ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Friday, June 08, 2007

Head of NASA blasphemes!

From the AP courtesy of Wired:

NASA Head Regrets Global Warming Remarks


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The head of NASA told scientists and engineers that he regrets airing his personal views about global warming during a recent radio interview, according to a video of the meeting obtained by The Associated Press.

NASA administrator Michael Griffin said in the closed-door meeting Monday at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena that "unfortunately, this is an issue which has become far more political than technical and it would have been well for me to have stayed out of it."

Unfortunately, Mr. Griffin, it has become more of a religious issue than a political or technical one.

"All I can really do is apologize to all you guys ... I feel badly that I caused this amount of controversy over something like this," he said.

Griffin made headlines last week when he told a National Public Radio interviewer he wasn't sure global warming was a problem.

"I have no doubt that ... a trend of global warming exists," Griffin said on NPR. "I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with."

Uh-oh. That's not going to be received nicely amongst your peers Mr. Griffin. I do believe that under the current dogma, its something that not only must be dealt with it must be dealt with in the next 10 years or we'll all be dog-paddling!

An international panel this year predicted that uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions could drive up global temperatures and trigger heat waves, devastating droughts and super storms. Observations by NASA satellites show evidence of rapidly melting glaciers and shrinking of critical marine plant life due to warmer seas.

Oh thanks AP! At least you put that could word in there. Which is essentially what Mr. Griffin was saying wasn't it?

The radio interview angered some climate scientists, who called his remarks ignorant.

Griffin reiterated that NASA's job was to provide scientific data on global warming and leave it up to policy makers to decide what to do with it.

How novel! Provide data, and let policy makers make..... policy! Burn him at the stake!

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Labor Unions - What are they good for?

Interesting post over at Cafe Hayek regarding increasing labor wages in China:

Wages in China
Don Boudreaux

Today's New York Times reports
that "wages [are] rising 10 percent or more a year in many Chinese cities."

If true -- and, for the reason that follows, I find this stat to be believable -- such a rise in wages is no surprise. Such a rise in wages is the natural result of more market-driven investment, greater commerce, and economic growth.

And if true, this stat is difficult to reconcile with those pundits and politicians who argue that strong, independent labor unions are necessary to ensure that workers enjoy the benefits of economic growth. In China, independent labor unions are illegal. I confess to being no expert on the realities of the operations of labor unions in China, but I suspect that this reality is not remotely close to the model that the Robert Kuttners, Harold Meyersons, Paul Krugmans, John Edwardses -- and John Sweeneys -- among us believe should be adopted in the U.S. so that American workers can prosper.

Wages generally rise -- and wages rise generally -- because of market forces that improve worker productivity and encourage economic change and growth. Labor unions are not the source of a general rise in real wages.

Don Boudreaux links to this article from 1956, which is very instructive. Here's an excerpt:
[...]The belief that unions cause wages to rise seems to be borne out by simple observation: In repeated instances it is observed that a labor union demands a rise in wages for its members. An argument ensues between the union and management; there may even be a strike. Sooner or later a wage rise is granted—if not for the full amount requested, at least for a major part of it. Other firms then have to meet this new rate or lose workers. So it appears, ipso facto, that wages in general are raised by union activity.

Such a close-up observation, however, may lead one to see things that are not so, as the proverbial fly on the chariot wheel believed that it propelled the vehicle. One must stand off a bit from the publicized union activities if he is to gain a true perspective on whether they cause average wage rates to rise. One needs, for this purpose, a telescopic view by which to compare the long-time trends of wage rates with changes in union membership.
[...]
So the trend in wage rates and in the proportion of workers who are union members have each had three distinctive periods during the past century. But if we compare the two lines carefully, no noticeable relationship between the two is to be found. Neither wage rates nor union membership could be predicted from the other, with any accuracy whatsoever. Try it. After covering the lower line, try to draw one to represent union membership based only on this evidence about wage trends, and vice versa. By comparing your estimate with the facts, I’m sure you will agree that changes in wage rates are quite unrelated to changes in union membership.

