Protecting Workers Is How We Protect the Economy

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Kate Harveston

Kate Harveston is originally from Williamsport, PA and holds a bachelor's degree in English. She enjoys writing about health and social justice issues. When she isn't writing, she can usually be found curled up reading dystopian fiction or hiking and searching for inspiration. If you like her writing, follow her blog, So Well, So Woman.

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42 Responses

  1. Avatar Pinky says:

    There’s an assumption in this article that reminds me of Andrew’s latest. This article assumes that opponents are divorcing the ideas of the economy and the people. Andrew assumes that some people are divorcing the numbers of affected people from the lives of affected people. Why are these assumptions being made? I care deeply about the economy and the statistics because they represent human lives. There’s no contradiction. The economy is the embodiment of the idea that I can provide for myself by producing what other people want. I actually have trouble imagining people who care about “the economy” or “the numbers” without caring about what they mean.

    This might also be why I hate the Gallery segment of the SOTU speech. When you say that thousands or millions of people are affected, I don’t need to see a single representative. I get it; unless it’s a situation that you’re making up completely, I’m willing to acknowledge that you can find one person who is affected. That doesn’t make it more real for me. Am I so alone in this?Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

      We do see this sort of segregation though, in discussions about globalism or minimum wage, where when people point out how these are bad for workers, other people point out that the current regulatory structures are “good for consumers”. As if consumer and workers aren’t the same people.

      Or we see it when the term “job creator” is invoked, as if job creation is something that happens independently of and antecedent to workers and consumers.

      What the pandemic is showing is that investors, workers, and consumers are all tied tightly together in an interdependent cycle.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        I see those things as different. We can have different roles in the economy, but we’re humans. This article seems like an accusation that we’re not thinking of the economic actors as humans.Report

        • Avatar Philip H in reply to Pinky says:

          We don’t. Corporations are now legally “people.” Thus its easy to see economic actors as something other then humans. And even in the aggregate those who do the work are still seen as only quasi-actors at best, though one would hope that 25% unemployment would change that view.Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to Philip H says:

            Corporations have always been legally people. The word incorporation literally means “to be turned into a person”. The rest is opining on how people view other economic actors, and I don’t think you’re making a supportable accusation.Report

            • Avatar Philip H in reply to Pinky says:

              Sure I am. Its why corporations got $500 Billion in the stimulus bill (and are now set to get it without oversight since it seems he can fire IGs with no blowback) and individuals only got $1200 and only if they meet certain arcane criteria. Its why small businessess are getting loans (if the banks play fair which the big ones aren’t yet) that will be forgiven if they pay people, but individual mortgage holders who are out of work will – at best – get additional payments and interest tacked on to their mortgages at the end of the loan. Its why health insurance companies won’t actually let policy holders of the hook for co-pays for treatment, while pockets funds from the two above sources. It’s why corporations took their last tax break (and the one before that) and bought their own stock back instead of increasing demand for goods and services by increasing worker pay. I could go on and on.

              Labor – people – are not going to come out better form this policy debacle precisely because they are not viewed by policy makers and politicians (much less CEO’s) as economic actors. they are not seen by those folks – who are controlling the levers – as in any way necessary for economic success. The cries of getting the economy back to work are not about them – those cries are about corporate bottom lines and short term profits.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Philip H says:

            Corporations are now legally “people.”

            I guarantee you this doesn’t mean what you think it means. For one, the Citizens United decision does not mention or in any way rely upon the idea that corporations are people.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Pinky says:

      I actually have trouble imagining people who care about “the economy” or “the numbers” without caring about what they mean.

      Re: your trouble imagining that type of cynicism: Have you seen The Wire?Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Stillwater says:

        No I haven’t. But that’s a “based-on” work of fiction. I can imagine that people accuse each other of being like that, because it happened in the article. I’m not sure that people *are* like that, or that it’s a significant number of people or anything more than a stray thought.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Pinky says:

          But that’s a “based-on” work of fiction.

          It’s a work of fiction created by a guy who spent 20 years or so as a beat reporter covering Baltimore politics and crime.

          Let’s go with a different example which excludes a bunch of US-oriented priors. Right now the Trump admin is criticizing the Chinese for lying about the severity of the epidemic in Wuhan, accusing them of reporting lower mortality rates than actually occurred. Implied in the argument is that the Chinese perceive (probably correctly) some discernible value in presenting the false data., ie., that the signal conveyed by (falsely) reporting lower mortality totals will influence people’s perceptions in the direction they’d prefer.

          Let’s suppose that’s correct. Is that an example of Chinese politicians/bureaucrats caring more about the numbers than what they mean?Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to Stillwater says:

            Yeah, kinda. It’s a communist government, which means they explicitly prioritize the economy over the individual. But even then, I don’t know how the individual bureaucrats feel about the victims. I’d assume they have compassion for them, even if they’re ordered to fudge numbers. I don’t have any proof that they’ve lost their empathy.Report

  2. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    When people think about “revolutionary moments”, I think they imagine something like French Revolution, or really the Reign of Terror phase of that, which was horrible and violent, and something like a carnival in a lunatic asylum. The French Revolution lasted for years. More importantly, there are bloodless revolutions too. More of them than we realize.

