About That 93-Million Not Working Argument


While listening to Art Lewis on WSGW on Tuesday, a listener criticized those (like me) who argue for a higher minimum wage of perhaps as high as $15 per hour. The caller said raising the minimum wage would make the “93-million unemployed Americans number” rise even higher.

I’ve heard many conservatives use that number for the past year or so, including GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, and wondered if it’s an accurate and valid statistic. And if so, who are these 93-million people not working, and what are some of the factors behind their “unemployment.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Josh Zumbrun looked into this claim last summer, and concluded that teenagers and retirees comprise of a big chunk of the 93 million stat:

The Labor Department doesn’t consider these people (teenagers and retires) unemployed for a reason: Your kid brother who is a high school junior and my grandma who just turned 88? They’re not considered unemployed, for a very good and very obvious reason! The reason 42% of Americans don’t have job is that the U.S. has 46 million people age 60 and over and another 10 million teenagers. Now, many people in these ages do work, but is it useful to think of most high school students and retirees as unemployed? (The labor force statistics begin at age 16. Even Mr. Trump isn’t counting babies or middle schoolers among the unemployed.)

In their prime working years, close to 80% of Americans have jobs. Breaking this chart down by age also reveals something significant: Men are more likely to work than women. There’s an obvious reason for this, too: Many women choose to stay home to take care of their children. Mr. Trump’s 93 million unemployed people include not only your grandparents and teenage cousins, but also any stay-at-home moms you know.

Zumbrun also notes that while the share of prime-age workers has dropped, economists differ on the reasons.

Using the 93-million unemployed statistic may provide a good soundbite, but once you delve more into the numbers, the evidence isn’t as black and white.

Politifact seems to agree.

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Michigan Legislature Can’t Win, Changes Rules


If you’re hoping to vote on marijuana legalization or a ban on fracking, the Michigan Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder don’t trust your judgement.

That’s right.

I normally don’t cite The Detroit News editorial staff on this blog, but they seem to be on the right page regarding the Legislature’s latest despicable act:

The Michigan House and the Senate recently rammed through legislation to immediately upend a 30-year-old understanding of Michigan’s ballot petition process, despite the fact that signatures are already being collected on a number of petitions.

The move deliberately threw a wrench into two citizen-led initiatives currently gaining traction for this November’s ballot: One to ban hydraulic fracturing (known as fracking) for oil and gas, and another to legalize recreational marijuana.

Neither issue is one the Republican-controlled Legislature, generally speaking, would like to see prevail. But instead of debating the issues on their merits or allowing the people of Michigan to decide, lawmakers are rewriting the rules to frustrate the citizen initiative process and render both issues dead on arrival.

How are the Republicans trying to kill these particular (and future) citizen-driven ballot initiatives? By tossing-out “a practice in place since 1986 that allows signatures older than 180 days to be considered valid if shown by a local clerk that they are from registered voters.”

Opponents of the voter ballot drives hope that a strict 180 day signature drive will not only make the process harder, but will dissuade future drives from ever getting off the ground!

And the legislation will affect the current anti-fracking and pro-marijuana legalization initiatives! Older signatures outside the 180 day sign-up period will be deemed null-and-void.

The Detroit News has more:

Obviously Michigan’s energy industry saw an opportunity to block a potential fracking ban. And it isn’t wrong on the policy of fracking. Most evidence finds fracking has been done safely in Michigan for decades. It makes natural gas more affordable for Michigan residents, and is critical for a state so reliant on manufacturing jobs.

But that is a fight on the substance, and this is a change made by pulling strings.

The oil and gas industry has significant clout with this legislature, and if that means the state loses-out on a possible $130 million windfall from future taxes on marijuana, so be it. The energy sector has…ahem!…persuaded lawmakers to see the world their way. The average citizen needs better lobbyists in order to have their voice heard.

It’s not the first time the Legislature has used government to compromise the power given to citizens. If you recall, the legislature and Governor Snyder voted to end straight-party ticket voting. Doing whatever it takes to slow voting lines is freedom, apparently.

I suppose we shouldn’t be in complete disbelief. Recall, Michigan has been declared the worst state in terms of transparency.

When just over 40% of eligible voters participate in state elections, we deserve the government we get.

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Drug Testing At Work: A Necessity Or Waste Of Resources


This New York Times article on how drug testing policies are making it difficult for employers to fill open positions should wave red flags everywhere:

All over the country, employers say they see a disturbing downside of tighter labor markets as they try to rebuild from the worst recession since the Depression: They are struggling to find workers who can pass a pre-employment drug test.

That hurdle partly stems from the growing ubiquity of drug testing, at corporations with big human resources departments, in industries like trucking where testing is mandated by federal law for safety reasons, and increasingly at smaller companies.

But data suggest employers’ difficulties also reflect an increase in the use of drugs, especially marijuana — employers’ main gripe — and also heroin and other opioid drugs much in the news.