Of course, this argument assumes that the purpose of unions is to increase wages and not to:
  1. create a group of people who are tethered to and dependent on the union for their livelihood, which
  2. consolidates power in the heads of the unions, which
  3. provides political capital for those of a particular political party.
Wooops... I think Edwards, Obama, Clinton, Kennedy, and Bernie Sanders expected me to sing the praises of Mom, Apple Pie, and Unions. Unfortunately, facts tend to have a powerful effect on me.

On a related note, isn't it great that Chinese wages are increasing? I mean, at some point, the idiot protectionists and isolationists won't be able to bitch & moan about jobs going to China b/c of the cheap labor. Of course, as long as our confiscatory tax rates stay in effect, companies will continue to look other places to anchor their operations.


Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Thursday, June 07, 2007

News Flash - Global Warming Has Severe Effects at Yosemite - Women and Minorities Most Impacted

This correspondent ventured into the wilds of the High Sierra and confirmed the disappearance of glaciers. What has been left in the wake of these vanished ice sheets are valleys thousands of feet deep, water falls and millions of trees. Al Gore has blamed the Bush administration and is again considering a recount of the 2000 election in Florida. Michael Moore has announced that he will be making a documentary, "The Attack of the Killer Trees." Green Peace is organizing a march on this former pristine wilderness to protest the evils of capitalism.

"What more evidence do you need to see the evils of our wasteful lifestyle run amuck?" Gore inquired at 97 decibels. "Bush has betrayed us yet again," the former vice president and prophet of the Global Warming Movement reasoned just prior to boarding his private jet ro London. His Nobel Peace Prize seems assured in the wake of this disaster confided a confidential source in Oslo.

Reverend Sharpton announced in New York that he was commisioning an ark for those likely to be flooded out in Bedford Styvesant and Harlem. "The Honkeys and the Jews will take care of themselves. We ain't having no New Orleans here."

In Congress new legislation was introduced to raise the cafe standard to 150 miles per gallon for all cars manufactured after June 15th. Another bill repealing the third law of thermo-dynamics will be introduced next week. It is rumored a committee is looking at the law of supply and demand with the aim of amending it further in the wake of the alarming developments in California.

*** UPDATE by St Wendeler ***
In related news, Global Warming linked to increase in feline birth rates. So, at least Global Warming is benefiting someone! Unfortunately for me, my wife has informed me that Global Warming decreases her interest in me - or something like that.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: MontereyJohn

Ouch!

From Instapundit. Priceless.

MORE: Bruce Hill wonders if Oliver and I have had a falling out. Well, I had high hopes for Oliver once, but since he went to work for Media Matters I think he's squandered his potential. Still, Oliver seems to care much more about my blogging than I do about his. But then, he's paid to, I guess.
Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

June 6, 1944 - Remembering D-Day

H/T Michelle Malkin

And wondering how the news of D-Day would be covered by today's media:



Of course, this "parody" is accurate except:

  1. It has a US flag in the background in many shots. We all know that this would be considered by today's media as too jingoistic. In all likelihood, a graphic combining the Nazi and US flag would be used.
  2. The political pundits only use it to criticize the President. We all know that the next breath would be on the political repercussions on the casualty count on the opposition party in the upcoming mid-terms
  3. There's no discussion of American sentiment, which is determined by a nationwide poll of people who live in the Northeast and on the West coast.
Just saying... great job, but a couple of things that they missed.

*** UPDATE ***
Victor Davis Hanson (my favorite Democrat) provides his always-enlightening perspective on D-Day:
The Other D-Day
By Victor Davis Hanson
Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sixty-three years ago this week, we landed on the Normandy beaches. As on each anniversary of June 6, 1944, much has been written to commemorate the bravery and competence of the victorious Anglo-American forces.

All true. But as we ponder this achievement of the Greatest Generation that helped lead to the surrender of Nazi Germany less than a year later, we should remember that the entire campaign was, as Wellington said of Waterloo, a near-run thing.

Our forefathers made several mistakes. They attacked nonexistent artillery emplacements. Planes dropped paratroopers far from intended targets. Critical landing assignments on Omaha Beach were missed.

Once they left shore, it got worse. Indeed, D-Day was soon forgotten in the nightmare of GIs being blown apart in the Normandy hedgerows by well-concealed, entrenched German panzers.

Apparently, no American planners - from Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall down to the staff of Allied Supreme Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower - had anticipated either the difficulty of penetrating miles of these dense thickets or the deadliness of new German model tanks and anti-tank weapons.