    I think what’s going on now isn’t a huge shift in terms of “Capitalism” or “The Economy” or any of those big things. It’s just that a whole bunch of different tiny norms seem suddenly irrelevant, you know? Sure, Capitalism and Globalization will probably move on just fine in a different form. But the way I take part in them will be different. Because the way I did before just don’t make a lot of sense After the Virus. And I suspect a lot of little things that I’m doing in reaction to this event are more common than I can tell. If we learn anything from this very bad time, it should be that collective action is possible.

    What it reminds me of, more than anything, is a decade before the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, when people were quietly going about their business- and they weren’t fighting in the streets or anything- it was just they *didn’t believe” anymore in the things the people at the top told them were true. It just feels like something in the background is *over*.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Yes, this is my sense of things as well, that this is more of a Chernobyl moment than a Pearl Harbor moment.

      The various institutions and entities are going through the motions of a liberal democracy, but lacking any faith in it.Report

  3. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    It took radical progressive thinking to lift the United States out of the Great Depression.

    After the first 8 years America really should have wondered if that “thinking” wasn’t part of the problem. We didn’t get out of the Depression until the World War forced FDR to turn his attention away from the economy.

    Whether his fight against inequality came at the expense of the economy is very much a question worth asking. Individual programs seem fine, but I’ve seen strong arguments he tanked a recovery or two in there.

    FDR’s radically progressive vision was so popular that the nation had to impose its first-ever presidential term limits to get him out of the White House.

    FDR died in 1945. The 22nd AM was passed in 1951.

    Most Presidents who serve two terms could go on to serve more. Washington set the tone by deciding more was a path to dictatorship.

    The Second Bill of Rights would have declared that every American has the right to a job, a “decent living,” an “adequate wage,” a “decent home,” health care, economic protection “during sickness, accident, old age or unemployment” and, finally, “a good education.”

    What happens if “the right to a job with a adequate wage” exists but NO ONE wants to hire me at that wage? Does the gov step in and have me twittle my thumbs at $30 an hour? Why should I try to be economically productive if jobs like that are the default?

    With the money Mr. Bezos makes in a single day, he could shutter every Whole Foods location in America and give each one of his employees paid sick leave.

    You are confusing income and wealth. Whole Foods has 91k employees, the CEO makes 15 million a year, ergo “paid sick leave” costs roughly fifty cents per person per year?

    Math from progressives when they’re talking about the rich gets interesting.

    On March 23, 2020, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, said on Fox News that elderly Americans should be willing to lay down their lives for the stock market:

    Dan Patrick said on Fox News Monday night that “lots of” grandparents would be willing to die in order to save the economy for their grandchildren…. The country will collapse if we shut down for three months.”

    He’s clearly talking about the economy, that thing which supplies jobs, money, taxes and so forth as opposed to just the stock market.

    this wealthy, lucky man is never actually going to have to perform the self-sacrifice he’s telling the rest of us to make.

    The interview with Patrick wasn’t done with him wearing a mask. Politicians meet lots of people.

    Dan Patrick is 70 years old and has 3+ grandchildren. Self-sacrifice is exactly what he was talking about.

    There doesn’t seem to be any federal-level effort to ensure people keep their homes and apartments…

    They haven’t come up with a single, sane, policy that treats the outback of Montana, the inner city of Detroit, and the streets of San Francisco as though they all have the same housing issues. Hmm… there’s probably a reason for that.

    As for inequality, good news! The stock market tanking has seriously narrowed the gap. So if that’s the yardstick we want to use to measure “good”, then the virus has been a massively good thing. IMHO that kind of result calls into question whether this is a sane yardstick.Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Dark Matter says:

      This formatted wrong and then I didn’t have the ability to edit it:

      There doesn’t seem to be any federal-level effort to ensure people keep their homes and apartments…

      They haven’t come up with a single, sane, policy that treats the outback of Montana, the inner city of Detroit, and the streets of San Francisco as though they all have the same housing issues. Hmm… there’s probably a reason for that.

      As for inequality, good news! The stock market tanking has seriously narrowed the gap. So if that’s the yardstick we want to use to measure “good”, then the virus has been a massively good thing. IMHO that kind of result calls into question whether this is a sane yardstick.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Dark Matter says:

      I figured you were going to go with “FDR’s progressivism was so popular that they had to invent paralysis and a stroke…”.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Pinky says:

        I don’t view “popular” as a measurement of good economic policy.

        Hugo Chavez was popular. Taxes are unpopular. Getting free stuff from the gov is popular.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Dark Matter says:

      “FDR died in 1945. The 22nd AM was passed in 1951.”

      But what about ZOMBIE FDR? All hail our Lich President, who hath conquered both Hitler and the grave!Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Dark Matter says:

      You are confusing income and wealth. Whole Foods has 91k employees, the CEO makes 15 million a year, ergo “paid sick leave” costs roughly fifty cents per person per year?

