Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Most Pro-Liberty Nonprofits Simply Don't Know How to Hire

Most Pro-Liberty Nonprofits Simply Don't Know How to Hire
Author's note: Although I officially suspended ECOMINOES some time ago, I'm publishing the following cathartic article for its intrinsic therapeutic value. Please check out my new ventures, Solidus.Center, a nonprofit that promotes reform of the Federal Reserve system, and Lowcountry Vistas, my design-focused landscaping business located in Charleston, SC.

A few years ago, after years of post-M.B.A. underemployment and thousands of automated rejections by applicant tracking systems for private sector jobs as lowly as Store Associate, I decided to fight back against the institution I became convinced is primarily responsible for our country's decade-and-a-half economic decline and epidemic of long-term unemployment and underemployment, the Federal Reserve System. There's a preponderance of evidence (see the multimedia page and articles page from my nonprofit, Solidus.Center) that Fed monetary policy is the primary cause of our economy's bubble/burst economic paradigm and subsequent proliferation of soul-sucking long-term joblessness and marginal employment. But that's beside the point. The point is, after years of private sector job rejections and economic hardship from earning my M.B.A. during the 2008 Financial Crisis, I devoted myself to fighting the good fight, and I re-focused my job search to include marketing and communications opportunities at pro-liberty nonprofits. Because, certainly, I reasoned, a prolific libertarian blogger and talk radio host, Founder and Executive Director of a pro-liberty nonprofit, M.B.A., and bilingual English/Spanish speaker with a deep-seeded passion for preaching the virtues of liberty to different demographic groups would eventually get hired somewhere.

But I was wrong. Through years of rejections at these organizations, I've found that, by incorporating many of the counterproductive hiring methods of Corporate America, a great many pro-liberty nonprofits have created a deep schism between their organizations and potential talent.

1) They stonewall talent through applicant tracking systems.

I've noted on several occasions that America's primary (often times exclusive) point of entry for job applicants, applicant tracking systems (AKA "talent management systems"), are broken beyond repair, both in terms of functionality and of long-term impact on organization's bottom lines. (See this, this, and this.) Some time ago, I shared an anecdote about a seasoned Product Manager who was automatically rejected by a company's ATS, which in turn began sending him emails suggesting that he apply for a job in the company's lunchroom. One time, I filled out an online application that required me to SELECT MY ALMA MATER(S) FROM A DROP-DOWN LIST OF THOUSANDS OF COLLEGES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. (The list, ironically, didn't include the University of Georgia, Athens, where I earned my M.B.A., but did include a school in Vanuatu.)

ATSes are to hiring what the Auto-Tune is to music: poorly-designed instruments for users who don't realize that they actually worsen performance. One would expect Big Government and Big Business to employ these ill-conceived contraptions because "Big" organizations often have a culture of big bureaucracy. It's tragically ironic that many pro-liberty nonprofits (some of which employ but a handful of people--why do they even have HR departments?), organizations that purportedly value individual liberty and reject bureaucracy, make ATSes their exclusive ports of entry. Nothing screams "our organization has a rigid, bureaucratic culture" than forcing candidates to apply through ATSes.

2) They scare off talent by taking months to make hiring decisions.

Eschewing leadership and relying on group consensus, the "hiring managers" at many of today's pro-liberty organizations often take unreasonable amounts of time to fill even relatively-insignificant positions. One time, I was rejected for a part-time writing gig with a small liberty-oriented nonprofit (a dozen employees at most) after having been interviewed 3 times by 3 different people over a 3 month period and then submitting a complex mock writing project that took over 16 man-hours to complete...and was reviewed by a committee over the course of 2 additional weeks! In a rational world, the editor of the organization's website (the hiring manager, the "man" who should have taken ownership of filling the position) could have just read a few of the hundreds of articles I've published over the years, interviewed me, and then hired me or not. Instead, he dragged me along for months, forcing me to answer irrelevant questions from multiple 20-something boys who had the squeaky voice and lack of confidence of that stereotypical teen fast food worker from The Simpsons, and then gave me an unpaid task that cost me time from a paid marketing project I was working on at the time. A potential employee worth his salt has not the time nor the patience for garbage like that.

3) They stonewall talent by delegating candidate aggregation to third-party recruiting agencies. 

I can't tell you how many times I've networked with a hiring manager--usually the Executive Director at the smaller organizations--, only to be referred to a THIRD-PARTY RECRUITING AGENCY to apply for a job. This completely baffles me: If you know who I am, know that I'm interested in a job for which YOU'RE the hiring manager, are familiar with my work, and have met me personally, why on God's Green Earth would you have me fill out an application for a stranger at a third party business? And, with so many talented unemployed and underemployed workers beating on doors for jobs these days, why in the world would you drain your organization's budget on a recruiting agency anyway?

4) They forgo talent through incompetence.

One time, 2 weeks after having replied to a job posting though the usual rigmarole of tedious online forms and mock writing assignments, I received an email informing me that the position had been filled A MONTH EARLIER. Not only had the job been filled two weeks before I wasted my time and energy applying for it, but the job post was still live on the organization's site the day I received the message! In other words, they were wasting peoples' time for weeks on end.

Most recently, I was rejected without an interview by form email for a libertarian blogger position. (A libertarian blogger position...HELLO!) The job post stated that the ideal candidate would 1) be a libertarian blogger, naturally, 2) have connections with other libertarian bloggers (who might republish articles), and 3) be able to expand the organization's audience. On my application, I made clear that 1a) At the peak of its popularity, my former libertarian blog, ECOMINOES, received 30,000 page views per month and had garnered 11,000 Twitter followers. 1b) The Solidus.Center blog, which I started a few months ago, is already getting several thousands of page views per month. 2) My articles have been republished by Lew Rockwell, Mises, Economic Policy Journal, Global Economic Intersection, and Lions of Liberty, among other prominent libertarian websites. 3) I speak fluent Spanish, and, through my Spanish-language newspaper, Vida Latina, I spent years preaching the virtues of libertarianism to Latinos, who were receptive of my message and will become the nation's largest ethnic group in a few decades. Determined to find out why, with all of these credentials, I was rejected for the job without the opportunity to make my case to a human being, I called the hiring manager. His response: I "don't have enough libertarian marketing experience". What?!

One can only speculate as to why so many pro-liberty organizations are clueless when it comes to hiring. I suspect that the culprit is lack of business experience. After all, many of these organizations' leaders have spent their entire lives working in the bubbles of academia and/or the public sector. Few possess non-corporate private sector business experience. Moreover, many of these organizations are run by Millennials who lack much work experience in general. (And were conditioned to be institutional thinkers through their Public Administration and Political Science degree programs.) Regarding the latter point, the following is an email from a former executive at the organization that recently rejected me for the blogger position. Note that the organization was once one of the most well-respected pro-liberty think tanks in the nation, if not the world. Not any more, apparently.

