Wednesday, May 23, 2018

SUFFOLK, NY | Job Growth – A Zero for Zeldin

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, data released May 23,
The Congressman from CD 1 in Suffolk County, New York, was elected in 2014. 

He has made creating jobs a central part of his program, one of the main issues highlighted on his own web site.

He said in 2016 he would go to Washington, work with the Tea Party to reduce environmental and other regulations, and "help grow our economy and create more good paying jobs".

So how's it going with that, Mr. Zeldin?

Numbers just came out today for the fourth quarter of 2017. They show that Suffolk County ranked 309th out of the 347 largest counties for growth during 2017, fourth quarter compared with the fourth quarter of the previous year.

The growth rate was Point One Percent. That's one-tenth of one percent. That is statistically equivalent to Zero.

Compare that with Brooklyn (King's County), which grew 41 times as fast, 4.1 percent, and ranked 14th out of the 347 largest counties.

Zeldin has had two terms to prove he can make a difference in job growth. I would say he flunks his own test. He has not helped grow the economy. He has not "created more good-paying jobs". Time's up!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

LABOR MARKET | Dana Chasin Update 268

Two months ago, teachers in West Virginia began a statewide strike that would last for weeks.  It would pay off, winning gains for educators who have endured some of the lowest wages and worst benefits in the country. Yet the stuck wages afflicting so many workers stand alongside a 45-year low in new unemployment claims last week.  What explains this disparity? What in fact are the prevailing labor and wage conditions in the country? What are the political implications for November? The following comments are from an email from Dana Chasin, posted here by permission.

Inspired by the efforts in West Virginia, teachers across the country’s low-wage states have initiated job action. Tens of thousands of teachers have walked out across Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, and Colorado to protest low wages, poor benefits, and shrinking education funding.  Tensions are simmering in North Carolina and Mississippi, and calls for action in Texas and Indiana suggest that the wave of teacher strikes is likely far from over.
Americans overwhelmingly support teachers’ demands for higher wages.  Over 50 percent of the country would support higher taxes to raise teachers’ wages.  Perhaps this support is attributable to familiarity. If the grievances that these educators cite to justify labor action sound familiar, that’s because stagnant wages and declining benefits have come to define the American labor market conditions in recent years.
For Most, Stuck Wages
As with red-state teachers, a vast majority of Americans rely on their paychecks and employer-provided benefits to make ends meet, and these have hardly improved in decades.  
Between 1950 and 1970, Americans enjoyed a post-war boom that saw wages grow in line with the broader economy.  Economists have long thought that if worker productivity rises, wages will also increase in kind. The three decades after WWII supported this notion.  Over this period, wages rose by 91 percent, almost exactly in step with the 97 percent rate growth in national productivity.
In 2016, American workers were 75 percent more productive than they were in 1973, but had only seen their take home pay rise 12 percent in that time. American workers have seen their share of productivity gains collapse.
Paradox:  Plentiful Work, Slow Wage Growth
President Trump and congressional Republicans say that the stable and historically low unemployment rate is their doing, not that they inherited an economy that saw steady reductions in unemployment for five straight years.
Real wages have been stagnant for even longer, but Trump is not taking credit here.  In many cases even the declines seen in unemployment rates are concentrated predominantly in low-wage, low-quality job sectors.  While the economy has been adding jobs, in many places around the country these jobs tend to pay the minimum wage. Regional differentials in labor markets can also confuse national-level statistics.
A Look Behind The Numbers
Beyond this, while today’s unemployment rate is certainly low, this can obscure real problems in the labor market.
During the Great Recession, the labor force participation rate fell from 67 percent to 63 percent.  Many people fell into underemployment or lost faith in the notion that any opportunities existed for them. The size of the workforce has remained around 63 percent since, suggesting fewer opportunities and a lingering disillusionment among those that have fallen out of the workforce.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) quantifies an alternative measure of slack in the labor market that takes the above categories of workers into account. While the unemployment rate (measuring only those seeking jobs within the last four weeks as being unemployed) is 4.1 percent, another measure reveals a more substantial underutilization of the workforce.  When taking into account the workers who are involuntarily part-time, marginally attached workers, and discouraged workers, the U-6 unemployment rate is 8.3 percent today – more than twice that of the conventional measure.
New Ideas About Bargaining Power
There is considerable debate as to why incomes have stagnated for as long as they have. Some theorists see “market-exogenous” changes in technology and globalization to explain the rise of inequality.  In this formulation, advances in shipping and information technologies allowed capital unfettered access to the entire world’s labor supply, causing a shift in production from high wage areas to low wage areas.
More recently, economists and policy thinkers have turned their attention to the role of market power or labor market concentration in wage analysis.  This theory focuses on concentration as a driving factor in wage stagnation. Market concentration accounts for 10-15 percent of annual wage losses, suggesting that workers’ wage bargaining power is weakening in certain robust labor markets.
The last forty years has seen a retreat from policies and institutions that support the relative bargaining power of workers. The decline of American unions is an oft-cited reason for the erosion of workers’ bargaining position vis-a-vis employers, but other factors tether employees to low wages as well, including:
  • a retreat from the pursuit of full employment by policymakers
  • the predominance of noncompete clauses in low wage environments
  • salary history disclosure requirements
  • public infrastructure degradation and a dearth of mass transportation options.
The concentration of labor markets and the collapse of worker power have played an important part in the divergence between labor productivity and wage growth, and can at least partially explain the why wages are hardly responding to very low unemployment rates.
Labor Market Not Monolithic for Midterms
America is comprised of very diverse economies across many regions. While technological changes and shifting market power have depressed employment levels and wages overall, the composition of local economies determine the effect those developments have on a local workforce.  Regional economies with significant vulnerability to trade competition have seen commensurate declines in employment. Those exposed to technological change have undergone a reorganization of the local workforce.  Those that have experienced market consolidation have seen other deleterious effects.
President Trump and Congressional Republicans may try to take credit in the run-up to the November midterm elections for the nation’s continued low unemployment rate.  But their claims will likely fall on deaf ears in communities where trade competition have depressed employment and where laborers have lost negotiation power relative to their employers.  After cutting taxes overwhelmingly for the corporations and the wealthiest, the GOP hasn’t shown many voters yet the benefits they were promised; instead, they continue to struggle with continually stagnant wages and precious few good jobs.  But with all the GOP tax talk, they increasingly perceive another threat to their retirement security, which we will address next time.

To be added to the news digest assembled by Dana Chasin and the 20/20 team, go here.

Friday, April 6, 2018

OPENING IN DC | Economic Policy Assistant

Vacancy: Economic Policy Assistant Position in Washington, DC

The position supports the work of an economic policy research and advocacy firm participating in the national economic policy making process, working with legislators, academics, public interest groups, and progressive organizations via engagement in economic policy legislative and political projects with a principal focus on fiscal and financial policy. 

The position involves working with a team of writers/researchers on policy products and projects relating to a range of domestic economic policy issues.  It includes various administrative responsibilities.  The work is a mix of legislative and political projects and offers hands-on experience collaborating with colleagues and partners and preparing deliverables for clients.  
Compensation:  Competitive, commensurate with experience and performance, $15-20/hr, plus expenses 
Schedule:   Flexible; 20-40 hrs/week
  • Research and writing on a range of domestic economic policy issues
  • Administrative tasks such as planning meetings, taking detailed notes, tracking timelines for projects and specific to-do lists
  • Assist in distribution of a regular newsletter
  • Occasional event planning and tech support (iPhone, printer, wireless networks) 
  • Proven experience as a policy researcher 
  • Knowledge of office management systems and procedures and office equipment
  • Proficiency in MS Office/Google Drive, and MailChimp programs
  • Excellent time management skills, the ability to prioritize work, pay attention to detail, and troubleshoot problems
  • Excellent written and verbal communication and organizational skills
  • Bachelor’s degree
Location:   Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.

Application Due Date: Friday, April 27, 2018
Target Start Date: Mid- to late-May, 2018

To apply, send a copy of your resume and a cover letter to: 

Dana Chasin

Thursday, April 5, 2018

TRUMP | Stealing America Blind

April 5, 2018 – If you are not in New York City, you may be missing seeing an empiggened Trump looking up at us from every newsstand.

The cover of the new (April 2-15, 2018) New York Magazine has a way of commanding our attention.

The stories inside do not disappoint.
1. Corruption Is Trump's Greatest Political Liability

“My whole life I've been greedy, greedy, greedy,” 
declared Donald duringthe 2016 campaign.

2. Trump & Co. Are Stealing America Blind: A Timeline

Donald Trump's love of money has no limits; his greediness rules all. Here's a timeline of 501 days of corruption within the Trump administration and the Trump Organization.

Video for New York Magazine Trump Corruption
New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait argues that it's not Russia or Stormy Daniels that can stop Trump.

New York magazine is taking a harsh swipe at President Trump with its new cover depicting the president as a pig.

5. New York Mag empiggens Trump | Media ...

The April 2, 2018 issue ofNew York Magazine depicts President Trump as a pig to illustrate a Jonathan Chait story about Trump Administration corruption.
And see also:

Corruption | The New Yorker

Read more about corruption from The New Yorker. ... “Mark Felt,” the Movie, and Donald Trump, the President. The deal in Georgia raises some of the same questions as many other deals the Trump Organization has done around the world. By Adam Davidson.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

WOODY SCHNEIDER | His 100,000th racquet

Woody Schneider strings his 100,000th
tennis racquet, a Yonex.
I left my tennis racquet in Florida and needed to play yesterday.

So I got a new racquet from Woody Schneider at NYC Racquet Sports, at 157 West 35th Street, between Broadway and 7th Avenue, close to Penn Station.

This is now his main place of work although he has had three other retail stores until October last year. He is still located where he started, in Grand Central Terminal between tracks 38 and 39, and at the NTC Pro Shop at the National Tennis Center.
Woody Schneider (L) with Björn Borg.

When I walked in, Woody was about to start on another racquet. He said he would put that one aside and string another one while I went nearby for coffee. He had the racquet ready in 25 minutes.

I reminded him that last time he had recommended a smaller grip for me because I have a "meaty hand."

Woody focuses on his (now
my) racquet.
Last year I wrote about Woody's long career as a racquet stringer and store owner. He started his own retail store 26 years ago and 20 years ago he took over the 44th Street tennis store, familiar to anyone who walks 44th Street to Grand Central Terminal.

He gave up the 44th Street store in October because the construction work going on in the area hurt his sales and competition from the Internet meant that revenue was off.

Last year my wife Alice and I purchased Babolat racquets from him.

This time he did not have a suitable Babolat racquet and recommended a Yonex, which is made by a Tokyo-based company that first made its name half a century ago making badminton racquets.

The founder of Yonex, Minoru Yoneyama is now Honorary Chairman and has been named a Japanese Sacred Treasure. His son Ben Yoneyama is the current Chairman.

As Woody was stringing the racquet, I asked him if he was stringing his 50,000th racquet.

He paused briefly to consider. "Ten  racquets strung a day, average; 50 a week, average; 2,500 a year, average; over 40 years. So this would be personally my 100,000th racquet." 

We had a small celebration with his associate, who was working on another racquet. 
Woody Schneider (R) with Roger Federer.

I asked Woody how it was going these days, competing with the online sellers. He said that the quality of the stringing of these racquets left something to be desired, but it was hard to compete with these sellers on price.

He has a 2,000sf space at the Penn Station site and really uses only one-fourth of it. I suggested he reduce cost by sharing the space with another similar business, like sports clothing. He thought that was a great idea, but how would he find someone? I called a friend in the sub-leasing business but she only does office space, not retail.

Any ideas? Comment or email

Monday, March 26, 2018

HEIDI FISKE | Is Trump Seeking War?

John R. Bolton, President Trump's
National Security Advisor-Designate
(The following Guest Post was written by Heidi Fiske:)

Pundits right and left fear that John Bolton as National Security Advisor could cause us to stumble into war.

But what if it isn’t stumbling? What if Trump is actively seeking to take us into war?

There are three reasons why this is possible, if not likely. I number them below.

But let’s begin with the background. Before the Bolton appointment, Trump had been priming the war pump in several ways.

First, 60 percent of the top diplomats in the State Department left under Secretary Rex Tillerson, reducing our ability to negotiate, or gain support from allies. To this day there is no ambassador to South Korea. The top U.S. official there, since January 2017, is chargé d’affaires Mark Knapper.

Next, Trump fired Tillerson, who urged keeping the Iran nuclear deal in place and who advocated talking with North Korea, to be replaced by Mike Pompeo. As head of the CIA, Pompeo was the only Trump cabinet member to argue for decertifying the Iran nuclear deal. Not only could that in itself lead to war, but it should make North Korea discount any promise Trump might make in talks with Kim.

Finally, the cherry on the top, is Bolton. He has argued for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea (“The legal case for striking North Korea first,” The Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2018); bombing Iran (“To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran,” The New York Times, March 26, 2015), and to this day he supports our having started the Iraq War, which many others regard as the greatest strategic mistake in our recent history. Bolton will start his new job just as the final jockeying about conditions for the Trump/Kim talks are being worked out – talks whose only purpose, he has said, is to prove that talks don’t work, thus clearing the way for military action. He will also start just about the same time as the Iran nuclear deal needs to be recertified on May 12.

