Foreign Scientists, Technology professionals, Engineers, and Mathematicians (STEM workers) Boost Everybody’s Wages

STEM WorkersA new National Bureau of Economic Research
working paper looks
at how H-1B visa workers affected the wages of college-educated and
non-college-educated native workers in 219 American cities between
1990 and 2010. The economists find that H-1B workers are good for
economic growth and increasing wages. The researchers find that

…a rise in the growth of foreign STEM by one percentage point
of total employment increases growth in the wages of native college
educated workers by a statistically significant 7-8 percentage
points.The same change had a smaller but usually statistically
significant effect on the wages of native non-college educated
workers equal to 3-4 percentage points. No statistically
significant effects were found for the growth of native employment.
We also find that an increase in foreign STEM growth had a
significantly positive impact on growth in housing costs for
college educated workers. The increased cost in non-tradable
services (housing) absorbed about half of the increase in the
purchasing power of college educated wages.

Finally, we use a simple model of city-level production and the
estimated wage and employment effects to calculate the effect of
STEM on total factor productivity (TFP) and skill-biased
productivity (SBP). We find that STEM workers have positive effects
on both TFP and SBP. Aggregating at the national level, inflows of
foreign STEM workers may explain between 30 and 50% of the
aggregate productivity growth and 4 to 8% of the skill-bias growth
that took place in the U.S. between 1990 and 2010.

BTW, total factor productivity meaures the efficiency all inputs
to a production process. Increases in TFP result usually from
technological innovations or improvements.

It’s just stupid to send away talented people who want to work
here. Clearly whoever said that every foreign student who earned a
scientific or technical degree at an American University should
find a
green card stapled to his or her diploma
was right.

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Dan Savage Stands Up to the Speech Police, Defends His Use of ‘Tranny’

Dan SavagePopular sex columnist Dan Savage finally gave a
response to critics who had attacked him for using the word
tranny in the context of a discussion about
whether tranny was a hateful word.

During a moderated discussion at the University of Chicago’s
Institute of Politics (IOP) last month, Savage had explained why he
stopped using the word tranny, which he viewed
as offensive to some in the LGBT community. He had to actually say
the word to make his point, however, and that triggered a
transgender person in the audience—a person named Hex who
identifies as an “it.” Hex interrupted the discussion and demanded
that Savage stop saying tranny, a word that made it feel
unsafe.

Numerous
free speech enthusiasts and civil libertarians defended Savage
.
He has now given a defense of his own. He began by summarizing what
happened,
from his perspective
:

I asked the student who objected if it was okay for me to
use the words “dyke” and “sissy.” After a moment’s thought the
student said I could use those words—permission granted—and that
struck me a funny because I am not a lesbian nor am I particularly
effeminate. (And, really, this is college now? Professors, fellows,
and guest lecturers need to clear their vocabulary with first-year
students?) By the not-your-word-to-use standard, I shouldn’t be
able to use dyke or sissy either—or breeder, for that matter, as
that’s a hate term for straight people. (Or maybe it’s an
acknowledgment of their utility? Anyway…)

This student became so incensed by our refusal to say “How
high?” when this student said “Jump!” that this student stormed out
of the seminar. In tears. As one does when one doesn’t get one’s
way. In college.

Savage saluted IOP for refusing to play speech police and censor
future speakers—something trans activists demanded after the
kerfuffle. He also demanded an apology from Hex and its friends,
who have accused Savage of hate speech against
trans people.

And as I’ve written previously:
“False accusations of engaging in hate speech are themselves a form
of hate speech—particularly in the hothouse environment of LGBT
activism.” It and its compatriot and [Queers United in
Power] owe me, Ana Marie Cox, IOP, and all the students at U of C
an apology.

At a time when more and more students are asking administrators
to protect their delicate ears from overhearing anything that
bothers them, it is more necessary than ever to push back against
the muzzlers. Bravo to Savage for doing so.

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Cleveland Wants ‘Sin Tax’ To Become ‘Win Tax’ for Sports Teams

Cuyahoga County Chief Executive
Ed FitzGerald announced an it’s-just-crazy-enough-to-work scheme to
end decades of heartache inflicted upon Cleveland’s sports fans.
FitzGerald, who just happens to be in an uphill gubernatorial
battle, proposed on Thursday a policy by which the Browns, Indians,
and Cavaliers would only receive a chunk of their
taxpayer-subsidized millions if they actually win games.

