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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Crovelli On Inflation

Interesting article by a grad student in political science working as a roofer for the summer:
More than half of my income, (i.e., around five hours of labor), that Friday was required to purchase only four ounces of tobacco, 144 ounces of cheap beer, six gallons of petrol, and less than two pounds of low-quality, greasy food. I felt very much like young Tom in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, who finds himself in the hopeless position of working all day at a backbreaking job only to find that his meager wages will scarcely purchase enough food and gasoline to allow him to get to work the following day.

Last summer these same quantities of tobacco, cheap ale, gasoline, and low quality, greasy food cost me approximately 20% less than they do today.
It's going to get worse rather than better. Read it to the end where he's cuddling his gold and his rifle; there is a new trend in political science coming. Washington has been so out of touch with ground-level economic realities for so long that the fury is past all their understanding. Trent Lott and Feinstein can blather on all they want about talk radio, but what drives talk radio is the experience of the people. The answer cannot be to flood the market with additional cheap labor in the form of essentially unrestricted immigration that really pays no income taxes (most of them list a high number of dependents).

Dr. M. takes another look at the bill. She has a good head on her shoulders and here is what that head wrote:
I have never seen the government so willfully not just misrepresent the people, but do precisely opposite what the people want. Hillary talks about a vast, Right-Wing conspiracy, but I feel that the American public is the victim of some sort of political-class conspiracy. It's surreal.
It is indeed. Imagine being an older person largely dependent upon social security for retirement or any fixed pension, and facing these food prices. Just imagine it. Artificially keeping the CPI low fools no one who is paying these prices. It may allow Wall Street and DC to sustain their perception bubble a while longer, but it cannot put money into the hands of retirees, roofers, car mechanics, landscapers and plumbers to spend at the stores!!!

I wrote last year that we have flooded our domestic market with cheap labor and driven down living standards for tens of millions of Americans. I believe this has been deliberate, but regardless, you cannot place American workers who have to support their families in the US domestic economy in the position of wage competition directly with imported labor who are supporting their families in Central and South America. And I wrote last year that Bush was essentially fooling himself, because conditions are such that less and less of these workers are going to try to bring their families here. They can't afford to do it!!!

Maybe Crovelli should just take his gold and his rifle and cross the Mexican border along with, say, another 40 million short-changed American workers. I'm sure enough of a reverse flow of armed Americans could install an old-fashioned American style democracy. This is a ridiculous situation.

Howard of Oraculations has warned of the same thing. Anyone who is in touch with the experiences of a broad cross-section of the American public sees reality. I have not seen any indication whatsoever that Congress Critters (and I do not use the term fondly) or any of the presidential nomination candidates do see reality. You cannot create a situation in which 60 million working Americans are being crushed. Do you know how much a health-care home worker earns in NEW YORK CITY? Read it and weep. Don't come talking to me about Bloomberg for president, he was instrumental in refusing an increase to the largely illegal public health care workers in NYC. He is not on the side of the people.

It is a totally new era in politics, because both parties seem to dominated by elitists. Both. They will get hysterical about global warming, burn corn for fuel raising food costs, and raise gas taxes. Forget the war on terror - both political parties seem to have declared war upon the American people. There is a reason why McCain-Feingold tries to shut down union ads too, you know. God forbid that the workers making $7.00 should get a public voice in, you know, the all-important election time. We wouldn't want that. Must regulate for, ah, fairness to incumbents. The country is being run for the benefit of incumbents in Congress. We need a larger base.

What would JFK say? Think back. What would any of the politicians of old you have admired say? They
knew in their very bones that the US could not stand as a two-tier economy, and it can't.

In her post, Dr. M broods along about why the politicians are so clearly evading the will of the American people on this immigration bill. The reason is obvious. The bill has been carefully structured so that very few of the workers will actually get naturalized but that workers can flood in at an essentially unlimited pace. This means that the bill will, within another decade, produce a large class of working people who cannot vote. It's a corporate elitist's dream, although they will not be happy to discover just how high the crime rate gets when they have achieved their nirvana of a non-voting peasantry.

