75 Hour Work Week? Yeah, Right!

Long HoursSarah Kliff over at WonkBlog has written a very useful employment article. It isn’t useful for employment. It is useful for telling your friends who claim that they work 80 hours per week that they’re wrong. Kliff puts it more bluntly: Your friend who claims to have a 75-hour work week? He’s probably lying.

I’m not going to bore you with lots of facts and figures—and graphs, because Kliff works for Ezra Klein (you can imagine what their parties are like). Instead, I’ll give you the take home: the more people work, the more they over estimate how much they work. People who work 40 hours per week, tend to overstate their hours by two. But it goes way up from there. People who claim to work 60 hours per week, really work 50 hours. But there is a wrinkle. People who claim to work 75 hours per week, also work 50 hours!

A much better gauge of this is not “How many hours do you work in a typical week?” This number is understandably vague and error prone. A much better question is, “How many hours did you work last week?” In this case, people are much better. People who claim to work 60 hours per week, really work 54 hours. Those who claim 75 hours, really work 60 hours.

There are two take aways from this. First, don’t ask people how many hours they work. Ask them how many hours they worked last week. Second, tell them they’re full of shit.


An interesting aspect of this is that people who work part time claim to work less than they actually do. So if you’re working part time, make sure you get paid for all your hours!

Canadian Supreme Court Rules Right

Canadian Supreme CourtFrom Friday’s The Globe and Mail: “Workplace computers contain so much personal information nowadays that employees have a legitimate expectation of privacy in using them, the Supreme Court of Canada said in a major ruling Friday.”

Imagine the American Supreme Court finding this way! It won’t happen any time soon.

Another reason to vote for Obama. Not that it will be enough. Not nearly enough.

Government Is Not Business

Romney - No We Can't - NopeAdam Davidson has an interesting column over at the New York Times, Do Good C.E.O.’s Make Good Presidents? Mostly, the article is about the differences between running a state and running the federal government. The truth is that governors have very little effect on how well their economies improve. This is because they don’t have deficit spending as a tool the way that the President does.

I find it funny when Obama notes the strong economy in Ohio, conservatives always point out that Ohio has a Republican governor. But Ohio’s economic strength is due almost exclusively to President Obama and the GM bailout. John Kasich’s effect is minor if it exists at all.

Adam Davidson discusses Bobby Jindal’s tax reform in Louisiana. Louisiana is doing a lot better recently. But changing the tax code only helps the economy by convincing companies in other states to move there. This doesn’t create jobs generally. (This is a big problem and the reason that state taxes are so regressive.) And as the article points out, Louisiana is coming back largely thanks to federal stimulus following Katrina.

It is only at the end of the article that Davidson finally gets to the issue of CEOs as Presidents. Davidson writes:

These predictions suggest that it is in everyone’s interest to channel at least some of the benefits of high-growth businesses toward preparing the undereducated for a very different 21st century. These are not problems that any business executive has to deal with. When people or divisions at a company consistently underperform, they’re usually let go. For the president, of course, this isn’t an option.

And that is the key of it. Businessmen make money by laying off people. That doesn’t work for the economy as a whole. I think progressives need to talk more about this. The fact is that most people don’t understand it. And as a result, they deify businessmen, who may have skills, but they are exactly the opposite skills necessary to run the government.

Pity the Billionaire

Pity the BillionaireIn the introduction to The Great Unraveling, Paul Krugman discusses Henry Kissinger’s PhD dissertation. In it, Kissinger deconstructs revolutionary movements. One thing that defines these movements is their rejection of political norms. Krugman talks about it in relation to the Bush Administration. He notes that after scandals where earlier administrations—both Democrat and Republican—would have forced a resignation, Bush did nothing.

We see this same thing in the revitalized right. Where normally they would have been contrite about the mess their policies had made of the economy, they instead doubled down. (And tripled down. And quadrupled down. And quintupled down…)

In his new book Pity the Billionaire, Thomas Frank takes on the question of why the financial crisis causes half the political spectrum to do this. As usual with Frank, the book is insightful and funny as hell. But that doesn’t mean it is right. The thesis of the book is that after the crisis, the right organized and channeled public anger but the left did not. This is not what happened at all.

After the crash, there was right wing anger and left wing anger. The Tea Party movement did indeed organize the right. And had the left been better organized, they might have pealed off a few followers from the Tea Party. But that’s about it.

