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Is Unemployment Productive?

If the least productive workers can just disappear, policymakers achieve 'success' by dismissing the challenge that deserves greatest attention. Instead, our conception of 'productivity growth' must impose accountability for labor-market exits, recognize the value of keeping low-productivity workers connected to the job market, and have an explicit goal of ensuring that those workers are included in progress. This is doubly true because productivity measures do not fully capture the value of a job, which offers substantial non-economic benefits to many workers and may also be the best avenue for them to gain new skills and thereby increase their productivity over time. A high-productivity job requires a highly productive worker. A future filled with such jobs will materialize only if today’s less productive workers become able to do them.

tags: Inequality, Minimum Wage, Unemployment

Clinton Argues Paid Leave Creates Wage Gap

Are employers who choose to offer even more flexibility than the law requires therefore undercutting women even further? And how should gender discrimination be policed if federal employment policies are a cause of disparities in pay and promotion and the employers offering women the most generous options are the worst offenders? The especially committed social engineer might decide to tackle this challenge by attempting to force women's life choices to conform to men's, or vice versa. Good luck. Sweden has even tried paying couples to use equal amounts of leave, to little effect.

tags: 2016 Election, Inequality

No More Nostalgia

Levin is at his best when making the secular case for social conservatism--describing how 'expressive individualism,? in coming to dominate American culture, has eviscerated many of society's critical institutions, and what an alternative built on relational obligations and 'morally meaningful communities? might look like. While declaring it 'rather obvious . . . that cultural and economic factors are inseparable,? Levin views 'family breakdown, cultural dysfunction, and the polarization of norms? to be the primary culprits impairing opportunity. His formula of subsidiarity, however, makes an awkward fit for this challenge.

tags: Inequality

Obama Climate Agenda Lands on the Poor

President Obama's policies for tackling climate change would impose heavy costs borne disproportionately by lower-income U.S. households. His Clean Power Plan (CPP) and proposal for a $10.25-per-barrel oil tax are the equivalent of a $25?$30-per-ton carbon tax, which would cost America's poorest families tens of billions of dollars per year.

tags: Climate Change, Inequality

Basic Income Won't Fix America's Social Divide

Ensuring that even those with very low human capital enter and remain in the workforce offers one of the highest leverage points for breaking the cycle of social decay. A job provides not just a wage, but also structure, skills and social engagement. It gets someone onto the first rung of the economic ladder, which is the first step to climbing any higher. New policies should aim for this outcome -- making work pay, not paying regardless of work.

tags: Basic Income, Inequality, Safety Net

The Inequality Cycle

America's 'lower class,? for lack of a better term, is undergoing an unprecedented social collapse that threatens to destabilize core American principles. The data on marriage, parenting, employment, civic engagement, and basic values show a widening and sometimes accelerating gap between classes. This form of inequality is far more consequential than income inequality because strong families and communities, unlike high incomes, are the cornerstones of a free and fair society.

tags: Inequality, Safety Net

Don't Celebrate the Low Unemployment Numbers

The official unemployment rate instead makes each dropout from the labor force as great a success as a new hire and depicts a 'recovery? that never occurred. Only if held directly to the job growth rate, or to an unemployment rate that back-dates labor force participation to the end of the recession, will policymakers focus on the economic growth and job creation that the economy still needs. The unemployment rate today is nearly 10 percent; what are we doing about it?

tags: Inequality, Unemployment

Some Multimedia

Evidence Squared (1 and 2), June 2017
On climate communication

WNYC w/ Brian Lehrer, 3/9/17
On replacing Obamacare

Harvard Kennedy School, 2/22/17
On the future of conservatism

Matter of Fact, 1/22/17
On the Trump administration

WNYC w/ Brian Lehrer, 10/28/16
On the 2016 election (second hour)

National Review Institute, 10/17/16
On the wisdom of free trade

Senate Energy Comm, 4/26/16
On oil & gas development

CSPAN Washington Journal, 11/29/15
On the Paris climate negotiations

NPR On Point, 8/4/15
On the Clean Power Plan (second half)