Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Taking Pride in Arguing Poorly

Evidently I'm not the only one wanting more content in my news coverage and politics. As I started to read this article from Daily Kos by Trapper John, I was starting to feel optimistic that I might get to read some good discussion on the topic of the change in overtime rules.

Unfortunately, it seems that Trapper John is not in the least bit interested in having a discussion.

Not only did the takeaway get pushed off the front page by the SBL, but the coverage was a object lesson in the poverty of contemporary journalistic "objectivity." The AP story actually opened with the classic "some say this - some say that" line, "Paychecks could surge or shrink for a few or for millions of workers across the country starting Monday." Please. There is no genuine debate on how the changes will affect workers. As Matt Yglesias notes, "When you have the US Chamber of Commerce saying, de facto, 'this measure will be bad for employers, but good for workers and we strongly support it,' and the AFL-CIO says, 'this will be good for employers, but bad for workers and we strongly oppose it' then the AFL-CIO has infinitely more credibility than the US Chamber of Commerce . . . When the Chamber is pretending to operating against the interests of its members, we can tell that it's analysis is worthless -- the person talking to you is either a liar or else doesn't know how to do his job."

Merely citing that a position is held by a group you agree with and opposed by those you don't does not mean that the debate is over. I can just as easily say that the AFL-CIO leadership has a vested interest in keeping its members's incomes as high as possible, damn the macro-economic consequences. Therefore, such an irresponsible group is not a reliable source of information, and its position can be reasonably excluded from my figuring. I could, but I won't. I would rather look at their data and determine which of the competing economic models put forth will most likely reflect reality. Too bad there isn't a way to do a blind taste test of theory.

Here's a topic that might be worth discussing: While the new overtime rules might result in more people losing money than gaining money, might it not also happen that a large number of employers might take some of that money and add more employees to their payrolls? Granted this could result in an overtime double whammy, not only are people not getting paid for the overtime (been there, done that, as a salaried engineer in California) but that new people would spread out the available overtime even more. Of course, if some people are no longer getting paid for the OT, further dilution only cuts down the amount of time they are not getting paid for. Should it be true that a change in the OT rules would lead to an increase in people having jobs, it would seem rather non-progressive for those who are wealthy in employment to hoard their wealth from those who lack. "We've got ours," they seem to be saying, "And too bad for you."

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