Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 17, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

HACK OF THE DAY....Today's anti-union harangue in the LA Times by Russell Roberts is so mind-numbingly steeped in intellectual dishonesty that the Wall Street Journal's editorial board must be slapping itself on its collective head this morning for not getting their hands on it first. It's a work of art.

But it's warm outside and I don't have the energy to slog through the whole sorry mess. Consider it an exercise for the reader. To get you started, though, here's one line from Roberts:

Cleaning people routinely earn $20 an hour, more than most cities' so-called living wage.

Wow! 20 bucks an hour for mopping floors! Except, um, here's the actual data from the BLS from a few years ago:

Among janitors at all levels, nonunion janitors earned $8.60 per hour, 72 percent of the $11.98 earned by union janitors.

So not only do janitors generally make way less than $20 per hour, but in the non-union paradise Roberts recommends they don't even make 10 bucks an hour. And benefits? Please. Ask the janitors in Houston about that.

On the positive side, I didn't notice any spelling errors in Roberts' piece. So at least the Times copy desk is on the ball.

Kevin Drum 12:21 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (76)

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Comments

Today's anti-union harangue in the LA Times by Russell Roberts is so steeped in intellectual dishonesty that the Wall Street Journal's editorial board must be slapping itself on its collective head this morning for not getting their hands on it first.

Let's see economist, George Mason University..Hmmm, is Walter Williams off today?

It's in the 50's here, can I only read half the column?

Posted by: Martin on February 17, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

One thing that the past 7 years has proven to "conservatives" is that they can LIE LIE LIE and there are absolutely NO repercussions. The media are too concerned with Obama's relative blackness, and Hillary's lack of humor.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on February 17, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

$11.98 plus $8.60 is about twenty dollars. Maybe he just got confused.

Posted by: Bob LaBlog on February 17, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

He makes it sound as if $20 for that job is alot.

Posted by: namvetted on February 17, 2007 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

He said 'cleaning people,' not 'janitors.'

'Cleaning people' includes anyone employed at Johnson & Johnson. Obviously. Who's the liar -now-, Kevin?

Posted by: g on February 17, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

Bet you didn't know that real wages have been rising, Kevin. Yup. And whose President? That's right, big bad Bush. Still having nightmares about him, Kevin?

In Kevin's looney lib world, everyone should be making the same amount of money, and own the same things and have perfectly equal status.

Except, um, it doesn't work that way, Kevin. See what happened to Russia? The United States has the most dynamic, fastest growing economies in the world. It rewards based on merit. Payoffs go to the productive. You want unions to hamper our growth, dull our technical expertise and send us into a Euro-style lala land?

No thanks. By the way, notice how Kevin doesn't site the year from his BLS data. Its possible that it's risen since then. He's comparing totally different data.

Posted by: egbert on February 17, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

But it's warm outside...

Yeah, go ahead -- stick it in and twist it.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 17, 2007 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Cleaning people routinely earn $20 an hour, more than most cities' so-called living wage.
Wow! 20 bucks an hour for mopping floors! Except, um, here's the actual data from the BLS from a few years ago:
Um, Kevin, I think you should re-read the factual assertion that Roberts made. He did not assert the fact the "average" salary of a janitor is "$20 an hour". He asserted the fact that janitors "routinely earn $20 an hour" which is true. The Heritage Foundation affirms that this is the fact.
Link

"The beginning salary for a janitor in the New York public schools is $4O,OOO per year or roughly $20 per hour."
Al
.

--
"Yes, my comment section might be full of trolls and their vitriol, but anyone who has a factual disagreement with what I write has a forum to point it out in the same place as the post itself."
Kevin Drum
--

Posted by: edst on February 17, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Aren't those New York public school janitors in a union?

Yes they are. So Roberts is saying that you don't need unions because union janitors make $20/hour.

Great logic.

Posted by: Quiddity on February 17, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

If the Democrats weren't such strong supporters of IllegalImmigration - even going so far as joining with MexicanLegislators to support it - wouldn't there be fewer possible janitors, and wouldn't wages rise naturally?

