Politics

 

The U.S. national debt is a terrifyingly huge number, currently $19.9 trillion dollars and racing frantically to the $20,000,000,000,000 mark. If you were wondering whether it is going up at an unimaginable rate – wonder no more! In the mere 26 days between November 18, 2016, and December 14, 2016, the national debt rose by $97,769,384,008.

$98,000,000,000 in 26 days.

Continue reading National Debt Millennium

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Make it rainEarly settlers of the American Great Plains experienced what appeared to be a causal effect between newly cultivated fields, subsequent increases in rainfall, and resulting increases in crop yields. This perceived effect led many farmers to invest time and money into arid and previously unproductive land in the hope that the theory that “rain follows the plow” would prove a wise investment. It did not.

A “Convenient Truth”

Promoters of the western frontier such as railroad operators, real estate developers, journalists, and manifest destiny purveyors marketed the theory effectively and greatly increased interest in settling the west. Additionally, notable contributors in the scientific community (conveniently located at Midwestern universities) lauded the finding as a model to architect the cities of the future regardless of the previous habitability of the geography.

Why did people believe this? Being wrong (every so often) is to be human, so it is believable to see how people could have been swayed by this quintessential American idea – that the individual, through hard work, actually is her own savior. The western frontier was the perfect place for this type of idea to thrive and the beneficiaries of western expansion used this knowledge to their great advantage. My point is not to say that this idea isn’t true, but to stress the motivations and logic of the messenger.

Why didn’t the theory persist? The most obvious reason is that the previous apparent correlation between agriculture and rainfall ceased to exist (dust bowl). However, another reason why I would like to think the theory fell out of favor comes from another powerful American idea – that the fact that an opinion is popular doesn’t make it right. It is hard to oppose an idea as seemingly revolutionary as “rain follows the plow” when it appears to be working well and farm yields increase year-over-year; but how many people would believe this to be true if you heard it without being biased by the knowledge that farm yields had been increasing? Very few I would hope.

Judgment Call

When confronted with a new way of thinking, it is in all of our best interests to consider two questions about how potential “convenient truths” can sway you toward illogical beliefs:

  • Does my desire for this to be true/untrue outweigh my ability to logically consider the issue?
  • If I had no idea of the popularity of this issue, would I feel the same way about it?

Where are you being asked to plow in the hopes of making it rain?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Dana_Wilber

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There is a concept that it is the duty of policymakers to make laws that are not easily circumvented or whose purpose cannot be overshadowed by negative consequences of a strict application of the law. Unfortunately, laws with narrow legislative intent (that only address the concerns of a small portion of a larger population) often result in unintended negative consequences that affect other (previously content) populations.

Legislatures should be avoid changing general broad rules to address specific or anecdotal cases that are easily circumvented or whose narrow intent leaves others in a more vulnerable position.

A recent example of a law like this can be seen in the proposed Department of Labor regulations regarding overtime for salaried employees.

Current Rule:

Salaried employees who earn more than $23,660 a year ($455 a week) are ineligible for overtime even if they work more than 40 hours a week.

New Rule:

Raises the threshold to $50,440 ($970 a week) for ineligible status.

Employee Motivation(s)

This new regulation seems great at first!Overtime2

More hardworking salary employees will get paid for their overtime. The situation gets cloudier when you consider why people have jobs in the first place and their current primary motivator (income, personal satisfaction, or learning a valuable skill). It is extremely likely that every person will have jobs over their career where the primary motivator changes between the three pillars. Therefore, a law prioritizing one of these motivators (income) at the expense of another will act as a barrier for some people to find and keep what they deem to be meaningful work.

It is the right of every worker to place value on the aspects of employment that she considers the most important. This law would hinder that right.

Why does the concept of a “salary” even exist?

Stability (to employee) and consistency (across employees with same function).

A salary is the value based (vs. cost based) pricing model of the workplace. The company pays the employee for the value of the service she brings to the organization, not the cost for her to bring it.

It would breed extreme inefficiency (and illogical outcomes) in an organization if two managers who performed the same duties were paid under the new law. Inefficient manager (B) who worked 49 hours and received nine hours of overtime pay would be paid 34% more than the efficient manager (A), who gets her job done in 40 hours / week.

Overtime5

In this situation, manager B would surely be reprimanded to curb her extra hours or would be fired for her inability to efficiently perform the duties of the position. Meanwhile, the rest of the company, including the efficient manager A, has less capital to invest in the growth of the business and therefore less opportunity for success. This very sad outcome could have been avoided, but for the seemingly ‘reasonable’ law.

If this is a good system for people making a $50k salary, why doesn’t the same logic apply to a $150k salary?

In situations like this, benchmarking to a ‘reasonable’ number ($50k is neither too high nor too low) can lead you to say the policy is ‘reasonable’. This however would be a mistake. By replacing the reasonable number ($50k) with a less reasonable number ($150k), the policy’s effectiveness in accomplishing its intent is greatly diminished.

There are many people who make $90k or $130k per year salaries who work much more than 40 hours / week. Why don’t these people deserve the protection of the government? We all agree they don’t; but why not? It is probably because we all see these are skilled workers who likely need to work more than 40 hours / week to accomplish all they do. The way these people became skilled workers is by WORKING (many more than 40 hours / week). How do we expect the next generation of highly skilled and paid workers to progress if they cannot do so under their own value system?

By restricting people who must charge overtime to those under $50k salary, the law would actually hinder the long-term progress of those whom it seeks to help.

Opponent: If you want to work so bad, just waive your right to get overtime pay.

A waiver is likely a reasonable workaround for someone who actually values learning a valuable skill or the personal satisfaction of a particular job over overtime pay. However, if this type of waiver were allowed, it would completely undermine the intent of the law (to keep lower earners from being taken advantage of). If a waiver were allowed, bad companies would simply force encourage (overtly or covertly) employees to sign a waiver as part of their onboarding package and circumvent the entire law. This is the type of potential circumvention that legislators should avoid whenever possible.

Conclusion

Individuals should have a right to place value on their work experience as they see fit. This value could come in many forms including income, learning a valuable skill, or personal satisfaction depending on the life situation and future goals of the worker. Additionally, as shown by the example of manager B, affected workers can actually be hurt by being required to manage their time arbitrarily to 40 hours / week.

Links:

http://fortune.com/2016/01/06/overtime-lawsuits-rules/

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