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Beautiful theories destroyed by ugly facts- part 129845

Chopper and his gang, A Bank’s, er, Bug’s Life.

David Leonhardt wrote about why the economy seems to suck for the vast majority of us in his post The Great Wage Slowdown of the 21st Century.  Once again, he drags out that idea that will not die that if we just graduated more people from college with the right technical skills, our wages would rise.  Zombie conventional wisdom like this is what turns perfectly nice days into weeks of frustration, anger and despair for hundreds of thousands of unemployed, underemployed and “terrified of the next layoff” STEM workers.

Look, Dave, may I call you Dave?  This simply isn’t true.  I have been there and I have seen PhD after PhD after PhD in the hard sciences laid off for no other reason than because they cost too much money to employ according to some seed corn eating grasshopper with an MBA and a big bonus in his future.  The laid off are people who were uber educated.  They went to Yale and Stanford and had multiple patents to their names.  Yes, they even knew how to use Microsoft Office.  I don’t know how many times I have had to tell people lately that I know Microsoft Office like it is my native tongue.  This notion that we are all technological dinosaurs and need even more education after decades in the lab, and reading and writing papers that would make the average American’s eyes bleed, is just beyond maddening.

If you don’t believe what I’m saying, Dave, check out what Pfizer did to Wyeth five years ago.  Pfizer bought Wyeth and then proceeded to lay off all 19,000 employees including all but a handful of research staff.  That’s all of my former colleagues but about two people who Pfizer retained.  Gone.  All their years of education, years of experience and technical expertise, all their livelihoods, and in some cases houses and college funds, eliminated.  There’s a reason why Nutley, NJ, the home of Roche, is becoming a ghost town.  There’s a reason why I fled NJ and moved to Pittsburgh.  I got out just in time.  Housing prices are crashing through the basement as all of the stunned STEM workers scramble to grab whatever work they can find before the next layoff or the soft money runs out or there’s another sequester.  Or they get the hell out.  I got the hell out.  I’m not crazy.

You know what else is crazy making, Dave?  That someone with your talent and access can’t look s&*% up on The Google to back up what you are writing. (Type “pharmaceutical layoffs 2010” for some really scary numbers)  It’s like all those mysterious congresspersons who parrot all this nonsense about STEM jobs not being filled- because they read people like you.  You have a responsibility to report the truth.  If you don’t, there really will be a shortage, just like there is with some programming jobs.  Back in the naughties, American programmers got laid off in droves and companies outsourced much of their development to Asia.  Now, I see a lot of positions on job boards for people with computer science degrees and those jobs go begging.  Well, what do you expect when the wages and jobs weren’t around for a decade and the programmers gave up and told their children to avoid programming like the plague?  Why should anyone dedicate themselves to difficult degrees if there’s no payoff or way to make a living in the end?

So, stop doing it, Dave.  Better yet, get out of the office and take NJT down to Princeton and pass all of the sites on your way that are now shuttered in the name of shareholder value.  Not to sound all Marxist or anything but the problem is not that we have too few educated people, it’s that the shareholders own the means of production and they aren’t investing their capital in research anymore, at least not here.

Nothing is going to make wages rise until the shareholders see that it is in their best interests.  And right now, they’re partying like it’s 2008.


There’s a great post on Naked Capitalism by Roy Poses, MD, titled Can Our Commericalized Health Care System Contain Ebola?  The answer is of course it can but it has to be more proactive and that’s difficult these days when health care and drug development decisions are not being made by people with the expertise to make them but by “generic managers”.

Poses has another post on his own blog about how the “generic manager” is extracting value from various industries that is a must read.  In short, there is a growing awareness that the grasshoppers have almost finished the seed corn and there must be policy imposed on them to stop the process.  Time is short.  Our policymakers can still save the day.  Given the way the 2014 Senate races are going, it looks like this will fail.

Oh well.  Prepare for a new Dark Ages.


Moving on to Princeton, Krugman has a blog about disinvestment at the public infrastructure level.  When I think of infrastructure, I am reminded that this is what I asked Hillary Clinton about at YearlyKos 2007.  She had a lengthy answer based on some well thought out policy, the highlight of which was a plan to expand our sorry excuse for broadband.  What a missed opportunity that was. But I digress.

Wait, aren’t we trying to privatize absolutely everything anyway?  Is it any surprise that investment in public infrastructure is going down?

Paul should realize by now that the 2008 election was all about saving the banks.  They set it up that way.  There wasn’t a plan for what came next.  Ta-da!


One more thing: Thomas Duncan, the Liberian ebola patient in Dallas, is getting an antiviral experimental treatment called brincidofovir.  Who names these things??  Anyway, he’s in critical condition but his liver function seems to be improving.  That’s great.  Unfortunately, brincidofovir messes up your kidneys so he’s now on dialysis.

Here’s a little bit of drug design/medicinal chemistry geekery.  The structure of brincidofovir is shown below:


When I was doing high throughput screening data analysis, I might have chucked this structure into the delete bin because of that long tail.  It’s big, it’s bulky, it’s greasy as bacon drippings.  No one is going to get a decent drug out of that.

And that’s kinda true.  Brincidofovir is a prodrug.  That big, long greasy tail improves its bioavailability (you have got to be kidding).  Once it gets into the body, that tail piece gets cleaved off to leave cidofovir, a viral DNA polymerase inhibitor:

I thought I’d mention that for No. 1 child who is taking a related class in the subject and now understands that when chemists say “cleavage”, they’re not always talking about your boobs.



