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rcocean 08-10-2011 08:45 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 221165)
I don't know what to tell you. You can believe that free trade doesn't work or you can trust the majority of Australian economists.

Haha. I always knew you were pulling our leg SK, good one.

miceelf 08-10-2011 09:34 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 221165)
I don't know what to tell you. You can believe that free trade doesn't work or you can trust the majority of Australian economists. Though, I do understand the disinclination to trust those damn Aussies.

I have no idea how heavily the Aussie economists are weighting declining wages for the working class, or for that matter, the trade starting point in Australia.

I am saying that the import system you endorse has an upside for the poor (cheaper goods) and a downside for the poor (downward pressure on wages). You seem very certain that the one outweighs the other, and I am not so sure, and the fact that a bunch of Australian economists endorse a very general statement about trade that doesn't speak to this issue in the least doesn't convince me that this trade-off works the way you think it does. It's possible. I just don't see how their general opinion on trade in general is in any way helpful in ascertaining whether it does or not.

BornAgainDemocrat 08-10-2011 10:02 PM

Re: Zelig Edition (Matthew Yglesias & Reihan Salam)
 
Yes, of course, the whole Anglosphere is corrupt in this regard. Or if "corrupt" seems to strong a word, then "decadent" will do: the overwhelming majority of academically trained economists in the world, those who are not specialists in the field, do not know the rudimentary basics of neoclassical trade theory; the subject is considered arcane; while the few who do, or did -- Samuelson, Krugman, Bhagwati -- were not forthcoming on the subject when it mattered. Fifteen years later Krugman is starting to suffer pangs of conscience, as well he should.

sugarkang 08-10-2011 11:01 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by miceelf (Post 221178)
I am saying that the import system you endorse has an upside for the poor (cheaper goods) and a downside for the poor (downward pressure on wages).

Those pressures exist, but the gains for all Americans in lower import prices is much larger than the lost jobs. It's just easier to see who is directly affected by the "shipped jobs" because of the sad newspaper stories and it ends up having the effect of looking like we're being screwed.

Quote:

You seem very certain that the one outweighs the other, and I am not so sure, and the fact that a bunch of Australian economists endorse a very general statement about trade that doesn't speak to this issue in the least doesn't convince me that this trade-off works the way you think it does. It's possible.
Well, I'm not certain that free trade works. But, I am certain about what most economists think about it. US economists support free trade in similar numbers, btw. It's really not a question of whether or not one supports free trade, but whether we have mechanisms to transition the newly jobless into other employment.

Quote:

I just don't see how their general opinion on trade in general is in any way helpful in ascertaining whether it does or not.
Well, I assume that because they probably learn the same economics we learn here (but you never know!), they are a highly developed country with a robust economy that the trade rules affect them the way it affects ours. Most economists think we'd be better off. Look at countries that haven't traded. Cuba and North Korea have so very little in comparison to free trading nations.

Sulla the Dictator 08-11-2011 01:15 AM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by miceelf (Post 221178)
I am saying that the import system you endorse has an upside for the poor (cheaper goods) and a downside for the poor (downward pressure on wages).

The labor movement has long felt that way about trade. They used to correctly feel that about illegal immigration. If they abandon the economic logic of the latter, can't see what reason there is to preserve their views on the former.

bkjazfan 08-11-2011 09:16 AM

Re: Zelig Edition (Matthew Yglesias & Reihan Salam)
 
Hat tip to Reihan for mentioning Nathan Glazer. I haven't heard his name in some time.

About the ebook. I saw a printed copy of Tyler Cowan's recent ebook and it appeared to be short, perhaps 100 pages. Is this a characteristic of ebooks that they aren't very long?

Starwatcher162536 08-11-2011 10:19 AM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
I have a pretty strong intuition on this one. That a few hundred employees make six figures isn't enough for me to significantly revise my estimate that labor costs are a small, if not trivial, component of total costs in a semiconductor plant which will I'm sure have an high output of expensive to build (Outside labor) electronics. Do you perchance know the total levelised cost for some specific product and the total output per unit time across all loosely similar products?

badhatharry 08-11-2011 10:20 AM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by whburgess (Post 221169)
The reason computer chips are manufactured overseas is because thats where the plants are built.