Note that it's taken the org nearly a year to fill his position. Most pro-liberty nonprofits simply don't know how to hire.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

New Non-Profit Takes On The Federal Reserve

New Non-Profit Takes On The Federal ReserveUpdate  01/10/15: Because I've ceased publishing ECOMINOES, I've freed-up server space by removing archives of ECOMINOES Radio episodes and a great many articles I believe have become less relevant over time. I've deleted as many links that were broken as I could find...I apologize if I missed any. Also, due to the proliferation of spam, I've closed comments to my articles and deleted the ECOMINOES Facebook page and Twitter accounts. When I get time, I'll post a compilation of highlights from the radio show. Thanks again for reading and listening!

It's been a pleasure promoting economic and personal liberty here on ECOMINOES. Now, I'm taking my passion to the next level by launching Solidus.Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that promotes economic strength and stability, sound money, equality of opportunity, and reduced government debt by limiting the Federal Reserve System’s influence on the American economy.

The following is a brief video explaining this new venture:


Solidus.Center is currently in the start-up phase, and we're looking for help. If you or anyone you know might be interested in board, fellowship, or volunteer opportunities, please contact me at Your tax-deductible donations are always appreciated as well.

Thank you so much for following ECOMINOES! I hope you'll join me on the next level.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

America's Undiagnosed Economic Cancer

America's Undiagnosed Economic Cancer
Since the 1990s, the Federal Reserve and the federal government have been cancers on the U.S. corpus economicus. The unholy chemical marriage between our nation's central bank and central government has been--undoubtedly--the primary cause of our precipitous and painful decade-and-a-half economic decline. Tragically, the majority of Americans don't understand our economy's chronic disease.

The Undiagnosed Disease

In the 1990s, the Federal Reserve and the federal government--of which Republicans and Democrats shared control--made concurrent terribly-ill-advised policy changes that precipitated the disastrous bubble-bust paradigm that's been rotting our economy over the last 15 years.

In the '90s, the Fed, led by Alan Greenspan, began the modern Fed tradition of pumping liquidity for long periods of time in the wake of recessions. At the same time, the federal government, whose Legislative Branch was controlled by Republicans and whose Executive Branch was controlled by Democrats, passed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which repealed Glass-Steagall, a law created in the wake of the Great Depression that prohibited deposit banks from "investing" (read: playing with) depositors' money. (Indeed, there are many similarities between the modern Fed and federal government and those of the years preceding--and of--the Depression.) Armed with cheap capital pumped by the Fed and a carte blanche to throw around other peoples' government-insured money, investors went wild, firing government fiat into over-valued tech companies and preposterous dot-coms, multiplying their foolish, nearly-risk-free bets hundreds of times over through a derivatives market that had been recently deregulated by said bipartisan-controlled federal government. Not surprisingly, the tech bubble eventually burst, the financial system crashed, and the American economy began to feel the symptoms of its new economic cancer.

During the early 2000s recession, the Fed and federal government attempted to reinvigorate the economy by inflating another bubble, the housing bubble. Greenspan's Fed once again kept interest rates dangerously low, even though inflation was becoming problematic. (Indeed, by summer 2008, the median price of a gallon of gas in this country had risen to--in 2014 dollars--$4.70, a 400% increase in 10 years! The price plummeted back to earth only when we began to experience deflation.) Also in the 2000s, the Fed began vigorously enforcing the Community Reinvestment Act, a draconian 1970s law that had been strengthened in the 1990s by legislation passed by--once again--the Republican-controlled Congress and signed by the Democrat-controlled White House. The new incarnation of the CRA forced lending institutions to accommodate sub-prime borrowers, a move that was supposed to stimulate the housing market and create equity for the poor. Instead, the CRA created a proliferation of so-called "toxic" mortgages that found their way into investors' portfolios due to legislation sponsored by Democrats Barney Frank and Chris Dodd--and passed by the Republican-controlled Congress and White House--that reduced the mortgage-buying standards of Government Sponsored Enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. With their standards watered-down, Fannie and Freddie began repackaging toxic mortgages as toxic investment vehicles and selling them to institutional investors, who gladly snatched them up with their cheap, nearly-risk-free capital pumped by the Fed and backed by the federal government. (Sound familiar?) Once again, institutional investors multiplied their foolhardy bets hundreds of times over through the deregulated derivative market. Eventually, the housing bubble, the largest asset bubble in the history of the United States (so far), led to the greatest economic collapse the U.S. had suffered since the Great Depression, a collapse whose aftermath is still apparent in the job market 6 years later.

The Overlooked Primary Symptom

The necrotization of the job market has been--by far--the most painful symptom of our economic cancer. Yet it's one that's tragically overlooked by the majority of the population, whose employment hasn't been negatively affected and whose comprehension of our jobs crisis is limited by the consistently-unrealistically-optimistic employment data the government spoon-feeds them via the mainstream media. Indeed, one of the many insidious aspects of this economic depression is that the overall malaise has been--for the most part--a function of the suffering of an oft-underestimated and disregarded statistical minority: the long-term unemployed and underemployed, whose earning potential and contribution to consumer spending and investment have been crushed. Recall the following chart I published a while back:

In 2012, America's 28 million unemployed or underemployed workers, who earned a median of $16,000 from unemployment benefits and/or menial employment, forwent OVER A TRILLION DOLLARS in potential earnings. Nothing has been a bigger drag on the economy than lost earnings, which reduce consumer spending--the largest segment of the economy--in the short-term and, in the long-term, delay "life milestone" contributions to the economy such as home ownership and child rearing. The jobs crisis has been--by far--the most acute symptom of our economic cancer, yet its negative influence on the economy as a whole is often overlooked due to its highly-localized nature.

Of course, the jobs crisis has been painful in ways that far transcend negative influence on GDP growth. (GDP growth, by the way, might not be the best measurement of economic progress anyway.) Far worse than deflating GDP, the crisis has crushed dreams, turned lives upside-down, and created a new economically-lost generation. It's been particularly hard on young men, whose unemployment and underemployment rates have been consistently higher than those of women of most any age, yet are biologically hard-wired and socially-conditioned to be breadwinners. Lamentably, that devastating detail is also often overlooked.

(As a side note, I highly recommend Gawker's extensive collection of stories of young male professionals who have been emasculated by the jobs crisis. The series, entitled "Men Talk About Being Unemployed in Their Prime", serves as a poignant reminder that long-term unemployment and underemployment aren't just data sets; they're critical human conditions.)