Posted by: TLB on February 17, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Better trolls, please.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on February 17, 2007 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

So was this an article about janitors in the NY City public schools, or janitors in general? Or maybe even unionized janitors in Los Angeles?

Geez. Even by right-wing standards that's a pathetic argument.

Posted by: MQ on February 17, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

At the risk of feeding the trolls, the May 2005 level reported on the BLS website has the mean hourly wage for janitors and cleaners (excluding maids and house cleaners) at $10.15. (See http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#b37-0000)

It's possible that the average wage for janitors has gone up since then, but doubled? Yeah. Right.

Better trolls please.

Posted by: RWB on February 17, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

What does "routinely" mean in wingnut world?

Posted by: Nads on February 17, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

So, wingnuts are now defining a couple or more standard deviations away from the mean as "routine"?

No wonder they think that GWB is a genius.

Posted by: Disputo on February 17, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum: "Better trolls, please."

Shorter Kevin Drum: "Um, I have no evidence to back up my argument, so I'll just throw out ad homs."

Posted by: egbert on February 17, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

The air temperature here in Kentucky routinely drops into the single digits.

That is, if you define "routinely" as nights in February about once a decade.

No doubt there are a handful of "cleaners" (an undefined category) with 20 years on the job in low-unemployment, high-income counties who "routinely" earn $20 per hour.

In those counties, however, I doubt even $20 per hour supports a family without health insurance.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on February 17, 2007 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

So, wingnuts are now defining 17 as less than 3?

No wonder they think that GWB is a genius.

Posted by: Disputo on February 17, 2007 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Cleaning people routinely earn $20 an hour, more than most cities' so-called living wage.

What this likely needs is that Roberts pays the cleaning service he uses for his suburban home upwards of $20/hr.

Posted by: Constantine on February 17, 2007 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

I have to admit, Ebgert is one of the better trolls out there. I wonder what other Lib blogs he trolls at.

Posted by: This Machine Kills Fascists on February 17, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

I like how egbert vibrates for his country.

Too bad he is too chicken to fight for it.

Posted by: Disputo on February 17, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "... so mind-numbingly steeped in intellectual dishonesty ..."

The modifier "intellectual" is unwarranted and unnecessary.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 17, 2007 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

The modifier "intellectual" is unwarranted and unnecessary.

The whole premise of the article is that workers are better off without unions, which is historically false, and that's what makes him intellectually dishonest.

Posted by: AkaDad on February 17, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

I think when he wrote that janitors make $20 an hour, he meant if you were to combine a union and a non-union janitor into one janitor, then they would make $20 an hour (actually $20.58 an hour).

Posted by: Guscat on February 17, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

HACK OF THE DAY

Damn, I thought I was going to learn some sort of computer or technology trick.

Posted by: B on February 17, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Cleaning people routinely earn $20 an hour, more than most cities' so-called living wage."

Do you think he is including people who clean houses in private homes? I have a cleaning man who comes every other week. He works very hard, usually stays abuout three hours, and I pay him $90- which is $30 an hour.

Posted by: Myrna Gottlieb on February 17, 2007 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Cleaning people"

I assume he's averaging the wages of people on biohazard cleanup crews, Intel's microprocessor clean room engineers, and janitors.

Posted by: B on February 17, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: You forget to mention the source, e.g. where this guy is from -- the Mercatus Center, also home of Susan Dudley (who the administration is trying to put in OMB to be in charge of the entire government regulatory process.

Mercatus is known for being king of the nutcase hill.

Posted by: Jordan Barab on February 17, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, critiquing "cleaning people routinely" with "janitor only averages from seven year old data lacking any ranges" is also dishonest especially since much more recent data exists. Check out the spreadsheets at www.bls.gov/oes/oes_dl.htm. You don't have to get far before finding cleaning people earning $20 an hour.

And always find it interesting that self proclaimed liberals are willing to waive other people's right to free choice and a union election if it means a leg up for one of their special interest groups.

Posted by: scouser on February 17, 2007 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Um, I followed scouser's link. Average hourly wages for janitorial workers in 2005 was between $8.74 and $12.99 per hour.

And I don't thnk the BLS stats average in undocumented workers being paid under the table by cleaning services.

