When Unemployment Pays More Than Your Job

Unintended consequences of a necessary policy.

smartphone coffee
CC0 Public Domain license from pxhere.

NPR (“Bitter Taste For Coffee Shop Owner, As New $600 Jobless Benefit Drove Her To Close“):

$600 per week.

That’s what the federal government is now offering to people who’ve lost their jobs because of the coronavirus.

For many workers and employers, that money is a godsend — a way to keep food on the table while also cutting payroll costs.

But the extra money can create some awkward situations. Some businesses that want to keep their doors open say it’s hard to do so when employees can make more money by staying home.

“We basically have this situation where it would be a logical choice for a lot of people to be unemployed,” said Sky Marietta, who opened a coffee shop along with her husband, Geoff, last year in Harlan, Ky.

Their goal was to provide good coffee, good Internet service and some opportunity in a community that has been starved of all three.

“We’re very committed to helping to transform the downtowns and main streets in eastern Kentucky,” Marietta said.

When the couple advertised for workers, nearly 100 people applied for just a handful of openings.

The shop had been up and running for only a few months when the coronavirus hit. Marietta adopted precautions, instructing her workers to wash their hands frequently and disinfecting the door handle.

Eventually, she stopped letting customers come into the shop, delivering orders to the curb instead. But Marietta was determined to stay open.

“The No. 1 people that we’re serving right now are health care workers,” she said. “I feel like they don’t have a lot of options, and they certainly deserve at least some coffee in this, right?”

But even though she had customers, Marietta reluctantly decided to close the coffee shop just over a week ago.

“The very people we hired have now asked us to be laid off,” Marietta wrote in a blog post. “Not because they did not like their jobs or because they did not want to work, but because it would cost them literally hundreds of dollars per week to be employed.”

With the federal government now offering $600 a week on top of the state’s unemployment benefits, she recognized her former employees could make more money staying home than they did on the job.

“You also have to think, the benefit of not having to go to work, especially during a pandemic,” Marietta said in an interview with NPR. “It’s not that we don’t wish that we could pay our employees at that level all the time. You’re always wanting to pay your staff the best you possible can. But to be put in a position where you can’t compete with them being at home, unemployed. It’s really tricky. It’s a really difficult situation to be in.”

Some Republican lawmakers warned about this unintended consequence of the relief bill when it was being drafted, noting that $600 a week amounts to $15 an hour, more than twice the federal minimum wage. That’s in addition to state unemployment benefits, which vary widely, from a maximum of $235 per week in Mississippi to $795 per week in Massachusetts.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the administration opted to provide a uniform federal unemployment benefit in order to get money out the door quickly. As it is, states have struggled to pay the benefit to the millions of newly unemployed people who are applying every week.

Here’s the audio of the original report from “Morning Edition.”

Presumably, Marieta could refuse to lay off her workers but it’s understandable that she’s going along. They’re safer at home and getting a windfall to boot. But, clearly, this wasn’t the intent of the program.

A blanket payout made sense, in that it was the fastest way to get money to people who needed it. But, typically, unemployment benefits are some portion of one’s previous income up to the maximum. By design, these programs are relatively more generous to those near the bottom of the economic ladder, in that the maximum benefit is fairly low and the cap gets hit pretty quickly.

Here, with a blanket payout that’s more than most people make in a poor community, the incentives are perverse, indeed.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Teve says:

    “We basically have this situation where it would be a logical choice for a lot of people to be unemployed,” said Sky Marietta, who opened a coffee shop along with her husband, Geoff, last year in Harlan, Ky.

    OK, well your big problem is that you’re in Harlan Kentucky. That’s first and foremost. Secondly, if somebody quits their job they don’t qualify for unemployment. It’s not like people were going to come to work and they say oh screw that I’m just gonna stay at home and quit and get $600 a week. Nope. And if you think, well people who were laid off are just going to sit at home and not do anything when they could be out getting a new job, 22 million people were laid off in the last month. What jobs are they going to be applying for?

    (My parents are from Mt. Sterling Kentucky, two hours from Harlan, and I was back there in December for a funeral. If you find yourself in Harlan Kentucky, your first order of business is to get to somewhere else.)

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  2. James says:

    I’m not arguing the point. But I find it interesting that, at the same time astroturf protests are popping up across the country, I’m seeing a series of what are essentially the same articles in media across the country, from NPR to my local paper. Call me paranoid if you want, but the reach of the billionaire class to dictate the political conversation has been apparent for awhile. I fear this is one more instance.

    30
  3. Teve says:

    @James: I think
    I saw people trashing NPR for this story last night on Twitter.

    5
  4. Jon says:

    I think the incentives here, and the intent of the program, are to make it feasible for people to follow stay-at-home directives (or whatever they’re called in differing localities) and still receive enough money to survive, so I’m not convinced they’re perverse.

    And I think I’m more outraged by the fact that $600/week is a raise for people.

    39
  5. Teve says:

    BTW for people who are unfamiliar with the territory, the show Justified takes place in Harlan County.

    9
  6. James Joyner says:

    @Teve: I mostly know Harlan County from “Justified.”

    @James: In this case, the coffee shop owner voluntarily closed the shop so that her workers could get the windfall.

    8
  7. Jen says:

    @James:

    I’m seeing a series of what are essentially the same articles in media across the country, from NPR to my local paper.

    What you are seeing is the result of the hollowing out of newsrooms across the country. I’ve worked in PR for a while now, and this pattern started in the early 2000’s, but has accelerated the last few years, and this current downturn has meant another wave of layoffs in newsrooms.

    With so few workers available to actually generate original reporting, news outlets revert to regurgitating stories that trend elsewhere. The reuse of material is also part of syndication (wire services like AP are designed to go everywhere). NPR acts as a type of syndication too, as stories are shared with local public radio stations.

    This is a product of scarce reporting resources, the consolidation of the news industry, and a reduction in the number of reporters.

    17
  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Here, with a blanket payout that’s more than most people make in a poor community, the incentives are perverse, indeed.

    What is perverse is that people get paid so little and are expected to like it.

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  9. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    What is perverse is that people get paid so little and are expected to like it.

    Even more perverse is that the Trump States promise to businesses in trying to get them to relocate is a tacit promise that government, civic and religious leaders will do everything in their power to keep wages and benefits as low as possible.

    9
  10. James Joyner says:

    @Jon: It’s perverse in that it’s shutting down a business that would otherwise be able to stay open.

    And, sure, it sucks that $600/week plus the state unemployment benefit is a raise for people in Harlan County. It’s why the irrational lobbying to bring back coal mining jobs during the 2016 cycle was taking place: that was essentially the only decent-paying job in town. But I don’t think we’re simply going to ship money indefinitely to people who live in shitty towns.

    10
  11. Jon says:

    @James Joyner:
    An unfortunate side effect doesn’t make it perverse, though, and *in theory* the PPP is supposed to work in conjunction with increased unemployment benefits, providing a way for smaller places of business to stay open while keeping people on payroll and thus avoiding layoffs in the first place.