The Missed Diagnosis

Tragically, most Americans fail to see past their own political myopia to identify our nation's economic cancer. Republicans and Democrats blame each other, of course, and the majority of Americans are too ignorant of economics to realize that the MSM's question "which party is to blame?" is a fallacious one. A web search of "blame for Great Recession" yields tens of thousands of results neatly divided by party line. In reality, both parties contributed to our nation's economic collapse, and no entity contributed more than the Federal Reserve. Appallingly, the Fed, now under the stewardship of newly-sworn-in Chairwoman Janet Yellen, is perpetuating the carcinogenic Keynesian monetary policy it adopted under Greenspan and continued under Bernanke. The ultra-wealthy, whose net worth is highly-dependent on the success of the Fed-juiced stock market, have been making money hand-over-fist during this depression. Average Americans, on the other hand, have been getting poorerNew bubbles have been inflated; new malignant tumors have been created. The cancer spreads unbeknownst to most Americans.

America's Undiagnosed Economic Cancer

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Encouraging Paradigm Shift On The Right

Encouraging Paradigm Shift On The RightIn these times of rampant pessimism in which the majority of Americans believe that the country has been heading in the wrong direction for some time, there exists a ray of hope: the burgeoning liberty movement. Recently, there have been three significant positive developments regarding the movement.

The property rights standoff in Nevada shows that many freedom-minded Americans are drawing a line in the sand. They're standing up literally--as well as figuratively--to an increasingly overbearing federal government. That's good news. It's also good news that the government backed down. That demonstrates that freedom-minded Americans need not depend on elected representatives to make changes in policy. They're able to spur change on a grassroots level.

Although Republicans lag the nation in its change of heart on social issues and foreign policy, more people on the Right are coming to realize that the federal government's marijuana prohibition and interventionist foreign policy are as costly as its economic policies.

The editors of National Review, arguably the most influential conservative publication in the nation, recently published an editorial arguing for the legalization of cannabis. The conservative publication of record has come to realize the high cost of marijuana prohibition, both in terms of currency and of human life:
Regardless of whether one accepts the individual-liberty case for legalizing marijuana, the consequentialist case is convincing. That is because the history of marijuana prohibition is a catalogue of unprofitable tradeoffs: billions in enforcement costs, and hundreds of thousands of arrests each year, in a fruitless attempt to control a mostly benign drug the use of which remains widespread despite our energetic attempts at prohibition. We make a lot of criminals while preventing very little crime, and do a great deal of harm in the course of trying to prevent an activity that presents little if any harm in and of itself.
Quite a departure from the Right's "Just Say No" rhetoric of the Reagan era.

More people on the Right are also coming around on military interventionism. Rand Paul, whose non-interventionist view of foreign policy and homeland-first view of defense is a 180-degree-turn from a decade of George W. Bush-brand military adventurism, is a serious contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. In fact, according to some polls, he's the leading candidate. In modern history, no Republican nominee for president has had a view of foreign policy anywhere close to Rand's. Even Barry Goldwater was an interventionist.

That's impressive. Even though Rand isn't the libertarian his father is.

There's reason to be hopeful in these times of uncertainty: The liberty movement's growing in size and influence, and it's heading in the right direction.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Infographic: Applying For A Job Through An ATS Minefield

Infographic: Applying For A Job Through An ATS Minefield
Not to beat a dead horse, but I've come to realize the contribution to the unemployment and underemployment epidemic in this country that is American employers' heavy reliance on applicant tracking systems (AKA talent management systems). ATSes are notorious for functional problems and favor job candidates with more degrees and experience over those with more bona fide accomplishments. Due to employers' heavy reliance on ATSes, job searching in this country has become a lottery in which the most capable candidates often get overlooked and up to 50% of new hires "don't work out". ATSes are bad for the economy as a whole.

As the following infographic demonstrates, applying for a job through an applicant tracking system is akin to tiptoeing through a minefield. One's candidacy can be blown up with one misstep, and many completely logical steps for job seekers to take are considered missteps. For example, many applicants make the mistake of submitting their resumes and cover letters as PDFs. Many ATSes can't read PDFs, even though most accept them. The PDF format, by the way, has been the universal standard for electronic documents for more than a decade.

The infographic argues that applicant tracking systems save recruiters time and therefore improve companies' bottom lines. This is myopic thinking. ATSes may save recruiters time, but, despite the graphic's claim that they're a "new technology to connect candidates with their ideal job opportunities" (they're not new), the tradeoff is in fact the creation of a disconnect between jobs and the best candidates for those jobs.

PBS's "Ask the Headhunter", Nick Corcodilos, who sent me the graphic, accompanied it with a great quote:
I love how it explains that “HR finds ATSes save them time.” And heroin makes addicts feel good. That’s a reason to use it?
As you read the infographic, keep in mind that many job seekers who network their way up to a hiring manager are directed down to an ATS.

Infographic: Applying For A Job Through An ATS Minefield

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Psychological Struggle Of Long-Term UNDERemployment

 The Psychological Struggle Of Long-Term UNDERemploymentI've written dozens of articles about the epidemic of unemployment and underemployment in this country. In the articles, I've cited numerous statistics. We have to keep in mind that those stats represent people.

There are many accounts of the psychological toll of long-term unemployment. But little has been said about the toll of long-term UNDERemployment. Lest we forget that Gallup pegs the underemployment rate at nearly 20%. Nearly 1 in 5 members of the American workforce is working below--sometimes well below--his potential. And that's only if you count people who work part-time but want to work full-time. That doesn't count the millions of Americans working below their potential in full-time jobs. MBAs working retail. Law degree holders filing papers. Mike Alberti of Remapping Debate tells us what that can do to a person psychologically over time. As you read this, keep in mind that getting a breadwinner job in America has become a lottery in which the best and brightest don't get chosen up to 50% of the time and opportunities for promotion have been limited by the large number of people staying in their jobs.
The many impacts of unemployment — including social and psychological ones — have long been catalogued. But much less is known about the consequences of “underemployment.” Millions of Americans — at least as many as are unemployed, and perhaps more — have either been forced to take part-time work because full-time jobs are not available, or are forced to work in jobs for which they are overqualified.

“We have never experienced anything like this,” said Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. It is “not something that as a society we’re used to dealing with.”

Since the recession, researchers have begun to take more of an interest in the psychological effects of underemployment, and what they have found is not encouraging. In the short-term, it appears that those who are underemployed — like those who are unemployed — have an increased risk of depression, increased stress, and lowered self-esteem.

And there may be long-term negative effects, too. On the psychological side, there are intriguing hints of a downward spiral that might affect underemployed workers in their family, social, and employment relationships. In economic terms, there is already data that show that the effects of being underemployed directly after graduating from college can linger for more than 10 years.

“Unemployment is an emergency,” Van Horn said. “Underemployment is a crisis.” Nevertheless, the United States, unlike other countries, is not gathering the data needed to pinpoint what the full costs of underemployment actually are. Making it difficult to know which policies might be effective in helping those affected.

What’s wrong with me?

Douglas Maynard, an associate professor of psychology at the State University of New York in New Paltz is one of only a few psychologists who has studied the mental health effects of underemployment.