I'm sure that somewhere, someone is getting $20 an hour.
But it's not common, and I bet he's in a union.

Posted by: Jim 7 on February 17, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

I followed scouser's link, too. (Did he think no one would?) Here are a few more numbers, the 90th percentile hourly wage:

Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations: $16.40

Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners: $15.62

Maids and housekeeping cleaners: $12.36

Building cleaning workers, all other: $22.26

As Jim 7 says, someone may be getting $20 an hour, but I wouldn't point to some high wage that far fewer than than 10% of some set of workers receives and call it routine.

Posted by: RSA on February 17, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

I have a cleaning man who comes every other week. He works very hard, usually stays abuout three hours, and I pay him $90- which is $30 an hour.

And I bet you don't issue him a 1099.

Posted by: Disputo on February 17, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

No, I expected someone to click and you found some of the data (state breakdowns are there too). I'd say something occuring 10% of the time happens routinely and it's certainly much more accurate than pointing to national averages without ranges. Might not fit Kevin's script, though.

Posted by: scouser on February 17, 2007 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

"By far, the vast majority of my tax cuts go to those at the bottom."

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on February 17, 2007 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

No, I expected someone to click and you found some of the data (state breakdowns are there too). I'd say something occuring 10% of the time happens routinely and it's certainly much more accurate than pointing to national averages without ranges.
Posted by: scouser

It always amuses me when repubs, ignorant innumeric anti-science luddites that they are, attempt to teach me statistics.

Posted by: Nads on February 17, 2007 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

what is it about accuracy that disturbs you so much, mhr?

fucking dipshits like you see only pro-union vs anti-union, WMD vs no WMD, etc.; proceed to call it diversity of opnion, fair and balanced, and think you've contributed something of value.

Facts matter, shithead, and accuracy matters. There were no WMDs, and vague outlier salaries shouldn't be labeled as "routine." It's dishonest, which was the point of this post.

Partisan hacks, of course, only see the 2 sides involved, regardless of reality. For all your blather about religion and moral absolutes, you pissants sure seem to have little respect for institutions such as FACTS or LEGALITY.

Posted by: Nads on February 17, 2007 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Ok Scous,

So, if something happens 10% of time = "routine", what would be your word for what happens 90% of the time?

And, of course, the data show that it is in only one category out of four that the top 10% make 20 bucks. So maybe its really just the top 2.5% of all cleaners. Would that be "routine" too?

Posted by: MG on February 17, 2007 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Pullease, who on their right mind would believe that janitors get 20 bucks an hour, come on, that's not even trying to pretned to be in touch with the world outside your zip code.

Posted by: Sinead O'spears on February 17, 2007 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

I'd say something occuring 10% of the time happens routinely.

So on an annual basis, President Bush routinely orders the invasion of a country in the Middle East.

Posted by: RSA on February 17, 2007 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Allow me to repeat what I asked way up thread:

So, wingnuts are now defining a couple or more standard deviations away from the mean as "routine"?

I would like to thank scouser for providing the link to the data that confirms that the answer to this question is the affirmative.

Posted by: Disputo on February 17, 2007 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, here in Eugene, Oregon, second only to Portland in terms of the highest starting wages in the state, janitors routinely start at $8 an hour.

Maids make the same, plus tips. House cleaning firms start folks between $8 and $10.

This, in a state with one of the highest minimum wages in the nation at $7.80/hr. (Washington, at $7.93, is the only one higher)

Average sales price of homes in this region is second only to the Northeast. Only with several years of experience, can someone rise to around $12/hr, or $25,000/yr. With median home prices in Eugene around $270,000, the opportunity for home ownership for a janitor are virtually nil.

Union membership is low here. Public employee unions are the principal influence that cause any rises at all. Without them and the labor-sensitive state government raising the minimum wage, we'd likely be another third-world state like Mississippi.

Another point worth making is that most of the wage increases experienced by manual laborers since 1970 occurred in the 1990s, a byproduct of the tech revolution. From 1970-1990, wages largely stagnated for blue collar workers, with or without merit.

