Minimum Wage

#SpareMe & #ThankYou

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They say pictures speak a thousand words. One wonders whether there are a thousand threads in these pictures at the Cannes Film Festival. For all of the sanctimony we hear from celebrities about how important the #MeToo movement is, what better opportunity to let down the side than to minimize cloth to skin ratios. These ladies know they are walking billboards, overtly flaunting their assets to gain attention in the hope they are short listed on the next blockbuster given the likelihood of widespread media coverage. Why else would they wear the equivalent of postage stamps held together by dental floss? Who can blame them? Where are the male actors strutting in sequin g-strings? Hardly fair that only women get to show off the flesh!

By all means, these ladies who graze on lentils and alfalfa while completing grueling gym sessions 6 hours a day, have every right to dress as they please given they work so hard cultivating those figures. Isn’t objectification the intention? Appreciating beauty is certainly not a crime and it does not border on harassment. Should red-blooded males be shamed for seeing protruding nipples and exposed cleavage fall into their peripheral vision? Can we honestly say hand on heart that some in the Hollywood set didn’t/don’t willingly trade flesh for a $5mn role? It is not to condone the behavior rather to say that if in the end a budding actor/actress is willing to ‘pay in kind’ to nail a big role that is still consensual. Jokes about Weinstein’s sexual antics were made for years at award ceremonies before he was finally outed. If he is convicted of sexual assault/harassment then may the full extent of the law deal with the crime. However #SpareMe the sanctimony about how none of them knew. Staying on the lucrative gravy train and buying more global property was more way addictive than doing the right thing by standing up for the true victims.

It is surprising that the feminists haven’t been up in arms about Cannes. They managed to take down the F-1 grid girls effectively enough. Isn’t it ironic that the people most upset by the ban were the grid girls themselves. They liked what they did, got paid handsomely to flaunt figures they no doubt work so hard to maintain and welcomed the attention. Now they are out of a job! Yet it’s is we who must get in step with the times. Perhaps the F-1 teams could have been asked to pay a grid-girl tax and donate the funds to promote charitable causes that the girls themselves felt passionately about. It will be interesting to see whether the MotoGP franchise owners, Dorna, go the same route as F-1 which will be pretty hypocritical given the web pages dedicated to the brolley dollies at each round.

Maybe the bigger laugh was the Israeli 2018 Eurovision song winner, Netti Barzilai. She said that in the auditioning process that she overheard whispers about whether they could field someone prettier or skinnier. So sex appeal was preferable to ability? When was the last time we truly heard a properly decent song that didn’t have some singer surrounded by scantily clad women twerking?

Still the virtue signaling continues. Cate Blanchett was on the stairs at Cannes demanding equal pay, when she herself is one of the higher paid actresses in town. Her mate Benedict Cumberbatch is refusing to star in movies unless there is equal pay.  Such actions are nothing but self-indulgent attempts to create free publicity. Say he is offered $25mn for a role and his never seen before female sidekick is not granted the same? Will he protest, divide his own pot or star anyway? One wonders.

Here is an idea for celebrities. CM thinks that Hollywood should be run by a government agency which will ensure equality in all outcomes. Movie roles will be distributed evenly. Each movie will have exactly the same budget. It will have equal numbers of men, women, LGBT, races, religious representation and sexual orientation regardless of how factually incorrect a true story may seem. Movie directors will have no say in who is cast for each part. Box office revenues will be evenly distributed at the end of each calendar year to ensure that flops will get subsidized by the hits. The actors who star in blockbusters will receive exactly the same outcome as those whose films end up almost immediately on Netflix.

All actors and actresses will be required to work exactly the same hours, have the same contract terms and be required to attend the awards ceremony in exactly the same garb. No makeup will be permissible, no eyebrow stylists flown around the world at last minute and no speech longer than 10 seconds. As there is to be equality at all costs, there will no longer be gender based awards at the Oscars. Or alternatively Best Actor – male, female and the 63 other gender categories. “The winner of the Best Actor in the hermaphrodite category is….”

