the nation's farmers are proud to be prospering without government hand-outs.
Prior to the 1984 reforms, subsidies stifled farm productivity by distorting market signals and blocking innovation. Many farmers were farming for the sake of the subsidies. For example, nearly 40 percent of the average New Zealand sheep and beef farmer's gross income came from government aid.
When the subsidies were removed, it turned out to be a catalyst for productivity gains. New Zealand farmers cut costs, diversified their land use, sought nonfarm income, and developed new products. Farmers became more focused on pursuing activities that made good business sense.
Official data supports on-the-ground evidence that New Zealand greatly improved its farming efficiency after the reforms. Measured agricultural productivity had been stagnant in the years prior to the reforms, but since the reforms productivity has grown substantially faster in agriculture than in the New Zealand economy as a whole.
Since the reforms, agriculture's contribution to New Zealand's economy has remained steady at about 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Adding activities outside the farm gate, such as processing of milk, meat and wool, agriculture is estimated to contribute over 15 percent of GDP. By contrast, agriculture's share of the economy has fallen in many other industrial countries.
With the removal of subsidies in New Zealand, agricultural practices are driven by the demands of consumers, not by efforts to maximize the receipt of subsidies. At the same time, the whole agricultural supply chain has improved its efficiency and food safety has become paramount. Businesses that deliver inputs to farming have had to reduce their costs because farmers have insisted on greater value for money.
More efficient agricultural production in New Zealand has also spurred better environmental management. Cutting farm subsidies, for example, has reduced the previous overuse of fertilizer. And cutting subsidies has broadened farm operations to encompass activities such as rural tourism that bring management of the rural environment to the fore.
The message to American farmers is that subsidy cuts should be embraced, not feared. After subsidy cuts, U.S. farmers would no doubt prove their entrepreneurial skills by innovating in a myriad of ways, as New Zealand farmers did. And we suspect that - like New Zealand farmers - American farmers would become proud of their new independence, and have little interest in going back on the taxpayer gravy train.
Now would be a great time for America to embrace Kiwi-style reforms because commodity prices are high and U.S. farm finances are generally in good shape. It's true that weather conditions and markets create ups and downs for agriculture, but over the long run, global population growth will likely sustain high demand for farm products. Some people claim that America needs to subsidize because other countries do. But unsubsidized New Zealand farming is globally competitive, with about 90 percent of the country's farm output exported.
The removal of farm subsidies in New Zealand gave birth to a vibrant, diversified, and growing rural economy, and it debunked the myth that farming cannot prosper without subsidies. Thus rather than passing another big government farm bill that taxpayers can't afford, the U.S. Congress should step back and explore the proven alternative of free market farming.
Why medical care costs so much
One reason medical care costs so much because patients pay so little for it directly. Most Americans' health coverage is not real insurance, which covers large unexpected expenses. It's really prepaid medicine that also covers small predictable expenses. The tax code is the main culprit. It punishes cash payment for medical care and rewards payment through insurance. Medicaid and Medicare are also prepaid medical plans.
Costs soar because patients are consumers, but not paying customers. Like business travelers dining on their employers' expense accounts, patients are largely insulated from medical costs, and hence pay scant attention to price. For example, if a doctor recommends a high-end treatment, a patient has little incentive to inquire about its necessity or the availability of lower cost alternatives. [An example: CT scans are sometimes used where an x-ray would do -- but CT-scans are 4 times more expensive -- JR]
Costs stay low when patients pay, rather than when insurers or government health plans pay. For example, The Guttmacher Institute reports that 57% of abortion patients pay out-of-pocket, while abortion prices have been fairly constant for decades.
Real health insurance can save money - for example - high-deductible insurance combined with Health Savings Accounts for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Such "plans can produce significant (even substantial) savings without adversely affecting member health status," reported the American Academy of Actuaries. The RAND Health Insurance Experiment reached similar conclusions.
But so-called "reform" does not address these problems. Rather, it entrenches them by mandating costly health plan benefits, limiting tax-exempt medical purchases, and threatening to ban high-deductible insurance policies.
The Speech Mitt Romney Should Give But Won't
My fellow Americans,
I have been the target of numerous charges by my opponent in recent weeks. Rather than repeat them, I will simply say this:
I will not apologize for my legitimately earned wealth. I will not apologize for finding legal ways to reduce the burden from the wealth-destroying, job-killing, innovation-reducing, and poverty-creating monstrosity called the US tax code.
I will not apologize for working for a company that made numerous other companies more efficient and, in doing so, freed capital and labor to more productive uses that have enriched this nation. Would my opponent prefer that we stagnate in the jobs and lower standard of living of a generation ago?
I will not apologize for working for a company that provided jobs in poorer parts of the world for people who desperately need better opportunities. Would my opponent prefer that they continue in poverty and starvation?
Whether or not you think my job history is relevant to my qualifications for president, know this: the events of the last few weeks have reinforced my determination to defend wealth earned legitimately through the mutually-beneficial exchanges of a genuinely free market and to condemn wealth made through cronyism, corporatism, and political connections.
When my opponent reveals so glaringly his inability to understand the source of the wealth that has, in only 200 years, raised humanity from the muck and mire of thousands of years of poverty, disease, and death, we all now know what the stakes are in the next few months. I therefore pledge that if I am elected my number one priority will be to reduce the size and scope of government and free the American people to provide for each other through the market and keep the wealth they have thereby legitimately earned. That is the path not just to recovering from the recession that decades of government intervention has produced, but to the long run prosperity of all Americans, especially the least well-off among us
My opponent is right in saying no one does it alone. He is wrong in thinking that is a condemnation of free markets and legitimately accumulated wealth. Markets are the most extensive and profound process of human cooperation we have ever discovered. The way to ensure that such cooperation continues peacefully and with mutual benefit is to allow people to try (and fail!) through the market to provide what others want and to keep the wealth they thereby earn, and to face the consequences of failure. Free markets are human cooperation; government redistribution is not cooperation, it is coercion. The justification for the wealth earned in the market is not that people do it alone. It is instead that allowing people to become wealthy by selling what others want to buy is the best way to ensure peaceful social cooperation and to improve the lives of the least well off.
You can vote for the reactionary forces of economic stagnation, and thereby continue to condemn millions to their current unemployment and poverty, by re-electing the man who has presided over the continued decline in the US economy, or you can vote for the progressive, liberating, and enriching forces of the freed market. You can vote for those who would condemn the wealth that enriches us all and who prefer the wealth that comes from political connections and cronyism, or you can vote for those who understand that in a real market, the wealthy become so by providing for others.
My opponent has staked out his position and I am now staking out mine. The choice has never been more clear, or more stark.
Report from an underwater wasteland: "Not only are there thousands of individuals not paying their mortgages, but, according to a local appraiser, plenty of commercial tenants have not steadily paid rent since the city's real estate crash. In some cases the landlord will let a tenant slide just to show activity in a center. In other cases, the landlord quit paying its lender, and in turn, quit collecting rent. Eventually the foreclosing lender appoints a receiver, who often just collects whatever a tenant can scrounge up at the moment."
Health care is still not a "right": "There is no right to health care. Period. There never has been. You have no inherent right to demand someone else use their skills, time and assets to service your health. You certainly have the right to negotiate and reach a voluntary agreement (see liberty) with health care providers based on a mutual exchange of value (see property). But 'right' -- no."
The costs of employment regulations: "Employers are just so beastly, aren't they? Attempting to get around their responsibilities to the workers. Why, some of them even decide to hire temporary workers instead of loading up on full time long term peeps that they have to pay extra costs to employ!"
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)