During the spring city elections campaign, it often came up when my interest in politics took hold. Though it became particularly acute during Election 2000 and 9/11, the seeds may have been planted in my subconscious by music when I was a teenager.
Most notably, Anthrax’s seminal 1987 album “Among the Living,” Metallica’s “… And Justice For All” in 1988, trailed a couple weeks later by “Among’s” follow-up “State of Euphoria.”
On a recent road trip I was reminded of a glaring omission when I heard Queensryche’s “Revolution Calling” (RC). Among that songs prescient lines is the lament “I used to trust the media to tell me the truth/Tell us the truth.”
It seems almost prophetic these days, in few arenas more than economic policy. Econ 101 isn’t even safe.
Upfront, in a society where citizens and the press enjoy freedom of expression, there will be points of disagreement. In the span of two pieces in a recent San Antonio Express-News (EN), there were points aplenty.
The overriding one, as it has been for over a year, was the coronavirus. At least four times in these write-ups, recent woes were blamed on “COVID-19,” or “the pandemic.”
There is no shortage of folks who firmly believe, based on conviction, history, and memories of early 2020, that no punishable restrictions on our movement or associations were warranted.
There is no justification to preempt our ability and responsibility to protect ourselves, our children, and consequently, one another.
There is an opposing camp however, like most of the mainstream media, that believes people do not have this capacity. Therefore, socially- and economically-damaging shutdowns were inevitable and necessary.
Whether or not the wreckage can be chalked up to the pandemic, or government’s reaction to it, is highly debatable at the very least.
The same can be said about whether or not those who shun the pro-shutdown position should subsidize the fears of the others until the latter “feel safe” enough to return to work.
One sweetener that might need to be dangled in front of the excessively frightened, we’re told, is taxpayer-bankrolled child-care. Workforce Solutions Alamo reportedly “spends more than half its” budget on this.
President Biden’s plan, like all such “aid” that has come before it, will only compound the problem.
When consumers are shielded from the true cost of a product or service, we demand more of it. The price subsequently rises. Industry inflation continues apace.
If and when local providers decline to accept the strings that will certainly be attached, it’s not unlikely that they won’t be able to compete with Uncle Sam’s deceptively deep pockets.
But since “these are federal dollars,” it’s essentially free money in the eyes of outfits like the EN. Nevermind that some of the money “Texas is leaving … on the table” came from Texans paying income taxes.
This is basic stuff, but sometimes the media isn’t immune from getting even that wrong.
In moving up the date when Texas no longer takes federal unemployment funds, EN business editor Greg Jefferson laments that the “status quo that (Governor Greg) Abbott and company want to restore” is one of “low pay.”
A few key strokes later, he reminds us that most of the 130,000 folks who lost jobs were of the “low-skilled” variety, and that there were “40,000 jobs posted” recently.
A basic tenet of economics says that when supply of something (like labor) outnumbers demand, the price (wages) will decline until the market finds equilibrium.
Another rudimentary lesson my recent high school graduate learned in her economics class this spring, is that there are different types of unemployment.
Given the steadying unemployment figures Jefferson concedes, the “job losses” that “are still coming” likely amount to frictional unemployment. This is normal worker movement in a dynamic economy.
Meanwhile, a few pages over, the EN editorial pays lip-service to “challenges for small businesses that have always existed: retaining quality staff and making a profit.” Yet they ignore a couple of patently obvious points that even my younger daughters could see.
One, revenues have to be higher than costs to make a profit.
This is a challenge for small businesses because, well, they’re small. They don’t have the cushiony bottom-line to absorb higher labor costs that big businesses do.
And when government makes it more and more affordable to not work, the market price for labor goes up.
(By the way, no mention whatsoever, in either piece, of the labor force participation rate, which shows fewer people even looking for work than fifteen months ago)
On its face, rising wages are a good thing. But when it comes from the hands of central planners, alleged “experts” held in high regard only by a mirror and media cheerleaders holding it up for them, it’s more likely to put those smaller businesses out to pasture.
And no number of “relief programs” or “revitalization funds” will help.
The other reality staring the media in the face is that people like my daughters use these jobs as stepping stones, to learn basic work habits. That’s why they tend to be on the lower rungs of the pay scale, and why they fit hand-in-glove with small (local) businesses.
For the aspirational, there is an expiration date on these gigs. Not only do they want more compensation, but they’re eager to tackle more challenging tasks. Astute bosses know, and expect this.
And this is where the EN’s analysis starts to border on the mystifying.
Getting such training for “better-paying jobs” is one reason Jefferson cites as “keeping unemployed workers at home.”
More than a few folks worked their way through school. Single parents have done the same while juggling that extra responsibility. These activities can be done concurrently.
What kind of signal does it to send when we incentivize the unemployed to avoid going this route on the dime of those who did?
Perhaps most bizarre is when the editorial declares that “the extra $300 a week in unemployment … likely made the difference in paying rent, keeping the lights on and putting food on the table.”
Wouldn’t wages from a job, more likely to be found as “the economy is showing signs of progress,” do the same?
It’s really no wonder those old Queensryche lyrics still resonate.
When I read stuff like this, I’m inclined to give the benefit of the doubt. I chalk it up to the mainstream media’s impressive wealth of ignorance.
In this case however, I might have to yield to someone who begs to differ by astutely pointing to the title of the classic concept album where RC can be found: “Operation: Mindcrime.”
Christopher E. Baecker manages fixed assets at Pioneer Energy Services, teaches economics at Northwest Vista College, is a board member of the Institute of Objective Policy Assessment, and is a member of the San Antonio Business & Economics Society. He can be reached via email or Facebook