I took my first job as a non-union carpenter in Massachusetts in 1974, at $5/hr. In 1993, an agency needing a carpentry remodel crew leader offered me $6/hr in central Florida, and they told me they expected I'd have to skip a few lunch breaks to meet the production quotas they wanted.

Editorialists can play their numbers games all they want, but I'm soaking in it, Madge. I've experienced the blue collar life in Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida, Wisconsin, California and Oregon - ever willing to be mobile to secure greener pastures (an option many workers can't easily undertake).

I currently hold the title of Maintenance Supervisor in a commercial building with just under 100 people working there in 5 separate businesses. Since November, I've supervised no-one. I do the painting, drywall repair, some of the plumbing, finish carpentry, furniture moving,and landscaping, and coordinate any outside vendors needed for the HVAC, electrical or plumbing. Plus, half my hours are spent doing the janitorial.

I make $12/hr. There's no way I can take a vacation without a backup, despite accruing paid time off. If I miss a rare day due to illness, the complaints roll in. I worry constantly that if I ever get sick enough to miss 2-3 days, they'll can me and contract out to companies paying their employees less.

Such is the blue collar world. And it's definitely worse in all the anti-union right-to-work states across the South.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden on February 17, 2007 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Why did they stop there? Why didn't they look at Compulsive Hoarding Disorder Task Forces or mold remediation specialists and claim that "cleaners" earn $100 an hour?

These people are shameless.

Posted by: sara on February 17, 2007 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

The Times ran a pro-union article. Why does the idea that it would run an anti-union piece strike you as so outlandish? If that's the kind of reading you crave stick to The Nation. Liberals, who are generally so supportive of diversity, draw the line at diversity of opinion. Methinks I smell a totalitarian mindset.

Perhaps you think that it wouldn't be possible to write an anti-union piece without lying. It's the lies that Drum is objectiong to here.

Posted by: humble blogger on February 17, 2007 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

In 1974 my family was newly arrived in CA from one of those overcrowded places on the other side of the Pacific. My dad soon freaked out and split. We lived in a small apartment with my aunt, who cleaned houses (for about $3 an hour, BTW) while studying at SF State, and my mom sewed buttons on shirts for 10 cents a shirt, or about $2 an hour. But the sweatshop owner provided two meals a day and I got free breakfasts from SF public schools. And that's really the point: I went to public school for free and I went to school with the sons and daughters of doctors, bankers, small business owners and city government employees. Those kids didn't get free breakfast, but we were in the same school and when we all tested for Gifted and Talented Education in the third grade, we were in the same class. Long story short, I went up through the public school system, went to a UC on Pell Grant, Cal Grant and part time work. Could do that in 1987 because tuition was only something like $500 a quarter or less than $2,000 a year with books and fees.

Based on my experience, I'm not too worried about minimum wage as long as opportunity exists for everyone. What worries me these days is not so much that wages are politically depressed for the benefit of one side of the capital-labor equation (to be sure, that's a moral outcome determined by our politics), but that the opportunities in terms of quality affordable education are no longer the same as 30 years ago.

Maybe the US has always been a two-tiered society and the post WWII boom is the exception and not the norm. Maybe immigrant kids can come to CA these days, study hard, work hard and become advanced knowledge workers. But I don't see how I could have made the life I did if I had to struggle anonymously in mediocre schools and graduate from college $100,000 in debt. Maybe it's already too late to reclaim the America of our past and we should instead look for practical ways to achieve the outcomes we want in terms of a good society in which citizens can live a good life as well as the good life.

It's clear that we face stiff competition from the rest of the world. My nieces and nephews overseas can "outwork" my own daughter. They have nothing and are thus satisfied working a lot harder for a lot less. Why would any sane, rational person allow my daughter to compete in that game for the benefit of anonymous stockholders and the paid keepers of free-trade ideology?

I don't know why our government is so averse to managing competition like other governments do. If we let things just be as they may, the rich and the smart will always come out on top. Is that good enough? Who's going to look out for the not-so-rich and not-so-smart? What if the Chinese rich and smart run circles around the American rich and smart? That seems to be the natural job of our government: to protect citizens. Instead, I get the sense that the people with power in this country couldn't care less about who wins the economic rat race because they will always be on top. What's the difference after all between a worker in India and a worker in Indiana? They both are merely inputs to a great profit-generating system.