So we landed in Europe with the weaponry we had - and it was in large part vastly inferior to that of the Wehrmacht .

The most brilliant armored commander in U.S. history, George S. Patton, had been sacked from theater command for slapping an ill soldier the prior year in Sicily. Gens. Omar N. Bradley and Bernard L. Montgomery lacked his genius and audacity - and tens of thousands of Allied soldiers were to pay for Patton's absence at Normandy.

We finally broke out of the mess, after using heavy bombers to blast holes in the German lines. But again, these operations were fraught with foul-ups.

On two successive occasions we bombed our own troops, altogether killing or wounding over 1,000 Americans, including the highest-ranking officer to die in the European Theater, Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair. The nature of his death was hidden from the press - as were many mistakes and casualties both leading up to and after Normandy.

When the disaster in the bocage near the Normandy beaches ended over two months after D-Day, the victorious Americans, British and Canadians had been bled white. Altogether, the winners of the Normandy campaign suffered a quarter-million dead, wounded or missing, including almost 30,000 American fatalities - losing nearly 10 times the number of combat dead in four years of fighting in Iraq.

News from the other fronts during the slaughter in Normandy was no better. Due to blunders by American generals in Italy, the retreating German army had escaped the planned Allied encirclement - and would kill thousands more Allied soldiers in Italy during the next year.

Disturbing reports spread about the simultaneous advance and brutality of Stalin's Red Army on the Eastern Front. Some in the American government began to worry that a war started over freedom for Eastern Europe might end up guaranteeing its enslavement - Stalin's storm troopers merely replacing Hitler's.

While we were ground up in the hedgerows, in the Pacific theater thousands of American amphibious troops were lost during the Marianas campaign. True, we kept winning gruesome amphibious assaults, but we didn't seem to learn much from them.

Instead, far worse carnage lay in store at places named Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. All these bloodbaths near the end of the war were characterized by the sheer heroism of the American soldier - who suffered terribly from intelligence failures and poor leadership of his superiors.

What can we learn, then, on this anniversary of the Normandy campaign?

By any historical measure, our forefathers committed as many strategic and tactical blunders as we have in Afghanistan and Iraq - but lost tens of thousands more Americans as a result of such errors. We worry about emboldening Iran by going into Iraq; the Normandy generation fretted about empowering a colossal Soviet Union.

Of course, World War II was an all-out fight for our very existence in a way many believe the war against terror that began on 9/11 is not. Even more would doubt that al-Qaida jihadists in Iraq pose the same threat to civilization as the Wehrmacht did in Europe.

Nevertheless, the Normandy campaign reminds us that war is by nature horrific, fraught with foolish error - and only won by the side that commits the least number of mistakes. Our grandfathers knew that. So they pressed on as best they could, convinced that they needn't be perfect, only good enough, to win.

The American lesson of D-Day and its aftermath was how to overcome occasional abject stupidity while never giving up in the face of an utterly savage enemy. We need to remember that now more than ever.

Indeed.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

We Must Invest in Public EducationTM

I mean, how else are those poor teachers going to get their all-expenses paid trips to San Francisco, Las Vegas, South Africa, etc?

From the St Louis Post-Dispatch:

Pedicures and Pinot Grigio
Wednesday, Jun. 06 2007

Sometimes numbers speak louder than words. The spending scandal in the
Riverview Gardens school system is a case in point.

A Post-Dispatch analysis of the district's accounting records found that school board members and district employees spent at least $1.7 million on travel in less than four years. That's more than some districts twice its size spend on travel. The district sent almost 600 teachers, staff members, principals, administrators and board members on more than 100 trips to at least 60 cities, from the Lake of the Ozarks to New York to San Francisco to Cape Town, South Africa.

Those numbers scream fiscal irresponsibility and personal greed.

For their analysis, Post-Dispatch reporters David Hunn and Jaimi Dowdell pieced together district credit card statements, receipts, reimbursements, checks and expense advances. The total bill, they said, was almost impossible to tally
because the records were a mess.


Missouri state auditors released a report in March admonishing the district for wasting millions of dollars and for overpaying $150,000 to personal accounts of former Superintendent Henry Williams. The Post-Dispatch analysis linked him to 44 trips over four years.

But it wasn't Mr. Williams alone who was helping himself to district travel funds. Others gleefully shoved their hands into the cookie jar. Over four years, eight board members went on at least 100 trips, sometimes staying at posh resorts. District guidelines limit meal expenses to $40 a day, but at times, school leaders enjoyed $8 glasses of Pinot Grigio, $28 entrees of rock shrimp and $10 servings of creme brulée. In one case, a principal and a school board member billed the district for $50 pedicures.

In November of last year, the district spent $30,000 to send 15 people to Dallas. In July 2005, the district spent $36,000 to send eight people to Harvard's Institute for School Leadership. The day that group returned, more than 40 others set off for Las Vegas on a trip that cost at least $38,000.

Mr. Williams' personal itinerary reads like excerpts from Paris Hilton's travel diary: the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Ariz.; the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans and the Hilton in Reno, Nev. In one of the more outrageous examples of selfishness, Mr. Williams arrived two days before a July 2004 conference was scheduled to start and jetted to Jackson, Wyo. There he rented a car, drove 165 miles and billed the district for food — often for two meals at one sitting — including snacks inside Yellowstone National Park. He returned to St. Louis two days before the four-day conference ended.

Adding insult to injury, district staff received training that they didn't get a chance to use. Teacher Debby Jackson said she was sent to Orlando for training three different times at a total cost of more than $10,000. But once she became certified, the district didn't allow many opportunities for her to teach others what she had learned. School Board President Marlene Terry and Mr. Williams were often missing from conference workshops, some board members said.

The board removed Mr. Williams from his position in March, but he remains on the district payroll. He subsequently was arrested and has been charged with theft of $100,000 from the district and attempting to evade income taxes. A new chief financial officer, Cedric Lewis, is trying to clean up the mess. The
district has hired an independent team of forensic auditors, which is poring over the documents. Last fall, Mr. Lewis stopped dispensing cash advances, began accurately tracking expenses and cracked down on inappropriate spending. We hope the gravy train has been derailed.
Good to know you can be removed from your position, charged with theft, and still get your paycheck.
Unfortunately, some who took part in the free spending still haven't seen the error of their ways. "I've been on his board for nine years. I've probably traveled 60 times," Ms. Terry said. "So what?"

Only one school board member, Gilda Hester, said she regretted her part in the spree.

District lawyers should pursue charges against every arrogant, greedy person who misspent district money and demand restitution.

Other school districts can learn from the Riverview Gardens fiasco: Know where every dollar is being spent. When the numbers talk, listen.
Now, the P-D isn't going to disparage the entire public education system, with its layers of bureaucracy (which reduces money spent in the classroom) and the union protection racket which protects the worst performing teachers. Of course, if some business scofflaws use company funds for personal reasons (see Hollinger Intl), it's an indictment on the entire, "under-regulated" capitalist system.

Here's some more info from the summary of the State Auditor's document on Riverview Gardens that you may find interesting:
The Riverview Gardens School District's financial condition has declined significantly in the past year and based on the amended fiscal year 2007 budget, is expected to further deteriorate. The operating funds balance at June 30, 2005 was $12.4 million and is projected to be only $1.6 million at June 30, 2007. School districts with an operating funds balance of less than three percent of the operating funds expenditures are considered "financially stressed" per state law. In addition, the district has been classified as "Provisionally Accredited" by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, as the district has not met enough standards and indicators to be accredited.
So, in addition to pillaging the budget, the "administrators" and "teachers" aren't exactly spending their time instructing the students. Not what you want to see in terms of ROI.
During the four year, six month period ended December 31, 2006, the superintendent was apparently overpaid by approximately $158,400. [ED - still on the payroll.] From December 2004 to August 2006, the superintendent received 12 unauthorized salary advancesand received various other salary amounts totaling $2,000 that were not approved by the board. In addition, the district paid interest totaling approximately $39,000 on the superintendent's personal loans against his insurance policies during the three years ended June 30, 2006. Also, car allowances paid to the superintendent exceeded the amount authorized by his employment contracts by $6,300 during the three year, six month period ended December 31, 2006.

The superintendent carried forward more vacation days than allowed by his contract and was paid $27,551 for 45 vacation days in June 2005 and $26,122 for 40 vacation days in February 2006. The payments were approved by the board president, but were not submitted to the full board for approval.

The district over funded the superintendent's annuity by $15,000 for the year ended June 30, 2006. In addition, the district paid approximately $42,500 more for the superintendent's insurance premiums than required by the contract and untaxed contributions to the superintendent's tax sheltered annuities appear to exceed limits established by the IRS.

Original budgets approved by the board were not accurate and complete, reasons for budget amendments were not clearly documented, and the district’s final actual operating funds disbursements exceeded budgeted amounts by $5.7 million for the year ended June 30, 2006. The original budget for fiscal year 2007 underestimated disbursements and had to be amended for corrections in November 2006. Concerns regarding financial records and reporting include monthly financial reports being inaccurate, coding disbursements to whatever area had funds remaining in the budget, not posting checks on a timely basis, and in June 2006, knowingly issuing checks in excess of the accounts payable bank account balance.

There were numerous concerns regarding bidding and contracts. Several purchases were not competitively bid or competitive requests for proposals were not obtained, including: alternative education services, $2,020,188; custodial equipment and supplies, $410,743; classroom learning materials, $364,034; and educational software, $250,000 to name a few. Board minutes did not document the reasons for rejecting the lowest bid for a construction project, written contracts were not properly executed with some vendors and some contracts were not approved by the board. Additionally, requests for proposals were not adequately planned. On February 23, 2005, the board approved a $1.3 million contract for energy management services for three schools. Eleven days later, a change order for $736,000 was approved to add eight more buildings to the contract.

The district paid approximately $43,000 to a moving company owned by a board member's father and the district hired relatives of a board member and an administrator in violation of board policy. The district has not established adequate procedures for identifying related parties.

During the two years ended June 30, 2006, charges totaling approximately $240,000 were made on the district's credit cards. Receipts were missing for 42 of the 48 monthly credit card statements reviewed. Additionally, board members and the superintendent did not account for cash advances and did not return or account for unused funds. Also, some disbursements do not appear to be reasonable uses of public funds including: $7,000 for artwork and print framing for art in individual offices, $4,900 for lodging, meals, and refreshments for a two-day board retreat held in Hermann, Missouri and $1,180 for the superintendent's four subscriptions to a local theatre company. Finally, software training sessions totaling $41,625 were not supported by a written contract.
Yikes! I seem to recall the P-D complaining about having Boards of Directors in companies that were too "buddy-buddy" to CEOs a few days ago. It seems to me that the School Board of Riverview saw the taxpayers' money as a great way to enrich themselves.

And let's not forget the results of this inept school district. Riverview Gardens is not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Of course, "progressives" and their rubes in the teachers' unions continue to complain that NCLB isn't adequately funded (despite the unprecedented level of federal government spending in education, almost doubling their "investment"). If this is what more money in education leads to, then perhaps we should see what happens when we spend less.

If we ever do move to a choice-based education system, I think one requirement to participate would be to have open financial records.

And why is it that "progressives" are so un-progressive and anti-choice when it comes to education, again? Well, when their education policy (and its results) are combined with their anti-growth environmentalism, I would have to say that their main goal is keep the poorest and least educated from ever succeeding in this world.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Steve Gilliard, RIP


Steve Gilliard, editor of The News Blog (which made our Moonbat Lefty Blogroll) passed away this weekend. He was 41 and had apparently been battling an illness for some time.

Steve's way of thinking did not appeal to me - like many on the left, his writings were often filled with hate and fallacious reasoning. His "take no prisoner" style appealed to only the most rabid left-wingers. Some of his posts which were covered here at ARC are the following:

Clearly, Gilliard had issues understanding reality and knowing how best to persuade people to consider his positions. His in-your-face style of attack probably did not win many converts, but he was idolized by the other Moonbats in the blogosphere. Jane Hamsher has a post in which she fondly recalls their first meeting and portrays him as some genius (which he clearly was not).

I guess all I can say in the end is that I hope that Steve has found a Peace that he obviously never experienced here on Earth. Condolences to his family & friends.

