Quotulatiousness

June 3, 2015

The great Los Angeles minimum wage experiment

Filed under: Business, Economics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

I missed this post a few weeks back from Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, pointing out that we won’t really know the full impact of the Los Angeles experiment with significantly higher minimum wages:

So my near neighbor of Los Angeles is poised to raise the minimum wage to $15. How should we think of that?

Personally, I’m thrilled. Not because I think it’s a slam-dunk good idea, but because along with Seattle and San Francisco it will give us a great set of natural experiments to figure out what happens when you raise the minimum wage a lot. We can argue all we want; we can extrapolate from other countries; and we can create complex Greek-letter models to predict the effects — but we can’t know until someone actually does it.

So what do I think will happen? Several things:

In the tradeable sector, such as clothing piece work and agriculture, the results are very likely to be devastating. Luckily, LA doesn’t have much agriculture left, but it does have a lot of apparel manufacture. That could evaporate completely (worst case) or perhaps migrate just across the borders into Ventura, San Bernardino, and other nearby counties. Heavier manufacturing will likely be unaffected since most workers already make more than $15.

In the food sector, people still need to eat, and they need to eat in Los Angeles. So there will probably be little damage there from outside competition. However, the higher minimum wage will almost certainly increase the incentive for fast food places to try to automate further and cut back on jobs. How many jobs this will affect is entirely speculative at this point.

Other service industries, including everything from nail salons to education to health care will probably not be affected much. They pretty much have to stay in place in order to serve their local clientele, so they’ll just raise wages and pass the higher prices on to customers.

Likewise, retail, real estate, the arts, and professional services probably won’t be affected too much. Retail has no place to go (though they might be able to automate some jobs away) while the others mostly pay more than $15 already. The hotel industry, by contrast, could easily become less competitive for convention business and end up shedding jobs.

While I’m certainly in favour of people being able to afford to live on their base income, I’m afraid that this experiment is going to hurt a lot of already at-risk poor people who will have few other options if their jobs go away. I’m especially amused that LA-area union reps are now reported to be pushing to exempt the businesses where their members work (so that unions will have an effective monopoly on low-wage jobs because non-unionized companies would have to pay a higher wage). That, after putting all their organizational muscle behind getting the minimum wage raised in the first place. That’s a high grade of cynicism.

March 25, 2015

Reason.tv – Sports Stadiums Are Bad Public Investments. So Why Are Cities Still Paying for Them?

Filed under: Business, Economics, Government, Sports — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 17 Mar 2015

“Anybody that drives around Southern California can tell you the infrastructure is falling apart,” says Joel Kotkin, a fellow of urban studies at Chapman University and author of the book The New Class Conflict. “And then we’re going to give money so a bunch of corporate executives can watch a football game eight times a year? It’s absurd.”

When the Inglewood City Council voted unanimously to approve a $1.8 billion stadium plan on February 24th, hundreds of football fans in attendance cheered for the prospect of a team finally returning to the Los Angeles area.

On it’s face, the deal for the city of Inglewood is unprecedented — Rams owner Stan Kroenke has agreed to finance construction of the stadium entirely with private funds. The deal makes the stadium one of the most expensive facilities ever built and is an oddity in the sports world, where most stadiums require millions in public dollars to be constructed.

And while the city still waits to hear if it will indeed inherit an NFL team, the progress on the new privately-funded Inglewood stadium has set off a bidding war between other cities that are offering up millions in public subsidies to keep (or attract) pro-sports franchises to their area.

St. Louis has proposed a billion dollar waterfront stadium financed with $400 million in tax money to keep the Rams in Missouri. And the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders have unveiled a plan to turn a former landfill in Carson, California, into a $1.7 billion stadium to keep the Rams from encroaching on their turf. While full details of the plan have yet to be released, it’s been reported that the financing would be similar to the San Francisco 49er’s deal in Santa Clara, which saw the team receive $621 million in construction loans paid for with public money.