Posted by: whatstheanswer? on February 17, 2007 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, are you ever going to get around to mentioning the impact of illegal immigration on the wages of janitors and the like? Cesar Chavez complained about it all the time:

In 1979, Chavez bitterly testified to Congress:

" … when the farm workers strike and their strike is successful, the employers go to Mexico and have unlimited, unrestricted use of illegal alien strikebreakers to break the strike. And, for over 30 years, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has looked the other way and assisted in the strikebreaking. I do not remember one single instance in 30 years where the Immigration service has removed strikebreakers. … The employers use professional smugglers to recruit and transport human contraband across the Mexican border for the specific act of strikebreaking… "

In 1969, Chavez led a march to the Mexican border to protest illegal immigration. Joining him were Sen. Walter Mondale and Martin Luther King’s successor as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Ralph Abernathy.

Like today’s Minutemen, UFW staffers under the command of Chavez’s brother Manuel patrolled the Arizona-Mexico border to keep out illegal aliens. Unlike the well-behaved Minutemen, however, Chavez’s boys sometimes beat up intruders.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on February 17, 2007 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

It never fails. Wingnuts cannot sell their agendas on their own merits, so they almost always resort to distorting the words and beliefs of beloved dead civil rights activists to promote their cause.

Along these lines, I see that Sailer is still peddling the lie that Chavez was anti illegal immigrant.

Chavez was a union organizer. He was not anti-illegal. He was concerned with their use by unscrupulous capitalists as strike breakers. He would have been quite happy if illegals had been allowed to join unions, but their illegal status prevents that.

Posted by: Disputo on February 17, 2007 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think Cesar Chavez would have approved of any group so closely allied with the modern day Neo Nazis, and whose message is so repeatedly tied in with some twisted desire to preserve racial purity.

excerpt:

Lawless, an original member of Chris Simcox's vigilante militia before it became the Minuteman Project in early 2005, detailed 11 suggestions for ways to harass and terrorize undocumented immigrants, including robbery and ''beating up illegals'' as they leave their work place, the report states. Martin, following Lawless' suggestions, posted her e-mail to a number of neo-Nazi bulletin boards.

Posted by: Nads on February 17, 2007 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

For what it is worth, solo white women, which is to say, the ones who can negotiate for themselves and are known and trusted by people with big homes in "rural" La Plata County, Colorado, do make $20 a hour cleaning. They make more per hour than the librarians at the college who make about $14..but get benefits.

Posted by: christine on February 17, 2007 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, housecleaners make $20 an hour or more. But they're not working 40 hours a week. If they're lucky, they work 10 or 20. So that means it's more like a $5 or $10 an hour wage, if they're lucky.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on February 18, 2007 at 2:27 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think I have ever read an even-remotely pro-union piece in the press.

I take that back, there was that famous NYT piece where their labor writer simply regurgitated management lies that longshoremen average $100,000 a year. When I did a google search, I found one article (in the SF Chronical) that called out the lie.

Posted by: mcdruid on February 18, 2007 at 3:50 AM | PERMALINK

From Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, cleaning companies routinely charge $20 an hour for their workers, and pay them $8. I think he's looking at things from the employer's perspective.

Posted by: Noumenon on February 18, 2007 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Umm.. I believe "cleaning people" refers to people cleaning houses and apartments in high income cities.

Posted by: aaron on February 18, 2007 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Anyway, Roberts is right for the most part, but I'm compelled to point out some further flaws. Everyone had been gaining on the rich 2000-2004, but in 05 the very poor slipped a tiny bit. And, workers generally meant manufacturing in the past. Seeing low skill manufacturing slip in wages doesn't really bother me, but I'd like to see service people, especially the ones we have to interact with, earning more.

Posted by: aaron on February 18, 2007 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

The Times should put that eagle and the old "True Industrial Freedom" slogan back on its flag, because it's regressed to its old anti-union days.