    And I agree that we’re not going to keep shipping money to folks indefinitely, but this is a temporary measure to help people get through this specific emergency. Our general refusal, as a country, to pay people living wages is a larger discussion that is exacerbated by the current situation, but not central to it.

    13
  12. Jon says:

    @Jon:
    On a side note, for whatever reason I seem to be getting hung up on the word perverse here and I think maybe I just need to get over myself and move on :-).

    5
  13. Scott says:

    Call me paranoid if you want, but the reach of the billionaire class to dictate the political conversation has been apparent for awhile. I fear this is one more instance.

    Yes. This. It is always amazing how we get distracted by instances of relatively poor people maybe getting something extra. Just like in 2009 when people without money were blamed for the financial crisis. Just like Arthur Laffer and Eugene Scalia worrying about incentives for working people basically saying that hungry people create jobs.

    Lord forbid, that we investigate who actually got the $350B Payroll Protection Plan money. AP did an analysis and found the 75 publically traded firms received about $300B of it including some that were not very viable in the first place. Guess what will happen. They will shut down also and the Officers of that firm will be given large amounts of taxpayers dollars to manage the shutdown and no one will say a word.

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  14. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    What is perverse is that people get paid so little and are expected to like it.

    @Jon:

    Our general refusal, as a country, to pay people living wages is a larger discussion that is exacerbated by the current situation, but not central to it.

    So, how much is a coffee shop owner in Harlan County, Kentucky supposed to pay unskilled labor? People were literally lining up to get these jobs at $10-15/hour because that’s more than they were going to make anywhere else.

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  15. Jon says:

    @James Joyner:
    “Unskilled labor” is doing a lot of work there, and comes across as pretty condescending.

    That aside, people should be paid a living wage, irrespective of where they live. And that doesn’t mean a hypothetical coffee shop (well, in this case a real one, but you know what I mean) should have to go bankrupt to do so. It means that we, as a country, need to reassess how our system works such that it makes paying a living wage difficult to impossible for many businesses.

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  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: Are you actually arguing in favor of poverty? I rather suspect not. I don’t know what the solution is, I don’t pretend to. I’ll leave it for people who have actually studied these things to propose solutions, but more of the same is not a solution.

    I am simply stating that it is truly perverse that in the richest country in the world there are people living in dire conditions, and some folks are not just OK with it, but enacting policies that reinforce it.

    Just so much collateral damage on the free market road.

    11
  17. beth says:

    What’s perverse is that there’s not a single interview with these employees who “asked” to be let go. Maybe their kids are off from school and they have no childcare. Maybe they’re deathly afraid of catching the virus. Why do we take the store owner’s word as gospel?

    My job’s been closed down and I work with lots of people who are getting more being unemployed than they were working and I haven’t talked to a single one who thinks they hit the gravy train – they all want to get back to work because they know the $600 isn’t forever. See, I can quote unconfirmed facts too – maybe NPR is hiring.

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  18. Teve says:

    America needs trillions of dollars of infrastructure improvements, people in Harlan County and 1000 other counties need jobs that don’t require Masters degrees. That would be a simple problem to fix, if it weren’t for the fact that rich people control the federal government and Gosh Darnit they just don’t feel like being taxed this year. 15% is already so onerous. The DeVos family only has 10 yachts!

    11
  19. Moosebreath says:

    @James:

    “Call me paranoid if you want, but the reach of the billionaire class to dictate the political conversation has been apparent for awhile. I fear this is one more instance.”

    When it is so apparent that even Chris Cilizza notices the disconnect between what conservative media is telling its listeners, and how they are acting privately, you know they are doing a bad job of hiding it:

    “But there was one thing — actually one sentence of 11 words — that really stood out to me in the Oliver segment. And it was this, when he was talking about Fox News’ coronavirus coverage:

    “They only pretend to believe these things on television for money.”

    The point Oliver was making was that even as many Fox News anchors were pushing the idea that coronavirus was less virulent than the flu and that it was the product of a hyper-partisan media trying to “get” Trump, the company was warning its employees to stay at home and “reducing the staff footprint at our headquarters in New York.”

    (snip)

    The most noxious part of all of this — and it’s what Oliver’s 11 words hit directly on the head — is that Fox News is covering the story this way not because it comports with known facts or because they believe it’s the “real” narrative but rather because they know that covering the coronavirus pandemic this way means more viewers — and more money to sell ads.

    Why? Because Fox News has spent years conditioning their regular viewers to believe that anything “the media” — or any other establishment institution (other than them), of course — must not be telling the whole truth about anything. And that the reason the establishment isn’t telling the truth is because the truth is somehow bad for them.””

    13
  20. Nightcrawler says:

    @Jon:

    Yeah, I’m hung up on the phrase “unskilled labor.” Those “unskilled” people are risking their lives, and those of their families, to keep society functional right now.

    But hey, if anyone thinks “unskilled” labor is dispensable, let’s just close down grocery stores and pharmacies, and stop having trash picked up.

    11
  21. Tony W says:

    One thing that would help this situation is to remove health care from the job equation.

    People could afford to work for less money if they didn’t have to figure out how to pay for their health care. Businesses could afford to hire more people – and could more easily keep pace with foreign competitors – if they didn’t have to pay their worker’s health care bills.

    It’s a huge disadvantage.

    11
  22. KM says:

    Some Republican lawmakers warned about this unintended consequence of the relief bill when it was being drafted, noting that $600 a week amounts to $15 an hour, more than twice the federal minimum wage.

    So instead of fixing the problem of working makes less money then unemployment by understanding the value of labor and making sure the federal minimum wage is sufficient for people’s needs, they whine that the logical outcomes of paying people crap is people choose the better option and judge them for it. It’s almost like they know their rhetoric is BS and can’t hold up to real world strains…..

    It’s not rocket science. If you were working a $25,000 job that involved tedious manual labor, terrible customers and now the threat of illness but were offered $50,000 to stay home, you’re going to take it. You’d be a terrible capitalist *not* to. Double what you were making in the same time period with now free time to pursue new skill sets /education/ better position/ clean your house with no downside other then social judgment from conservatives? It’s simply a better value for the worker since their product is being undervalued. If the government wants to buy your time in the form of unemployment at x2 the rate your current employer does, well what kind of capitalist would you be to not take that deal if you can swing it? Managing to get yourself laid off is not that hard in these times – I’m not surprised folks are outright asking for it from managers they think might be sympathetic and needs to trim costs.

    11
  23. Stormy Dragon says:

    Dr. Joyner, safely ensconced in his suburban home, is upset that the threat of starvation and homelessness is not being used to coerce poor people into risking infectious disease on a daily basis for the benefit of business owners

    10
  24. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    So, how much is a coffee shop owner in Harlan County, Kentucky supposed to pay unskilled labor?

    1. Barista is skilled labor. Make a half-caff, non-fat, half-squirt, sugar-free, oat milk macchiato for someone while not burning yourself on the machinery or beating them to death for being someone who orders that, and laughing at the customers jokes and fending off their sexual advances and still not beating them to death… that’s a skill.

    2. We don’t want people working right now, unless it is essential.

    3. There will be winners and losers to any big policy. There are far more losers than winners, don’t get so hung up on a poor person getting a break.

    4. Schools are closed, etc. These workers have new demands on their time.

    20
  25. KM says:

    @James Joyner:

    So, how much is a coffee shop owner in Harlan County, Kentucky supposed to pay unskilled labor?

    And yet she’d be out of business right now if those “unskilled” people weren’t making her a product people are willing to risk going out to get. You can make coffee at home, James since a small child can use a Kuerig; for this place to still be open, it means it’s a superior product and thus requires skill to have made. If times are tough, you ain’t paying for a shoddy espresso.

    What’s going to come out of this is a redefinition of “unskilled”. What people really means is “less socially desirable”, “doesn’t require a specific skill set” or perhaps “underpaid for their value”. Actually, I like that last one – lets go with UFV jobs. Ask any parent used to farming their kids out if teachers, day care and nannies are get paid too much now. Those stockers and cashiers at the grocery are keeping the country running and the barista makes less per hour then the coffee she just crafted for you. Your fridge will be a lot emptier in a few months when nobody’s out there to harvest veggies or slaughter some meat. The perception is “anyone can do these” so they don’t need to be paid well…. and yet we’ve been seeing daily just what poor logic that is.

    UFV jobs aren’t low-skilled per se, they’re undervalue for a number of reasons mostly social. Break the social convention that undervalues them and suddenly that you need to explain why this person doesn’t deserve a paycheck they can live off.

    15
  26. mattbernius says:

    @Gustopher:

    1. Barista is skilled labor. Make a half-caff, non-fat, half-squirt, sugar-free, oat milk macchiato for someone while not burning yourself on the machinery or beating them to death for being someone who orders that, and laughing at the customers jokes and fending off their sexual advances and still not beating them to death… that’s a skill.

    True story. During a period where I was unemployed (after years of working as a web designer and product owner, not to mention completing a Masters in Anthropology), I attemped to get a job at a local independently owner espresso bar.

    I got turned down because I didn’t have any espresso-making experience and they were not in a position to train me up.

    I have since bought a home espresso machine (automatic, not pump) and spent the time to actually learn how to properly brew it. I’m not bad at it, but even after roughly a decade of making it every day, I’ll be damned if I can do any art (usually if my attempts come out looking like anything, they, well, look like parts of the male anatomy that are best not served to the average customer).

    So yeah, it is definitely a skill to be able to do that — and do it quickly.

    8
  27. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “People were literally lining up to get these jobs at $10-15/hour because that’s more than they were going to make anywhere else.”

    Kinda amusing that we keep hearing what a great employer she is, how she sacrificed everything for her workers, how they’re ripping off the system by getting fat on that sweet, sweet six hundred… and yet nobody involved in reporting, editing or producing this story could be bothered to speak to a single one of them.

    Possibly there’s another side or two to this story — but since workers count for nothing in this country, I guess we’ll never know…

    23
  28. SKI says:

    @Gustopher:

    3. There will be winners and losers to any big policy. There are far more losers than winners, don’t get so hung up on a poor person getting a break.

    THIS.

    Basing public policy on exceptional cases, particularly those only communicated via anecdote and without fact-checking or analysis, is just bad.

    14
  29. Roger says:

    This is stenography, not reporting. Did the coffee shop close because the owners honored their employees’ request to be laid off? Maybe, but there’s nothing in the article to help a reader decide if that’s true. Was the shop turning a profit before the virus hit? Don’t know. Were there enough of the health care providers they say were their primary customers in Harlan, Kentucky, to keep a coffee shop going? Don’t know. Did any employee actually ask to be laid off so they could take home a bigger check than they were earning by working? It seems like it would have been easy enough to get the names and ask them, but there’s nothing in the article about that. Finally, in Harlan, Kentucky, there weren’t any previously unemployed folks who didn’t qualify for stimulus checks who were capable of brewing and pouring coffee who could have been hired to keep the business going?

    Two minutes on Google turns up a story about the shop’s grand opening in December. In that story, praising the plucky entrepreneurs who started the shop, they mention the fact that the owners needed to work out “special financing” to get the building, and that they “didn’t think we could afford the coffee equipment” until another nearby coffee shop went out of business, allowing them to purchase that failed business’s equipment. A few more minutes finds the story of how these two Harvard-trained Ph.D’s who describe themselves as having been “on a very specific path to become research scientists and faculty who climb the ladder of their positions towards tenure” left academia to become entrepreneurs. Check the stats on restaurants in general, and coffee shops in particular, and you might find an alternative explanation for this kind of business closing after a few months, particularly during a time that the entire country is shutting down.

    Maybe they closed their business as a favor or their employees. Or maybe it’s really tough to make a profit selling coffee in a pandemic, and this business just couldn’t make it. This wouldn’t be the first time that very smart people found out that running a business is harder than it looks, and it wouldn’t be the first time that the owners of a failed business chose to see the failure as something imposed on them by others, not something they brought on themselves. The problem with this story is it gives the reader no way to judge the truth about why this business failed.

    But even if everything in the story is true, and good-hearted folks closed up shop because they decided they couldn’t ask their employees to take home less money working than they would make staying home, the piece fails as reporting because it ignores the biggest question: is it a failure for a program to allow workers not to risk their lives for less than $600 a week?

    20
  30. inhumans99 says:

    @James Joyner:

    And you are making the point for me that folks in Harlan, KY should have more influence with our President than someone who has a degree in socioeconomics from a reputable university and yet their opinion on how to lift people out of poverty in KY, and the Appalachia area in general is basically ignored as coming from the liberal elite but our President hangs onto the words of this coffee shop owner to set policy, why?

    This coffee shop owner who could not afford to keep her business open has an inordinate amount of influence with our President as to how we should set our immigration policies, what a woman thousands of miles away fron KY can or cannot do with her body if she is pregnant, what to do with the tax dollars the gov gets from places like CA (hint, instead of asking President Trump to help her even though her attempt to pull herself up from her bootstraps is a fail she will ask that the money go to President Trump’s casinos and hotels instead of helping folks in KY because for some inexplicable reason the ladies love L.L. Cool…I mean President Trump), why?

    This coffee shops woman’s words hold the same weight or more than Nancy Pelosi’s when talking to President Trump, and that should be the case, why?

    I would rather that Congress not give a lot of weight to the lobsters that want to pull all of us into their tank of misery and instead that Congress give more weight to folks who are cheer-leading attempts by Congress to help people keep a roof over their heads during the pandemic.

    3
  31. gVOR08 says:

    It’s an outrage Poor people getting a windfall? Without even hiring a lobbyist? It’s an offense against the natural order that must not be allowed!

