Friday, July 3, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Unpayable Debts, Unpayable Wages

Happy Friday, folks.  Today kicks off a nice, long weekend here in the States, and if you’re me--and I am--it’s the start of four days off.  Hallelujah!  I’ve been busy as all Hell lately and can use the time.
Let’s get to it.

1.  Puerto Rico’s Governor Says Island’s Debts Are ‘Not Payable’ (NY Times)

The governor, Alejandro García Padilla, and senior members of his staff said in an interview last week that they would probably seek significant concessions from as many as all of the island’s creditors, which could include deferring some debt payments for as long as five years or extending the timetable for repayment.
“The debt is not payable,” Mr. García Padilla said. “There is no other option. I would love to have an easier option. This is not politics, this is math…”
A proposed debt exchange, where creditors would replace their current debt with new bonds with terms more favorable to Puerto Rico, signals a significant shift for Mr. García Padilla, a member of the Popular Democratic Party, who was elected in 2012. His party is aligned with the Democrats on the mainland and favors maintaining the island’s legal status as a commonwealth.
You’ve been watching the stuff in Greece and thinking, “Man, I sure am glad we don’t have anything like that in America.”  Am I right?  Well, welcome to Puerto Rico, an American protectorate about to default on $72B worth of municipal bonds that’s mostly held by Americans invested in mutual funds.  That’s more than eight times what the city of Detroit owes, and if they do in fact default, no one has the first clue what would happen next.  
Is it even possible for Puerto Rico to cash out of the US dollar?  I suspect we’ll see instead some kind of federal bailout with a brokered bankruptcy, but the fact that the governor says he trying hard to maintain the island’s status as a protectorate means that there are forces on the island itself that want to stick it to their creditors wholesale and go it alone.  That would be a pretty interesting turn of events.

2.  REMENDER Leaves MARVEL For Creator-Owned Work (Newsrama)

“After eight years with the company, I’ve decided to take a break from my work at Marvel Comics,” Remender said.  “I feel it an urgent necessity to focus on my family and my creator-owned endevours.”
Lots of creators have left Marvel and DC of late, including several of my favorites.  Just off the top of my head, there’s Jonathan HickmanMatt Fraction, and Rick Remender.   In fact, aside from Brian Michael Bendis, I can’t think of any big name writers who’ve stayed on with regular gigs, and guys like Brian K. Vaughn decamped long ago.  Sure, there’s still some experience—Chris Soules and Dennis Hopeless, for example—but both of those guys only recently hit the big time, and now it looks like they’re gonna be the Next Big Things.  
Online commentary has assumed that the issues are primarily editorial, but I don’t know if that’s true.  Certainly, nobody likes to work for a heavy-handed boss, and DC Editorial has a particularly bad rap, but I think the issues are really financial.  For example, Batman writer Scott Snyder recently let slip that he makes more per issue on his indie book Wytches than he does from writing Batman (citation: Bleeding Cool), generally considered the most successful comic in the marketplace.  To put that in Hollywood terms, it’s like Robert Downey, Jr. making more from a self-financed indie-film released solely at the Cannes Film Festival than from playing Iron Man for Marvel Studios.  
These rates are from 1978.  They're practically unchanged over the last 40 years.
Given the economics, of course guys like Hickman, Fraction, Remender, and Vaughn are doing their own thing.  At this point, they’d have to take a pay-cut just to work for the market-leaders!
The problem with writing comics is that everyone wants to write comics.  Even if they don’t explicitly say, “Hey!  I wanna write comics,” they still have a movie idea they’d like to pitch to someone, and they’d be happy to write it up as a comic if that was what it took.  Everyone has a story.  Meanwhile, comic sales have been in decline since the 70s, and there’s plenty of competition from overseas.  That’s kept pay low, which in turn means that the guys doing the work don’t necessarily have a reason to stick around if they’ve got other options.  In today’s market, there are lots of other options.
The upside is that we may get new stories from new voices.  That’s a good thing.  The downside is that guys like Hickman and Vaughn may never take another turn with some of our favorite iconic characters, and I’ve liked a lot of what those guys have done.

3. #Creed

4.  Obama Making Millions More Americans Eligible for Overtime (NY Times)

The rule would raise the salary threshold below which workers automatically qualify for time-and-a-half overtime wages to $50,440 a year from $23,660, according to an op-ed article by the president in The Huffington Post… restor[ing] the overtime salary threshold to roughly where it stood in 1975 in terms of purchasing power…
Conservatives and business groups have bitterly opposed the idea, warning that it will cost jobs. The National Retail Federation, a trade group, has argued that expanded overtime will “add to employers’ costs, undermine customer service, hinder productivity, generate more litigation opportunities for trial lawyers and ultimately harm job creation.”
I doubt that this will cost jobs.  In fact, the reverse is almost certainly true.  By removing the incentive to over-work current employees, employers will be more likely to hireadditional workers, which could tighten the labor market and raise wages even more.
Employers don’t like it.  Of course they don’t; it will cost them money.  However, saying that people shouldn’t be paid for their time is a tough argument to make in a free-market economy.  Time is our most precious commodity, and right now many employers are getting it at no cost whatsoever.

5.  UPDATE: Official 2015 freshman class (HudsonValley.Com)

Army coach Jeff Monken announced the largest freshmen football class at West Point in recent memory Monday.
A list of 79 freshmen was released as plebes reported for R-Day. Freshmen will begin Beast Barracks, cadet boot camp. Preseason football practice begins on August 3.
Forty-nine of the freshmen attended Army Prep last year. Eleven are from Georgia.
This is Army's new football poster.  You can pick these up right now at the
Army Ticket Office, located conveniently in the middle of nowhere, Upstate NY.
For those keeping score, that’s four more new cadets than were predicted last week by Army.Rivals.Com.  As of this writing, the early line on the Army-Navy game again has Navy favored by thirteen points.
With any luck at all, this ought to be a great weekend.  Tomorrow is the 4th of July, accompanied by the West Point Society of Connecticut’s 4th of July picnic, and it’s also the start of this year’s Tour de France.  The first stage is a short individual time trial--that’s not too exciting--but Monday’s stage promises to be pretty good, and… what do you know?  I have the day off!  
I volunteered to teach Sally’s triathlon campers about transitions.  I guess we’ll see how that goes.
Have fun this weekend and stay safe!


  1. No, seriously Dan, "Chris Soules" needs to be corrected, because the name is Charles Soule.

    1. Thanks Tony. I never would have caught that.