A press release on his website
explains
:

When the sin tax extension takes effect next year, FitzGerald’s
proposal will continue to direct 80 percent of all sin tax revenues
towards repair, maintenance, and improvement to ensure Cleveland’s
three major sports facilities remain among the best in the nation.

The remaining 20 percent of sin tax revenues would be reserved
for performance bonuses presented to the team or teams that perform
well each year. The “Win Tax” bonus is designed to reward the
organizations that commit themselves to giving fans a winning team
and generating economic benefits for the Northeast Ohio economy.
Based on projections of future sin tax revenues, the Win Tax bonus
will make more than $50 million available for justified capital
improvements.

His plan includes a “fan advisory council” to help decide how to
split the cash, but details on that haven’t been fleshed
out. FitzGerald
told
The Plain Dealer that he’s confident this is the
first time such a policy has been proposed. Somewhat alarming,
though, is the fact that the FBI-agent-turned-politician is

a bit dodgy
when it comes to questions about sports management
in general or Cleveland’s three major teams in
particular. 

Cleveland sports radio personalities Bruce Hooley and Jerod
Cherry
criticized
the plan during an interview with FitzGerald.
Cherry, who played in the NFL, assured that it
wouldnt improve on-field performance. Hooley
stated, “I don’t want government interference in how my sports
teams are run. You’ve hit on a perfect grandstand play for a
political candidate, because everyone wants to say, well I’ll hold
the teams accountable. But you’re talking about telling
billionaires how to run their business when you guys have enough
stuff to do.”

And I’d like to stand by that, except that Cleveland’s teams are
just as guilty for the situation they’re in. The billion-dollar
owners of multi-million dollar teams invited government
interference by spending the last 24 years lobbying for a cut of
the money every time someone drank a beer or smoked a cigarette in
Cuyahoga County.

Unfortunately, the citizens have also made themselves culpable
in Cleveland’s boondoggle. In May they voted in favor a
20-year extension
on the tax.

Below is the episode of Reason Saves Cleveland With Drew Carey
in which Reason specifically warned against subsidizing
athletic franchises and other big businesses that regularly promise
(but fail) to draw consumers into the economically crippled
locale:

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A. Barton Hinkle on Anti-Gun Activists Adopting Anti-Abortion Tactics

Foes of abortion and foes of
guns have a similar problem: The Supreme Court, which says
government cannot ban either one outright. What to do?
Increasingly, writes A. Barton Hinkle, the two advocacy movements
are resorting to a similar solution: using baseless government
regulations to hound an unpopular activity out of existence.

View this article.

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FDA to Save Us From Scourge of Wood-Aged Artisanal Cheese

The latest foodmakers to face destruction
from the Food and Drug Adminstration’s (FDA) need to regulate all
the things:
artisanal cheesemakers
. As part of a new push to enforce
certain aspects of the Food Safety
Modernization Act
 (FSMA), passed in 2011, the agency
announced that it will no longer allow cheesemakers to use wooden
boards in the aging process. 

“A sense of disbelief and distress is quickly rippling through
the U.S. artisan cheese community,” notes Jeanne
Carpenter
at Cheese
Underground
, a blog for artisanal cheesemakers. Traditionally,
the FDA has mostly deferred cheese inspections to the states. But
the FDA recently inspected several New York cheesemakers and cited
them for using wooden surfaces to age cheeses. 

The New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets’
Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services, which (like most every
state in the U.S., including Wisconsin), has allowed this practice,
reached out to FDA for clarification on the issue. A response was
provided by Monica Metz, Branch Chief of FDA’s Center for Food
Safety and Applied Nutrition’s (CFSAN) Dairy and Egg Branch.

In the response, Metz stated that the use of wood for cheese
ripening or aging is considered an unsanitary practice by FDA, and
a violation of FDA’s current Current Good Manufacturing Practice
(cGMP) regulations. 

According to Metz, the use of wooden shelves for aging cheese
runs counter to FDA requirements stipulating “all plant equipment
and utensils shall be so designed and of such material and
workmanship as to be adequately cleanable.” In the FDA’s
estimation, there is no possible way that wooden shelves or boards
can be adequately cleaned and sanitized. From Metz:

The porous structure of wood enables it to absorb and retain
bacteria, therefore bacteria generally colonize not only the
surface but also the inside layers of wood. The shelves or boards
used for aging make direct contact with finished products; hence
they could be a potential source of pathogenic microorganisms in
the finished products.

