Well, nobody who plans on voting for Bernie Sanders, that’s for sure.
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
In the olden days, waitresses got less than minimum and earned the rest in tips. It created a moral obligation to tip: if you can’t afford the tip, you can’t afford the meal, you owe her a tip as part of her wages.
Now that waitresses make $9.00 hourly, they don’t need to rely on tips to supplement wages. They can quit trying so hard and I don’t need to feel guilty about not tipping, right?
Oh, why not? Every other consequence of political manipulation of wages is unintended; why should quality of service be any different?
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
New York bar charges women 77 cents on the dollar because . . . pay equity? Great deal . . . for ugly women. Pretty girls never pay for drinks. And most of the wait staff is women, who work for tips, which are based on total tab, which is now 23% smaller. So women get paid less to protest women getting paid less? Genius.
So will the female servers be giving part of that to the ugly male bartenders, who don’t make nearly as much as they do?
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
Starving workers demand living wage, but only from national chain restaurants and only in the New York City limits.
That’s okay, I already bag my own groceries and pump my own gas. I’m ready for the fast-food touch-screen order menu. I can enter “No. 5 Extra Value Meal, Small Coffee, 2 Splenda, 2 Cream, To Go” as well as that minimum wage worker can, so go ahead and lay her off.
And it’ll be boom-time for UX designers in the kiosk business.
Seattle minimum wage workers discover exactly what everyone has been telling them about huge minimum wage hikes all along; they destroy jobs. Their jobs.
Pizza shop worker Devin Jeran was excited about the raise that was coming his way thanks to Seattle’s new $15 an hour minimum wage law. Or at least he was until he found out that it would cost him his job.
Jeran will only see a bigger paycheck until August when his boss has to shut down her Z Pizza location, putting him and his 11 co-workers out of work, Q13 Fox reported.
Does this sound familiar (emphasis added):
He said that while the law was being discussed all he heard about was how the mandatory minimum wage increase would make life better for him, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
“If that’s the truth, I don’t think that’s very apparent. People like me are finding themselves in a tougher situation than ever,” he told the TV station.
Owner Ritu Shah Burnham said she just can’t afford the city’s mandated wage hikes.
“I’ve let one person go since April 1, I’ve cut hours since April 1, I’ve taken them myself because I don’t pay myself,” she told Q13. “I’ve also raised my prices a little bit, there’s no other way to do it.”
And “Z” is a nationwide franchise that takes some on some of the local franchises’ ad costs (and makes excellent pizza, if you’re ever in Roseville).
Small businesses in Seattle have up to six more years to phase in the new $15 an hour minimum wage, but even though she only has 12 employees, Z pizza counts as part of a “large business franchise.” As a result, she is on a sped up timeline to implement the full raise.
The left’s contempt for business – counting all franchisees’ employees together is pretty contemptible – has to start harming them eventually, doesn’t it?
Shah Burnham said that she is “terrified” for her employees after she closes up shop.
“I have no idea where they’re going to find jobs, because if I’m cutting hours, I imagine everyone is across the board,” she said.
The organization that pushed for the higher minimum wage, 15 Now Seattle, wouldn’t comment directly on the closing to Q13 and didn’t offer any sign of sympathy.
When I read stories like this, I wonder – perhaps some of the people who agitate for minimum wage hikes can help the displaced workers find new jobs? Maybe that union booth at the State Fair that hands out all the “Living Wage” agitprop can devote some time to the task?
“Restaurants open and close all the time, for various reasons,” Director Jess Spear said.
I guess that’s a “no”.
[SCENE: John “FUZZY” Premisse, age 45, steps out behind a Burger King on a grimy industrial boulevard. He is paunchy, his hairline a distant memory. His face, doughy from decades of blue-collar food, is criss-crossed with stress lines. In the background, the smokestacks of a high-tech incubator park belch smoke into the night sky, the glow of the open code hearth lending a faint glow to the background as he lights a cigarette. ]
[FUZZY is joined by a much younger man. It is his son, Luke “STRETCH” Premisse. Stretch, age 21, bums a cigarette off his father. As he lights the cigarette, we see spatter burns on his forearms, accrued through hard years on the deep frier]
STRETCH: [takes a puff] Busy night.
FUZZY: [Takes a long puff, holds it, lets it go slowly] They’re all busy, in their own way. [Stares into the distance]
STRETCH: Yeah. Hey, Dad? That guy who was talking with Erica the assistant manager? Who was that?
FUZZY: [Scowls, with an air of contempt] Pfffft. Sheee-*t. Buddy.
FUZZY: Buddy Dayusexmachina.
STRETCH: Seems like a nice guy.
FUZZY: [Spits with contempt] Sh*t. He’s a f****ng “earner”.
FUZZY: Someone who earns more than minimum wage.
STRETCH: Huh. [Takes a puff on hiscigarette].
FUZZY: [also takes a puff].
STRETCH: So – that’s a bad thing?
FUZZY: [Looks at his son with an air of alarmed] What?
STRETCH: So he earns more than minimum wage. That’s a bad thing?
FUZZY: [Alarm turns to comtempt]. What the hell? Is that how I raised you?
STRETCH: [Takes a puff, flicks his cigarette, stands a little straighter] What do you mean?
FUZZY: We’re minimum wage earners. My grandfather earned $.35 an hour at a burger joint in the forties. My father before me? He started at a buck and a quarter at this same Burger King, back in 1965. Nineteen Sixty Five! And he worked away, stayed at that minimum wage, til the day he died at the drive-thru. I started here in 1983 – I made $3.35 an hour. Flippin’ burgers, just like you do today! You probably don’t even remember back in 1997, when Bill Clinton raised the minimum from $4.25 to $5.15. You were just a baby. But it was one of the proudest days of my life!
FUZZY: [Steps aggressively toward his son] Because the minimum wage got raised!
STRETCH: Yeah, but…so?
FUZZY: It’s how our life gets better. When the minimum wage goes up, we get more money. How f****ng hard is it?
STRETCH: Right. I get that. We’re the Premisses; the best burger flippers, frier operators and shake-pourers in the Valley.
FUZZY: Damn straight. [Takes another puff]
STRETCH: OK…well…Mister Dayusexmachina says that if I learn to run the scheduling system and how to count tills, I could move up to assistant manager. That’d jack my pay up to $12.50…
FUZZY: [Drops cigarette in shock, turns on son in muted menace] What did you just say?
STRETCH: They said I could move up…
FUZZY: [walks closer to son, rage building] I hear what you said. You wanna “move up”. Is that how I raised you?
STRETCH: Er…what do you mean?
FUZZY: We earn minimum wage. You do. I do. My daddy did. So did his daddy. That’s what we do. We’re the Premisses!
STRETCH: But – this would be more than minimum wage…
FUZZY: [looks son in the eye] Mark Dayton just raised the minimum wage. We all just got raises.
STRETCH: Yeah, but this is even more?
FUZZY: What are you? Getting all “too good for minimum wage?” Going out and “learning new skills” to “get pay raises” and “move ahead in life” without waiting for the Feds to raise it for you?
FUZZY: You think you’re too good for the minimum wage life? The life that was good enough for your father, and his father, and his father?
STRETCH: It has nothing to do with being “too good”. It’s just that I know how to use the computer, and that other assistant manager Shaylene got fired for dealing pot out of the bathroom, and…
FUZZY: You look at me, son. Look at me! Other people may “learn skills” and “move up”. And some of them “screw up” and “move down”. But we Premisses? We are always here. Reliable. We do the jobs nobody else wants to. And we’re the best at them.
[Javier AMARILLO, President of the local SEIU chapter, steps into the frame and addresses the camera]
AMARILLO: What we’ve seen here is why America needs to raise the minimum wage. Because all across this great but racist and deeply flawed nation, hundreds of millions of hard-working Americans have chosen not to learn more marketable job skills, to better themselves, and to go to the job market without skills or education that would give them a skill that anyone would pay for. Many of them, raised in a public school system that taught grievance-mongering and neglected hard work and striving to better oneself, have no concept of the idea that “bettering oneself” is not an entitlement, but a personal responsibility.
And it’s for these hundreds of millions of Americans that we need to raise the minimum wage.
So please join me in demanding your congressperson demand a raise to the federal minimum wage!
FUZZY: Hey, it’s Javier Amarillo, of the SEIU! When are you going to organize fast-food workers?
AMARILLO: [Smiling blandly] You don’t exist to me.
STRETCH: Do you make minimum wage?
AMARILLO: As if. I make $187,000 a year plus perks. I drive a BMW. I haven’t eaten at a “Burger King” in 20 years. Get back to work, as****es. I’ve got to get to a dinner meeting with Tina Flint Smith.
[And SCENE, as a Pete Seeger song plays dimly in the background]
A high school friend of mine who lives in Texas, Jim, posted this on Facebook over the weekend:
Q: Why does world-famous violinist Joshua Bell make $1M for each performance?
A: Because no one is stupid enough to pay him $2M – he’s just not worth that much.
(Implication: what you do has value. A finite value. And if someone else can and will do the same things you can do, for less money, then your value has been reduced to that lower amount. Unless, of course, one of a number of things happens:
- that other person is already working for someone else (more jobs, scarcity of labor),
- you increase your value (through experience, education, or any of a sea of other factors),
- you decide to assume a greater share of the risk (starting your own business doing what you do, for example), or
- you find something new that you can do which will have greater value (new career, more responsibility, …).
What is exciting about all of these options is that, except for the first one, all are activities that you can do yourself. They don’t require that you supine yourself before some benefactor who will then own your future. What went so wrong with a society that no longer recognizes the beauty inherent in self-determination?
What’s wrong is that we have a large, powerful interest in our society that profits handsomely from selling victimhood and dependence; the idea that all violinists, even people who’ve just picked up the instrument, should be making a “living fee” for their performances, just from pure fairness.
It’s a way of buying votes but making someone else pay for it.
I saw this idea in “Think” “Progress”…:
Five state lawmakers in Minnesota have decided to take on the “Minimum Wage Challenge” and live off of a typical budget for a worker who makes the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
…and I thought “I loved that skit the first time I saw a bunch of upper-middle-class liberals pretend to be poor to advance their narrative the first time I saw it – when Barbara Ehrenreich did it!”
Back during the high times of the early 2000’s, Democrats assuaged their self-righteousness about poverty by reading Ehrenreich’s Nickeled And Dimed. Ehrenreich – an upper-middle-class congenital “progressive” who has lived her life by her parents’ dicta “never cross a picket line and never vote Republican” – made a great show of pretending to live as a minimum wage worker in various parts of the country.
It was BS, of course. Ehrenreich approached minimum wage life the way you might expect someone who’d never had to do it.
And I wouldn’t expect much better from the DFLers that’ll be doing this iteration of the stunt:
Rep. Frank Hornstein (D) told CBS Minnesota that it made him take more notice of his costs. “An orange juice was $1.79. That’s not something that I would normally notice,” he said after getting breakfast from McDonald’s Dollar Menu. “Making the decision to take the bus today versus taking the car will save me a little money for dinner. For food,” he added.
Another lawmaker who lives far from the capitol, Rep. Shannon Savick (D), said, “I can live on what they set for food. I don’t eat a lot,” but she worried about transportation. Where she lives, “if you don’t have a car, you don’t go anywhere, because there is no public transportation. Driving will cost more than what they’re allowing me.” The other three participants are Democratic Reps. Karen Clark, John Lesch, Jason Metsa.
And what exactly will these legislators be trying to do?
The state has one of the lowest minimum wages in the country at $6.15 an hour, which means it gets trumped by the federal wage. A worker who puts in 40 hours a week at that level will earn just $290 before taxes. The challenge limits the lawmakers to $5 a day for food and $9 for transportation.
Meaning $210 a week (before taxes) on…what?
It’s not an idle question. When you’re poor – and I spent a good chunk of my 20s and early 30s as “low income”, and I’m happy to say I’m forgetting some of the finer points of that lifestyle – you either budget ruthlessly to your circumstances, or you flounder. Or, often enough, both.
But this stunt seems to assume that the minimum wage earners are heads of households. Not teenagers living in Eden Prairie and working at Boston Market for pin money.
But minimum wage workers are not, as a rule, adult heads of households – even their own.
This table – from Heritage – shows the demographics of minimum wage workers as of 2012:
Check out the average income line: most minimum wage earners, even those older than 25, are parts of households with average incomes averaging $26 an hour (including, it must be said, all of the DFLers in the stunt – who, presumably, won’t be eschewing their spouses’ incomes during the stunt).
