Tech Vendors: “Thanks, Representative Winkler!”

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…


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Minnesota House passes an increase in the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour.

Sure, it’s the highest in the nation; but if they made it $100 per hour, we could ALL be rich.

Cheap bastards.

Joe Doakes

Where’s the ambition to do Big Things, Joe?

Make it $500 an hour.  In a 2000 hour year, that makes everyone a millionaire!

Living Wage

A bill in the Senate would pay your Senators more for the privilege of jacking up your taxes and grabbing your guns – but at least relieve them of the burden of having to tell you about it.

SF 1534, by Senator Sandy Pappas (what else, DFL – St. Paul) would make Legislative pay equal to a third of the governor’s salary…:

The Minnesota Senate on Tuesday is set to approve salary increases for legislators and the governor, who have had their pay frozen since 1999.

…and peg pay increases to the Governor’s salary, which…well, I’ll add emphasis below to explain that bit:

Under the plan crafted and approved by the nonpartisan Minnesota Compensation Council, the governor would get a 3 percent pay increase in 2015 and another in 2016. The governor’s salary would be reviewed yearly after that, with increases tied to the Consumer Price Index. Gubernatorial pay has not risen in Minnesota since 1998 and ranks 32nd among the 50 states.

…meaning that the Legislature would no longer have to go through the politically-fraught process of having to vote themselves pay raises; it’s simply rise along with the CPI.  No questions asked.  No debate needed.  No friction from the fractious peasants, whose own wages, let us remember, aren’t necessarily pegged to the CPI.

TANGENT:  I’d almost place a bet that some Minneapolis DFLer will now say “if we can afford to raise legislative pay, we can certainly afford to raise the minimum wage 33%!”

The Knights Who Say “Living Wage!”

SCENE:  Adriana and Michael GONZALES, age 30 and 32, owners of a small family commercial cleaning business and parents of three children, are walking through the woods near Minnehaha Park.  It’s foggy and foreboding.

ADRIANA: Mike, did you see something in the woods?

MICHAEL:  Yeah.  Looks like – guys in helmets?

ADRIANA:  This is weird.

MICHAEL:  No kidding…

(They stop, noticing three people in medieval knight costumes – Tom BAKK, Ryan WINKLER and Heather MARTENS – astride the path).

MICHAEL:  Er, who are you?

BAKK:  We are the Knights Who Say “Living Wage!”

WINKER:  We are three elected representatives…

(BAKK nudges WINKLER, points toward Martens, who is gazing distractedly at a squirrel. WINKLER shrugs)

WINKLER: …who roam the forest spreading social justice!


WINKLER:  If you wish to pass through this forest, you must appease us!

ADRIANA:  Er…OK?  With what?

WINKLER:  You must hire…a Minimum Wage Employee!

MICHAEL:  Cool.  I was hoping to do that.  We’ve got more business than the two of us can handle.

BAKK: Silence?


WINKLER:  You must pay them…nine dollars per hour!

ADRIANA:  Oh, no.  We just need people to do basic cleaning.  We can pay a bonus, but it’s not worth $9 an hour…

BAKK:  And you may not cut your other employees’ hours or benefits to pay the training wage rate, which is itself higher than the federal minimum wage!

WINKLER:  Or lay them off!

BAKK and MARTENS: Or lay them off!

ADRIANA:  Well, then we just can’t hire anyone!

BAKK:  Be happy to pay for a Better Minnesota!

ADRIANA (to MARTENS): So what are you doing here?

MARTENS:  Guns on a bed of escarole make a wonderful snack.  So much better than killing people!

(Sounds in distance:  Minstrels playing over the clip clop of horses, as Governor DAYTON, riding a white charger, appears at the head of a retinue of knights and minstrels.

MINSTREL (as lutes and flutes play in the background) Brave Sir Mark ran away / bravely ran away away! / When terror made its presence known, he bravely turned and scampered home…

DAYTON: Blargle not blargle sure blargle not blargle blargle!

MICHAEL to ADRIANA (whispers): This is a weird place…

MINSTREL: He wasn’t afraid to face Roger Goodell / or tell Alida she’s not so swell / brave brave brave brave sir Mark…

DAYTON:  Blargle!  Blargle not blarg!

