Thursday, January 24, 2013

Link to my radio appearance

The link is here.  I come on at the 19 minute mark.

My plan had been to talk about several topics, including MLK day and gun policies (from an economist's perspective).  Given that Right-to-Work legislation was proposed Tuesday and I'm interested/informed on the topic, the whole show was devoted to that topic.

One note - when the host, Mark Lawrence, called me the smartest person in the room, I shook my head no and he incorrectly said that "Ben" is shaking his head no.  I was shaking my head no, and I don't want anybody to falsely accuse Ben of being mean/unprofessional/etc.

One caller was a left-wing professor from Bloomsburg University who used typical union talking points in opposing worker freedom in right-to-work.  Two points:

1. She illustrates the danger (which is there on both the left and right) that can occur if you read/believe items that are sympathetic to your view without reading the "other side" or understanding that you are reading analysis from a biased group.  She was under the impression that the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), whose analysis she was citing, wasn't a left wing think tank.  She's wrong (a quick look on their website will show what they care about - EPI advocates for unions, public health care, etc.).  There is nothing wrong with getting information from sources like that, but you should know who you're dealing with.  For example, I find the Heritage Foundation and the Commonwealth Foundation informative, but I also know their views (they are libertarians).  Citing statistics given from a left-wing organization and not admitting it's a left-wing organization is not very academic/scholarly.

2. I mention this in the radio broadcast, but the data on whether right-to-work helps or hurts the economy is mixed.  Left-leaning think tanks will say how workers receive less money.  Right-leaning think tanks will say how right-to-work won't result in lower pay for individuals and will help the state's economy.  The empirical evidence on this is rather mixed.  It's logical that the data will not be telling a good of a story, as it's tough to isolate the impact of one policy change when doing macroeconomic analysis.  There are dozens of things that make Michigan different than California, so it will be tough to know if wage changes over the next few years are because of right-to-work (regardless of which way things change).  Here's an NPR story with an economist that discusses some of these issues.  

Economic reasoning would indicate that a) it should help the economy of that state, b) workers should be better off by at least the amount of their union dues they now get to keep, and c) the increase in economic productivity should eventually mean higher demand for workers, pushing wages higher over time.  

Some people "in-the-know" say this will have a tough time being passed in Pennsylvania.  I'm happy to see it being proposed, however.  

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