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posted by LaminatorX on Saturday April 12 2014, @08:34AM   Printer-friendly
from the If-only-we-had-crumbling-infrastructure-in-need-of-repair. dept.

Barry Levine writes that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is urging environmentalists to have some compassion for the coal miners they help put out of work because they can't be easily retrained to do other jobs. "Mark Zuckerberg says you can teach them to code and everything will be great. I don't know how to break it to you but no" said Bloomberg. "You're not going to teach a coal miner to code." Bloomberg, who is an environmental activist, said while he gives "a lot of money to the Sierra Club" to shut down coal-fired power plants and to promote green energy projects, society needs to "have some compassion to do it gently."

Thousands of coal mining jobs have been shed throughout the country, there were about two thousand fewer coal miners in March 2014 than at the same time last year. Coal-reliant states, like Kentucky have been hit especially hard with more than 2,200 mining jobs lost in that state alone last year a 23 percent decline. Bloomberg suggested subsidies to help displaced workers, like coal miners, and maybe even retaining. But Bloomberg said retraining isn't always an option, especially in an economy becoming increasingly tech savvy. Bloomberg stressed the need for the retraining to be "realistic."

 
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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by davester666 on Saturday April 12 2014, @09:04AM

    by davester666 (155) on Saturday April 12 2014, @09:04AM (#30480)

    ...as the American Dream.

    There isn't enough things to 'invent' or enough service jobs to get or businesses to start for everyone. Sure you can start a business, but there is nobody to hire you or buy what you are trying to sell.

    And the whole 'trickle down' economy pushed by the Republicans fails to accurately portray the "trickle" part of the equation while they pass tax cuts.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by khallow on Saturday April 12 2014, @09:30AM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 12 2014, @09:30AM (#30487) Journal

    There isn't enough things to 'invent' or enough service jobs to get or businesses to start for everyone.

    Well, if you make it hard to invent things, you punish anyone who hires, and you throw hurdles in the way of starting businesses, then yes, it kind looks like there isn't enough to go around. Artificial scarcity looks a lot like natural scarcity. But in healthier economies and societies, they don't have this problem. China despite its problems doesn't have these problems. Each of these things you mention is not fixed in number and would grow readily enough, if we (being any developed world society, but particularly the US) let them.
     
     

    And the whole 'trickle down' economy pushed by the Republicans fails to accurately portray the "trickle" part of the equation while they pass tax cuts.

    The Republicans have been doing their share, but it's not "trickle down" that's screwing this aspect of the economy up.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bucc5062 on Saturday April 12 2014, @10:59AM

      by bucc5062 (699) on Saturday April 12 2014, @10:59AM (#30507)

      " China despite its problems doesn't have these problems."

      No, but they are destroying their eco-system, polluting their air at a rate that makes 19th Century moguls blush in shame. Would you rather live in Seattle or Beijing, swim in the yellow river or most rivers in the US. No thank you, I don't like to shit in my own house for profit.

      "The Republicans have been doing their share, "

      Indeed they have, ramping up national debt, massive redistribution of wealth upwards, starting unwinable wars...well done republicans.

      --
      The more things change, the more they look the same
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by khallow on Saturday April 12 2014, @11:09AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 12 2014, @11:09AM (#30509) Journal

        No, but they are destroying their eco-system, polluting their air at a rate that makes 19th Century moguls blush in shame. Would you rather live in Seattle or Beijing, swim in the yellow river or most rivers in the US. No thank you, I don't like to shit in my own house for profit.

        Yes, they aren't perfect. But do you really think the only way to invent stuff, employ people, or start businesses is Beijing level pollution or their ridiculous, authoritarian government at the national level?

        • (Score: 2) by bucc5062 on Saturday April 12 2014, @09:57PM

          by bucc5062 (699) on Saturday April 12 2014, @09:57PM (#30613)

          " But do you really think the only way to invent stuff, employ people, or start businesses is Beijing level pollution or their ridiculous, authoritarian government at the national level?"

