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The Almighty Buck United States

Why Do Americans Work So Much? 729

HughPickens.com writes Rebecca Rosen has an interesting essay at The Atlantic on economist John Maynard Keynes' prediction in 1930 that with increased productivity, over the next 100 years the economy would become so productive that people would barely need to work at all. For a while, it looked like Keynes was right: In 1930 the average workweek was 47 hours. By 1970 it had fallen to slightly less than 39. But then something changed. Instead of continuing to decline, the duration of the workweek stayed put; it's hovered just below 40 hours for nearly five decades. According to Rosen there would be no mystery in this if Keynes had been wrong about the economy's increasing productivity, which he thought would lead to a standard of living "between four and eight times as high as it is today." Keynes got that right: Technology has made the economy massively more productive. Now a new paper Benjamin Friedman says that "the U.S. economy is right on track to reach Keynes's eight-fold multiple" by 2029—100 years after the last data Keynes would have had. But according to Friedman, the key reason that Keynes prediction failed to come true is that Keynes failed to allow for the changing distribution of wealth.
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Why Do Americans Work So Much?

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  • by ILongForDarkness ( 1134931 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @09:29AM (#51272039)

    Greed. Family's in my experience at least have gone from being happy with 1 TV and one stereo in the "family" room to wanting fridges with TVs on them, each person having a cellphone and a tablet etc, each "adult" > 16 wanting their own car etc. We have more stuff. If we lived with the stuff you had in 1930's yeah we could work a lot less.

    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @09:41AM (#51272067)

      If we lived with the stuff we had in the 1930s you would not have had the economy boom you experienced in the second half of the 20th century. The economy was soaring and people had good jobs exactly because we started to become consumers. Because we wanted that second car and that third TV, because we wanted leisure air travel and electronic gadgets.

      Without that demand, nobody would have had a job and no economic growth would have happened. Look around you, this is what you would have had for half a century now if people did not only develop the desire to consume but also have the money to do so. Today the desire remains, what's lacking is the money to actually do it, and as soon as the money for consumption was gone the economy plummeted.

      • by ILongForDarkness ( 1134931 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @09:58AM (#51272111)

        But the demand for more stuff is what consumed the extra labor made available by productivity improvements. Yeah wanting more stuff is what kept enough work for 40+ hours a person while women entered the work force. There would be less work if people wanted less stuff but they also would need to work less since they need less stuff. The problem IMO is the assumption that growth in sales, GDP etc is inherently good. Society needs to work enough to provide for the needs and desires of their members. So at some point you only get growth by convincing people they need more stuff. They then have to work more and have less happiness till they get their new "thing". This is psychotic. We're programmed (using that loosely since I'm from Canuckistan but close enough culturally) to be like Tazmanian devils and keep eating till we can't walk anymore rather than just say enough.

        • Modern Consumerism is an invention of Edward Bernays, the cousin of Sigmund Freud. Go watch "Century of the Self"; it also details the Clinton "focus group" idea, how advertisers convinced women to smoke, the invention of modern PR and marketing...which has basically a weapon of mass destruction for corps to "convince" everyone to keep buying products via a whole slew of psychological tricks.
      • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @10:57AM (#51272349)

        If we lived with the stuff we had in the 1930s you would not have had the economy boom you experienced in the second half of the 20th century.

        There's certainly some truth to this, but it oversimplifies things.

        Without that demand, nobody would have had a job and no economic growth would have happened.

        But take the premise in TFA seriously for a second. Keynes's prediction should have the average work-week around 20 hours by now. To have our current productivity, we would therefore need twice as many jobs as we currently have. But we were reach full employment long before that, so we would have to have significantly lower productivity and consumption while still having enough jobs to go around.

        And of course the objection is -- "But don't people who work 20-hour weeks get paid less?" And the point of TFA is that NO -- they still get paid a living wage. The difference in the Keynes future prediction and what we actually got is that that extra money has been siphoned off to the richest folks, rather than rewarding average workers, who might then have to work less hours to still live comfortably.

        (Of course, whether that could actually happen given human nature is a separate issue...)

        Today the desire remains, what's lacking is the money to actually do it, and as soon as the money for consumption was gone the economy plummeted.

        This is also far too oversimplified. Our economy doesn't just depend on consumption -- it depends on irrational assumptions of continuous and perpetual GROWTH of consumption.

