Another Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, Another Poseur Exposed

The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Dan Nidess expressing concern over a universal basic income. The WSJ Opinion page seems to be a hive of wage slavery advocates. This one offers a batch of self-serving rhetoric and BS arguments to claim that a universal basic income would be a calamity.

Let’s have a look at a jumbled mess of a couple of paragraphs from an actual calamity, the op-ed.

UBI supporters would counter that their system would free people to pursue self-improvement and to take risks. America’s experience over the past couple of decades suggests that the opposite is more likely. Labor Department data show that at the end of June the U.S. had 6.2 million vacant jobs. Millions of skilled manufacturing and cybersecurity jobs will go unfilled in the coming years.

This problem stems from a lack of skilled workers. While better retraining programs are necessary, too many of the unemployed, or underemployed, lack the motivation to learn new skills. Increasingly, young unemployed men are perfectly content to stay at home playing videogames.

Sorry, dude, America’s experience with UBI is positive. Of course, we only offer it so far to senior citizens and the disabled via Social Security, so our expectations of labor participation are accordingly reduced.

But the central error Mr. Nidess makes in the quoted text is what the figure of 6.2 million vacant jobs means. Those 6.2 million vacant jobs are not, as Mr. Nidess implies, a perennial feature of the employment landscape. Mr. Nidess is apparently referring to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS) report from Aug. 8th. Mr. Nidess ignores the “T” in JOLTS, which stands for “turnover”. People do from time to time change employment. In order for this to happen, there usually will be an employment vacancy at the place they left, and there will have to be an employment vacancy where they can apply to fill that position. The very same report that Mr. Nidess pulled the 6.2 million vacant jobs number from notes that the 12 month period ending in June saw 63.4 million jobs filled. I’m not sure where Mr. Nidess gets his experience of life, but filling a job isn’t an instantaneous event like the trade of a stock. A NYT article references Glassdoor to indicate five employers with average interview process times increasing and which in 2012 were in the range between 13 and 26 days. One can account for most of the 6.2 million vacant jobs if one posits an interview process time on average being about a month. Does Mr. Nidess offer any documentation that there is a large pool of jobs that remain unfilled for extended periods of time? Of course not. That pretty much makes hash of Mr. Nidess’ further hyperbole based on his assumption that we just aren’t meeting employment demand. Mr. Nidess ignores the more pertinent problem that American companies are perfectly happy to fail to hire experienced US workers who happen to be older and who would have to paid more, instead outsourcing jobs or getting H-1B visas to fill positions with lower-paid workers.

Maybe Mr. Nidess doesn’t understand how job reporting works. That would make his exposure of ignorance on the national stage just an embarrassing event. But maybe Mr. Nidess knows exactly what the JOLTS figures mean and hopes you don’t. That’s a more troubling possibility.

A complete fisking of Mr. Nidess’ op-ed isn’t in my schedule. I have to work for a living. Puncturing one of his egregious errors will have to do for the moment. Others are encouraged to pile on.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

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