      No one said ‘The money Bezos is paid.’. They said how much he ‘makes in a single day’.

      Also…Bezos isn’t the CEO of Whole Foods, I don’t really understand what you’re trying to say. Bezos actually makes less than $100,000 a year in salary.

      He ‘makes his money’, and in fact has made most of his money, by his Amazon stock going up.

      And, thus, to exchange some of his income for health care, all he’d have to do is…have Amazon provide healthcare. Which would very slightly eat into Amazon’s earnings, decrease their stock gains.

      Let’s calculate that. Amazon stock gained over 20% the last three years, which at this point is approximately 200 billion dollars.

      Amazon has less than million employees, but let’s round up to that to a million. This means that the stock market thinks, right now, that each employee adds $200,000 per year in their total capitalization.

      And this isn’t ‘income’, this is _market cap_, it’s something should already take into account their current salaries, CEO salaries, and costs, and taxes, and everything. Amazon, as it is functioning right now, appears to be increasing their total stock in value each year by $200,000 per employee. That’s what the stock market thinks they are worth. (And heaven forbid we argue with the dumbass stock market.)

      I don’t know much about the cost of health insurance, but I do know you can insure someone for less than $200,000 a year! You can insure them for maybe three percent of of that…I’m not sure where all their workers are, but they tend to be in urbanish areas where a reasonable estimation of $6000 isn’t crazy.

      And all that would do is knock about three percent off the growth rate of Amazon stock, i.e, about six billion dollars. Leaving Amazon market cap gains at….194,000,000,000 this year. (Except not really, because it’s a pandemic and their usage has skyrocketed, and this will probably be their best year ever.)Report

      • Avatar Ozzzy! in reply to DavidTC says:

        This: “[amazon market cap is] approximately 200 billion dollars.”

        does not mean this:

        “the stock market thinks, right now, that each employee adds $200,000 per year in their total capitalization”

        For many, many, many reasons. Healthcare for Amazon workers has really good arguments for it, but I’d rethink this one some more.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Ozzzy! says:

          This: “[amazon market cap is] approximately 200 billion dollars.”

          That is not what I said. The amazon market cap is approximately 0.8 trillion dollars.

          It is _going up_ by roughly 200 billion dollars a year. Or approximately $200,000 per employee.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC says:

            Oh, heh, I misremembered. 0.8 trillion was what it was a year ago, it’s actually 1 trillion now.Report

            • Avatar Ozzzy! in reply to DavidTC says:

              Thanks for catching that error! That is a really big difference. Should I change the rest of my comment to fit this new amount?Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Ozzzy! says:

                I’m…not sure you actually followed my point. I wasn’t correcting the amount, the actual market cap of Amazon is not important here. I was correcting your assumption I was _talking_ about the market cap.

                What is important is how much the market cap is going up. How much it’s going up a year is the market’s ‘perceived yearly net profit’ of Amazon.

                This is not the _actual_ net profit, of course, and if someone wants to argue the market is stupid and bad at valuing things…I’m the wrong person to argue the other side of that. I agree completely.

                However, despite the market cap and stock price often being disconnected from reality, it’s officially What We’re Supposed To Care About.

                And Amazon can, in theory, spend somewhere near that amount and come out neutral in stock price.

                The worse case scenario they could issue that much stock, and, yes, I’m issuing _that much_ stock would cause rather a lot of moment, but I’m not talking about that much.

                Or they could just…you know, insure people out of their profits, which…decrease their profits a little, and thus would slow the stock gains slightly, which in this magical world where the stock market is always right and makes perfect sense, would exactly decrease their market cap by the amount spent.

                (Or, in theory, actually less…surely providing health insurance provides at least _some_ benefit to Amazon, if only in slightly increased retention. I’m not saying it would counteract the amount spent, but the _entire amount_ shouldn’t be reflected. It could cost them $6000 a year per employee, and then provide a savings of $1000 or something.)Report

              • Avatar Ozzzy! in reply to DavidTC says:

                I understood.

                “How much it’s going up a year is the market’s ‘perceived yearly net profit’ of Amazon”

                This is wrong (or very poorly worded).

                “And Amazon can, in theory, spend somewhere near that amount and come out neutral in stock price.”

                This is wrong.

                “The worse case scenario they could issue that much stock, and, yes, I’m issuing _that much_ stock would cause rather a lot of moment, but I’m not talking about that much.”

                If amazon issues stock the value of the company doesn’t change, the price of each share changes. No ‘profit’ is created by selling new shares of stock, just money is just transferred.

                “Or they could just…you know, insure people out of their profits, which…decrease their profits a little, and thus would slow the stock gains slightly, which in this magical world where the stock market is always right and makes perfect sense, would exactly decrease their market cap by the amount spent.”

                This makes the same mistake above in conflating a one time amount with an annual cost in perpetuity and then comparing it to a best guess of all the future earnings into forever.

