Author Archives: afscme

Government Financial Management and the Coronavirus Pandemic: A Comparative Look at South Korea and the United States

Source: Sungho Park, Craig S. Maher, The American Review of Public Administration, Special issue: Double Issue Dedicated to COVID-19, Volume 50 Issue 6-7, August-October 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is an infectious respiratory illness afflicting people to a degree not seen since the flu pandemic of 1968 when approximately one million lives were lost worldwide. What makes COVID-19 distinct is the rate at which it spread throughout the world, stress-testing health care systems and stymieing global economies. To confront this unprecedented crisis, nearly every country has been developing a wide range of policy responses, including fiscal measures. This study aims to discuss government fiscal responses to the pandemic from a financial management perspective. The core question is, “How does each country’s financial management system support its fiscal responses to the crisis?” We are particularly interested in reexamining commonly accepted norms about fiscal federalism and the fiscal condition of national and local governments heading into this pandemic. This study takes a comparative approach to the question, focusing on South Korea and the United States. Our findings suggest that the ability to respond to this pandemic in a comprehensive and effective manner is challenged by each nation’s financial management system that generates variation in policy coordination and responsiveness.

A Failure of Political Communication Not a Failure of Bureaucracy: The Danger of Presidential Misinformation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: William Hatcher, The American Review of Public Administration, Special issue: Double Issue Dedicated to COVID-19, Volume 50 Issue 6-7, August-October 2020
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From the abstract:
President Trump’s communications during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic violate principles of public health, such as practicing transparency and deferring to medical experts. Moreover, the president’s communications are dangerous and misleading, and his lack of leadership during the crisis limits the nation’s response to the problem, increases political polarization around public health issues of social distancing, and spreads incorrect information about health-related policies and medical procedures. To correct the dangerous path that the nation is on, the administration needs to adopt a more expert-centered approach to the crisis, and President Trump needs to practice compassion, empathy, and transparency in his communications.

Seeking Patterns in Chaos: Transactional Federalism in the Trump Administration’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: Cynthia J. Bowling, Jonathan M. Fisk, John C. Morris, The American Review of Public Administration, Special issue: Double Issue Dedicated to COVID-19, Volume 50 Issue 6-7, August-October 2020
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From the abstract:
The federal government’s response the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been marked by a series of apparently disjointed, chaotic, and confusing statements and actions on the part of both the White House and federal agencies charged with coordinating the federal response. These actions have left many state governors (and citizens) in a position to address the effects of the pandemic in a haphazard and atomistic manner. In this essay, we contend that the actions of the Trump administration, and its relationships with states and local governments, can best be understood through a lens of what we refer to as “transactional federalism,” in which federalism relationships are governed by a set of exchanges between the president and states, and between states. We conclude by discussing the ramifications of this form of federalism.

Sustaining Behavioral Health Services Through the Pandemic

Source: Karmen Hanson, LegisBrief, Vol. 28, No. 31, August 2020

….At any given time, approximately 20% of Americans live with a mental health disorder. Because of the potential for people to develop a psychological disorder due to pandemics like COVID-19, state legislatures, health departments and the federal government are implementing a variety of approaches to help…..

Perpetuating Inequality: What Salary History Bans Reveal About Wages

Source: James E. Bessen, Chen Meng, Erich Denk, Boston University, Date Written: June 1, 2020

From the abstract:
Pay gaps for women and minorities have persisted after accounting for observable differences. Why? If employers can access applicants’ salary histories while bargaining over wages, they can take advantage of past inequities, perpetuating inequality. Recently, a dozen US states have banned employer access to salary histories. We analyze the effects of these salary history bans (SHBs) on employer wage posting and on the pay of job changers in a difference-in-differences design. Following SHBs, employers posted wages more often and increased pay for job changers by about 5%, with larger increases for women (8%) and African-Americans (13%). Salary histories appear to account for much of the persistence of residual wage gaps.

The labor-busting law firms and consultants that keep Google, Amazon and other workplaces union-free

Source: John Logan , The Conversation, August 24, 2020

American companies have been very successful at preventing their workers from organizing into unions in recent decades, one of the reasons unionization in the private sector is at a record low.

What you may not realize is that a handful of little-known law and consulting firms do much of the dirty work that keeps companies and other organizations union-free….

Do Pensions Matter for Recruiting State and Local Workers?

Source: Laura D. Quinby, Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, State and Local Government Review, OnlineFirst, Published August 7, 2020
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From the abstract:
Many state and local governments have responded to financial challenges facing their pension systems by cutting benefits or by shifting costs to employees. Will these changes make it harder for state and local governments to recruit highly skilled workers? This study explores this question by linking individual-level data from the Current Population Survey on worker transitions between the private and public sectors to measures of state and local pension generosity from the Public Plans Database. The results suggest that state and local employers with relatively generous pensions are better able to recruit high-wage workers from the private sector, but that this advantage is lost as workers are asked to contribute more from current paychecks to prefund those benefits. The findings help inform an ongoing debate over the role that state and local pensions play in shaping the public workforce.

A century of educational inequality in the United States

Source: Michelle Jackson and Brian Holzman, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Vol. 117, no. 32, August 11, 2020

From the abstract:
The “income inequality hypothesis” holds that rising income inequality affects the distribution of a wide range of social and economic outcomes. Although it is often alleged that rising income inequality will increase the advantages of the well-off in the competition for college, some researchers have provided descriptive evidence at odds with the income inequality hypothesis. In this paper, we track long-term trends in family income inequalities in college enrollment and completion (“collegiate inequalities”) using all available nationally representative datasets for cohorts born between 1908 and 1995. We show that the trends in collegiate inequalities moved in lockstep with the trend in income inequality over the past century. There is one exception to this general finding: For cohorts at risk for serving in the Vietnam War, collegiate inequalities were high, while income inequality was low. During this period, inequality in college enrollment and completion was significantly higher for men than for women, suggesting a bona fide “Vietnam War” effect. Aside from this singular confounding event, a century of evidence establishes a strong association between income and collegiate inequality, providing support for the view that rising income inequality is fundamentally changing the distribution of life chances.

US racial inequality may be as deadly as COVID-19

Source: Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), first published August 24, 2020

From the abstract:
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a catastrophic increase in US mortality. How does the scale of this pandemic compare to another US catastrophe: racial inequality? Using demographic models, I estimate how many excess White deaths would raise US White mortality to the best-ever (lowest) US Black level under alternative, plausible assumptions about the age patterning of excess mortality in 2020. I find that 400,000 excess White deaths would be needed to equal the best mortality ever recorded among Blacks. For White mortality in 2020 to reach levels that Blacks experience outside of pandemics, current COVID-19 mortality levels would need to increase by a factor of nearly 6. Moreover, White life expectancy in 2020 will remain higher than Black life expectancy has ever been unless nearly 700,000 excess White deaths occur. Even amid COVID-19, US White mortality is likely to be less than what US Blacks have experienced every year. I argue that, if Black disadvantage operates every year on the scale of Whites’ experience of COVID-19, then so too should the tools we deploy to fight it. Our imagination should not be limited by how accustomed the United States is to profound racial inequality.

New Labor Viscerality? Work Stoppages in the ‘New Work,’ Non-Union Economy

Source: Michael Duff, St. Louis University Law Journal, Forthcoming, Date Written: June 28, 2020

From the abstract:
The COVID-19 work stoppages involving employees refusing to work because they are fearful of contracting coronavirus provides a dramatic opportunity for newer workplace law observers to grasp a well-established legal rule: both unionized and non-union employees possess rights to engage in work stoppages under the National Labor Relations Act. This article explains that employees engaging in concerted work stoppages, in good faith reaction to health and safety dangers, are prima facie protected from discharge. The article carefully distinguishes between Section 7 and Section 502 work stoppages. Crucially, and contrary to Section 502 work stoppages, the health and safety-related work stoppages of non-union employees, protected by Section 7, are not subject to an “objective reasonableness” test.

Having analyzed the general legal protection of non-union work stoppages, and noting that work stoppages have been on the increase during the last two years, the article considers when legal protection may be withdrawn from such concerted activities because employees repeatedly and unpredictably engage in them—so called “unprotected intermittent strikes.” Discussing a recent NLRB decision, the article argues for an explicit and strengthened presumption of work stoppage protection for employees who are wholly unaffiliated with a union, even when those employees engage in repeated work stoppages in response to discrete workplace disputes or dangers.

Next, the article grapples with looming work stoppage issues emerging from expansion of the Gig economy. When workers are not “employees,” peaceful work stoppages may become increasingly subject to federal court injunction. The Norris-LaGuardia Act (the venerable 1932 federal anti-injunction law) does not by its terms apply to non-employees, possibly including putative non-employee Gig workers, raising the specter of a new era of “Government by Injunction.” Under existing antitrust law, non-employee workers may be viewed as “independent businesspeople” colluding through work stoppages to “fix prices.” The article argues that First Amendment avoidance principles should guide Sherman Act interpretation when non-employee worker activity does not resemble price fixing; and that, consistent with liability principles articulated in the Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Sessions v. Dimaya, antitrust law’s severe penalties should not be applied to Gig workers given the ambiguities in federal and state law employee definitions.

Finally, the article considers the potential for non-union private arbitration agreements exercising restraints on the NLRA rights of employees to engage in work stoppages in light of the Supreme Court’s labor law-diminishing opinion in Epic Systems.