Required reading while I’m on vacay


Crossposted from


Mark and I are headed off to Sedona until Wednesday but I wanted to leave a post before we left. Read these things!

First, read Rebecca Schoenkopf’s tribute to Jimmy Carter, which is the best.

Jimmy Carter has liver cancer. Jimmy Carter is 90 years old. Jimmy Carter is one of the great Americans, if you count a globetrotting sense of adventure coupled with near-constant service to his nation and our earth. And he is fer fucking sure the greatest ex-president alive today.

Let me add my own pecunious reason for loving President Carter for all time. He was elected when I was eight years old and left office when I was twelve. This is a very important time in a child’s life in terms in intellectual development, since it’s after the lizard brain stuff and before it all goes to shit when puberty sets in. What I remember most about Jimmy Carter’s administration was his emphasis on energy efficiency. The indelible affect it left upon me was how you should set the thermostat. No higher than 65 degrees in the winter and no lower than 78 in the summer. In adulthood I have followed this rule as if it were a Biblical precept. Jimmy Carter has probably saved me thousands of dollars, for real. Stay strong, Jimmy!

Next, read Blake Morlock of Tucson Sentinel on the bus strike in that city.

One of the least discussed aspects of the 1 percent versus 99 percent paradigm is how the 99 percent need to at least try to bargain up their wage based on the value they create for an employer.

Workers who take the first salary offer as the last salary offer need to learn how to bargain better. My empirical experience in Tucson is that workers negotiate salaries by first thanking employers for giving them a job and then agreeing to punch themselves daily as a show of unworthiness for the gift they have been given.

No, Virginia, jobs don’t come from Santa Claus. No one “gives you one.” You are hired to do work that needs being done to add value to a company. Workers get a cut of that percentage. How much is often up to the worker being a dick about it.

So, the problem is not bus drivers wanting to make more money. Instead in the United States, and especially Tucson, it is workers not valuing their contribution enough to demand more money.

Maybe, just maybe, if we all wake up in a world tomorrow where bus drivers earn a better living than half of the other workers in town, everyone else will start demanding their value. Remember, a wage is a negotiation. You are worth what someone is willing to pay. If you are thankful for the job and think your labor is a dime an hour, you aren’t likely pushing. In other words: why should Sun Tran workers suffer because no one else in town knows how to bargain?

It’s called savvy bargaining when a comfortable and well-fed businessman does it but when a lowly worker does it’s somehow offensive? GMAFB. And hell, who among us with our “higher” skills would be able to drive a city bus if that job were suddenly thrust upon us? That has looked difficult to me since I started taking buses as a kid (between age eight and twelve, and I knew it at the time).

Finally, and because (for my arbitrary purposes) it seems to tie the aforementioned topics together, behold the wisdom of this neo-conservative from the Chicago Tribune:

Envy isn’t a rational response to the upcoming 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

But with Aug. 29 fast approaching and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu making media rounds, including at the Tribune Editorial Board, I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops.

That’s what it took to hit the reset button in New Orleans. Chaos. Tragedy. Heartbreak.

Residents overthrew a corrupt government. A new mayor slashed the city budget, forced unpaid furloughs, cut positions, detonated labor contracts. New Orleans’ City Hall got leaner and more efficient. Dilapidated buildings were torn down. Public housing got rebuilt. Governments were consolidated.

The whole thing is basically a neo-conservative wet dream. A very ugly one at that. Like they’re telling you what they really think because it’s okay to do that now. Yikes.

See y’all Wednesday!


  1. “It’s called savvy bargaining when a comfortable and well-fed businessman does it but when a lowly worker does it’s somehow offensive?”

    It isn’t a metter of being offensive, Donna, it is a matter of having skills that are in high demand and low supply. As Bob Lord has pointed out repeatedly, Law School graduates were once in a position to negotiate their salaries when they graduated, but today they are fortunate to even find jobs in the legal field. And when they do, they certainly don’t negotiate their salaries anymore.

    As far as your example of a bus driver is concerned, it is a task that can be taught in a few weeks, so what they pay for is years of safe driving, not the ability to drive. And, generally speaking, it turns out that is how they are hired.

    When you say people should not be grateful to their employer when they have a job, I disagree. A job is not an entitlement, it is an agreement you enter into with someone else who has created the job. You exchange your skills, time and labor for their money. If you have high level skills, you are in a position to negotiate more vigorously for your level of compensation because there are fewer who have the same level of skills. If you have a low level of skills, your ability to negotiate is less because there are many others who have the same level of skils who will work for less. Granted, that is a simplistic overlay of how it works, but, in general, that is how it works. Every time we try and introduce artificialty into the the process, such as the “living wage”, unintended consequence (always negative) occur that make things worse than they were before we tinkered with the system.

    • Not so fast, Steve. I made that point about lawyers, but the ones who do find jobs make decent wages, perhaps not what they did a decade ago, but decent.

      With bus drivers and any group who are somewhat fungible from the perspective of the employer, they should be represented by a union or they have no chance at the bargaining table. Why? Because a negotiated price is supposed to represent the price at which a willing buyer and willing seller agree, neither being under a compulsion to buy or sell. If a bus driver negotiates his own wage, however, the negotiation is corrupted, because he’s under a compulsion to sell his labor, since he won’t eat if a deal is not reached. So, we need unions to overcome that problem.

      • Thank you for the correction, Bob. I misunderstood what you said. I just recalled your discussion that when gluts occur in any field of labor, the cash value of that labor tends to drop also.

        I agree with you that labor unions do assist workers in stabilizing and providing graduated increasing scales of pay for labor provided. Unfortunately, I also seem to recall that only a small percentage of American workers are represented by a union. In 2013, the rate for the private sector was 6.7%, and for the public sector 35.3%. That means a lot of workers are not represenyed by a union and what I was saying should apply to them. In all honesty, though, I can see your point that greater power is probably vested in the employer than the applicant.

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