Posted by: Middleclass Search | November 7, 2013

Women in Technology

I just found out some numbers that shocked me (something that’s hard to do) that the number of women in STEM jobs has been decreasing.  If you have read my blog you know I’m an engineer, I am male, and I am old. When I started engineering school the number of female engineers was in the 3% range. It increased during my working years and I thought the lack of female engineers was solved.

Designing and implementing any system is a collaborative effort. Whatever the scientific reason is, in reality in any design effort the women on the team bring a different perspective to the solution. I don’t know what caused the downturn – maybe engineering is not cool, it is certainly hard work but it is one of the few professions that is truly creative. If America is to prosper in the future it needs more people working in STEM positions both male and female. From my experience that ideal mixture should be 50-50.

As far as being “cool” there are many well-known women celebrities who studied engineering before pursuing other careers. They should come out of the “technology closet” and encourage young women to consider engineering and that it is okay for a woman to be smart. I believe Cindy Crawford, had a scholarship to study chemical engineering at Northwestern and Teri Hatcher studied mathematics and engineering before they entered their current careers.

I don’t have an answer – I know there are organizations that support recruiting females into the engineering profession. They need to make being an engineer cool! (Which it is!)

Posted by: Middleclass Search | October 29, 2013

New Jersey’s Minimum Wage

In this year’s general election in the state of New Jersey, the state has a constitutional amendment to set a state minimum wage with annual cost of living increases. As you might guess those opposing a minimum wage increase are rolling out the obsolete data that states that low-wage jobs will be lost if minimum wage is increased. Several months ago we noted a study that took all previous studies data from both for and against raising the minimum wage and the effect on employment and found that the net effect was zero.

Part of the concern of raising the minimum wage is the ripple effect it has on all wages. Economists have long noted that in a non-fully employed economy the only two bargaining areas that employees have when negotiating wages are unions and the minimum wage.

A good minimum wage will help return the economy to a demand side approach. Since the Nixon administration the nation has been following supply side economics, an economic policy which has been called “voodoo economics” by many economists. I recommend that you read search “supply side economics” on the web since as a system engineer I don’t want to miss represent the concept but basically it argues that if you lower taxes, investors will have more money to invest in businesses thus creating more jobs. But what actually happened is many investors put the money into financial instruments and not job creating opportunities and the jobs that are created are not in the middle class wage group.

The strong middle-class was created in a time of demand economic policy that ran from the end of World War II to the early 1970s. There were some problems in demand economic policy basically stagflation (inflation rate is high and unemployment is high). Neither the supply approach nor the demand approach appears to incorporate the concept of a global economy. But the American middle-class fared much better during the demand economic policy.

A minimum wage is the first step in recognizing the need for “floors” in America’s wages in a global economy. Other “floors” politicians should consider are “Living Wage” and “Middleclass Wage”.

Vote for the minimum wage constitutional amendment in New Jersey general election.

Posted by: Middleclass Search | October 22, 2013

The Tea Party and the American Dream

With the Tea Party being in the news every day it seemed appropriate to look at the Party’s Platform and determine if the Party supports the American Middleclass. Initially this seemed an easy task since the platform only contains 10 items some of which ‘abide by the Constitution’ and ‘promote civic responsibility’ seem quite obvious. During the same time frame congressional members who claim to represent the Tea Party were taking action that contradicted their platform. After three weeks of reviewing statements and actions of Tea Party members we are no closer to understanding the objectives of the Party. Members are definitely frustrated with the federal government. They want a government that is respected in the world but at the same time don’t want to fund programs needed to win that respect. They want civic responsibilities but don’t believe in helping those affected by natural disasters or be responsible for national debt that was acquired in the past.

The Party appears to be conglomerate of frustrated conservatives without a plan other than to clamor against the majority. From a system engineering logical approach the Tea Party actions “does not compute.” Could there be some hidden agenda against mainstream Americans? The Tea Party needs to be more transparent to the American citizens.  From what we can tell the Tea Party does not support a strong American Middleclass. More later.

Posted by: Middleclass Search | September 4, 2013

Libertarian vs. The American Dream

A system engineers comment on what appears to be an outdated philosophy. The basic libertarian concern is protecting the individual from the state. The libertarian point of view appears to be that if you have a free market it will provide for free citizens. A pirate ship that elects its own captain is a capitalistic democracy and is the freest form of liberalism I can give but even here the crew has to agree on their split of the swag and on how the ship is maintained.

Although seldom addressed any capitalist endeavor consist of two parts the business (capital – money and machines) (the elected captain) and the workers (the rest of the crew) who make the machines produce a product or service. The libertarian philosophy addresses business side of the equation but fails to address the labor side. The philosophy operates well in the 1760’s when most businesses were local and labor was local. If a business produced a bad product or was unfair to its workers “the word” got around and consumers and workers would go elsewhere.

The libertarian economic approach to the world makes sense in the 1700’s when there was 2.5 million people in United States and .7 billion people in the world mostly distributed in small towns and there were two or three global companies. But today there are 316 million people in the United States and 7+ billion people in the world many living in large cities and a multitude of global corporations.

The individual needs protection not only from big government but from big corporations this latter consideration is what is missing in the libertarian philosophy.

A recent article in Mother Jones (I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave by Mac McClelland –Mother Jones March/April 2012 issue) on a product shipping facility outside of Chicago demonstrates why the libertarian philosophy is 200 years out of date. Companies go into remote small towns and set up large processing operations such as chicken packing, fish packing and product packing/shipping. They pay little attention to local health and safety rules and give little attention to the well-being of their employees.

There will be people who would argue that the workers can walk away from such an employer but if it is the only work around they have little choice. The companies that operate these facilities can’t be compared to the operators of a Nazi concentration camp but they certainly would be comfortable operating a Russian gulag.