Even the fiscally conservative Scott Walker is not immune to the stadium spending craze. The Wisconsin governor wants to allocate $220 million in public bonds to keep the Milwaukee Bucks basketball franchise in the area. Walker has dubbed the financing scheme as the “Pay Their Way” plan, but professional sports teams rarely pay their fair share when it comes to stadiums and instead use public money to generate private revenue.

Pacific Standard magazine has reported that in the last 20 years, the U.S. has opened 101 new sports facilities and stadium finance experts say that almost all of them have received public funding totaling billions of dollars. Politicians generally rationalize this expense by stating that stadiums will generate economic revenue and job opportunities for the city, but Kotkin says those promises are rarely realized.

“I think this is sort of a fanciful approach towards economic development instead of building really good jobs. And except for the construction, the jobs created by stadia are generally low wage occasional work.”

“The important thing that we’ve forgotten is ‘What is the purpose of a government?'” asks Kotkin. “Cities instead of fixing their schools, fixing their roads or fixing their sewers or fixing their water are putting money into ephemera like stadia. And in the end, what’s more important?”

June 11, 2014

LA court delivers a major blow against tenure for teachers in California

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:14

The Los Angeles Times on yesterday’s decision:

Teachers union officials denounced a ruling Tuesday by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge deeming job protections for teachers in California as unconstitutional as a misguided attack on teachers and students.

The ruling represents a major loss for the unions and a groundbreaking win by attorneys who argued that state laws governing teacher layoffs, tenure and dismissals harm students by making them more likely to suffer from grossly ineffective instruction.

If the preliminary ruling becomes final and is upheld, the effect will be sweeping across California and possibly the nation.

Judge Rolf M. Treu ruled, in effect, that it was too easy for teachers to gain strong job protections and too difficult to dismiss those who performed poorly in the classroom. If the ruling stands, California will have to craft new rules for hiring and firing teachers.

[…]

The Silicon Valley-based group Students Matter brought the lawsuit on behalf of nine students, contending that five laws hindered the removal of ineffective teachers.

The result, attorneys for the plaintiffs said, is a workforce with thousands of “grossly ineffective” teachers, disproportionately hurting low-income and minority students. As a result, the suit argued, the laws violated California’s constitution, which provides for equal educational opportunity.

The laws were defended by the state of California and the two largest teacher unions — the California Teachers Assn. and the California Federation of Teachers. Their attorneys countered that it is not the laws but poor management that is to blame for districts’ failing to root out incompetent instructors.

March 13, 2013

Follow-up on the LAPD’s pickup truck shooting spree

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:16

Remember this gem of a story from last month? At the time, Jon (my former virtual landlord) strongly suggested I park my Toyota Tacoma in the garage just to avoid being targeted by random police “marksmen”.

Pickup shooting by LAPD

Here’s the follow-up that only makes the story that much more ridiculous:

“LAPD and Galpin Ford wanted [the women] to pose for a photo opportunity and pay income tax on the truck,” the NBC report reads, citing Jonas. “The women no longer want the truck after they were told they needed to fill out a 1099 form for the donation.”

For those of you who don’t know that a 1099 form is, it’s for tax form for “miscellaneous income.”

“You tried to murder the woman, now you’re telling her she can’t have a four-wheel drive, you’re telling her she can’t sell it and you’ve got to be taxed on it?” Jonas said. “How would anyone react to that?”

“Jonas plans on filing a government claim, which is a precursor to any lawsuit filed against a government agency. He said he felt the truck was being touted as a ‘reward or prize’ instead of a sincere gesture by the LAPD,” NBC 4 News notes:

I can’t improve on the comment Jon sent along with this link: “At this rate, I am surprised that the LAPD has not tried to bill the women for the 100+ rounds of ammunition.”

January 5, 2013

LA terminates luxury option for electric car owners

Filed under: Environment, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:43

It’s telling that one of the folks quoted in this article clearly identified the free parking at the airport as a primary reason for buying an electric vehicle:

On a recent morning, Jack Luu parked his plug-in Toyota Prius in one of the most expensive lots at Los Angeles International Airport before flying off to a film shoot in Canada. The lot, where Mr. Luu leaves his car as many as 10 times a month for business trips, normally charges $30 a day.