        You can't have a large corporation today and just continue making the same stuff every year and getting moderate profits that keep up with inflation. Well, you can, but nobody's going to invest in you, because Wall Street has taught us that speculation in growth is normal. Thus, if you're going to attract investors, you need to promise them an irrational and illogical perpetual growth machine that will always beat inflation in its returns.

        The consequences of this logic are profound, because it's simply impossible for businesses to sustain such growth over any extended period. Once market saturation occurs, where else do you go? Well, you start doing what we see big corporations in America doing for the past few decades -- you need to keep up the illusion that profits are going up, but you can't get more revenue due to market saturation, so how do you keep up the GROWTH demand of investors?

        First, you have the cost of employees. Those darn Americans and their unions cost too much. So, you send manufacturing jobs offshore. Nowadays with the lower cost of global communication, you send service jobs offshore too. And those effects continue to trickle up the offshore game -- to save money, to make greater profits, to satisfy the investment illusion that perpetual growth is possible.

        But then you need more money, 'cause you've already sent all your manufacturing (and JOBS! don't forget that's what we were trying to keep in the US!) to China or whatever. But you've exhausted the revenue increases from offshoring, so you make cheaper products, which will break. You make them in such a way that they can't be repaired. Repair shops (which used to be a significant service elements in most American cities) also go out of business... more jobs lost.

        You create "planned obsolescence." You spend more and more money on marketing to convince people that they need the newest gadget every year. That marketing money doesn't go to support middle or lower class workers (JOBS!) -- instead it goes to white-collar advertising agencies and such.

        Eventually, you need to start tricking people into spending huge amounts of money on your products -- so, you expand the "razor/razorblades" model to products that cost hundreds of dollars. Yeah, you get a "free" iPhone every few years, but it comes with a commitment to a $100+/month phone plan. People wou

        • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @11:23AM (#51272441) Homepage

          The medical profession has a term for something that doesn't simply maintain itself but instead keeps on growing: cancer. They don't consider it healthy.

        • by Xyrus ( 755017 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @03:44PM (#51273721) Journal

          And of course the objection is -- "But don't people who work 20-hour weeks get paid less?" And the point of TFA is that NO -- they still get paid a living wage. The difference in the Keynes future prediction and what we actually got is that that extra money has been siphoned off to the richest folks, rather than rewarding average workers, who might then have to work less hours to still live comfortably.

          (Of course, whether that could actually happen given human nature is a separate issue...)

          This is key. Keynes thought that as things improved, everyone would get a share. Not in some socialist/communist way, but as in a "rising tide lifts all boats" kind of way. The problem is, this didn't happen.

          Instead, corporate execs siphoned all those gains into their own wallets while shafting the average worker in as many ways as they can get away with. Average wages have remained mostly flat (or dropped) when accounting for inflation while Mr./Mrs. CEO's bank account keeps getting fatter. It's not really sustainable, and people are going to find that out the hard way when the GCEE (Great Consumer Economic Engine) suddenly runs out of fuel.

          But Mr./Mrs. CEO doesn't really care. They don't have to. They're million and billionaires EVEN IF THEY FAIL. Once there's nothing left to siphon off, they'll just move on.

    • the influx of low income workers who keep the whole ball of capitalism rolling.

      Without population increase by birth and immigration, the system begins to stagnate, especially with the large percentage of wealth in the hands of the .1%.

      • What your referring to is called the Pareto principle [wikipedia.org] or the 80/20 rule, "roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes", described by Vilfredo Pareto [wikipedia.org] arround 1900.

        At the bottom of the Wealth curve, he wrote, Men and Women starve and children die young. In the broad middle of the curve all is turmoil and motion: people rising and falling, climbing by talent or luck and falling by alcoholism, tuberculosis and other kinds of unfitness. At the very top sit the elite of the elite, who control wealth an

    • by nukenerd ( 172703 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @09:58AM (#51272109)

      in my experience at least have gone from being happy with 1 TV and one stereo in the "family" .... If we lived with the stuff you had in 1930's yeah we could work a lot less.

      But a pre-1980's TV was built by hand while today robots do most of the work. The effort that went into that 1950's TV or 1930's car would make a dozen today.

