Friday, December 26, 2014

Young Men Dropping Out – Fallout from the Jobs Crisis

A December 4th post by Milo Yiannopoulos in the blog brought up many issues faced by males now in their late teens and 20s.  Titled “The Sexodus, Part 1:  The Men Giving Up on Women and Checking Out of Society,” its thesis is that these teenagers and young adults have their backs to the wall in various ways, and are responding by dropping out, in the process holding themselves back socially and developmentally as well as academically.  As Yiannopoulos put it, “social commentators, journalists, academics, scientists and young men themselves have all spotted the trend: among men of about 15 to 30 years old, ever-increasing numbers are checking out of society altogether, giving up on women, sex and relationships and retreating into pornography, sexual fetishes, chemical addictions, video games and, in some cases, boorish lad culture.”  The article is a compendium of complaints young men have, ranging from sort of whiny (that women think men “and their preferences and needs can @#$% off and die”) and issues around since their grandfathers’ times (“a lot of nice but awkward young men are opting out of approaching women”), to controversial but reasonable observations (“in schools today across Britain and America, boys are relentlessly pathologized”), and clear effects of not enough work (“Nobody in my generation believes they’re going to get a meaningful retirement”).  The most prominent root cause, though, is the permanent jobs crisis. 

We can say four major things about job-shortage-related concerns young males have.  First, the generally worse career outcomes of men since and including the Great Recession mean that the old model of women’s incomes being secondary may be obsolescent.  At the same time, men are still trained to expect to be the main breadwinners, and it is a rare man of prime working age who honestly expects a spouse to provide a choice of working a good job, working a low-paying but physically unthreatening position, or staying home altogether.  Yet a stunning 75% of jobs lost in 2008 and 2009 came from males, and the areas in which they dominate, such as manufacturing, have recovered slowly.  Almost 60% of college undergraduates are now female, as are most recipients of bachelor’s and master’s degrees.  When controlled for age, education, and number of years working full-time in a career, differences between the sexes in earnings and promotions nearly or completely disappear.  All that means that men cannot reasonably be expected to take the lead in family income anywhere near as much as they still do, and in many families, it is they, objectively, instead of their wives, who should be “opting out.”

Second, the frequency of men’s unemployment has been causing havoc in romantic relationships.  Despite their career opportunities moving steadily toward equality, the ancient pattern of women selecting husbands who are well positioned to support them has barely changed.  The result is that more and more men are ending up choosing, in the words of one of Yiannopoulos’s interviewees, between being either “players” or boyfriends instead, if they go after women at all.  That is the main reason why marriages, per recent articles, have become much more common in the higher income brackets.  Since single men tend to be more destructive to themselves and others than those married, through committing violent crimes and engaging in unhealthful habits, that is a real danger. 

Third, mandatory consent laws for sexual advances and the growing media attention on rape make the problem of men’s noninvolvement even worse.  The massive majority of men would never condone rape, which is above all else a violent crime, and know that romantic and sexual situations are the most ambiguous ones there are.   Neither men nor women are machines programmed to know exactly what they will or will not engage in with whom.    The venues where concerns about rape and consent are concentrated, college campuses, are where men are most confused about achieving sexual relationships anyway, which makes their apprehension even worse and their likelihood of not trying during those formative years even higher. 

Fourth, much of men’s dropping out severely damages women as well.  Fewer husbands means fewer wives.  We have already seen this situation in some largely black communities, where young women as a group have, in recent decades, frankly run rings around men in education, emotional maturity, and lack of criminal records; the upshot has been such things as dating sites where the smaller pool of black men truly ready, able and willing to settle down can choose from women required to post full-length photos of themselves.  Perhaps, in the 1950s when getting family-supporting jobs out of high school was routine and Americans wedded at the youngest ages in the country’s history, there were too many marriages, resulting in high rates of, for example, spousal abuse.  But now we are going in the other direction, in which countless young men, in effect only a good career position away, aren’t getting there, and there simply aren’t and won’t be enough with strong traditional husband credentials to go around.  It is also much easier for anyone to leave the workforce in mid-career, still far more common among women, or even raise children, if they have a spouse providing the income or main income.        

It is possible that the number of good jobs with high shares of men will continue to drop disproportionally.  That will make the problem of young men keeping their adolescent or emerging adult lifestyles even worse, with even more, as Jack Donovan, one of Yiannopoulos’s sources, wrote, having “done a cost-benefit analysis and realized it is a bad deal.”  That is not something we want as a country.

What can we do about these problems?  That will be the subject of next week’s post.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Catskills Return: Five Ways the Montreign-Adelaar Casino Resort Will Help Sullivan County

Once, New York State’s Catskills area, spearheaded by the Concord and Grossinger’s resorts near Monticello and Liberty in Sullivan County, was one of the most popular vacation destinations in the country.  Its proximity to New York City, within about 100 miles, helped bring in millions of visitors, who wanted both indoor and outdoor activities.  Known as the Borscht Belt for its special appeal to Jews, it started an entire generation of comedians, from Jack Benny to Lenny Bruce, who brought Yiddish words such as bagel, chutzpah, and kibitz into our language.  Gambling, though technically illegal, was always a part.  The area started losing its tourists in the 1950s and 1960s, and by the 1980s the resorts were almost a thing of the past.

But now there will be a reason for many to return.  At long last – over a year after it was authorized, and 40 years since locals began asking for one – a legal casino will be built in the Catskills.

The New York State Gaming Facility Location Board announced its approval decisions on Wednesday.  There will be three full-scale gambling facilities.  One will be in Tyre, near the Finger Lakes.  Another will be in Schenectady, next to the state capital of Albany.  The third, the Montreign Resort Casino, will be in Kiamesha Lake, near Monticello, on the former property of the Concord.

There has been some controversy about whether locals wanted the casino to be approved, but not a lot.  When the state’s voters weighed in on the referendum in 2013, Sullivan County led the state with 76% in favor, and the Monticello and Liberty areas were over 80%.  The measure passed, and since then the board had been requesting and assessing proposals.   
So what will the casino and resort complex mean for the county?

First, it will bring in jobs.  The Times Herald-Record, in a pre-decision wrap-up of the nine proposals from which the three above were chosen, claimed the Montreign and its associated Adelaar would create 2,400 new positions, almost all of which will need to be worked locally.  In a county with a civilian labor force of under 32,000, that is a lot. 

Second, it will multiply recreational activities.  The Montreign and Adelaar, neither of which would have been built without the casino authorization, will offer entertainment, skiing, fishing, golf, various water sports, snow tubing, zip lines, live entertainment, spa treatments, poker, other gambling, a buffet, a variety of other dining options, and more, many not available now.

Third, it will help other businesses in numerous ways.  The complex will offer conference and meeting facilities, along with a 390-room hotel.  For new commercial opportunities, Montreign and Adelaar need advertising, beverages, cleaning supplies, commercial food service equipment, dry cleaning and laundry, financial services, fixtures, food, furniture, information technology, merchandise for retail sale, motorcoach operations, office equipment, office supplies, paper products for food service, and printing services, among others.  If you are with a company that provides any of these, Empire Resorts, the owners, would like to hear from you.

Fourth, it will bring in tax revenue.  The actual amount is unknown, but with tax rates of 37% to 45% for slot machines and 10% for table games, it will be large. 

Fifth, it will skyrocket tourism for Sullivan County in general.  Some facilities and attractions will do better than others, but it is absurd to think that the greatly increased number of visitors the county will see, even if it only gets a tiny fraction of the 52 million who visit the New York City area each year and the 23 million who live there, will not generally help many other businesses, and individuals, tremendously.

The Montreign and Adelaar resort complex is expected to open in early 2017, possibly sooner.  They are already taking resumes for employment and marketing information from possible partners and suppliers.  If you want to be involved, go to the website

The Catskills are coming back.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Elizabeth Warren on Jobs: A Worthwhile Challenge to Hillary

So far, Hillary Clinton has appeared to be as much of a presidential-candidate juggernaut as anyone has at this still early point.  This year, the odds on her being elected have ranged from almost even to 2-to-1 against, which, by comparison, is several times more likely than any other candidate.  You can now get 9-to-5 on her winning – second most likely is Mitt Romney with 12 to 1, followed by Jeb Bush at 15 to 1.  Chris Christie and Marco Rubio are at 20 to 1, followed by the second most likely Democrat, Elizabeth Warren, currently 22 to 1.

Who is this Elizabeth Warren?  She is the 65-year-old Massachusetts junior senator, a former Harvard law professor who dealt most often with bankruptcy law and consumer finance issues.  She won the first election Scott Brown, the Republican who replaced Ted Kennedy, had to face while in that office, and almost ever since has been mentioned as a possible 2016 presidential candidate, with slow but steadily increasing attention paid to her prospects and desirability.  As recently as April she publicly denied wanting to run, but has been involved with so much Democratic fundraising that she seems to have established a foundation, and of course may change her mind. 

Warren is best known politically, and perhaps now professionally, for opposing Wall Street and big business financial domination.  That is why The Washington Post said she would be “instantly relevant” in the 2016 campaign, as most Democrats have a negative view of both.  She is regarded as being to the left of Hillary Clinton, which could help her within her party, if not in the general election.

So how does Warren seem on jobs?  She has sponsored only one bill directly related, the Equal Employment for All Act of 2013, which would bar employers from using workers’ and candidates’ credit reports against them.  She is in favor of minimum wage increases, citing great productivity gains which have not come through in pay.  Her books, The Two-Income Trap and A Fighting Chance, both point out a major effect of the jobs crisis, that workers average lower incomes and less overall prosperity than they did in what I have called the Winning by Default Years ending in 1973.  Peripherally, she is staunchly in favor of higher top-end tax brackets, saying that those with unusually high incomes needed roads, police, and worker education that were collectively provided.  Otherwise, she has said little about American employment, and now has nothing – literally – on her website under “Issues.” 

There would be several good things about a declared Elizabeth Warren candidacy.  First, Clinton needs strong competition, which Warren could provide - without it, we could see the election of the most noncommittal Democratic or Republican nominee in decades.  Second, despite her being pegged as in the leftmost half of her party, she could well materialize into a bipartisan leader, as she consistently voted Republican before 1995 and has said, as recently as 2011, that neither party should be allowed to dominate.  Third, she is aware of what the permanent jobs crisis has caused, even if she does not seem to credit that as the cause.  Fourth, and most importantly, she could well prove independent enough to pursue solutions beyond a mainstream Democratic platform. 

For these reasons, and whether we agree with her views so far, we should encourage Elizabeth Warren to run.  Since we have got almost nowhere on the jobs crisis during Obama’s presidency, an election of another center-to-right Democrat beholden to many within the party could easily be the worst reasonably likely 2016 outcome.  I can imagine Warren taking guaranteed income, for example, more seriously than Clinton would. 

Another thing about Warren is worthy of our attention.  If she were voted in and did not succeed, she would be easier to get rid of in 2020, which we may well want to do if and when another recession lays our employment situation bare once more.  Win or lose, whether she is right or wrong, we want Elizabeth Warren – and others with different views than what we have seen – in the race and running hard. 


Friday, December 5, 2014

In November, the Largest Employment Increase in Years, but AJSN Says America’s Still 18.3 Million Jobs Short

The headlines on articles about the Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report today will say that payroll employment jumped more last month than any since at least the summer of 2012.  There were 321,000 more people in jobs than in October, which caps off a long series of months in which more positions were added than the population increase covered. 

That is a good thing – in fact a superb thing – but, looking at the number of additional jobs America could quickly absorb, we wouldn’t know it.  So what happened?

First, both the seasonally adjusted and unadjusted unemployment rates were unchanged, at 5.8% and 5.5% respectively.  Second, despite the employment gain, the number of officially jobless was down only 50,000 to 8.63 million.  Third, the number of people officially described as “marginally attached” to the labor force more or less broke even, with fewer reporting as discouraged and immediately unavailable for “other” reasons, but 117,000 more saying they wanted a job but did not look for one for at least the previous year.  In all, the American Job Shortage Number, or AJSN, was almost stationary, as follows:

What I call the four BLS “foundation” measures all either improved slightly or treaded water.  The count of those officially jobless for 27 weeks or longer dropped 100,000 to 2.8 million, and the number working part-time for economic reasons, or wanting a full-time opportunity but not finding one, fell the same to 6.9 million.  The proportions giving the shares of people on the front lines of employment, though, both held steady, with civilian labor force participation holding at 62.8% and the employment to population ratio still 59.2%.  These two measures give us the best idea of the pervasiveness of American work, which is still roughly as low as it’s been since Jimmy Carter’s first full year as president.

Compared with a year ago, the AJSN came in almost exactly one million lower.  In November 2013, there were 1.6 million more Americans officially jobless, but 562,000 fewer saying they hadn’t looked for a year or longer, and 225,000 more willing to work in principle but not able to right now.  These 12- month improvements, while still substantial, are now becoming smaller.

So what can we take from this month’s AJSN?  It shows us that even when one of the most valuable statistics – in this case, the number of net new jobs – excels, that still does not mean a smaller American job shortage.  Over 18 million people wishing they could work is a lot, whether they are technically unemployed or not, and of course the AJSN does not account at all for those looking since May or before, or for those working only part-time not by choice.

Accordingly, regardless of the payroll increase, the turtle sat still last month.