BRAVE NEW SKYSCRAPERS

You’ve got to watch this — a far more efficient way to build tall buildings.  And solar turbines placed between each rotating floor.  The floors all rotate!  Only 90 construction workers on site versus 2,000; the rest doing pre-fab work safely off site.  The first — 68 storeys — on the drawing board for Dubai.  a-MAY-zing.

HUNTED

And you’ve got to watch this (if YouTube hasn’t spiked it for length or copyright reasons): the British documentary, “Hunted.”   What seemed abstract — that it’s not easy being gay in Russia, and there are restrictions on speech — turns out to be terrifying.  Millions of Russian gays — like German Jews in the Thirties — viciously unwelcome in their own country, with the tacit blessing of church and state.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

Friday I underestimated the number of long-term uninsured the Republicans have decided to set adrift — apparently it’s more like 1.7 million.  Republicans say they stiffed the unemployed out of concern for the deficit.  Nonsense, argued Hayes.

This graphic builds on Chris’s rant:

UnemploymentInsuranceGraphic

Patrick: “How long should jobless benefits for a given individual go on?  Three years? Forever?  Financial cost aside what about the disincentive it creates for work?”

☞ With this, as with other such questions (should there be a minimum wage?  how high?  fifteen bucks an hour?  fifty?), I think it’s a matter of balance.

The most obvious thing to say:  It should depend largely on the economic climate.  When jobs are really hard to come by, even when you really try to find them — as now — unemployment insurance should be extended.  When jobs are abundant, it should revert to its base level.

Lots of potential fine-tuning beyond that.   It  might vary by state, depending on the economic circumstances of that state.  (Oh, wait — it already does!)  And to avoid creating a disincentive to work, the benefits might be kept low — oh, wait, they already are!  And states should require you to be actively looking for work (and do).

Some states might want to add programs wherein the long-term unemployed accept part-time tasks in return for their checks (cleaning up parks? attending skills enrichment programs?).  They may already do that, too.

Inevitably, there will probably be freeloaders who don’t really need the benefits.*  But would you cut off more than a million truly desperate families because another 5% are getting a free ride they don’t really need?  At what point — 20%?  30%? — do you cut off the legitimate recipients?  (And is the solution to cut everyone off, or to do a better job of identifying those 5% or 20% or 30%?)

Reasonable people can disagree on the specifics.  But I don’t think  many would argue jobs are abundant these days.

Which is why the minimum wage is also relevant here.  If we got rid of it, at the same time as we cut off unemployment insurance, we might be able to accelerate our race to the bottom: desperate, starving Americans competing with each other to clean hotel room toilets for $4 an hour, allowing (or the bright side) for higher hotel-chain profits and/or lower room rates. Gradually, we can move toward the kind of set up that’s so nice for the upper class in many countries: they can have five or six servants and two Mercedes, while the help walk or bike to work, live under bridges, and send their kids to beg in the streets.

None of which, obviously, Patrick, certainly — or even the most right-leaning Tea Party-er — intends.  But before they dismiss Nick Hanauer’s argument on who the job creators really are — and his argument for a $15 an hour  minimum wage — they should really think through what’s happened to the American “working class” in the last few decades, and how that bodes for our future.

 

*Just as, to take another example, there are scattered cases of  voter fraud — people so motivated to go out and vote that they actually risk prison by knowingly voting illegally (an odd combination of civic responsibility and civic irresponsibility, don’t you think?) — and that’s bad.  But what balance do you strike in dealing with that?  Better to make voting harder for millions of poor people than to allow a few dozen, or even a few hundred, votes to be cast illegally through identity fraud?

 

 

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