                IDK David, I just think you are dividing numbers here and assuming the ratio stays the same. Then you do other things with that same ratio and say See? Look how obvious this is.

                You have holes and gaps and missing effects in your assumptions here that are causing your conclusion to be wrong. That doesnt mean your goal is wrong, just that this line of reasoning is not the support you seem to think it is for your goal.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Ozzzy! says:

                Me: The worse case scenario they could issue that much stock, and, yes, I’m issuing _that much_ stock would cause rather a lot of moment, but I’m not talking about that much.

                You: If amazon issues stock the value of the company doesn’t change, the price of each share changes.

                I stand there and say ‘issuing a bunch of stock would cause movement in the stock market’, and you ‘correct’ me and point out issuing stock wouldn’t change the value of the company, just the stock price. You need to learn to read.

                No ‘profit’ is created by selling new shares of stock, just money is just transferred.

                Yes, the money is just transfered…to Amazon, the people selling the stock…who then can spend it on things…like insurance for employees. Do you…not understand how selling things works?

                And…I didn’t call it profit. In fact, I didn’t mention the word profit _with regard to that_. It’s not profit, it’s getting _additional investment_. The place I mentioned profit was when I said the company’s market cap is going up, and I said that _wasn’t_ profit, it’s a reflection of the market’s preception of profit.

                This makes the same mistake above in conflating a one time amount with an annual cost in perpetuity and then comparing it to a best guess of all the future earnings into forever.

                Oh, look, after pretending what I said made no sense, you finally admit it makes sense and apparently you just decided to waste everyone’s time arguing for no reason.

                So, to be EXTREMELY CLEAR: You understand that Amazon could generate money for itself by creating stock and selling it, which would have the side effect of slight reducing current stock gains. They could do this every year. They could then take that money, and spend it on health insurance.

                REPEAT THAT STATEMENT. Right here. In the reply to me. I want to make sure you actually understand what I am saying. Because I am really tired of this.

                Now you have a ‘real’ objection or at least an objection that is actually in the universe I proposed instead of what you imagined: Amazon might have their market cap increase slow down, or even start going negative in the future, and not able to continue doing that.

                My answer to that objection is: I do not care. I simply do not care in any manner whatsoever what happens to Amazon, and I don’t see why a giant corporation that is apparently so profitable should be allowed to exist without providing basic benefits to employees.

                I could try to justify that more, but you have wasted this entire conversation on bullshit and I’m pretty much done here.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DavidTC says:

                “I stand there and say ‘issuing a bunch of stock would cause movement in the stock market’…”

                he means dilution, you idiot, not a market movement

                “Amazon could generate money for itself by creating stock and selling it…every year. They could then take that money, and spend it on health insurance.”

                lol

                you honestly think this shit works like bitcoin

                “[This] would have the side effect of slight reducing current stock gains.”

                um

                wait

                you say “They will just issue more stock and make more money! But slightly less money because they’ve issued stock!”

                so they issue stock and it makes less money than they would have got before

                so they issue more stock, and it makes even less money

                so they issue even more stock, and so on

                you’re a smart fella so I’m sure I don’t have to explain where this ends upReport

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DensityDuck says:

                you’re a smart fella so I’m sure I don’t have to explain where this ends up

                No, I think someone needs to explain it to you

                Stock devalues existing stock by a percentage of the stock that issued. If there are 100 shares currently issued, and 100 more issued, each share is worth half.

                Which means that as long as the amount issued each year is less than the amount the stock price goes up each year, the stock price will still go up…just less.

                I don’t know why this is even slightly confusing.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to DavidTC says:

                Does that mean you’d be good with every company with a falling stock price eliminating health benefits? We might be in a bear market so that could be pretty grim, especially for the month of March.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Dark Matter says:

                As an aside, my point wasn’t really the stock price, it was about profitability…the problem is that companies are really good at hiding their profits, doing things that make them not ‘profits’, and thus we end up having to take their stock price (well, market cap) as an indication of that. The company had a market cap at $X last year, it is valued at $X+$Y this year, the total value of the company appears to have increased, in some conceptual sense, by $Y, even if _mysteriously_ that’s not the amount of profits reported.

                Like Amazon. Amazon reported somewhere around $31 billion in gross profit last year. But as I said…the total market cap of the company went up by $200 billion. If the owners of the company sold it, they’d come out $200 billion ahead of last year. And thus it’s wildly silly to pretend it made only $31 billion, if you see my point. (Heh. ‘Only’ $31 billion.)

                Anyway, saying ‘A really profitable company should be able to provide basic things to employees’ is not thus saying ‘And thus unprofitable companies shoud be able to get away with not providing basic things to employees’.

                We make everyone follow OSHA rules, for example. We don’t say ‘Oh, man, it’s been a bad year for Ace Chemicals, you can put off replacing that railing over that vat of chemicals.’

                But we still get more outraged when a company that clearly _can_ afford basic things doesn’t. Whereas we have some sympathy for companies that legitimately can’t afford it.