          No. It is understandable that some regulations may effect business, but I'd rather err on the side of good for the environment and people then just for profit. Stuff will always get invented, but just would like it when we do so without raping most of the population along the way.

          --
          The more things change, the more they look the same
          • (Score: 2) by khallow on Saturday April 12 2014, @11:04PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 12 2014, @11:04PM (#30624) Journal

            but I'd rather err on the side of good for the environment and people then just for profit. Stuff will always get invented, but just would like it when we do so without raping most of the population along the way.

            My view is that when you artificially restrict innovation, jobs, businesses, you aren't on the side of good. As to your glib "stuff will always get invented", I find it interesting how the people who don't have any faith that the private world will do the right thing somehow think it will continue doing these wonderful things for them, no matter how many obstacles they throw in the way.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by hemocyanin on Saturday April 12 2014, @03:54PM

        by hemocyanin (186) on Saturday April 12 2014, @03:54PM (#30541) Journal

        "The Republicans have been doing their share, "

        Indeed they have, ramping up national debt, massive redistribution of wealth upwards, starting unwinable wars...well done republicans.

        I totally agree except for the implication that Democrats have not been doing the same. All these free trade agreements with third world economies that bear no resemblance to ours -- that got legs during the Clinton administration. We've offshored significant swaths of manufacturing. People tend to look askance at the blue collar worker and just say "be motivated, go to school, learn to be a coder/accountant/doctor even though it's been 30 years since you were in school." But knowledge work is susceptible too -- even doctors aren't immune because it is so much cheaper to have an MRI read in SE Asia that here.

        examples:
        http://www.brw.com.au/p/sections/professions/benef its_of_offshore_accountants_z8jyi8TwasPeviRKj7XVHM [brw.com.au]
        http://www.nbcnews.com/id/44949425/ns/health-cance r/t/doctor-reading-your-x-rays-maybe-not/#.U0lg-Si RvkE [nbcnews.com]

        Free trade agreements between equal economies are good things, but the same agreement with a third world economy is suicide. And it's the Democrats who really got that rolling. Not that Republicans aren't happy to help. In other words -- they both suck beyond the ability of science to measure.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Thexalon on Saturday April 12 2014, @04:09PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Saturday April 12 2014, @04:09PM (#30543)

      throw hurdles in the way of starting businesses

      What hurdles are we talking about here, assuming we're talking about the US?

      - Starting a sole proprietorship if you don't need to borrow startup capital is as easy as going into a bank and opening up a DBA account (you don't strictly even need to do this, but it makes the accounting easier). Boom, you have a business, congratulations.

      - If you want to form an LLC, it's relatively cheap and easy to do these days. In my home state, there's an online form and a $125 filing fee, as well as some other local regulations you have to follow depending on the kind of business you're going to be doing (e.g. liquor licenses). Partnerships are similar, with a $50 filing fee. The only expensive part would be getting a lawyer to put together agreements between partners or shareholders, but that's not actually required by the state.

      punish anyone who hires

      Since when was making sure that employees are properly compensated, taxed, and insured a "punishment"? If people are working for me full time, I have the responsibility of paying them fairly, ensuring that applicable taxes are paid, that they receive health insurance, and that I have worker's compensation insurance for them. I agree that involves some work, but millions of business owners navigate it easily enough.

      Also, treating my employees well isn't just good for them, it's also good for my business - well-treated employees are more likely to like their jobs, which means I'll get better job performance. And when I expand, I'll have an easier time attracting good employees, because word does get around about who's a good boss. It is wise to view employment as a 2-way street: their job is to do their work well, my job is to reward them for that and make it easier for them to succeed.

      --
      The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
      • (Score: 0) by khallow on Saturday April 12 2014, @05:08PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 12 2014, @05:08PM (#30555) Journal

        throw hurdles in the way of starting businesses

        What hurdles are we talking about here, assuming we're talking about the US?

        You mentioned some in your post. The "local regulations" often involve a number of shakedown fees and of course, property taxes. Tax preparation is overly complicated and you have to collect and keep a lot of information to justify yourself, should the IRS come auditing. Liability is a huge hurdle. One bad lawsuit can destroy a business. As are complying workplace and environmental regulation. These often require the hiring of people just to do the work of complying with the regulations.

