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    • And They Made A Desert: 80 to 90% Drop In Nutrients In Food
      Stumbled across this lovely chart the other day. The core fact most people, including the folks in the “best every world” Panglossian movement (like Pinker) don’t seem to understand, is that even if they were right (questionable), the prosperity we have is based on burning down our house. “Sure is hot! Hottest it’s every been!” […]
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Four Tweets and Two Interviews

About a week ago, this tweet showed up in my stream and summarized everything that is worng with our current economy:

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 11.30.24 AM

Here’s what happened next:

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 11.30.56 AM

And after that?

{{crickets}}

That’s because when anyone has to actually sit down and think about it, the Gig Economy is only good for investors with a lot of money who can afford to dump a start-up when it doesn’t turn out to be the “get rich quick” scheme they thought it was.

The idea that some guy in his 20s is going to want to become a journeyman tech worker indefinitely is unrealistic. No one wants to live in a micro apartment forever. If you want a spouse and kids and a house, you can not do it if you are constantly looking for your next job that might be in another city where your spouse might not be able to find work or have to leave their own career behind. You can’t drag kids from one insecure gig to another and keep them in school without facing significant consequences down the road. (Take if from a Navy brat who still has problems with simple arithmetic. Thank god for calculators.)

Other things you can’t do in the Gig Economy as a tech worker: It’s hard to justify owning a house.How can you reasonably apply for a 30 yr mortgage if you don’t know when or where you’ll be working? It’s hard to save for retirement. Even if you are paid well, and some Accenture people I know are paid very well, you need to keep a significant chunk of liquid assets in case you’re laid off for extended periods of time. It used to be 6 months of salary. I’d say the actual amount is closer to two years. You just never know.

And add to that the stress of always shopping for a new job, updating your LinkedIn profile, networking, paying thousands of dollars for meaningless certifications, never getting enough experience or getting experience and then having to leave it all behind when the contract runs out.

IT IS THE STUPIDEST WAY TO RUN AN ECONOMY.

Yeah, if you’re an entrepreneur and you have a flexible morality that allows you to take advantage of “ease of migration” and “fluid labor laws” while benefitting from the “rule of law” and other nice infrastructure that everyone else pays for with their taxes, then it’s a sweeeeet deal. Good for Marc Andreeson! I used to admire the team who came up with Mosaic, the first browser I ever wrote HTML pages for back in 1995. But he is symptomatic of many people who think that just because this economy is working swell for him that we can all jump on the “I wanna be a rich entrepreneur!” bandwagon.

As I’ve pointed out before, biopharma R&D is a team sport, a collaborative activity where the credit is spread among many people. It does not adapt well to a start up economy where there are promises of fabulous riches made to a select few people of “talent”. Sure , there will be exceptions but what Marc will never know is how many cures did not get made because the research was not sexy enough to get the funding it needed.

And don’t even get me started about the companies and universities that make you sign over your patent rights as a condition of employment. When we were all in corporate labs with mostly stable jobs and a decent standard of living, we didn’t think twice about it. The company paid for the capital and overhead, we gave them a patent. It was fair. Now, all the risk is born by the researcher and they can’t keep their intellectual property.

Anyway, I won’t go on and on about it because you’ve heard it all before. My point is that as much as the candidates talk about retraining and having the work force catch up with technology, they seem to be ignoring the fact that there are millions of highly trained tech and R&D workers with all of the tech skills a company could want who are forced into lives that are pretty similar to migrant labor. Sure, the pay might be good for short periods of time but stretch that out over 40 years of a typical worker’s life and it’s a bad deal. There is so much uncertainty that it is going to have, and is currently having, a significant impact on the economy going forward.

We need to do something about those fluid labor laws where it is easy to lay people off for no good reason at any time, and we need to give foreign workers green cards when they are hired here so that their lives are not subject to the whims of vulture capitalism. If we really, really need highly educated foreign born citizens, then they are valuable enough to treat them as human beings, decently, with an opportunity to find other jobs if they are laid off due to no fault of their own.

Which one of our candidates is getting a clue?

I submit to you two recent interviews that Hillary has given recently. One is with Ezra Klein where they talked about policy. When I heard this, I could swear she’s been reading this blog for the last several years. She uses the words like “churn” to refer to the practice of large corporations to be perpetually overturning their work force every couple of years.

The other is the interview she gave to Charlie Rose last week where she says that “income insecurity” is a big problem. If she really means it, she will also have to acknowledge that profit sharing does NOT lead to secure incomes. She’s going to have to go back and talk to the Andreesons and other Obama’s supporters and tell them that’s not going to cut it.

The best thing about these interviews besides her command of policy, her confidence and her passion, is that she seems to have really started to listen. America is not as dark and foreboding as Trump would make us believe. But all is not well in terms of the economy and work and no one believes the current administration’s rosy scenarios and PR team. That is where the anger is coming from. We get a steady stream of Pravda media and it isn’t squaring with our own lives. Politicians, and by that I mean Republicans and some student body president Democrats, can only pull this off for so long before the electorate throws them all out.

She’s getting it. Good. That’s what I want to hear.

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Quick Takes on @SenWarren etc

1.) Lizzie Warren took an ax and gave The Donald forty whacks:

That’s going to leave marks.

2.) It’s the Gig Economy, Stupid. In the last week, I have heard both Grover Norquist and Gary Johnson praising the Gig Economy or the 1099 economy as if it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread and everyone’s secret wish is to be a small business owner.

I don’t think anyone in the research industry really wants to be in the Gig Economy and be in a start up funded by vulture capitalists. Small businesses are great for people who are bakers or accountants. For scientists? ehhhh, not so much.

And then there is the paperwork and the taxes to manage. Plus, you lose your Obamacare subsidy and have to pay it all back if you underestimate your income. And income can be variable. Then there’s saving for retirement, saving for future bouts of unemployment, because most self-employed people do not get unemployment benefits.

The Gig Economy will ruin the middle class faster than anything. It leads to income instability. When you can’t count on your income, you can’t buy cars or houses. It’s hard to have kids because you may not be able to afford them throughout the 18 years of their early lives. The gig economy means having to pick and follow your job, something I saw happen to a lot of my former colleagues who had their jobs in one state and their families in another. In short, it sucks and very few people want to live this way.

I can’t imagine why Grover and Gary keep pushing this. It only appeals to young single guys. Well, there you go.

If I were Hillary, I would steer clear of praising the self-employed and small business person too much. Most of us don’t want to go there.

3.) I still like Bernie. Seriously. If I weren’t such a cold hearted pragmatist, I could have felt the Bern. I certainly got warm enough. He’s right on so many issues and that’s why he got so much support.

He went off the tracks by not realizing that the rest of us had a right to our own votes and opinions. Our votes are legitimate too. Delegitimizing Hillary’s voters has been a feature of Bernie’s supporters. They share that with the Obama supporters of 2008. Some of them are probably the same people. Bernie should ditch these people. They are ruining his reputation.