Archives For Economics

Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, made waves when he announced back in April that his company would pay their employees a minimum of $70,000 per year phased in over two years.

The press was giddy. The DailyKos was happy.

Dan’s smiling face was all over the place (a PR stunt?)

Fast forward just a couple of months…

Gravity Payments is having troubles. Severe troubles. Some clients, fearing price increases, decided to leave. And then there was Gravity’s own employees…

…some of the most valuable employees at Gravity Payments have started to leave the company. The Times reported that two employees have left directly because of the policy. One told the paper she was initially excited about the new policy, but as she thought about the details she began to get dismayed. “He gave raises to people who have the least skills and are the least equipped to do the job, and the ones who were taking on the most didn’t get much of a bump.”

She said she presented the issue to Price along with an alternative way to raise salaries, but was met with an accusation of selfishness. So she decided to quit. Another employee, on the lower-end of the former pay range, also decided to quit after thinking through the policy. “Now the people who were just clocking in and out were making the same as me,” he told the Times. “It shackles high performers to less motivated team members.” (Source)

Bottom line: people want to be rewarded for their efforts. They want to be appreciated.

Now, some might think I’m just a tad too happy to see this company experience failure. I’m not. BUT…I am happy to see that dumb (or shortsighted) decisions have bad consequences. Had Mr. Price only thought through his decision, he might have saved himself and his company a lot of pain. I would suggest Mr. Price invest in a copy of Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics*, which does a nice job explaining how the real world works.

Ironically, the DailyKos hasn’t followed up on the story since their original post back in April. I know, I know…it doesn’t fit their narrative.

*Affiliate Link

NOTE: Though I am referencing an article on a conservative website, this is NOT a political post. It’s an ECONOMICS post.

I read this article this morning. In case you’re not familiar, Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments announced recently that he was going to set his company’s minimum wage at $70,000 per year. A noble goal, according to some. The media went nuts. Everyone was singing this guy’s praises.

Well, it turns out it wasn’t such a great idea.

Actions meet (unintended) consequences:

What few outsiders realized, however, was how much turmoil all the hoopla was causing at the company itself. To begin with, Gravity was simply unprepared for the onslaught of emails, Facebook posts and phone calls. The attention was thrilling, but it was also exhausting and distracting. And with so many eyes focused on the firm, some hoping to witness failure, the pressure has been intense.

More troubling, a few customers, dismayed by what they viewed as a political statement, withdrew their business. Others, anticipating a fee increase — despite repeated assurances to the contrary — also left. While dozens of new clients, inspired by Mr. Price’s announcement, were signing up, those accounts will not start paying off for at least another year. To handle the flood, he has already had to hire a dozen additional employees — now at a significantly higher cost — and is struggling to figure out whether more are needed without knowing for certain how long the bonanza will last.

Two of Mr. Price’s most valued employees quit, spurred in part by their view that it was unfair to double the pay of some new hires while the longest-serving staff members got small or no raises. Some friends and associates in Seattle’s close-knit entrepreneurial network were also piqued that Mr. Price’s action made them look stingy in front of their own employees.

Then potentially the worst blow of all: Less than two weeks after the announcement, Mr. Price’s older brother and Gravity co-founder, Lucas Price, citing longstanding differences, filed a lawsuit that potentially threatened the company’s very existence. With legal bills quickly mounting and most of his own paycheck and last year’s $2.2 million in profits plowed into the salary increases, Dan Price said, “We don’t have a margin of error to pay those legal fees.”

The author of the article sums it up nicely:

It didn’t work for two reasons. First, a business can’t survive when employees can’t generate enough value to give you a big enough return on what you pay them. And if they can’t do that because you paid them too much, that’s not on them. It’s on you. Second, people don’t appreciate what they haven’t really earned. You think they’re going to be grateful and loyal to you because you were so good to them. It doesn’t work that way.

I like this:

I discovered Arthur Brooks back when he came out with his book, “Who Really Cares?” His latest book, The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America*,
will be out next week. It looks like an interesting read.

Mr. Brooks was interviewed in this week’s WSJ. I liked what he had to say. Here are a couple of quotes for those of you who are not WSJ subscribers:

When he was a child, Mr. Brooks notes, one of four people lived on less than a dollar a day. Today, though we still have far to go, the advance of trade and a globalized economy has shrunk that figure to one of 20.

