Day: September 8, 2013

Sunday, 8 September 2013

10:31 – The signs of approaching autumn are unmistakable. Overnight lows are down into the low- to mid-60’s (upper teens C) and sometimes even the upper 50’s (14C to 15C). The leaves are still green, but we’re starting to see a lot of leaves on the ground. I’m looking forward to the cooler weather. I suppose I should check the natural gas logs in the den fireplace and use some canned air to blow the dust out of the oxygen sensor. We may be using the gas logs in the evenings before too long.

The economic news continues to be horrible. I saw yesterday that IBM announced that as of the end of this year they’re defaulting on their promise to provide health care for their 100,000 retirees. Now, IBM says that all retirees who are eligible for Medicare must use it. IBM will pay a subsidy for those people to buy third-party Medicare supplement policies. In so doing, IBM has shifted a major portion of the costs for retiree health care onto the federal government. I can’t really blame IBM. As they said, it’s no longer sustainable to keep doing what they had been doing.

And, speaking of horrible economic news, I saw several articles yesterday that were talking about the pathetic inability of our economy to generate real new jobs. I’m not sure what the source of one figure they quoted is, but if it’s true it’s stunning. According to these articles, of the net new jobs generated over the last 12 months, fully 96% of them are part-time jobs. Of course, the federal government tries to put the best face on it, counting any job as a job.

The government needs to start reporting things in terms of a “Standard Job”. I don’t know what the actual figures are, but assume that the average full-time job pays $30,000/year with $10,000/year in benefits. Define that as the Standard Job. If a company creates a new job that pays $7.50 per hour for 20 hours a week 50 weeks/year with no benefits, that’s $7,500/year total, or 0.1875 of a Standard Job. Actually, it’s worse than that because that minimum wage employee is a burden to taxpayers in terms of medical care, foodstamps, subsidized housing, and so on. Again, I don’t have the actual figures at hand, but assuming that that burden on taxpayers is $5,000/year, that job is actually netting $2,500/year, or 0.0625–one sixteenth–of a Standard Job. And so it should be reported. Of course it never will be.

Welcome to the new normal. Part time jobs paying minimum wage or a bit more, for 29 hours or less a week thanks to ObamaCare. And even these jobs are under the technological gun, as companies find ways to automate those jobs out of existence. I don’t know the source of it, but I’ve read that the break-even point for McDonalds is currently about $10/hour. Any more than that, and McDonalds would be better off fully automating their restaurants, with maybe one person on site to maintain the equipment and keep it functioning. Customers will punch in their orders on a touch screen and collect them without human intervention. A modern-day Automat, but without the people behind the wall. And even if that $10/hour figure is too low, it soon won’t be. If there’s one lesson we’ve learned about technology, it’s that it keeps getting better and cheaper every month.

Science kit sales have started to taper off, although they’re still running well ahead of this time last year.

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