So Benedict and Cate, will you join a union which levels the playing field and calls for equality or do you still prefer that your acting skills determine how the free market sets your prices? If you choose the former, just don’t speak to Jack Nicholson. He is still collecting royalties from Batman. Just what I thought.

These are the Oscar stats. A 40% decline over 5 years. Is this a sign of a format that is no longer sustainable? Is the disintermediation/disruption caused by video on demand such that making a ‘date’ to go to the cinema is no longer a priority? Cinema attendance in the domestic US market is back at 1993 levels. In the 1990s Hollywood made 400-500 films annually. It now pumps out more than 700. The average revenue per film continues to head south. The strategy seems to throw more at audiences and hope it sticks. Are the movies the industry rates itself on actually reflected in the box office? Out of touch with the audience? It would seem so. 9 films in the last 13 have failed to breach $75mn. So instead of Hollywood being so preoccupied with espousing politics, perhaps it should look to the audience it ‘preaches’ to and starts ‘reaching’ them instead otherwise many of them will be staring at massive pay cuts. Or will that mean it is every man and woman for themselves again!?

Green bean counters need a solar calculator

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The Greens in Australia would be better off channeling people that can count rather than  put forward policies that want to ensure a basic income package that would bankrupt us. Then again the Greens have a history of putting forward such people who can’t count (two links below) which shows why they’ll never be taken seriously in any policy they put forward. The Greens are great at espousing benefits. They just never get ‘costs’.

Natalie Bennett, former UK Greens leader on public housing

Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young on Superannuation

Enjoy.

Multiple Job Holders in the US hits a record in Feb-18

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Since the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been keeping score, Americans with more than one job soared in Feb 2018 to the highest level seen in that month for a quarter century. March 2017 was also a record for that month in 24 years. One would expect when the economy is in the groove that people do not need to hold down multiple jobs to get by. On a percentage of the total labour force basis, multiple job holders in Feb 2018 have exceeded the level set in 2007 ahead of the GFC, or 5%.

However since the shake out of GFC, people holding down multiple jobs has continued to rise every year for the last 9. The previous record was only 5 years. Trends in disability payments and food stamps shows eerily similar trends since 2002.

SNAP (food stamp) recipients numbered as follows (working disability recipients in brackets, with cost outlays per annum)

1994: 27.47 million ( 6.381mn, cost $2.621bn)

1997: 22.58 million (6.998mn, cost $3.253bn)

2002: 19.10 million (8.109mn, cost $4.621bn)

2007: 26.32 million (9.858mn, cost $7.127bn)

2013: 47.67 million (12.156mn, cost $10.25bn)

2017: 42.20 million (Dec 2016 fig, 11.832mn, cost $10.316bn)

The Social Security Administration (SSA) highlights that back pain and musculoskeletal problems are 32.3% of disability claims, followed by mental illness at 26.3% (up from 19.2% in 2011) in 2016. This compares to 8.3% and 9.6% respectively in 1961. Half of claims in the 1960s came from heart attack/stroke and ‘other’ categories which made up only 17% of the 2016 figure.

Disabled beneficiaries aged 18–64 in current-payment status accounted for 4.7% of the population aged 18–64 in the United States. The states with the highest rates of disabled beneficiaries – 7%+ -were Alabama (SNAP benefits 17% of population), Arkansas (13%), Kentucky (15%), Maine (14%), Mississippi (18%), and West Virginia (19%). All above the national SNAP average of 13% and only Maine that voted Democrat in the 2016 election. Coincidence?

Could it be that more Americans are sick of living off more and more handouts? Seems plausible that Trump’s delivery to the White House was driven by these immutable trends – they want change to a system which they know can’t sustainably deliver forever like this. That is why tax breaks resonate. Why tariffs strike a chord. None-the-less maybe the uptick in multiple jobs is highlighting that things aren’t moving quickly enough.