The fact that wood’s porousness allows it to retain bacteria is
actually one reason why cheesemakers use this method. Contra the
19th century, not all bacteria is bad. Cheese, yogurt, kombucha,
tempeh, and other foods containing live active cultures can
actually be incredibly beneficial for humans’ immune system and
overall health. But what about the bad bacteria—is there any
validity to the FDA’s claim that bad bacteria can’t be properly
purged from wooden boards?

The University
of Tennessee Forest Extension
 says that while “some have
suggested that it is ‘just common sense’ that a porous material
like wood would be harder to keep clean than plastic,” testing
doesn’t necessarily support this assumption. The Wisconsin
Center for Dairy Research compiled research on
the subject here
—there’s been a lot of it from France,
unsurprisingly—and it suggests that proper cleaning and
sanitization methods can sufficiently wipe out bacteria
from various kinds of wooden boards. A 1992 study
showed those using wooden cutting boards
at home were less than
half as likely as average to contract salmonellosis, while those
using synthetic (plastic or glass) cutting boards were about twice
as likely to do so. 

Many of the most awarded and well-respected American cheeses are
aged on wooden boards, according to Cheese Underground. “The very
pillar that we built our niche business on is the ability to age
our cheese on wood planks, an art that has been practiced in Europe
for thousands of years,” Wisconsin cheesemaker Chris Roelli—who
developed his cheese recipes specifically to be aged on wooden
boards—told the blog.

Not allowing American cheesemakers to use this practice puts
them “at a global disadvantage because the flavor produced by aging
on wood can not be duplicated. This is a major game changer for the
dairy industry in Wisconsin, and many other states.”

Cheesmakers importing to the United States will be subject to
the same wooden board ban, which in effect means we’ll just miss
out on a lot of cheese imports. The European Union—not generally
known to fuck around on food safety—is totally cool with the use of
wood boards in aging cheese (as is Canada). In fact, certain types
of cheese must be aged on wood in order to get the designation
(Comte, Beaufort, Reblochon). 

Cheesemakers aren’t the only ones to come under increased
scrutiny and needless micromanagement from the FDA as it attempts
to “establish
new prevention-oriented standards
” for the “new public health
mandate” the FSMA created. Earlier this year, it suggested that

breweries giving spent grains
to local farmers for livestock
feed may have to process and package these grains first—a proposal
that drew a loud and sustained
response
from brewers, farmers,
and lawmakers
. There’s never been a known contamination problem
with the brewery-to-farm spent grain sharing.

For more on FDA meddling with artisanal cheese makers, see this Reason TV
video
from last summer. 

h/t Greg Miller

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The Vegas Shootings, the Bundy Ranch, and the Splits on the Radical Right

No point mentioning those bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.An interesting detail in the
Review-Journal‘s
report
on the couple who killed two cops, a shopper, and
themselves in Las Vegas yesterday:

“The man told [a neighbor] he had been kicked off
Cliven Bundy’s ranch 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas while people
from throughout the U.S. gathered there in protest of a Bureau of
Land Management roundup of Bundy’s cattle.” Jessica Anderson, 27,
said. She lived next door [to the killers].

As always with the first claims that bubble up after a
high-profile shooting, you should take this with a grain of
salt. Obviously, there’s a bit of a telephone game going on
here: One neighbor heard something from another neighbor who said
he heard it from the shooter, who may or may not be reliable. For
what it’s worth, the paper reports that “the rancher’s wife, Carol
Bundy, said the shooting and the April standoff against the federal
government were not linked”; it quotes her saying “I have not seen
or heard anything from the militia and others who have came to our
ranch that would, in any way, make me think they had an intent to
kill or harm anyone.” That isn’t exactly a denial—it says
nothing about whether the Vegas couple showed up at the ranch and
was told by other activists to leave, which is what the man appears
to have been claiming. I expect we’ll see more detailed reporting
on this in the next few days.

But if this is true, it reinforces a point about the
dynamics of radical politics. As I’ve noted
before
when writing about the militia movement, violence on the
far right often comes from hotheads who have been kicked out of the
more mainstream militias. (Is “mainstream” the right word? It’s all
relative, I suppose.) When actual organizations talk up
non-defensive violence, they are often isolated
and despised
within the larger militia milieu. Yet these
divisions are frequently missed in public discussions of the issue,
which often lump all the “extremists” together—and, as a result,
look in the wrong places for terrorist threats. Even when analysts
argue that lone
wolves
acting on their own are a more likely source of violence
than militias acting as groups, there’s a
mistaken tendency
to treat “radicalization” as the problem and
to ignore all the cross-currents within a particular radical
community. (J.M. Berger offers some strong arguments against that
habit here.)

