Beyond the Cusp

September 16, 2014

Realities and Deceptions of the Living Wage

There have been demonstrations and protests spanning the United States often by workers of fast food restaurants demanding that governments, either local, state or Federal, enact laws setting the minimum wages at fifteen dollars an hour. They carry signs calling their demands for either a minimum wage or a living wage, both calling for wages to be set at fifteen dollars, the one consistency of these obviously organized demonstrations. The coordinators behind these protests have remained obscure though the best bet is that the labor unions are in the background somewhere pulling the strings for their own benefits as often union wages are keyed to the minimum wage thus a sizeable increase in the minimum wage would also push union wages skyward as well. But what are the ramifications should such minimum wage or livable wage demands be met? Would it be the panacea providing the workers with the cornucopia they appear to believe their demands would produce or would there be catastrophic and unexpected ramifications should their demand be realized? Perhaps some news from futurists and leading edge robotics news might shine some light on the potential future should these demands come to fruition.

 

Recent robotics news predicts that many fast food restaurants will soon be completely or predominantly automated needing few if any human workers as all of the cooking and cleaning would be performed by robotics. They even predicted with the advances being realized in artificial intelligence (AI) that there will soon be robots operating the checkout and cash registers in many retail outlets replacing humans in supermarkets as well as fast food restaurants. Any serious rise in workers’ salaries will only drive these changes to automation and robotic workers that much faster. You want an example of higher wages driving automation one need look no further than the automotive big three and the other car manufacturers. The worker salaries continued to climb and their benefit packages also rose considerably in the middle of the twentieth century and this spawned the demand and implementation of robotic assemblers, welders, painters and virtually every other position on the assembly line even to the point of robotic carts delivering the parts as needed from the storage warehouse using just in time delivery. These parts in the warehouse are also placed in their respective storage bins by robotic carts who take the components often from robotic assemblers, welders and fabricators. Some of the most advanced car factories use five to ten workers on the assembly lines and in parts production and line parts supply where the entire operations used to require fifty people or more on each line. The impetus for automating the production of automobiles owed some of the urgency to the rising cost not only of workers who were necessary to produce the products but also the rising retirement packages making every employee now a life-long financial demand which was rapidly driving the auto industry to bankruptcy, and for some manufacturers it still is. There are some who define General Motors as a retirement and healthcare provider which happens to occasionally produce and sell vehicles to the public. The real question is when the AI programs will reach the point where robots will be capable of replacing salespeople, especially those on commission who are actually incentivized to provide the customer with polite and helpful assistance. Some prediction is such a day will come before many of us think, who knows.

 

Back on January 24, 2009, we posted an article titled <a href=http://wp.me/pIou8-7f> Socialism; Right Idea, Wrong Time</a> which predicted that the future would eventually reach the point where employers would be forced, or decide prudently on their own, to replace as many if not all workers with robotic and AI systems as they would prove to be less expensive and more productive. Some friends took that article rather poorly and sent e-mails and other more personal communications stating so, though none cared to leave their notes to be used as comments. Many of our closest friends decided after some time not to question predictions as that would mean making a counter prediction of their own. Either way, the reasons behind the Google data tracking which records every search wording and the web locations chosen by each search in order to attempt to fashion an AI program that closely matches the functions of a human brain is due to the plans, predictions and guidance of futurist Ray Kurzweil, likely one of the most famous and accurate futurist and genius on the face of the Earth.

 

The sole complaint I have regarding Mr. Ray Kurzweil is that he sees only the good and positive side of the potentials of advanced AI programs and futurist programs that he is the driving force and visionary directing the direction of the extensive efforts by Google to gather data on everything people do and the data they produce. Google is far from alone in these efforts and they have teamed with Microsoft and also have arrangements with many sources of data permitting them to gather all kinds of data produced in numerous ways which are sourced such as credit cards, power consumptions, driving habits, travel habits, vacation preferences and other data they receive either through contracts or through providing services which also gather the data the futurist cooperative of computer and internet companies have formed. Also partnered in these efforts includes General Electric, Yahoo, Cisco, HP and Motorola among others not to mention the numerous start-ups and established companies that have been swallowed up by Google and Microsoft. The one item which makes this futurist project cooperation, especially when the data available to the partners in these ventures is coordinated and compiled, is these futurist in the conglomerate effort have a silent partner which provides them with data beyond most companies’ wildest dreams is the Federal Government of the United States. The future is rushing towards us mostly unseen and unknown to the average Joe, but rushing forward at light speed it is. These demonstrators are simply giving more companies the impetus and a financial reason to join with those who are producing tomorrow today to quicken the pace even more. Where I am unsure as to whether these groups should be trusted as it makes little difference as the conglomeration of futurist companies are moving full speed into the future, and they are not using a Delorean or any flux capacitors, though they might invent one if such a capacitor could exist and have whatever the properties they were presumed to have in the movie (which was not actually well defined). Perhaps this is why I tried to avoid using Google search, but then they went and bought or gained access to virtually every search engine which actually produces usable results. If anybody knows of a Google free search engine, please enlighten us. Thanks in advance.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

