Category Archives: Uncategorized

In Global Politics, Technology and the Grim Reaper Are Our Best Hopes

In the wake of the U.S. getting sucked into yet another crisis in the Middle East SUV cheap gasoline supply area, it occurs to me that Iranians and Americans have the same problems.

Each are being ruled over by a generation that thinks of itself as the generation, the Americans who came of age in the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s, and the Iranians of the Iranian revolution of 1979 and 1980.

Each of those generations is obsessed by its particular culture war, in part sex-driven, tribalist issues, and those of at the top in politics seek legitimacy based almost exclusively based on those “people like us vs. people them” issues.  They don’t want to talk about anything else.

At the same time, however, these aging generations, in their own self-interest, have left the generations to follow worse off than they have been, by cashing in the future. And despite having done so, they still think they have the right to dictate the terms of that future to those following, and stifle their aspirations, rather than allowing disadvantaged later-born generations to find their own way through the mess they have inherited.

The dictating the future aspect is more obvious in Iran, where I would probably be in jail (at best).  But you see it in the United States too, every time those over the age of 60 show up to protest against a bike lane being added or a multifamily housing development being approved (and, of course, Obamacare).   “We don’t need it,” they say, “it will change things and benefit outsiders!”

U.S. Millennials get paid 25 percent less, on average, than Baby Boomers had at the same point in their lives, despite higher educational attainment on average and, frankly, less socially destructive behavior.  And yet those Boomers want to force the Millennials to live the same way.  To buy their houses at inflated prices, in places where it takes one car per adult just to live.

The Boomers, while running up public debts and grandfathering themselves into richer benefits and lower taxes, claim that later born generations can deal with higher taxes and diminished old age benefits, because they have “time to adjust.” But that doesn’t mean the Boomers feel compelled to allow those adjustments.  They seek to foreclose alternatives and shut down discussion, just like the Ayatollahs in Iran.

In olden days, the passing of the wise elders was a loss those following had to overcome. But as I look around the world, and see the tribalist geriatrics in charge, sometimes I think the Grim Reaper is the best hope for everyone on the planet.

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Public Amenities: Census of Governments Employment & Payroll for 2017

This post is about government functions I refer to as public amenities:  parks, recreation, culture, and libraries. Just because they are amenities doesn’t mean they are unimportant, although they are often treated that way in a budget crisis.  For the young and old, in fact, the availability of these shared, social spaces is one of the most important reasons to live in central cities. In modern suburbs people shuffle between detached homes and workplaces, and generally only interact with people they don’t already know in places that have significant admission fees. In New York City you can be with people, get entertained, and get exercise without spending much of anything.

Taxpaying workers who don’t have children in public schools, don’t commit crimes, and aren’t on Medicaid, are cash cows for the City and State of New York. These public amenities, along with streets, mass transit and garbage pick up, are really all they get for the taxes they pay, since the cost of water and sewer service is funded by charges.  These are things that benefit everyone, but given the special interest-driven politics of state and local government here, the goal is always to take from everyone and give it to the “special people.”  So benefitting everyone is the same as benefitting no one in particular who actually matters.  Fortunately, Census of Governments employment and payroll data shows that as of March 2017 New York City’s agencies in these functions were not understaffed (unlike in the past for parks), and their workers were not underpaid. We’ll see what happens when the tax dollars aren’t gushing in from yet another Wall Street and real estate bubble, as they have been.

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The Equifax Settlement: This Really Ticks Me Off

I’ve been spending my time compiling employment and payroll data from the Census of Governments, and haven’t had the time to write much more than a rant otherwise.  Here comes the rant.

The Equifax settlement administrator tells me I have a choice of $125 in theory, or far less in reality, or free credit monitoring, in recompense for Equifax having failed me as their customer by providing my personal information to whoever chose to take it.  I have until November 19th to take action to stay outside the settlement and do something I have never done and never thought I would: sue someone, according to an e-mail I (and probably just about everyone else – 147 million people) have received.  So they have my e-mail address too?

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New York City’s Workers: Moving to the Suburbs?

I took a quick look at the latest labor force estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  With unemployment low, but businesses still not willing to raise wages significantly, jobs are going where the workers are, not the other way around.  And for much of the post recession period, that has been New York City.   From June 2011 to May 2017, the New York City resident labor force was higher than it had been a year earlier by an average of 31,192.  With lots of suburban homeowners becoming empty nesters and then retiring, and relatively few new housing units built in the suburbs, the labor force of the rest of the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area was lower by an average of 5,345 per year.  Even this understates the suburban labor force decline, as the rest of the metro area includes a number of smaller, older cities such as Yonkers, Hoboken and Jersey City, and that is where young adult workers have been moving and new housing has been built.