*** UPDATE ***
Hugh Hewitt has posted on Steve's passing as well.
The eulogy of Steve that appeared in the Daily Kos referred to him as “hard-nosed, independent, (and) acerbic. Steve often pissed off the same readers he wowed with his take-no-prisoners style.” I read Gilliard every day, and I can attest to the accuracy of this summation. He wowed me, and he pissed me off, usually multiple times in the same post. As I made my daily virtual stroll through the lefty blogs, I always looked forward to hitting his site. He was profane, angry and offensive, but also intelligent and still somehow fun.

Steve was 41 years old. I’ll miss him. My condolences to his family and his thousands of friends.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Falling Behind Dad - A Fisking

The St Louis Post-Dispatch Piece of Trash had this editorial earlier in the week and I've been meaning to fisk it, as it demonstrates such a clear misunderstanding about economics and historical trends that it is laughable.

The subject of the article is a recent study by Pew's Economic Mobility Project which shows that upward economic mobility is now no longer purely attributable to the man in the household - and that, in comparison to men 30 years ago, the income of men is lower.

Here's how the Post covered the study (and I'll be interrupting throughout):

Falling behind Dad
Wednesday, May. 30 2007

For generations, it has been an article of faith among American parents that their children would be better off economically than they were.

That may be changing. At least one group of Americans, men in their 30s, now are earning less than their fathers did at the same age. In 1974, the U.S. median income for men in their 30s stood at $40,210 in today's inflation-adjusted dollars. In 2004, median pay in that age group stood at $35,010.

Families headed by people in their 30s are living better than they once did, but that's only because more women are working. Even so, the improvement has been modest: $53,280 in 2004 versus $49,503 three decades earlier.

Now, this last paragraph is crucial as it explains the entire phenomenon. Let's do a point by point:
  1. Families are better off in inflation adjusted dollars than in 1974. This is good news, right?
  2. Women are contributing towards the household income. This is good news, right? If I recall, more women in the workplace was one of the objectives of the feminist movements.
  3. The income increase is "modest," at just over 7%.

Now, some context. What happens to the price of something when its supply increases? Econ 101 and the law of supply & demand tells us that the price of something decreases as its supply increases. Now, what percentage of women worked outside of the home in the 70s? This was the beginning of an upsurge in women in the workplace, so clearly not as many as are working now.

As the supply of labor increased over the years (almost doubling?), its price should have decreased substantially.

Also, it should be noted that many of the conveniences we enjoy today (both products & services) would have been luxury items in the 70s. Our purchasing power (thanks to Wal-Mart and innovations in business) has increased significantly. Car phones, clothing, food, computers (which became personal computers in the late 70s as opposed to the Goliaths that only a company could afford), and other items were either of poorer quality in the 70s or did not exist.

Back to the P-D:
Those figures come from the Economic Mobility Project, which is trying to measure how people climb the economic ladder — and how they fall from it. The project is an unusual collaboration between conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation and liberal groups such as the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. As such, the project may be able to deliver findings untainted by ideological spin.

Of course, the Post-Dispatch is more than happy to editorialize and provide some ideological spin if the Project does not...
The decline in men's earnings is a break from this country's long history of rising earnings from generation to generation. It also comes despite a remarkable rise in productivity over the past decade, as well as healthy growth in gross domestic product.

"This suggests that the up-escalator that has historically ensured that each generation would do better than the last may not be working very well," the report says. That ties in with a raft of other statistics indicating a widening income gap between people at the top of the ladder and everyone else.

The American economy has grown at a healthy rate for most of the past quarter century, and that rising economic tide has indeed lifted all boats. But the rich are surfing a wealth tsunami, while most others are stuck paddling in a backwater. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the poorest fifth of Americans saw their real incomes rise by 9 percent from 1979 to 2004. The richest fifth saw a 69 percent rise, the wealthiest 1 percent saw a spectacular 176 percent explosion in real income.

Back in President Jimmy Carter's day (1977-1981), the average corporate chief executive earned 35 times the average hourly worker's pay. Under George W. Bush, the average top dog earns at least 262 times the paycheck of the average worker. Other studies place the CEO multiple at more than 400 times pay on the shop floor.
Of course, the responsibilities of CEOs in today's global economy is 400x more complex than the responsibilities of a CEO in Carter's malaise era. Back in the day, CEOs were primarily focused on the domestic economy, and in many cases regions of the US. Today, CEOs have to be cognizant not just of their company's value chain in the US, but also of the entire value chain system (upstream to the global supply base, the company's value chain consisting of a global enterprise, and the downstream global customer base).