The liberation of hundreds of millions from desperate poverty ranks among the greatest success stories in history. But it’s a story that remains largely untold and mostly unheralded. In his new book, “The Conservative Heart,” Mr. Brooks puts it this way: “Capitalism has saved a couple of billion people and we have treated this miracle like a state secret.”

AEI aims to change that. “We should be shouting it from the rooftops,” he says. “If Beethoven were alive today, he would dedicate the ‘Ode to Joy’ to this miracle. In the very first verse of that poem—which inspired Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony—we hear, ‘Beggars become Princes’ brothers’! If this is so, it is because of free enterprise.”

Few today would deny the market’s success in literally producing the goods. For some, however, this is a paradox. It’s a paradox because, in this way of thinking, socialism has the higher ideals but fails in practice, while capitalism succeeds in practice even though it is based on greed.

Mr. Brooks believes these critics are limited by materialistic assumptions about wealth and its production. Capitalism, he insists, succeeds not because it is based on greed, but because the freedom to trade and do business with others is in harmony with our God-given nature. So he has no patience for those who fear the moral argument.

I wish we could get back to a country that emphasizes education and concentrates on teaching people HOW to succeed instead of constantly telling them that they can’t succeed without the government’s (the taxpayers) help. The pessimism is rampant, thanks to social media. Flip through a Flipboard magazine on the topic of Capitalism or Income and you’ll see what I mean.

*Affiliate link

Did you hear the news?

Non-farm payrolls increased 288,000 in April and the unemployment rate “plummeted” .4% to 6.3%. See this Yahoo! story.

At the same time the employment participation rate fell .4% to 62.8%.

In case you don’t know, the participation rate “refers to the number of people who are either employed or are actively looking for work. The number of people who are no longer actively searching for work would not be included in the participation rate.” (Source).

Here is what that rate has looked like since 1990:

Labor Participation Rate History (1990 - April 2014)

It’s dropped 2.9 percentage points since President Obama took office. It had dropped 1.5 percentage points during Bush’s presidency.

I understand some of the reason for this drop could be people retiring. Regardless, it makes the unemployment rate statistic almost meaningless.

While writing this post, I happened to see an AFL-CIO blog post about this news. They failed to even mention the labor participation rate. Why does this not surprise me?

Have a good weekend, everybody.

I have been (slowly) working my way through a book titled “Changing Texas – Implications of Addressing or Ignoring the Texas Challenge.” It’s a pretty dry read.

I came across this part that I wanted to share with you [brackets] mine:

1. The U.S. workforce is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse;

2. The racial and ethnic groups that are less well educated (e.g., Hispanics) are the fastest growing due to higher rates of natural increase and [illegal?] immigration;

3. The increasing rate of retirement of “baby boomers”–the most highly educated generation in United States history–is expected to lead to a drop in the average level of education of the U.S. workforce now and for the next two decades;

4. If these current population trends continue and states do not improve the education levels and graduation rates from high school and college for all racial and ethnic groups, the knowledge and skill levels of the U.S. workforce will decline;

5. If the knowledge and skill levels of the workforce decline, occupational achievement will be lower;

6. If occupational achievement declines, the income of the U.S. residents will decline;

7. If the levels of knowledge and skills of the U.S. workforce decline, more jobs will be exported off-shore;

8. As jobs are exported off-shore and U.S. residents’ incomes decline, the taxes paid by U.S. residents will decline; and

9. As taxes decline, revenue for state and federal support of state and federal of state and federal services will decline, including support for education.

This chain of interrelationships is dependent on the validity of three key demographic and socioeconomic trends:

1. The rate of increase in minority populations with reduced socioeconomic resource bases;

2. The relationship between the demographic characteristics of populations and the education level of the population; and

3. The relationships between education and income (both personal and household) and between education and poverty and other types of socioeconomic change.

Will jobs be exported or will people from other countries come to live and work in the U.S.? I have also read that basby boomers will most likely work longer because so many of them haven’t saved enough for retirement.

Either way, I do not like the sound of a less education society. I cannot see this as being a good thing.

This is just comical to me.

Venezuela Moves to Cap Prices, Profits

The cause for the inflation?

“The amount of bolívares in circulation rose 70% over the past year, a clear sign the government is printing ever larger amounts of money to stoke a slowing economy.”

So, the government floods the economy with new money, prices rise, and the government moves to cap prices. Pretty crazy, isn’t it?