Upshot? They are a third as likely to live in poverty as they are to live in a household over 150% of the poverty line.
Most – even the older ones – work part-time, and they are 3-4 times as likely as the general public not to have finished high school yet.
So the push to hike the minimum wage will benefit the Dairy Queen worker in Maple Grove – who at best will get a 40% raise, and at worst will spend more time playing “Grand Theft Auto” at home while bitching to their friends about getting laid off.
It’ll directly harm the stereotype they claim they’re trying to help – the urban single parent who never finished high school because they were busy raising kids, and is part of that minority of minimum wage workers who don’t actually have a functional support system, a family to fall back on (like the legislators all do, even during the course of their weaselly little stunt).
The Congressional Budget Office has released one of those rare financial reports that has both sides crowing and declaring victory.
Who you believe – or weight the highest – likely depends on your economic literacy, politics, and what you do for a living.
The headline on NPR – “CBO: Minimum Wage Hike Could Boost Paychecks – And Cut Jobs” – left wiggle room both ways:
Whatever you already believed about raising the federal minimum wage, you now have more ammo for your argument, thanks to a report released Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office, titled “The Effects of a Minimum-Wage Increase on Employment and Family Income.”
Yes, you’re right: Raising the wage in steps to $10.10 an hour by 2016 would push employers to cut jobs — about 500,000 of them, says the CBO, the nonpartisan research arm of Congress.
On the one hand, according to one reading of the report, a hike to 10.10/hour – about 40% – would “lift nearly 1 million” out of poverty, and put money into “wallets of workers who are eager to spend”, and give a “raise” to 16.5 million people.
But then there’s those 500,000 jobs lost.
By the way, that’s about the softest estimate you can imagine; the CBO report itself says “As with any such estimates, however, the actual losses could be smaller or larger; in CBO’s assessment, there is about a two-thirds chance that the effect would be in the range between a very slight reduction in employment and a reduction in employment of 1.0 million workers” – meaning about a 30% chance that over a million jobs would be lost.
I’d bet those odds.
Oh, yeah – and “the poor” aren’t necessarily working for minimum wage, and it’s not “the poor” who’ll be getting most of the benefits:
Just 19 percent of the $31 billion would accrue to families
with earnings below the poverty threshold, whereas 29 percent would accrue to families earning more than three times the poverty threshold, CBO estimates.
That’s three dollars going to the middle class – mostly teenagers and other children of moderately well-off families – for every two going to “the poor” (that actually get to keep their jobs).
So like the protagonist in “Sophies Choice”, what do you do? Make life marginally easier for “the poor”, at the expense of creating many more of them?
I’ve snickered about “E-Democracy” – the liberal-leaning non-profit that has been running email list-serve discussion forums for something like twenty years. Awash in non-profit money, they’ve expanded (more or less) all over the place – but have pretty much been a “progressive” echo chamber for most of the past fifteen years.
Which is, I suspect, all they were ever asked to be.
I watch ’em, still – especially the Saint Paul “forum”. Mainly for new blog material, or for warnings about Saint Paul government’s latest detour into delusion.
A group of contributors were discussing how to “save” the “soul” of Saint Paul. By “soul”, they really meant “small ma and pa businesses” (and, by extension I suspect, the correct small ma and pa businesses; no gun stores, no motorcycle shops, no bars in “my” backyard, yadda yadda).
And by “soul”, you mean “small, local, ma and pa businesses” , or so I assume from the thread so far.
And some of you are even flirting with some answers that sorta kinda make sense – but for the fact that they all rely on the agencies of politics to enable them. Meaning more “systems” for the well-connected to game , more picking of winners and losers by the people who are already in power. And this is non-partisan, by the way – it’s not even a Republican vs. Democrat thing .
But we could “save” Saint Paul’s “soul” in a breathtakingly short time – as in, make a huge start before the next Mayoral election . It’d require a lot of people parking a lot of their preconceptions, and working for the benefit of *city* and its people, rather than the betterment of the city’s political class  – but let’s just imagine for a moment.
Here’s how you bring back Saint Paul’s “soul” – its small business community:
First: Declare a ten year business tax holiday. Not a TIF district. Not an enterprise zone. Not a tax break for businesses that fit the favored criteria, or a subsidy to get them going. No. Slash business taxes; make them the lowest in the state by a statutory ten percent. Abolish all city sales taxes. Yes – this would require some drastic, and for some painful, cutbacks at the city level . But city government isn’t Saint Paul’s “soul” . You want small business – and, while we’re at it, jobs and opportunity for all those kids, immigrants and poor people? Give Saint Paul THE lowest business taxes in the state. And not by a close margin.
Second: Knock off the “living wage” talk. Many small businesses can’t afford it at all; others  can afford it only by hiring higher-skill workers who give much higher productivity than the traditional minimum wage worker. They hire fewer of them in the process. Why scare off small businesses? Not only should Saint Paul can the “living wage” talk, they should have a “training wage” for kids under 18 that work less than 20 hours a week *below* the regular minimums. That’ll actually make it *worth* it to hire the young and unskilled.  Long story short – let business pay for skills what the skills are actually worth on the open market – and let people work and learn the skills that make their time more valuable. That’s how its’ done *sustainably*.
Third: Put zoning back in its place. Quit trying to use the zoning process to create an urban utopia (according to the people in power, of course); pare it back to commonsense regulations. Especially parking regulations. It’s in the *businesses’* interest to make sure they have enough parking (why would you open a bar in a location with half a dozen parking spots?). Quit letting the NIMBYs hold the city’s economy hostage.
Fourth: Ditto regulations. Ruthlessly hack away business regulations that exist only to protect people who bent the ears of City Councilpeople 50 years ago. .
Fifth: Prune DSI back to inspecting for health and building-safety regulations according to *state* law.
So what’d happen?
Saint Paul would get *lots* of businesses.
Some would be chains. Yep. They have money, they invest it, they hire people and pay taxes. You can not use government to pick winners and losers without distorting the market and making *everyone* a loser.
But you’d also get a lot more local businesses – because *they’d be able to compete* without an arm tied behind their backs! And this city would develop a *culture* of entrepreneurship – people would start businesses because *that’s what people do* in Saint Paul . And that culture of entrepreneurship would open up financing, both through normal channels (the city would become a MUCH better risk for small business lending) and non-traditional (example: Asian family credit pools could start investing in Saint Paul, and start moving back from Woodbury and Burnsville. Maybe).
And that’s the *real*, *sustainable* way to “save” Saint Paul’s “soul” – create a place where someone can start at McDonald’s, learn the basics of how to get and hold a job, and then realize “Bull! I can make a better burger!”, write a business plan, find a location, and start grilling better burgers. And hiring a kid who works her way up, and decides she can do it better still. And so on.
THAT is how you “save” Saint Paul’s “soul”. 
So – let’s do it, shall we?
Private Sector Warrior
 – Interesting term, “Soul”. Metaphysical – as opposed to many other metaphors that could describe a city. So – how are souls lost? By falling for whatever Big Lie your worldview abjures. Like, to pick a hypothetical example, the idea that politics – which is nothing but the control over the state’s monopoly on force  – solves any problems without causing worse problems.
 The DFL, the special interests that support it; the hordes of rent-seekers, non-profiteers (including this very forum) and other favored members of the political class. And again, this is non-partisan; this would be equally true in a Republican city that’d been run into the ground – if you can find one.
 I’ve written about this before, in the past year; I won’t recap the whole proposal, but it does involve getting city government out of some areas. Kicker is, the city comes out way ahead. Stay with us, here.
 Including *both* Punch Pizza and Costco, by the way. From the President’s State of the Union! They were both terrible examples of businesses that pay living wages; Costco sells limited SKUs in bulk and locates only in fairly wealthy areas, and hires people at higher wages but with established skills (and contracts the minimum wage stuff, like working in the snack bar and handing out samples, out to subcontractors – who do NOT pay $11-15 an hour!). Punch is a high-end niche pizzeria with a high markup; time’ll tell if they succeed with the higher labor costs. But again – they also pick and choose who they hire. Go ahead – send your unskilled kid over there to apply. Let the forum know how it goes!
 But since this IS a city full of people who believe in living wages, start a program (privately) so that companies that pay better starting wages can advertise it on their front doors. Let ’em put big “We Start At $11/hour!” signs, so that people who DO value a “living wage” can put their money where their mouths are (and gauge whether they get the same bang for *their* buck that stores with lower labor costs provide.
 Classic example of this: when I was in Jacksonville on business a few months ago, I travelled almost entirely by “shuttle”. That is to say, a van. A single van owned by someone who met a minimum set of standards (four wheels, seatbelts), and kept the van clean enough to attract customers. It wasn’t a posh van, but no worse than a cab – smelled better than any cab I’ve been in, ever – and it got me around Jax quickly and cost-effectively. I talked with the driver; no serious regulations other than the same vehicle safety rules everyone has to follow (which are perfectly effective), no Taxicab lobby to worry about breaking his knees, and he makes a *solid* middle-class living driving that van between the hotels, the business district and the airport. One of them (whom I used twice, and talked with about the system) gave me a card – he does with all his customers – and told me to call him when I need a ride next time I’m in Jax. And I will.
Anyway – there is no way a local businessman could set up such business in Saint Paul. And that’s a shame; our system enriches the cab company owners, at all of our expense. This is just one of the examples of our business regulation making it impossible to start small businesses, for the dumbest reasons.
 Nope, it’s not “what people do” in Saint Paul in 2014. In Saint Paul in 2014, people work for government, or work outside Saint Paul. To the extent that there is a private sector in Saint Paul, it’s some very rugged people who can weather a lot of bureaucratic BS.
 Or shall we just continue making soothing sounds about helping small business by using policies that have made Saint Paul one of the most business-hostile cities in the upper midwest, all the while lining the pockets of the city’s political class and its hangers-on (sorry, those of you who I just described – it’s business. Not personal).
 I know – some of you see politics (in the form of government and the whooooole process) through soft-focus lenses. But it all devolves back to force. Try this: Stop paying your taxes, or put a statue the city doesn’t like on your lawn, or decline to send your kid to a government-approved school. Keep at it, and sooner or later someone with a gun shows up at your door to demand compliance. You can dress it up any way you want, but that’s really the essence of all politics at the end of the day.
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
On Friday, St. Paul Mayor demanded the minimum wage be nearly doubled, to $9.50.
No employer could afford to hire you because you weren’t worth $5.25 per hour, but surely he’ll jump at the chance to hire you at $9.50, maybe several of you. What could go wrong?
They can be interns for the Democrats.
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
Rush anticipated the President would call for an increase in the Minimum Wage to $10 per hour in the State of the Union address. A caller said Republicans should see his $10 and raise him to $30. That would make people to see how silly the Minimum Wage is so they’d stop talking about it.
That’s a bad idea. The Minimum Wage is an emotional issue – poor people are suffering because wicked businesses won’t pay fair wages. Explaining the economics of it in a logical, orderly, methodical way is proof that you’re a heartless bastard who doesn’t care about fairness and hates the poor.
Feeling is easy and everybody does it. Thinking is hard so nobody does it. Playing to Democrat strength is a bad idea just as raising the minimum wage is a bad idea. Don’t offer $30, don’t even offer $10: they might just take you up on it and later, when the bad consequences hit, it’ll be your fault for suggesting it.
Yes, Democrats will call you heartless. That will suck. Tough. Embrace the suck and do the right thing anyway.
There is a short list of things that the GOP – despite its inner, “go-along, get-along” tendencies – really really can not compromise on; the compromise itself will not only make things worse, but will be used against the party and all those trying to un-screw things after this past five years.
(SCENE: Mitch BERG sits down at a small Vietnamese cafe on University Avenue. He unwraps a Bahn Mi Dac Biet and is sitting down to read the newspaper when Avery LIBRELLE sits down in Mitch’s booth).
LIBRELLE: Hah, Merg! The President sure pwn3d you wingnuts at his State of the Union the other night!
BERG: Huh. You thought so? I thought it was a lot of pretty vapor.
LIBRELLE: Hah! He showed you wingnuts what was what! Especially on issues of equality! How women still make 77 cents to a man’s dollar…
BERG: …yeah, that was bullshirt 20 years ago, when it was a matter of women taking more years off from their careers to have kids than men did. And it still is. Women with equal experience and records and credentials make about the same as men – within the bounds of statistical noise.
