URLs du Jour

2021-06-05

  • Apples and Oranges. A few days back, my dead-trees WSJ featured a front-page graphic:

    [Apples/Oranges]

    The referenced article contains latest data/fun facts about CEO Pay. I found the poor bastards on the low end of the scale to be the most interesting:

    Twenty-four S&P 500 CEOs made less than $5 million last year, down from 28 to 33 in recent years. Twitter Inc.’s co-founder Jack Dorsey made $1.40—a penny for each character in the social-messaging platform’s original 140-character limit—and gas pipeline owner Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Steven Kean made $1.

    The lowest-paid of all, at least as far as reported compensation goes, was Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk, one of the world’s richest executives. He reported zero pay for 2020—even as he raked in stock options worth $32 billion under his landmark 2018 pay package.

    Please note, however, that the S&P 500 is not a static group. Companies are added and dropped from that population four times per year. (I don't know if Standard does the adds while Poor does the deletes, but that would make sense.) Although the reconstitution isn't automatic, the index is supposed to track the largest companies based on market capitalization.

    So (and this is my point) the well-paid CEOs are heading up the most successful corporations (by that measure) in America. The (relative) duds get dropped.

    The stat the WSJ offers in comparison is (more or less) every worker employed by every company/organization/institution/etc. No matter how successful/unsuccessful the employer.

    So it's not a particularly apt comparison.

    But an interesting tidbit: the S&P500 index is up about 248% since 2012.

    That makes the CEO pay raise of a mere 38.9% look kind of puny.


  • More On Index Churn. Mark J. Perry likes to keep track of the dynamism of market indexes, and if you're interested, here's his latest: Only 51 US companies have been on the Fortune 500 since 1955, thanks to the creative destruction that fuels economic prosperity. RTWT, but an excerpt to fuel your appetite:

    Economic Lessons: The fact that nearly nine of every 10 Fortune 500 companies in 1955 have gone bankrupt, merged, reorganized, or contracted demonstrates that there’s been a lot of market disruption, churning, and Schumpeterian creative destruction over the last six decades. It’s reasonable to assume that when the Fortune 500 list is released 60 years from now in 2080, almost all of today’s Fortune 500 companies will no longer exist as currently configured and will be replaced by new companies in new, emerging industries that we can’t even imagine today, and for that we should be extremely thankful. The constant turnover in the Fortune 500 is a positive sign of the dynamism and innovation that characterizes a vibrant consumer-oriented market economy, and that dynamic turnover is speeding up in today’s hyper-competitive global economy.

    More analysis at Innosight. Key point: "Corporate longevity remains in long-term decline, according to Innosight’s biennial corporate longevity reports. Our latest analysis shows the 30- to 35-year average tenure of S&P 500 companies in the late 1970s is forecast to shrink to 15-20 years this decade."


  • YouTube Lies. David Harsanyi has the smoking gun: YouTube Censorship of Israel-Video Shows it Does Not ‘Carefully’ Review Content.

    Last week, John Oliver ran a puerile critique of Israel on his HBO program Last Week Tonight. Though I’ve never subjected myself to his show, I am aware of the segment because Naor Meningher and Eytan Weinstein, the guys who run a small YouTube channel called Nice Jewish Boys, posted a video debunking the comedian’s claims through a video fisking. After getting 60,000 hits, however, the duo was informed by YouTube that the clip was being blocked for violating the company’s community standards relating to “hate speech.”

    Meningher and Weinstein responded, asking the company for an explanation. Two minutes after sending their email — the video they produced, incidentally, was 16 minutes and 15 seconds long — the social-media giant responded: “We have reviewed your content carefully, and have confirmed that it violates our hate speech policies. We know that is probably disappointing news, but it’s our job to ensure YouTube is a safe place for all.”

    You got that right: YouTube claimed to have "carefully" reviewed a 16 minute video in less than two minutes.

    The video was eventually restored after the Israeli newspaper Haaretz queried YouTube about the block. "The company claimed it made a mistake."

    In a more perfect world there would have been an additional Pythonesque "Those responsible have been sacked". Alas, I fear those responsible will continue doing their woke mischief.


  • Why I Blog. Arnold Kling outlines The Real Problem of Social Media Discourse.

    If you think that the problem with discourse online is the way that it allow falsehoods to spread, think again. Even if you could somehow purge social media of every lie, it would still be a sewer. Twitter, Facebook, the New York Times, and Fox News are outrage machines. The articles and posts that attract approval and sharing are those that make people in one tribe feel more reassured that the other tribe is evil.

    I believe that media corporations could improve discourse if they wanted to do so. But I fear that Peter Coleman is correct (in this conversation with Jonathan Haidt) in pointing out that the feeling of outrage actually stimulates a pleasure center. It is addictive in that sense, and a media business model that relies on maintaining people’s attention will cater to that addiction.

    I'm pretty sure he's on the right track. Which is why, these days, my use of Facebook/Twitter is rare. And Facebook is pretty much restricted to friends, family, and community.


  • Yeah, But I Only Really Care About Social Security. (Just kidding. Kind of.) Megan McArdle does her take on demographic doom: The declining U.S. birthrate has implications beyond Social Security.

    The United States used to be the only big, rich nation to have above-replacement fertility. That stopped being true during the Great Recession, and our birthrates keep slipping. The latest data put expected lifetime fertility at about 1.6 births per woman, a record low — and this was the trend before the pandemic. Nor does this reflect a delay as women settle down later: Birthrates declined for women ages 15 to 44.

    Yet President Biden’s new budget, which proposes massive deficits for the rest of the decade, is a proposition for a young country whose best growth years are still ahead. By 2031 the national debt is expected to reach 117 percent of gross domestic product, and interest payments are forecast to run more than $900 billion a year — about 14 percent of all projected tax revenue, up from the 7 percent projected for 2022.

    Running up debt like this signals one of two things: desperation in the face of an existential threat, such as a pandemic or world war, or a bet that incomes will grow even faster than the debt, so that over time it gets easier to service obligations. That’s why people tend to borrow most when they’re young, with fewer assets and lower incomes but high expectations.

    We’re not expecting another pandemic soon, and I hope we’re not preparing for World War III. Yet these demographic facts make extremely rapid economic growth almost as unlikely a possibility.

    In her calm, measured language, Megan foresees pain. Much pain.


  • Just The Headline Made Me Laugh. So here's just the headline: John The Baptist Not Invited Back To Potluck After Bringing Locust And Honey Casserole.

    Because, thanks to long-ago years of churchgoing, I remembered Matthew 3:4.