17 Responses

  1. Ebola dude is dead.

  2. What’s up to all, how is everything, I think every one is getting more from this web page, and your views are pleasant designed for new users.

  3. Once again, he drags out that idea that will not die that if we just graduated more people from college with the right technical skills, our wages would rise.

    Well to be fair, he has just succumbed to the intensive disinformation campaign waged by Microsoft and Google in order to increase the number of H1B slave visas. It’s not like he’s a practicing journalist who could be expected to check facts or anything. There haven’t been any of those at the Times in decades.

    Isn’t interesting how the mighty “Law of Supply and Demand” is presumed to apply to absolutely everything except salaries? Back in the Pleistocene when I took Econ, the assumption was that if you were having trouble hiring, you probably weren’t paying enough.

    Hope the Great Job Search is going well…

    • Let me assume (hopefully not naively) that this journalist like Leonhardt/other journos that parrot the “not enough educated Mericans” line are actually skilled experienced journalists, as opposed to just PTB PR hacks, or stenographers.

      If so, in addition to what RD said about finding information, much of which is easily obtainable via internet search, these journos like Leonhardt should be personally/viscerally aware that this meme is nonsense. IIRC from a newstory, employment at newspapers is down 35+% since 2000, similar or worse than even mfg (note composite of all mfg industries from “high-tech” semiconductor/pharma job to “low-tech” like clothing) employment over that timeframe. This means journos like Leonhardt must personally know many experienced, BA or higher degree-having, journalists that are unemployed, or underemployed in either sense, whether a PT/freelance journalist getting under 40 hr per wk, or a working a job not needing a college degree like truck driver/retail clerk. Leonhardt should know better that if all of this cohort were to spend the money/effort/time to collect their 1st (or 2nd) graduate degrees in MA Journalism, MBA, whatever, it won’t necessarily give them a new highly paid secure job in the press industry, or other unrelated industry.

      Also RD, you should be skeptical about the Comp Sci jobs available. There is a lot of opaque tactics by employers, such as putting a job posting that is not really an opening, to comply with law/regulations, when they intend it will go to an existing employee, or insist it must only be filled by a new H1-B to reduce labor costs. Doesn’t the same thing occur with biologist/chemist pharma industry jobs, despite there being many experienced degreed available workers like yourself?

      I’d encourage you to browse CS Prof Norm Matloff’s writings http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/itaa.html on this topic. For starters, a huge percentage (over half iirc) of new grads in CS and all/most STEM fields do not work a FT job requiring their degree, e.g. whether as a job that requires a college degree but NOT their CS degree like financial services floor trader or cust service rep; or a low-paid retail clerk at Wal-mart. Also, there is huge age discrimination, sometimes as early as age 35, among CS employers. Just like you protest some interviewer douche being skeptical of you being expert M$ Office, many 35 or 55 yr old software engineers have to overcome similar bogus concerns, such as learning 1 new programming language, despite having learned & written quality software in multiple programming languages in their work history.

    • Peachy. Way to go, Texas.
      Btw, you gotta wonder why a deputy was using what sounds like a free clinic. Why not just go to his doctor?
      Finding the holes in the most free capitalist, laissez fairest country with the bestest medical care in the world- it just gets better and better.
      I’m hoping it’s just a stomach bug exacerbated by Ebola anxiety.

  4. The value of a society filled with under-employed highly-educated people is that the educated won’t fall for the usual economic nonsense that they feed to the rubes. So…there’s THAT.

    By the way, you should give us an update as to how your daughter is doing vis-a-vis her ambitions to become a documentary film-maker. If ever she needs help or pointers in terms of dealing with the editing software or “run and gun” cinematography, let me know.

  5. Just saw that Krugman has an article in “Rolling Stone” in which he calls Obama one of the most successful presidents in US history.
    Who spiked the good professor’s Ovaltine?
    The NYT is as much of an ivory tower as Princeton.

    • Well, if you accept what his REAL agenda is, you have to admit that he has achieved much of it very successfully. He sought to protect every last FIRE sector bad-actor from legal worry, and he has. He sought to make the Bush Tax Cuts permanent, and he has. He sought to destroy any hope of National Health Care for decades to come and he has, along with his devoted Democrats. He sought to normalize and routinize Bush’s pioneering efforts in counter-legal governance, and he has.

      So Krugman is telling the truth by accident. He just doesn’t grasp the truth he is telling.

  6. Sharing a link that does a fine job of proving your point about education not being the employment panacea yesterday’s popular wisdom still thinks it is.


  7. I really don’t understand why people figure that the law of supply and demand would not apply to college training. The reality is the more people that have a skill set the more likely it is that wages will decrease for that skill set, not increase for them.

    College graduates are being punked into paying for the training for these companies and then the companies get to cherry pick from workers on exactly who they’ll employ and who gets to be the unlucky overeducated Dairy Queen worker that they can keep on standby to keep the other worker in line.

    • The medical profession, of course, figured that out a long time ago. The AAMC has done an excellent job of supply control, maintaining high compensation and full employment for physicians for decades (regardless of economic conditions). If only the ACS had been so efficient, RD would be a 1%-er!

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