MICHAEL : So what if I can’t afford it?

WINKLER:  It’s against the law!  Don’t ask questions!

ADRIANA:  We could just take our business to North Dakota!

BAKK:  Hah!  And for what?  Money?

DAYTON: Blargle!

MICHAEL:  Well…yeah!

WINKLER:  But you can’t get MPR in North Dakota!

ADRIANA:  Yes, I can – we paid for that, too.

BAKK:  But in Minnesota, you will soon have unionized daycare!

ADRIANA:  I like the daycare we have just fine.

WINKLER:  But you can pay more for them!

MARTENS:  It’s a known fact that daycare that costs more is better for children.  Especially if you ban guns.

MICHAEL:  What the…?

DAYTON: Blargle blargle!

ADRIANA (pulling a Texas brochure from her purse and looking at MICHAEL):  This is a silly place.

The couple walk past the jabbering knights.


Chanting Points Memo: Ryan Winkler, Brezhnev-Style Economist

Conservatives joke that liberals just. Don’t.  Get. Economics.

We joke, at times, that at some point a liberal is going to push for a “living wage” statute calling for a $100/hour minimum wage as a means to end poverty, followed by a bill barring any layoffs and banning bankruptcy.

It’s a joke.  Some liberals shake their heads and go “yeah, yeah, we’re not nuts”.

And then something comes a long to prove that they really, really are that dissociative.

Rep. Ryan Winkler (D St. Louis Park), also known as “The Eddie Haskell of the House” – is introducing a “Kill All” amendment to House File 92 that bars businesses from laying off workers, cutting hours or benefits due to minimum wage increases. 

I’m going to write that again, just to let it sink in.

Winkler’s bill would make it illegal for businesses to lay off workers, cut hours or benefits due to minimum wage increases.

No, I’m really not making it up; I’ve added emphasis to the original:

(c) Notwithstanding paragraph (b), during the first 90 consecutive days of employment, an employer may pay an employee under the age of 20 years a wage of :

(1) $6.07 per hour beginning August 1, 2013;

(2) $7.24 per hour beginning August 1, 2014;

(3) $8.41 per hour beginning August 1, 2015; and

(4) the rate established under paragraph (d) beginning January 1, 2016.

2.11 No employer may take any action to displace an employee, including a partial  displacement through a reduction in hours, wages, or employment benefits, in order to hire an employee at the wage authorized in this paragraph.

(UPDATE: Commenter Master Of None points out, the above section refers to a training wage – a wage that employers may pay for up to 90 days – and says it’s not quite as dire as I’d made it out to be.   I disagree; Winkler’s bill raises the already existing training wage, causing all the same problems that raising the minimum itself does, which negates most of the utility of a “training wage”, as well as starting some sort of enforcement mechanism to painstakingly adjudicate all disputes related to training and minimum wages.  Because Minnesota businesses needed more niggling regulations)

And as the Obama Administration launches into permanent quantitative easing, Winkler wants to key the minimum wage to inflation, ensuring that no wages will ever keep up with inflation:

2.14 (d) No later than November 1 of each year, beginning in 2015, the commissioner  shall determine the percentage increase in the rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers, United States city average, as determined by the United States Department of Labor, during the most recent 12-month period for  which data is available. The minimum wage rates in paragraphs (b) and (c) are increased by the percentage calculated by the commissioner, rounded to the nearest cent. The new minimum wage rates determined under this paragraph take effect on the next January 1

In other words: Ryan Winkler wants to…:

  • arbitrariliy set wages (higher than the federal minimum, no less!)
  • bar business from compensating for the arbitrary change in labor costs in any way but by increasing revenues in the middle of a crap economy (which Dayton’s business service taxes and Obamacare are making worse by the day).

It’s the sort of thing any Economics 101 student knows is madness if he or she wants to get better than a “C”.

Bonus Question:  Do you think Rachel Stassen-Berger, Tom Scheck, Tim Pugmire or John Cronyn will bring any of this up with Winkler or the leadership that enables him?

The Myth Of The Harmless Minimum Wage Increase

The left’s been bruiting about a study that shows unemployment isn’t that badly affected by minimum wage increases.

For example, the study claims that a 10% hike in the minimum wage translates over time into about a 1% hike in unemployment among low-wage, low-skill workers – the ones that get minimum wage.

BikeBubba, over at BikeBubba’s Boulangerie, unpacks the meme in a way most of the study’s proponents seem unprepared to:

So let’s work with that.   Let’s assume, for what it’s worth, that “low wage workers” includes about the bottom quintile, or about 30 million workers.  So that 1% decrease in employment impacts about 300,000 workers, which is about the same number of people as are currently employed by Sears, Roebuck and Company–which now includes Kmart as well.  In short, three of every forty minimum wage workers would lose their jobs.

In short, even a 10% increase in the minimum wage impacts a LOT of people.  But of course, the story gets worse, as President Obama and Governor Dayton Messinger are proposing 24% and 31% increases in the minimum wage.  So we would expect, if the relationship were linear, that over 700,000 people would lose their jobs from Obama’s minimum wage proposal–seven out of forty–and we can thank God that Mark Dayton is not the President.

All true.  And, as BikeBubba notes, probably still too pollyannaish; linear behavior is for sissies:

Of course, few things are linear in real life, and so I’ve constructed a model assuming that the actual productivity of labor is normally distributed somewhere above the minimum wage, and that those workers whose productivity does not exceed the minimum wage will lose their jobs.  If we assume that the current minimum wage deprives only 2.3% of these workers of work (-2 standard deviations), then we arrive at a mean productivity of $8.95/hour with a standard deviation of about $0.85.

And that means…

Shift the minimum wage to $9/hour, and we then predict overall job losses of approximately half of minimum wage workers.   Any historical comparisons?

Glad you asked.  From 2007 to 2009, there were three consecutive increases in the minimum wage exceeding 10%.  Here’s what happened to unemployment among young people:  it more than doubled as overall unemployment went from 4.6% to 10%.  When the increases in the minimum wage stopped in 2009, the trend in unemployment quickly stabilized and started to reverse.  In short, it’s exactly what one would predict if the productivity of entry level labor were normally distributed somewhere above the minimum wage.


Now granted, there were other things going on at this time, but reality is that it shouldn’t take a PhD economist to realize that when the price of labor rises, less of it will be demanded.  So if someone tells you he’s trying to increase the minimum wage for your good, let him know that you’d be thankful if he didn’t try to “help” you that way.

The only real way to “help” minimum wage workers is to teach them how to do median-wage jobs.

And the best way to do that – barring some flash of brilliance – is to stay in school, moderate your behavior so you can actually learn things, get a job and go to it every day without all sorts of drama, so you learn the behaviors that successful workers have, and learn a skill worth more, preferably way more, than whatever the “minimum” or “living” wages  are.

Increasing the minimum wage is not just pretty window-dressing on the poverty problem; it’s geometrically counterproductive.

A Conversation About The Minimum Wage

I had a chat with Avery LIBRELLE, a liberal friend of mine at a local coffee shop in Saint Paul; Avery had just gotten off from a shift of answering phones for MPR’s pledge drive.

LIBRELLE:  I’m glad the DFL are talking about raising the minimum wage.  It’s time the working poor caught a break.

ME: Well, that’s kind of untrue.  Most of “the working poor” work for more than whatever the minimum is.  The vast majority of people earning the minimum wage are young, entry-level workers.  Very few people over the age of 16 actually make the minimum wage – and those over 25 that do usually do it because of choices, good or bad or indifferent, that either they or their parents made.

LIBRELLE:  Well, it’ll be good for them, too.  More money is good, right?  It stimulates consumer spending when workers have more money!

ME:   Well, yeah, but where does that “more money” come from?

LIBRELLE:  Employers!

ME:  And…?

LIBRELLE:  They’ll pay more!

ME:  Er…why?

LIBRELLE:  Because the law will say so!

ME:  Um…no, they won’t.

LIBRELLE:  Sure they will.  $9.50 is more than $7.25!

ME:   Well, yeah – any minimum-wage worker will get more money per hour.  But it doesn’t mean their employers will spend more, especially in a tough economy.