      The real reason for more work today is that most of it is non-productive. As automation has replaced much real work, new non-jobs have been created. It is doing stuff like safety inspections, progress chasing, advertising (half the cost of some stuff today goes to its advertising), making financial cases (that can cost more than the work) and so on ad nauseum. In the book "How to be a Wally" it gives a "Wally's" job description : - "To liaise with other Wallys". That's it, in in a nutshell.

      I am a power station engineer and I spend hours sitting in meetings with a dozen other qualified engineers discussing eg whether to replace a slightly leaking seal on a large valve, whether it is cost-effective, whether we have a safety case, whether we can spare a fitter to do it. I generally take the line "Just give me a fucking spanner and I'll go down and do it this morning"; but I am treated as if that would be spoil the meeting.

      • by Catmeat ( 20653 ) <mtm@@@sys...uea...ac...uk> on Sunday January 10, 2016 @04:56PM (#51274015)
        The real reason for more work today is that most of it is non-productive. As automation has replaced much real work, new non-jobs have been created. It is doing stuff like safety inspections, progress chasing, advertising (half the cost of some stuff today goes to its advertising), making financial cases (that can cost more than the work) and so on ad nauseum.

        While you have a point about advertising and so on, don't write off safety inspections as "non productive".

        Compare the rate of industrial accidents 70 years ago with the current rate, per person-year in a given industry. Calculate the cost of a person who was formerly a productive part of the economy becoming a lifetime drain on it if, through no fault of their own, they're unable to work thanks to a work-related injury.

        Even if a particular safety inspection only reduces the chances of an accident by a trivial amount, it still represents an overall economic gain, given the costs of an accident.
    • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @09:59AM (#51272115)

      Military spending, infrastructure, the economic competition-wars, "medical miracle" spending, rather than kicking back with a baguette and a glass of Bordeaux, Americans are inventing new ways to keep busy, "stay on top", keep up with the Joneses, satisfy their ancestor's work-ethics, and exploit what's left of the third world.

      What will be interesting is when we run out of third world labor pools to exploit - if minimum wage keeps getting kicked up it may not happen, but if conservative forces hold it down for a couple more decades, Asia and Africa's standard of living will catch up with "the West," and we won't have any substance to support our superiority complex anymore.

    • by Daemonik ( 171801 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @10:50AM (#51272317) Homepage

      I live in a house built by my own hands on land I claimed after killing the Indians living here. I'm typing this on a telegraph because I'm not the kind of greedy bastard that has to have a newfangled computer. I'm only using the telegraph until I figure out how to make the internet work with an abacus. I keep my food in the root cellar instead of wasting money on one of those refrigerators and keep the house lit by candles made with fat rendered from the animals I raise. TV is shadow puppets on the wall and I ride a horse buggy into town.

      YOU sound like the greediest asshole ever with all your modern conveniences! How dare you buy things??

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 10, 2016 @09:30AM (#51272043)

    Because no one would have believed anyone would believe it will trickle down just give it all to the rich.
    People did not use to be that fucking stupid.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @09:38AM (#51272063)

    If we could survive on what we earn in that time, that is.

    There certainly isn't enough work for everyone. Well, not quite right, there COULD be enough work for everyone if, and only if, we could sell it. That's the main problem our economy has today, not enough money on the demand side. What drives our economy is consumption, and for consumption you need surplus money to use for it. And that's what's lacking.

    Consumption is a self powering cycle. I consume, hence the person whose services I use gets money, who in turn gets to spend that money on consumption. It's amplifying itself. Unfortunately that also works in the opposite direction. If I don't have money, I won't get a haircut. So my hairdresser has to close his business. And can't get his plumbing fixed. Which in turn means the plumber won't get to go on vacation. Which shuts another hotel down. Which leaves that cook without the money to get his car checked. And so on.

    We need money in the demand side of our economy. But for that we need people to actually get money for working. Unfortunately we have more and more people working 40+ hours a week and only get enough money to make ends meet with zero surplus at the end of the month. That's not going to work. We have to stop the money accumulation, the only thing this accomplishes is more money on the supply side. There's plenty already, we have more people who would love to invest in something sensible than there are sensible investments.

    But for an investment to be sensible, there has to be a market for it. And a market will only exist if you have a demand side with the money to play its part!

    • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @10:05AM (#51272147) Homepage

      (a) there isn't enough work for everyone because the people who have work are doing too much of it.
      (b) work isn't some virtuous act that we should all do as much of as possible.