        Now, I get from your questions above, that you're the kind of guy who just sees benefits and not costs, but the thing is all this activity is done by government with little attention paid to how much it costs the business to make it happen. My view is that even if you think every single regulation should be in place, all that can still can be implemented in a way that is not so costly for the business to operate.

        There's also some rather nasty people in government who take it upon themselves to punish people arbitrarily. For example, EPA has pulled some pretty notorious stuff in the last decade, such as fining people and then claiming in court that the victims didn't have standing to sue the EPA and resolve the complaint that the EPA leveled against their property until they paid the fines.

        punish anyone who hires

        Since when was making sure that employees are properly compensated, taxed, and insured a "punishment"?

        Since forever. Punishment means that one faces an inordinate penalty for an activity or behavior. As to your assertion of "properness", my view on this is that it's not the job of government to do that, at least in the US at the federal level. The Europeans can nanny all they want as well as the flakier of the US states.

        For example, Social Security drives up the cost of employing US workers by 15%. At a glance the difference in cost between US and Chinese workers is somewhere around a factor of six ($26k per year median wage in US versus a bit over $4k per year in China). A dozen more reductions like eliminating Social Security would put the US at parity dollarwise with China. So by putting in a retirement program that doesn't do much, the US increased the cost of all of its workers substantially.

        Similarly, minimum wage still puts a full time (40 hours per week) US worker at over triple the cost of a Chinese worker (and that ignores that they get more work out of the Chinese worker at that). The weakest workers in the US are simply priced out of the market except as support for more valuable workers. One would only need somewhere around seven more things with the same discount as Social Security to bring minimum wage workers to wage parity with Chinese workers. This crap has synergy.

        And we get to insurance. If you employ 50 or more people, "full time" (over 35 hours this time not 40) then you have to pay at least $30k plus $2k for every employee above 50 (that's the minimum from the employer mandate penalty). That's half the median wages of a Chinese worker per employee above 50 just in health care costs. Between Social Security, minimum wage, and the Obamacare employer mandate, we just raised the minimum tax cost of employing anyone full time in a business that employs more than 50 people to the median wage of a Chinese worker. That's $4175 per year on top of wages, minimum. It's over $6k per year, if the person is making median wage.

        And in general, there's a huge hit to a business's bottom line once they hire the first employee and once they hire the 50th employee. Lots of regulation and costs pile up once those thresholds are breached.

        Also, treating my employees well isn't just good for them, it's also good for my business - well-treated employees are more likely to like their jobs, which means I'll get better job performance.

        That's nice except you still have to turn a profit in order to have a business. At this point, a lot of people just say that "we shouldn't care about businesses that can't survive". They ignore that by doing so, they just destroyed a bunch of potential jobs, a bunch of potential businesses, and all the nice things that could have happened as a result of those jobs and businesses. That leaves us with whiners like davester666 who complain about the "American Dream" without understanding what happened to thwart it.

        It wasn't the evil 1% (or your bogeyman of choice), it was the nickel and diming of employers by society. The evil 1% didn't raise the median cost of employing people by far more than the median wage of a Chinese worker, the US public did. The evil 1% didn't throw a ton of regulations on US businesses, create perverse liability law, or a pile of little fees, politicians elected by the US public did. You can demand all these wonderful things, the cost is that you might not stay employed or have a government capable of providing those things.

        My view is that there are two stark choices: adapt or well, not die, but suffer through a period of decline for society anyway until it reaches a level below parity with the developing world where US labor is worth the bother of employing it. Developing countries like China show that there isn't some magical dearth of jobs, businesses, or invention out there. There is lots of opportunity still. And you don't need to become another China in order to get it.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by davester666 on Saturday April 12 2014, @07:42PM

          by davester666 (155) on Saturday April 12 2014, @07:42PM (#30587)

          "The evil 1% didn't throw a ton of regulations on US businesses, create perverse liability law, or a pile of little fees, politicians elected by the US public did."

          Actually, yes they did. They poisoned us, starved us, hired people to beat us up, had us thrown in jail, killed us and lots of other fun things to make MORE profit that they don't want to share.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by tftp on Saturday April 12 2014, @09:40AM

    by tftp (806) on Saturday April 12 2014, @09:40AM (#30489) Homepage

    I'm not sure how true that is. I, for example, have many product ideas that I have no time to work on. A coder, a developer, an engineer have huge advantage over a ditch digger: they can invent once and then sell the invention forever. But a ditch digger has to dig a new ditch each time when he wants to sell it. I admit that my ideas are not on the scale of PS3 or iPhone; but they are very viable for a small company.

    The trouble, unfortunately, is in the fact that you have to have some reasonable education and experience before you can hang out your own shingle and start making products. It requires some business skills, some investment, some acceptance of risk, and - very important - readiness to go without a salary for a year or two, as you are only spending while making the product.

    The education idea is nice; but why do you think a truck driver works as a truck driver, and not as a CEO of Fortune 500? Is it because he just loves to be away from his family for weeks? Or is it because he prefers to risk his life every single day working long hours, controlling a multi-ton mechanism on a freeway? Maybe he is politically opposed to wealth? No, of course not. The higher you look, the fewer chairs are available, and the requirements get tougher, and competition becomes ruthless, and the deal becomes more and more rigged. Jobs at the lower levels of the pyramid may be not as exciting, but they are available (or used to be,) and they were steady, and they paid a good living, and you didn't have to borrow an astronomical sum of money to study for MBA, and you didn't even need to have ability to learn all that.

    Perhaps a 20 y/o man can equally easily pick the job of a driver and a job of a businessman. His mind is malleable, and he is able to learn new things. But ask the same question about a 40- or 50-y/o man, and the answer changes. It is harder to learn new stuff even if you knew how to do it. It's much harder to do if you never studied anything like that in your life. A truck driver can become a programmer, but his chances are best if he had affinity for programming from the day zero of his life. Similarly, I will not be able to drive NASCAR or Indy cars - I do not have the need for speed, and I dislike competition. I have no talent for any sport where someone wins and someone loses. If someone comes to me and says that I must retrain to compete in a bicycle race, I will advise that person to go bother someone else. I also cannot become a doctor, or a poet, or a ballet dancer... the list is very long. Why then should we expect that some other random person, who was previously employed in $x, is even physically and mentally capable of being employed in $y? And even if he is capable and completes the retraining, what are his chances in this job market, when the competition is young and fresh from school? Or when the competition is highly experienced after decades of work in the area? Would you, as a project manager, hire a 50 y/o programmer who admits that he never programmed anything more complex than "Hello, World" in Java? Would you put him to work on a 100K LOC project of medium complexity? If you do, what oversight will he need?

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12 2014, @10:27AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12 2014, @10:27AM (#30499)

      The whole "teaching coding as a cure for all economic and societal ills" schtick has been oversold.

      At some point, there's going to be a limit to the amount of value we can get from "software for software's sake" type of thinking. The fact that the biggest and most powerful tech company in the world (Google) makes its billions on what--advertising, marketing, and data-mining?

      Really? This is the coder's utopia we've all dreamed of?

      Very well, then. Teach everyone to code so we can write social media applications for each other. Let me know how it works out.

    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12 2014, @10:50AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12 2014, @10:50AM (#30504)

      I'm sure that there are many blue collar workers in the coal mining industry that are more capable in almost every respect than you or Bloomberg. They could code better, fuck your wife better, and beat you at chess.

    • (Score: -1) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12 2014, @01:16PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12 2014, @01:16PM (#30520)

      > But a ditch digger has to dig a new ditch each time when he wants to sell it.

      Digger? Please!

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by c0lo on Saturday April 12 2014, @10:28AM

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 12 2014, @10:28AM (#30500) Journal

    Unfortunately, we are being sold a lottery...

    Unfortunately, it is worse than this: in a lottery, some (others than the organizers) would have chances to win something.

    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0