                (Now, we don’t make small companies provide health insurance, but that’s not really to do with profitability…it’s to do with the fact that insurance pools of 6 people are not actually ‘pools’, and if we made those companies buy insurance their insurance company would charge them based on estimates of employee health, causing (quite justified) employment discrimination against people in poor health. Whereas with 200+ people it doesn’t particularly work that way.)Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to DavidTC says:

                Anyway, saying ‘A really profitable company should be able to provide basic things to employees’ is not thus saying ‘And thus unprofitable companies shoud be able to get away with not providing basic things to employees’.

                Why should a company’s profits be connected to how much it pays its employees? Especially since you don’t want any sort of roll back if the company has problems.

                Effectively you’re claiming highly profitable companies shouldn’t have low value employees. I’m not sure that ends up where you’d want it.

                …basic things to employees…

                I strongly dislike linking employment to HC insurance. It’s a bad idea for multiple reasons and I don’t view it as a “basic thing”.

                Big picture there needs to be room in the market for bad jobs so low value employees (like my younger teens) can work and start up the ladder.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Dark Matter says:

                (Note when I use the present tense here, it’s all pre-Covid. Just in case that’s confusing.)

                Effectively you’re claiming highly profitable companies shouldn’t have low value employees. I’m not sure that ends up where you’d want it.

                And you not being sure of that means I have lot of work to do on my communications, apparently.

                To be clear, I am 100%, absolutely, utterly saying that.

                Obviously some employees will be less valuable than others, but, yes, a company that is highly profitable should, in fact, spread that money across its workers.

                There’s a lot of vagueness there, but that is the reason I pointed out how much extra money Amazon had added to their market cap each year per worker. That was literally the point of that, to show Amazon specifically could trivially absorb the cost of healthcare across their entire workforce with very little impact on their shareholders.

                That said…_even if did hurt shareholders_, Amazon should have to do it. Companies shouldn’t be allowed to be ‘highly profitable’ if their employees can’t afford damn healthcare or have to use government subsidies to get it.

                I was just pointing out, in this example, it wouldn’t. It would very slightly slow Amazon’s stock price’s absurd rise at best.

                Big picture there needs to be room in the market for bad jobs so low value employees (like my younger teens) can work and start up the ladder.

                And…stuff removed because I’m trying to be more consise, so straight to the point:

                When companies are required to provide health insurance, they usually don’t have to provide it to kids who are already on a health insurance plan. So…I don’t even know what you’re talking about here anyway!

                Oh…and the amount of minors that Amazon employs are…zero. Like…literally zero, at least knowingly. Why did you even bring that up?Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to DavidTC says:

                it’s all pre-Covid.

                Agreed.

                Oh…and the amount of minors that Amazon employs are…zero. Like…literally zero, at least knowingly. Why did you even bring that up?

                You are jumping back and forth between companies-in-general and “Amazon”. We’re not going to write “Amazon has special rules because of feelings” laws.

                In fact, with 80 million min-wage jobs, it’s impossible for teens to fill them…

                You’re confusing “hourly wage jobs” (of which there are 80 million) with min-wage jobs. A $1000/hour consultant is an hourly wage worker.

                According to the BLS, there are 701,000 min wage workers.

                For perspective 42 million people are 10-19 years old.

                Companies shouldn’t be allowed to be ‘highly profitable’ if their [low value] employees can’t afford damn healthcare or have to use government subsidies to get it.

                So either a company can pay their low value employees MUCH more than the market rate (i.e. more than their productivity), or it can play games on paper so those jobs aren’t theirs.

                So low value work will be sub-contracted out, rather than hire janitors they’ll hire a janitorial service and so on. This will hurt the people you’re trying to help multiple ways.

                1) Working your way up the food chain will become much harder because a transfer from low value job to higher value job will also be changing companies and not inter-company. You’re getting rid of a lot of opportunity here.

                2) All company benefits from the hugely profitable company will now no longer exist. For example, my company has educational benefits (i.e. they’ll pay for anyone to get/continue/further their degree). There are other all-company events and benefits that also will no longer apply.

                3) Simply being outside of the company’s structure removes a lot of access. Access is powerful but subtle. By volunteering for college recruiting events I was able to learn how that system works… and put my daughters on HR’s radar.

                And yes, I’m assuming companies follow the economic incentives you’re giving them and don’t simply pay their marginal employees a lot more than the value of their labor.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Dark Matter says:

                You are jumping back and forth between companies-in-general and “Amazon”. We’re not going to write “Amazon has special rules because of feelings” laws.

                No, we write rules saying that companies with more than X employees have to do that. Which…we already have, it’s part of the ACA. Most companies with more than 50 full-time employees must have 95% of those employees insured, or pay a rather large penalty to the IRS. It’s almost $4000 a employee per year, aka, it’s designed to cost them roughly the same as just providing the damn health insurance.

                The country actually had a big discussion about this back when it passed, with the claim that companies would hire less-full time workers and make more of them part-time.

                Which did happen a little, but that is…a whole different discussion, because that’s not what Amazon is doing. (It wouldn’t work anyway, Amazon has more than 50 employees just in marketing!) Amazon is just instead misclassifying most of their employees as contractors to exclude them entirely from the system.