      The problem we have is that work is the only metric we have for determining how to share wealth. Think about it.

      • The problem we have is that work is the only metric we have for determining how to share wealth.

        It is? I thought it was based on how much you already have.

      • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @10:59AM (#51272363)

        Work is the metric for determining how to share wealth? Really? Wow. No wonder top managers are falling from one burnout into the next. After all they're working an average of 800 hours a day. Right? I mean, they get about 100 times what the janitor gets, and he work about 8 hours, so they must work 800 hours. Right?

        In other words: I call bullshit.

        On almost everything you said.

        a) People don't work so much because they are Spongebob and love flipping burgers. They do it because it's the only way they can make ends meet. When you make like 800 bucks a month from a job and your rent is about 600, overtime is what feeds you.

        b) That's the one thing you're actually right about, but again, people don't toil because they hate sitting in front of the TV and loathe sleep. It's something they do because they need money. I even dare say that at the very least 9 out of 10 people, if offered the choice, would toss in their burger flipper, spit in their boss' face and tell him where to stick that damn job if they didn't have to do it because they need to pay bills.

        And there are many other ways to determine how to share wealth. Some even less unfair, biased and self serving as the one we use now.

      • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @03:02PM (#51273515)
        No, the problem is loans. The top 1% aren't amassing wealth by stealing it from the other 99%. The 99% are willfully agreeing to hand it over to them in the form of interest on all sorts of loans.

        Productivity gains haven't translated into increased real income for two main reasons: Increased cost of housing, and increased cost of education. The market price for homes is determined almost entirely by how much people are willing to pay, not by how much it costs to build. If cost were the predominant factor, homes would depreciate as they got older, like cars. Instead they appreciate because of widespread availability of credit (loans) and increased demand (population is increasing, land area is not).

        Look at the long-term inflation-adjusted home prices [amazonaws.com]. From the 1890s to 1930s the average real home price decreased as you'd expect from technological progress making them cheaper to construct. But in 1934 the National Housing Act was passed, then Fannie Mae was created in 1938, then the GI Bill after WWII. Real home prices began climbing until they stabilized at nearly double what they were pre-1930 (the graph is a log scale). All of these programs allowed people to cheaply borrow money. If you double the amount of money people are able to use to bid on a home, of course the price of a home is going to double. It happened again during the housing bubble of the 2000s. Extremely low interest rates and relaxed lending standards meant a lot of money was borrowed cheaply, and when lots of people can borrow lots of money, they bid up the price of large purchases like houses.

        The same thing has been going on with college education. People wring their hands over the increasing cost of college tuitions which have been vastly outpacing the rate of inflation, asking why is this happening? It's damn obvious why it's happening - the widespread availability of college loans. We've got a perverse positive feedback loop where college gets expensive, people argue that students need assistance to pay for it so we make programs to provide them low-interest loans. That borrowed money allows students to bid up the price of tuition (the school raises the price beyond a point where the student would normally decline to attend because of the high tuition, but instead they get a student loan and pay the higher tuition). That allows tuition to increase even more, leading to people arguing for more student assistance.

        So it's the loans which are causing the rise in price of these non-commodity big-ticket items, which are eating up a huge portion of our productivity gains since the early 1900s. The next question is, who is the beneficiary of all these loans? Well to loan someone money, you have to have money. In other words, the 1%. You get a 30-year mortgage whose amortization means half of your total payments will go to principal, half to interest. Basically you're buying a house, and agreeing to pay for an identical house for a 1%er. (Slightly less due to inflation, but we're in a low-interest rate period. At an 8% interest rate, it's 62% interest, 38% principal. At the 16% interest rate of the early 1980s, its 79% interest, 21% principal.)

        You want to stop the transfer of wealth to the 1%? Get rid of the loans. Ratchet back the maximum duration of a loan to 15, then 7 years, and make it harder to roll over balances from end of one loan to the start of another. Cap the interest rate so the percentage that's paid to interest over the life of the loan can't exceed 25% or 33%. Yes this will make it harder to buy a house or get an education - that has to happen if you want the price of those things to drop. People will have to learn to save first, buy later; instead of buy now, pay for it later. If you want to assist low-income people trying to buy a home or go to college, do it with supply-side subsidies. Build more government-funded or government-sponsored housing to increase the supply of housing. Create more public universities with capped tuitions to increase the supply of education. Don't do it with things like loans which create more demand.
    • I don't know what kind of jobs you work in, but mine simply "don't work" at 10 hours a week. If you wait tables, or bag groceries, yeah, sure, your hours are fungible - anybody can do your job. My jobs (since graduating) have always involved working in teams - whether internal to the company or across multiple companies - where interdependence and communication would break down terribly if "key people" become unavailable for long periods of time.