Yes, this is a rant. But it's a righteous rant. I am not against immigration, but I am for a genuine democracy. We cannot allow current political, economic and social trends to continue. There can be no comfortable middle class without a comfortable lower middle class and a working class with a future. The Chief is very disturbed; he thinks the move is on to turn this country into a country similar to the one from which he came.

Anyone who thinks socialism can solve our problems is nitwitted. Socialism cannot function with a high immigration rate. Socialism creates elitist states, and the United States is so constituted and situated that it can never become an elitist state. It would have to move first to totalitarianism.

It would have to move first to totalitarianism.

I'm sure Hillary wouldn't take advantage of that. She would just be looking out for all our best interest as she know sbetter.
Actually, I don't find her very bright. Arrogant, but not bright.
I think the solution is to take that redneck roofers gun away. Just becasue he makes a little less money, is no reason for those people to go off the deep end.

Undocumented workers will take some time to find theri place in our diverse community. NRA redneck haters shoud be disarmed inorder to achieve that.
That's a poli-sci grad student, not a redneck. I guess they all look the same to Howard Dean, though.
His major issue is inflation, though, and it would certainly be hard to argue that inflation is being created by immigrants, legal or otherwise. Indeed, low-cost labor tends to hold down prices. The issue for a specific individual will be whether it holds down *his income* more or less than it does the general price level, and this will depend on the extent to which the immigrants compete in his field. In construction, the answer will clearly be "a lot." There are a lot of factors that affect inflation/standard of living, though, ranging from the obvious (monetary policy, ethanol subsidies driving corn shortages) to the not-so-obvious (excessive litigation sapping productivity; poor schools doing the same)
I don't really think there is a conspiracy to hold down labor costs by importing lots of cheap labor. There are certainly businesses that employ lots of people at the bottom end, but the leading firms of corporate America tend not to be among them. And most business leaders are astute enough to know that a labor cost advantage will be competed away if *everyone* can take advantage of it.

I think the support for large-scale immigration is due at least in part to concern about demographics--specifically, the impact on social security and other retirement programs. There is also some libertarian thinking about not using borders to impede free markets (from the Republican side) and a general deemphasis on the nation state (largely from the Democratic side) And, of course, the obvious political motivation among Democrats.
Well he could not be a real grad student, otherwise he would not be floating such crap. Probably from some second rate communtiy college. After all he is doing roofing, if he was really bright he would have an internship for a reputable firm. In any case he is a NRA nut so he is probably a bit anti-social. That is what the passage meant to me.
David - do you know anything about the restaurant business? Like hell there's no concerted action. Every time anyone talks about enforcing immmigration laws the lobby comes out and claims that everything's going to fall into the sea.

That roofer/grad student is earning the same or less now doing roofing than people did more than 20 years ago.

I talked to an engineer the other day; he was up in arms about the H1B provisions and the company lobbyists. His own (very large) company is adamantly against letting the imported labor free on the market. They want more H1B visas, but they want the imports to be chained to their jobs!
Anon - I see no point in the gold myself, but let's put it this way. There are at least 200 million firearms in this country, and that's a hell of a lot of these guys. And if you don't live in an area in which people commonly shoot, you can't possibly understand the mindset. To many Americans (especially those that have served their country), being able to possess a weapon is a symbol of their freedom and their dignity.

I would respectfully suggest that you go find a gun club in your area and talk to the people there. They are not radicals.

I am not into shooting myself, but from what I have seen, those who are a cut above the average. The anger in this article shocked me, but I understand why it exists.
PS on that last - ever since I read the story of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, I have never been able to support the idea of disarming a populace.
MoM...restaurants are an interesting example, in that benefits of low-cost labor would be competed away *between firms in the industry* but..higher labor costs would probably reduce the overall market share of the industry relative to eating at home. Yeah, there are probably other cases like that.