One last thought: I see The Washington Post is already
tentatively tying this to other “slayings…linked
to hate movements
.” So it’s wise to remember the sociologist
Joel Best’s
comment
that “crime waves” often turn out to be “waves in media
attention: they occur because the media, for whatever reason, fix
upon some sort of crime, and publicize it.” Shortly after Obama’s
election, a flood of stories suggested that right-wing violence was
on the rise; a few years later, a study from the Combatting
Terrorism Center at West Point
indicated
that incidents of that sort actually declined in that
period. So don’t assume that a new age of domestic terror is
dawning. The Vegas killers seem to have believed they were the
vanguard of an uprising, shouting “This is the start of a
revolution!” before they opened fire. But I’m gonna go out on a
limb and say they were wrong.

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This is What $100 Trillion Looks Like!

A few weeks ago, international investment guru and libertarian
activist Doug Casey of Casey Research came by the
Reason HQ in Washington, D.C.

Look for an interview to go live in the next week or so. Casey
is talking up a new documentary he’s put together called
Meltdown America, which warns that the United States
could end up suffering fates similar to Greece, Argentina, and
Zimbabwe if we don’t get our fiscal house in order. Watch that online and look
for a Reason TV interview with Casey to air here within a
week or two.

Doug carries with him a $100 Trillion note from the Reserve Bank
of Zimbabwe. Check it out above. Very official looking, packed with
anti-counterfeiting technology, signed by a political appointee
(just like U.S. dollars!), and even numbered in the
lower-right-hand corner so that you know it’s like totally legit,
right?

Sadly, the purchasing power of the note above left a lot to be
desired. In 2006, for instance, The New York Times reported that a
roll of toilet paper in Harare would set you back about
$145,000.

As Jimmy Carter (as played by
Dan Aykroyd) once explained on Saturday Night
Live
, inflation doesn’t have to be a drag. It can be our
friend with the right attitude:

in the year 2000, if current trends continue, the average
blue-collar annual wage in this country will be $568,000. Think
what this inflated world of the future will mean – most Americans
will be millionaires. Everyone will feel like a bigshot. Wouldn’t
you like to own a $4,000 suit, and smoke a $75 cigar, drive a
$600,000 car? I know I would! But what about
people on fixed incomes? They have always been the true victims of
inflation. That’s why I will present to Congress the “Inflation
Maintenance Program”, whereby the U.S. Treasury will make up any
inflation-caused losses to direct tax rebates to the public in
cash. Then you may say, “Won’t that cost a lot of money? Won’t that
increase the deficit?” Sure it will! But so what? We’ll just print
more money! We have the papers, we have the mints.. I can just call
up the Bureau of Engraving and say, “Hi! This is Jimmy. Roll out
some of them twenties! Print up a couple thousand sheets of those
Century Notes!” Sure, all these dollars will cause
even more inflation, but who cares? Everyone will be a
millionaire! 

In looking at the $100 trillion note from Zimbabwe and picking
it up, never did I feel so good about our country’s own fiat
currency—and the wisdom of pulling bills worth $1000 and more out
of circulation starting
in 1969
.

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A.M. Links: Feinstein, Chambliss Read About Bergdahl Torture in the Newspaper, Bulldozing Mountains in China a Concern, Miss Nevada Chosen as Miss USA

  • two titles agoSgt. Bowe Bergdahl says he was kept in a cage and
    tortured by the
    Taliban
    while in captivity. On the Sunday talk show circuit,
    Senate Intelligence Committee Chair
    Dianne Feinstein
    (D-Calif.) and ranking member Saxby Chambliss
    (R-Ga.) said they didn’t know about the alleged torture until they
    read about it in the newspapers and that President Obama did not
    provide them enough information about the release. Secretary of
    State
    John Kerry
    , meanwhile, defended the decision to trade with the
    Taliban for Bergdahl.
  • A man and a woman in Las Vegas
    shot two cops at a pizza café Sunday morning before shooting a
    third person at a Walmart. According to police, the woman then
    killed the man and herself.
  • Miss Nevada
    Nia Sanchez
    won yesterday’s Miss US A pageant.
  • The Pakistan Taliban attacked and seized Jinnah International
    Airport in
    Karachi
    , killing 28. They say the attack was in retaliation for
    drone strikes in the country and promised it was just the
    beginning.
  • Environmentalists in
    China
    are starting to worry about the practice of bulldozing
    mountains and filling valleys to create space for building more
    cities.
  • For prostitutes in
    Venezuela
    , trading dollars is more lucrative than sex
    work.
  • Punchable faces are a product of evolution, according to
    researchers at the
    University of Utah
    , who suggest the human face evolved to
    minimize damage from violence.

Follow Reason and Reason 24/7 on
Twitter, and like us on Facebook. You
can also get the top stories mailed to you—sign up
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Thanks, Taxpayers, for My Subsidized Ticket on an Airplane Gutted to Meet Stupid Regulations

Beechcraft 1900DUsually, when I fly into Los Angeles, I
take a shuttle bus to Phoenix and catch a plane out of Sky Harbor
Airport. This time, though, I caught a commuter flight out of tiny
Ernest A. Love Field in Prescott. I caught that plane with three
other people. Thank you, taxpayers, for subsidizing our jaunt as
part of the often (and justly) criticized
Essential Air Service program
. The problems with that
boondoggle, which is withering away none too soon, are well
demonstrated by the fact that half the seats had been ripped out of
the plane to skate by FAA regulations, and we still rattled around
in the damned thing.

Prescott’s wonderfully bare-bones Ernest A. Love Field offers
commercial service to LAX courtesy of Great Lakes Airlines. OK,
it’s really courtesy of American taxpayers, who
underwrite the operation to the tune of $2,094,235
(PDF) per
year.

I’d add the technical detail that the service is offered on
19-seat Beechcraft 1900D turboprop planes, except that when we
boarded, the plane was gutted. Ten of the seats had been ripped
out.

“It’s because of me,” the pilot told a fellow passenger who
asked about the very interesting configuration, though he meant the
company’s pilots in general. “The FAA revised pilot qualifications
last year for 19 seat planes. So now we only operate them with nine
seats.”

In fact, Great Lakes illustrates
the change on its website
(PDF) as…well…a feature. A
wonderfully inexplicable feature.

Beechcraft 1900D

This change has been noticed elsewhere. Blogger Brett Snyder,
also known as CrankyFlier,
writes
, “Just about every airline in the US operates under 14
CFR Part 121. That’s part of the code of federal regulations.
You’ll commonly hear it referred to as just Part 121. Any airline
operating under Part 121 is subject to those new pilot rules
requiring each hired pilot to have 1,500 hours of flying (with a
few exceptions).”

But there’s a shortage of pilots who meet the
increased requirements
. So Snyder speculates (and my pilot
confirmed) that small airlines are moving to satisfy the looser
requirements that apply to Part 135 operations, with planes of
fewer than 10 seats. They do this by flying the same planes they
did before, but with more than half the seats ripped
out
.

Adds Snyder:

isn’t that insane to run a 19-seat airplane with only 9 seats?
In the normal world, yes. That would mean your costs are going to
be much higher on a per-seat basis. But we’re not in the normal
world. We’re in Essential Air Service world. And in Essential Air
Service world, airlines are lucky to get 9 people in those 19 seats
on a good day.

Lucky…like the four people, including myself, who were on my
plane—with the costs largely covered by taxpayers.

For what it’s worth, Snyder sees no safety issue in the scheme,
since the same pilots who were safely flying 19-seat planes are now
operating the nine-seaters. It’s just an end-run around red
tape.

In 2006, the
New York Times
noted that the Essential Air Service
“program has come to seem mostly expensive and, to its critics,
unessential.” The same article noted that, in the United States,
the plane on which I flew is entirely a creature of subsidized
routes. “No one I’m aware of has figured out how to operate the
1900 outside the Essential Air Service program,” said the head of
Mesa Air, another regional operator.

Unlike many criticisms of boondoggles, this one has had some
impact. No new communities can join the subsidized program as of
2010, and starting last year, existing operations under the program
have to maintain an average of ten passengers per day (Kingman,
Arizona, is being booted
after achieving just 2.7 passengers
per day, along with other low-traffic communities).

To judge by my flight, Prescott’s taxpayer-subsidized air travel
days are numbered. And well they should be. But thanks, taxpayers,
for that very educational trip.

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