As marijuana laws are increasingly becoming watered-down in states and local municipalities, and pain killers continue to be handed-out like candy, employers sticking to antiquated drug-testing mandates are losing workers–perhaps good workers, too.

 The Atlantic’s Joe Pinsker says the negatives outweigh whatever positives are behind workplace drug testing programs:

But some of this cup-peeing might be for naught (and that seems to be something that other countries recognize: Drug testing is far more widespread in the U.S. than anywhere else). In many situations, drug tests aren’t capable of revealing impairment on the job, and the cost of finding a single offending employee is high. Besides, as the country takes a more and more permissive stance toward marijuana, and as the painkillers doctors prescribe are abused more and more often, there are gray areas that arise.

Pinsker also writes about how an author has revealed that drug testing manufacturers benefited quite nicely as a result of these policies, and how testing doesn’t reduce drug use nor reveal that someone is under the influence at that very moment.

Not only that, but the monetary costs to test workers might outweigh the benefits, too.

Should some jobs require drug testing? Certainly. Bus drivers, for example, would probably be one of those jobs, right?

But on the whole, the current system is possibly hurting both employers and employees. It’s long past time we perhaps find a new, constructive approach.

Although I still think we should drug test state and federal legislators!

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Give Control To Local Governments…Except…

Plastic Bag Ban

Michigan Republicans have for years decried big government overriding decisions made by local governments or school districts. They pledge to fight everyday to prevent state government from forcing its agenda down the throats of local municipalities.

Unless, of course, they never really did believe in it, as MLive describes:

The Michigan Senate on Tuesday voted to ban local communities from banning plastic bags.

Senate Bill 853, introduced by Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, would prevent local communities from instituting bans or putting fees on containers like bags, cups, bottles or packaging. Stamas told the Senate Commerce Committee last month that such a law would create consistency, especially for businesses that operate branches across the state and would have to abide by multiple regulations.

“This simply provides that you’re not putting different regulations across the state on the containers,” Stamas told the committee.

Local governments don’t have some control to protect the environment?

I see.

This bill now moves to the state House.

Friend of this blog and my First Day radio show on this blog, Jerrett Skorupt from the conservative think tank Mackinac Center For Public Policy, says consumers should decide if they want to use plastic bags:

Whether or not to use plastic bags should be decided by consumers. If individuals want, they can bring cloth or paper bags to the stores with them. And if there is enough popular demand, grocery stores are free to stop using plastic bags or charge extra for them.

For Skorupt, it’s a choice issue.

I’d go further.

It’s an environmental choice issue which is costing local governments cash–i.e. taxpayers.

Going back to MLive:

Washtenaw County Commissioner Yousef Rabhi told the Senate Commerce Committee last month that the commission had been working on the issue for some time. They uncovered the fact that the plastic bags are jamming equipment at the local recycling facility, which spends $200,000 per year addressing malfunctions related to plastic bags. At landfills, he said, the plastic bags blow away.

“This is a solid waste problem that we face in Washtenaw County,” Rabhi told the committee.

Plastic bags are a hazard to Michigan’s environment, and since the state refuses to do anything productive, local governments would like to give it a go. However, that right to protect the environment–and save public money–could end in the name of saving certain “businesses” money.

Skorupt cites one study showing that plastic bag bans in Austin, Texas weren’t all that successful as people were tossing reusable bags into the trash, mitigating the environmental benefits.

Yet in the same year of that study, Austin officials claimed the bag ban had been a success, and no retailers faced a fines.

Skorupt also cites a Ramesh Ponnuru opinion piece from three years ago, using highly questionable “scientific studies” to prove reusable bags “kill” people.

It should be noted that Ponnuru begins his piece mocking how supposed “liberal” laws have unintended consequences, like raising the minimum wage. Minimum wages have been rising across the United States, and the country’s unemployment rate is hovering around 5%. That’s an unintended consequence many Americans enjoy!

But I digress.

Since we have no credible evidence showing that reusable bags “kill” people, and we do have credible evidence demonstrating how plastic bags are costing Washtenaw County a considerable amount of cash, one has to wonder why Michigan conservatives aren’t supporting ways for local governments to save money!!!

Allow local governments the chance to do something for their citizens and environment!

The Michigan Legislature apparently has other priorities.

It’s just sad.

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Sunday Sports Take–Detroit Tigers Must Make Move Now


Here’s this week’s “Sunday Sports Take” from WSGW’s First Day. The season is unraveling for the Detroit Tigers, and I argue that the organization cannot afford to wait for things to get better. Manager Brad Ausmus has simply added to his list of bad mistakes this past week, and the team isn’t playing for him. They must move now and fire Ausmus!