Some interesting reading

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John Mauldin has put together a few interesting pieces over the weekend. Some of the select quotes from Thoughts from the frontline:

Money Velocity (which CM wrote about in 2016):

velocity of money, which is continuing to fall, as it has for almost 20 years…So it is somewhat disturbing to see velocity now at its lowest point since 1949, and at levels associated with the Great Depression.”

Income Disparity:

Note that it is the 95th percentile of workers that has received the bulk of the increase in wages. The bottom 50% is either down or basically flat since 1979. Even the 70th percentile didn’t do all that well.

Budget Deficits:

Over the last half-century, higher deficits have been associated with recessions. After recessions end, the deficit shrinks, and occasionally we get a surplus. That’s not happening this time. Deficits are growing even without a recession…but in the next recession tax revenues will fall, and spending will increase enough to not only swell the annual deficit but also to add north of $2 trillion to the national debt each year. We’re using up our breathing room, and that will be a problem – sooner or later.

Monetary Policy:

Ominously, you can see from Grant’s labels (In the above chart) with arrows that peak yields tended to correspond with crises. If the current breakout persists, it is probably going to get its own label, and I bet we won’t like it.

Nothing to see here?

 

Starbucks caffeinates its employees

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Starbucks loves to serve its politics up with its bitter brew but once tax cuts are causing even the biggest virtue signaling corporation to serve its employees with an “extra shot” with whipped cream.

From the Seattle Times,

All employees will soon be able to earn paid sick time off, and the company’s parental leave benefits will include all non-birth parents. Starbucks Corp. said Wednesday that the changes affect about 150,000 full-time, part-time, hourly and salaried employees, most of whom work as baristas or shop managers. The new benefits apply to workers at more than 8,200 company-owned stores but not at the 5,700 licensed shops like those found inside supermarkets…The company will give at least $500 worth of Starbucks stock in April to employees at stores, support centers or bean roasting plants. Store managers will get $2,000 in stock grants.

#makecoffeegreatagain

Iceland legislates equal pay for women

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Google statistics on the gender pay gap and you can find an endless supply of stats supporting women earning a fraction of that of men. Iceland has now made it law. Companies with 25 members of staff and over are obliged to obtain government certification of their equal-pay policies or face being slapped with financial penalties. It makes absolute sense to pay equally for identical work but we all know from our own experiences that all workers don’t perform equally in the same role. That goes for both genders.

Take two salespeople (ignore gender for now). They both work the same hours, are both the same age and have exactly the same qualities. Over whatever time period set the first outsells the second person on a 2:1 basis. Competition in their industry is rife and the employer is worried that it might lose one of is better performers if it can’t reward them appropriately.

In a previous role as head of a sales department, the top saleswoman was paid considerably more than male counterparts for “performance”. Same role, same rank, similar age and tenure. Better pay. It was rational. Gender was irrelevant. Performance was what mattered. Would the Iceland law makers censure the gender discrimination against the men in the team? Not likely. Surely it would turn a blind eye and inwardly celebrate an overturn of decades of perceived injustice!

Companies will get tied up in irrelevant, costly and onerous red tape to defend common sense. That is time consuming. Companies will need to hire a whole department to protect them from behaving too commercially or rationally. All of a sudden instead of dealing with customers staff and management spend a growing amount of time ticking internal boxes so the company doesn’t get into any trouble. Customers lose and ultimately the company becomes less profitable as a result. Lose lose.

Take it a step further. If companies could hire one group for 20% less than another for exactly the same output why would they bother paying a premium for it? Makes no sense. So the argument that women are paid less for the same role is nonsense. Why would companies bother to hire men?

Take the world of super models. The top 20 females get paid north of $1mn per annum. There are two males that achieve it. Where are the masculinists screaming for equal pay? Is it not the corporation that sees more value in having Giselle Blundchen’s sultry looks than some 6-packed dude from the Polo Ralph Lauren catalogue? Same work? Not same pay! Still Giselle’s agents know her value to the ultimate revenues of a cosmetics company that Joey Sixpack simply can’t generate. Is that unfair? Surely if Giselle has her pay capped at 1/10th current pay she might refuse to work.

