Saturday, March 7, 2009

Nudging Away Nonsense

Patrick McIlheran, conservative ideologue and propagandist of the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel, has yet another infuriatingly misinformed (as usual) screed pertaining to a government mandate - when taxpayers fund over a million dollars of a private project, decent wages must be paid to the workers of the project.

Seems rational. Oh, but not in McIlheran's race-to-the-bottom model of development.

How dare the government demand that there be labor standards in projects where they're paying over a millions dollars! By now, we know the drill: give our tax dollars to the private sector, let them do what they wish, expect nothing, and shut our collective mouth. Sounds like a great investment - because I believe in corporations and the free markets and I know, deep down in my heart, that somehow it'll all work out best for all of us, gosh golly. [Please excuse the dripping sarcasm.]

By the way, how are all those privatization schemes, private sector financial innovations, and deregulatory initiatives working out?

From the article: "If we have a problem with people getting jobs," said Council President Willie Hines, an ordinance opponent, "the solution can't be to increase wages." The "increase" in wages is better thought of as the interest paid by the private developer on the risk assumed by the government in helping to fund/start the project.

A business is choosing to develop a site because of the income stream, the cash flow, that can be generated from that site. Every site is not duplicable anywhere we'd like. Certain spots have better exposure and demand, and that's why those sites are chosen for whatever project may be planned (except of course when "subsidies" - bribery or pay-off is a better descriptor - distort the market by courting a business to move with tax breaks and exemptions to what could be considered a comparatively less than optimal site). This fact squashes the claim that a developer can just go anywhere else they want. Cheapness is not a comparative advantage. And, as has been repeatedly found in numerous studies, labor cost is not the boogey-man the race-to-the-bottom cabal claims it to be [see For Further Reading below].

For McIlheran, being paid an honest days wage for an honest days work is "suspect." Our labor laws and standards, the labor movement in general, all part of a nefarious conspiracy. Luckily McIlheran, Mr. Consistency, doesn't have any type of representation in his profession of journalism. Oh, wait, I almost forgot about the Newspaper Guild, the International Federation of Journalists, the International Press Institute, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the National Writers Union.

He also shows another glaringly uninformed - regarding sprawl and the environment - viewpoint, "You see buildings rising, instead, out where the parking is free and the costs are lower. Developers and their tenants have choices." It doesn't even cross his mind that there might be negative economic and environmental issues with this type of development. More on this obliviousness here and here.

He also then tries to take a shot at the sick day ordinance and the 'tax hell' (as some falsely try to claim) that oppresses business here, "This sick leave outrage is part of a continuum. From high taxes to a weird fee on going out of business to a general feeling that they're seen as the class enemy, businesses aren't finding our city a welcoming place. Why, then, would leaders want to give entrepreneurs one more reason to leave?"

As 9 to 5 has noted, "Since enactment of paid sick time on February 5, 2007, San Francisco has maintained a competitive job growth rate that has exceeded the average growth rate of nearby counties without paid sick days. Likely benefits include improved health outcomes, speedier recoveries for workers and their families, and greater family economic stability with more consistent employment tenure." Another no-brainer with a case study for evidence. But that doesn't jibe with the McIlheran narrative, so forget it.

[Michael Rosen, of Midcoast Views, has an interesting post about Milwaukee developers and their lobbying efforts to undermine the ordinance.]

The problem is, most of what the McIlherans of the world think, most of the policies they push, have no grounding in solid empirical data. It's an ad hoc paradigm they operate from where they mold reality to fit into their narrow worldview. They imagine it, therefore it must be so.

But keep railing for the interests of the powerful at the expense of the many, Mr. McIlheran. Big Business will always be eager to pay for shills willing to present their propaganda to the public.

For Further Reading:
A New Development Paradigm
Attracting Economic Development - At What Cost?
Beginner's Guide to Accountable Development
Building Good Jobs & Strong Communities
Economic Benefits of Union Membership
How Unions Help All Workers
NAFTA: Still Not Working
Shielding Public Incentives for Corporate Relocations from Public Scrutiny
The Economic Civil War
Union Advantage By The Numbers
Union Wage Advantage for Low-wage Workers
Want Change?

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