Lyft Driver Fears California Law Will Destroy Her Work Flexibility

(p. B4) California lawmakers have hailed the law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom this week that could require drivers of ride-hailing companies to be labeled as employees rather than independent contractors, saying the measure could raise wages and provide new workplace benefits.

But the drivers are divided about how it will affect them.

For Rachel Hudson, a 43-year-old driver for Lyft Inc. who struggles with arthritis and an anxiety disorder, the bill’s passage is unwelcome. Ms. Hudson has driven for Lyft for about five years and fears employment status could mean having to work in scheduled shifts that would wipe out the flexibility she needs.

“Sometimes, I need a two- to three-hour break. I can’t always be relied upon to be at work at specific times,” Ms. Hudson said. Driving for Lyft “is the only way I can afford a car. It makes a huge impact on my life.”

Ms. Hudson, who lives alone in Stockton, Calif., said that besides federal disability benefits, the earnings from Lyft are her only income.

For the full story, see:

Sebastian Herrera. “Uber, Lyft Drivers Torn Over Law Meant to Protect Them.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Sept. 23, 2019): B4.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 21, 2019, and has the title “Uber, Lyft Drivers Torn as California Law Could Reclassify Them.”)

Strong Job Market Allows Lower-Income Workers to Change Jobs

(p. A3) The share of lower-income Americans leaving their jobs for new ones leapt earlier this year, pointing to rising confidence in the U.S. labor market among workers who were left behind earlier in the expansion.

A New York Fed survey released Monday showed the share of lower-income heads of household, defined as earning a household income of $60,000 a year or less, who moved to new jobs in April, May, June or July was 12%, up from 8% in the same period a year earlier and the highest rate for records dating back to 2014.

Meanwhile, job changes among higher-income workers have been declining since early 2018.

The lower-income workers had more opportunities: About 4% of lower-income Americans received three job offers in the four months ended in July, up from 1.4% over the same period in 2018, according to the data in the New York Fed Survey of Consumer Expectations.

For the full story, see:

Sarah Chaney. “Lower-Income Americans Are Job Hopping.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019): A3.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 23, 2019, and has the title “Lower-Income Americans Are Increasingly Job Hopping.”)

Newsboys “Were American Icons–Symbols of Unflagging Industry”

(p. A17) Thomas Edison was one. So were Harry Houdini, Herbert Hoover, W.C. Fields, Walt Disney, Benjamin Franklin, Jackie Robinson, Walter Winchell, Thomas Wolfe, Jack London, Knute Rockne, Harry Truman, John Wayne, Warren Buffett and many more familiar names. Besides being illustrious Americans, these men shared a calling—growing up, they were newsboys, delivering newspapers to subscribers or, more colorfully, hawking them on the streets for a couple of pennies, real money in those days.

In their time, newsboys (girls were rare) were American icons—symbols of unflagging industry and tattered, barefoot, shivering objects of pity. They had their own argot and better news judgment than many editors, because they had to size up the appeal of every edition to determine how many copies to buy from the publisher.

For the full review, see:

Edward Kosner. “BOOKSHELF; Street-Corner Capitalists.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Oct. 7, 2019): A17.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Oct. 6, 2019, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Crying the News’ Review: Street-Corner Capitalists.”)

The book under review is:

DiGirolamo, Vincent. Crying the News: A History of America’s Newsboys. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

“Openness to Creative Destruction” Discussed on Power Trading Radio

John O’Donnell interviewed me at 6 PM 11/8/19, about my book “Openness to Creative Destruction” on his weekly Friday show on Power Trading Radio. (In the screen capture above, Merlin Rothfeld is on the left and John O’Donnell is on the right.)

“Wealth Taxes Would Sap Innovation”

(p. A1) WASHINGTON — Progressive Democrats are advocating the most drastic shift in tax policy in over a century as they look to redistribute wealth and chip away at the economic power of the superrich with new taxes that could fundamentally reshape the United States economy.

As they compete for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont have proposed wealth taxes that would shrink the fortunes of the richest Americans. Their plans envision an enormous transfer of money from the wealthy to ordinary people, with revenue from the wealth tax used to finance new social programs like tuition-free college, universal child care and “Medicare for all.”

The wealth taxes under discussion would deal a major blow to the balance sheets of American plutocrats like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. If the tax that Ms. Warren has called for had been in place since 1982, the net worth of the 15 richest Americans in 2018 would have been half as much, according to two economists who helped develop her plan. The Sanders wealth tax, which was released last week, would have eroded their fortunes even further, to barely one-fifth of their 2018 total.

. . .

(p. A18) But redirecting such vast sums could have unintended effects on the United States economy that go beyond promulgating economic fairness. While Ms. Warren ticks off the social programs that can be funded if the richest Americans pay just 2 cents on every dollar they have above $50 million — a number that is unimaginable to most Americans — skeptics warn of economic stagnation, depressed business confidence and a legal battle that would go to the Supreme Court.

