Archive

Monthly Archives: October 2015


Poisonous, 5 ft long, we know nothing about him, but he’s pretty…..

himilayan pit viper

Happy Halloween ūüôā

Advertisements

I love South Park.¬† Parody on the ridiculous stuff that goes on every day.¬† Most of the time the writers hit the target.¬† And I laugh.¬† There is an episode of South Park where the residents cry out about immigrants that ‚Äútook ‚Äėr jobs!!‚Ä̬† And then they go on to ‚Äúrabble rabble rabble‚ÄĚ because they don‚Äôt know what else to do.¬† And of course in the Republican debates, the illegal immigrant issue has arisen.¬† But how big a problem is this really?¬† And are these jobs Americans really want to do, or is the illegal immigrant market basically taken the bottom rung because today‚Äôs workers don‚Äôt want those jobs.

So first, what are those jobs? Steven A. Camarota and Karen Zeigler at the Center for Immigration Studies analyzed the census data from 2010 and found there to be 472 ‚Äúprofessions‚ÄĚ that could be categorized. Of the 472 civilian occupations, only six would be categorized as being ‚Äúmajority immigrant (legal and illegal).‚ÄĚ The six are:

  • Plasterers,
  • Personal appearance workers
  • Sewing machine operators
  • Garment manufacturing, and
  • Agricultural occupations (2)

They note that these six occupations account for 1 percent of the total U.S. workforce and that even in those fields, native-born Americans still comprise 46 percent of workers even in these occupations.  In high-immigrant occupations, 59 percent of the natives have no education beyond high school, compared to 31 percent of the rest of the labor force.

Many jobs often thought to be overwhelmingly immigrant (legal and illegal) are in fact majority native-born:

  • Maids and housekeepers: 51 percent native-born
  • Taxi drivers and chauffeurs: 58 percent native-born
  • Butchers and meat processors: 63 percent native-born
  • Grounds maintenance workers: 64 percent native-born
  • Construction laborers: 66 percent native-born
  • Porters, bellhops, and concierges: 72 percent native-born
  • Janitors: 73 percent native-born

There are 67 occupations in which 25 percent or more of workers are immigrants (legal and illegal). In these high-immigrant occupations, there are still 16.5 million natives ‚ÄĒ accounting for one out of eight natives in the labor force.

Illegal immigrants work mostly in construction, cleaning, maintenance, food service, garment manufacturing, and agricultural occupations. They found no occupations in the United States in which a majority of workers are illegal immigrants. Even in the overwhelming majority of workers even in these areas are native-born or legal immigrants.

So then the question really is this ‚Äď are they taking jobs that Americans want to do?¬† Historically the answer is no.¬† Both the agricultural and garment industries have struggled to get native workers.¬† The work is long, hard, and conditions difficult.¬† If you have education, you can find a better, higher paying job.¬† No American kids grows up wanting to pick beans or sew for a living.¬† Immigrants have always been the source of labor.¬† Plasterers are difficult to find when construction jobs are plentiful so that is the one exception to low paying jobs that no one wants to do.¬† Construction has always looked for labor help and certain specialties. And there are not that many of these jobs in comparison to the others on the list.¬† So for those 5 jobs the answer is no.¬† Same goes for most of the next seven (Maids, housekeepers, janitors, bellmen, etc.).¬† I should note that my great grandmother (an immigrant) cleaned houses, but made sure none of her kids would by making them get an education.¬† Ditto for my uncle who was a janitor.¬† Neither was well educated, but their kids were.¬† And there kids were far better¬† off economically.

So political rhetoric aside, the answer seems to be that immigrants do in fat take those jobs that we do not want to do that require less education. ¬†These jobs mostly pay minimum wage. The study notes that 59 percent of the natives have no education beyond high school, compared to 31 percent of the rest of the labor force. ¬†¬†Get educated ‚Äď get a job that pays better than minimum wage.¬† Seems like I have heard that rhetoric as well.


I have a friend of mine ask this question to me.  His contention was that there would be a lot of answers but the answers would  generally be characterized as outside influences.  You see this a lot in life.  So I asked a very narrow group of my students (seniors) this question.  These were their answers:

Myself or some part of it 30
A class 6
nothing 3
FE Exam 2
money 2
IRS 1
44

My buddy was both wrong and amazed.  Nearly 70% of the students said the issue involved them.  of those 30 responses above, the most common of the answers was time management, somethings students struggle to learn.  I wonder how many people would see things this way as well?  My buddy was really impressed with my students.  Now he should come see their final presentations and prepare to be really impressed.

time mgmt 13
Me 4
fear of failure 3
lanugage 2
communication skills 1
confidence 1
disorganization 1
haiving limits 1
indiscretions 1
interpersonal skills 1
see the big picture 1
taking responsibility 1

Of course the “IRS” and “indiscetions” answers might be the more interesting….


Bernie Sanders wants a $15 minimum wage law.¬† Voters in Seattle have agreed. ¬†Starbucks and a variety of others companies have acted.¬† The change is great for the many low wage earners who struggle to get by working multiple part-time, minimum wage jobs.¬† Low wages are a drain on the talents of society who struggle with juggling food, medicine, education, shelter and other costs while supporting families. Since 1980, the actual wage rates, when adjusted for inflation, have fallen form many people, shrinking the middle class and expanding the number of economically challenged. ¬†Economic challenges lead directly to social, and health vulnerability. ¬†If you want to cut medical costs, increase the standard of living for people at the lower income levels. You want to sell more stuff, create more disposable income¬†for people to spend across all income levels, not just at the top. ¬† Ditto if you want to have less debt, and more savings. ¬†That is what the intent was in the 1960s under the reforms of the “Great Society.” ¬† Progress started, then 1980 showed up and many reforms were reversed before the trends could really show. ¬†Not that those 1960s ideas were perfect, but clearly the last 30 years has shown the reversal is not unless you are among the 0.1%.