LIBRELLE:   Well, that’s Bush’s fault.

ME:   Be that as it may, look at it this way.  Let’s say a store owner has $100 an hour to spend on payroll at her small business.  That’s her labor budget; it’s what she can afford to spend, given the revenues she brings in, on labor, on top of materials, rent, utilities and a modest wage for herself – and just to keep from going crazy, I won’t add in all the service taxes she’ll be paying under Governor Messinger’s Dayton’s tax proposal.  Currently, that allows her to employ about 14 people at minimum wage.   If the minimum wage goes up to $9.50, that means she can employ ten people.

And that’s not even counting the changes to the payroll tax, which bring it down to more like nine.  And that’s leaving out healthcare.  So – nine employees get a raise, and five get laid off.  Meaning the nine who are left are going to have to work a whole lot harder.

LIBRELLE:   The employer can just budget more for labor!

ME:  Yeah, there’s not actually room in her budget to increase her labor costs by close to 50%.  Not unless her business’ revenues zoom upward which, by the way, isn’t happening these days.

LIBRELLE:  She can take it out of her salary!

ME:  Did you catch the part about her having a “very modest” salary after all her expenses?  If she tacks $40 an hour onto her labor costs, she’ll be working for free – which is less than the minimum wage.  She may as well close the business, then – which means instead of laying off five, she’ll be putting all 14 out of work.

LIBRELLE:  Maybe the workers should unionize!

ME:  And that’ll increase revenues how?

LIBRELLE:  Why do you hate children?



Teenagers’ unemployement rates are completely out of control:

Employers are choosing older workers, saying it’s cheaper to hire a more experienced worker, than, say, two teenagers, who will need more training, experts say.

“It’s too expensive for us to hire teens that don’t have experience,” said Karin Devencenzi, the general manager at Southpark Seafood Grill & Wine Bar in Portland, Ore. “By the time you get them on board, with a lack of experience, it doesn’t make sense.”

Margaret Anderson-Kelliher’s response:  If the minimum wage is killing jobs, let’s kill them some more!

Devencenzi also blames the minimum wage. At $8.40 an hour, Oregon has one of the highest minimum wages in the country. The national minimum rose from $6.55 to $7.35 in July 2009. (Several other states have a rate higher than the federal mandate.)

In a tough economy, keeping wages down is more important than ever, says Saltsman. “Passing costs to consumers isn’t an option because people’s wallets are pinched in a recession,” he says.

The problem is, the DFL hears “pinched wallets” and says “let’s start a program to help with wallet-pinching, and pay for it with a tax on small businesspeople!”


In 1991, my then-wife and I made $18,000.  Together.  This, with one kid the whole year, and another born in August. 

We lived in a rat-trap of a house in the Midway: three drafty bedrooms, and a foundation that let mice in in droves; the rodents gamboled about inside the walls like Britney and Lindsay on the dance floor; they’d sweep across the floors like the herds of buffalo from Dances with Wolves.  It was cheap, and it was awful.  And it was all we could afford.

From mid-1991 into mid-1993, I (and, most of the time, my wife) went to Plasma Alliance twice a week – the maximum allowed – to get money for formula and diapers.  I still have a divot at the crook of my left elbow, the “sweet spot” where they’d do the draws.  I still know the language – waiting for the Fleeb to do the stick, hoping for a fast draw so I wouldn’t get partialled, because I needed a full check – and the drill (drink LOTS of water, eat NO fat for the 12 hours before the donation, so the lipids in the plasma didn’t slow down the plasmapheresis process); with enough care, you could donate a liter of plama in less than an hour.  It was worth $45 a week, if you did everything right.

I worked, of course; I was a nightclub DJ, making maybe $50 a night for 3-5 nights a week (figure a weekly take-home around $200-250), through the beginning of 1992, working nights and (when my daughter was born) minding the baby during the day.  I also worked at a couple of radio stations for 15 hours a week – KDWB AM and FM and WDGY – for about $6 an hour; $6.50 when I got a raise.  I was choosing, at the time (and it turned out to be a bad choice) to sacrifice a lot, one might say even obsessively, to try to re-jumpstart my radio “career” (and in my own defense, I did come close; I came in second place for the Program Director job at KSTP-AM in 1991, a week before Bun was born).  When that tanked, I worked at some other awful jobs; I was an essay reader for $7 an hour (a “sweatshop for people with degrees”, one of my co-workers called it), then worked for a legal document coding company for $6 an hour.  My wife was a waitress, and then did data entry work, when the pregnancy allowed it.