      Actually, I'm working with a potential "partner company" rig

    • by l0n3s0m3phr34k ( 2613107 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @10:39AM (#51272261)
      There WAS enough money, but most of it has been transferred to .01 of the US population, and they have transferred it into various financial vehicles were it will never get "back" into the actual economy.
    • I remember watching this contraction begin after the stock market bubble popped in 2008. The company I worked for took big cost-cutting measures in anticipation of an economic downturn, reassuring us that these would protect our jobs. Of course most of them meant more work for employees to pick up. And nearly all of them were clearly going to cost people outside the company their jobs: the people who used to take care of the office plants, the housekeepers who were coming in only half as often, the snow-plo

  • If you only work a three day week, for example, you have four days you will need to fill with 'leisure' activities, which tend to involve expense. People who voluntarily retire early often say that it's nice for the first couple of months and then boredom sets in.
  • by martiniturbide ( 1203660 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @09:44AM (#51272071) Homepage Journal
    ....now we have social networks to avoid the danger of being productive :)
  • Its the same issue as the mythical man month. Complex process don't scale to multiple people perfectly. So while your typical middle manager can now do the work of 10 men in that role say forty years ago, 10 men working one tenth of the time would be unable to do the same.

    The are essentially the equivalent of fixed costs within the single job role, HR and administrative related activities, time spent learning and tracking changes in the business, new processes and methods daily activities of communication

  • by Ozoner ( 1406169 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @09:58AM (#51272113)

    I'm surprised at the comments so far.

    Surely the thrust of the article is that the benefits of the increase in productivity have not gone to the workers and the middle class, but to the super rich.

    • by mellon ( 7048 )

      The problem is that this is ideologically unappetizing for people who have been buying in to the trickle-down model for the past thirty years, and it is really hard to let go of a strongly-held opinion, so there must be some other reason. This is a serious problem, for which the cure is not criticism of those who are stuck in this particular rut. They are suffering from being stuck there as much as we are, but getting them out will take more than just pointing out to them that they are mistaken.

      • (sarcastic)Unfortunately, the trickle-down model is correct. The rich let enough money trickle down so people don't get desperate enough to kill the rich.( end sarcastic)
    • "Surely the thrust of the article is that the benefits of the increase in productivity have not gone to the workers and the middle class, but to the super rich."

      This. And even the basic premise is wrong: "over the next 100 years the economy would become so productive that people would barely need to work at all." and that's exactly right, not wrong as the summary states. The productivity increase certainly allows for most people to barely need to work at all; the socio-political system, not the productiv

  • We call this a "tech boom." We are still transitioning from human to AI economy... hence the down turns.

  • by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @10:19AM (#51272185)
    Wages have declined over the past two decadea meaning people have to work longer hours to make ends meet. Keynesian economics has nothing to di with it. Quite simple it's grees from the wealthy.
  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Sunday January 10, 2016 @10:41AM (#51272273) Homepage Journal

    The baby boom started increasing the supply of entry level labor about 1970.

    Women's liberation started increasing the supply of entry level labor about 1970.

    The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 started increasing the supply of labor (not just entry level) about 1970.

    The Donor Party liked this because it lowered labor costs. Oh, did I say "Donor"? I meant "Republican".

    The Elect A New People Party liked this because 2 of the 3 sources of new labor would vote to Elect A New People. Oh, did I say "Elect A New People"? I meant "Democratic".

    So you have a huge influx of labor and this is interpreted as a "labor shortage" by both parties.

    Combined with the fact that FDR's "New Deal", in effect, nationalized many of the functions previously performed by the labor unions -- turning the national border into a de facto picket line that, for example, that neoNazi Eisenhower enforced with "Operation Wetback" (deporting most of the illegal immigrants) -- and the labor movement effectively collapsed.

    Elizabeth Warren, before she got conned into becoming a politician, was the only mainstream academic to come close to documenting even part of this. See her Jefferson Lecture titled "The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class [youtube.com].

