Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Viva Vegas Economics

There are two very emotional issues dividing the country as we head into the pre-pre-pre-election season.

I imagine by the time the last primary (post-ary?)
is held, we’ll either have all the nation’s problems solved, or be sick to death of them.
I fear it will be the latter.

The most emotional issue is the war being prosecuted in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the US’ global war on terror.
I know that’s not PC to say--certain media outlets have banned GWOT from their publications.
Reality bites, and there are teeth marks all over us from this one. No easy solutions here, but leaving is not an attractive option.

The second-most emotional issue has to do with people who live here but aren’t from here.

Illegal-aliens--another un-pc label, which always reminded me of little beings from another galaxy. Undocumented Immigrants—which for some is the same as calling a burglar in your home an uninvited house guest.

There is a conflict between being a proud citizen of a country that has continued to populated for over two centuries from people from somewhere else, and those who would throw up fences, post guards, and unleash dogs on anyone else behind them in line.
I think it’s all wrong headed.
I’m not running for office.

I have long believed that the immigration issue is one that is fundamentally a puzzle of economics, and the solution to managing (not controlling) immigration to the US would also be based in economic terms.

Why to people want to come here from there, regardless of where there is? Because better opportunities exist here than anywhere else. Should we penalize employers for hiring folks who just want to work here?

I don’t think so.
Why not, instead, help the countries from whence come these wannabe Americans, so that there is as much incentive to stay put as there is to come to the US?

What happens when business move their operations out of the US? Labor rates go down for the company, and wages go up for the locals in the new base.
This is the appeal of “off-shoring.”
So, instead of erecting fences to keep folks out, why not instead erect facilities in their homelands to create incentives to stay: steady work and a good wage.

In Las Vegas last week one thing that truly amazed me was the openness with which “services” were offered to the general public.
It was everywhere.
There were boxes and boxes of newspaper vending machines—accepting no money—that freely offered publications that portray things that should make us all blush.
Not in Vegas.

The attitude is so pervasive, it carries over into the dress code. Everywhere I looked, there were women dressed like skanks—except, because they ALL skankily-dressed, they just all sort of fit-in.
Figuratively speaking.

As a practical matter, they barely fit into what they were wearing.
I commented to my Bride, as a trio of slinky girls slithered past us on the sidewalk, it was like “Boobs in Toyland” on the Vegas strip.

Along the street, there are certain public hawkers up and down the strip, distributing printed material that could qualify most anyone for a 1st degree license in practical gynecology, or at least an internship as a mammography technician. They snap the pieces from their stack of cards, and flip them under your nose.
They don’t say a word.
They’re known as “porno boys.”

The less-secure males in the throngs of people merely accept their offerings with a cursory glance, and drop them to the ground.
The sidewalks are literally papered with this detritus.

On the corners are a slightly better-class of such pitchmen and women. They’re pimping show tickets and tours. I sidled up to one of them and boldly asked what the pay scale was for the two classes of street people.

“Porno-boys” are typically undocumented workers, paid in cash, and under the table at that. There are no taxes withheld, and no regulation on their hours, which sometimes can tally in excess of 14 a day. They are delivered food and water, so there’s no reason to abandon their post, under a construction awning, or lining the traffic barriers along the street.
They can take home $600 a week.
Tax free.

The ticket- and show-pitchmen are employees for whom taxes are withheld, and no overtime is paid. They might clear $300 a week, if they’ve held onto the job long enough. The fella telling me all of this was obvioiusly an American citizen—Caucasian male, dressed well enough for Friday night on the strip. Quite a contrast to the foreign-born porno-boys who really had only stand on the sidewalk, slapping cards in the faces of passersby.

How does this fall into our economic theory of offering as good as opportunities at home, making the lights of America seem less attractive? That’s a tough one to answer, when you’re barely 20-years old, passing out porno trading cards, and making $600 a week tax free. I’m not sure the economic theorists factored that variable into the equation.

Meyer Lansky proved that if you built a big enough attraction in the desert, people would come. Maybe that’s the answer—but viva Las Vegas has a whole different meaning here than anywhere else in the world.

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