Anon 4:04pm...the fact that someone chooses to do construction work over the summer instead of (say) interning for a think tank does not mean that he is a loser. He is probably making more $ and he clearly likes doing that kind of work. What's wrong with that?

I know one guy, now a CEO of a public company, who did construction work while going to college. Didn't seem to do him any harm.

Why do you find it necesary to run the article-writer down, rather than simply disagreeing with him on
David - sure, and nursing homes (look at the health-care worker example). There's tons of them.

As to our anon, I was somewhat pleased to see the elitist mindset I am addressing show up in the comments. The only real poli-sci majors, I guess, are those who go to Ivy Leagues. This is the mindset that is absolutely destroying the national Democratic party.
At a risk of some hyperbole:

How is it that we will have to "move first to totalitarianism"? We have a unified pair of the governing national parties actively working together in opposition to the clearly expressed will of the American people. Are we not *already* seeing early totalitarianism in this matter? From what roots does totalitarianism grow but enforcing the will of the leader(s) over that of the led?
I'm pretty sure that this will not go anywhere, Frank. I wouldn't call this early totalitarianism. I'd call it one of these periodic disconnects which have arisen before in US history.

Democracy is often dissatisfying on a current basis, but it does seem to contain the ability to correct such situations.

Personally, I'm mad at both parties, but I think overall pretty confident in the American people. I just have begun to suspect that we need an era of political reform to get functional parties. You don't sustain a good Republican party unless you have a good Democratic party, and vice versa also. If we have to go third party to scare the party leadership, then that's what we have to do. I note that both parties seem to be cooperating at suppressing "rogue" third party candidates, so that's what we need. I am prepared to spend quite a bit of money on a third party to intimidate the DC crowd into paying attention to the welfare of the country. I would bet many others are too.
Well Maxedout Mama, I did not mean to offend you with my last comment, which was a bit harsh and poorly worded. I should not have said "second rate community college". Tolerance is important and I am not elitist (more on that later)

The basic point I was making is still correct. A REAL Political science major does not go to some state school, nor do they do roofing in the summer. The Ivy League schools are the place, and your summer(s) are spent making contacts and doing intern work for the political elite. That is how you build your contacts. If you need a paying summer job, well you are in the wrong place. I did not make the system, but that is the way it works. I can ASSURE you that if you have to work as a roofer you have no business in that major.

My original point was that this fellow and perhaps your latent hostility to the Hispanic immigrant community is based on intolerance. I see you are from the south. Do you know any members of the Hispanic community? I doubt it and if you do, you and the roofer see them as a threat. Here in the northeast we have a much more diverse community, in fact I know two women from this very community, one of whom works as a domestic for my family and the other that is a live-in for a great Aunt. If she did not have an affordably Live-in she would not be ale to retain her independence. Both women live much better here then they would in their home country. I doubt you could get reliable American help for these positions without paying an exorbitant amount of money.

Lastly the gun thing. I am sure some men want to own guns and feel empowered by it. Most likely, deep inside they are threatened by women, minorities and who knows what other insecurities. This is the 21st century and it is time these old fashioned ideas were put aside, for everyone’s benefit. You pointed out yourself that he was over the top. Do you want some crazy guy shooting people because he makes a little less money at a summer job? Gun owning is anti-social, I can assure you that is not an elitist point of view, but one held by most of the intellectually aware citizens of our better universities.

I hope that clarifies things.
Anon, you stepped right into it. My better half, the Chief is Hispanic and a naturalized citizen who was born and raised in Central America. He got here in his twenties. So much for my latent hostility and all that nonsense. Btw, he isn't one of those Euro Hispanics, either. He's Indian, short and brown as all heck.

Actually, the Chief has been struggling with wrath about the immigration problem on two heads. The first is that he feels the plight of the potential immigrants deeply. He has read all the recent bills and pointed out to me the sections that really tend to tie them to companies and prevent naturalization. The Chief is retired now, but went to school, became a research biologist and is very focused on education and assimilation.