    Since 1992, I've been advocating replacing taxes on economic activity with what amounts to an insurance premium for the protection of property rights, and distributing the revenue in a citizen's dividend. In that white paper [archive.org] I predicted a lot of what has now come to pass as a result of centralization of wealth and burgeoning welfare state rent seeking.

    Here is a link to a recent synopsis of that proposal [blogspot.com].

  • by Aviation Pete ( 252403 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @10:44AM (#51272285)
    Psychology studies show it's not the absolute material wealth that makes you happy and content but the relative, in comparison to others in your social group. That's why top executives have spiraled up their pay packages, and why the middle class never lowered their work time below what is filling your day.

    When Volkswagen experimented with 4-workday weeks 20 years ago [nytimes.com], local plumbers and carpenters fell on hard times because everyone now used the extra day to fix things themselves, or even work on the side on that extra day. While the unions keep telling you that workers would relax during the extra time resulting from reduced work, in reality everyone tries to make a little extra on the side.

    Also, having a job gives meaning to your life. Being told that you will be needed less is like telling you that you are a burden - nobody wants to hear that. That is also why today both parents work, even though they could enjoy the standard of living of a single-earner household of 50 years ago. But to keep up with the Joneses and to feel better for themselves both are now working, and the downside of less parenting seems to be generally accepted.

    • While the unions keep telling you that workers would relax during the extra time resulting from reduced work, in reality everyone tries to make a little extra on the side.

      Yeah. It turns out people would rather work harder than get paid less. And if you do work 32 hours a week (purposely, for less pay, because you'd rather have time than money), your relatives and friends will think something is wrong with you and give you peer pressure to work harder.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @11:06AM (#51272383) Homepage

    No really, Not trolling.

    If you work more than 40 hours, and you dont own the business you are trying to build, then it's because you are accepting the bullshit your employer feeds you.
    if you have so much work you cant get it done in 8 hours a day 5 days a week, then they need to hire more people. You instead by working all kinds of free overtime tell your boss, "i am your slave, please abuse me".

    Way too many workers are too stupid or lack the backbone to tell their boss, "no, I will not give up my life because you are an asshole and refuse to hire the workers needed"

    When more do this, the problem of companies and bosses abusing the workers will go away.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 10, 2016 @12:05PM (#51272589)

      Way too many workers are too stupid or lack the backbone to tell their boss, "no, I will not give up my life because you are an asshole and refuse to hire the workers needed"

      Boss, "Ok, fuck you then. I'll hire someone else. I have 30 resumes on my desk with people desperate to work here. Bye bye!"

    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @01:34PM (#51273005) Homepage

      Way too many workers are too stupid or lack the backbone to tell their boss, "no, I will not give up my life because you are an asshole and refuse to hire the workers needed"

      It's rational under US labor laws where you'll get laid off at the next opportunity, if they don't fire you on the spot for calling your boss an asshole. They'll hire the next guy, the "good" company you find that gets 40 hours/week is out-competed by the "bad" company that gets 60 hours/week and they either change their tune or go bankrupt. As long as it's one worker against the company, the blackmail is going to work. That is why most European countries have mandatory overtime pay where few are exempted.

      I don't think I could work at any place without overtime pay, unless it's genuinely management which is exempted here too. It's not about the total compensation, it's about the incentive. One hour isn't free for me, so it shouldn't be free for my manager to ask for another hour. All businesses have something they want to do worth more than $0, so that just mean pile on the tasks until I am working overtime no matter how efficient I am. Sure that means that short term I could stretch my hours and bill overtime. Or more correctly, I have to say to my boss this can't get done in normal time, do you approve use of overtime. Maybe he feels he must approve to reach the deadline, even though he feels I shouldn't have needed it.

      But that is not something that should be compensated with free hours, if my boss is not happy with the work/$ he's getting from me the correct time to deal with that is performance reviews and raises. If my work was poor, regular hours or not I should get laid off anyway. So we're talking about the cases where the work is good, but the boss just wants it cheaper. It's like a constant "renegotiation" of your hourly wage, doesn't matter if it's creative work one hour of "software development" is an hour. You get what you get inside that time slot.

      Or the tl;dr version:
      If you have 120 hours of work that needs doing, hiring 3 people costs 300%.
      In the US, hire two and hound them to work 150% and it costs 200% + whatever compensation you manage to get.
      In Europe, hire two and pay 150% for the last 20 hours and it costs 200% + 150% = 350%.