February 15, 2014

Let’s All Celebrate the End of “Joblock”

A new term has been coined in Washington DC to describe virtually every job I have ever had over my forty plus years of employment with one or two exceptions. Even though the majority of the employments I have held can optimistically be classified as joblock positions which lacked the spiritual fulfillment of a supposed non-joblock position, not once was the primary reason that I worked at these positions hinged on the health insurance provided. The health insurance was a perk, not the main reason for working, the main reason was called a salary. I even had one position which I remained in a few years longer than the changed management team was tolerable, due to their generous retirement plan, but never have I kept or taken a job because of the fantastic health insurance, even when I worked for a leading thousand bed hospital in a major American city. So, I am led to wonder what the world must be like for those politicians who believe that people are working in order to have health insurance or some health care plan. Then, I should not be too critical of people who mostly have never held an actual real-world productive job and spent their entire lives, since running for Junior Class President, running for the next position where they simply sold influence and invented requirements for those not as influential as they and their fellow political class members. But the recent past since the CBO report that Obamacare will eliminate over two-million job seekers there has been a parade of Democrats and Administration people speaking on the great advantages of people being freed from the necessity of working for one’s health insurance will be for Americans in the future under Obamacare.

 

I have been trying to look at the bright side of this situation and not dwell on the fact that taxes will necessarily skyrocket, to use a phrase Obama liked to apply to electrical prices after Cap & Trade gets passed, in order to pay for the health insurance for those no longer victimized by joblock, and I may have found a few. This now explains why Obamacare forces parents to provide coverage for their non-joblocked children up to age twenty-six. The reasoning must be that by twenty-six even the most ardent refusenik avoiding joblock will have figured out that a salary is another bonus of joblock and surrendered to taking a joblock position even if they must explain to their future employer their demand for health coverage over their need for a salary. It also explains why the Democrats are pushing to raise the minimum wage one more time, for now. They are making it so that there will be no entry level positions forcing people into joblock. Now those tasks will either be outsourced or demanded of lower management or the new guy depending on the size of the company. We will now finally allow more starving artists to starve in good health. After visiting some art museums a few years back I decided we had enough artists and judging by the “art” and their price tags, I would like to call for an investigation to find out how they could be starving. As an example, one group of pieces consisted of pieces of driftwood painted one color and they were named “Yellow Driftwood #4” and “Green Driftwood #7” and I wondered how did they manage to sell any color driftwood numbers 1, 2, and 3? This will also be a new approach to minimizing the unemployment rates as it will manage even better than the Obama Presidency to encourage people to leave the job market thus removing any possibility that they will be counted among the unemployed still seeking employment. Perhaps the government will see its way to making the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) pay all the new self-proclaimed artists some form of subsistence remittance kind of similar to welfare so the funds they receive can find new avenues for their use.

 

The introduction of more people simply enjoying a life of leisure will stimulate the leisure industry which supplies the tools for such pursuits though how these people will have funds to purchase anything is still a mystery. Then again, it also explains the rumblings in the political circles, particularly the far left, that are calling for a guaranteed minimum wage which having this many idly avoiding joblock will make a necessity. There has to be additional item I have failed to realize as this is nowhere near sufficient plans to keep the over two-million people who will not become job seekers employed in other pursuits. Of course, if I understood the implications from some of those speaking in favor of this set of statistics, they were speaking more as if most people will simply not be working the long hours they currently work and instead will have part time work. Of course this part time work will always be under thirty hours per week thus not providing any health insurance making the position a non-joblock position. You see, only those positions which provide health insurance qualify as joblock as nobody takes a full time position except for the health insurance. Who needs a full time salary; especially if they can simply get the minimum wage up to a more respectable level of say twenty-five dollars an hour. I am still scratching my head trying to get my arms around the concept that all these years I was laboring away simply for the health insurance, who knew?

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

February 10, 2014

Obamacare has not yet Begun to Strike

We seem to hear of a new calamity attributed to the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, every week if not every few days. One of the latest is from the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) which predicted that there will be two-million fewer full-time workers by 2017 and 2-million-five-hundred-thousand fewer full-time workers by 2024. What has been even more disturbing than the CBO’s reported bad news has been the attempts to soften the impact of the report by the Obama administration and Democrat Party leaders in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The main underlying explanation that this large number of full-time job loss is that it will free people to pursue their other interests since they will no longer be required to hold a job in order to have healthcare. Also on the jobs front, a report from the retail sector found that the average hours worked weekly fell dramatically more and faster than had been expected. This report also predicted that the average retail position will be a twenty-eight hour a week job in order for retail employers to avoid the requirement to provide health insurance for their employees. This is expected to be an epidemic problem most prevalent at the lowest end of scale of hourly workers such as in retail, food service, hospitality industry and other positions which normally pay the minimum wage or slightly above the minimum wage as these employers feel they will be unable to afford to provide health insurance while making a profit without needing to drastically raise prices as higher prices would make their enterprise no longer competitive.

 

The known big lie which President Obama claimed almost incessantly when selling the public his healthcare plan was, “If you like your doctor/health insurance, then you can keep your doctor/health insurance, period.” Less stressed was the other big lie repeated almost as frequently when President Obama exclaimed first made during a State of the Union speech when referring to his healthcare initiatives he stated, “Nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.” President Obama was actually correct but not in any manner that could be framed as a good thing as Obamacare was predicted by the GAO (Government Accounting Office), a nonpartisan agency tasked to be the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of the United States Congress, to cause a six-trillion-two-hundred-billion dollar addition to the national deficit. That is definitively not a single dime; it is over sixty-trillion dimes. Then there was President Obama’s promise that insurance premiums would be decreased by his healthcare initiative by two-thousand-five-hundred dollars per family per year. The unfortunate truth has been estimated that the average family healthcare premiums have increased by at least three-thousand dollars. When both the Obama prediction and the reality are combined, the result is that healthcare premiums missed the President’s predictions by a mere five-thousand dollars per family per year, a full two-hundred percent under actual cost error for the President. No matter which way one looks at the costs of Obamacare it has been nothing short of a disaster which promises to make the initial problems appear insignificant when the entirety of the law has been allowed to be implemented.

 

That brings us to another problem, implementation of the legislation which was approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the President and then it has been selectively applied with some of the most damning requirements and implementations being put on hold or even repealed due to the financial consequences of allowing them to go into effect as demanded by the law. President Obama has deferred the application of some aspects of the Affordable Care Act such as the employers’ mandate, passed out exemptions to unions and certain other groups who have special access to the President including Congressional staffers if their Representative or Senator saw fit to exempt them, or outright cancelled such as the section which pertained to extended care coverage which proved to be so fiscally demanding that it had to be dropped using a clause injected in the bill by some republicans that demanded that the extended or long time care insurance had to be proven to be deficit neutral or it had to be eliminated from the legislation. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius tried every which way she could find and was unable to make this provision come even close to deficit neutral thus it was quashed. It really is a shame that such a clause was not placed in the Obamacare legislation covering the entirety being rescinded if it proved not to be deficit neutral.

 

There is another time bomb ticking away in Obamacare that is also being spun as the opposite of what will inevitably be the result of the clause. Insurance companies supported Obamacare for one very good reason; it provides them with a win-win situation. There is a reimbursement clause which sets up a situation where the insurance providers make an estimate within certain relatively liberal criteria of their expected payout each year. Should their actual payouts exceed their estimates by a certain percentage, then the government will compensate the insurance company for eighty percent of these losses. The clause also has stipulations that should the insurance companies have payouts sufficiently below their estimation, then the government applies an excess profits tax and this is intended to mitigate the payouts. The extended predictions through 2024 show that the government will pay out eight-billion dollars while over the same period the government will take in sixteen-billion dollars which results in an eight-billion dollar profit for the treasury. Excuse my serious reservations but I always get suspect of figures that fit so nicely together that they balance so perfectly and results show multiples of one-hundred percent as this prediction does. Also, does anybody really believe that the insurance companies have accountants, some of the most meticulous and exacting people in the universe, who would produce estimates of expenditures to insured parties knowing that their company will receive an eighty percent reimbursement for any payouts over their estimate and a penalty should payouts fall short of their estimate set their estimate at the higher? Of course not; they would low ball their estimates by as close to ninety-nine and ninety-nine-one-hundredths percent towards the low end. For an example, if the range under the guidelines provided in the Obamacare legislation calculated that their annual payouts could be estimated to be between a low end of five-hundred-billion dollars and a high end of ten-trillion dollars, where would you as an accountant for the insurance company place your estimate, at nine-trillion dollars risking an overestimate and penalty or closer to five-hundred-fifty-billion dollars and most probably receive a bailout reimbursement for excess payments to insured account holders. My suspicions is that there will be very few if any insurance company financial predictions of expected payouts that will be an overestimation rather than an underestimation. Expect the Federal Government to be reimbursing health insurance companies by very significant amounts year after year without ever bothering to investigate how such a situation could have come into being. They set this in the legislation knowing full well what the end results were going to be and honestly expected to use this as exactly what it is, a bribe to get the insurance companies on board. We can also expect at some point the government to withdraw this safety net leading to numerous health insurance companies either going out of business or nearly doubling already higher premiums in order to assure they do not go broke any faster than avoidable. That is not to claim their health is expected to be good enough for them to survive in the long run as the real aim of Obamacare is to destroy sufficient amounts of the healthcare industries as to make a government run, single-payer healthcare system appear desirable to the majority of the American population.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: