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Friday, January 18, 2019

Union Membership in 2018

The union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions--was 10.5 percent in 2018, down by 0.2 percentage point from 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.7 million in 2018, was little changed from 2017. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers
Highlights from the 2018 data: --The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.9 percent) continued to be more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.4 percent). (See table 3.) 
--The highest unionization rates were among workers in protective service occupations (33.9 percent) and in education, training, and library occupations (33.8 percent). (See table 3.) --Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (11.1 percent) than women (9.9 percent). (See table 1.)
--Black workers remained more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.)
--Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 82 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($860 versus $1,051). (The comparisons of earnings in this release are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.) (See table 2.)
--Among states, Hawaii and New York had the highest union membership rates (23.1 percent and 22.3 percent, respectively), while North Carolina and South Carolina had the lowest (2.7 percent each). (See table 5.) 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

GoFundMe and Health Care

Rachel Bluth at Kaiser Health News:
Scrolling through the GoFundMe website reveals seemingly an endless number of people who need help or community support. A common theme: the cost of health care.
It didn’t start out this way. Back in 2010, when the crowdfunding website began, it suggested fundraisers for “ideas and dreams,” “wedding donations and honeymoon registry” or “special occasions.” A spokeswoman said the bulk of collection efforts from the first year were “related to charities and foundations.” A category for medical needs existed, but it was farther down the list.
In the nine years since, campaigns to pay for health care have reaped the most cash. Of the $5 billion the company says it has raised, about a third has been for medical expenses from more than 250,000 medical campaigns conducted annually.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

More Likely to Die From Overdoses Than Car Crashes

From the National Safety Council:
 For the first time in U.S. history, a person is more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than from a motor vehicle crash, according to National Safety Council analysis. The odds of dying accidentally from an opioid overdose have risen to one in 96, eclipsing the odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash (one in 103). NSC unveiled the analysis on Injury Facts – the definitive resource for data around unintentional, preventable injuries, commonly known as “accidents.” The nation’s opioid crisis is fueling the Council’s grim probabilities, and that crisis is worsening with an influx of illicit fentanyl.
NSC analysis also shows that falls – the third leading cause of preventable death behind drug overdose and motor vehicle crashes – are more likely to kill someone than ever before. The lifetime odds of dying from an accidental fall are one in 114 – a change from one in 119 just a year ago.
To keep the public up to date on the latest injury and fatality trends, the Council has added “Poisonings,” “Older Adult Falls,” “Fire-Related Fatalities and Injuries,” and “Deaths by Transportation Mode” to Injury Facts. To demonstrate why Americans should be more concerned about preventable injuries than headline-grabbing catastrophes, the Council also added designated pages about airplane crashes, railroad deaths and consumer products – all issues that tend to spark nationwide anxiety but lead to far fewer fatal incidents than routine, everyday activities such as taking medication, driving or getting out of bed.
Preventable injuries are the third leading cause of death, claiming an unprecedented 169,936 lives in 2017 and trailing only heart disease and cancer. Of the three leading causes of death, preventable injuries were the only category to experience an increase in 2017, according to NSC analysis of the CDC data issued in December. A person’s lifetime odds of dying from any preventable, accidental cause are one in 25 – a change from one in 30 in 2004.
Additional new data on Injury Facts – digitized last spring after 98 years of hardcover publication – include:

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Border Data

Illegal border crossings have been dropping since 2000.  In 2017, apprehensions were at their lowet point in 46 years   Joe Ward and Anjali Singhvi at NYT:
Undetected illegal border crossings have dropped at an even faster rate, from 851,000 in 2006 to approximately 62,000 in 2016, according to estimates by the Department of Homeland Security.
However, there is one group of migrants that is on the rise: families. A record number of families have tried to cross the border in recent months, overwhelming officials at the border and creating a new kind of humanitarian crisis.
...S]everal studies have found no link between immigration and crime, and some have found lower crime rates among immigrants.
Texas, which has the longest border with Mexico and has one of the largest populations of undocumented immigrants of any state, keeps track of immigration status as part of its crime data. The Cato Institute, a libertarian research center, analyzed the Texas data for 2015 and found that the rate of crime among undocumented immigrants was generally lower than among native-born Americans.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Cities Offer Less Opportunity to the Less Educated

Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui at NYT:
[C]ities no longer offer low-skilled workers the economic advantages they once did, according to new analysis by the M.I.T. economist David Autor.
Workers, whether with a college degree or not, could long count on earning more in denser urban areas than in rural ones. Today, that pattern holds for highly educated workers — and has in fact grown much stronger. For workers without any college education, the added wage benefits of dense cities have mostly disappeared in Mr. Autor’s data:
What’s startling about that conclusion is that many economists and policymakers have suggested that workers migrate to prosperous metros to find opportunity. We don’t have many proven strategies for how to revive communities battered by changes in the economy. But we have decades of history that show that Americans have been able to lift themselves up by leaving struggling places for thriving cities.

What happens if that’s no longer true for low-skilled workers?
“People have lamented, ‘Well, all these areas that lost manufacturing, why don’t those workers just get up and go somewhere else?’” said Mr. Autor, who looked at wage data from the census and American Community Survey and recently presented the findings at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association. “It’s just not at all obvious what that place is. It’s less obvious to me now than it was a month ago.”
Mr. Autor attributes the declining urban wage premium in this chart to the disappearance of “middle-skill jobs” in production but also in clerical, administrative and sales work. Many of these jobs have gone overseas. Others have been automated out of existence.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Coast Guard and the Shutdown

Our textbook discusses the Coast Guard.  which has moved over the years from Treasury (where it started in 1790 under Alexander Hamilton) to Transportation to DHS (with stops at the old War Department in between):

Patricia Kime at
The Coast Guard's 41,000 active-duty members will not be paid on their next payday, scheduled for Jan. 15, due to lack of appropriations in the ongoing government shutdown, the service's vice commandant said Thursday.
Active-duty Coast Guardsmen received a paycheck Dec. 28 as the result of a workaround by the Department of Homeland Security, Coast Guard, and Office of Management and Budget, which ruled that the service had the authority to issue all pay and allowances for December.
But in an all-hands message dated Jan. 10, Adm. Charles Ray said no reprieve will occur Jan. 15: The service is unable to cover its payroll.
Dan Lamothe at WP:
Employees of the U.S. Coast Guard who are facing a long U.S. government shutdown just received a suggestion: To get by without pay, consider holding a garage sale, babysitting, dog-walking or serving as a “mystery shopper.”
The suggestions were part of a five-page tip sheet published by the Coast Guard Support Program, an employee-assistance arm of the service often known as CG SUPRT. It is designated to offer Coast Guard members help with mental-health issues or other concerns about their lives, including financial wellness.
“Bankruptcy is a last option,” the document said.

The Coast Guard receives funding from the Department of Homeland Security and is subjected to the shuttering of parts of the government along with DHS’s other agencies. That stands in contrast to other military services, which are part of the Defense Department and have funding.
The tip sheet, titled “Managing your finances during a furlough,” applies to the Coast Guard’s 8,500-person civilian workforce. About 6,400 of them are on indefinite furlough, while 2,100 are working without pay after being identified as essential workers, said Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a service spokesman. They were last paid for the two-week period ended Dec. 22.
The Coast Guard removed the tip sheet from the support program’s website late Wednesday morning after The Washington Post inquired about it.
Coast Guard civilian employee Geoff Anderson writes at The Times of San Diego:
Politicians do not value the Coast Guard as much as the other military services. They are funded while the Coast Guard is not. The Department of Homeland Security lumps the Coast Guard in with 13 other “operational and support components,” when in fact it is nothing like them. It is military, it is global, and no other DHS organization can approach the scope and reach of its mission.
Arguments about whether DHS should be the parent agency for Coast Guard aside, politicians and the general public mistakenly equate “military” with “Department of Defense,” to the detriment of the Coast Guard. One can imagine the public outrage if other military branches were required to work without pay for this long.
In summary, most of the general public and politicians in Washington don’t understand the Coast Guard and take it for granted. That statement probably also applies to every federal worker affected by this shutdown, regardless of organization.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Congressional Lobotomy and Lobbies

Previous posts have discussed the congressional lobotomy:  the shrinkage of GAO and CRS, along with the defunding of OTA. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) at WP:
Gingrich’s actions didn’t stop with Congress’s mind: He went for its arms and legs, too, as he dismantled the committee system, taking power from chairmen and shifting it to leadership. His successors as speaker have entrenched this practice. While there was a 35 percent decline in committee staffing from 1994 to 2014, funding over that period for leadership staff rose 89 percent.
This imbalance has defanged many of our committees, as bills originating in leadership offices and K Street suites are forced through without analysis or alteration. Very often, lawmakers never even see important legislation until right before we vote on it. During the debate over the Republicans’ 2017 tax package, hours before the floor vote, then-Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) tweeted a lobbying firm’s summary of GOP amendments to the bill before she and her colleagues had had a chance to read the legislation. A similar process played out during the Republicans’ other signature effort of the last Congress, the failed repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Their bill would have remade one-sixth of the U.S. economy, but it was not subject to hearings and was introduced just a few hours before being voted on in the dead of night. This is what happens when legislation is no longer grown organically through hearings and debate.
Congress does not have the resources to counter the growth of corporate lobbying. Between 1980 and 2006, the number of organizations in Washington with lobbying arms more than doubled, and lobbying expenditures between 1983 and 2013 ballooned from $200 million to $3.2 billion. A stunning 2015 study found that corporations now devote more resources to lobby Congress than Congress spends to fund itself. During the 2017 fight over the tax legislation, the watchdog group Public Citizen found that there were more than 6,200 registered tax lobbyists, vs. 130 aides on the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation, a staggering ratio approaching 50-to-1 disfavoring the American people. In 2016 in the House, there were just 1,300 aides on all committees combined, a number that includes clerical and communications workers. Our expert policy staffs are dwarfed by the lobbying class.
The practical impact of this disparity is impossible to overstate as lobbyists flood our offices with information on issues and legislation — information on which many lawmakers have become reliant. Just a few weeks ago, at the end of the session, I witnessed the biennial tradition of departing members of Congress relinquishing their suites to the incoming class. As lawmakers emptied their desks and cabinets, the office hallways were clogged with dumpsters overflowing with reports, white papers, massaged data and other materials, a perfect illustration of the proliferating junk dropped off by lobbyists.