                So either a company can pay their low value employees MUCH more than the market rate (i.e. more than their productivity), or it can play games on paper so those jobs aren’t theirs.

                It is trivially easy to stop companies from abusing the contractor classifications. California has already started doing it, with very simple rules: Independent contractors must be free to perform their work as they wish, must be in a different line of work from the company contracting with them, and must operate their own business.

                With those three rules, contracting goes back to what it was supposed to be…like as in the example you gave, of a janitorial service that comes in and cleans the office. Or the guy they pay to fix the computers once a month, or the random plumber they have to hire because of a burst pipe, or, hell, their law firm could count, depending on how it’s set up. Those are actual contractors, with actual outside businesses, that come in and do things the company itself doesn’t do. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

                But hundreds of thousands of people putting things in boxes in Amazon warehouses, directly overseen by Amazon, working Amazon-set hours under an Amazon boss, are not contractors. I mean, we can come up with a hypothetical where Amazon warehouses are truly separate companies from Amazon, but that just means the _warehouse_ company would have to provide health insurance. Like…the actual business of that place of employment is ‘put things in boxes and ship them out’, and thus…everyone there who is part of that system is an employee. Maybe the guy sweeping the floor, or even manning the security gate, isn’t, but…almost everyone is.

                But instead Amazon is claiming each employee is an independent contractor. Same with Uber and Lyft, same with a bunch of other places that have contractors that produce _every good and service_ the company makes, but those companies claim aren’t employees and they have no responsibility for _as already required by labor law_. And under current Federal law, they can do that, there’s basically no rules, and the rules that do exist aren’t enforced.

                But the fact we have not bothered to tighten the laws nationwide about that is a choice on our part that is easy to remedy.

                And note…this isn’t just to get around health insurance…it lets companies skip paying their half of payroll taxes, too. Which, yes, the ‘independent contractors’ _should_ pay instead, but…often they don’t, or even don’t have to.

                Oh, and this can be used to get around disability and workplace safety and discrimination rules…we have a lot of those that only apply to companies over 20 people, in an attempt to reduce the impact on very small businesses…and so if companies can pretend they have less than 20 employees, (and just happen to have another three dozen contractors), they can skip those.

                This is something that needs fixing outside of health insurance. We have a bunch of labor law that companies can just totally ignore by waving a magic wand and saying ‘contractor’.

                So low value work will be sub-contracted out, rather than hire janitors they’ll hire a janitorial service and so on. This will hurt the people you’re trying to help multiple ways.

                Um…okay. That already is contracted out? And…janitorial service example is legitimate thing to contact out. I don’t have a problem with that…and many of the janitorial services are large enough that _they_ provide health insurance. And if they aren’t…that’s what the ACA Marketplace is for.

                All company benefits from the hugely profitable company will now no longer exist. For example, my company has educational benefits (i.e. they’ll pay for anyone to get/continue/further their degree). There are other all-company events and benefits that also will no longer apply.

                The idea that large companies that don’t provide health insurance (Which, again, requires that they are already misclassifying employees) provide a _bunch of other benefits_ beside health insurance is…surreal, honestly.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to DavidTC says:

                The country actually had a big discussion about this back when it passed, with the claim that companies would hire less-full time workers and make more of them part-time.

                As far as I can tell, this is indeed a thing.

                But hundreds of thousands of people putting things in boxes in Amazon warehouses, directly overseen by Amazon, working Amazon-set hours under an Amazon boss, are not contractors.

                As far as I can tell, they already have the benefits you’re claiming they don’t.

                On top of Amazon’s $15 minimum wage, the company offers full-time employees industry-leading benefits, which include comprehensive healthcare from day one, 401(k) with 50 percent match, up to 20 weeks paid parental leave, and a flexible Ramp Back Program and Leave Share Program that allows employees to share their paid leave with their spouse or partner.

                https://www.aboutamazon.com/amazon-fulfillment/working-here/compensation-and-benefits

                I tried to figure out why you’d think there are “hundreds of thousands” of independent contractors working for Amazon and what I keep finding is some of their delivery people are that.

                Flex drivers are independent contractors in the truest sense: They choose their own shifts, use their personal cars to make deliveries, and don’t work when they don’t feel like it. Other drivers who deliver packages for Amazon, known as Delivery Service Partners (DSPs), work for private courier companies that are subcontracted by Amazon.

                However most of them seem to work for the previously mentioned “private courier companies” and aren’t even slightly “independent”. This brings us back to the whole “services are outsourced” thing.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Amazon offers reasonable benefits to _actual_ employees….who work in the hellish nightmare that is their company.

                However, from what I have understood, a lot of employees at Amazon fulfillment centers are not employees of Amazon, but rather of the warehouses…somehow. In addition to their delivery drivers, I guess.

                But perhaps they’ve stopped that specific way of ripping employees off? Or maybe that was just a few places.