The libertarian philosophy is contributing to these American gulags their philosophy needs updating. Free markets do not guarantee free citizens.

The American Middle-class deserves better they want the return to the “American Dream” not “American Gulags” from their political parties.


Posted by: Middleclass Search | August 19, 2013

Living wage – Wal-Mart vs. DC

Wal-Mart wants to build a store in Washington DC, certainly a city that needs jobs. But DC wants Wal-Mart to pay a Living Wage which is about four dollars more than the minimum wage. DC position is that at the minimum wage the workers do not make enough that the city still does not need to provide them assistance. Other cities have taken the same position as DC.

In a global economy where there is not full employment setting wages cannot be left to the supply and demand the model that has been used in the past. Many like to argue that setting wages other than the use of supply and demand model is a form of socialism. But it can be argued that a model of pure capitalism is a group of pirates who elect their own captain. What is occurring here is the group is deciding their share of the bounty – not much difference then how a CEO’s salary is determine with the corporation’s board. The concept of a Living Wage for the lower end of the wage scale is a step in maintaining the middle class in America. There needs to be a paradigm shift in the establishment of all wages in the global economy – a concept that has eluded most economists.

Posted by: Middleclass Search | July 15, 2013

Minimum Wage and Metadata

NSA is not the only organization that is having problems with metadata.  Advocates for and against minimum wage are finding that the studies they have been using to argue for or against raising the minimum wage over the past years have questionable validity. The data from over 60 studies used over the past years to predict the loss of lower wage jobs by raising the minimum wage were placed in a large database.  This combined database was then used to determine the amount of unemployment caused by the raising of a minimum wage. The results of the analysis on the metadata showed that raising the minimum wage had no effect on employment.

As a system engineer I have seen this before, in small databases it is easy to unintentionally introduce biases into the data the larger the database the more likely the biases cancel each other out. Apparently in an effort to reject or support the minimum wage issue the databases had become corrupt by these biases, intentionally or unintentionally, but when the data was combined the biases were canceled out.

The next time an economist advises you that raising the minimum wage will cause unemployment take a real hard look at how he or she came to this conclusion.

Posted by: Middleclass Search | July 9, 2013

The Best and Brightest Need Not Apply to the Republican Party

As a system engineer I admit that I have a bias towards critical, objective thinking. The recent efforts by the Republican/Tea Parties organizations to sideline an effort to establish Common Core State Standards for education is both perplexing and counterproductive for maintaining America’s lead in a growing competitive world.

The Standards were designed to assure consistency across the nation so that students are “college and career ready” when they graduate from high school. They were developed by a non-partisan group and the draft was accepted in 45 states. Now conservatives have voiced concern that the standards project a liberal agenda. This objection has at least 10 states questioning the standards.

I recently reviewed several areas of the Standards and had trouble finding the liberal bias, what I did find was expectations in some areas that would have challenged students of my era – but that is okay.

The American middle-class dream is tied to the upper mobility that education provides to our children. I strongly recommend that you review the standards so that you can lobby your state representatives to support them. An educated workforce is being developed by other nations there is no future in ignorance.

Posted by: Middleclass Search | July 1, 2013

Encourage STEM Professionals While Generating Jobs

In the 60’s and the 70’s the “Cold War” focuses our attentions on the defense/NASA and brought the great minds of the period to solve many problems which led to transistors then integrate circuits which led to GPS, cell technology and etc. creating many industries.

Then it became the “Time of the Derivative” and all our great minds moved into the financial area where money could be made but few jobs were created.

We need to redirect this generation of great minds back to areas that creates jobs. We should encourage more people to enter science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions by supporting policies that would declare that STEM salaries tax exempt. Once an individual moved out of actual day-to-day STEM work to management the exemption would phase out. The tax loss while the person did actual STEM work would be more then replaced by increased employment generated by industries created.

To even suggest an emphasis on other sectors than financial is heresy to some but it could be argued that areas of the financial sector do not fall under capitalism since they neither produce a product or service.

Posted by: Middleclass Search | June 24, 2013

NSA Leak

In the interest of total disclosure as a system engineer the type of metadata search used to determine possible terrorist’s actions is done every day in designing and using a management system. In an existing system such searches tell where there are possible chokepoints in designing a new system they are used to determine what functions the system should have.  Marketing organizations do metadata search all the time on individuals Internet searches to place ads on your computer.

Could an authoritative government use this methodology against their citizens? The answer is absolutely. From a system engineering point of view the approach NSA is using to determine possible avenues for more detailed research makes absolute sense.

Web companies like Google can do similar analysis on user’s web searches. NSA has more controls in place than Web company’s right or wrong this is the new “connected” world let us hope that the knee-jerk reactions by some of those in Congress and the Press will not limit NSA’s metadata analysis

Posted by: Middleclass Search | June 17, 2013

Annual Stockholders Meetings

It’s the time of the year for stockholders meeting and one item on all agendas is approval of Executive Compensation. An item not found on any current agenda is anything related to employee compensation. If you were to look at agendas from 40 to 50 years ago employee compensation might have been addressed in some form. Before globalization it was important for a company to pay a middle-class wage to its employees since the middle-class was responsible for creating the demand that drove the expansion of the company. But now corporations have the planet as a market there is no reason to be concerned about any one nation’s demand.

If we are to remain a country of the “American Dream” we must address employee compensation with the same zeal that we address executive compensation.  In the long run employee compensation is more important (creating demand) then maintaining most corporate executives.

If you participate in any corporations stockholders meeting you should consider drafting a resolution for next year’s annual meeting that would require the Corporation to pay a middle-class wage to all of its employees.

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