For some reason, he does not feel that it is SUFFICIENT FOR HIS RELATIVES TO BE YOUR FRIGGING MAIDS. HE WANTS THEM TO HAVE THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES HE DID. He understands very well that to do so the rest of the country must also have those opportunities. So yeah, what a roofer makes is an issue to a Hispanic.

The second concern the Chief has is that he left his country due to the violence and oppression. He actually gained an opportunity to move into the upper class, but it is no good there. Then you are part of the class system pissing on the poor. In the States, although he suffered the bitter loneliness and displacement that any immigrant does, he found a superior way of life. He reveres the American constitution. He spends a lot of time studying politics, law and American history to try to find out how the situation into which he was born can be changed. (His family were peasants and his family nearly starved to death.) And he is very, very unhappy about the prospect of bringing in people en masse who are not able to assimilate because he knows that they will not be able to get ahead and they will not understand why it is so important to support the legal framework that makes these superior conditions possible.

You do not know how much of an elitist you are. Stick around. I am sure you are a decent person. Try to see this from the other side - you may find it liberating.

And that roofer poli-sci student, given his age (28) and his choice of a military rifle, is quite likely to have served in the military. He is not only not backward, he is superior to those who have not served.
Maxedout Mama,

Well I owe you an apology on my comment regarding Hispanics and your husband. I suppose I projected my own assumptions about southerners on you. My therapist has told me that projection is one of my areas in need of improvement.

I have nothing against the military. If you think that is noble, I will not argue with you. But I see you do not address my observations on gun owners. I did not know the roofer had a military weapon, that is even worse. It might not even be legal. There is no need for any civilian to own that, in fact is there any legitimate reason for a civilian to own a military gun? It is not for hunting. It is not like the military is going to ask the civilian to go fight, and if the private person goes into the military I am sure they have enough guns to go around.

It seems to me, and I am trying to be objective and not project anything, that well adjusted people are not gun owners, except for some number of people who are hunters, which eventually will fade away anyway. Gun owning is really anti-social now, at least in the northeast portion of the country. It really is that simple. It might not be that way in the south, but it is that way in the north.

I do know a girlfriend with a gun owning boyfriend. He is sort of a nice guy, has a decent job but he is just out of place. He drives an older car, doesn’t dress all that well and lives in a frumpy house. She has described him and the problem is his gun obsession. Instead of being connected to the real world he lives in some sort of a fantasy self-independent, “don’t tread on me” (his words) world. The real world, the one around us he just does not get. He has no interest in television, shows, the arts or anything other than his stupid guns and his techy job. Oh and yes he is an NRA member. That is an example of why I say they are anti-social.

So why do you not respond on that?
Anon, you deserve a longer answer and I will give you one tonight after work. But for now, I recommend this link about a Hollywood type who encountered a very frightened woman in a gun shop. It's from this Shrinkwrapped post.

Maybe the Shrinkwrapped post would be a good read too. I will respond further and I don't think you are being argumentative.
anon.."A REAL Political science major does not go to some state school, nor do they do roofing in the summer. The Ivy League schools are the place"

What exactly are you saying here? Are you implying that good polsci research cannot be conducted by people who go to state schools and/or work at state schools? Is your point about performance, or merely about status?

You imply that concerns about immigration are based on "intolerance." If an American steel-company executive opposes imports of steel from Germany, would you accuse him of anti-German bigotry? You might view him as shortsighted, or even as greedy, but few would accuse him of bigotry. Why, then, is it okay to assume that (say) a construction worker, who has no commodity to sell other than his labor, is automatically "intolerant" if he wants to protect the market price of that commodity?
Anon, you wrote:
well adjusted people are not gun owners, except for some number of people who are hunters, which eventually will fade away anyway. Gun owning is really anti-social now, at least in the northeast portion of the country. It really is that simple. It might not be that way in the south, but it is that way in the north.