When the Occupy Wall Street movement formed, the right did not join in with the group—even though what it was saying was very much in line with what the Tea Party has always claimed to believe—even while they consistently support politicians who are primarily social conservatives.

I think there are two aspects to this. First is that as Krugman noted, the right is a revolutionary movement. As long as they still exist, they will never tack to the middle. (The Republican Party could, however, be taken over by more moderate people.) The solution to any policy failure will be ever more ideologically pure policy. You know, “The reason for the financial crisis was that we were still regulating it too much!”

The other aspect of this is how the media treat movements. When you get down to it, what is the Tea Party movement? A group of Republicans! That’s it. Why should it be treated as something different, much less new.

The reason the Republicans did so well in 2010 was not because they were well organized—much less because they changed a lot of minds. They won because liberals stayed home. Certainly, you can attribute this to a lack of organizing on the part of Democrats. But mostly it is just the apathy of power.

Sad Morning

George McGovernIt’s a sad morning. First I get news that George McGovern died after only a couple of days in hospice. Then Michael Stickings over at The Reaction reports that the new PPP poll of likely voters in Ohio gives Obama only a 1% lead over Romney. It seems like liberalism has died today.

The 1972 election is the first one that I remember. And for years it seemed that he was a joke to most people. Americans love a winner and even after Nixon’s ignoble departure from the White House, few rethought McGovern. Things only got worse during the “Reagan Revolution.” But in recent years I was pleased to see McGovern going around proudly owning the label “liberal” and explaining what it meant.

I’m not quite certain what to make of the new polling out of Ohio. For one thing, Obama has polled consistently poorly with PPP in recent weeks. I know that PPP is a liberal group, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes; the whole “likely voter” calculation is difficult. What’s more, polls have been all over the board. And most encouraging, Nate Silver (taking into account the newest PPP poll) still gives Obama a 70% chance of winning the state.

There are so many terrible things that will happen if Romney becomes president. But what I’m focused on are the long term consequences to our political system. If elected, he will dismantle our social safety net and cause inequality to go up even further. But in spite of this, the economy is set for recovery. Unless Romney really screws up, we will see about 9 million new jobs created in the next four years. This will be used by the right to claim that their policies are the reason. And the low information voters who seem to determine each election will go right along as the United States’ government becomes ever more conservative while its people remain relatively liberal.

Michael Stickings is right that we need to do all we can to win this election. And I have one more reason: let’s win this one for McGovern!

Update (21 October 2012 8:45)

From the New York Times obituary:

“I always thought of myself as a good old South Dakota boy who grew up here on the prairie,” he said in an interview for this obituary in 2005 in his home in Mitchell. “My dad was a Methodist minister. I went off to war. I have been married to the same woman forever. I’m what a normal, healthy, ideal American should be like.

“But we probably didn’t work enough on cultivating that image,” he added, referring to his campaign organization. “We were more interested in ending the war in Vietnam and getting people out of poverty and being fair to women and minorities and saving the environment.

“It was an issue-oriented campaign, and we should have paid more attention to image.”

Mr. McGovern offered his own assessment of the campaign. “I don’t think the American people had a clear picture of either Nixon or me,” he said in the 2005 interview. “I think they thought that Nixon was a strong, decisive, tough-minded guy and that I was an idealist and antiwar guy who might not attach enough significance to the security of the country.

“The truth is, I was the guy with the war record, and my opposition to Vietnam was because I was interested in the nation’s well-being.”

McGovern received the Distinguished Flying Cross in World War II.

Update (27 October 2012 9:52)

Eric Alterman has the best McGovern obituary I’ve read at the Center for American Progress. Alterman’s theme is courage—real courage, not the spray on kind so popular among modern conservatives. I don’t suppose we can repeat it often enough: it takes no courage to send other people’s sons and daughters to fight a war.

Clearly, McGovern had the kind of courage that led him to say and do whatever he thought was right, regardless of what it led others to say about him. When he felt that his party was moving too far right in 1984, he risked ridicule again by challenging his party’s presidential candidates in the primary season, even suggesting that one of his opponents and the party’s eventual nominee Walter Mondale’s calls for higher taxes to pay for essentially Republican goals was not the best direction for the Democratic Party to take. His key phrase, “Don’t throw away your conscience,” was a decidedly politics-free declaration at the time (and ours).

Here is George McGovern’s 1972 acceptance speech that no one saw: