Bringing economics to life

Though I already know much of the material, I’m really enjoying the economics class I’m taking as part of the Institute on Political Journalism, and a big reason for that is the professor, Tom Rustici of George Mason University’s famed economics department.

At times he comes off a little too preachy, repeating points and overstating things in a way that makes me wince. I guess I always get antsy when others are espousing points of view I basically agree with but doing so in a way I find … simplistic, I guess is the word, though I’m not sure. But there are moments when his windy lectures (three hours long, after a full day of work, in a room with uncomfortable chairs) really hit home.

For example, last Thursday night he talked about price controls, including the minimum wage. He told us how during the Great Depression his grandfather used to provide his family with a middle-class lifestyle as an outstanding manual laborer. Then he began to go blind. Once he was 90 percent blind he was laid off and his family was plunged into dire poverty. The family subsisted, in part, on piece work his grandfather used to do from home.

One day, federal bureaucrats showed up at the door to enforce the recently passed minimum wage that was part of the National Recovery Act. They told him he couldn’t do the piece work anymore, though there was no way he could produce enough to earn the minimum wage that had been set by the federal government.

Searching for the NRA link provided above, I found the lyrics to a folk song from the ’30s which, naturally, mourns the death of the “blue eagle,” the mascot of the legislation. Ah, those old lefties crack me up. I’m sure they cracked up Rustici’s granddad too.