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Getting What We Deserve

Trump Clinton

Here’s this past week’s “Pat Political Point” from WSGW’s First Day. My cynicsm shines mightily in this week’s rant as I’m less than enthralled by this year’s presidential finalists. Don’t think I’m alone.

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With Donald Trump clinching the GOP nomination, and Hillary Clinton inching closer to wrapping-up the Democratic Party’s nomination, Americans must brace themselves for a Clinton v. Trump showdown.

Depressing, isn’t it?

This presidential election will by far be the most cynical, dirtiest, slimiest, and downright ugliest campaign in quite sometime. It will turn-out to be an election where many Americans will vote AGAINST someone rather than vote FOR someone.

What an inspirational race!

The Week’s Michael Brendan Dougherty painted a poignant image on why this election is exactly what we deserve:

The case against either candidate becoming president is so strong that it is nearly impossible to blame anyone for voting any which way in this election. More than 100 million Americans will cast a ballot for Clinton or Trump in November.

But these days American self-government is indistinguishable from self-incrimination. Our domestic policy is a nest of rent-seeking corruption, our social insurance system is an act of theft against posterity. And our foreign policy, described fairly, resembles the last weeks of a bloodthirsty crime family, led to its bitter end by demented octogenarians. Clinton or Trump 2016: a just punishment.

 A just punishment.

Yeah, that’s putting it about right, I believe.

Both Clinton and Trump carry huge negative ratings from the voters. And by the time November rolls around, it’s safe to assume the Zika Virus and Boba Fette will have

Boba Fett

Boba Fett

higher approval ratings than the two leading presidential candidates. (Donald Trump is less popular than head lice and Nickelback.)

President Obama is enjoying some of his highest approval ratings in the last seven-and-a-half years. While 74 straight months of job growth might have something to do with it, let’s just say the obvious that Americans view him as far more likable than the next possible White House occupants.

I’ve told my conservative friends and listeners that you’re wasting your time sending me anti-Hillary Clinton emails. I’m no Hillary fan. At all. I’m a Bernie supporter, and am happy he’s staying in the primary race where he’ll embarrass her and the Democratic Party by winning more states leading up to the convention in Philadelphia. Sure, she has the party infrastructure behind her to put her over the top in delegates, but Sanders will enter the convention with lots of delegates and demands.

Sanders has done more than any other candidate to move the political needle in this race. He’s a champion for a $15 minimum wage, and since that message enjoys high popularity across the country, Trump even said this week that a rise in the minimum wage is needed (albeit just on a state level).

That Sanders is still winning primary races while the Democratic Party, Clinton herself, and the national media, keep saying the race is over, must worry those in the party infrastructure. That’s why Clinton will have to appease his supporters by choosing running mate they’ll support, and adopt a policy position he covets.

Free college, everyone?

As for Trump, he’s successfully tapped into the anger of many on the right.

Immigration. Walls. ISIS. Trade. Terror. Torture.

Trump has told us what to fear. Trump has told us who to blame. Trump has told us why we’re losing, so-called.

He hasn’t explained what he’d do to change things, other to say that he’d make America a winner again.

Like Clinton, he’s good at telling people who to blame, but is brief on the solutions. Like Clinton, Trump’s an insider, but unlike Clinton, he’s done a fantastic job at pretending to be an outsider. Like Clinton, Trump will keep the steady course of the years and years of crony capitalism we’ve seen over the years by advocating massive socialism for the rich by having the rest of us pay the bill.

The guy bought-off politicians left-and-right, including Clinton. He’s part of the rich class, and his primary job is to protect that class. Just check-out his much derided tax plan, which would be disastrous for all of us not in the top .001%! It would bilk the middle and poor classes of even more cash.

On the foreign policy front, I’m struggling to find a difference between Clinton and Trump.

Clinton backed the war in Iraq, and now says it was a mistake. Trump originally backed the war, and now calls it a disaster. Clinton backs intervention strategies around the world, and particularly around the Middle East. She pressured President Obama to get involved in Libya. She pressured Obama to get more ingratiated in Syria. Thankfully, he didn’t fully adhere to her advice on that front. And she refuses to ever take Israel, or even better, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to task.

Finally, she calls former Nixon Secretary of State Henry Kissinger a friend.

That’s great judgement!

On the flip side, Trump also advocates putting more American troops in Middle Eastern countries. He wants to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here. Where have I heard that before?

Trump has also proposed deporting Muslims, which will only help stir-up further animosity across the world. He’s also pushing to pursue the failed Bush-Cheney torture program, which produced zero solid intelligence and gave America a black eye throughout the world.

Speaking of Cheney, he endorsed Trump the other day, proving he believes Trump will pursue more Middle Easter battles, which can only benefit he and his defense contractor buddies’ bottom lines.

Forgive me if I’m not riding the Trump Train or the Clinton Conquest. Forgive me for my cynicism.

But it’s all I’ve got to keep my sanity for the next six months!

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