Posts filed under “Cognitive Foibles”

Minimum Wage Karma in Seattle

@TBPInvictus here.

[File under: Petard, hoist on one's own]

Earlier this month, AEI “scholar” Mark Perry was spotted using a dubious metric regarding minimum wage. Given the point his ideology was trying (apparently desperately) to prove, Perry proclaimed Seattle’s newly-hiked minimum wage a failure:

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 4.58.15 PM

 

As evidence to support his claim, Perry showed the following chart:

 

perry chart

 

I pointed out the fatal flaw in Perry’s work in Fact Versus Fiction on Seattle Minimum Wage.

Specifically, I made the obvious case that looking at the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue MSA (population 3.6MM) was utterly useless when the region that had changed its minimum wage law was Seattle city proper (population 660K), less than one-fifth the size. I was saddened to see that Perry undertook a deliberate, fraudulent misinformation campaign. This is not a case of reasonable people disagreeing; rather, it is a case of one person willfully, purposefully spreading false information.

Of course, it spread widely throughout the conservative blogosphere, including this piece of idiocy on Fox News. (@tamaraholder – I’m here for you, babe. Call me prior to going back on Varney).

Perry’s intellectual dishonesty did not go unnoticed.

Naturally, all data tell a story, when viewed over the course of time. But it’s clear Perry couldn’t resist the urge to trumpet any apparent bad news. Unfortunately for Professor Perry, when you live by short-term noisy data, you die by short-term noisy data. To wit:

The very same metric highlighted by the good professor above just produced the biggest one-month gain in the entire history of the series:

 

seatacbell by month

 

But wait, there’s more! Not only was the most recent print the largest single month gain in the history of the series, the past two months have seen 3,700 jobs added in the space and moved this metric to a new all-time high. Here’s Perry’s chart updated with the latest data:

 

sea-tac-belle level

 

I reached out to Professor Perry to see if he might be able to offer an explanation of some sort:

 

I’ll interrupt myself here to again remind folks that we shouldn’t really be looking at this series in the first place. However, misinformation should not be allowed to spread unchallenged (and, frankly, this was just too delicious to pass up).

I expect Professor Perry’s approach to change not one iota. I expect that he will highlight any and all bad numbers and/or any downward revisions. I expect that he will not be an honest broker of information or analysis. He has already shown a disinclination to await a reasonable amount of data as situations develop. We can look forward to seeing his future misinformation and intellectual dishonesty bounce its way around the conservative blogosphere, eventually finding its way on to Fox News. (As Barry often writes, this is a feature, not a bug.) Such is the life of a shill working for what was once a respectable think tank, but is now part of a greater disinformation machine. Perhaps it’s technically best to contextualize  AEI as part of a lobbying organization.

As for me, I’ll continue to watch as events unfold and stand by what I’ve been saying all along: “The simple fact of the matter is that the jury is still out – and will be for a while – on Seattle’s minimum wage experiment. We won’t know for a long time to come.”

Feel free to continue making obviously false, easily debunked statements, professor. It’s really quite entertaining.

Regardless, I will be there to document and debunk it all.

Category: Cognitive Foibles, Data Analysis, Really, really bad calls, Wages & Income

Why Retail Investors Make the Same Mistakes

My interview with of Rhonda Schaffler of TheStreet.com

Category: Cognitive Foibles, Media, Psychology, Video

Mark Perry Doesn’t Understand Geography

@TBPInvictus here: As I recently highlighted, Mark Perry – an AEI scholar and professor of economics - is playing very fast and loose with data surrounding employment in Seattle post its recent minimum wage hike. In his recent “report” on the subject, which was picked up far and wide by conservative outlets, Professor Perry wrote (emphasis mine):

“In June of last year, the Seattle city council passed a $15 minimum wage law to be phased in over time, with the first increase to $11 an hour taking effect on April 1, 2015. What effect will the eventual 58% increase in labor costs have on small businesses, including area restaurants? It’s too soon to tell for sure, but there is already some evidence that the recent minimum wage hike to $11 an hour, along with the pending increase of an additional $4 an hour by 2017 for some businesses, has started having a negative effect on restaurant jobs in the Seattle area. The chart below shows that the Emerald City MSA started experiencing a decline in restaurant employment…”

The minimum wage hike took place in the city of Seattle, population ~650,000. What’s all this talk about “area restaurants,” “the Seattle area,” and the “Emerald City MSA”? (Note that companies with under 500 employees — that includes most restaurants — the actual date is 2021, not 2017).

This is simply someone with an agenda deliberately being intellectually dishonest in an attempt to mislead readers and spread misinformation widely through the conservative echo chamber. It’s a tried and true method that, unfortunately, has worked time and again.

When Perry talks about Seattle (city proper) and the “Seattle area,” you may not know it, but he’s talking about two very, very different areas.

Legislatively, economically, legally and socially, these are two completely different regions. Perhaps most important of all, in terms of data collection for the subject at hand, the map below shows exactly how different they are:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 6.08.17 PM

 

Seattle, the city in question whose minimum wage is now $11, on its way to $15 over the next 3-7 years – is (as best as Paintbrush lets me draw it) the area within the red oval. The “Seattle area” or “Emerald City MSA,” as Perry misleadingly wrote, are the three more darkly shaded counties – Pierce (bottom), King (middle), and Snohomish (top) – engulfing Seattle and making it look, well, geographically tiny in comparison.

The MSA Perry referenced as being impacted by the new minimum wage has an overall population of some 3.6 million versus the aforementioned population of Seattle at about 650,000. What’s to compare? As Media Matters put it in their takedown of Perry’s work: “The employment trends of the entire region are not representative of the impact of a local wage ordinance in a single city.” But Perry does not care, as he’s repeatedly referenced the same irrelevant data point multiple times on Twitter. He is exactly the man whom Upton Sinclair was referring to when he said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Why would anyone look at a MSA when it is the city – and ONLY THE CITY  - that has the new minimum wage law. The New York equivalent would be to suggest that perhaps an ordinance in New York City might somehow have a ripple effect in White Plains, N.Y., or Hackensack, N.J. After all, they are both part of the greater tri-state region (there is a massive New York-Newark-Jersey City MSA). It’s absurd on its face, and any honorable analyst understands this.

This suggests that Perry is engaging in fraud or ignorance. Neither reflects on him favorably. Perry should apologize and AEI should retract that piece in entirety.

~~~

An analyst as intellectually dishonest as Perry apparently is could do something similar on the flip side:

Seattle Passes Higher Minimum Wage; Area Food Biz Employment Now at 134,000!

First, I’d point out that at the end of 2013, the most recent year for which we have good statistics on the city itself, Seattle city employment in two broad categories combined – Arts, Entertainment & Recreation and Accommodation & Food Services – totaled about 40,000, as seen below.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 6.36.53 PM

Source: American FactFinder

Then, I’d trumpet the “fact” that the “Seattle area” or “Emerald City MSA” (see what I did there?) has more than tripled that total to a whopping 134,000. I’d then claim victory at having “demonstrated” that the ordinance I supported was having its desired effect.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 7.47.13 PM

Source: St. Louis Fed

But I’d never do such a thing. Most reputable people wouldn’t.

Read More

Category: Cognitive Foibles, Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Employment, Really, really bad calls, Taxes and Policy, Wages & Income

Farm-to-Table for Bad Information

@TBPInvictus   I am reminded of the above law each and every day. And a law it is. Inviolable. No sooner had I posted the other day about the shoddy “work” coming out of AEI than, voilà, said shoddy “work” is being trumpeted by pompous blowhard Stuart Varney on Fox News. I’ve seen this happen…Read More

Category: Cognitive Foibles, Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Financial Press, Really, really bad calls, Wages & Income

Interview with Richard Thaler

University of Chicago behavioral economist on stock markets, NFL drafts and the importance of trust Douglas Clement | Editor, The Region Published October 3, 2013   |  September 2013 issue Interview conducted July 17, 2013 We are rational, self-interested optimizers: Homo economicus. So the neoclassical model of economics has held for over a century. It has been a fruitful…Read More

Category: Bad Math, Cognitive Foibles, Psychology

The Recency Effect & Investors

What do gold prices, a stock-market plunge and a credit crisis have in common? The way investors tend to see them are examples of the “recency effect.“ A brief description first: In human psychology, people who are asked to recall items on a long list tend to have a sharper memory of the items toward…Read More

Category: Cognitive Foibles, Psychology, Trading

Chipotle Spices Up The Minimum Wage Discussion

@TBPInvictus If you’re just joining us, here’s our story thus far: Some on the right took a fairly benign article out of a Seattle publication and twisted it to fit their agenda, i.e. that the increased minimum wage there would spell disaster for the Seattle restaurant scene as eateries closed in rapid succession. Their hopes…Read More

Category: Cognitive Foibles, Consumer Spending, Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Employment, Research, Wages & Income

Trump Rules

He can’t win and he shouldn’t… But it’s mindblowing to watch the pundits and players react to his statements. I’ve got no love for John McCain, but he’s an untouchable. You can’t question the man because of his war hero status. But what if you questioned that itself? What if you refused to play by…Read More

Category: Cognitive Foibles, Corporate Management, Crony Capitalists, Politics, Think Tank

You’re Only Human: Here’s How it Hurts Your Portfolio

I recently had the privilege of sitting down for a chat with Richard Thaler, professor of the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. Thaler is widely recognized as the father of behavioral economics. He is perennially on the short list for a Nobel Prize in economics. His observations about how people behave in the…Read More

Category: Apprenticed Investor, Asset Allocation, Cognitive Foibles, Investing

The Big Disconnect Between Investing and Human Behavior

    My Sunday Washington Post Business Section column is out. This morning, we look at the work of Richard Thaler, the father of Behavioral Economics. His findings are very applicable to investors. The print version had the full headline You’re only human: How it hurts your investments; online its You’re only human: An economist explains how…Read More

Category: Asset Allocation, Cognitive Foibles, Investing