As an example, back in the day, fast food restaurants were the purview of students, not twenty and thirty something adults and grandma. ¬†These were low income jobs, and have remained so. ¬†The intent was not to make these jobs “permanent.” ¬†But they have become jobs for adults. ¬†Back in the day there were more workers, more customer service and more food prep.¬† Over the years, though, ingredients started to arrive packaged and pre-mixed, so that the only labor was to heat it up, bag it and hand it out the window.¬† Fast food is now packaged at factories in mass production which requires less labor. Less jobs, same low pay.¬†Gas station attendants were also commonly kids, who washed your windows, checked your oil and pumped your gas (no, really they did!).¬† They got paid minimum wage as well. Not anymore – that was too costly and got cut. ¬†The list goes on. ¬†Customer service is apparently only important if you are trying ¬†to attract customers.

So now more adults are in these industries, and many must work multiple jobs to make ends meet.  So a higher wage is welcome news.  Or is it?  Let’s see what happens when the wage doubles up without increased growth.  Well, the gas station attendants that used to pump gas were replaced with computers.  You even have gas stations that are completely automated Рno people!.  You have computers putting in orders now at restaurants.  About 30 percent of the restaurant industry’s costs come from salaries, so could burger-flipping robots and computer ordering system like some restaurants already employ, become more cost-competitive and may displace more workers if the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is doubled.  At risk are 2.4 million wait staffers, 3 million cooks and food preparers and 3.3 million cashiers.

So where will we see this?  Electronic menus can be constantly updated so that items that are out of stock can be removed. Connecting the point of the sale to the oven’s operating system allows precise amounts of food to be cooked, which helps cut down on costs. Other inventions save energy, reduce maintenance and better dispose of grease. On the digital side, restaurants are working on apps that include reward systems and location tracking that prompt customers to eat with them more frequently. Olive Garden said earlier this year that it would roll out the Ziosk system at all its restaurants, which means that all a server has to do is bring out the food.  The employees would be reduced to fixing things when they break.  That could be a lot less employment.

Corporations have a priority to make money, which can mean cutting costs and becoming more efficient.¬† Bottom line profits are king, not people. See GM, VW and others who ignored defects in their products, preferring to pay the costs of the lawsuits as opposed to fixing the defect. ¬† So the $15 minimum wage will be cheered by those making less, but jeered by low margin corporations that will be forced to raise prices and become more efficient. ¬†Too often those changes do not include paying people ‚Äď at least in this country. ¬†The winner will be……. to soon to tell, but I won’t bet against the corporations.


How much money goes to the states from the Federal government? Ever wonder about that? And how do we react? We talk about the need to tighten the federal spending so we keep cutting back on the Superfund cleanup monies ($1 billion/yr), the State Revolving Fund loan system ($2.35 billion/yr), and under $2 billion/yr for clean energy systems. We are concerned about the projected increase of $66 billion/yr for the Affordable Care Act. But these sums are just a tiny component for the federal budget, which is dwarfed by the $3.1 trillion sent to the states during its 2013 fiscal year. So what are these funds? Retirement benefits, including Social Security and disability payments, veteran’s benefits; and other federal retirement and disability payments account for over 34% of these payments. Medicare in another 18%. Food assistance, unemployment insurance payments, student financial aid, and other assistance payments account for another 9%. Another 16% is for grants to state and local governments for a variety of program areas such as health care (half the amount is Medicaid), transportation, education, and housing and research grants. All the SRF and grant monies are in this 16%. Those water programs are barely visible in this picture. Contracts for purchases of goods and services for military and medical equipment account for another 13%, while smallest amount Рsalaries and wages for federal employees is 10%.  Keep in mind that federal employees have dropped from nearly 7 million to 4.4 million since 1967. No federal employment expansion going on there.

growth in fed payments

fed payments

So how much does this affect the states? Federal funds account for about 19 of the total gross domestic product of the US, a number that has been relatively consistent (within a few percentage points) for years. That is below its all-time highs, and about typical over the past 30 years. Figure 1 from a PEW report shows that federal funds are greater than 22% of the GDP in most southern states (which interestingly enough have the people that complain the most about the federal government intrusion), while the Plains states, Midwest, northeast and the west coast are generally below average, and the two coasts, especially complain the least. Mississippi, Virginia and New Mexico all top 30%.

figure nat fed spending by state

So let me see if I have this right – those that pay the least, but get the most, complain the most about their benefactors, and those that pay the most, but collect less, complain less. That is the message! What is WRONG with that picture? And those people? The problem is I see it every day at the local level and it is truly baffling. It means that somehow our politics gotten so out of whack that those in need the most, seem to continue to vote against their best interests? Marketing clearly is a problem but are we fooled that easily. A message that distracts from the reality is obvious, but this continuing trend is just truly weird. No wonder it is so hard to accomplish things.

%d bloggers like this: