State and Local Government Finance and Employment Data Visualization

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Press release, CB18-TPS.10, February 15, 2018

The U.S. Census Bureau today released the State and Local Government Snapshot, a new data visualization that allows users to explore the revenues, expenditures and employment of state and local governments. It combines several years of data from multiple government surveys in one place. Despite the robust amount of data, the format makes it clear and easy to understand. The visualization is customizable to allow users to access exactly the topics they are most interested in.

The Net Worth of the American Presidents: Washington to Trump

Source: Grant Suneson, 24/7 Wall St., February 12, 2018

Though the presidency of the United States is a prestigious job, it does not pay as well as one might think. The annual presidential salary is $400,000, While this is still within the top 1% of American earners, it is very little when compared to the typical compensation given to America’s CEOs and executives.

However, many men who have occupied the highest office in the land did not need any salary at all. The presidency has long been a position held by men who had already inherited fortunes or earned them during their lifetimes….

The Macroeconomic Effects of Student Debt Cancellation

Source: Scott Fullwiler, Stephanie Kelton, Catherine Ruetschlin, and Marshall Steinbaum, Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, February 2018

From the summary:
Among the more ambitious policies that have been proposed to address the problem of escalating student loan debt are various forms of debt cancellation. In this report, Scott Fullwiler, Research Associate Stephanie Kelton, Catherine Ruetschlin, and Marshall Steinbaum examine the likely macroeconomic impacts of a one-time, federally funded cancellation of all outstanding student debt.

The report analyzes households’ mounting reliance on debt to finance higher education, including the distributive implications of student debt and debt cancellation; describes the financial mechanics required to carry out the cancellation of debt held by the Department of Education (which makes up the vast majority of student loans outstanding) as well as privately owned student debt; and uses two macroeconometric models to provide a plausible range for the likely impacts of student debt cancellation on key economic variables over a 10-year horizon.

The authors find that cancellation would have a meaningful stimulus effect, characterized by greater economic activity as measured by GDP and employment, with only moderate effects on the federal budget deficit, interest rates, and inflation (while state budgets improve). These results suggest that policies like student debt cancellation can be a viable part of a needed reorientation of US higher education policy.

The Employee Right to Disconnect

Source: Paul M. Secunda, Notre Dame Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol. 8, Issue 1, 2018

From the abstract:
U.S. workers are increasingly finding it difficult to escape from work. Through their smartphones, email, and social media, work tethers them to their workstations well after the work day has ended. Whether at home or in transit, employers are asking or requiring employees to complete assignments, tasks, and projects outside of working hours. This practice has a profound detrimental impact on employee privacy and autonomy, safety and health, productivity and compensation, and rest and leisure. France and Germany have responded to this emerging workplace issue by taking different legal approaches to providing their employees a right to disconnect from the workplace. Although both the French legislative and German corporate self-regulation models have their advantages, this paper puts forth a hybrid approach using existing U.S. safety and health law under OSHA to respond to this employee disconnection problem. Initially under the general duty of clause of OSHA, and then under OSHA permanent standards and variances, this article provides a uniquely American approach to establishing an employee right to disconnect from work.

Predictive algorithms are no better at telling the future than a crystal ball

Source: Uri Gal, The Conversation, February 11, 2018

An increasing number of businesses invest in advanced technologies that can help them forecast the future of their workforce and gain a competitive advantage.

Many analysts and professional practitioners believe that, with enough data, algorithms embedded in People Analytics (PA) applications can predict all aspects of employee behavior: from productivity, to engagement, to interactions and emotional states.

Predictive analytics powered by algorithms are designed to help managers make decisions that favourably impact the bottom line. The global market for this technology is expected to grow from US$3.9 billion in 2016 to US$14.9 billion by 2023.

Despite the promise, predictive algorithms are as mythical as the crystal ball of ancient times….

Members of Congress respond to more than money – sometimes

Source: Jan Leighley, Jennifer Oser, The Conversation, February 9, 2018

Does citizen activism really affect the actions of elected officials?

Despite the ubiquitous role of money in campaigns, elections and policymaking, some citizens clearly still believe in the power of protest.

In the month of December 2017 alone, an organization called The Crowd Counting Consortiumtallied 796 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins and rallies,” some of them featuring thousands of people, across the country. Over the past year, the offices of many members of Congress and other elected officials have been jammed with constituents voicing their opinions on the Affordable Care Act, the immigration program called DACA, abortion and sexual harassment, among others.

But does all of this sign waving and sitting in actually influence elected officials?

As social scientists, we have long been interested in political participation and online activism. We used this knowledge to design a study that looks at whether activism changes the votes of elected officials – and whether the effect is strong enough to mitigate the power of donated money.

What we found is that citizens can make their voices heard – at least some of the time….

Steward’s Corner: Challenge Unilateral Changes

Source: Robert M. Schwartz, Labor Notes, February 7, 2018

When management changes an established working condition or adopts a new policy that adversely affects employees, stewards should alert union leaders quickly. By submitting a demand to bargain or filing a grievance, the union may be able to stop, modify, or at least delay harmful developments. Pressure tactics such as petitions, rallies, and picket lines add leverage…..