Regardless of the debate over gender balance, it is not strange to see men dominate the numbers in the military, emergency services and construction. These are workplace choices. If 80% of the people who want to apply for a particular industry are men or women then why force gender balance? Doesn’t the sheer number of men or women applying for a particular type of job speak volumes about real interest? Should army recruiters in Australia face demotion if they don’t hit gender targets? Should we want our military to be a social experiment or the most capable force of defending a nation? If more men are willing and capable to serve in artillery battalions why should we deny them? Isn’t motivation a desirable trait?

Another flaw in the gender pay argument is that of classification. Stanford Professor Thomas Sowell suggested personal and workplace choices account for much of the gap…perhaps the biggest reason is biology. Women make up 50% of the workforce but give birth to 100% of the babies. And if women choose to have children, their incentives change and this affects their choices of jobs, careers, continual service and hours spent on the job…and data compiled from the Census Bureau, unmarried women who’ve never had a child actually earn more than unmarried men…according to the Labor Department, “of men and women who work 30 to 34 hours a week, women make more, 109 percent of men’s earnings.

Of Sowell’s points, continual service is important. If a woman takes 10 years out of the workforce to raise kids while her husband is able to continue in his job one would imagine prospects for promotion would be on balance higher than hers if she returned to the workforce after a long absence. It doesn’t preclude women couldn’t climb a ladder or overtake her hubby but on balance this is but one factor.

The gender pay gap is a statisticians dream. One could slice and dice it to get the result one wants. However isn’t it an insult to women to think they need a regulated leg up in life? Some of the most successful women Known to CM are determined and the last thing that crosses their mind is that being a women is an impediment. Their drive and determination was an inspiration.

The left leaning Fairfax Media is already pointing fingers at Australia to adopt Iceland’s lead. Just what Australian industry needs. More red tape.

EU pushes for 40% female representation on company boards

The EU in its infinite wisdom said that it wishes to mandate that company boards achieve a quota of 40% women. Even Germany considers this an overreach (even though its own goal by 2018 is 30%). This EU’s socialist charter to push for affirmative action was challenged in 1981 by Dr Thomas Sowell who completely debunked the myths put forward about the gender pay gap, discrimination and other stereotypes of minimum wage and income inequality. It is truly worth watching the 50 minutes or so of Sowell dispose of lawyer Mrs Pilpell whose weak liberal agenda gets ripped to shreds because is based on a lack of understanding and being loose with facts.

Don’t mistake the position of CM. If based on merit then have 100% female boards should they outqualify men. So assume that boards hit 40% women then what next? Should we hire a minimum percentage of LGBT, minorities, religious groups or disabled people to run companies? Since when should gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or disability be a bigger factor than capability  in running company boards? Shareholders expect one thing – returns. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote a puff piece on those boards without women on them underperforming. CM proved the hypothesis false.

CM wrote with respect to the SMH’s false assertion, “Note that the twenty companies listed in the article have the following 1yr and 3yr relative performance (i.e. vs. ASX 200). Note on an unweighted average over these 1 & 3 year periods, these chauvinistic men’s clubs outperformed the broader index by 22.7% and 89.9% respectively.”

Once again, gender ought to have nothing to do with it. Every ambitious, hard working female that has become truly successful in a man’s world never complained at any disadvantages they may or may not have had. They never played the woman card and I absolutely admire them to this day. One is a mentor some 18 years after we first met. So shouldn’t it be an insult to industrious women like her to see less hungry females given unfair advantages that weren’t earned through individual merit and effort like she had to endure to get there?

Yet such diversity programs designed to remove inherent biases in the system actually create the very discrimination it is designed to stop. All that matters is diversity of thought and if that happens to be women that provide that wisdom sign me up as a shareholder of every corporation that does so on merit. Listen to Dr Sowell – it is truly intelligent stuff. Poor Mrs Pilpell.