Remember a while back, during the Wisconsin governor Walker fiasco, the debate that raged regarding government workers and their wages with respect to private sector workers? You had right wing economists arguing that federal workers were indeed overpaid and left wing economists arguing the opposite. An honest observer might have found it difficult to know who was right.
Well now, the CBO has weighed in on the topic and has come down on the side of right wing economists:
Differences in total compensation—the sum of wages and benefits—between federal and private-sector employees also varied according to workers’ education level.
Federal civilian employees with no more than a high school education averaged 36 percent higher total compensation than similar private-sector employees.
Federal workers whose education culminated in a bachelor’s degree averaged 15 percent higher total compensation than their private-sector counterparts.
Federal employees with a professional degree or doctorate received 18 percent lower total compensation than their private-sector counterparts, on average.
Overall, the federal government paid 16 percent more in total compensation than it would have if average compensation had been comparable with that in the private sector, after accounting for certain observable characteristics of workers.
Of course I, a huge fan of Andrew Biggs at AEI, knew this long ago. For more on Andrew Biggs research on this see here, here and especially here.
Atleast part of the reason is a dwindling supply:
In tech circles, the C-suite at a publicly traded company is no longer the be-all and end-all. Just look at the troubles Yahoo! (YHOO) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) have recently had finding new leaders. HP canned former SAP (SAP) Chief Executive Officer Léo Apotheker after just 11 months—then faced a barrage of criticism for replacing him with HP director and former EBay (EBAY) CEO Meg Whitman without bothering to look beyond its own boardroom.
Industry consolidation has created a small number of very large technology companies such as HP, Cisco (CSCO), and Microsoft (MSFT). They’ve stumbled in recent years as disruptive developments like the mobile revolution and the dash to the cloud shake the entire sector. As the job of leading these companies gets tougher, there are fewer talented leaders with the skills—and inclination—to do it. Rather than wait for high-profile CEOs such as Cisco’s John Chambers, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, and Research In Motion’s (RIMM) Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie to step down, many potential replacements have decamped for more exciting, and potentially more lucrative, gigs at startups or as investors. “This is the first time in tech history that you have this many companies with CEOs approaching 60 that don’t have any obvious successors,” says John Thompson, vice-chairman of recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles (HSII).
Full story here.
Megan McArdle on President Obama’s speech:
I think the speech made it even clearer that other speeches have that the president’s vision of the world is a lightly updated 1950s technocracy without the social conservatism, and with solar panels instead of rocket ships. Government and labor and business working in tightly controlled concert, with nice people like Obama at the reins–all the inventions coming out of massive government or corporate labs, and all the resulting products built by a heavily unionized workforce that knows no worry about the future.There are obviously a lot of problems with this vision. The first is that this is not what the fifties and sixties were actually like–the government and corporate labs sat on a lot of inventions until upstart companies developed them, and the union goodies that we now think of as typical were actually won pretty late in the game (the contracts that eventually killed GM were written in the early 1970s).
And to the extent that the fifties and sixties were actually like this, we should remember, as Max Boot points out, that this was not actually the day of the little guy. Big institutions actually had a great deal more power than they do now; it was just distributed somewhat differently–you had to worry less about big developers slapping a high-rise next to your single-family neighborhood, and a whole lot more about Robert Moses deciding he wanted to run a freeway through the spot where your house happened to be.
The military model of society–employed by both Obama, and a whole lot of 1950s good government types–was actually a kind of creepy way to live. As Boot says, “America today is far more individualistic and far more meritocratic with far less tolerance for rank prejudice and far less willingness to blindly follow the orders of rigid bureaucracies.” If you want the 1950s except without the rigid conformity and the McCarthyism, then you fundamentally misunderstand what made the 1950s tick.
Finally, there’s the fact that the 1950s ended in the 1970s. In the 1950s, American products were envied all over the world; by 1980, they were a joke. This is not some radical disconnect; it is the beginning and end of the same process. The technocratic American institutions became sclerotic agents of inertia. Bosses whose pay was capped poured their energy into building personal empires instead of personal fortunes. Unions like the UAW began making demands on their companies so heavy that even the UAW president who had negotiated these amazing pay increases began to fear that his members had lost their minds.
Full post here.
“On the historical evidence, practically the only time the federal government runs a surplus is when one party holds Congress and the other the White House. While it is probably true that Obama is, as one commenter put it, not a Kenyan but a Swede, that his ideal is to make the U.S. into something more like a European welfare state, he is also a Chicago politician, unlikely to let his principles get in the way of his politics. Faced with a congress controlled by the other party, a substantial minority of it in favor of a sharp reduction in government expenditure and regulation, he might well decide that his best strategy is to outflank the Republicans on the right. He has already made a few gestures in that direction, in rhetoric if not yet in substance.” — David Friedman, answering “Who is the Least Bad Candidate?”
If you care about maximizing government revenue that is:
Most of the discussion by economists of the appropriate capital gains tax rate is about a very narrow criterion: the effect of capital gains tax rates on capital gains tax revenues. But in a 2009 study done for the Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation (IRET), Ohio State University economist Paul D. Evans considers a broader criterion: the effect of capital gains tax rates on overall federal tax revenues.
What’s the difference? Because capital gains taxes discourage capital formation, they also cause other tax revenues to be lower. If there’s less capital formation, workers have less capital to work with and, therefore, are less productive. If they’re less productive, the government collects less tax revenue from them.
Professor Evans looks at data from the overall economy from 1976 to 2004, a period in which there was a lot of variation in the marginal tax rate on capital gains. He concludes that in 2004, the tax rate on capital gains that would have maximized overall federal government revenues was 9.69 percent. But if the government taxes to maximize revenues, the deadweight loss from the last epsilon of tax increase is infinity. Therefore, if the revenue-maximizing capital gains tax rate was 9.69 percent, the optimal tax rate was even lower. So a greedy, grasping government that wants to maximize tax revenues should cut the marginal tax rate on capital gains and if that government cares at all about taxpayers, it should cut the rate even further.
It makes me think my friend Jon is more right on foreign policy than I give him credit for. Video can be found here. David Henderson discusses it here and in the comments.
University Of Chicago economist John Cochrane writes:
Intuitively, this is related to the theorem that you shouldn’t tax intermediate goods, or have tariffs for moving goods around the country. Romney’s income was taxed once, when he made it. It’s not efficient to tax it again, because he chose to save it rather than spend it immediately on an orgy of houses, private jets, and a big vacation for his extended family.
If you made money in dollars, paid taxes, then went to Canada and got $1.20 Canadian, it would make no sense to say “you made 20 cents of income, we’ll tax it.” It makes no more sense to pay taxes again on money that is moved over time. We decry that Americans don’t save enough, the Chinese, the trade deficit and so on. Well, if you want people to save more, stop taxing it.
For this reason, the U.S. Tax code has been slowly reducing the taxation of rates of return. Capital gains and dividends are now taxed less than ordinary income. IRAs, 401(k), 526, and a welter of other devices allow people to save and invest without paying taxes on the rates of return. (It would be much simpler to just eliminate taxes on rates of return, but then the lawyers and accountants would have nothing to do.) Dividends are finally taxed at the same rate as capital gains. Estate taxes have been slowly and chaotically lowered.
Full post can be found here.
A worthwhile clip.
“Conservatives will also find that Europe is much less open to immigration than the United States, that Europe generally has much lighter taxation of investment income, that few European countries uphold American-style strong separation of church and state, that European countries generally afford accused criminals fewer procedural rights, and that Europe has much less in the way of product liability and class action lawsuits. What’s more, though there are a few exceptions (Sweden comes to mind), Europe as a whole is more conservative in its gender norms in many ways. Women’s workforce participation rates are lower, fewer children are born to single parents, and there are many more legal restrictions on abortion. ” – Matthew Yglesias, on the important difference between Europe that conservatives would find surprising
What about life expectancy statistics — a favorite of the critics, since Americans don’t score very high? It turns out that when you remove outcomes doctors have almost no impact on — death from fatal injuries (car accidents, violent crime, etc.) — U.S. life expectancy jumps from 19th in the world to number one! — John Goodman, answering the question, Do We Really Spend More and Get Less with regard to Healthcare?
University Of Chicago economics professor, and Paul Krugman nemisis, John Cochrane is now blogging. For those interested, add his blog to your blogroll.
Glenn Greenwald nails it:
The parallel reality — the undeniable fact — is that all of these listed heinous views and actions from Barack Obama have been vehemently opposed and condemned by Ron Paul: and among the major GOP candidates, only by Ron Paul. For that reason, Paul’s candidacy forces progressives to face the hideous positions and actions of their candidate, of the person they want to empower for another four years. If Paul were not in the race or were not receiving attention, none of these issues would receive any attention because all the other major GOP candidates either agree with Obama on these matters or hold even worse views.
Progressives would feel much better about themselves, their Party and their candidate if they only had to oppose, say, Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann. That’s because the standard GOP candidate agrees with Obama on many of these issues and is even worse on these others, so progressives can feel good about themselves for supporting Obama: his right-wing opponent is a warmonger, a servant to Wall Street, a neocon, a devotee of harsh and racist criminal justice policies, etc. etc. Paul scrambles the comfortable ideological and partisan categories and forces progressives to confront and account for the policies they are working to protect. His nomination would mean that it is the Republican candidate — not the Democrat — who would be the anti-war, pro-due-process, pro-transparency, anti-Fed, anti-Wall-Street-bailout, anti-Drug-War advocate (which is why some neocons are expressly arguing they’d vote for Obama over Paul). Is it really hard to see why Democrats hate his candidacy and anyone who touts its benefits?
Full post can be found here.
“Take housing, for example. The cheapest form of housing is small, prefabricated homes for zero-lot developments. However, zoning regulations in most cities outlaw them — an act that effectively doubles the price of the cheapest housing. There are also other expensive restrictions on new housing, such as forcing builders to build on bigger lots and mandating specific types of materials and construction methods. Regulations vary widely across the United States. In Houston, a less restrictive city, regulatory costs add about $13,200 to the price of an average home. In San Diego, a multitude of regulations add $240,000. These cost-increasing regulations have essentially priced many low-income residents out of the market for a private home, forcing them to turn to public housing instead.” – John Goodman, arguing that the left’s entire approach to poverty is to segregate the poor into inferior public provision, while the rest of society enjoys the benefits of quasi-private provision.