LIBRELLE: Oh, he sure beat you up on the subject of the minimum wage! Costco and Punch Pizza both start workers at $10 an hour! If they can do it, anyone can!
BERG: We talked about that yesterday. Neither Costco nor Punch are representative of all, or even many, small businesses that employ low-skill workers…
LIBRELLE: Stop right there,you one percenter! There is no such thing as a “low skill worker”! Every worker’s skills have value, and every worker’s hard work is vital – indeed, more vital than the bosses!
BERG: Um, what now?
LIBRELLE: That’s right! Mitt Romney was frequently not at his desk at Bain Capital – but the janitors had to be there picking up the trash! No janitors, no major deals!
BERG: And, uh, we’ve been through that before too. You think that if a janitor just started picking up stuff at random out on the street, it’d generate value?
LIBRELLE: Don’t you value clean streets?
BERG: Er, I already pay a bunch of public union workers with better pensions and insurance than I’ll ever have to do exactly that. But let’s make sure we’re clear on this – all work is equally valuable? So if a receptionist and a bunch of janitors sit down outside the bus station and start answering calls and cleaning things, a multi-billion dollar venture capital firm will spontaneously form around it? Drawing billions in capital and the people who know how to negotiate its use?
LIBRELLE: Happens all the time!
BERG: Right. But let’s look at the other half of your statement – the idea that all skills are useful, provided one works hard.
LIBRELLE: They are! All hard work must be rewarded!
BERG: All hard work?
LIBRELLE: Yep. The harder the work, the more valuable it is!
BERG: So someone who works sixty hour weeks for six months and spends half of his life on the road closing the financing for a deal that opens a factory that provides hundreds of jobs is worth the same as someone who, hypothetically, hammers rocks into smaller rocks as a form of artistic statement for sixty hours a week?
LIBRELLE: Same? The rock-breaker should make more! He…
BERG: …or she…
LIBRELLE: …of course, works very hard! Have you ever operated a hammer?
BERG: Sure I have. Have you?
LIBRELLE: The union would break my knees if I did – and I may file a grievance against you, for that matter – but I know the basic theory. It’s hard work. Much harder than computing spreadsheets and talking with banksters and sitting on airplanes.
BERG: But it generates no value!
LIBRELLE: Says you!
BERG: Er, yeah. Sez me! The act of breaking rocks into smaller rocks for twelve hours a day is of no value to anyone! It’s even a terribly inefficient way to make gravel!
LIBRELLE: Perhaps to your bougeouis, one-percenter sensibilities!
BERG: Any rational person’s sensibilities! I mean, here’s a test for you: How much are you willing to pay, from your own pocket, for someone to break rocks into smaller rocks as a form of artistic statement?
LIBRELLE: Well, Merg, that just shows how ignorant you are about economics!
BERG: You don’t have an answer, then?
LIBRELLE: The real question is this: how long do you really think girls should sit in jail for having an abortion?
(Dish of pho arrives at table)
LIBRELLE: Excuse me – I ordered pho. What is this? You charge $5 for a bowl of noodles with crud in it?
I watched President Obama’s 5th State of the Union out at the Cinema Grill in New Hope last night, at a party thrown by Americans For Prosperity, hosted by Siri Freeh and some guys.
Main observations? Well, first things first; this was the first time in a long time I’ve sat through an entire speech by this president. And he’s still a first-rate orator. Dad was a speech teacher, and I grew up listening to great speeches on LP (and have quite a few on my iPhone), Kennedy and Churchill and Martin Luther King and many more. Speech is the family business. And in a nation full of politicians who are usually groaningly awful public speakers, Obama is very, very good.
Unfortunately, pretty much everything he said was vapor; Obamacare has nine million members only if you count Medicare subscribers who were already on the plan; we have “eight million jobs” at a time when we should have have many, many more in a normal economic recovery. The unemployment rate is “dropping” only because people are leaving the work force. Obama’s executive orders are either meaningless, skirt the Constitution, or both.
For my part? Three things jumped out at me.
Thunderous Silence: Last year’s SOTU’s marquee issue was guns. The 2013 State of the Union’s message to the law-abiding gun owner? “Shut up or get cut up”.
This year? One fairly tepid paragraph – and the Democrats’ applause was more of the “golf clap” variety.
Clearly, leading with guns hurt the Democrats last year; it nearly lost them the Colorado legislature, and it’s mobilized Real Americans in a way that has to have the Administration thinking of 1994 and 2010 (and Minnesota DFLers of 2002).
I think the paragraph was a sop to the far-left, and not by any means an indication that the Administration or its minions are going to ease off their assault on the Second Amendment. They’ve just switched from a frontal assault to a guerrilla war.
Picking Artisan Cherries In 20 Pound Buckets: I laughed out loud at the two businesses the President chose to trumpet his “income equality” “vision” last night; Costco and Saint Paul’s Punch Pizza.
I laughed out loud at both examples.
Costco is not WalMart. It’s a completely different business model. It carries a tiny fraction of the number of individual items that a WalMart or Target or Cub Foods does; they are located in fairly well-to-do areas. The idea is to provide high service for limited items to a well-off market, using higher-skill workers in what is, in the world of big-box retail, more of a high-service environment. There are many fewer classic “entry-level” jobs at Costco; they aim to hire skill and retain it – in an environment and business model that finances it. In short, very few of even their lowest-level workers are “low-skill” in the classic sense of the term.
They don’t pay minimum wage, because they don’t have “entry-level” jobs; they choose to pay more to attract a higher-skill worker.
Punch is similar; it’s a high-end pizzeria in a posh neighborhood that aims toward a high-value clientele on Grand Avenue in Saint Paul; I wouldn’t doubt that in a neighborhood full of “living wage” activists, starting people at $10 an hour is good marketing. But Punch Pizza is no Taco Bell; it’s a tony niche retailer that gives a robust markup for an uptown dining experience. And again – I’m going to suggest that Mr. Punch gets to pick and choose who he hires.
And in both cases, Costco and Punch are exercising their free will to hike their base wage. Maybe it makes sense given their business model. Maybe it’s a gamble that’ll backfire on them. But it’s something the market – not the law – will sort out.
Outsourcing Liberty: But the biggest laugh-out-loud line of the night was when the President ran down (a very indulgent interpretation of) his foreign policy “accomplishments”.
He said “From Tunisia to Burma, we’re supporting those who are willing to do the hard work of building democracy. In Ukraine, we stand for the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully, and to have a say in their country’s future”.
And I couldn’t stop myself from replying “But here, we sic the IRS on dissenters!”.
For all President Obama’s soaring, deft rhetoric, and all his vaporous claims, that is the real truth of Barack Obama’s five years in office; underneath the flowery messaging, an ugly, repressive. authoritarian reality, jamming a square free people into a round statist hole.
And that’s the state of our union.
There are two ways to look at Rep. Keith Ellison’s statement to a group of minimum wage protesters last week; emphasis added by me:
“We in Congress will try to raise the minimum wage. We got opponents on the other side of the aisle who say that there shouldn’t be no minimum wage. So, we are in difficulty fighting these guys.
“But, we know, at the executive level, an executive order can change the situation. We demand it, right now. Mr. President, sign the executive order. We demand this federal worker work reform, federal contractors. Give the pay raise, the livable, fair wage. Let’s do it now. I gave him a letter to this effect, yesterday.”
As Ellison walked off stage, the crowd chanted: “Sign the executive order!”
Either Ellison thinks Obama is a King, with absolute control over this country, or he has very little respect for his audience and thinks he can trick them into believing so.
I’m going to lean toward “has very little respect, and thinks he can trick them”; that a graduate of a Jesuit high school, Wayne State University and a Tier 1 law school thinks saying things like “shouldn’t be no minimum wage” is authentic reeks of distilled cynicism.
To: All you folks “striking” for a $15/hour minimum wage
From: Mitch Berg, uppity peasant
Re: Money from nothing
Today, you’ll be out and about around dozens of McDonalds, Taco Bells, WalMart and other low-wage employers.
I saw one of you on “Today” this morning; a cute, blonde, twenty-something single mother (what else?) and front-counter worker who notes for the camera that sometimes she has to choose between work clothes and bus fare.
I feel for you. I do. Twenty-odd years ago, I was in my twenties, had a couple of kids and a $7/hour job. It was hard making ends meet. Really, really hard.
Of course, it was hard because of choices I’d made, not my diabolical employers. I’d devoted myself to my first career – radio, which paid really badly, too – with a monastic intensity. That career crashed – and it took me a few years to realize it.
And after a year of floundering, I got the aforementioned $7/hour crummy job.
Where I learned a couple of things; how to work in an office. How to use a computer (that wasn’t something people were born doing back then). How to work days instead of nights.
I had made a few good choices, of course; when I was a teenager, I’d stayed in school and learned a few useful things, and kept it in my pants long enough to get through college (with a BA in English, which was no more a ticket to wealth then than it is today).
Point being, that lousy $7/hour job was how I found my next job for $9/hour. And thence got into technical writing. And then into the career I have.
And if that $7/hour job had gone away because legal document coders had decided to strike for $12 an hour, causing most of the crummy entry level jobs to be eliminated, where would I be today?
The same place you’ll be if they double the minimum wage for working the counter.
By the way, the woman on “Today” also parroted the same thing I’ve heard from ostensibly smarter liberals: without workers, there’d be no business.
That’s 180 degrees wrong, of course; without the business, there’d be no jobs. Don’t believe me? Let’s try a quick thought experiment. Find a vacant lot somewhere. Put on a fast food uniform, and stand there saying “May I help you?” Wait – where’s the burgers? Where are the customers? Where’s the counter and the till? Where’s the building?
What? The SEIU goons behind the “strikes” never mentioned this?
Minnesota – the state of 10,000 “progressive” advocacy groups.
And some of those advocacy groups run some very slick, polished, professional PR efforts. Or – like the Alliance for a “Better” Minnesota, or “Protect” Minnesota – at least loud and well-funded ones.
And then there’s the Douglas County DFL.
The DugCo DFL runs a twitter feed that’s always a useful barometer for whatever the left end of the DFL’s intellectual bell curve
is “thinking” has been told by the people paid to do their thinking for them. .
This went out on Twitter the other day:
@dc4DFL: Australia has a Minimum Wage of $16.88 per hour. Minnesota needs to seriously raise ours. #mnleg #stribpol
Wow. “Seriously”. That sounds like quite the imperative.
So let’s compare and contrast.
The unemployment rate for Minnesotans aged 16-24 is 11 percent. Note that in Minnesota (and most of the US), full-time students aren’t considered “in the labor market” in the same sense as someone working for a full-time living.
And in Australia? It’s 19% “not fully engaged” (neither working nor studying full-time). And if you compare apples to apples – drop full-time students from the “work force” – then close to a third of Australians between the ages of 15-24 are neither working nor studying full time. It’s a little under a third if you count only Australians from 20-24.
Bear in mind (and I say this more for the benefit of people who’d read what the DugCo DFL says seriously than for most of this blog’s audience) Australia’s economy isn’t currently mired in one of the most dismal recessions in their history. Their growth was hit by the global financial crisis over the past six years – but not like ours.
So – even in a relatively healthy economy, Australia’s unemployment and underemployment among younger, lower-skilled workers is much higher than in Minnesota.
Of course, Australia’s high minimum wage is one of the products of the Labour government…
…that was just tossed at the polls two months ago. While I saw no evidence that the minimum wage was a pivotal issue, an artificially high minimum wage is part and parcel of the whole raft of “progressive” policies that stagnate economies.
Uncle Ryan Winkler might want to find himself some smarter stenographers.
Ryan Winkler (DFL St. Louis Park) is beating the bushes around Minnesota to try to gin up a push for a massive hike in the minimum wage (and cobble together some positive name recognition to try to rescue his rumored ambition to run for Secretary of State after the avalanche of negative publicity he got by calling Justice Clarence Thomas an “Uncle Tom” over the summer).
Now, Winkler is from a solid blue district. He can demand a minimum wage of $20 an hour, and the voters in Saint Louis Park and most of CD5 will applaud and stomp their feet and send him back to Saint Paul with 20 point margins of victory. Such is life.
But outstate? In parts of Minnesota with functioning two-party systems, where the majority don’t work for government? Especially in parts of the state represented by extremely weak DFLers like Ben Lien?
Winkler, one of the most extreme demigogues in the entire Legislature, needs to try to appear “bipartisan”.
This video was shot by a Winkler staffer at a town hall in Moorhead recently.