Could you please define "anti-social"? I always considered it to mean some one who either disliked associating with other people or who did things that were an attack on society. You seem to use it almost as non-conformist.

I can't speak to your girlfriend's boyfriend, but I am a hybrid northerner/southerner (my mother was southern, my father northern). And I went to college in the north and worked there too. So I do have some experience of the NE. I recall at least one man who owned a company and was really rather wealthy who shot. He liked big houses and expensive cars too!

It is a sport, you know. I am not into guns and shooting myself, but I have shot. It's fun. As a sport it is very like golf. You have to be able to control your mind and your muscles at the same time. To do it well probably requires a degree of emotional and physical control that borders on the meditative. I have noticed that golfers and shooters seem to have a passion for the sport, and that may be why. The Chief is an avid golfer, and I know that he seems restless and sort of on edge if he misses a few days. I really encourage his golf, because I think it's good for him.

You also wrote regarding your girlfriend's boyfriend He has no interest in television, shows, the arts or anything other than his stupid guns and his techy job. Oh and yes he is an NRA member. That is an example of why I say they are anti-social.

Believe me, if men who aren't fond of television and don't like the arts are anti-social, a majority of the country's men are anti-social. That much I do know about men. But again, this passage is why I think you use the word "anti-social" to mean non-conformist.

Here's the thing: If you really believe that being non-conformist without doing any actual harm to anyone is wrong, then you are a person with a very totalitarian spirit. You think you know what the right thing is for everyone, and how everyone should lead his or her life. Is that really true?

If you consider someone like this "weird", must you also consider someone like this dangerous?

As for the poli-sci major who chooses to be a roofer in the summers, I think he's going to graduate knowing a lot more about the forces that are driving US politics than someone in the Ivy League with an internship.

I am guessing you are a grad student or a professor because of your comments about "real" grad students. If you are in the humanities, then higher education truly is more about connections and credentials than anything else. You can be good, but there is such competition that for an ambitious person it is necessary to also have the right connections.

But political science is often a pragmatic career. Those who truly succeed are those who really understand what's going on in the country. Of course, if one just wants to be a professor, then it's an entirely different matter. But judging by the epic nonsense I see emanating from political science departments at some institutions that ought to be of higher quality, it is only the can't-do's who are afraid of the real world who gravitate there.
Anon, finally you seem to know very little about shooting or military rifles. I probably know just a little bit more, but here goes:

The federal government encourages civilians to shoot military rifles. It has to do with military preparedness. I don't know if they still do, but they used to even distribute free military ammunition to civilians who shot military rifles in competitions. There are regional and national competitions, and in many cases military and civilians shoot together in these matches. The reason the government does this is that marksmanship is very hard, and if we ever had to fight a major war and call up people on a wide scale, it would be very helpful if some of them were experts. I think it is extremely common for ex-military or reservists to have military weapons and if they were good marksman, they often continue to shoot after retiring or leaving the service.

I do know that the Army is using some of the top civilian military rifle shooters as supplemental instructors for special military marksmanship training right now. It's happening at Fort Benning, GA, I believe.

It's illegal to own automatic weapons, but that's just a feed rate for ammunition. It is not illegal to own military rifles.

You seem incapable of viewing guns as anything but dangerous. They are so widely used down here (they are practical utilitarian tool on farms, for example) that obviously I would have a different opinion. And I do realize that a northeasterner is wildly unlikely to face a hog weighing 4 times his or her weight, or an 8 foot alligator, munching on your chickens or chasing your kid across the field. But this happens down here. (Wild hogs eat small or young livestock and even dogs, if they can get them. They are omnivores.) And then there are snakes, and coyotes and bobcats and bear in the mountains. Also, down here people hunt in season and eat the meat. It would be far more abnormal never to have shot than to shoot down here. I don't know many women who don't know how to shoot at least a little; of course the men do more.

But truthfully, the ex-military people I have known seemed more stable on average than civilians (they throw out the erratic ones), and I would bet that is true in the NE as well. I don't understand why you seem to have this gun phobia? Can you explain? Or is it just this one guy you dislike so, because he mistreats your girlfriend, and you are projecting your dislike onto everyone else?

I don't think Crovelli is over the top at all. I just don't think gold is a good investment. He is assuredly not thinking of violence. Those who do do not write articles about it or study political science. He is thinking about a poitical revolution, and if current conditions continue much longer "It's the economy, stupid" is going to be the motto for 2008 once again.
Dear anonymous (and how brave is that?)

You do not know what you are talking about. An M-1 carbine is a fine hunting rifle. And, if you were paying attention to the story we are discussing, you might realize that hunting may be a right valuable skill to have. Where exactly do you plan to get food when you can no longer afford the prices at the grocery store?

I was thinking a bit along this line last night. I make $12 an hour and get paid twice a month. Out of my takehome, I work one day a pay period to pay for gas and bridge toll that pay period. One full check makes my land payment. I do not have electricity, running water, cable tv or any other amenities. I saw this coming and bought a travel trailer and 2.5 acres out in the boonies (which explains why the price of gas hurts.) Anyway, if I can't make it on those wages, what happens to someone on minimum wage? Back in the 70s, we could carpool. Now, everyone has to work some wacky shift that doesn't allow for that. There's no way I can find someone working my shift here or at the job I worked previously.

I can get buy on food, because I buy basics in 25 pound sacks. I have chickens so the price of eggs doesn't hurt so much. But what about the folks who have to buy this stuff at the store? The folks in China and India don't have to come up with $400 a year for car insurance. They probably don't pay as large a chunk in taxes to the federal and state government (and I get to pay taxes on my wages to a state that I don't even live in.)

Back in the late seventies, working as a laborer for the federal government, I made $10 an hour. Why is it that I am making 1980s wages and paying 2007 prices for goods? Where exactly are the so called benefits of globalization. Say what you will, but I am not convinced that having Google create a search engine is going to provide jobs that pay as much as when Ford made cars.

As for the gun issue, lady, we Americans are a free people precisely because of those guns. I do not understand someone that wants to give up the one thing that keeps us free from the government running all over us. Most of us who own guns cause absolutely no problem and are perfectly law abiding. I'm grateful that the folks who set up our government were smart enough to allow us to protect ourselves.
And Teri, you are in the Portland area, right? Crovelli is in Colorado. I certainly know people here in GA in the same situation. Making a "little less" has nothing to do with it.

I agree with you about freedom and guns. I don't know exactly why, but having them makes a difference.
One other little thing for anonymous:
"My original point was that this fellow and perhaps your latent hostility to the Hispanic immigrant community is based on intolerance. I see you are from the south. Do you know any members of the Hispanic community? I doubt it and if you do, you and the roofer see them as a threat. Here in the northeast we have a much more diverse"

I know more Mexicans than you've ever met. I've done field work and worked in fruit sheds along side of them. You see them as servants. And you are not concerned about them taking the food out of your mouth because you consider yourself an elite. How dare someone WORK their way through college? He should be out schmoozing with the "right kind". So don't come here and throw around the race card. You are the true racist.
Yep, in the Portland area. My friend's son is doing construction. And I've known quite a few others who've done it. You don't have a lot of time for that particular career. Like most physical labor, your body gives out. Friend's son collapsed on the job last week and had to take several days off. He's in his early 30s I think and doesn't eat very well. Of course, he does not have medical insurance. He's better after taking some vitamins. Personally, I would like to see Mexico put some effort into providing jobs for their own citizens, instead of expecting us to do it for them. The elites, of course, think that Mexicans will forever be content to come here and mow their lawns and clean their bathrooms. If they want to come here, and especially if they want to become citizens, they deserve better. They deserve to be in those elite schools too.
Amen to that, Teri. We should be ashamed that this stuff ever came remotely close to a vote. Liberals, conservatives, independents, it doesn't matter. Anyone with a heart and soul should be ashamed.
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