A friend of ours made a lot of money building clean rooms in the states. But as you say the costs in labor and restrictions around building manufacturing plants are much less restrictive in other countries.

Also, many manufacturing processes are relatively labor intense. For instance, the foundry process or anything that requires assembly like say, a toaster or a hand drill.

stephanie 08-11-2011 02:20 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Starwatcher162536 (Post 221239)
I have a pretty strong intuition on this one. That a few hundred employees make six figures isn't enough for me to significantly revise my estimate that labor costs are a small, if not trivial, component of total costs in a semiconductor plant which will I'm sure have an high output of expensive to build (Outside labor) electronics. Do you perchance know the total levelised cost for some specific product and the total output per unit time across all loosely similar products?

I'm not sure why the entire discussion is focused on semiconductor plants, when the issue that prompted it was lost US jobs. If there aren't many jobs related to a particular plant that moves overseas, than you aren't losing many jobs, are you? Unless you are arguing that there are numerous lost jobs involved with running the plant that aren't included in labor costs, which seems not to make sense. Clearly, numerous types of manufacturing that do involve a good amount of labor have moved overseas and one of the reasons is labor costs.

Regarding the argument that other plants simply don't employ many people because they are mostly automated, perhaps that's another reason for the lost jobs and additional support for Yglesias' claim that the jobs aren't coming back, I suppose.

stephanie 08-11-2011 02:27 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by miceelf (Post 221178)
I am saying that the import system you endorse has an upside for the poor (cheaper goods) and a downside for the poor (downward pressure on wages).

I'd modify this to "upside for the country as a whole (cheaper goods) and a downside for those involved in the relevant industries and the working class in general (lost jobs and downward pressure on wages)." The reason is not just to be nitpicky, but the jobs in question weren't generally worked by the poor, they were an important source of employment for the middle class, and why it used to be a lot more possible to be middle class without going to college.

Quote:

You seem very certain that the one outweighs the other, and I am not so sure, and the fact that a bunch of Australian economists endorse a very general statement about trade that doesn't speak to this issue in the least doesn't convince me that this trade-off works the way you think it does. It's possible. I just don't see how their general opinion on trade in general is in any way helpful in ascertaining whether it does or not.
Right. It also doesn't respond to BornAgain's argument. Now, I think BornAgain needs to expand on his argument in order to be convincing, but so far we haven't had any kind of debate and the citation of the economists is not a counterargument. I'd be kind of interested in a real debate on this question, so that's too bad.

stephanie 08-11-2011 02:32 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Sulla the Dictator (Post 221213)
The labor movement has long felt that way about trade. They used to correctly feel that about illegal immigration. If they abandon the economic logic of the latter, can't see what reason there is to preserve their views on the former.

Shouldn't you say that if they are wrong to abandon their views on the latter -- if we think immigration is bad for the country, rather than leading to more specialization, efficiency, competition, so on -- maybe they are still right on the former?

Libertarians are consistent on this question (real libertarians, I mean, not those who are willing to use complaints about "illegal immigrants" in order to drum up support for other issues). Others, like rcocean and BornAgain, if memory serves, tend to be consistent the other way. Personally, I'm sufficiently uncertain that I'd be happy to have those who feel strongly and are sure they are correct debate it.

whburgess 08-11-2011 03:42 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Starwatcher162536 (Post 221239)
I have a pretty strong intuition on this one. That a few hundred employees make six figures isn't enough for me to significantly revise my estimate that labor costs are a small, if not trivial, component of total costs in a semiconductor plant which will I'm sure have an high output of expensive to build (Outside labor) electronics. Do you perchance know the total levelised cost for some specific product and the total output per unit time across all loosely similar products?

I don't have statistics.
I agree that the difference in labor costs for chip production itself is probably not a factor in why plants are built overseas since chip production is very highly automated. That's why I talked about how labor intensive, during construction, that the plants are. The chip making process is incredibly intricate and the intricacy of the factory reflects this. Every factory costs billions to build. I've worked in construction of similar size facilities in other industries and the intricacy and labor required to build them is much smaller. Also, as Badhat pointed out, I'm sure that the process and expense of even getting permission to build the plant is much less in developing countries then it is here. Not to mention corporate taxes, etc.

look 08-11-2011 04:30 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 221260)
I'd modify this to "upside for the country as a whole (cheaper goods) and a downside for those involved in the relevant industries and the working class in general (lost jobs and downward pressure on wages)." The reason is not just to be nitpicky, but the jobs in question weren't generally worked by the poor, they were an important source of employment for the middle class, and why it used to be a lot more possible to be middle class without going to college.



Right. It also doesn't respond to BornAgain's argument. Now, I think BornAgain needs to expand on his argument in order to be convincing, but so far we haven't had any kind of debate and the citation of the economists is not a counterargument. I'd be kind of interested in a real debate on this question, so that's too bad.

Important distinction. The impending terror is over the specter that many in the middle class may become part of 'the poor.'

Starwatcher162536 08-11-2011 06:10 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
I'm not particularly interested in the larger issue. This was just an aside to another issue I am interested in that was tangentially related.

sugarkang 08-11-2011 06:32 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by look (Post 221292)
Important distinction. The impending terror is over the specter that many in the middle class may become part of 'the poor.'

Agreed. Economists care about raising your standard of living, but they don't care about raising your social status. I'd rather be in the 40th percentile of wage earners in year 2011 than the 60th percentile in year 1991. My life is so much richer now, I think. Though, this is because the internet is so important to me. People who don't value the internet as much might want to live in 1991.

miceelf 08-11-2011 09:18 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 221321)
People who don't value the internet as much might want to live in 1991.

I didn't have any gray hair in 1991.

sugarkang 08-11-2011 10:20 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by miceelf (Post 221357)
I didn't have any gray hair in 1991.

Just another reason to stay in the present year and support free trade.

badhatharry 08-12-2011 09:51 AM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by whburgess (Post 221282)
I don't have statistics.
I agree that the difference in labor costs for chip production itself is probably not a factor in why plants are built overseas since chip production is very highly automated. That's why I talked about how labor intensive, during construction, that the plants are. The chip making process is incredibly intricate and the intricacy of the factory reflects this. Every factory costs billions to build. I've worked in construction of similar size facilities in other industries and the intricacy and labor required to build them is much smaller. Also, as Badhat pointed out, I'm sure that the process and expense of even getting permission to build the plant is much less in developing countries then it is here. Not to mention corporate taxes, etc.

I once watched an episode of Law and Order (my source for news) and there was some lead on some heart device that had gone bad during the shipping process from overseas but they were used anyway.

Stuff like this must be an issue and even quality control is a cost...and the cost of shipping itself. It must be a lot cheaper to have things manufactured in China because there are certainly costs incurred because of it.

Starwatcher162536 08-12-2011 12:29 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by whburgess (Post 221282)
I don't have statistics.
I agree that the difference in labor costs for chip production itself is probably not a factor in why plants are built overseas since chip production is very highly automated. That's why I talked about how labor intensive, during construction, that the plants are. The chip making process is incredibly intricate and the intricacy of the factory reflects this. Every factory costs billions to build. I've worked in construction of similar size facilities in other industries and the intricacy and labor required to build them is much smaller.

I asked for the levelised cost as this rolls into the price of each unit the total capital investment necessary to begin operations divided by the number of units that are expected over the plant's lifetime. With this information and the somewhat easier to find base manufacturing cost of each unit it's possible to find the fraction of total costs that the labor intensive construction phase accounts for. I mistakenly believed your $70/hr was referring to plant operators and not the construction crews because I too have some experience in heavy industrial construction, as an electrician and expediter, and have never seen average wages as high as your example. And that's excluding helpers and only counting journeymen pay in jobs that because of Davis-Bacon had to paid higher union rates. I also question if costs associated with labor are really that high a component of total costs associated with only the construction phase. At least for the trades I'm most familiar with, Electrical & Piping & Millwright, it's common for a journeyman to install an amount of material each day that is worth many multiples of his daily pay. Doubly true when working in classified areas.

Quote:

Also, as Badhat pointed out, I'm sure that the process and expense of even getting permission to build the plant is much less in developing countries then it is here. Not to mention corporate taxes, etc.
That the total costs are more here then in other lower standard of living countries is trivially true and uncontested by me. I'm more interested in the relative importance of various sub-components. I continue to lean to that labor is overemphasized and the real cost differentials are related to safety standards, taxes, & environmental protections. Regardless, we seem to have different intuitions on this and we appear to have gone as far as is possible with the level of data we each currently possess. Cheers.

look 08-12-2011 04:34 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 221321)
Agreed. Economists care about raising your standard of living, but they don't care about raising your social status. I'd rather be in the 40th percentile of wage earners in year 2011 than the 60th percentile in year 1991. My life is so much richer now, I think. Though, this is because the internet is so important to me. People who don't value the internet as much might want to live in 1991.

Yes, being poor in America today is not the same as being poor in Dickensian England.

As PJ O'Rourke said: My own family was poor when I was a kid, though I didn't know it; I just thought we were broke.

Of course the problem with being hard-scrabble poor, whether on welfare or not, is the shame of not having what others have.

popcorn_karate 08-12-2011 05:52 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Sulla the Dictator (Post 221213)
The labor movement has long felt that way about trade. They used to correctly feel that about illegal immigration. If they abandon the economic logic of the latter, can't see what reason there is to preserve their views on the former.

i agree.

popcorn_karate 08-12-2011 05:58 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 221260)
The reason is not just to be nitpicky, but the jobs in question weren't generally worked by the poor, they were an important source of employment for the middle class, and why it used to be a lot more possible to be middle class without going to college.

what do you consider "middle class"?

I thought it was a class in between "working class" and "rich", but it seems that most people use it nowadays to mean neither poor nor rich. is a barber middle class? a plumber? is there no class distinction between say a guy hanging drywall and a lawyer?

*I'd welcome anybodies responses to this question. It seems like a really amorphous term and i'm interested in how everybody else thinks about it.

badhatharry 08-12-2011 06:26 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by popcorn_karate (Post 221492)
what do you consider "middle class"?

I thought it was a class in between "working class" and "rich", but it seems that most people use it nowadays to mean neither poor nor rich. is a barber middle class? a plumber? is there no class distinction between say a guy hanging drywall and a lawyer?

*I'd welcome anybodies responses to this question. It seems like a really amorphous term and i'm interested in how everybody else thinks about it.

OK. I think I'd say that there is a difference between white collar and blue collar. Also I think there's a difference between upper middle class and lower middle class and of course, middle middle class.

I would say that the barber is blue collar and middle middle class because he works at a skilled trade. Also, I think with the trades, there is probably a ceiling to the amount of money he makes.

I think that a lawyer expects that he will make more money than his barber. This is probably due, among other things, to the education he had to have prior to being able to practice law.

Professionals like doctors and lawyers have probably always had a higher status than a barber but I think today, for various reasons, expects to make more money and have a higher living standard than those who practiced those professions in the past. However, I bet the barber is probably in the same class that a barber has always been but has a higher living standard that barbers had in the past.

I would say that the unskilled worker is probably in the lower middle class. Of course, there are many low level office workers who are in this class.

So in conclusion, I would say that the living standard of all of the middle classes has risen. But some have risen more than others.

popcorn_karate 08-12-2011 06:43 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 221495)
OK. I think I'd say that there is a difference between white collar and blue collar...

Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 221495)
I would say that the barber is...middle class

Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 221495)
I would say that the unskilled worker is probably in the ... middle class.


so middle class to you means everyone from unskilled laborer to a successful lawyer (absent modifiers on "middle class" such as upper/lower etc.). Thanks for your input.

badhatharry 08-12-2011 06:53 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by popcorn_karate (Post 221499)
so middle class to you means everyone from unskilled laborer to a successful lawyer (absent modifiers on "middle class" such as upper/lower etc.). Thanks for your input.

I hope you are not mocking my efforts or I'll never participate in one of your surveys again. :)

But yes, that is my understanding. However I do think the modifiers are absolutely necessary.

chiwhisoxx 08-12-2011 07:23 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by popcorn_karate (Post 221492)
what do you consider "middle class"?

I thought it was a class in between "working class" and "rich", but it seems that most people use it nowadays to mean neither poor nor rich. is a barber middle class? a plumber? is there no class distinction between say a guy hanging drywall and a lawyer?

*I'd welcome anybodies responses to this question. It seems like a really amorphous term and i'm interested in how everybody else thinks about it.

it's an essentially meaningless term created by politicians. they wanted to thread the needle by trying to sound like they're talking to ordinary americans who aren't rich, but they don't say working class because they're trying to target people likely to vote.

badhatharry 08-12-2011 08:08 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by chiwhisoxx (Post 221504)
it's an essentially meaningless term created by politicians. they wanted to thread the needle by trying to sound like they're talking to ordinary americans who aren't rich, but they don't say working class because they're trying to target people likely to vote.

I don't think this term has been created by politicians. I knew as a kid that I was middle class and it wasn't a politician that told me so. According to this it goes back as far as 1911.

Quote:

The modern sociological usage of the term "middle class", however, dates to the 1911 UK Registrar-General's report, in which the statistician T.H.C. Stevenson identified the middle class as that falling between the upper class and the working class
But boy, according to this, my off the cuff definition was way off. It's kind of deceiving though because surely in 1911 England a barrister wouldn't have been considered upper class, but maybe is today?

stephanie 08-15-2011 12:39 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by popcorn_karate (Post 221492)
what do you consider "middle class"?

Not poor, not rich. Sometimes I break out upper and lower middle class, sometimes I don't. I usually don't break out "working class" unless that's the type of distinction I'm talking about, since I think that's defined more by collar/type of job than by salary.

But I do think it's worth trying to define what we mean in order to make sure we are all talking about the same thing. I'm not wedded to any particular definition.

Quote:

I thought it was a class in between "working class" and "rich", but it seems that most people use it nowadays to mean neither poor nor rich. is a barber middle class? a plumber? is there no class distinction between say a guy hanging drywall and a lawyer?
Depending on the job, a lawyer could make quite a bit less than the guy hanging drywall. In that case, both would likely be described as middle class, but the lawyer still wouldn't be described as working class.

Edit: and of course most Americans think of themselves as middle class, which is probably relevant.

popcorn_karate 08-17-2011 03:56 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 221501)
I hope you are not mocking my efforts or I'll never participate in one of your surveys again. :)

But yes, that is my understanding. However I do think the modifiers are absolutely necessary.

no, i wasn't mocking you, just boiling off the extraneous verbiage to get at what i was interested in.

I hear you on the modifiers, but most political discourse just references the "middle class", so i was interested in how people interpret that without any modifiers.

too bad nobody else wanted to play. I suspect that there is some interesting variation in the mental picture that phrase conjures up for different people.

miceelf 08-17-2011 04:26 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by popcorn_karate (Post 222156)
no, i wasn't mocking you, just boiling off the extraneous verbiage to get at what i was interested in.

I hear you on the modifiers, but most political discourse just references the "middle class", so i was interested in how people interpret that without any modifiers.

too bad nobody else wanted to play. I suspect that there is some interesting variation in the mental picture that phrase conjures up for different people.

I really do think that it's simply that nearly everyone thinks of themselves as "middle class" and then adjusts accordingly. My family or origin, who I can remember not having running water or electricity when everyone else in the community did, considers themselves middle class and always did. My inlaws, who had a pool and servants, also thought of themselves as middle class. Literally everyone I know thinks of themselves as middle class, and I know a pretty diverse (economically) group.

stephanie 08-17-2011 04:33 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by popcorn_karate (Post 222156)
too bad nobody else wanted to play. I suspect that there is some interesting variation in the mental picture that phrase conjures up for different people.

Do you have me filtered, or are you asking for a more specific answer?

stephanie 08-17-2011 04:46 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by popcorn_karate (Post 221492)
what do you consider "middle class"?

I thought it was a class in between "working class" and "rich", but it seems that most people use it nowadays to mean neither poor nor rich. is a barber middle class? a plumber? is there no class distinction between say a guy hanging drywall and a lawyer?

Okay, I guess there are specific questions I didn't answer.

How much does the barber make and where does he live? Does he own his own business? Is he married? What does his wife make? It depends on these things. But I'd say there's a good chance he's middle class.

Is a plumber middle class? Same questions, but generally, yeah.

Is there a class distinction between the drywall hanger and the lawyer? There might be -- the lawyer could easily be upper middle class or rich, but he could also make less than the drywall hanger. The drywall hanger could include quite a range of people too. But that may not answer the class distinction question, because I think Americans like to talk about "middle class" (which includes most people), the rich, the poor, the upper middle class, and the working class, and sometimes -- but carefully -- the lower middle class, but recognize more subtle class distinctions that we don't always articulate. Part of this relates to the collar distinctions, part of it relates to the upper/lower middle class or working class distinctions, part has to do with terms like "the elite," but it's something that I think is not comfortably discussed in the US.

Part of this relates to education and contacts, part to choice/mobility, and part to dependency on a job. You could choose a job that pays less, but have a good amount of choice if you decide to move to a different job due to education/contacts/background. That suggests upper middle or middle class status, even if your income would suggest otherwise. Similarly, you could make a lot of money but be dependent on a job that's not necessarily secure. That in my mind is why lots of 6-figure professionals (even high 6-figures) feel strongly that they are middle class and upset by the notion that they are part of the rich.

popcorn_karate 08-17-2011 05:27 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 222164)
Do you have me filtered, or are you asking for a more specific answer?

sorry steph! saw your post after i replied to badhat.

sounds like the consensus is that middle class means everybody but maybe the top 2% and bottom 5-10% of incomes.

i think there is a problem there similar to the way that under bush something like 40% of republicans thought they were in the top 5% that was benefiting from his policies. I suspect that when people in Washington use that term they are referring to people with quite a lot more money than the common understanding of the word, but they give the illusion that they are talking about "you" because of this disconnect in definitions.

popcorn_karate 08-17-2011 05:32 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 222165)
Okay, I guess there are specific questions I didn't answer.

How much does the barber make and where does he live? Does he own his own business? Is he married? What does his wife make? It depends on these things. But I'd say there's a good chance he's middle class.

Is a plumber middle class? Same questions, but generally, yeah.

Is there a class distinction between the drywall hanger and the lawyer? There might be -- the lawyer could easily be upper middle class or rich, but he could also make less than the drywall hanger. The drywall hanger could include quite a range of people too. But that may not answer the class distinction question, because I think Americans like to talk about "middle class" (which includes most people), the rich, the poor, the upper middle class, and the working class, and sometimes -- but carefully -- the lower middle class, but recognize more subtle class distinctions that we don't always articulate. Part of this relates to the collar distinctions, part of it relates to the upper/lower middle class or working class distinctions, part has to do with terms like "the elite," but it's something that I think is not comfortably discussed in the US.

Part of this relates to education and contacts, part to choice/mobility, and part to dependency on a job. You could choose a job that pays less, but have a good amount of choice if you decide to move to a different job due to education/contacts/background. That suggests upper middle or middle class status, even if your income would suggest otherwise. Similarly, you could make a lot of money but be dependent on a job that's not necessarily secure. That in my mind is why lots of 6-figure professionals (even high 6-figures) feel strongly that they are middle class and upset by the notion that they are part of the rich.

i hung drywall for about $8/ hour. its been a while but that was still nearly nothing when i did it. To think that someone making a six figure salary fits in to this "middle class" box along with people that are getting the EIC seems pretty problematic to me in how it distorts political discourse. but that does seem to be the currently accepted meaning.

stephanie 08-17-2011 06:26 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by popcorn_karate (Post 222180)
i hung drywall for about $8/ hour. its been a while but that was still nearly nothing when i did it. To think that someone making a six figure salary fits in to this "middle class" box along with people that are getting the EIC seems pretty problematic to me in how it distorts political discourse. but that does seem to be the currently accepted meaning.

On the broader point, I agree, but it is how people think of the terms. I guess the question is given that, how do you have a more nuanced discussion?

With the drywall hanger, I wouldn't call someone who makes $8/hour middle class, but I've been pricing various contractors (the nightmare of my life lately), and was thinking that it could be a huge range of different people, from the person you talk about (or someone in the country illegally and paid who knows what) through someone who owns his own business.

stephanie 08-17-2011 06:30 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by popcorn_karate (Post 222177)
i think there is a problem there similar to the way that under bush something like 40% of republicans thought they were in the top 5% that was benefiting from his policies. I suspect that when people in Washington use that term they are referring to people with quite a lot more money than the common understanding of the word, but they give the illusion that they are talking about "you" because of this disconnect in definitions.

I agree, and think this is related to the bizarre argument the Republicans have been making lately about how half of all Americans don't pay taxes. A good amount of the people cheering that argument have to be in that group, but of course most of the people who count for this group assume they pay taxes and probably even feel overtaxed, because when you fill out your 1040 you don't necessarily get the distinction between taxes which count and FICA.

So there ends up being this suspicion that there are all these other people who you (hypothetical Republican-leaning voter) are supporting, when you (in many cases) are considered undertaxed in this argument.

Ocean 08-17-2011 07:59 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 222188)
On the broader point, I agree, but it is how people think of the terms. I guess the question is given that, how do you have a more nuanced discussion?

With the drywall hanger, I wouldn't call someone who makes $8/hour middle class, but I've been pricing various contractors (the nightmare of my life lately), and was thinking that it could be a huge range of different people, from the person you talk about (or someone in the country illegally and paid who knows what) through someone who owns his own business.

I got an estimate from a guy who does some basic landscaping (pull out weeds and cut some low branches and shrubs). He told me he charges $35/hour. The local Mexican crews charge between $12-15/hour. I figure that the less work they have the more they need to charge to make a living. The more they charge, the less work they'll get. It's an interesting cycle. And I'm not kidding.

Sorry for going on a tangent.

Sulla the Dictator 08-18-2011 04:44 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 221261)
Shouldn't you say that if they are wrong to abandon their views on the latter -- if we think immigration is bad for the country, rather than leading to more specialization, efficiency, competition, so on -- maybe they are still right on the former?

I think the questions of immigration (And when we speak of this, we're speaking of illegal immigration) being bad for the country and being bad for big labor are separate. Objecting to free trade recognizes that closed markets are a competitive advantage for domestic production. Closed markets for goods are the same formula as closed markets for labor. An American T-shirt that costs $20 can't compete with a Chinese T-shirt that costs $8, anymore than an American worker that costs $24 an hour can compete with an illegal immigrant who costs $10.

stephanie 08-19-2011 01:08 PM

Re: Labor costs & computers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by popcorn_karate (Post 222177)
sorry steph! saw your post after i replied to badhat.

sounds like the consensus is that middle class means everybody but maybe the top 2% and bottom 5-10% of incomes.

i think there is a problem there similar to the way that under bush something like 40% of republicans thought they were in the top 5% that was benefiting from his policies. I suspect that when people in Washington use that term they are referring to people with quite a lot more money than the common understanding of the word, but they give the illusion that they are talking about "you" because of this disconnect in definitions.

pk --

I was recently reminded of this idiotic update of the ant/grasshopper story which is a good demonstration of the RW framing. I think this is a narrative that a lot of people buy into, and they see themselves as the ants, which is basically what you are saying.


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