But when Mr. Luu returned home three weeks later, he drove out, as usual, without paying a dime.

“That was a huge reason why I bought the car in the first place,” says the 35-year-old Santa Monica, Calif., postproduction company executive, whose car qualifies for free parking for up to a month at a time in two of LAX’s most convenient—and costly—short-term lots.

Other than that, he says his ride is “expensive, underpowered and not really all that green,” because it can run just 12 miles on electricity before switching to gas.

For years, LAX has offered electric-vehicle owners one of the most generous incentives of its kind in the country: free parking for 30 days in two of its terminal lots, which contain, altogether, 38 charging stations. The rule was meant to encourage people to buy greener cars, but lately it has turned the lots into a mob scene, with some electric-vehicle drivers circling the stations desperately for electricity or running extension cords while others hog the charging spaces for weeks at a time.

December 6, 2012

“Yeah, uhhh … I don’t think driving around with 20 pounds of drugs in my car is really a good idea”

Filed under: Law, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:23

What do you do when you find $175,000-worth of drugs stashed on your property?

I am standing chest-deep in a dank, muddy concrete-lined hole in Silver Lake, staring eye-level into a duffel bag full of high-grade drugs.

It smells strongly of marijuana — despite the fact that someone sealed it tightly into jars, Ziplocs and professionally vacuum-sealed pouches before THEY HID IT IN MY BACK YARD.

I am starting to panic.

I already did the full Tex-Avery-wolf AOOOOGAH! upon discovering the mammoth sackful of dope — estimated to be worth somewhere north of $175,000. My jaw already dropped. My eyes already bugged out. Now my heart is thumping my gullet. Breathing is getting iffy.

I try to speak. I think my exact words to the solar-panel technician standing equally open-mouthed next to me are something to the effect of “Holy. Fucking. SHIT!”

H/T to Matt Welch:

September 18, 2012

Jaywalking in LA County: a capital offence

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:06

A very disturbing story at the Simple Justice blog:

Jonathan Cuevas was a jaywalker. That’s right, a jaywalker. And jaywalking is an offense. This means that those who are of the view that the simple solution to whatever stems from the commission of an offense is, by definition, justified. After all, Cuevas chose to jaywalk. He chose to commit the offense. So he has no one to blame for his killing than himself.

And if this is what you think, then you have lost any shred of humanity.

[. . .]

The gun is a red herring. Notwithstanding the fact that the video fails to show anything remotely suggesting that Cuevas pulled it on the unnamed deputy, and despite the absurdity of such a claim, he was shot, again and again, in the back as he ran away. There is no theory to explain an officer in fear from a person’s back as he ran away. This, of course, didn’t stop the police from asserting with absolute certainty that it happened.

Yet, there is not only a lack of focus on what is clearly shown in the video, but the possibility that it was wrong to execute Jonathan Cuevas for the heinous offense of jaywalking was dismissed because the police and district attorney “investigated.” After all, if they investigated and decided that this was a righteous shoot, what more is there to say?

September 19, 2011

The “Day of Rage” turns into a damp squib

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:38

Apparently it wasn’t the start of the anti-capitalist revolution after all:

September 17 was supposed to be the Day of Rage, the starting point of an anti-capitalist revolution that (in theory) was going to sweep the country coast-to-coast. As I noted yesterday, “The plan is to protest in state capitals and major cities across the nation, but the focus of the revolution will be in New York, where a hoped-for 20,000 anti-capitalists will ‘occupy’ Wall Street.”

I dutifully sent my operatives out to cover what were to be three of the largest Day of Rage protests — in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles — so humanity would have a full record of this pivotal moment in history.

Really, I should have learned my lesson by now: The bigger the build-up to a protest, and the more grandiose the promises, the louder the sound of the bellyflop onto the dustbin of irrelevancy.

In other words: “Day of Rage” was a massive FAIL.

Lots of sad photos at the link. Even the fringy-est of fringe movements were represented. As one of the photo captions says, “Down in L.A., there were so few authentic protesters, that the LaRoucheites comprised a significant proportion of the attendees.”

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