At a conference sponsored by the Brookings Institution in September, N. Gregory Mankiw, a Harvard economist, debated Mr. Saez and Mr. Zucman about the merits of taxing wealth. Mr. Mankiw, the former head of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, offered a searing critique, arguing that a wealth tax would skew incentives that could alter when the superrich make investments, how they give to charity and even potentially spur a wave of divorces for tax purposes. He also noted that billionaires, with their legions of lawyers and accountants, have proven to be experts at gaming the system to avoid even the most onerous taxes.

“On the one hand it’s a bad policy, and then the other thing is it’s a feckless policy,” Mr. Mankiw said.

Left-leaning economists have expressed their own doubts about a wealth tax. Earlier this year, Lawrence Summers, who was President Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary, warned in an article with Natasha Sarin, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, that wealth taxes would sap innovation by putting new burdens on entrepreneurial businesses while they are starting up. In their view, a country with more millionaires is a sign of economic vibrancy.

“Turning the tax code into a vehicle for confronting what some call ‘oligarchic drift’ would undermine business confidence, reduce investment, degrade economic efficiency and punish success in ways unlikely to be good for the country or even to be appealing to most Americans,” they wrote.

For the full story, see:

Alan Rappeport and Thomas Kaplan. “For or Against, Taxing the Rich Rouses Passion.” The New York Times (Wednesday, October 2, 2019): A1 & A18.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “Democrats’ Plans to Tax Wealth Would Reshape U.S. Economy.”)

The “article” by Sarin and Summers, mentioned above, is:

Sarin, Natasha, and Lawrence H. Summers. “Fair, Comprehensive Tax Reform Is the Right Path Forward.” Entry on larrysummers.com, March 29, 2019. http://larrysummers.com/2019/04/01/fair-comprehensive-tax-reform-is-the-right-path-forward/ .

Amazon Has 30,000 Open Permanent Jobs, and Half “Are Tech Oriented”

(p. A1) SEATTLE — Engineers in the Bay Area. Advertising managers in Chicago. Freight specialists in Arizona. The job listings keep piling up at Amazon, a company that is growing in many directions amid one of the tightest labor markets in memory.

On Monday [Sept. 9, 2019], Amazon said it had 30,000 open positions in the United States, including full- and part-time jobs at headquarters offices, technology hubs and warehouses.

Although the company has positions to fill across the country, Amazon’s job boards list many more openings in the Seattle area and California and by its new campus near Washington, D.C., than it does anywhere else.

The vacancies, which Amazon said it hoped to fill by early next year, are permanent jobs and do not include seasonal positions for the warehouse workers and drivers that the company typically hires to handle the spike in orders it gets around Christmas. More than half the jobs are tech oriented, and roughly a quarter are for warehouse work, the company said.

For the full story, see:

Karen Weise. “Amazon’s Work Force Has 30,000-Job Hole.” The New York Times (Tuesday, September 10, 2019): B3.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date September 9, 2019, and has the title “Amazon Has 30,000 Open Jobs. Yes, You Read That Right.”)

Chagnon Documented Violence Among Hunter-Gathering Tribe

(p. B12) In his paper “Life Histories, Blood Revenge, and Warfare in a Tribal Population,” published in the journal Science in 1988, Dr. Chagnon — though the surname is French, his family used an Anglicized pronunciation, SHAG-non — asserted that tribal societies were not typically peaceful, challenging a widespread view.

Anthropologists go wrong, he wrote, when they ignore evidence that aggression among men in tribal societies is so highly rewarded that it becomes an inherited trait.

Yanomami life was one of “incessant warfare,” he wrote. His data, collected over decades, he said, showed that 44 percent of Yanomami men over 25 had participated in killing someone, that 25 percent of Yanomami men were killed by other Yanomami men, and that men who killed were more highly esteemed and had more wives and children than men who did not.

Dr. Chagnon dismissed as “Marxist” the widespread anthropological belief that warfare in tribal life was usually provoked by disputes over access to scarce resources.

“The whole purpose and design of the social structure of tribesmen seems to have revolved around effectively controlling sexual access by males to nubile, reproductive- age females,” he wrote in his 2014 memoir, “Noble Savages.”

For the full obituary, see:

Cornelia Dean. “Napoleon Chagnon, 81, Anthropologist in Amazon Whose Work Drew Criticism.” The New York Times (Tuesday, October 1, 2019): B12.

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the same date as the print version, and has title “Napoleon Chagnon, 81, Controversial Anthropologist, Is Dead.”)

The 2014 memoir mentioned above, is:

Chagnon, Napoleon. Noble Savages: My Life among Two Dangerous Tribes–the Yanomamo and the Anthropologists. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.