So at the start, he says the support for his $9/50/hour minimum wage proposal from a House Select Committee on the minimum wage is “bipartisan”.
Around the 90 second mark, a Town Hall attendee presses Winkler on the support his proposal is receiving – and whether the Republican members of the Select Committee on the Minimum Wage actually signed off on his presentation.
Winkler quickly answers “no” before moving right along.
No wonder why. Here’s the presentation Winkler’s making:
That it’s full of lefty puffery and junk stats about the minimum wage is no surprise.
But forget about the actual facts for a moment.
Why would Winkler claim “bipartisan support?” This would lmean the Republicans on the Select Committee – Representatives Jenifer Loon, Pat Garofalo and Andrea Kieffer – supported his stance, and the points on his presentation.
Sources say Winkler’s repeating the claim at other town hall meetings where – unlike the Moorhead meeting in the video – nobody’s pressing him on the claim.
Pat Garofalo has spoken against Winkler’s proposal in the House. I talked with Rep. Garofalo – he opposes the $9.50 minimum wage, and has not changed his mind one iota.
And a source close to Representative Loon tells me that not only does Loon not support the $9.50 minimum wage, but that the DFL, possibly including some DFL members of the Select Committee, might not entirely support Winkler.
Finally, I talked with Representative Kieffer. She does not support Winkler’s proposal, and does not approve of the points in the presentation. She’s even written an op-ed on the subject, which has circulated to some local newspapers around the state; it’s below the jump. It flenses Winkler’s claims about the minimum wage in general.
But here’s the money quote from Kieffer in re the “bipartisanship” of Winkler’s support:
First and foremost, the implication that there is “bipartisan” support for his presentation is disingenuous. During meetings that I attend, I consistently voice my concerns to the data presented, ask for more specifics, and maintain that the committee is focusing on the wrong part of the economic picture.
And Kieffer is right.
So why is Ryan Winkler misrepresenting the Select Committee’s position as “bipartisan” support for his proposal around greater Minnesota, when not only are the Republicans not on board, but even the DFL has qualms?
It’s not bipartisan. It’s not even entirely monopartisan!
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
Star Tribune says Keith Ellison (D-Minneapolis) is pushing for an increase in the minimum wage to $9.50. This is so obviously idiotic I thought it might be the result of a blow to the head during his recent arrest while protesting in favor of illegal aliens. But no, here’s a Youtube video of him from 2007, beating the same dead horse.
But then I realized he might not be an idiot, he might be a stealth advocate for the Zimbabwe approach to managing the national debt. We just re-value the dollar and we declare minimum wage is now 30 bucks an hour. The dollar becomes worth 1/4 what it had been, the debt becomes manageable for another few months since it’s owed in dollars, not real assets, and we can print as many dollars as we want. Viola, problem solved! Plus, it has the advantage of having been invented in Zimbabwe by Black people, so nobody can oppose it without being racisssss.
Give the man credit, he might be more clever than he looks.
Of course, the long-term result still will be the squalor and despair that is ordinary life in Zimbabwe for everyone who is not In Charge. But to the Obama Administration and its minion, Keith Ellison, that might be viewed as a feature, not a bug.
Of course it’s a feature.
The DFL has been doing the same thing with Minneapolis and Saint Paul for decades.
When Representative Ryan Winkler talks, people listen.
And then the smart people snicker.
He tweeted this yesterday:
My favorite point in this op-ed: low wages do not cause poverty. http://t.co/jBfXzKYSiF. Only an economist could be so enlightened.
— Ryan Winkler (@RepRyanWinkler) September 8, 2013
Of course, he had the point of the op-ed all wrong. Read it for yourself.
The point is that low wages aren’t the sole cause of poverty. In the great scheme of things, they aren’t even especially important, in and of themselves.
Much more important? When there is no opportunity to earn higher wages.
How does that happen?
- When a preponderance of people don’t have the tools to do better themselves. For example, when our overpriced education system continually short-changes them. Especially minority kids, who have both the highest poverty rates and are the most systematically shortchanged by the education system Ryan Winkler’s party designed.
- When mandatory wages for entry level work are so high that the market for entry-level, unskilled labor gets depressed – ensuring fewer people, especially poor people, get into the labor market at all.
- When an overabundance of regulation makes entrepreneurship – starting ones’ own business – less tenable. Like the DFL has done for Minnesota, giving the state the worst climate for entrepreneurship in the country.
To further address the point, though, I’d like to ask Rep. Winkler (or his defenders) this question: at what minimum wage hourly rate will poverty disappear?
Put a number on it.
That’s the question I’d like to ask. In fact, I asked it.
Hopefully we’ll see an answer.
I’m sure we will.
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
I wish reporters would ask more questions. Notice the language of the signs being held by the workers. Some are English, some are Spanish, but all are in the same colors and type font. Plainly, they were professionally printed specifically for this event.
By whom? Who put up the money to rouse this rabble? And where did THEY get the money?
It would be annoying to learn some non-profit community outreach group is being funded by my tax dollars to promote this nonsense. Or worse, if this were just a union tactic to increase their own wages by legislating an increase in the floor wages since they can’t negotiate a raise in this economy.
But looking at the production quality of the signage, I’m not betting against it.
The fact is, I have a lot of questions about the minimum wage debate.
Of course, the uncountably vast majority of people who are earning minimum wage are kids, or others who are just entering the workforce. People who haven’t yet developed even the most rudimentary work skills – like showing up on time, much less running the shake machine or the deep fryer with authority.
But there are people earning the minimum wage who do, in fact, have themselves and others depending on their income.
If you’re a conservative, you no doubt suspect that that sad state is because of poor choices; partying too much in high school and not getting an education; having children out of wedlock; working on the easy crime career before developing the boring straight career.
Of course, not every person is affected by their own choices. When you party you way into your twenties, do jail time, get knocked up and wind up having to raise a family on a wage that wouldn’t support a single person, you are very likely passing a lot of problems on to the next generation; you’re passing your bad, shortsighted, immature and/or stupid choices on to them. “Personal Responsibility” is great when it’s just your own choices affecting you – but when your parents, and grandparents, were idiots or drunks or screw-ups, what’s a kid to do?
(And if you’re the progeny of a couple of generations of people who made good choices, worked hard, got good jobs and dedicated themselves to helping you make good choices, too, then thank whatever it is you believe in. It’s a major leg up in life).
