The Economy

Festivus Poles, Soup Nazi Soup, & More “Seinfeld” Micro-Economies

Remember a time before “Seinfeld”? Of course you don’t. The show that changed television, according to Matt Zoller Seitz, has rewired our brains so that we cannot reach back to a more innocent time when words like “sponge-worthy” and “anti-dentite” meant something else or perhaps nothing at all. It wasn’t 9/11 that turned all Americans into New Yorkers; it was “Seinfeld.” And not surprisingly, a phenomenon that total had — even continues to have, lo these many years later — its own economy, as helpfully detailed today on Vulture.

Some of the fun facts:

$3.1 billion: The amount the show has generated since entering syndication in 1995.

$400 million: What Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld can each make just from the most recent syndication cycle.

Festivus Poles: The Wagner Companies, a Milwaukee railing company, has owned exclusive rights to make Festivus poles since 2005. It sells a steady 800 per year, at up to $39 apiece.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis changed its calculation of the country’s gross domestic product in 2013, creating a new category that counts long-running shows like Seinfeld as investments (rather than expenses). The tweak adds $70 billion to the GDP of the United States.

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How Americans Think About Fairness and the Economy

There is massive new Pew Research Center poll (185 glorious pdf pages) that dissects the attitudes of Americans on all sorts of things. There is much to mull over, starting with the study’s division of the American populace into eight ideological groups: Solid Liberals (all left all the time; like me, more or less), Steadfast Conservatives (fiscally and socially conservative), Business Conservatives (corporatist, but not so down on gays and immigrants), Young Outsiders (socially liberal Republicans), Hard-Pressed Skeptics (left-leaning, working class, disillusioned), Next-Generation Liberals (like the Solid Liberals, but unconvinced of the need for social programs or anti-discrimination legislation), Faith and Family Left (like the Solid Liberals, but homophobic), and (boringly) Bystanders, who are what they sound like: disengaged and uninformed.

These groups break down mostly as you’d expect (although the right is more polarized than the left). The study is full of charts that show the spread of each group’s opinions across some typical left-right divide, and they all pretty much look like this one:

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It’s a Good Time to Go to Law School? Really?

Slate.com, the website we know & love for its consistently contrarian attitude, has upped its game, declaring that we should once again consider applying to law school. Really! Forget everything you’ve heard over the past five years about how it’s a terrible field to try to break into because there’s a surplus of struggling, desperate wannabes competing for every spot. Read crisis as opportunity.

Here is the key number to keep in mind: 36,000. That is roughly the number of new J.D.s we should expect to graduate in 2016. Getting to that figure is pretty straightforward: In the fall of 2013, 39,700 students enrolled in law school. Given that about 10 percent of each law school class generally drops out, we should expect no more than 36,000 to reach commencement. (I’m actually rounding up the number a bit to be conservative.) In comparison, 46,776 law students graduated in 2013. So we’re talking about a potential 23 percent plunge. With less competition it should be far easier for graduates to find decent work.

As the daughter of two lawyers, the sister to another, and the wife of a fourth, not to mention a friend to countless others, let me assure you, law is hardly “decent work.” You want to spend 80 hours a week protecting the interests of cigarette companies and oil conglomerates? Surely there’s a way to do that without going six figures into debt first.

The Atlantic backs me up with a tart and timely article today subtitled, “For work that doesn’t feel meaningful, become a lawyer.” Slate ignores us both, though, gets all wonky with some data, and concludes that ACTUALLY, despite appearances, we’re back in the rosy Clinton years. (Goody! We have the Bush II years to look forward to!)

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“That’s Not Sharing, It’s Selling.”

Enlighten your capitalism today with the always-incisive Susie Cagle’s illustrated report back from the “Share” conference. It’s so good.

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My Time on the Assembly Line Working Alongside the Robots That Would Replace Us

The small town I grew up in was surrounded by factories and existed for the sole reason of supporting the local paper mill, which employed most of our residents and brought people in from outside cities. In the surrounding areas, there were numerous paper mills and medical supply factories. Everyone in my immediate family worked in a factory at one time or another; some still do.

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Amazon And The Seasonal Worker

I think the title of this Guardian article speaks for itself: Homeless and working for Amazon: the trap of the seasonal job cycle.

To be fair, Amazon is very upfront that they rely on a seasonal workforce, mostly because: Christmas.

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Warmer Weather Means You Too Will Soon Be Employed

But thanks to what USA Today calls a “spring stunner,” everything will now be different. Better! Because of MILDER WEATHER.

The labor market roared ahead in April as milder weather helped employers add 288,000 jobs — the most in more than two years. The unemployment rate fell to 6.3% from 6.7% — the lowest since September 2008, the Labor Department said Friday.

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Canada Reminds Man Of Better Times

I recently traveled through parts of the Canadian Maritime provinces. As an American, I found the economic equanimity there almost jolting; there seemed to exist a vast and comfortable middle class, with little evidence of poverty or great wealth.

It also felt vaguely familiar. Then I recollected: This was the America I grew up in, in the 1960s.

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Embracing Change in San Francisco

Gary Kamiya has written a thoughtful and provocative, though reasonable, essay about gentrification and the fate of San Francisco. Kamiya, while fearing that his city will turn into another Manhattan, argues that the city will change, as cities do, and rather than creating a futile us vs. them dynamic, we should accept the inevitable and maybe cool it on the preemptive class war.

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‘Dad’s Resume’

Here is an excellent piece in The Washington Post looking at an opening of a new plant in Ohio, which is looking to hire 40 people and give them a decent salary plus benefits, and how difficult it is to find the right people for the job despite a slew of resumes arriving.

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On Not Buying a House

Meg Keene writes a lovely essay about growing up working class, defining security on her own terms, and why not-grabbing the brass ring of home ownership is the right decision for her family, for right now.

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The Working Class: Too Nice For Their Own Good?

David Graeber wrote a thing for the Guardian about how “caring too much” is the curse of the working class, who are generally nicer and more empathetic overall, mostly because they have to be.

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