Quote of the Day…

…is from Coyote Blog:

By the way, it strikes me that regulatory compliance issues set a minimum size for business viability.  You have to be large enough to cover those compliance issues and still make money.  What I see happening is that as new compliance issues are layered on, that minimum size rises, like a rising tide slowly drowning companies not large enough to keep their head above water.  We are keeping up, but at times it feels like the water is lapping at our chin.

Income equality as a proxy for a non-quantifiable social good, in this case SES

From Joseph Heath at In Due Course:

Many of our outstanding social problems remain outstanding because they occur in areas that are outside the immediate jurisdiction of the state: either because they occur in the private sphere (e.g. the gendered division of labour within the family), or because they involve an exercise of individual autonomy, (e.g. students dropping out of high school). As a result, there is no obvious “policy lever” than can be pulled to solve the problem, because the state simply lacks the authority (and sometimes even the power) to intervene directly in these areas.

As a result, when people who would like to see these problems solved analyze them, there can be an enormous temptation to believe that they are causally connected to some other area, in which the state does have an effective policy lever. The case in which I have seen this most clearly is the tendency to overestimate the causal effects of inequality – because the distribution of wealth is something that the state does have the ability to control. So if “intractable social problem A” can be shown to be caused by “poverty of group B,” then that gives the state leverage over the intractable social problem, because it can always redistribute wealth to B.

To take a concrete example, one hears a lot these days about the “social health gradient” — basically, the strong correlation between various health outcomes and SES (“socio-economic status”), which remains surprisingly strong despite the relatively egalitarian distribution of health care resources. Now SES is an explicitly hybrid concept, designed to represent relative inequality of wealth and social status. But of course, while the state can quite easily redistribute wealth, social status is a much trickier thing, and the state’s ability to intervene, much less modify, these status hierarchies is pretty close to zero (except perhaps indirectly, by redistributing wealth, but even then that often backfires, as the recipients of those transfers find themselves losing status precisely for being in receipt of those transfers). So to the extent that the social health gradient is related to inequalities of status, there is practically nothing the state can do about it. As a result, I can’t count the number of presentations on public health I’ve heard that start out talking about SES and then just subtly shift toward talking about wealth inequality, in order then to recommend some form of income redistribution.

Student workers didn’t know they weren’t supposed to steal from their employer

According to this recent article from the University of Washington’s student newspaper, student employees at u-dub’s cafeterias didn’t know that it was against company policy to steal food:

At least 16 food service workers were fired last week by Housing & Food Services (HFS) on fault of stealing food. More than 140 workers are being questioned about possible theft activity, including at least 119 student employees and 24 full-time staff members.

Workers were giving away free food while pretending to ring up purchases.

But, here is the really good part:

Kyle, who wasn’t one of the employees fired, admits workers were stealing food. But he said the practice has gone on long before he began working in April, and he doesn’t think HFS took enough time to listen to students’ take on the matter.

“HFS made this quick judgment and swooped in and started firing people without warning,” he said. “They definitely could have talked to the students.”

Kyle said he was never told about a food policy, nor was he trained to follow a food policy when he first started his job. He said he thinks other employees didn’t know about a food policy, either. HE SAID STUDENTS WOULDN’T HAVE STOLEN IF A POLICY WAS MADE CLEARER. [my emphasis]

Did you get that? The policy wasn’t clear to him. The policy that you shouldn’t pretend to ring people up. Is this guy out of his mind? I don’t think so. Far from it probably.

It’s easy to rationalize this sort of outright theft when you feel undervalued and taken advantage of by corporate profiteers. The thinking probably goes something like this:

“The owners of this place are rich; what are they going to miss if I – a poor, hardworking college student – take a bit of food home after my shift, or gives some food to my coworker who just finished his shift, or to my poor college student friend who stops by to see me before heading to the library? I am valuable, and undervalued. The owners and managers of this cafe, well they’re just profiteers. They only got this place and all there money by taking advantage of students like me. Stealing from them is only fair. In fact, I’m taking seconds because this is justice.”

PDN channels Ronald Reagan

From a recent PDN editorial:

A bill that would impose a 4-percent tax on premiums collected by health insurance companies that have qualifying certificates would, essentially, unfairly tax consumers and should be rejected.

Bill 20 was introduced by Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr., who says insurance companies with qualifying certificates have “realized a significant windfall,” but didn’t reduce insurance premium costs. He wants to tax those “windfalls” and use the money to pay the massive debt owed by Guam Memorial Hospital to vendors.

In essence, he wants to penalize health insurers who took part in a government program. But his bill wouldn’t even do that, because the costs would be passed on to the customers of those insurers. And many of these customers, who struggle with the cost of living, may end up being under-insured or stop paying for insurance entirely because of the passed-on costs.

And the gipper, from an early 1981 speech:

Prior to World War II, taxes were such that on the average we only had to work just a little over 1 month each year to pay our total Federal, State, and local tax bill. Today we have to work 4 months to pay that bill.

Some say shift the tax burden to business and industry, but business doesn’t pay taxes. Oh, don’t get the wrong idea. Business is being taxed, so much so that we’re being priced out of the world market. But business must pass its costs of operations — and that includes taxes — on to the customer in the price of the product. Only people pay taxes, all the taxes. Government just uses business in a kind of sneaky way to help collect the taxes. They’re hidden in the price; we aren’t aware of how much tax we actually pay.

Affordable for whom?

From the Pacific Daily News:

Behind the rubble of a recently demolished commercial building in Tamuning, officials yesterday marked the beginning of a $28 million project to develop affordable rental housing units.

Called Summer Green Residences, the project began as Tower 70, and initially was planned to have 70 units rising in a formerly flood-prone neighborhood near Pacific Towers off Marine Corps Drive.

With an anticipated completion date of July 2014, the project is expected to offer mostly three-bedroom, two-bath and two-bedroom, two-bath units with amenities such as dishwashers and washers and dryers.

Summer Green Residences is one of many public-private sector partnerships that are encouraging affordable housing developments on Guam, with close to 1,000 affordable homes now in the pipeline, [Michael] Duenas [Executive Director of the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority] said.

The project was expanded to 72 apartments, according to the PDN. At $28 million, that comes out to $388k per unit; for flood-prone three-bedroom affordable rental housing units surrounded by the rubble of demolished buildings.