Category Archives: Uncategorized

Public Safety: Census Bureau Public Employment and Payroll Data for March 2016 and March 2006

Back in the high crime era, apologists for law enforcement would often say that you can’t put a cop on every corner.  If there was ever a place that tried, however, it is the City of New York. Local government full time equivalent employment for the police, corrections and fire protection functions totaled 961 per 100,000 city residents in March 2016, up from 924 in March 2014 and more than double the U.S. average of 445 per 100,000 people. But this is an understatement, because the city is so densely populated.  Measured per 100 acres, New York City would be even more out of line with the U.S. average.   According to the New York City Department of Transportation,

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/infrastructure/signals.shtml

“As of June 30, 2011, there were 12,460 intersections with traffic signals citywide, including 2,820 in Manhattan, 1,605 in the Bronx, 4,371 in Brooklyn, 3,119 in Queens and 545 in Staten Island.”

Not every intersection has a traffic signal.  But with a total of 49,479 police officers in New York City, as reported by the Census Bureau, a cop for every one of them is a real possibility.

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Census Bureau Public Employment Data: Higher Education Employment and Payroll in March 2016 and March 2006

Public elementary and secondary schools were one of the last public services state and local governments started to slash, as the consequences of Generation Greed’s future selling policies hit home after the year 2000.   State colleges and universities, revenue-producing sports excluded, were one of the first.  So one does not find additional cutbacks in public higher education employment in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut or the U.S. as a whole from March 2006 to March 2016, particularly since enrollment – and student debt to pay for college — tended to be on the rise over the those years.

One does find a drop in community college employment, generally classified as local government employment, relative to population from March 2006 to March 2016.  More recently, politicians have noticed community colleges, and started to invest in them as an alternative to the four-year colleges increasingly impoverished Americans can no longer afford.  Perhaps in the near future community colleges and vocational training will also be seen as an alternative to the last two years of high school, which fiscally collapsing and indebted state and local governments can no longer afford.

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Census Bureau Public Employment Data: Public School Employment and Payroll in March 2016 and March 2006

In the wake of the Great Recession, the number of people working in public education fell relative to the overall population in much of the country, and inflation-adjusted teacher pay fell in many parts of it.  There was only a partial reversal from March 2014 to March 2016, and it was mostly in places where school staffing and pay were already relatively high.

Several factors contributed to the trend.   First, in some states were the tax burden was already low relative to the personal income of state residents, it was reduced further by anti-tax ideologues.  The result was reductions in public services for the non-elderly across the board, including, in the end, elementary and secondary education. Second, with the large Baby Boom Echo (aka millennial) generation exiting school, and smaller generations entering school, the actual need for school workers fell.   But in some places with high and rising taxes the demand for school jobs increased, as other high-compensation alternatives for politically influential college graduates diminished.   Third, the cost of retired public employees soared, as a result of past taxpayer underfunding in low-tax right-wing states.  And as a result of retroactive pension increases scored by powerful public employee unions in (if by “right-wing” people mean having public policy favor the otherwise advantaged at the expense of those with less power) the other type of right-wing, high-tax states, those generally self-described a “progressive.”  A review of the data follows.

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State and Local Government Employment and Pay Per Employee: Census Bureau Data for FY 2016 Compared With FY 2006

The U.S. Census Bureau released state and local government and payroll data for March 2016 last fall, and I compiled it over the past few weeks to see how things changed between March 2006 and that year.  It appears that in New York City some of the reduction in local government employment relative to population was reversed from March 2014 to March 2016.   And it appears than New York City’s local government workers became better off in cash pay relative to private sector workers from 2006 to 2016.  Benefit costs, particularly those for the retired, were soaring at the same time.  I didn’t find the reduction in NYC mass transit employment I expected, based on cuts in service and maintenance.  Meanwhile, the number of students per instructional employee fell to 8.4 in New York City and 7.4 in the rest of New York State.

Those are just some tidbits.   As is my custom, however, while the spreadsheet with the tables and charts may be downloaded from this post, my analysis and understanding of what it means will be presented in later posts. What I’d like is for people to read the background information presented below, download the spreadsheet, look at the tables, and make up their own minds before reading what I have to say about it.

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The Economist on the Death Care Industry

The most recent issue of The Economist has articles on a shake up in the “death care” industry, a $16 billion per year industry that it describes as “stodgy and exploitive.”

https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21740406-changing-social-norms-competition-and-technology-are-shaking-up-stodgy-and-exploitative

Undertakers have long been able to get away with poor service. Their customers are typically distressed, under time-pressure and completely inexperienced (people in rich countries buy more cars than they do funerals). As a result, few shop around, let alone haggle. With consumers docile, providers can keep quality low and prices high—much like tourist-trap restaurants, another one-off purchase made in haste with little information. Some sellers have made matters worse with techniques ranging from opaque pricing to emotional blackmail. The asymmetry in knowledge between undertaker and grief-stricken client allows ludicrous markups on things like coffins. It also makes it easier to sell services that people do not realize are mostly unnecessary.

Funny, but all the factors that The Economist believe are characteristic of the death care industry are also characteristic of another industry.   One with annual U.S. revenues not of $16 billion, but rather $3.5 trillion, or more than 2,000 times as much.  Want to guess which one?

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-healthcare-spending/u-s-healthcare-spending-to-climb-5-3-percent-in-2018-agency-idUSKCN1FY2ZD

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Medicaid by State in 2016: I’ll Take What I Can Get

Some years go the Medicaid Statistical Information System (MSIS) State Datamart, which I once used to compare New York State with the U.S. average and adjacent states with regard to Medicaid expenditures and beneficiaries, was shut down. The most recent data I tabulated was for 2011.   Now, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid has released their new system, T (Transformed) MSIS.

https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/data-and-systems/macbis/tmsis/index.html

I spent a long time looking around the site to try to find the data I once used, but was unable. But I was able to find some more recent Medicaid expenditure data by state and type of service here…

https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/financing-and-reimbursement/state-expenditure-reporting/expenditure-reports/index.html

Including 2016. And was able to get some limited data on spending per enrollee from a secondary source.

https://www.kff.org/state-category/medicaid-chip/

So after three and half years, I’ve decided to write an updated, if limited, post about how New York State’s Medicaid expenditures compare with the U.S. average and adjacent states.

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Imported Oil: It Seems The Donald is Yet Another Gutless President

Last week, the federal government slapped a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels, based on the finding that the Chinese are manipulating the market to promote their own solar industry, with the effect of reducing solar panel production within the United States.   Most of the U.S. solar industry, the purported beneficiary or the tariff, was opposed, because with the cost of the panels falling so low they only account for one-third of total solar costs, the production of ancillary equipment and solar system installation is booming here.

http://time.com/5113472/donald-trump-solar-panel-tariff/

“The Solar Energy Industries Association has projected tens of thousands of job losses in a sector that employed 260,000. The tariffs are just the latest action Trump has taken that undermine the economics of renewable energy.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/01/22/trump-imposes-tariffs-on-solar-panels-and-washing-machines-in-first-major-trade-action/?utm_term=.f12a7cff072b

“It boggles my mind that this president — any president, really — would voluntarily choose to damage one of the fastest-growing segments of our economy,” said Tony Clifford, chief development officer for Standard Solar in Rockville, Maryland. “This decision is misguided and denies the reality that bankrupt foreign companies will be the beneficiaries of an American taxpayer bailout.”

This tariff, which also included imported washing machines, was the first by “tough trader” Trump.   But if manipulating the market and American jobs are the issue, rather than tribalism and trying to harm some Americans to the enjoyment of others, what about imported oil and OPEC?   Manipulating the market to gain market share at high prices is its very mission.

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