“There are a few things that we know for sure,” he said. “We see very clear evidence of lower self-esteem, greater stress, and less job satisfaction,” he said.

To illustrate those effects, David Pedulla, a doctoral candidate at Princeton who is writing his dissertation on the consequences of underemployment, suggested considering the case of a worker with a degree in accounting who is laid off from an accounting firm and has to take a new job working in retail.

“Imagine going from a situation where you had gained some status and control over your day-to-day life, and then moving into a retail job with a boss with less education than you,” Pedulla said. “That person might feel like he had lost control over his life.” The theme of loss of control is one that numerous experts cited repeatedly.

Pedulla said that the result is often that underemployed workers internalize a sense of shame, and begin to blame themselves for their situation. Psychologists have long recognized that shame is a very powerful emotion, and that people who feel a strong sense of shame tend to cope with it in different ways.

The ex-accountant working retail, Maynard said, “might start blaming himself for it. He might wonder, what’s wrong with me that I’m here?”

That sense of shame intensifies if the individual has been forced to take a pay cut, Maynard said. Underemployed workers will often feel a greater financial strain, which can be exacerbated because their new jobs may not provide the same levels of health or retirement benefits as their old jobs, while at the same time making them ineligible for government assistance programs.

Pedulla said that, for men, the implications of becoming underemployed and earning less money can have profound effects on their perception of their masculinity, especially if they find themselves struggling to provide for their families.

“The breadwinner model is still very present,” he said. Men who feel that their masculinity is being threatened are more likely to lash out at their families. There is evidence that underemployment can cause marital strain, Pedulla said, and that when older children perceive that there has been a reduction in income or status, they may “inherit” the sense of shame.

“Kids may feel like they can no longer have the newest clothes, or that they can’t do certain activities with their friends because their family can’t afford it anymore,” he said.

Social isolation

One of the strongest effects of the shame and lowered self-esteem that can result from underemployment is that the worker may become socially isolated — in the workplace and outside of it — and that the isolation can, in turn, reinforce those feelings because the worker is not receiving social support, experts said.

“Your social interactions might change,” Pedulla said. “If you were laid off from a job where you had friends, you might feel less inclined to see your former co-workers because you might fear that they would look down on you.”

Some research has found that workers who have been laid off and found new jobs that are unsatisfactory are less likely to engage in social activities. In 1988, Katherine Newman, a sociologist and the current dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, wrote an influential book called Falling from Grace: Downward Mobility in the Age of Affluence, in which she interviewed hundreds of people who had, for various reasons, fallen out of the middle class.
Several people reported that the social consequences of underemployment can be particularly challenging.

“If your old friends are going out for drinks or going to the theater or playing golf or doing other things that you can no longer afford to do, then that can be a very isolating experience,” she said.
Berrin Erdogan, an associate professor of management at Portland State University, said that underemployed people might find themselves isolated within the workplace as well. “You would probably feel like a misfit, especially if you are surrounded by people who are less educated than you,” she said.

She used the example of a young worker who graduated from college but could not find a job in her field, and had to start working at a coffee house. “After work, [your co-workers] might go out or spend time together on the weekends, but you might be less inclined to go because you feel like you don’t fit in,” she said. “At the same time, there’s a great chance that your co-workers might feel intimidated by you, and won’t want to invest in a relationship with you.”

Erdogan said that that situation could quickly lead to anger and “self-defeating behavior,” which could affect the way that underemployed workers do their jobs. “If you don’t feel appreciated in your job, and feel like it’s unfair to be there, you might not do your job as well. If you’re working in a coffee house, in the end you may not end up treating your customers very well,” she said.
In his research, Maynard has found that workers who perceive themselves to be overqualified for their jobs report less job satisfaction even than workers who are involuntarily employed part-time.
Erdogan said that evidence also exists that workers who are overqualified for their jobs are more likely to have bad relationships with their managers and co-workers, and that this can make them more likely to get fired from their jobs.
“If you don’t leave a job on good terms,” she said, “that in turn diminishes your chances of finding another job.”

Depression and boredom

Psychologists stress that the duration of underemployment is a very important factor. If a person finds a better job within a few weeks or months, said Daniel Feldman, associate dean of the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia, the negative psychological impacts are more likely to be limited.

But if the worker remains underemployed for more than six months, Feldman said, it would be a short step from the combination of boredom and self-doubt to clinical depression. Researchers have shown that depression is strongly associated with underemployment, especially if the person is making less money than he or she had come to expect. Others have also found that underemployed workers are just as likely as the unemployed to show signs of depression.
Going back to the example of a worker who went from an accounting job to a retail job, Feldman said that a huge factor would be the dissonance in the worker’s mind between his present situation and the future that he had imagined.

“You went from doing something where you were using your skills to folding shirts,” he said.  “That’s a very strong contradiction [of] the idea that you had of where you were going to end up.”

“You’re going to be constantly bored with that job,” he said. “You’re never going to be happy working there.”

Depression has long been linked to self-destructive behavior such as an increased incidence of alcoholism, drug use, aggression toward family members, and suicide. While little research has been done examining the incidence of these behaviors among underemployed people, the connection between self-destructive behavior and unemployment is quite strong.

“We would expect to see many of the same effects in some underemployment situations,” said Meghna Virick, an associate professor of management at San Jose State University.

Feldman has also found that if workers who are laid off blame themselves for losing their jobs, there is an increased likelihood that they will engage in self-destructive behavior.

Characteristically, people who suffer from depression can have strong feelings of shame, guilt and worthlessness, as well as fatigue and irritability. They can also lose interest in things that were once important to them, such as their families, friends, and hobbies.

“People spend a huge number of their hours at work,” Pedulla said. “It’s central to the construction of their identity. If that work is making them depressed, then it’s easy for that to affect other parts of their lives.”

Unfulfilled hopes and diminished expectations
Though many researchers speculate that underemployment can have long-term psychological effects, it is an issue that has not been studied in depth. But several experts worried that, if the situation does not improve quickly, it could lead to a sense of unfulfilled hopes and diminished expectations, especially among young people.
“If you’re going into the labor market and have a particular idea of what your future is going to look like, and what you actually find is quite different, that has an effect on how you perceive yourself and how you perceive your chances for the future,” said Sarah Anderson, a professor of psychology at the University of South Australia who has long studied underemployment.

Returning to the example of the ex-accountant who works in retail, Feldman said that after a certain amount of time the worker might start to become discouraged. “If you don’t get out of the job after six months, you become increasingly pessimistic that you’re going to get out of it at all,” he said.
That could mean that the worker stops looking for other jobs, or approaches the job search with “less gusto,” Maynard said.  Because the job search can quickly become an exhausting process, especially while an applicant is working at another job, he or she may not put in as much effort after a prolonged period of time, he added.

“Some people might cope with being underemployed by changing their expectations, and saying, ‘I guess this is as good as it gets for me,’” Maynard said.

The job search can reinforce that sense. Several experts in management said that employers might be less likely to hire an applicant for a job if the applicant has been clearly underemployed, leading to a vicious cycle from which the worker cannot extricate him or herself.

If the worker is ensnared in this vicious cycle, Maynard said that he or she might begin to feel a sense of “learned helplessness” in which the person stops trying to actively change his or her situation. “If you’ve been applying to jobs and hearing nothing back, you may start to feel like you have no control over your life,” he said.

And many researchers have noted that the mental health effects of underemployment are most severe if workers feel that they have lost control over their situation — if they begin to feel trapped in their current jobs. “That is the point when we would expect to see the worst mental health outcomes,” Maynard said.

In the current context, that is particularly disturbing. There is some evidence that shows that during a recession, workers are less likely to quit their current jobs, because they are less likely to believe that they will be able to find another one. Before the recession, an average of three million people quit their jobs each month; in September, that number was slightly over two million.

Lack of data
While the understanding of the consequences of underemployment is growing, many of the experts interviewed for this article said that there is still a long way to go.

“There is much less empirical research than we would like,” said Pedulla. “Before we know how to respond effectively, we need to understand the contours of the problem better.”

“In Europe,” said Portland State’s Berrin Erdogan, “underemployment is treated as a social problem. We don’t even pay attention to it that much.”
One reason why so little research is done on underemployment is that it is important to have what’s called a “longitudinal” data source to draw from, which means data that follows individuals through time to measure what effects result from changes in their situations.

While the U.S. does have a few longitudinal data sources, they are generally limited in the amount of information they contain. Much of what is known comes from data from other countries, especially in regard to mental health and to more subjective measures like perceived well being.

Longitudinal data collection is more expensive and more time-consuming than normal survey studies, and while a few universities have the resources to conduct them, the responsibility generally falls to the government to provide the funding and support. Virick of the San Jose State University said that the recession should have served as a wake-up call to policy makers that this is an issue that demands attention.

“We haven’t had any kind of organized response to this,” she said.
According to Erdogan, the United States is paying much less attention to the issue than European countries. “In Europe, underemployment is treated as a social problem. We don’t even pay attention to it that much.”

Whose fault is it, really?

Few people would suggest that mass underemployment is somehow the “fault” of the people who are underemployed.

“Underemployment is now a structural feature of our society,” said Newman of Johns Hopkins. “Structural problems demand structural solutions.”

Nevertheless, several researchers said that, in the United States, there is a strong impulse for underemployed workers to blame themselves for their situation, which is the source of many of the negative mental health effects associated with underemployment.

“If people don’t understand that there is a way that the system has become rigged against them, they may start feeling like they’re to blame for their issues,” said Anderson of the University of South Australia.

Anderson said that appreciating the broader structures that created underemployment was an important part of a strategy to avoid falling into the trap of self-blame.

“I like to hope that we’re starting to see people realize that the ways the workplace has changed in the last few decades have not been positive for most workers, and to try to change that” she said.
Newman agreed. Seeking to address the systemic causes of problems “can be a very healthy coping strategy,” she said.
"Underemployment is now a structural feature of our society." Truly tragic. The result of the wicked trifecta of impediments to prosperity that is the Fed, the federal government, and the American hiring paradigm.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Another Biz Reporter Rips Applicant Tracking Systems

Another Biz Reporter Rips Applicant Tracking SystemsAs many of you know, I firmly believe that HR hiring software--AKA "applicant tracking systems"--, which far too many American enterprises offer job seekers as their only port-of-entry, exacerbate our nation's unemployment problem and detract from companies' bottom lines (and therefore detract from the economy as a whole). So any article I come across that's critical of ATSes gets my attention.

In this article, CIO's Meridith Levinson describes applicant tracking systems as capricious and fundamentally-flawed. She hammers home the fact that the expensive, unwieldy software American enterprises often "employ" as their exclusive employment gatekeepers arbitrarily reject potentially great employees. As you read the article, keep in mind that half of Americans ages 18-29 are either unemployed or underemployed. Think about how younger Americans who have less experience (and therefore have fewer keywords and numbers on their applicant profiles) and who have a smaller professional network (not that that matters much when hiring managers direct applicants to their ATSes) might be at a significant disadvantage under this hiring paradigm. This is, after all, a paradigm in which even the most talented applicants are judged by poorly-designed computer software based on experiential criteria only. Remember, an ATS will always select someone with more degrees or experience over someone with more accomplishments. Why? Because ATSes CAN'T IDENTIFY ACCOMPLISHMENTS.

Lou Adler, entrepreneur and best-selling author, best summarized this phenomenon in an article he recently published on LinkedIn:
“Successful candidate will develop a new approach for reducing water usage by 50%,” is a lot better than saying “Must have 5-10 years of environmental engineering background including 3-5 years of wastewater management."
- See more at:
Lest we forget what Lou Adler, entrepreneur and best-selling author, recently stated on LinkedIn:
“Successful candidate will develop a new approach for reducing water usage by 50%,” is a lot better than saying “Must have 5-10 years of environmental engineering background including 3-5 years of wastewater management."
In this case, ATSes would always choose candidates with more years of experience over those with more accomplishments that would suggest the capability of reaching the goal of reducing water usage by 50%. In fact, many ATSes require applicants to list "responsibilities". Anyone can have responsibilities. Only a select (read: overlooked) few have bona fide accomplishments. But the people most capable of identifying accomplishments relevant to the job, hiring managers, all too often go out of their way to conceal themselves from the applicant pool. Anyway, on to the article:
Applicant tracking systems are the bane of legions of job seekers. These systems, which employers use to manage job openings across their enterprises and screen incoming resumes from job seekers, kill 75 percent of candidates' chances of landing an interview as soon as they submit their resumes, according to job search services provider Preptel.

The problem with applicant tracking systems, as many job seekers know, is that they are flawed. Very flawed. If a job seeker's resume isn't formatted the right way and doesn't contain the right keywords and phrases, the applicant tracking system will misread it and rank it as a bad match with the job opening, regardless of the candidate's qualifications.

Bersin & Associates, an Oakland, Calif.-based research and advisory services firm specializing in talent management, confirmed the weaknesses of applicant tracking systems. In a test conducted last year, Bersin & Associates created a perfect resume for an ideal candidate for a clinical scientist position. The research firm matched the resume to the job description and submitted the resume to an applicant tracking system from Taleo, arguably the leading maker of these systems.
Taleo is notorious for producing ridiculously buggy software. There used to be a great blog that described in detail the numerous functional problems with Taleo's products. Some of these problems have been fixed with recent releases. Many have not. And the fundamental flaws persist, as they do with all ATSes:
When Bersin & Associates studied how the resume rendered in the applicant tracking system, the company saw that one of the candidate's work experiences was lost entirely because the resume had the date typed before the employer. The applicant tracking system also failed to read several educational degrees the putative candidate held, which would have given a recruiter the impression that the candidate lacked the educational experience necessary for the job. The end result: The resume Bersin & Associates submitted only scored a 43 percent relevance ranking to the job because the applicant tracking system misread it.
Every American hiring manager should read that last sentence.
Josh Bersin, CEO and president of the firm, notes that since all applicant tracking systems use the same parsing software to read resumes, the results his company found would be typical of most systems, not just Taleo's.

The problems with applicant tracking systems beg the question: If they're so flawed and if they filter out good candidates, why do employers bother to use them? The answer is simple: Bersin says they still make recruiters' lives easier. 
Stop right there. American enterprises don't use ATSes to find the best potential employees. They use them to make recruiters' lives easier.  Let's analyze that in terms of risk and reward: To reduce the workload of their recruiters, organizations spend billions of dollars annually on buggy software that arbitrarily eliminates a significant number of talented applicants. Under that paradigm, up to 50% of new hires "don't work out". Does the end of convenience for HR workers justify a unquestionably broken means of hiring? Levinson goes on:
Applicant tracking systems save recruiters days' worth of time by performing the initial evaluation and by narrowing down the candidate pool to the top 10 candidates whose resumes the system ranks as the most relevant. Even if some good candidates get filtered out, recruiters still have a place to start. 
Better said, recruiters have a good "place to start" with the applicants who are lucky enough to win the ATS lottery and get through to a hiring manager. Those applicants may or may not be the best candidates.

PBS's "Ask the Headhunter" Nick Corcodilos said it best:
Unemployment is made in America by employers who have given up control over their competitive edge -- recruiting and hiring -- to a handful of database jockeys who are funded by HR executives, who in turn have no idea how to recruit or hire themselves.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Post-1990s Fed: Enemy Of The Middle Class

The Post-1990s Fed: Enemy Of The Middle ClassOne need not delve into hardcore economic research to reach the conclusion that the Fed is largely responsible for our country's economic woes. One need only have common sense and possess the ability to read charts.

In the mid-1990s, Alan Greenspan's Fed began our central bank's tradition of pumping massive amounts of liquidity. Since that time, stocks and other assets typically held in large quantities by the wealthy have done--for the most part--very well. But, for middle class Americans, who rely on "breadwinner" jobs for their livelihoods, the past 15 or so years have been a period of economic decline, the past 6 years a period of economic free-fall.

Since peaking at around 67.5% in the late 1990s, the labor force participation rate has declined to 63%, the lowest level since the 1970s, when households rarely sent more than one member into the workforce. The S&P 500, on the other hand, has more than doubled:

The Post-1990s Fed: Enemy Of The Middle Class - Labor Force Participation vs. Stocks

Corporate profits and labor force participation also decoupled in the late 1990s. Today, there is little correlation between the two:

The Post-1990s Fed: Enemy Of The Middle Class - Labor Force Participation vs. Corporate Profits

What's more, part-time jobs have been replacing full-time jobs since the Fed's tech bubble:

The Post-1990s Fed: Enemy Of The Middle Class - Part Time vs. Full Time Jobs

And, since the late 1990s, real wages (adjusted for inflation) have been in decline:

The Post-1990s Fed: Enemy Of The Middle Class - Annual Change In Real Wages

Monday, March 3, 2014

Capricious Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Hurting America's Future

Capricious Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Hurting America's FutureMandatory minimum sentencing, sentencing requirements imposed by state legislatures and the Legislative Branch of the federal government, is a clear violation of the principle of "separation of powers" that strips judges of their fundamental duty of administering justice considering the circumstances surrounding the cases they oversee. Mandatory minimum sentencing is infamous for being unfair to minorities, but it also harms a disproportionate number of young people of all races. Each year, tens of thousands of young Americans are imprisoned and tens of thousands more lose their student aid eligibility due to capricious mandatory minimum sentences, mostly for minor drug offenses.

Mandatory minimum sentences ruin the educational and economic opportunities of young Americans in a number of outrageous ways. Consider the following tragic stories:
Truly tragic. Fortunately, Alex Kreit, Associate Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is providing a free web-based program to equip participants with the knowledge and the tools they need to help end the injustice of mandatory minimum sentencing. You can find out more about Professor Kreit's program, part of the Learn Liberty Academy at The Institute for Humane Studies, by visiting the program's registration page.

Empowered by the education Professor Kreit provides, you can then work with organizations such as Families Against Mandatory Minimums and Students for Sensible Drug Policy to help end mandatory minimum sentencing.

Monday, February 3, 2014

PBS's "Ask the Headhunter" Blasts Applicant Tracking Systems

PBS's "Ask the Headhunter" Blasts Applicant Tracking SystemsI recently wrote an article critical of American companies' tendencies to use applicant tracking systems to seek keywords rather than allowing candidates to demonstrate potential added value to their bottom lines. I noted that the current hiring paradigm suffers a failure rate of up to 50%.

Today, ambitious job seekers have scant opportunities to walk into a company and make a pitch directly to a hiring manager. The personable aspect of hiring has been replaced with buggy software programs and cookie cutter online psychological exams that stigmatize creativity and innovative thinking.

Clearly, the American hiring paradigm is broken. PBS's "Ask the Headhunter" Nick Corcodilos has been quite outspoken on the subject. Here's one of his most thoughtful articles:
Last week, I published the 500th edition of my weekly Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, which I started in 2002. (Check the footer of this column if you'd like to subscribe. It's free.) Why does the newsletter keep going? Because America's employment system still doesn't work, and employers are clueless about why.
The emperor still has no clothes, and that's a big part of why over 25 million Americans are unemployed or under-employed. (According to the Business Desk, that's how many Americans say they want but can't find a full-time job.) Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 3.9 million jobs were vacant in September.
HR executives have a special term for this 6:1 market advantage when they're trying to fill jobs today: They call it a "talent shortage."

Gimme a break.

Human resources executives run around in their corporate offices with their eyes closed, throwing billions of dollars at applicant tracking systems (ATSes) and job boards like Taleo, and LinkedIn, and they pretend no one can see they are dancing in circles buck naked. HR keeps talking about a talent shortage, but the only talent shortage is in the HR offices. HR executives need to learn how to match up the 3.9 million vacancies with some of the 25 million under-employed.
What's going on?
The economy is certainly one factor, but businesses, the media and the federal government continue to ignore the structural problems in our employment system. I'll tell you what I think the main problems are.

Companies Don't Hire Anymore

Employers don't do their own hiring, and that's the number one problem. They outsource their competitive edge (recruiting and hiring) to third parties like Taleo, Kenexa, LinkedIn, and CareerBuilder. Monster and LinkedIn alone sucked almost $2 billion out of the employment system in 2012. These vendors offer little more than trivial technologies and cheap string-search routines masquerading as "algorithms" for finding "hidden talent" and "matching people to jobs."

HR executives are spending billions on those systems, so why are almost 4 million jobs vacant? Because these vendors sell databases -- not recruiting, not headhunting, not jobs, not hires and not matchmaking.

Somewhere, right now, the chairman of the board of some corporation is pounding the podium at a shareholders' meeting, exclaiming, "People are our most important asset!"

Meanwhile, HR executives are funding programs that mingle their companies' most important assets in databases shared with all their competitors via a handful of applicant tracking systems that can't get the job done.

Heads-up to boards of directors: Where is your competitive edge? Take control of your hiring again, like it matters!

Employers Don't Know How to Recruit

Here's how human resources departments across America "recruit." They put impossible mixes of keywords about jobs into a computer. They press a button and pay billions of dollars for a chance that Prince Charming will materialize on their computer displays. When the prince fails to appear, they double their bets and keep gambling. (Last year, companies polled said just 1.3 percent of their hires came from and 1.2 percent from CareerBuilder. See "Is LinkedIn Cheating Employers and Job Seekers Alike?")

Meanwhile, in the real world, over 25 million people, many of them immensely talented and capable of quickly learning how to do new jobs, are ready to work.

Employers need to get away from their desks, remove the ATS straps from around their necks, and go outside to actually find, meet, recruit, cajole, seduce and convince good workers to come work for them.
The Employment System Vendors Are Lying

The big job boards and the ATSes tell employers that sophisticated database technology will find the perfect hire.
  • "Don't settle for teaching a good worker anything about doing a job. Hire only the perfect fit!"
  • "We make that possible when you use more keywords for a job!"
  • "The database handles it all!"
When matches fail to appear, these vendors blame "the talent shortage" and contend that job seekers lack the specific skills employers need.

Except that's a lie. Job descriptions heavily larded with keywords make it virtually impossible to find acceptable candidates. Wharton researcher Peter Cappelli tells about an employer that got 25,000 applicants for a routine engineering position. The ATS rejected every single one of them. Every day that an impossible job requisition remains unfilled, the employment system vendors make more money while companies keep advertising for the perfect hires.

Millions of jobs are vacant, thanks to the empty promises of algorithms. Ignoring the role of the systems behind this failure is a costly mistake.

If the U.S. Congress wants answers about the jobs crisis, it should launch an investigation into the workings of America's employment system infrastructure, which is effectively controlled by a handful of companies.

Employers Have No Business Plan

Employers claim job applicants lack the requisite skills and talents for today's jobs. But in "Why Good People Can't Get Jobs," Peter Cappelli reports that they are wrong. The quality of the American worker pool has not diminished. Rather, American companies:
  • Don't want to pay market value to hire the right workers.
  • Don't want to train talented workers to do a new job.
  • Are content to keep using ATSes that don't get the job done.
Cappelli points out that employers believe they save money when they leave jobs vacant because their accounting systems track the cost of having workers on the payroll, but they fail to track the cost of leaving work undone. Employers run the numbers, and they seem to come up with junk profitability: Fewer Employees = Lower Costs = Higher Profits.

Employers who believe this are misguided or downright foolish. They should stop regarding workers as a cost, start treating them as investments and ensure that each worker pays off in higher profits.
Employers should get a business plan and make their employment systems accountable.

America Counts Jobs, Not Profitable Work

The federal government tracks the number of people who have jobs and the number of vacant jobs. But tallying jobs to assess the economy is like counting chickens before they hatch. The federal government has no idea which jobs or which work is actually profitable and contributing to a healthy economy.

It's no secret that the weekly employment figures are questionable and misleading. The definitions of jobs and "who is employed" are so manipulated that no one knows what is going on.
It's time to re-think how companies find and pay people to do work that produces profit. A better indicator of economic success would be the measure of how profitable all the work in America actually is -- and how much profit is left behind on the table each month when work is left undone.
People Must Stop Begging for Jobs

It's time for people to stop thinking about jobs, and high time to start thinking about how -- and where -- they can create profit.

For example, if I run a company, I'll hire you to do work -- if it pays off more than what I pay you to do it. Today, few employers know which jobs actually pay off. That's why you need to know how to walk into a manager's office and demonstrate, hands down, how you will contribute profit to the manager's business. That's right: Be smarter than the manager about his own business. Stop begging for jobs. Start offering profit.

If you can't do that, you have no business applying for any job, in any company. In the book "Fearless Job Hunting: The Interview -- Be The Profitable Hire" (available in the Ask The Headhunter Bookstore), I explain it like this:
A good employer wants to see what you can do. If he doesn't ask, help him out and show him. It'll turn your interview into a working meeting where you both roll up your sleeves, and during which the employer can do a direct assessment of your worth to his business. Here's how to say it:
"Please lay out a live problem you'd want me to handle if you hired me. I'll do my best to show you how I'd do the work so it will pay off for both of us."
Think you can generate lots of profit without working for someone else? Then bet your future on your plan, and start your own business.

What Is Going On

Here's the simple truth: Unemployment is made in America by employers who have given up control over their competitive edge -- recruiting and hiring -- to a handful of database jockeys who are funded by HR executives, who in turn have no idea how to recruit or hire themselves.
American ingenuity starts with the individual who has an idea, blossoms with a plan that will produce profit -- for yourself and your boss and your customer -- and results in more money for everybody.
So to be truly competitive, American employers must themselves do the hard work of identifying, attracting, recruiting, hiring and further training workers who can ride a fast learning curve without falling off. Outsourcing these critical tasks dulls a company's competitive edge.
Business leaders, the media and the government must revisit their assumptions that automated employment systems are the answer and that the problem is with American workers. Until the structural problems with these systems are addressed, those 3.9 million vacant jobs point to the harsh truth that American employers are a leading cause of unemployment.
"Unemployment is made in America by employers who have given up control over their competitive edge -- recruiting and hiring -- to a handful of database jockeys who are funded by HR executives, who in turn have no idea how to recruit or hire themselves." I couldn't have said it better myself. The American hiring paradigm is broken indeed.

Author's note: The comments disappeared for some reason, so I'm adding them back manually. The time stamps don't represent when the comments were posted.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Student Debt Crisis: Meet The Monster

The Student Debt Crisis: Meet The Monster
Washington has shown little concern about the destructive potential of its next economy-crushing monster, America's ballooning student debt burden. Although the financial crisis should have taught the feds a thing or two about the perils of indiscriminate lending, Washington continues to invigorate its latest Frankenstein by lending to nearly any aspiring student for nearly any degree program (continuing to drive-up the cost of tuition in the process). And Uncle Sam has a perverse incentive to continue his reckless lending policies: he's pocketing tens of billions of dollars annually from financially-strapped student loan holders.

But the feds better start considering the potential economic fury of their latest monster. Nearly half (41%) of student loan holders have been behind on their payments over the last 5 years, and, last year, a full 12% of borrowers were in outright default on their student loans. At the current rate of growth, the student loan default rate will eclipse the historic maximum default rate for home loans, 14%, by mid-2015.

The mortgage crisis, of course, put us in this terrible economic condition in the first place.

As a testament to the insufficiency of this seemingly-endless economic "recovery", the rate of default on student loans has grown steadily since the 2009 economic bottom, even as the default rates on other types of loans have begun to decline. (Article continues after chart.)

The Student Debt Crisis: Meet The Monster - studen loan default rate chart

Here are some more unsettling facts about the student debt monster from Kyle McCarthy, contributor to the Huffington Post's college section:
Seven Million Defaulted:

Out of the nearly 40 million borrowers, about seven million have defaulted on these student debts. Translation: 7 million (or about 2 percent of the population of the United States) have had their credit trashed as a result of their student loans and can have 25 percent in penalties added onto their total student loan debts. To add insult to injury, about 60 percent of employers run credit checks on applicants before hiring or promoting, making it close to impossible for millions to get a higher paying job to actually repay these debts.

Average Student Debt Increases While Wages Decrease:

Since 1999, student debt has increased more than 500 percent. Unfortunately, average salaries for young people have not. In fact, since 2000, the average salary for young people has decreased by 10 percent. It's no wonder that we are seeing millennials delaying starting families, making car purchases and buying homes.
Delayed life milestones create opportunity costs for the economy.

According to the non-profit American Student Assistance, the origin of student borrowers' repayment difficulties has been the persistently-high unemployment and underemployment caused by the Fed and the federal government's last monster, the housing bubble.

Central banks and central governments never learn.

As a side note, a buddy of mine recently asked me why student loans aren't dischargeable by bankruptcy like other kinds of loans. I told him that it's because indebted students--unlike investment bankers--have little lobbying power in Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory on the Potomac.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

State Marijuana Legalization Approaching Critical Mass

State Marijuana Legalization Approaching Critical MassThe push to legalize marijuana on the state level has been spreading like wildfire. In the course of 2 years, 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical use, and 2 states have legalized it for recreational use. Here's what the scoreboard looks like as of today:

State Marijuana Legalization Approaching Critical Mass - legalization map

There's a "high" probability that, this year, 2 of the light-green states on the preceding map (Oregon and Alaska) will turn dark green as state legislatures in the Beaver State and The Last Frontier approve possession of cannabis for recreational use. Outright legalization in 2014 is also a possibility in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Additionally, 6 states (Kentucky, Ohio, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New York, and Tennessee) will consider bills this year to legalize medical marijuana. And get this: this year, even Alabama will consider a bill to decriminalize!

It's possible that, by year's end, more than half of the states will have either legalized or decriminalized marijuana.

As "purple" and "red" states start to embrace legalization or decriminalization, the building momentum will become unstoppable. At that point, Washington will have no choice to but to anger its Big Pharma financiers--who spend millions of dollars annually to lobby Uncle Sam to keep marijuana illegal--and consider legalization on a federal level.

And that, my friends, will be a huge blow to crony capitalism and spell the beginning of the end of the feds' disastrous War on Drugs.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Crony Capitalism In My Backyard

Crony Capitalism In My BackyardI live on James Island, a middle class suburb of Charleston, SC that the city has been busily annexing little by little over the past few decades. Many James Islanders strongly oppose annexation because the City of Charleston is a municipality of high taxes and burdensome regulations. Case in point: it's illegal in the city to give historic tours without an expensive license from municipal government. And get this: the Charleston Police Department spends valuable resources pursuing "unauthorized" tour guides! And it's not like the CPD doesn't have enough to do: the City of Charleston has a fairly high crime rate.

From the Post and Courier:
It was a Charleston police sting unlike any other: An undercover cop dressed casually like a tourist taking a ride on a rickshaw.

The goal was to see if any of the downtown drivers were giving illegal speaking tours of the city's numerous sight-seeing spots.
One of them did, and it cost him a fine of more than $1,000.
City officials have put rickshaw drivers on notice that they can't give unlicensed tours in pursuit of a few extra dollars in their pocket.

As far as police see it, any retelling for hire about the city's past can be delivered only by a city-licensed tour guide, like those generally seen driving horse carriages or leading walking tours.
Charleston Police Sgt. Heath King said the sting was arranged after South of Broad residents complained that workers at the city's three rickshaw companies were giving unsanctioned rides through downtown neighborhoods.

The tours stood out for two reasons - the drivers were giving history lessons, and were also seen doing "laps" on the Battery with the same customers.

Both are against the rules for rickshaws, which are considered more like taxis for "Point A-to-Point B" trips, King said.

For the sting, which took place in September but came to light only recently, police officers went on two rides offered by each of the three rickshaw companies operating in the city (six rides total) - "to make it fair," King said.

The officers' dress was casual; mostly golf shirts and jeans.

"I didn't have them wear 'I love Charleston' T-shirts," King said of the disguises.
Of the six rides taken, only one of the drivers made the tour offer, King said.

Rickshaw driver David Criscitiello of Charleston Rickshaw said the tour involved his being dispatched to a downtown restaurant to pick up a female rider. He took her to the Battery, where along the way he talked about the city's sites and history points, even showing off Fort Sumter.
"As far I'm concerned we are not tour guides," Criscitiello said. "But I know where the pretty places are in town."

When the ride ended about 30 minutes later, Criscitiello was approached by another officer and given a $1,092 "touring prohibited" ticket. The discussion between the undercover officer and the rickshaw driver during the ride was recorded with a hidden device.

Perhaps no other city regulates tourism more strictly than Charleston, which issued its first tour license in 1952. To be approved as a recognized tour guide, it requires taking an exam and studying a nearly 500-page "City of Charleston Tour Guide Training Manual" covering hundreds of houses, churches and other significant buildings.

City officials contend that the crackdown was needed because allowing unregulated tours, even by casual method, would create gridlock and other problems as slower-moving vehicles could bring streets to a standstill when stories get told.

"Rickshaws are not part of that," King said. The number of complaints has decreased since the sting, he added.

Criscitiello said he is paying off his fine in installments after pleading guilty in municipal court.
One could make the case that the City of Charleston requires tour guides to be licensed to ensure that the history being taught is accurate. Thing is, history is written from the perspective of the "winners", whose accounts may or may not be accurate. It's not a coincidence that some embarrassments from American history are either whitewashed or are completely omitted from American history books. So, who's to say that the "official" Charleston story is accurate? The city government, which makes a large percentage of its revenue from tourist expenditures? Doubtful.

Charleston's tour guide license requirement is more likely protection for the city's "Big Tourism" industry, the handful of sightseeing companies that make money hand-over-fist. Just like New York City's ONE MILLION DOLLAR taxi license is all about protecting "Big Transportation" in the Big Apple. Crony capitalism.