NYU economist Mario Rizzo gives a list of some of the questions and issues that serious people ought to consider on inequality:
- There seems to be very little concern, in the popular press, for the causes of unequal distribution. This includes, especially, the causes of the increasing unequal distribution over the past few decades. (However, recessions seem to be good for reducing income at the top.) Reformers should always consider causes before advising cures.
- There is a confounding of the results of a process that produces a distribution with the process itself. If person A steals money from person B, I object to the process (theft) first and foremost, and not to the resultant distribution of wealth. I really don’t care if it results in a more equal or less equal distribution.
- If there is something wrong with the rules-of-the-game, that is, the process that generates wealth and income distribution, let us attend to that. For example, if people are getting rich because of the warfare state or because the institutions they work for are bailed out by taxpayer money, let us address those issues.
- What exactly constitutes a more just distribution? The economist Paul Samuelson (and other amateur “moral philosophers”) used to equate, in his textbook, equity with greater income equality. (He famously, but ignorantly, said that the Soviet Union “chose” greater equity at the expense of efficiently – but nevertheless they would surpass us in wealth soon, anyway.)
- Justice does not simply imply equality. Sometimes it implies equality and sometimes inequality (as when the criminal gets his punishment, but the rest of us do not).
- Is it important that the positive entitlement to resources must be bought with the effort of others who might believe they have better uses for their money?
- Why should the hierarchy of values that emerges out a political system — based on favors, special interests, power-plays, (rationally) ignorant voters, self-interested politicians, and people much less moral than you and me – dominate over my and your moral judgments?
- Do the putative moral claims of the “poor” stop at the water’ edge? Given that the poor of the US are rich by world standards, what kind of objective morality of distributive justice allows that “our” poor get preference over, say, North Korea’s poor? Do we have a tribal morality?
- To what extent are the commentators (law professors and economists especially included) trying to publicly signal their “goodness” by using their technical skills to come up with schemes that pander to unthought-out popular prejudices. After all, how much respect from the general public can academics get by coming up with some theorem on the quasi-transitivity of preferences, or what not?
- Last, but not least, do the redistributioners have any idea how the so-called welfare state works in practice? Do they know how the state uses one hand to make the poor poorer (unseen) and uses the other hand to help them out (seen)? Do they see the coming bankruptcy of the welfare state?
Full post can be found here.
Bloomberg Businessweek reports:
Moments before a single-engine aircraft and a helicopter collided over the Hudson River near Manhattan in 2009, an air-traffic controller who should have been advising the plane’s pilot was on the phone, joking with an airport worker about a dead cat.
Nine people, including three teenage boys, died. The Teterboro, New Jersey, controller, whom safety investigators said was distracted and partly to blame for the accident, still works for the Federal Aviation Administration. Although the agency tried to fire him, his punishment was reduced to a suspension, a transfer and a demotion.
What happened to the controller isn’t surprising, according to data obtained by Bloomberg News under the Freedom of Information Act. More than four of every 10 air-traffic workers the FAA tried to fire over almost two years kept their jobs or were allowed to retire, the data show. That included two-thirds of those targeted for firing over drug or alcohol violations.
The FAA’s firing rate, as a percentage of its total workforce, is similar to that of other federal agencies, where disciplinary terminations are also rare, government data show.
Federal workers have due-process protections to prevent wholesale firings when a new administration comes to power. Union contracts provide another layer of protection.
The full article can be found here.
Leftists like to portray the European economic model as more “poor” friendly than the United States economic model. But that depends on what your preferences are: if you are poor and would prefer less disposable income with more government services, then yes, the European model would be preferable. However, if you are poor and would prefer more disposable income with less government services, then no, the European model would not be preferable. It all depends on your preferences.
Economist Tim Taylor, in contrasting government redistrubition trends around the world points this out:
On the tax side, the U.S. tax code is already highly progressive compared with these other countries. The OECD published at 2008 report called “Growing Unequal: Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries, which states (pp. 104-106): “Taxation is most progressively distributed in the United States, probably reflecting the greater role played there by refundable tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. … Based on the concentration coefficient of household taxes, the United States has the most progressive tax system and collects the largest share of taxes from the richest 10% of the population. However, the richest decile in the United States has one of the highest shares of market income of any OECD country.After standardising for this underlying inequality … Australia and the United States collect the most tax from people in the top decile relative to the share of market income that they earn.”
This finding is surprising to a lot of Americans, who have a sort of instinctive feeling that Europeans must be taxing the rich far more heavily. But remember that European countries rely much more on value-added taxes (a sort of national sales tax collected from producers) and on high energy taxes. They also often have very high payroll taxes to finance retirement programs. These kinds of taxes place a heavier burden on those with lower incomes.