    14
  32. An Interested Party says:

    There is so much that is perverse in this country…from the way our political system is dominated by money, from the way that presidents are elected, from the way that a minority of voters decide which party controls the Senate, from an economic system that is unfair and unequitable (as this $600 “windfall” amply illustrates) and yet, this particular incentive is the perverse thing we need to worry about? Oh please…

    6
  33. James Joyner says:

    @Jon: @Nightcrawler: @mattbernius: “Unskilled labor” is that which requires little education and training. Coffee shops typically hire workers with no idea how to make a latte and train them how to do so in relatively short order. It doesn’t mean that the job isn’t demanding.

    Laying carpet or hanging sheetrock tends to be classified as “unskilled” or “semi-skilled” labor whereas plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians and others are “skilled.”

    @KM: I grant that there are all sorts of jobs that are very valuable to society or to individuals that don’t pay fantastic wages. A grocery store can’t pay shelf stockers $100,000 a year. The margins just aren’t there. Similarly, an upper-middle-class professional can’t pay their nanny or lawn guy the equivalent of their salary. It just doesn’t work that way.

    4
  34. Modulo Myself says:

    Maybe I’m being optimistic but this seems like one of those stories that like 20 years ago would worm into the brains of Americans as a constant counterpoint to actual reality. Like that McDonald’s coffee lawsuit which still ping-pongs around in older minds. But now the response is STFU and it will never be heard from again.

    The zombie big business sector is really cranking these things out. They’re trying everything. Nothing is sticking, but they are turning the crank.

    4
  35. Kathy says:

    There’s just a little left to add:

    1) Its misleading to apply the logic of an emergency to regular times. This extra unemployment benefit won’t be around for long.

    2) Seeing wages are so low, it’s time to either raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation, or, better yet, institute some universal basic income, also indexed to inflation.

    2.1) A UBI is supposed to be a supplement on wages, what gets people to a living wage. But some people can, and undoubtedly will, live off a UBI alone. That’s a trade off worth having for the benefits it will bring to the vast majority of people.

    2.2) Those who already earn a living wage, or better, would have no need for a UBI. But they will have a use for it: savings and investment. Perhaps it would be a good idea to encourage that, or even to push people in that direction

    10
  36. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Let me fix that up for you, James. ” “People were literally lining up to get these jobs at $10-15/hour because they were the only jobs available to them.”

    And please explain how all the high income tax cuts we’ve seen since 2001 haven’t kept the economy from crashing? It is because the economy is made up of people like this woman’s employees who use their money for goods and services every day? Maybe it’s got squat to do with billionaires?

    8
  37. gVOR08 says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    It is because the economy is made up of people like this woman’s employees who use their money for goods and services every day? Maybe it’s got squat to do with billionaires?

    Aggregate demand creates jobs. Billionaires just carve up the pie. Why is that so hard for people to understand?

    7
  38. Michael Cain says:

    @Teve: One of the problems no one has a solution for is that the people still in Harlan County don’t want to work on infrastructure projects in, say, Hartford, Connecticut. Or Southern California. I spent a good part of my childhood in brain-drain country. Even 50+ years ago when I was in junior high, we all understood that the general rule would be those of us who could cut it would leave for college and never come back. (Yes, there were exceptions, but relatively few.) I now live in a western state with a very pronounced urban/rural divide. A great deal of the animosity the rural areas have towards the booming urban areas is that we’re going to “take their children.” Which is basically code for “offer them more education and jobs.”

    10
  39. Michael Cain says:

    @Kathy: Having reached a certain age, I feel obligated to point out that there are a lot of elderly folks who can no longer work that are generally ignored in the UBI debate. In their case, what is UBI a supplement for? Will there be a separate public pension system? Will there be a private pension system? Will “living wage” be high enough that workers can set aside the 10% or so they will need to in order to provide their own pension?

    2
  40. Kathy says:

    @Michael Cain:

    That’s a good question, and one I’ve given no thought to.

    Having given it no thought, I can’t argue it one way or the other. So I’ll just say this: the next worthwhile policy that solves all of society’s problems will be the first.

    2
  41. James R Ehrler says:

    @James Joyner: @James Joyner: I don’t know…Fox and Friends was just discussing this morning how there are exceptions to the new immigration ban to allow the “middle class” to have au pairs.

    2
  42. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:

    Coffee shops typically hire workers with no idea how to make a latte and train them how to do so in relatively short order.

    I don’t think these “no experience necessary” coffee shop jobs are quite as common as you seem to think they are.

    6
  43. An Interested Party says:

    A grocery store can’t pay shelf stockers $100,000 a year. The margins just aren’t there. Similarly, an upper-middle-class professional can’t pay their nanny or lawn guy the equivalent of their salary. It just doesn’t work that way.

    Exaggerate much? No one is talking about paying shelf stockers $100,000 a year or nannies and lawn guys the equivalent of a salary made by upper-middle-class professionals…but if businesses can’t pay their employees a living wage, perhaps the government needs to step in to help make up the difference…of course, that doesn’t mean that people who work for Walmart should have to seek out food stamps just to eat, but, as Kathy mentioned, maybe it is time to seriously talk about implementing a feasible UBI, and taxing the wealthy owners of those businesses to help pay for it…

    8
  44. Michael Reynolds says:

    I don’t think we need to hammer @James for using a common phrase like ‘unskilled labor.’ It’s a term of art, not a knock on workers. I’d be one of the few people here who spent any substantial part of his life in unskilled labor (waiter, cook, house cleaner) and one of my kids is a grocery store cashier, but the term does not offend me. Perhaps we can come up with better terminology, but I’m not sure that’s James’s job.

    11
  45. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Michael Cain:

    One of the problems no one has a solution for is that the people still in Harlan County don’t want to work on infrastructure projects in, say, Hartford, Connecticut. Or Southern California.

    Tying yourself down geographically is a mistake. It’s magical thinking to suppose that jobs will come to you rather than the other way around. It’s particularly odd in a country with a mythology so centered on rugged individualism and a pioneering spirit. We are a country built by people who didn’t like their prospects in their country of birth and moved here. The west was not settled by stay-at-homes. But now we have the bizarre reality of gun-toting, cos-playing macho guys who somehow can’t get out of West Virginia.

    No wonder those very people despise immigrants. It takes about 1000 times more courage and strength of character to carry your baby across the Sonoran desert to get a job cleaning hotel rooms in Vegas than it does to wave a Confederate flag and whine that the dot coms aren’t hiring people in your home town of Fartblossom, Arkansas.

    19
  46. Monala says:

    @James: true. This article was linked in a post on the Balloon Juice blog, and several commenters noted that NPR never interviewed any of her employees to determine if they in fact had been asked to be laid off.

    4
  47. Monala says:

    @Jon: moreover, many people are discovering how many of those jobs people previously considered unimportant and unskilled are actually essential – far more essential than many white collar jobs in fact. How quick James is to return to, “they don’t deserve more money.”

    3
  48. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: Oh noooooes, we must worship the job creators and offer grateful supplication for the beans and kernels of rice they toss down for us to fight over. us.

    4
  49. Mister Bluster says:

    @Kathy:..better yet, institute some universal basic income,..

    Where is Tricky Dick when you need him?

    Nixon Family Assistance Plan (1969)
    The Family Assistance Program (FAP) was a welfare program introduced by President Richard Nixon in August 1969, which aimed to implement a negative income tax for households with working parents. The FAP was influenced by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty program that aimed to expand welfare across all American citizens, especially for working-class Americans.

    4
  50. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    1. No man is an island. People need family and friends, which unfortunately ends up geographically binding people.
    2. Not being geographically bound also means a lifetime of renting, which leaves you exposed to a different form of exploitation by the landowners.

    8
  51. Monala says:

    @Stormy Dragon: very true. There are barista training programs in my community, and probably in others. A quick Google search turns up barista training programs around the country, that last from 3 months to 6 months to a year.

    1
  52. Blue Galangal says:

    @An Interested Party: To you, and the rest in this conversation, Abigail Disney posted quite an enlightening thread. She quotes the FT: “Disney protected incentive schemes, which account for most of the executives’ remuneration. Mr Iger earned $65.6m in 2018 and $47m last year…” She then notes, “The latest package is more than 900 times that of the median Disney worker’s earnings, which stands at about $52,000.” She goes on to point out,

    The front line workers at the parks had to fight for years to get their pay bumped up to $15/hr and the pr folks touted that as incredible magnanimity on management’s park, but if you know the back story, which I do, you would be horrified to know just how hard they made it for the people asking for that $15. The way they floated around congratulating themselves it was damn hard to take. If a frontline worker gets 40 hours a week (and that’s a big if, since just like everyone else, Disney shaves away hours to keep folks from being full time) 52 weeks a year (again a big if, esp since they don’t have paid sick days unless they get 40 hours, which, see above parenthetical statement) they pull down 31,200 per year. Sounds nice till you consider gas prices and the housing market in Orange County. …So Iger’s compensation for THIS YEAR will amount to 1,500x their pay. Chapek’s, if he gets the full amount, is 300% of his 3 million base pay, or $9MM. 288x the front liners’.”

    She closes with: “Reassess this mess you’ve made of the good will you got handed on which you depend more than you like to admit. And pay the people who make the magic happen with respect and dignity they have more than earned from you. BE DECENT.”

    I don’t see anything wrong with paying people anywhere a decent wage for working. Period. Literally giving people money to subsist was one of the most successful anti-poverty Depression era programs – so successful they shut it down as soon as they could. World War II’s extreme investment in manufacturing was also a redistribution of wealth, and one of the prima facie reasons for the economic boom of the 50’s-60’s.

    7
  53. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    IMO, Nixon was a horrible person, but not a terrible president.

    5
  54. Nightcrawler says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think “unskilled labor” is a loaded and derogatory term that needs to be retired, just like the medical profession retired the words “retarded” and “moron.” Yes, “moron” was once a legitimate medical term.

    Very few jobs in modern society are truly “unskilled.” Most jobs that truly require no training or skill, such as digging graves, are now done by machinery, and employees need to be trained to operate that machinery.

    I don’t know how to lay carpet, hang drywall, or operate an espresso machine; I’d have to be trained to do those things. Yes, the training is minimal compared to, say, training to be a doctor, but there is training, and not everyone successfully completes it.

    A thought: Politicians don’t receive any training at all, nor are they required to have any particular education or skills. Why are they not considered “unskilled workers”?

    10
  55. Nightcrawler says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Yeah, baristas are far more comparable to bartenders than they are to cashiers. Baristas don’t just pour coffee into cups; they make a wide variety of specialty drinks.

    1
  56. Monala says:

    @Nightcrawler: excellent points.

    1
  57. Teve says:

    @Michael Cain: sure. But there are also people who would move but can’t make enough to save up the thousands of Ameros required. The last time I moved states I had 5k cash, and still got in financial trouble and had to borrow money.

    2
  58. Teve says:

    Tying yourself down geographically is a mistake.

    The number one financial asset that families build is their house.

    3
  59. KM says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    I’m not knocking James for the term itself. He didn’t create it but it’s still a problematic term nonetheless. I spent 13 years of my life working in a grocery store, starting in college and then to supplement early career jobs. What’s funny is every interview I’ve ever had cared more about that job then the more impressive/career related ones. They wanted to know why I stuck it out for so long at a “low-skilled” position and what I learned there that could relate to the new position. How I handled troublesome customers when I had no authority and was in a weak position (cashier vs customer generally doesn’t end well for the worker). The character built stocking shelves was more valuable to me then any lab job or prestigious internship.

    “Low-skilled” may be a viable term in economic theory but it gets abused for political ideology. We need to acknowledge that it gets used to dehumanize workers by equating the perceived value of the job with them. That value is incredibly subjective and in cases like this, the value should naturally go up in a crisis but it being artificially kept down by ideology. We should be paying these people more because otherwise we’re not getting what limited services we still have access to. What businesses want to train people in this environment – who wants to incur that cost and downtime for someone who’s gonna bail when better jobs come back? They want workers ready to go aka have the desired skill set. It’s cheaper to jack up someone’s pay temporarily to keep them then deal with turnover and training. That barista should logically be more valuable as a skilled worker but the stigma is still strong.

    James is a smart man. The fact that the term is borderline pejorative is becoming clearer every day. It’s not an accurate term nor is it an informative one. I have faith he’s capable of using his word-smithing skills to reflect his point – he’s pretty good at it. I think it’s just habit, same as it is when any problematic term needs to be retired. If his point is you can’t pay a private employee 30-50% of your net income and live, that’s totally valid. If the point is that person doesn’t deserve that kind of amount because anyone can do it, then it crosses over into ideological trouble zones.

    7
  60. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    People make choices. Often they’re hard choices. If one prioritizes roots over employment that’s fine, but one cannot then expect to reap the rewards of the road not taken.

    My maternal great grandparents made a choice to leave Russia. (Motivation provided by the Tsar’s bully boys.) Their son made the decision to GTFO of Philadelphia and move to LA. Their daughter married a soldier and moved all over. And her son (me) has lived in 14 states and 3 foreign countries.

    A series of choices, some very hard. I made my choices which were not so much hard as reckless and now I’m where I am. I don’t complain that I don’t have formal education, a big family, a wide circle of friends, or that nobody knows my name when I walk into a bar. You can’t choose Path A and then whine and feel resentful when Path B starts looking better.

    4
  61. Barry says:

    @James: “Call me paranoid if you want, but the reach of the billionaire class to dictate the political conversation has been apparent for awhile. I fear this is one more instance.”

    We are soooooooo f*cked. Right now we’re in the position of invading the Soviet Union while our production remains as peacetime levels and the Army, Navy, Luftwaffe and SS raid each other’s factories for supplies, *and* half the government is in effect burning any winter clothing and equipment they find.

    4
  62. Barry says:

    @Roger: “This is stenography, not reporting. Did the coffee shop close because the owners honored their employees’ request to be laid off? Maybe, but there’s nothing in the article to help a reader decide if that’s true.”

    This is a coffee shop in a poor town in a poor region of the country which just got hit by Great Depression II: Now with Plague! The chances of not going bust are close to zero.

    4
  63. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Teve:
    But that’s a choice. I’m happy to help support people who need it, but we have free will, it’s just not consequence-free. My self-applied standard is that I don’t whine when I find myself in a hole I dug. No one forced me to drop out of high school, and college. No one had a gun to my head when I went on to make a large number of stupid decisions, that’s all on me. Mea maxima culpa.

    1
  64. dazedandconfused says:

    It’s an unintended consequence. It was set that high to mitigate the damage to he majority of those who would be without a job for a time, and as you point out it was a practical necessity to do a “one size fits all” solution. Nevertheless why so high?

    It may have been due to the people who crafted it being, to a degree, unable to imagine people getting by with less. A lot of people in the upper middle class think of themselves as struggling, despite being surrounded by people making much much less.

    1
  65. Barry says:

    I read an account by a guy who jumped off of the Golden Gate Bridge, and survived.

    He said that he had an epiphany on the way down, that all of his problems were actually quite manageable, with the exception of plummeting to his death.

    That’s how I feel about the right in this country, right now. If they just f*cking died off, the USA would be a paradise.

    5
  66. Mister Bluster says:

    @Kathy:..not a terrible president.
    Other than that Watergate thing that forced Nixon to be the only United States President to resign (to date) which is pretty bad, there is this:

    Abroad at Home; The Lying Machine
    By Anthony Lewis
    June 6, 1994
    New York Times

    Henry Kissinger, the former Secretary of State, has taken exception to a recent column of mine. It noted that 20,492 Americans died in Vietnam while he and Richard Nixon made policy on the war, in the years 1969-72. It quoted H. R. Haldeman’s diaries as saying that on Dec. 15, 1970, Mr. Kissinger objected to an early peace initiative because there might be bad results before the 1972 election.
    In a letter to the editor of The New York Times, Mr. Kissinger said the column had pounced “on a single entry in 600 pages” of the diaries to show that “President Nixon’s Vietnam policy was driven by electoral politics.”
    A single entry? A few pages later in the diaries there is another.
    On Dec. 21, 1970, Mr. Haldeman recorded Mr. Kissinger opposing an early commitment to withdraw all U.S. combat troops “because he feels that if we pull them out by the end of ’71, trouble can start mounting in ’72 that we won’t be able to deal with and which we’ll have to answer for at the elections. He prefers, instead, a commitment to have them all out by the end of ’72 so that we won’t have to deliver finally until after the elections and therefore can keep our flanks protected.”
    And another. On Jan. 26, 1971, Mr. Kissinger discussed plans for “a major assault on Laos,” which he thought would devastate North Vietnam’s military capability. (The Laos operation turned out to be a costly failure.) “This new action in Laos now,” Mr. Haldeman wrote, “would set us up so we wouldn’t have to worry about problems in ’72, and that of course is the most important.”
    Of course. The overpowering reality in the Nixon White House, as so meticulously recorded by Mr. Haldeman, was that what mattered about any proposed policy was its likely political effect. (Mr. Kissinger was opposed to publication of “The Haldeman Diaries,” and it is easy to see why.)
    On Vietnam, the public wanted withdrawal of American soldiers from a war it increasingly hated. But Mr. Nixon had repeatedly said he would not be “the first American President to lose a war.”
    The political solution was to withdraw gradually, leaving South Vietnamese forces to carry on the war. No one could seriously expect them to withstand for long an army that had fought 500,000 Americans to a standstill. But the inevitable might be delayed, and a formula agreed with North Vietnam to let the United States claim “peace with honor.”
    Mr. Kissinger complained, in his letter, about the statement in my column that the United States could have got out of the war in 1969, before those 20,492 American deaths, in the same way it finally did in 1973: on terms that led before long to a North Vietnamese victory.
    Until the end, Mr. Kissinger wrote, the North Vietnamese insisted that a peace agreement remove the Nguyen Van Thieu regime in South Vietnam. It was only at the negotiating session of Oct. 8, 1972, that they dropped that point — and agreement followed.
    True. But it is a half-truth, leaving out the crucial fact. North Vietnam dropped the idea of a change of government in Saigon only when Mr. Kissinger acquiesced in its key demand: that its forces be allowed to remain permanently in the south.
    President Thieu saw that concession as a death sentence for his Government, and he strongly opposed the peace agreement. He was bitter at Mr. Kissinger for concealing the terms from him until after they were agreed, indeed deceiving him about the possibility of serious new U.S. negotiating positions.
    Who knows what might have happened if the Nixon Administration had made that crucial change in U.S. policy in 1969, conceding the right of Hanoi’s forces to stay in the south? Hanoi might well have abandoned, as unnecessary, the demand for political change in Saigon. In any event, the end result would have been the same after 1969 as after 1972: a North Vietnamese victory.
    President Nixon said in his memoirs that Mr. Kissinger had told him the 1972 peace agreement “amounted to a complete capitulation by the enemy; they were accepting a settlement on our terms.” Two years later North Vietnamese forces marched into Saigon.
    A fair test of Mr. Kissinger’s claim would be to put it to the families and friends of the 20,492 Americans who died in Vietnam during his years as policy-maker. Would they think it was worth four more years of war?

    2
  67. Kurtz says:

    @James Joyner:

    So, how much is a coffee shop owner in Harlan County, Kentucky supposed to pay unskilled labor? People were literally lining up to get these jobs at $10-15/hour because that’s more than they were going to make anywhere else.

    Your reasoning is flawed, because you aren’t accounting for labor payments as a cost of business.

    If an oil company finds a new reservoir, but cannot extract the oil at a profit unless they pay thier workers $2.13 an hour, then extraction from that reservoir is non-viable.

    The oil industry is galling in this regard, given the amount those companies get in subsidies.

    The standard answer given to those who complain about corporate tax rates for oil companies is, “margins are thin.” If that’s the case, then oil drilling would not longer be viable. (there is an obvious answer here, but be cautious employing it, because it will be easily flipped against your position.)

    If the coffee shop owner in Harlan asked for a subsidy to stay open, their answer would simply be that the market is saying the business isn’t viable and shouldn’t be kept afloat artificially.

    I encourage you to read the conversation between @JohnSF and I on the American National Health Service post last week.

    He pointed out that Americans wouldn’t stand for many of the formal institutions of power they have in the UK. My response was to list how those things exist in the US, but informally.