                I honestly don’t know, and really don’t care, because the point ‘There is enough money to treat the workers’ better’, still apply anyway.

                I mean…even if they ahve insurance, you know what they don’t have? Any sort of Covid-19 protection, and Amazon is firing people who complain about that, or who complain about being forced to work, without sterilization, in fulfillment centers where workers actually had it.

                This something Amazon, again, really could easily afford for employee…hell, they literally _sell that_.

                Amazon is what happens with a company when it just goes full straight-up sociopath. They’ve gotten sued over and over and over and over for all sorts of crap. Like lack of air conditioning that caused workers to constantly pass out. Right now, there are people suing them because Amazon makes them go through the security screening for their lunch…leaving them not enough time to actually eat lunch.

                Actually, in trying to find this, I discovered something disturbing…a court decision I thought had gone one way had actually gone another. Amazon is still, as far as I can tell, making workers deal with anti-theft screening _off the clock_. I.e., they finish their shift, punch out, and then have to go through a security screening that they say can take up to 25 minutes. Now, I’m sure 25 minutes is the absolute longest…but the idea you can make workers do _anything_ after their shift is over, without getting paid for it, is…insane, legally. (The Supreme Court appears to think, inexplicably, it’s legal as long as it’s not the company’s core business. So…Amazon can’t make workers ship packages after they clock out, but…can make them…wash manager’s cars? Iron uniforms? What’s the logic there?) And this is Amazon which…could very, very, very easiest afford another 10 minutes (Or whatever the average is.) on the clock a shift per workers.

                This is all in addition to _normal_ shitty corporate behavior, like union busting. Amazon manages abnormal even for a bad company. Like…at least when Walmart steals wages by having employees work off the clock, they do it at the _store_ level, and _hide_ it, and don’t try to defend it in court. And…they try not to have workers pass out.

                Oh, here’s a fun one: Amazon is making _warehouse workers_ sign non-competes and NDA. Even seasonal workers have to sign non-competes, insanely. (I wonder if they get health insurance?)

                So I don’t know. Maybe Amazon actually are providing the health insurance requires by law to the majority of their workers. It’s be nice to think that. Kinda odd they’re quibbling about their delivery workers, though. Why? I suspect they have a lot of people like that, it’s just the Flex drivers have made themselves known via lawsuit.

                Amazon is one of the most profitable companies in the world and can afford not screw their employees over. But it does anyway. Apple doesn’t do that. Google doesn’t do that. ExxonMobile doesn’t do that. JPMorgan doesn’t do that. Bank of American doesn’t do that. (Some of those may screw over _customers_, but that’s different.)Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DavidTC says:

                “the total market cap of the company went up by $200 billion. ”

                which means next to nothing in respect to revenue or profit, you dickhead

                it’s actually funny that you’re going after amazon over this when they are notorious for having ridiculously high market cap compared to their actual earningsReport

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DensityDuck says:

                it’s actually funny that you’re going after amazon over this when they are notorious for having ridiculously high market cap compared to their actual earnings

                Uh…you realize I’m not going after Amazon ‘for this’, right? I don’t give a damn what morons have hyped their stock to be.

                I’m going after Amazon for failure to provide health insurance.

                And as I mentioned a while back, if you want to pretend that the market cap is meaningless (Which…have you told all the people that who insist that ‘return to shareholders’ is the only thing companies should care about? Because I’m getting pretty big mixed signals here.)…Amazon made $31 billion in _actual_ earnings last year.

                Providing each employee with $6000 worth of health insurance each year would cost it roughly 20% of that.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to DavidTC says:

        They said how much he ‘makes in a single day’.

        “makes in a single day” reasoning is silly because it implies it’s personal cashflow and not networth value of a company. It’s from the mindset that views the rich as McDuck when is it’s the valuation of a company.

        Amazon has less than million employees, but let’s round up to that to a million. This means that the stock market thinks, right now, that each employee adds $200,000 per year in their total capitalization.

        You’re assuming Amazon owns no buildings, software, computers, or any other assets other than those employees. You’re also making other mistakes.

        And this isn’t ‘income’, this is _market cap_, it’s something should already take into account their current salaries, CEO salaries, and costs, and taxes, and everything.

        Market capitalisation isn’t cash flow.

        Amazon, as it is functioning right now, appears to be increasing their total stock in value each year by $200,000 per employee. I don’t know much about the cost of health insurance, but I do know you can insure someone for less than $200,000 a year!

        So if someone owns a $20k (or even $200k) house, they can afford to spend $20k a year for health insurance.

        Ignoring that, there’s the problem that the market, and not Bezos, sets the value of his employees.

        Granted, he could pay them above market rates, but him announcing he’s going to run his company as a socialist commune where he’s treating assets as cash is also him proclaiming that he’s going to be providing a lot less value to his customers and stockholders and, allow his competitors to underbid him and take market share away from him.

        One would expect his stock price to fall a lot after that, i.e. his market cap would go down. According to your logic that means his employees should then be paying him for the privilege of working there.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Dark Matter says:

          You’re assuming Amazon owns no buildings, software, computers, or any other assets other than those employees. You’re also making other mistakes.