Now, I’m not sure how many of Jessica English’s choices were her ancestors, and how many were hers. But the media certainly is playing up the results – the state of Ms. English’s life today:
Jessica English is the face of a newly revived effort to raise Minnesota’s minimum wage.
She earned minimum wage while working in rural western Minnesota, places such as Fergus Falls, Ortonville and Kerkhoven. A case worker called it the “land of the minimum wage.”
Now, the 35-year-old divorced mother said she faces losing custody of her four daughters, ages 6 to 15, because she earned so little, even though her finances improved a bit since moving to St. Paul.
On the one hand? That sounds scary – being 35 and up against it like that. Now, I have no idea what got Ms. English to this point in her life – single, four kids, job skills worth $6.15 an hour.
(As to the “losing custody” bit, though? Er, if she was a single father – presuming that’s who Ms. English would be contesting for custody – would the media even care? What if the father is better able to provide a decent life for the kids? The double standard is nothing new).
But the fact is, one does make choices in one’s life. I’ve made a few; I left radio, my first career, when I was married and had two kids and another on the way, and was making $6.50/hour, and painstakingly taught myself how to convince managers I was a competent technical writer. I adapted. I did what it took to develop a skill that would get me and my family out of poverty. I don’t want, or deserve, a cookie for that – that’s what you do when you have a family; you take care of them. I had some blessings, of course; I’d gotten a passable education when I had the chance, I’d avoided doing any jail time, that sort of thing. Perhaps my greatest blessing? Growing up in a place and time when “not being ready to raise a family when I had one” still had some moral weight.
And it’d seem Ms. English has learned that lesson, at least in part. The article notes that her financial situation has “improved a bit since moving to St. Paul”.
Where she works – for an inadequate wage, perhaps, although we don’t know – as a “community organizer” for “The Coffee Party”, the beyond-astroturf liberal-plutocrat-funded “response” to the Tea Party.
In other words, one of the liberal-plutocrat-supported non-profits that’s agitating for a “living wage” apparently won’t provide one.
Judging by Ms. English’s rap sheet, she spent the last several years working in the public/non-profit art business – a famously penurious racket, usually the province of trust fund babies, bored housewives and young, no-strings-attached arts majors.
I don’t know Ms. English. But how much weight should the media give the testimony of a person who has apparently dedicated herself to finding and remaining in poverty?
And how much should Minnesota’s real working poor – the 20 year olds scrambling for their first jobs at Burger King, who will be the first to get laid off when the robots do finally take over the fast food business, the immigrants who are working as many minimum wage jobs as they can while they learn English and develop other skills, the poor kids who need to some some reassurance that there’s a future in working the straight and narrow rather than turning to crime – have to pay for such dilettantism?
Because it’s their jobs – not the “Community Organizer” jobs for fashionable lefty non-profits – that’ll be disappearing.
UPDATE: Someone emailed “aren’t you being a bit condescending?”
Me? Not a bit. There’s a reason that the poverty pimps are trotting out an attractive white woman instead of a 30 year old Somali immigrant. Put another way – the proponents of the minimum wage hike are doing the condescending, here.
Glossy signs at well-fed protests scheduled with impeccable precision nationwide.
High-profile politicians pushing the idea in full view of their compliant media.
Yep – the push to jack up the minimum wage is being pushed from every angle by the usual lefty suspects.
And it may be the apotheosis of the liberal campaign strategy – all full of Alinskyite sturm und drang, coupled with an onslaught of gauzy guiltmongering and the idea that we should increase the minimum wage not merely For The Children, but because it just plain feels good.
I caught this last night on MPR, on “The Story”, a North Carolina Public Radio production that seems to be aimed at being a downmarket Terry Gross.
Go ahead, check out the interview with Ms. Elisha St. Laurent, who is a woman…
…no. Ms. St. Laurent is not a person. She is an archtype, one that’s becoming inescapable in the media’s coverage of the issue – the “single mother and student” who was trying to make it on minimum wage (which, in San Jose, is already $8, albeit in one of the most expensive metro areas in the country). She’s one of the bunch of – I kid you not – San Jose State sociology students who who organized a voter drive that led to the city jacking up its statutory minimum wage to $10/hour. The measure passed with – no big shock – the Bay Area voters, and went into effect in March.
You’ll listen in vain to the interview – clogged as it is with references to “empowerment” and “finding voices” – to any reference to the jobs that are being cut around San Jose. Indeed, you have to look a solid dozen paragraphs into this story, in the San Jose Mercury, to hear that there is a downside to artificially raising the price of unskilled and semi-skilled labor.
Apparently small businesses aren’t as “empowered” and haven’t “found their voices” yet.
To: Representative Ryan “Beavis” Winkler”
From: Mitch Berg, Uppity Peasant
Re: Your Minimum Wage Thing
Here’s what technology has to say about your minimum wage hike. Read it and think.
That is all.
PS: No, it’s not. I know you’re not paid to think about these things; yours is not to reason why. But those who support you? Maybe not in your stu-foresaken district, but in the rest of Minnesota? There might be hope. And so I write.
The inevitable result of across-the-board minimum wage hikes? Fewer minimum wage jobs.
Case in point; as minimum wages around the country rose during the 2000s, McDonalds started pre-cooking its hamburger patties, so they’d only need to be reheated in the stores. This got rid of most of the traditional “burger-flipper” jobs, the ones that liberals sneered at but provided hundreds of thousands of opportunities for teens and others entering and re-entering the workforce to learn how to show up for work on time and do a good job at something.
But there was always the front counter. Right?
Maybe not; McDonalds is testing thousands of touch-screen kiosks in France:
The move is designed to boost efficiency and make ordering more convenient for customers. In an interview with the Financial Times, McDonald’s Europe President Steve Easterbrook notes that the new system will also open up a goldmine of data. McDonald’s could potentially track every Big Mac, McNugget, and large shake you order. A calorie account tally at the end of the year could be a real shocker.
The touch screens will only accept debit or credit cards, adding to the slow death knell of cash and coins. This all goes along with an overall revamp of McDonald’s restaurants worldwide aimed at projecting a modern image as opposed to the old-fashioned golden arches…
Winkler is spending his between-session time agitating for a minimum wage hike bill.
Minnesota’s young and poor should ask him to stop doing them any more favors.
Maybe if there was a touch-screen kiosk of some kind…