    The point here is that the notion of freedom coming from the American Right isn’t freedom at all. Rather than institute it formally, the American system let’s “the market” dictate people’s lives as if it’s some natural ordering mechanism rather than what it is: aggregated human behavior.

    Why and how does someone as intelligent as you believe this shit?

    2
  68. Kurtz says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Fartblossom, Arkansas

    I’m pretty sure I’ve been there.

    1
  69. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    That’s hard to disagree with, and I wouldn’t lift a finger in defense of Nixon (nor, to be honest, most politicians), but I stand by my opinion.

    Having said that, I’ll add Nixon’s best defense so far is the PITO sitting in the Oval Office, moping because he can’t play golf. It’s been said here Trump had a lower body count than Bush the younger. That’s not true any more, and he’s surpassed Nixon as well, as regards American lives.

    2
  70. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kurtz: I know I have. It’s a nice enough little town, but some of the people… Whoooee.

  71. Han says:

    @James Joyner:

    So, how much is a coffee shop owner in Harlan County, Kentucky supposed to pay unskilled labor? People were literally lining up to get these jobs at $10-15/hour because that’s more than they were going to make anywhere else.

    Did you mean to make the overseer’s argument for why the Joads should be paid less each day for their fruit picking efforts?

    5
  72. Kurtz says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    But that’s a choice. I’m happy to help support people who need it, but we have free will, it’s just not consequence-free. My self-applied standard is that I don’t whine when I find myself in a hole I dug. No one forced me to drop out of high school, and college. No one had a gun to my head when I went on to make a large number of stupid decisions, that’s all on me. Mea maxima culpa.

    So, this is where you and I differ, despite the similarities in our political positions. To many observers, our politics are the same. But there are differences, and I suspect that the source of that difference is your post.

    If you had been born in different economic and family circumstances, would you have dropped out of high school?

    Or to use an example who is not you:

    JZ: I grew up in the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn. Our classrooms were flooded. It was very difficult for teachers to give you one-on-one attention. And there was this one sixth-grade teacher named Miss Lowden. She must have seen something in me, and she gave me this attention and this love for words. It’s funny how it works, just a little bit of attention. She also took us on a field trip to her house, which opened me up to the world. My neighborhood had been my world. It’s the only thing I had seen. I saw a whole different world that day, and my imagination grew from there. I wanted that. I aspired to have that. The small things. She had an ice thing on her refrigerator. You know, you push it and the ice and the water comes down. I was really amazed by that. I was like, I want one of those. It’s true.

    […]

    SF: Jay, you’re just beginning to look at charities. You have the Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund. Where do you see it going?

    JZ: The reason I’ve focused on that is because such a small thing changed my life, right? A sixth-grade teacher said, “You know what, you’re kind of smart.” And I believed her. I said, “I’m smart, right?”

    So she gave me that sort of opportunity. She sparked that idea in my mind. So that’s why my first thing is a scholarship fund, because there are a ton of very intelligent kids coming out of these urban areas who can make it all the way if given the opportunity.

    This joint-interview of Jay-Z and Warren Buffett is important. It shows just how thin the margins are in human behavior. In a different part of the interview, Jay discusses a friend who had recently been released after doing 13 years in the stir.

    Yeah. There are very few people from my neighborhood that make it out. Forget about being successful, I mean making it out alive or just incarcerated. I have a great friend who just came home, one of the most beautiful people you’d ever meet; he just came home from doing 13 years. And we were together every single day. Back then there was a guy by the name of Jazz who I started out with. He had a deal with EMI. He had the opportunity to go to London to record his album. I went along with him for two months. In those two months there was a sting operation and they took my friend I’m talking about, for 13 years. The only reason I wasn’t there was because I was away doing this music stuff.

    Jay made it out of a notoriously violent housing project in Brooklyn through his brain. But he can’t argue that he did it only because of his brain. A teacher gave him a little one-on-ome attention. And he was fortunate enough to avoid serving a sentence because he happened to have formed a relationship with a rapper who tool him to London for two months. If he gets put in a different teacher’s class or he never meets Jazz-O, no one would know his name today.

    Your story is remarkably similar. But it seems a little disingenuous to make the argument that “no one forced you” to do the things you did. Why? Because some of the reasons for your behavior were circumstances you did not choose.

    You and Jay both deserve credit for overcoming bad environments that routinely render individual lives meaningless. Yoy both deserve recognition of the intelligence and talent you worked to develop. But to argue that your decisions were made in a vacuum is just not true.

    If Jay had been born on the other side of the railroad tracks in Fartblossom, his life is likely quite different. If you had grown up on Park Avenue, your life would likely have been wuite different.

    My contention: the world has lost more genius art and intellectual breakthroughs to poorly structured socioconomic systems than those systems have produced.

    Better off now? Yes. But there is some kid out there who doesn’t get that sixth-grade teacher, and instead of painting beautiful portraits, he will be doing the real harlem shake on the pavement.

    4
  73. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kurtz:
    At risk of repeating myself and boring everyone, my ‘philosophy’ recognizes four spheres that influence behavior – DNA, environment, free will and random chance. I’m very aware of the cards DNA dealt me, the things I experienced along the way, and the influence of free will and random chance in my life.

    It’s true that none of these elements is entirely discrete. You can’t deny the role of random chance in DNA, for example. But, despite being aware of that, I’ve made a choice to not make excuses for myself. First because most of humanity was dealt far worse hands than I was. And because I was there when I made stupid decisions and I know what happened. I didn’t drop out because: reasons. I dropped out because I was an arrogant little shit. I didn’t steal money because I legitimately needed it. I did it for the aforementioned reason.

    Owning your fuck-ups is good for you, certainly better than scapegoating society. One way you’re a free agent, the other way you’re a helpless cog. I would never deny that society does make it very hard for a lot of people, but society’s done no harm to me, personally. I try to be hard on myself, compassionate toward others. (Results are mixed.) That’s more of a simple mental health thing than a commentary on society at large.

    Obviously some people are just fucked by society. But denying the role of free will is as much a mistake IMO as denying the role of DNA or environment. I don’t think we should deny agency to people, even people with a tough row to hoe. We are not just helpless cogs in some great societal machine, we have free will.* Free will comes with consequences, if it doesn’t we don’t learn, we don’t pass lessons along to our progeny and homo sapiens stops advancing.

    *Or at least we have such a convincing illusion of free will that we are not capable of acting as if we do not.

    3
  74. Teve says:

    @Teve:

    (My parents are from Mt. Sterling Kentucky, two hours from Harlan, and I was back there in December for a funeral. If you find yourself in Harlan Kentucky, your first order of business is to get to somewhere else.)

    Since I realize people might be new to living in Harlan Kentucky, I think it’s only neighborly of me to give you some general rules and advice. The meth will, in fact, keep you awake despite them oxys you took. Problem is, you’re gonna be estimatin’ how much of the one to offset the other, and that’s hard to do when you’re drunk, which you are. So find somebody who smells like a dead skunk and befriend them, and score some weed instead. That way you avoid all the troublesome calculatin’ and just watch the Netflix. You’re welcome.