Posted by: Vincent on February 18, 2007 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Aaron has it right. I was referring to people who clean houses in high-income cities. Here's why that's relevant:

http://cafehayek.typepad.com/hayek/2007/02/im_a_hack.html

Posted by: Russ Roberts on February 18, 2007 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Scouser: I want you to come work for me. I promise to pay you routinely. Of course, I'm thinking that when you only get paid 10% of the time, you might object to the way I used the word "routinely."

Posted by: gummitch on February 18, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Big difference between janitorial and housecleaning.

Housecleaners who work for a service, such as one of "Merry types", generally earn between six and nine dollars. I know of several in the Pac NW who have left those services and gone on their own working mostly for the technies. One can earn anywhere from $15 to $30 dollars an hour, mostly in cash. Few will work for anyone who 1099s them. They generally work 3 to 4 day weeks. Occasionally there will be extra work on Saturdays. They usually only make arrangements for a four hour minimum and many will clean for two clients per day.

However, there are drawbacks - You are an independent contractor - You pay for your own health insurance - As you try to avoid 1099s, there is no money going into your Social Security account. If you work under a 1099, you pay at the higher rate. If you are really fortunate, your client will see that you will be able to clean their home if they take a vacation. Often, this is not the case. If they take a month long whoop de doo in the South of France, you have a month with no income for that slot. If you are smart, you will pay for insurance to cover any breakage and you will hope the local city does not hit you for a business license.

Ah, the other perk is the possible gift certificate at Barnes and Noble, or the magnum of wine, or the extra month's bonus at Christmas.

Better than many service industry jobs as, at least if you have good rapport with your clients, you are, in essence, your own boss. But, far from that secure job with health care benefits, paid vacations and a pension thrown in.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 18, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

The self-employed cleaning person who comes to your house and cleans often makes pretty good money, and maybe that's who he means. For example, for Xmas, I got myself a few hours of a cleaning lady for $75. She made $25 an hour (before self-employed FICA, which is twice the usual, plus her other expenses).

However, if I were to take that $75 and pay it to a cleaning service, the actual cleaning people would get $8 an hour or so, with the service taking all the rest.

And I suspect that far more people work for those services than for their own cleaning business.

Posted by: lister on February 18, 2007 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I always wonder if these writers actually KNOW people in any other circumstances. Those of us who live in the real world and have looked for work and examined the classifieds and applied for jobs know that very few non-union jobs pay $20 an hour. (Salaried positions often do, but those are not hourly jobs.) In fact, I recently did a job search, looking for some work that paid okay and also had benefits, and found almost nothing. A teller in a bank got benefits, but $10 an hour (and what's scary, I was a teller in 1977, and even then I earned $7 an hour... 30 years ago, and only 30% increase in hourly pay?). Freight-handling (very hard work) paid $8.17 an hour. Retail work in a big national dept store started at $7 an hour and topped out at $10, and you get benefits only after a year.

The only jobs that advertised much about $10 were the security jobs at the airport, and they were only about $12 an hour.

And it's not just "lack of education". I am trying to replace a job requiring an MA (adjunct instructor in college) where I earn $10 an hour with no, count 'em no, benefits. At all.

Wish I had a union job!

Posted by: petra on February 18, 2007 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

I routinely have breakfast, but if I do so only once every ten days I'm going to spend a lot of days hungry.

Posted by: buddy66 on February 18, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK
If the Democrats weren't such strong supporters of IllegalImmigration ….TLB at 1:39 PM
Perhaps you haven't figured it out yet, but it is your itty bitty buddy Bush who favors illegal immigration for precisely the reason you mention: to have a endless supply of cheap docile labor for his campaign contributors.
…draw the line at diversity of opinion. Methinks I smell a totalitarian mindset. mh rat 4:35 PM
We, however, smell an authoritarian fool when you speak out. Two RepubliConTarians, two lame cases of projection. Posted by: Mike on February 18, 2007 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

Curious. Almost every comment here takes off on Kevin Drum's assertion, without actually reading the original article. This suggests that most of the commenters here have great confidence in Mr. Drum's reading of the original. However, if one reads the original article one quickly realizes that Mr. Drum's point is irrelevant to the Russell Roberts argument. That suggests that Mr. Drum has either not read the article he is criticizing, not understood it, or has chosen to avoid addressing the point. None of these possibilities inspire confidence in Mr. Drum as a commentator.

Posted by: Acad Ronin on February 18, 2007 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

After reading the actual article, and many of the comments, what really bothers me is that his article is deceptive at best, lying would be more accurate. Unions exist to help workers. They can (when acting selfishly) exclude people who are not yet in the union and cause them problems. But the statistics he cites to justify his arguments are silly. As worker productivity rises, wages must rise in turn. Simple economics. But in the US, especially in the last 15 years, as productivity rose by 2-4% per year, wages did not rise commensurate to that change. Unions can act to ensure that workers are paid based on their actual productivity. The statistics he cites are simply silly distractions from the real ways of measuring worker wage bargaining power. He actually asks, as though this were possible, if workers are so weak in bargaining, why doesn't everyone make the minimum wage? He is attacking a straw man, when it is obviously not the intention to unionize all workers. The union of upper management workers would be rather silly. Kevin Drum's view of the article was spot on, Russell Roberts simply wrote an article so bad that to wade through the heaps of dishonesty is too time consuming. Or to quote Atrios, "The stupid, it burns!"

Posted by: Tim on February 18, 2007 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

He can always get a job mopping floors. Sounds cushy, don't it?

Posted by: Kenji on February 19, 2007 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

If Roberts was trying to make a point about unions why use "cleaning people" as an example. Has there been a big push to organize cleaning people recently? How many people actually work as cleaning people? What percenatge of those are illegals? If he really meant to say, "In many American cities, the going rate to have someone come to your home and clean your house is $20 an hour." Why not use that exact sentence?
If privately hired/underground economy "cleaning people" is your best example of workers who can make more without a union you case is pretty shaky.

Posted by: Mercatus is Latin for Lie on February 19, 2007 at 4:57 AM | PERMALINK


online pharmacy - online pharmacy store
discount pharmacy - discount online pharmacy

Posted by: top choice on February 19, 2007 at 6:32 AM | PERMALINK

A teller in a bank got benefits, but $10 an hour (and what's scary, I was a teller in 1977, and even then I earned $7 an hour... 30 years ago, and only 30% increase in hourly pay?)

Ooops. Got to apply the inflation deflator. $10/hr in 2006 was, in real rather than nominal terms, less than the minimum wage in 1969.

In 2005, $1.00 from 1970 is worth:
$5.03 using the Consumer Price Index
$4.10 using the GDP deflator
$5.20 using the unskilled wage
$8.27 using the nominal GDP per capita
$11.99 using the relative share of GDP

As to the CPI:

'Instead, the market is worried, worried, worried about an American recession. We have news for the market. The recession arrived seven years ago and is gathering strength. GDP in real terms is contracting if one deflates it using an inflation index calculated the way it used to be calculated instead of the hedonic, chain-weighted nonsense that the government churns out to ensure that GDP stays positive. If Uncle Sam was still calculating the rate of inflation the way he did in 1970 when US oil production peaked, it would be over 10% per annum instead of the fictional 2.6% that the government claims today.' - Chris Sanders. 'The Fortunate Fifth'
http://www.sandersresearch.com/index.php?option=com
_content&task=view&id=1110

Posted by: MsNThrope on February 19, 2007 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile:

http://norris.blogs.nytimes.com/
Floyd Norris
A Contract Anyone Would Love

[snip]

In fact, Mr. Tyson is required, if the company asks him to do so, to provide up to 20 hours of work per month, not per week.

If he works the maximum amount, that amounts to a salary of $5,000 per hour. Nice work if you can get it.

[snip]

The new proxy does say that Mr. Tyson’s non-cash compensation for 2006 “included $247,182 attributable to personal use of Company aircraft, $141,633 attributable to tax and estate planning advice or services, $105,000 attributable to a split dollar insurance policy, $45,000 attributable to Company matching contributions to the Company’s Employee Stock Purchase Plan, and $126,850 for taxes paid on his behalf by the Company.”

Add in those things, which do not include the value of his health insurance or expense reimbursements, and the pay rises to at least $7,774 per hour. Very nice work if you can get it.