Lately, however, there has been a modest reversal.  From June 2017 to May 2018 the New York City labor force was lower than it had been a year earlier by an average of 2,624, while the labor force of the rest of the NY metro was down by an average of 3,401.  And from June 2018 to May 2019, the New York City labor force was down by an average of 13,238 while the rest of the metro area was higher by an average of 15,979.  If New York City’s resident labor force did decrease by 16,000 over two years, that isn’t much compared with the massive increases of the past two decades.  But one wonders if this is the start of a trend.

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Retirement Benefits Are to White Collar Crime and Generational Inequity What Handguns Are to Street Crime

Red State, Blue State, Democrats, Republicans, anti-tax advocates, public unions, public sector, private sector, federal, state and local and even in Europe.  Retirement and old age benefits are promises about the far off future, allowing any and all to use them as a tool to rip people off and make a getaway before the heist is discovered.  At the state and local government level, all over the U.S., one finds the generations now retired or about to retire promised themselves far more than they had been willing to pay for, leading to crises of various kinds. But always there is the assumption that the older generations that created the problem and benefitted from it can’t participate in sacrifices needed to prevent disaster.

The first response is always the union-friendly choice to drastically cut the pay and benefits of new hires, in order to offset the soaring cost of benefits for those cashing in and moving out.  Screwing the millennials as part of the “screw the newbie, flee to Florida” cycle that goes on and on.  “If you don’t like it, don’t take the job; take some other job that also pays 25 percent less than the Baby Boomers were paid for the same work,” as Federal Reserve Bank of New York research has shown.

But when that isn’t enough, the next proposal is a “pension freeze.” Middle-aged workers, now mostly the last of the Boomers in those in Generation X, get to keep the pension benefits they have earned so far, but are not allowed to accrue any new benefits at the rate they were promised.  They are allowed to contribute to a 401K instead.  “If you don’t like it, quit and take another job for 15 or 20 percent less than most Boomers and members of the Silent Generation were paid, if someone will hire you.”

That’s fair, isn’t it?  No it is not!

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DeBlasio’s New York City Budget: Defunding The MTA Capital Plan, Planning for A Federal (and State) Teacher Pension Bailout

I looked through the Message of the Mayor publication for the City’s of New York’s April budget proposal and financial plan, and came upon a couple disappointing and unfair parts of the proposal.

First, on page 87, I found that the financial plan now includes line items for federal and state funding specifically for New York City teacher pensions. Not for education.  Not for the pensions of other public employees. Not for retirement of the vast majority of city residents who don’t have pensions and have little or nothing in retirement benefits at all, and would end up paying for this in higher federal and state taxes and cuts in services and benefits.  Teacher pensions.  Currently the amount of money in those lines is zero, but the budget lines were added for a reason.  Whatever Bill DeBlasio may say about what he will do for the rest of us if elected President or (if he drops that idea) Governor, just understand how he plans to get the Democratic nomination.  By promising to take even more from everyone else and give it to the teacher’s union, over and above what they have already taken, in exchange for money and support.

Second, on page 59, I find that city capital funding for mass transit, at $485 million in FY 2019, is proposed to be cut to $136 million in 2020, $54 million in 2021, and $40 million per year thereafter.  Presumably the $485 million was the money for the MTA Cuomo badgered DeBlasio to put up and match with state funds, after 25 years of little if any city or state contribution the MTA capital plan — and soaring MTA debts.  And now?  Looks like frenemies DeBlasio and Cuomo have a new plan.  Cut $1 billion in actual budgeted money for the MTA Capital plan between them, add $1 billion in congestion pricing revenue, but then bond against all those future congestion pricing revenues and spend them in just five years, before leaving the MTA with no money to maintain the system thereafter.

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Put A Solar Roof on the Sunnyside Yard, Not Another Subsidized Development


I’m not a big fan of grid-scale solar energy.  The human load on the planet comes down to four things, in order of damage. 1) Non-renewable energy use; 2) The transformation of the surface of the planet for our own use, from urban development to farming to strip mine fishing; 3) The concentrated organic load of our excretions, and those of our domesticated animals; and 4) The aggregation of certain materials into toxic concentrations.  Grid scale solar helps with number one, but makes number two worse.

Last week, however, I read about the MTA planning to expand solar panels to areas I do approve of – rooftops.

These are areas that are already covered by human-created structures, and thus no loss.  The goal is for the MTA to make some money by leasing out the roofs of the structures it owns.   But that got me thinking.

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