          (I would like it to be noted that, a long time ago, someone who is now gone from this site, assumed I was an idiot because I phrased something pretty much exactly like this, which apparently implies that I, and you, think that employees are assets….when in reality it’s just poor terminology.)

          I’m not sitting here arguing that Amazon hiring another person, or firing someone, will alter their income. I’m asserting that $200,000 per employee is added to Amazon’s market cap each year, on average. My statement is not ‘Employees magically make the money’, I was merely merely stating ‘If we evenly distribute this Amazon thing per Amazon employee, it is this amount’.

          I could just as easily make the same point about warehouses, asserting that Amazon makes $X a year per warehouse so could afford to a level of warehouse improvement that costs a faction of that. Or ‘Amazon shipped Y packages last year, which means each employee ships an average of this amount of packages’.

          Do I need to argue that the market cap is the net worth of company? That would be hard for me to do, because I think it’s stupid and don’t agree, but…everyone else seems to.

          But…if you have a problem with the increase in market cap not being real money, let me rephrase in actual money: Amazon could issue 3% more stock in 2020 and every year onward (On top of whatever they normally do, which I don’t know what that is), and use the money from _that sale_ to cover employee health insurance. Which should, hypothetical, assuming a perfectly rational stock market (Something I never assume, but we’re supposed to take on faith.) would merely would change the skyrocketing stock price increase from 20% to 17%, and thus slow down Bezos’s (And all other stockholders) yearly increase in wealth.

          Everyone follow if I say it that way?

          So if someone owns a $20k (or even $200k) house, they can afford to spend $20k a year for health insurance.

          No, but if they own a bunch of liquid assets that go up in value $200,000 a year, yeah, they can spend $20 on health insurance!

          This was apparently very unclear, but I did not say Amazon stock is worth $200 billion. I said it GOES UP EACH YEAR by $200 billion. Hence my point that a fraction of that damn money could be used to provide health insurance…which could be done by just providing it, and the stock would, accordingly, reduce its upward climb by some small amount because Amazon very very slightly reduced their absurd profits.

          Or, like I said, if that’s too confusing, Amazon could just directly issue something like $6 billion dollars worth of stock each year and use that to pay for employee health insurance.Report

  4. Avatar Urusigh says:

    “It took radical progressive thinking to lift the United States out of the Great Depression.”

    It’s not a good sign when the first and central claim of your article is flat out wrong: The Great Depression of the 1930s was by far the greatest economic calamity in U.S. history. In 1931, the year before Franklin Roosevelt was elected president, unemployment in the United States had soared to an unprecedented 16.3 percent. In human terms that meant that over eight million Americans who wanted jobs could not find them. In 1939, after almost two full terms of Roosevelt and his New Deal, unemployment had not dropped, but had risen to 17.2 percent. Almost nine and one-half million Americans were unemployed. On May 6, 1939, Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s treasury secretary, confirmed the total failure of the New Deal to stop the Great Depression: “We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. . . . I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot!”

    New Deal spending failed to lift the American economy out of its morass. That spending was doomed from the start to fail. Tax rates were hiked, which scooped capital out of investment and dumped it into dozens of hastily conceived government programs. Those programs quickly became politicized and produced unintended consequences, which plunged the American economy deeper into depression. More specifically, the National Recovery Administration, which was Roosevelt’s centerpiece, fixed prices, stifled competition, and sometimes made American exports uncompetitive. Also, his banking reforms made many banks more vulnerable to failure by forbidding them to expand and diversify their portfolios. Social Security taxes and minimum-wage laws often triggered unemployment; in fact, they pushed many cash-strapped businesses into bankruptcy or near bankruptcy. The Agricultural Adjustment Act, which paid farmers not to produce, raised food prices and kicked thousands of tenant farmers off the land and into unemployment lines in the cities. In some of those cities, the unemployed received almost no federal aid, but in other cities — those with influential Democratic bosses — tax dollars flowed in like water.

    Oh, and for those who constantly bemoan the influence of money and cronyism in politics, let’s note the partisan process of capturing tax dollars from some groups and doling them out to others quickly politicized federal aid: “WPA employment reached peaks in the fall of election years. In states like Florida and Kentucky — where the New Deal’s big fight was in the primary elections — the rise of WPA employment was hurried along in order to synchronize with the primaries.” The Democratic Party’s ability to win elections became strongly connected with Roosevelt’s talent for turning on the spigot of federal dollars at the right time (before elections) and in the right places (key states and congressional districts).

    Q: Do you know what FDR’s “Second Bill of Rights” looks like more than anything else? A: The Soviet Union.
    Q: Know who had the higher average living standard between the US and the Soviets? A: US
    Every time someone calls for “Redistribution of Wealth” as a national policy, he’s really just proclaiming his intent to commit theft on a grand scale and offering a bribe for others to go along with him. Counterproductive policies like those in this article merely make EVERYONE poorer in the long run.Report

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