    5
  75. gVOR08 says:

    @Mister Bluster: And let us not forget the Chennault Affair in which Nixon and Kissinger torpedoed Johnson’s 1968 peace talks.

    1
  76. Kurtz says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Sure. There’s no end to the debate on free will, absent significamt breakthroughs in neurobiology and as a result, the nature of conciousness. (I also repeat myself on this point.)

    As such, I am not so much saying you’re wrong about free will as I am saying that there are some potential extensions in your view that may lead you to some uncomfortable or outright wrong conclusions. Whether those are enough to to scrap your view of free will is up to you.

    I should also say that I don’t think free will doesn’t exist, but the question for me is how narrow or wide it is.

    On to your specific response.

    I get this may seem like a nitpick, but DNA only matters in the context of an environment. So, I would alter your criteria like this:

    Human behavior is a result of a complex of factors:

    DNA-environment with emergent interaction
    Random chance
    Choice (substituting this for free will)

    There is a bit of an issue though. We don’t know how much of what goes where and when it goes there. Additionally, the first two are mostly beyond the realm of choice, so putting free will as equal to the others is a mistake, because choice is largely shaped by the other to criteria.

    That is what I mean by saying it is a question of how narrow an appropriate conception of free will would be. This is why I lean toward your acknowledgement that it may be an illusion.

    Now, where we agree is on the practical side of things. People must own their choices, if only to, as you put it, learn. This also sort suggests that we have to do our best to shape society through the political process so as to reduce negative environmental influences on behavior.

    One example that comes up regularly in my thought process on this is Sparta. Someone lole Bill Gates or Ben Shapiro would more than likely be discarded by that society as useless. Our society may not be as harsh as that, but it certainly has a habit of discarding people.

    As usual, we agree more than we disagree. Anyway, thanks for being cool. I know I’ve been aggressive toward you at times. But I value our discussions, because your perspective is unique.

    1
  77. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @beth: spoken just like I’d expect a Fox anchor. When you don’t like the story, accuse the reporter of dirty dealing. Do you seriously think that person would admit to asking to be unemployed so that they could apply for compensation? That employee’s application for compensation should be rejected.

  78. Raoul says:

    This link addresses the story above: https://newrepublic.com/article/157399/medias-coronavirus-coverage-exposes-ignorance-working-class
    Like Roger said above, the story is remarkably ill researched. At a minimum I would like to hear the perspective of the employees, without so, the story amounts to very little.

  79. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jon:

    And I think I’m more outraged by the fact that $600/week is a raise for people.

    This!!!! The last job I had before I left for Korea paid less than what I would have received in Social Security Disability if I’d been hit by a forklift at the job.

    (And no, that doesn’t mean disability is too generous, either.)

    ETA: And just for the record, the “shitty town” I was working in is called Portland, Oregon.

    1
  80. An Interested Party says:

    @Blue Galangal: This is why so many people like what Bernie Sanders has been saying…this is why so many people are interested in socialism, despite the badmouthing it gets from so many others…this is why the destruction of unions in this country has been hollowing out the middle class for a long time…it is disgusting that executives at Disney make millions while the average workers have to fight for scraps…but even more disgusting than that is that there are so many people in this country who see nothing wrong with that and continue to vote for evil idiots like the trash in the White House who help to continue along this perverse (oh look, there’s that word again) system…

    3
  81. Anetra Griffin says:

    @James Joyner: if she had workers how she gonna let them tell her to lay them off bs she should be put in jail for unemployment fraud backing up the system for people who really need it

  82. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Nightcrawler: No one believes “unskilled labor” is dispensable. In fact, the reality that they’ve convinced the entire society that “unskilled”==”not requiring the payment of a living wage” means that unskilled labor may be the least dispensable segment of our entire labor market. What would happen to the however many trillion dollar offshore money supply if we started needing to pay people enough to live for only one job instead of paying still not quite enough for three? THAT would be a disaster!

    2
  83. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: 😀

  84. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    . I have faith he’s capable of using his word-smithing skills to reflect his point – he’s pretty good at it.

    I must not be as kind a person as you are because I think his language is reflecting his point. These posts always have a kind of “I got mine fwk you” tone to them to me.

    1
  85. DrDaveT says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    Very few jobs in modern society are truly “unskilled.”

    This is, of course, a big part of the problem.

    If you go through my family tree, a large fraction of my male ancestors show up in the census as “Laborer”, back to 1850 when they first started recording occupations. “Laborer” means not a farmer, not a trade, not a businessman, not anything at all except raw brawn to hire out to wealthier or more skilled people who could use some brawn for hire.

    Most of those raw brawn jobs have been replaced by machines and their (skilled) operators.

  86. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mister Bluster: When to end the Vietnam War was a politically-based decision? “Say it ain’t so Roy. […] And he wished that he could.”

  87. Monala says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I would give him a little more leeway. I have seen James over the last several years slowly dismantle the thinking he had as a Republican. It’s a slow process, but he has often reconsidered his previous views and admits to it. That takes courage, so it just may be that he’ll rethink this one, too.

    3
  88. engineerman says:

    @Scott: 350 MILLION to public companies not billion. it’s a tiny amount

  89. E says:

    @beth:

    What’s perverse is that there’s not a single interview with these employees who “asked” to be let go. Maybe their kids are off from school and they have no childcare. Maybe they’re deathly afraid of catching the virus. Why do we take the store owner’s word as gospel?
    My job’s been closed down and I work with lots of people who are getting more being unemployed than they were working and I haven’t talked to a single one who thinks they hit the gravy train – they all want to get back to work because they know the $600 isn’t forever. See, I can quote unconfirmed facts too – maybe NPR is hiring.

    I work at a truck stop, and have seen a few of my coworkers quit, go on leave, or ask to be let go to collect unemployment. When we qualify for $950/week on unemployment and only earn $350 it’s understandable. In the four months of unemployment that’s $15,200 (taxed at 10%) vs 5,600 from working (taxed at 25% for most of us). That’s $9,600 more to not work for four months.

    With the cares act if you’re scared of contracting the virus (and not able to work from home) you can quit or reduce your hours and get unemployment. So, I could go down to two days a week and make$ 170/week working and get an additional $781/week from unemployment. That comes out to $951/week.

    They shouldn’t be giving such a financial incentive to not work. Can you imagine if all essential workers (hospital employees, nursing home employees, home health aids, doctors, nurses, truck drivers, gas station employees, truck stop employees, grocery store employees, etc) decided to quit so they could make more money to stay at home? The country would shut down. It’s people who are being exposed to the virus by working with the public that should be making the $3600 a month, not people who are at home getting paid to have fun.

    Why should essential employees only get paid 1400/month before tax and unemployed people get 3600 per month before tax? That’s what I don’t understand. With how many people target, mcdonalds, amazon, and grocery stores are hiring I don’t understand why we are incentivizing being on unemployment over working.