In addition, the pace of innovation within every sector of the economy (and the interdependence of those sectors) means that a CEO of today must have an extraordinary vision of the company's opportunities. But, don't let me get in the way of your bashing of corporate executives...
This is a sharp break from the past. Until about 1980, earnings of American families tended to rise roughly with productivity in the economy; all economic classes prospered. Then the connection between productivity and prosperity loosened, and now it seems broken altogether. Productivity rose by an average of 2.8 percent per year during the current decade. But median family income in 2005, the last year for which statistics are available, still was below the level of 1999.
Hmmmm... the connection between productivity and prosperity has "loosened" and "is now broken." How can this be?

This is due to the innovation of information technology over the past 30 years. Now, instead of getting a raise each year because you were more productive, companies are investing in technology to improve the efficiency of processes - with the goal of reducing or eliminating human involvement. Manual involvement in a process costs money. As IT automates processes throughout the enterprise with relatively low cost, productivity skyrockets without a need to substantially increase the cost of labor.
There are lots of theories as to why this is happening. Labor unions are much weaker today than in previous decades. Low-skilled factory jobs have moved to other countries where costs are lower, leaving less demand for unskilled workers here. But in recent years, even families headed by college graduates have seen their incomes fall when adjusted for inflation.
Yes, the reason for the decline is the weakness of labor unions. LOL.

And wait a second... Low-skilled factory workers in the US are more expensive compared to people with similar skills in other countries (ie, they are overpaid for their corresponding level of skills)? With regard to college graduates, I have to say that the dismal public education system has now forced employers to require a college degree from prospective employees, if only to ensure that the candidate has sufficient skills (reading comprehension, math, communication skills, etc).
Solutions to the income gap are even harder to come by.
But the Post-Dispatch decides to provide some suggestions.
A more progressive income tax system would help by taxing the rich more and the middle class less.
Increasing taxes on the wealthy improves the economic mobility of the lower- and middle-class how? How would an increase in income taxes on the wealthy change anything in this story? Why is this suggestion listed first?

And, did the study take into account the tax rates? It would be interesting to apply the Carter-era tax rates (up to 70%) to the income comparison and find out exactly who is better off...
It would especially be useful as a way to fund universal health care at a time when workers are paying more out-of-pocket for their health care.
Ahh, socialized medicine. That's a sure-fire way to improve people's incomes. Actually, if you add in the cost of health care borne by a company as compensation, the numbers would show that today's employees are much better off.
The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy have thrown the federal budget deeper into deficit while doing little for ordinary Americans.
Actually, it's the explosion of spending that caused a increase in the deficit, since tax receipts after the Bush tax cuts have actually increased.
The impending hike in the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour will help workers on the lower end.
Except for those unskilled workers who do not have skills commensurate with $7.25/hour. Companies will either increase prices (something that they're reluctant to do in today's competitive environment or send those low skilled jobs offshore, where the relationship between skill and pay is more accurate.
Improved education and job training might help equip more people for better-paying jobs. Federal statistics clearly show that unions raise wages, but Republicans in Congress are blocking a bill that would make it easier to organize workers.
Yes, improved education and job training is important. Unfortunately, the government's involvement in education has been a failure, demonstrated year after year by the abilities of home-schoolers around the country and the private schools where even the biggest proponents of public education send their kids.
Corporate shareholders with the right to vote on executive pay packages might help put a check on exorbitant pay packages negotiated with friendly boards of directors.

In general, our lightly regulated brand of capitalism has worked well; that's a compelling argument against heavy-handed regulation by government in order to spread the wealth. But if the earning disjuncture and income disparity we're seeing now turn out to be more than a funny little phase, that argument may need to be revisited.
Yes, lightly regulated brand of capitalism. I trust that the members of the Post-Dispatch editorial board have never tried to run a public company. The amount of regulations on business in this country will make your head spin. Factor in the increased complexity of today's regulations (Sarbanes-Oxley anyone?) to the CEO's responsibilities and you can see why CEO's are paid significantly more.

All in all, the study (and the Post-Dispatch's coverage of it) does not appear to take into account the complexity of today's global economy. In truth, everyone living today is better off than their parents in the 1970s.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler