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These People Are Insane- Nursing Care Edition

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There are times when the New York Times just makes jaws drop. This is one of them:

The federal government could require increased nurse staffing levels, which would drive up pay

How the hell does that work?

We insist that more human labour be used to perform a task and this pushes wages up? How?

The analysis that leads to this isn’t any better:

As jobs were lost and social supports of all kinds were cut back over the 1980s and 1990s, however, health benefits proved relatively more resistant. Even Medicaid, the more politically vulnerable and stingy public health entitlement (next to the mammoth Medicare), saw its inflation-adjusted spending grow 676 percent from 1980 to 2019. The same forces that made the country more unequal also made it more reliant on Medicare and Medicaid and, despite periodic budget-cutting pressure, these programs have grown in a way that seems irresistible in the long view.

This policy mechanism has driven employment into what the census designates “health care and social assistance,” making it the largest labor sector in the country in 2019, at about 14 percent of all jobs. Because growing demand for care corresponded with industrial job loss, the places with the largest such work forces today are the ones most devastated by the closing of factories. Among major urban counties, the proportionally largest care work forces are in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Philadelphia and Rochester, N.Y.

Why is this a problem? It’s the very feature of economic growth that makes it worthwhile isn’t it? We get more efficient at manufacturing, require less human labour to perform the amount of it that we desire. So, that human labour is now free to go off and sate some other human desire.

Fewer workers in factories, more old folks can be taken care of. Why is this a problem?

In the long term, it may not be possible to rebuild mass prosperity around care work without converting the industry to a nonprofit and even public basis. The provision of labor-intensive care at high volume and in humane, high-quality fashion appears to be ultimately incompatible with profit-making.

Umm, why non-profit?

while administered by for-profit companies. Although these jobs serve a vital social need, these private employers have huge incentives to limit labor costs.

But we want to limit labour costs in everything that we do. So that we have more resources to go off and do the other things that we’d like to do as well. What is it that is so difficult to understand here?

Gabriel Winant is an assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago

Ahhh, we’ve an historian trying to do economics. Probably should have gone a little further down the corridor to hte economics deaprtment to find someone who groks that subject.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. >We insist that more human labour be used to perform a task and this pushes wages up? How?
    Presumably the same way as when we insisted everyone wear a face mask and that made a napkin on a string cost £2.50: distort the demand curve, and you distort the price.

  2. “We insist that more human labour be used to perform a task and this pushes wages up? How?”

    Well, if you create a demand for a particular kind of labour but people would rather be doing something else, then you might have to raise the wage to meet the quota.

  3. “We insist that more human labour be used to perform a task and this pushes wages up? How?”

    Because, assuming the number of people trained to do the job is finite, and the mandatory staffing level has risen, you eventually reach a point where you have to pay people more to attract them to work for you. Assuming the number of people trained to do the job is finite is the big caveat.

    Medical school admissions has been like this for years, the job is well paid and in the US “PreMed” is an industry. As is being sniffy about people who have an Osteopathic Medical Degree or studied at a “Caribbean Medical School.” The restriction also explains why half the fucking NHS seems to be staffed by foreigners. They’ve kept the number of places limited and cheerfully covered up any mistakes in staffing (Partly due to the type of applicants and people they then prefer as Medical students.) by importing people from overseas.

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