Speedup Wonkdown

July/August Cover of Mother Jones Magazine

The internet has been liking our “Speedup” essay about how Americans are being squeezed at work—no wonder, given that many of you probably read the piece sitting at a stoplight, on the phone to your boss, while firing off a couple of emails. “I haven’t felt as ‘hell yeah’ about an article in a while,” tweeted one reader. Commenters dug deep into census stats and the cost of childcare. And then there was a post by one of our favorite conservative bloggers, NRO’s Reihan Salam, who in addition to calling the piece “a winner for the progressive mediasphere” (thanks!) and suggesting that we expand it into a book, asked a lot of smart questions including this one (about our point that all this overload merely serves to goose corporate profits):

If most of that 22 percent increase in profits accrued to the financial sector, should we reassess how we think about real economy firms? Could it be that addressing the pathologies of the financial sector is the right approach, not embracing more aggressive labor market regulations, collective bargaining, etc.?

Our answer, you won’t be surprised to hear, is: We need both. But Salam is absolutely right that more data is needed on this whole topic—we were quite stunned, in researching the piece, at the lack of detailed research on worker productivity and its role in the economy. Could it have to do with the pollution of the economics profession? We’d dig into this immediately, but… we’re slammed. Reihan, it’s definitely going into the book (thanks, Ezra!) file.

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