      That makes it pretty obvious why Americans work so much and Europeans so little. We get more expensive the more you work us, you get cheaper.

    • When more do this, the problem of companies and bosses abusing the workers will go away.

      My work week is 40 hours. In order to have a less stressful commute, and to get a little more done in a day, I would come in about an hour and a half early every day for about five years. One day, when my boss was asking me to to calculate my unpaid overtime compensation hours, he got irritated when I asked if I could include my five years of uncompensated overtime. He said, "No, because we didn't ask you to do it."

      At that point, I started working exactly 40 hours a week. If something wasn't done, I sta

      • by readin ( 838620 )
        I guess I missed the part where you're boss was an "ego-maniacal prick". He asked you to calculate the uncompensated overtime. You wanted to include a lot of time that you had done without being asked for. That was going to be a huge chunk of time and would likely make him look bad somehow - and why should he get that blame when he never asked you to do it? And when you started working the 40 hour week you had agreed to when you were hired, he didn't complain and he gave you compensation (4 vacation hour
  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @11:10AM (#51272403)

    People keep thinking they can outsmart reality with mathematical masturbation. The only one that gets fooled by that sort of thing is ourselves. Reality is never fooled because it doesn't calculate things in terms of our philosophies and theories and spreadsheets... it rather calculates things in terms of "is" and "is not". You can't trick that.

    Print all the money you want. Its just zeros in a computer at this point. When push comes to shove... the question will be "how much of X do you have NOW". The numbers in our model rarely describe that. They talk about how much we "should" have or how much we "might" have or how much we "will" have... assuming everything goes one way or another.

    If our models were so f'ing perfect we wouldn't have these collapses. We wouldn't go from bull to bear and then back to bull and then back to bear.

    The truth of the economy lies somewhere between bull and bear. It is the empirical reality. Denial in that case is just self delusion. Accept that and grow wiser.

    You can pretend Keynes is the end all be all... but were that the case more of his theories would not be a shit show.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @03:30PM (#51273645)
    131M out of 320M. Another 26M work less than 35 hours a week bringing all workers to 52%. 68M of the 320M are under 16 or over 65. Excluding them would make it 59% workers then. http://www.bls.gov/news.releas... [bls.gov]
  • by Trachman ( 3499895 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @04:48PM (#51273981) Journal

    Americans work so much, on average, not because they are greedy or because the want to work.

    They work because there is so many who do not work so hard. Those who do not work so hard are, as a rule, fueled by the taxpayer collected money. It has already been proven, without any doubt, that, on average, governmental job pays way way more than private job.

    Have you heard about NJ cops making $100K or $150K? Yes, I agree, that $100K is not that much money, however it needs to be taken into account that cops need to work 20 years and then they get taxpayer funded pension and medical benefits. I am not trying to bash cops, or single them out. If US GAAP rules are used (meaning US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles are used), which means that expenses need to be accrued when incurred, such jobs would need to be accounted as costing not $100K, but $200K, for defined benefits (pension, medical) need to accrue at the same time. It is not even the largest issue. The larger issue is entitlement culture and "social" payments to the population which traditionally keeps voting for politicians who keep promising more freebies and benefits only if you vote for them.

    One and only one conclusion comes to my mind: The taxation level. Some might say that those socialist Europeans pay more taxes, however there are some very important differences. For example, in Europe, as a rule, schools are funded from federal budget. In US schools are funded from property taxation, except for low income areas which, logically, cannot afford their schools and get funded from the state or federal funds. This leads to de-facto segregation in United States by school districts, that nobody likes to talk, yet everybody knows. Low income areas have few meaningful jobs, which leads to many non-working Americans living here. Higher income areas do have high property taxes which automatically do add additional hours for higher living standards need to be maintained with additional work.

    The truth is that current taxation system is the primary driver of the human behavior. Some people will continue working to death and other part of population will keep continuing voting for the status quo that allows more tax benefits, irrespective of the economic class of the voter, be it Dianne Feinstein's husband ingenuity winning profitable real estate business related contracts, whether it will be teacher's, police or FDA "scientist"'s benefits, or generationally unemployed welfare receivers.

    That is taxes, baby!

"The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was." -- Walt West

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