The sudden recent fatwa declared by the great and good in the Biden Administration against the less-expensive gas ranges was … really rather curious – and for what purpose? Cooking (and heating) with gas is (or was) relatively cheap, energy-efficient, beloved of cooks for generations. It has the advantage that if you have an older stove, you can still cook with gas in a power outage. I lived for six years in Spain, where both the stove and the flash hot water heater were powered by propane bottles, and a power outage (which occurred regularly) was only a relatively mild inconvenience. I could cook a hot meal, and we could take hot showers. An all-electric home, such as the one I live in now is miserable, to the point of being unlivable, without consistent electric power, as my neighbors and I were swiftly reminded during the Great Texas Snowmagedden, two years ago. And from this story, linked on Instapundit, one can’t help wondering if the geniuses in Biden’s government are demonstrating trying again, with the so-called safety benefits of locking hot-water heater thermostats at 110-120. The ostensible reason given for these two quasi-campaigns is a tender concern for the ‘health and safety’ of the general public and the best of intentions, but the way to hell is paved with good intentions.
As my daughter has taken up a new career (one which she is thoroughly enjoying, now that she has a successful sale under her belt and another three or four potentially serious and committed buyers on the horizon in the coming new year) I have had, perforce, to take an interest in the market for houses, in this, a moderately prosperous Texas city. Well, moderately prosperous, in spite of all the (explicative deleted) that the current economy and the Biden administration can throw at us. By all evidence that my daughter has noted locally, (mostly in price reductions for a number of listings) the property bubble has well and truly burst, or is now in a mode of slow deflation. Conventional wisdom among realtors who have been in it for years, is that prices for houses are on a seven-year-long boom and bust cycle. We’re about to head into the ‘bust’ downslope. Anyone who does have the wherewithal – the bulging pocketbook to buy outright or a high-enough credit rating qualifying for a loan at favorable rates to buy a house in the next couple of years will have their pick of properties, at least in this part of Texas.
Or perhaps and I dearly hope, only takes a small nibble and backs off in revulsion, once the target customers for the item in question have their say. I speak of the American Girl book imbroglio. A book by an in-house writer with all the proper and up-to-the-moment proggie qualifications and sympathies – has been distributed as part of toy behemoth Mattel’s American Girl brand. The book, aimed at pre-teens and tweens, openly suggests changing gender by chemical and surgical means, should they not feel comfortable in their bodies as girls. By the term girls, I mean the pre-mature of the female sex. (Honestly, looking at the picture of the author, I am not surprised at her proggie leanings. Facial piercings – anything but a small hole in each earlobe for earrings – now constitutes a social warning for me.) Look, puberty as it is, remains a miserable and confusing enough experience for many teens. Encouraging and enabling girls to take powerful drugs to delay puberty and have their breasts surgically removed if they are a little unhappy with the form that their bodies have or are assuming … this is not helpful. Appearing to countenance keeping parents in the dark if they do not support this chemical and surgical mutilation … even more so not-good. This development with American Girl is horrifying, but, alas, not particularly surprising, given how just about every long-time and supposedly family-friendly mass establishment such as Disney has gone all-in woke for the latest social media fad. Those fond parents and grandparents who buy American Girl merch for their daughters and granddaughters are not the least bit happy about this development – not the least because it’s coming on to Christmas, where indulgent generosity is expected, not least by retail outlets hoping to make up for an otherwise bleak economic year.
The local public radio station here – in concert with all the other public radio stations across this blessed land of ours – is having their fall pledge drive this week. And I am defiantly not pledging to support. I am willfully and maliciously denying them my dollars and support, in spite of all their blandishments and incessant, unrelenting guilt trips. This, in spite of the fact that I worked part-time for the classical music side of that enterprise some decades past, before all the part-time announcers were let go. I thought for weeks that it was only me, that my announcing work was unsat. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been surprised if that was the reason, as I had gone very rote and mechanical over announcing the name of the piece of music up next, the composer and performing orchestra or soloist, and throwing in a bit of relevant information about the piece. No, it wasn’t me, as I later found out; they left all the other part-time shift announcers go – the girl who worked during the week at an animal shelter, the woman who was a mainstay of the local little theater group, the guy who was a full-time writer for various little local publications. All of us were served notice; a kind of Friday Night employment massacre.
It’s well-known that there are currently a lot of jobs going begging, even as employers offer higher pay; see for example this article. Bernie Sanders offers his explanation: he suggests that the problem lies in the ratio of CEO pay growth to worker pay growth since 1978, and “Maybe the problem isn’t a so-called ‘worker shortage.’ Maybe — just maybe — the working class of this country has finally had enough.”
I don’t think Bernie Sanders has a whole lot of experience with this whole ‘working’ thing, so it seems unlikely that he really understands what is going on.
Not very common, I think, for someone to turn down a job because someone at a level stratospherically above him makes a whole lot more money than what he is being offered. Do people really decide against a job at Wal-Mart because Doug McMillon got paid $20.9 million in 2020? Or decide not to go workin’ on the CSX railroad because of James Foote’s compensation package of $15.3 million? While people are very concerned with comparative pay levels, they are usually most concerned about the pay of people doing comparable work or those one or two levels above them (or below them) organizationally.
So what are the factors that are actually keeping so many jobs from attracting workers?
One factor, I think, is simple inertia: people who have been out of the workforce for several months during Covid lockdowns may be delaying going back to work, even though they know they will need to eventually. Another factor is the difficulties with child care / education…even when school are physically open, it’s hard to know how long it will be until they are locked down again, so you can’t count on them for a predictable schedule…and also, there are probably a fair number of people not very enthused about sending their kids back to public school at all, given what they’ve learned about them over the past year.
There are also people who are doing work off-books, and may find that by avoiding FICA and taxes…and any reduction in means-tested benefits…they can do better than they’d do at a full-time job.
Certainly one factor in reluctance to go back to work lies in the unnecessarily unpleasant nature of too many jobs…I’m not talking about jobs that, say, involve working in foundries in high temperatures or working outdoors on commercial fishing boats in winter, but rather retail and customer service jobs that feature extreme micromanagement plus schedules that change from week to week. See Zeynep Ton’s book The Good Jobs Strategy for more on this point. (my review here) And the enforcement of political correctness, also, makes quite a few workplaces unpleasant places to be.
And there is a feeling on the part of many people that they can’t get ahead, because of the importance of credentialism and contacts. I’m sure there are a lot of people in low-level positions in banks who would make excellent branch managers, but are not considered for these jobs because they don’t have college degrees…also, branch managers who are not considered for region executive jobs because they don’t have MBAs, and people who do have MBAs who can’t break into investment banking because their MBA is not from a ‘top’ school. The importance of credentialism varies widely by industry and by specific company within an industry, of course, I suspect many people think it’s more all-encompassing than it actually is, and this is demoralizing to them and creates a ‘why bother?’ mentality.
Finally, there is the problem of skill mismatch: the jobs that are open will often require skills that the potential applicants don’t have, even when unnecessary credential requirements are eliminated. (Although one would think that the trend toward jobs that can be done remotely would mitigate this problem to a considerable extent, by broadening the geography from which people can be drawn)