Could his new personnel choices herald that Trump is actively seeking to go to war? Consider these three things:
  1. Trump’s tactic throughout his campaign and Presidency has been to drive unpleasant news off the front pages by creating a new ruckus. When he was taking heat over his stance on the healthcare bill and response to the hurricanes, for instance, he started the stink over football players kneeling during the national anthem. Now multiple amatory scandals, and the Mueller investigation, dominate the news. Very few things could top these in importance or reader appeal. War, however, could drive both off the front pages.
  2. Trump has good reason to think he’s Teflon. The tax legislation, tariffs, and removal of financial protections could all hurt him with his base – but they haven’t much yet. While an exhaustive January poll by Morning Consult found his approval down among all voting blocs, his support is still well over 40 percent among whites, military personnel and households, private sector workers, all Christians, southerners, retirees, those earning over $50,000, men, all adults, and well over 70 percent among Republicans as a whole, and Republican men and women separately. And his approval is still 87 percent among those who voted for him in 2016.
  3. Trump surely remembers the record of another ever-less-popular President, George W. Bush. In May 2004, during the runup to his re-election, a CBS News poll found that Bush’s negative rating was 65 percent, and that, from January 2004, “majorities of the public have consistently said the U.S. is off on the wrong track.” Yet he was re-elected: Why? Here is a stunning statistic: No wartime President has ever failed to win re-election.
So let’s suppose for a moment that Trump wants to go to war. What’s to stop him? Congress, you might think. Not so fast: The 1973 War Powers Resolution gives the President 60 days to deploy troops before war must be declared by Congress. And obviously after those 60 days we could be in such a morass that there would be no turning back.

Anything else? Two other possible events might dial back the White House Bellicosity Meter:
Bolton doesn't need Senate approval, but he might not get a security clearance before he is scheduled to start work in April.

Pompeo might not be confirmed by the Senate – highly unlikely, while the President retains high ratings with his base. And who knows whom Trump would nominate next?

Thus this observer concludes that there is at least a 50-50 chance that we are on our way to a new war, or wars. The President’s personnel choices are not the cause. They are more likely the result of his desire for war.

Friday, March 23, 2018

WELLESLEY IN VERO | Professor Ann Witte

Wellesley College alumnae in Vero Beach, Fla. at a lunch featuring Wellesley
Professor Emerita Ann Witte (in blue, front row), an expert on early childhood
education and personal finance. Alice Tepper Marlin '66 is holding the "W"
end of the banner.
March 23, 2018 – Professor Ann Witte spoke earlier this month about early childhood education to a group of Wellesley Alumnae at Bay Colony, a community near Indian River Shores Town Hall on A1A in Vero Beach, Florida.

Her research has focused not only on early childhood care and education but also on  how to empower people to manage their finances and how memory affects and changes as time passes.

At Wellesley College, she was a tenured professor of economics who taught personal finance (ECON 223) in the 2006-2010 period, an interesting one! The Wellesley Economics Department web page includes the obituaries of two economic professors whom I knew quite well, Soviet-Russian expert Marshall Goldman and housing-value econometrician Chip Case. Professor Goldman was on the Executive Committee of Economists for Peace and Security with me, when I was serving as Treasurer.

She also worked on ways to improve financial education including development of a MOOC and flipped classrooms. She served as a consultant to research projects to help people manage their finances and co-authored two books in that arena with fellow Wellesley College instructor Saundra Gulley.

She uses statistics and microeconomics to analyze and affect public policies and was a principal investigator of the 2012 National Survey of Early Education and Care in the United States.

Other Wellesley College-related posts2014: Wellesley '66 Visits the LongHouse Reserve, East Hampton . 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

DANA CHASIN | Omnibus Budget Bill Before the Congress

U.S. Capitol. Photo by JT Marlin.
The following Update 258 from Dana Chasin in Washington, D.C. reports on the Omnibus bill to fund the U.S. government through September. It is posted here by permission.

Update, March 23, 2:30 a.m.: A $1.3 trillion spending bill was passed an hour ago, funding the Federal Government through September 2018. Passed already by the House on Thursday, the bill now goes to President Trump to sign.

Congressional leaders and White House officials reached a deal on H.R. 1625, a 2,232- page, $1.2 trillion [finally $1.3 trillion] fiscal 2018 omnibus spending package.

Top-line figures indicate:
    •    $629 billion in defense discretionary spending
    •    $579 billion in non-defense discretionary spending

The deal increases spending for appropriators by margins not seen since 2010:
    •    $80 billion above prior restrictions for defense-related spending
    •    $63 billion more for non-defense related spending

President Trump’s FY19 budget request proposed cutting $54 billion from the existing non-defense statutory cap. House Republican Appropriations bills were written at a level cutting $5 billion from the total cap.  Following the Republican majorities’ failure to enact Appropriations laws, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 increased non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending by $63 billion.  The omnibus conforms with the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 mandate.

Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Speaker Ryan, and Minority Leader Pelosi may adjust these spending numbers and strike the final deal to avert a government shutdown before midnight tomorrow.  The bill would extend the government’s spending cliff to September 30, guaranteeing six months without a major budgetary shutdown.

Negotiation Points and Resolution
The debate around the omnibus focused on a few key provisions each with their own nuances regarding funding levels, disbursement schedules, and administrative issues.  Democrats faired fairly well in these negotiations.

One victory was an item to permit the CDC to study gun violence by incentivizing municipalities to update the NICS database, which is used for background checks. Democrats also beat back attempts by Sens. Collins and Alexander to fund high risk pools in the health insurance marketplace.  Similar provisions: limiting the funding for Trump’s wall to narrow projects, primarily reinforcing and updating existing fencing.

But Democrats are not fully onboard with this bill.

—  there are no DACA protections
—  the Gateway, a key infrastructure project in New York and New Jersey is not directly funded
—  massive increases in military spending outstrip domestic discretionary increases

Freedom Caucus Republicans and Rand Paul are not enthused about this bill as it increases spending by $143 billion; they have said that Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell left too much on the table.

Policy Riders
Packed into this very large omnibus package are numerous policy riders on issues that run the gambit from health care to labor issues, to environment and more. With respect to economic policy, the following policy riders related to tax, infrastructure, and financial regulation were worked in.

    •    Tax Riders: Apparently, the “meticulous” legislative process surrounding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act missed a few details.

    •    IRS Funding - Despite Trump’s expressed desire to cut IRS funding, this deal increases its budget. The omnibus also allocates $320 million to the Internal Revenue Service to support the agency as it implements the new law. Though the IRS will still be prohibited from auto-completing parts of tax returns, a continued victory for tax preparers like Turbotax. In addition, the base IRS budget was cut by $125 million from 2017 in nominal terms, making the net gain of $195 million.

    •    The Tax “Grain Glitch” Fix - Representatives from farming states have decried a glitch in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that gives farmers greater tax savings if they have sold crops to farm cooperatives at a disadvantage to corporate competitors. Agricultural trade groups pushed Senators like Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) to change this “Grain Glitch”. The proposal, that limits farmers to a 20 percent deduction of their net income from sales to cooperatives, has been included in the omnibus.

    •    Low-Income Housing Tax Credit - In exchange for the “grain glitch” amendment to the GOP tax law, Democrats were able to win an expansion of the low-income housing tax credit by 12.5 percent from 2018 to 2021.

    •    Infrastructure Spending:  The omnibus also includes minimal increases in infrastructure spending. While the funds are badly needed, significantly more funding is needed to address the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.  The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates, conservatively, that Congress will require a $2 trillion investment over the next decade to adequately address the nation’s infrastructure needs.

    •    Spending Increase - The omnibus sets aside $10 billion in new spending for infrastructure including:
           ◦    $2.6 billion more for the Federal Highway Administration
           ◦    $1.2 billion more for the Federal Railroad Administration
           ◦    $600 million for high-speed internet

    •    Dodd-Frank Rider: Just after the Senate passed its bipartisan banking bill, S. 2155, House Republicans continue to take aim at the Dodd-Frank Act in the omnibus bill.  But the financial services rider the GOP won here is of marginal significance, merely requiring the OMB to report on Dodd-Frank’s cost.

    •    Cost Estimates of Dodd-Frank Implementation - The omnibus includes a provision requiring the OMB to report to the Appropriations Committee on the cost of implementing the Dodd-Frank Act.

CHARLIE MINER, R.I.P. | Grandson of FDR's First Treasury Secretary

Charlie Miner (R) enjoying his great-nephew and great-great-niece and her (unrelated) Angry Bird. (Photo by JT Marlin.) 
March 20, 2018 – Charlie Miner, Jr. interrupted his studies at Princeton (Class of 1943) to volunteer as a bomber pilot.

He died yesterday, according to his daughter, and Vero Beach resident, Charmaine Caldwell.

memorial service in Vero Beach is planned for May 3 and possibly another subsequent one in East Hampton. 

The following is a slightly edited (with a sad new ending) version of an article I wrote about Miner for The Vero Portfolio, May-June 2015 issue, p. 24.

Charlie Miner was one of seven grandchildren of his illustrious grandfather, FDR’s first Treasury Secretary, Will Woodin. His mother was Woodin's eldest daughter, Mary, who married an infantry captain, Robert Charles (Charlie) Miner, Sr.

Charlie Miner, Jr. divided his time at the end of his life between Vero Beach and East Hampton. When his beloved cousin Anne Gerli died in 2016, he gave up spending time in East Hampton. 

At Princeton, Miner studied engineering and joined the war effort as pilot of a B-25 Mitchell twin-engine bomber, which had a crew of three or more. Miner flew many of the 17 bombing missions of his Air Force unit over northern Italy. [More about his contribution to the war effort here.]

He was lucky to have survived. Of 16 million American veterans of World War II, fewer than one in 16 survived as of 2015, only 80,000 in Florida. That year Miner was one of only about 250 World War II vets left in Indian River County, and may be Indian River County's oldest surviving European-theater WWII bomber pilot.

Miner told me how much he loves Vero Beach, Fla. Years ago in the 1950s and 1960s, he spent time with his mother (who divorced Charlie Sr. and did not remarry) in the Riomar social life. It  revolved, he said, around rotating dinners and celebrations among the original 12 houses. The 30 residents took turns throwing parties. The Riomar Inn came later. John's Island—where Miner and his late wife Maisie lived now—opened in 1970 and was at first resented because it drew people away from Riomar (and then it became successful and was imitated by the Moorings).

Charlie Miner’s grandfather, Will Woodin, was the man who dealt with the Wall Street and banking panic that started in 1929 and was not put to rest until FDR came into office in March 1933. FDR's first Treasury Secretary was given wide latitude in addressing the problem. 

Will Woodin was born in Pennsylvania and settled in New York after a successful career as the CEO of a huge business, American Car & Foundry (ACF) selling railroad rolling stock. It was called the "Car Trust" because back then a "car" was a railway car. From 1916 to 1928 he headed up a company whose stock was one of the 20 in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. A cousin of his headed up the locomotive company (ALCo) that was another of the 20.

Woodin had four children. The eldest and youngest settled in Vero Beach — Mary Woodin Miner and Libby Woodin Rowe. Libby’s husband, Wally Rowe, and a brother bought homes in Riomar. Mary and Libby eventually lived in Vero Beach most of the year. Charlie’s mother lived in John's Island after Riomar and died in 2007 at 102.

Charlie remembers not just the bridge that connected the two sides of the Indian River, "Beachland Boulevard" where Route 60 crosses, before the concrete-arch Barber Bridge.  He remembers the drawbridge that was built earlier, in 1995. Before that, back in the 1930s, there was a bridge made of wooden railroad ties and swung around horizontally to let boats through the Indian River. 

Back in those early days Beachland Boulevard was the northern edge of Vero Beach, and there wasn’t a Riverside Theater. Charlie says the money was raised in several ways. Rosie and Sterling Adams organized a dance every year. He and his cousin, Bill Rowe, used to sell season tickets and organized an auction of donated prizes to raise money for the theater. The Theater is, of course, now a major institution in Vero.

Charlie (R) and me in 2014. Photo by
Alice Tepper Marlin.
What Charlie Miner liked about Vero is that it is quiet. That was one of the original motivations of the developers, along with the availability of rail transportation and ocean beaches. There is no strip with night clubs, no airport. As Charlie says, “I’m not a teenager anymore.”

Charlie’s Advice for a Long and Happy Life:
  • For a long life: Every morning a meal of two eggs and tomato juice or V-8 (with or without the hair of the dog). 
  • For a happy life: “Enjoy life while you can. If you want to do something, don’t wait. Do it while you can because life goes by quickly. You may never get another chance.” He says his 93 years have “Gone… Boom!”
During the many recent years that I have been studying and writing about FDR's forgotten first Treasury Secretary, Charlie's grandfather, I and my wife Alice have been amused and impressed by Charlie's joie-de-vivre and his sharp recollections of his long life. Learning of his death at 96 years old was a sad moment.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

HEIDI FISKE | China in Mexico

Xi Jinping Casts a Ballot
Over the weekend, the final step in Xi Jinping’s grab for life-long power in China was completed when the National People’s Congress voted 2,959 to 2 (there were three abstentions) to abolish term limits for his job as president.

Xi also heads the military and the Communist Party.

As China ramps up its presence in Latin America, this authoritarian spirit could become a problem for Mexico, especially if it opts to depend on Chinese infrastructure projects.

Does this sound unlikely? Well, consider this:

TRUMP | Changes His Mind about Gun Safety

Today we learn the president has met with the NRA and has changed his mind about plans to make schools safe from guns.

Our president is behaving like the monarch in The Little Prince. 

He orders people to do something. Then, if there is any problem from His Base, he changes his mind and orders people to do the opposite.
"It is contrary to etiquette to yawn in the presence of a king," the monarch said to the little prince. "I forbid you to do so."
"I can't help it. I can't stop myself," replied the little prince, thoroughly embarrassed. "I have come on a long journey, and I have had no sleep . . ."
"Ah, then," the king said. "I order you to yawn.”
Luckily, this is not a monarchy. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

TECH JOBS | Is Tech an Ally or Threat to Wall Street? (A Dialogue)

Tech Jobs vs. Wall Street Jobs (The American Banker, One Year Ago, March 16, 2017)
One year ago the American Banker displayed the chart at left, suggesting that tech jobs were in competition with many Wall Street jobs.  

Greg David recently in his Crain's blog expressed appreciation for the growth of tech jobs in New York City, as a diversification of highly paid employment within NYC. 

The following unedited (except for formatting) dialogue on this topic between Edward Greenberg, an attorney in New York City, and me were posted as comments on the Crain's blog and are re-posted here by permission of Mr. Greenberg. 

An underlying question is whether tech jobs are substitutes for Wall Street jobs, as indicated in the chart above, or are complementary.

Will more use of technology in the financial sector
  • Strengthen Wall Street? 
  • Hollow out its employment base?
  • Permit financial jobs to migrate to other cities?
Edward C. Greenberg 
Response to Greg David, March 1, 2018

Very nice news but for context – there are 80,000 (2/3 of NYC's) such "defined" jobs in Los Angeles, a city with less than 1/2 the population of NYC. The population of the LA metro area is 13.5 million and NYC's is 20.3 million.

LA is not considered a "tech hub" like Northern Ca or even Boston. So while the number of tech jobs in NYC sounds like, and is in fact, good news, it is being employed by our politicos for their own PR purposes. By NOT comparing these figures to other major cities the figures become distorted and not indicative of anything that our politicos can take credit for.

Forbes does not list NYC in its top 10 cities for tech job growth. It does list cities like San Diego, Raleigh, Nashville (metro area) and Jacksonville, FL (where there has been a 72.4% increase in tech jobs from 2001 to 2017.

Every new job in NYC is good news but other cities are doing better in attracting these type businesses and jobs. If NYC "rests on its fake laurels" it will continue to fall behind other cities in attracting these jobs.

The author is spot on regarding the amorphous "definitions" employed to define tech sector and "eco-system" jobs. A coffee shop across the street from Google HQ which serves Google employees is clearly part of the tech "eco-system".

John Tepper Marlin
Response to Edward C. GreenbergMarch 1, 2018.

I agree that understanding the significance of the tech sector in New York City requires comparing New York with other cities. The New York City Comptroller's Office did this in 1999, just before the way the job numbers are aggregated was changed.

In addition, the idea that Wall Street should be pitted against the tech sector as a source of jobs misses a big part of the story, which is Wall Street's need for tech support and tech's dependence on Wall Street

An MIT Professor solemnly told me 20 years ago that New York City could never catch up with Boston as a source of startups servicing financial institutions. MIT was developing “aggregators” that would, he said, soon be collecting financial information from individuals and assembling them in one place, across platforms. That process is taking longer than he predicted.

Meanwhile, New York City financial technology jobs have been growing because Wall Street wants these vendors close by. Those high-frequency traders have to be nanoseconds from their platforms.

Wall Street and NYC tech workers stand or fall together. NYC's preeminence in the financial world of the next decade depends on both.

The 1999 NYC Comptroller's report on the growth of tech jobs 
noted the difference between counting tech occupations and tech-oriented companies. The data-counting problems are too great to opt for one or the other. The problem is with the aggregation process. We depend on the BLS for data, and the BLS makes it hard to count payroll local jobs by claiming that disclosing information would allow researchers to get down to the company level and discover proprietary information.

It is sad for that reason that BLS moved many research functions out of New York City to Boston (and Philadelphia). NYC's 1911 Triangle Fire gave rise to the Labor Department and New York City was one of the earliest research centers on job data. Senator Ted Kennedy was reportedly active in promoting the move of BLS staff positions moved from New York to Boston.

A good understanding of how financial and technology jobs interface is important to New York City. It is also important to the country. We need more and better research on what is happening to jobs in the intersection between finance and technology.

Edward C. Greenberg 

Response to John Tepper MarlinMarch 1, 2018

Agreed – with one key addition.

Lots of traditional Wall St, banking and financial service jobs moved from NYC to NJ, FL, S. Dakota and Utah. The concept of "geographic proximity" is rapidly becoming an anachronism. The notion that an NYC company would have "back office personnel" 500-1,500 miles from Gotham was unthinkable 25 years ago. Today it is the norm.

The Internet did not come into meaningful public use until the 1980's; computer driven trading came in about the same time. Pick up a WSJ, NYT, Forbes, Fortune or The Economist from the era. Try to find one that remotely predicts the manners of business and locations of major insurers, banks and stock trading which would exist in 2018.

Geography as a factor will soon be entirely irrelevant. Gothamites still don't believe the number of companies and jobs in these sectors moving to or already located in FL, TX and various other flyover states most of which New Yorkers have never set foot in. Did your buddy use the term "near shoring" in 1999? Betcha a beer he didn't.

John Tepper Marlin 
Response to Edward C. Greenberg, March 7, 2018

Yes, geography is less relevant than it used to be. But no, geography will never be irrelevant, even to technology. The way in which it is relevant is changing.

One of the strengths of the United States is that we have many strong population centers that are highly interconnected. New York City's greatest strength has been its ability to lead the country in finance and communications. This in turn pulled in many corporate HQs.

Financial institutions have always used every means of communication they could. Before the telegraph, they used carrier pigeons as well as horseback couriers.

Today, I'm not in New York City (I'm away from the nasty Northeastern weather) but I feel as much in touch as if I owned a huge flock of carrier pigeons or a large staff of messengers operating on routes dotted by inns with stables.

I still rely heavily on face-to-face meetings – especially when it comes to meeting new people. Personal contact may actually be more likely to mislead than seeing what someone writes, but some part of us wants to see people talk.

What is changing since 1999 is that many businesses have learned how to reduce the need for continuous face-to-face contact. Work at home, control from a remote location, and conference calling are all functioning more widely and reliably than they first did.

The natural duopoly of newspapers and bankers, and their centralization in financial centers (my great-grandfather edited Holland's then-greatest newspaper in Amsterdam, founded on family links among bankers and newspapers), survived the introduction of the telegraph and the radio. It has also survived the creation of the Internet.

We have seen recent stories about Silicon Valley's entrepreneurs seeking new locations because of high costs and inefficiencies, and the growth of new tech centers in the Midwest.

This decentralization is a good thing for the United States, even if it creates challenges for New York City. Instant reporting and high-frequency and program-driven trading is vulnerable to cyber-malfunctions, accidents or cyberattacks. After 9/11, companies built huge physical back-office locations in readiness for a need to move. It made sense to decentralize.

Geography is still relevant because cyberspace still depends on interruptible physical computers and power generation.

Edward C. Greenberg 

Response to John Tepper Marlin, March 7, 2018

You make some excellent points but if history teaches us anything it is that centers of power and commerce change for good or ill and many become irrelevant or disappear entirely.

Nobody predicted the Detroit of 2008 in 1960 or 1970. The notion that Pittsburgh would not be a steel producer by the late 20th century was predicted by no one in the years after the war. There was no mention of the Internet in any business or general circulation publication in 1960. Buffalo and Newark have 1/2 the populations today that they had in 1960. Who predicted 30 years ago that Jacksonville, Fl, Utah, S. Dakota and other places would be centers of banking, finance, insurance and credit transactions?

The ten most populous American Cities in 1960 were:

1 New York, New York 7,781,984.
2 Chicago, Illinois 3,550,404.
3 Los Angeles, California 2,479,015.
4 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 2,002,512.
5 Detroit, Michigan 1,670,144.
6 Houston, Texas 938,219.
7 Baltimore, Maryland 929,024.
8 Cleveland, Ohio 876,050.
9 Washington, District of Columbia 783,956.
10 St. Louis 750,000.

Nobody predicted that by 2010 the above list would morph into:
1 New York City, New York 8,175,133.
2 Los Angeles, California 3,792,621.
3 Chicago, Illinois 2,695,598.
4 Houston, Texas 2,099,451.
5 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1,526,006.
6 Phoenix, Arizona 1,445,632.
7 San Antonio, Texas 1,327,407.
8 San Diego, California 1,307,402.
9 Dallas, Texas 1,197,816.
10 San Jose, California 945,942.

Cleveland, Baltimore, Detroit, St. Louis “disappeared". Jacksonville, Fl had a population of 201,000 in 1960 and 907,000 in 2017. Not even the town fathers saw that coming and as a result the city has been on a years-long road building project to handle the daily commuters.

Predictions of future development of population movements and industries in the US have been historically wrong. No expert, urban planner, or politician foresaw the dominance of e commerce, the existence of Facebook, Apple, Amazon or the abundance of indigenous oil/natural gas during the gas crisis of the 1970s. The Dec. 3, 1973, cover of Time Magazine, "The Big Freeze", featured a lengthy scientific article about the earth's temperature decreasing and the coming of a new ice age. This expert prediction came before the catalytic converter was required for autos, which were spewing exhaust 5 times dirtier than current cars which burn cleaner fuels. Trucks were then burning dirty diesel, and there was extensive burning of coal to generate electricity.

What odds do you think you would have received by making a bet in 1970 that in 2018, the fastest-growing states in America would be in order: Idaho, NV, Utah, Washington, FL, AZ, TX, CO, Oregon and S. Carolina (10th). Six of those states are clearly not in the sunbelt.

So, I understand your well-made points but society and business moves so fast in the 21st century that the day when geography plays little to no role in most (not all) business is already upon us. One need only visit or do business with companies in places like Miami, San Diego any major TX city and a few dozen others to see how fast NYC is becoming old by comparison. If NYC's mass transit system continues to disintegrate and employ equipment nearly 100 years old, businesses and residents will accelerate the on going trend to depart. Daily 2-hour commutes have become unnecessary and unacceptable to workers, entrepreneurs and others who have options to avoid the cost and misery of driving, buses, trains and/or subways.

The number of businesses, artisans and professionals who have left NYC and have benefited economically stands as daily proof that while in the real estate business location is everything, in the business and artistic worlds.... not so much anymore.