[snip]

Posted by: MsNThrope on February 19, 2007 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

This is rediculous. Why do you have to accuse somebody of intellectual dishonesty just because you disagree. Why would he want to trick people into believing something he didn't think was true? An the people pointing out that you misunderstand the quoted selection are correct. Grow up, Mr. Drum.

Posted by: josh on February 19, 2007 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

"In 2005, $1.00 from 1970 is worth:
$5.03 using the Consumer Price Index
$4.10 using the GDP deflator
$5.20 using the unskilled wage
$8.27 using the nominal GDP per capita
$11.99 using the relative share of GDP"

All but the first two beg the question. Your best bet is to argue against the methedology of how those two are calculated.

Posted by: josh on February 19, 2007 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

This reminds me of the sweeps month local news. They're always doing these alarming stories on school bus drivers and how undesirable many of them are. Oh noes! They're in our bussez endangering our kidz!

Anyway, after one of these I looked up how much bus drivers in my state make - and they generally get about $8.00/hr.

Now it doesn't take a genius to realize that fast food pays better than that. So the bus drivers we are hiring are people who for whatever reason opt to make less money than, or somehow can't manage to be fast food workers. But we still run around being outraged that stand up human beings aren't taking the bus driving jobs.

Posted by: Gex on February 19, 2007 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Goodness Gracious! What a liar! My friend in the UK emailed me this link, I read the post on my Blackberry. Then when I got the coffee shop I got out my iBook, fired up the iPod, sipped from my No foam, organic soy milk, fair trade latte. The whole way over here in my car (which, even though it is much safer and more fuel efficient than the cars of the 70's, it's still bad because it was assembled mostly by machines.) I thought about how horrible our life is here in America. There is such a declining quality of life that I don't understand how people don't see it. If only unions were still strong, our lives would be so much better.

Oh, by the way, this just in: economics is a science too. Progressives' willful ignorance of economic principles is the same as Republicans' willful ignorance of biology and evolution. The time will come for both sides to issue a mea culpa. In the meantime, this pesticide free, living wage, whole wheat banana bread is delicious! You guys should try it.

Posted by: egregious on February 19, 2007 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

I would argue that econ is probably closer to pseudoscience than anything resembling real science.

Cog sci and psychology can make some testable hypotheses and appropriate experimentation, and have some predictive capabilities ... but I'm not really convinced about econ.

I'm willing to be proven wrong, though.

Posted by: Nads on February 19, 2007 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

FROM THE WINDOW OF THE UNIVERSE"GLORY BE TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST:PEACE BE UNTO THE WHOLE WORLD;GOOD WISHES TO ALL MANKIND;GOD ALMIGHTY,THANK YOU."OBEDIENCE TO THE ULTIMATE WILL OF GOD IS THE ONLY ASSURANCE FOR PEACE OF MIND ON EARTH AND LICENSE OF ENJOYING ETERNITY WITH GOD THAT BASKETS THE WHOLE UNIVERSE.OPEN HEAVENS:THEOGRACY THE GOOD GOVERNMENT THEO&GRACE

Posted by: BODE,GODSENT on February 19, 2007 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

Nads,
For simple demonstration of how economics makes testable predictions read Freakonomics.

Posted by: josh on February 20, 2007 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Arent labor prices input prices?
If the answer to the first question is yes, then how exactly are unions socialy optimal?
I am not here to argue who unions are good for, as I believe they are abviously good for the workers who are members.
However, if all workers in an industry are in a union and all companies within the industry face the same upward pressure on input prices from the unions. Then how exactly is it socialy optimal for union members to receive higher wages only to be forced to buy things in an economy with merely higher prices?
Are union advocates arguing for a higher standing of living for all low skilled workers or just the one's that are in the union? Theorecticaly, I am not understanding why the "unions throughout all industry" idea is of such importance to workers standard of living.
State sanctioned cartels have a long and distinguished history of only benifiting the recepients of the political favor. Trying to argue that the cartelization of labor is socialy optimal seems like an inherently religous, rather than rational, proposition to me.

Posted by: Terry richards on February 20, 2007 at 10:52 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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