In November of 1992, with my son on the way, I found a company that wanted to pay me a couple thousand dollars to write an installation manual for a database configuration system.  I quit the coding job to put all my effort into it; on Christmas Eve, they called to tell me they were stiffing me for the money that’d been earmarked for two months of rent and NSP bills. 

The day my son was born, I got eviction and power shutoff notices (and word that the company that had stiffed me had gone out of business). 

Once, money was so tight – half a week away from payday, a day away from another Plasma Hut donation – that I fixed my at-the-time wife and I a dinner of rice with sauteed onions.  It wasn’t bad.  Other staples:  fried potatoes and baloney; cube steak burgers; grilled cheese sandwiches; a zillion variations on spaghetti.  Y’know – poor people food, the kind of starchy, fatty crap that is, at least, dirt-cheap. 

But according to Mark Gisleson at Norwegianity, I know nothing about poverty, at least compared to upper-middle-class, Volvo-driving alpaca-wearing dilletante Barbara Ehrenreich:

Mitch, who I linked to earlier, ripped on Ehrenreich recently, but his criticism says more about Mitch’s failure to “grok” poverty than it does his understanding of Ehrenreich’s writings. Poverty is about having nothing. If you have an apartment or house to live in, you’re not poor by real world standards. Impoverished maybe, but not truly poor.

Yes, Mark, and gosh, we were in a discussion about the American minimum wage, a context which I didn’t figure was an entree to comparing “poverty” in America – where the “poor” overwhelmingly have roofs over their heads, TVs, refrigerators and cars – with poverty in, say, Sudan or Indonesia or Bolivia. 

I didn’t figure it needed much explanation.  On the other hand, we’re talking with someone who can say this…:

 Let’s not even get into Ehrenreich’s new topic: slavery in the United States. But, like a radically anorexic minimum wage, I guess that’s OK with Mitch too, so long as it only affects a few people, and not Mitch.

…something too stupid and casually defamatory for even Kevin McKay or Jeff Fecke to write with a straight face.  My point about she who must not be criticized Ehrenreich was in Nickled and Dimed, she approached poverty wearing the equivalent of blackface; if she approaches slavery with the same upper-middle-class preconceptions as she approached minimum-wage life, she should (but likely won’t) get laughed off the public stage.

I don’t think Mitch is malicious in this regard, just unwilling to take a hard look at what Reaganism hath wrought. “Only a tiny, shrinking minority actually works for the minimum wage”? Mitch, if only one person was getting paid minimum wage, and if that wage didn’t allow them to eat and have a roof over their heads, why would that be OK?

Gisleson mixes his questions.

The vast majority of those getting minimum wage aren’t responsible for feeding or sheltering themselves, much less anyone else; they’re teenagers working at their first jobs.  Would that be “OK?”  Absolutely. 

For the remainder – those adults who are responsible for feeding, sheltering and clothing themselves?  Well, my religion bids me to take care of the most unfortunate among us, an injunction that I take as seriously as the aggressively atheist Gisleson ridicules it.  But that’s a personal thing.

Speaking for society, I have to ask; why does an adult earn minimum wage?   

Because no employer is willing or able to pay more for the skills they bring to the market, either because the skill is of little value to employers (flipping burgers) or the market is glutted with people able to do the job (non-profit work).

So why do these adults – responsible as they are for feeding and sheltering themselves and, sometimes, others – go onto the job market with skills that are only worth the minimum wage to employers (or even less; as the minimum wage rises, Macdonalds and Burger King are moving to minimize the number of burger flippers in their restaurants; they’re switching to pre-cooked patties heated en masse in microwaves, to eliminate the need even for most of the minimum wage employees at the grill)?   

In many cases, it’s because of a physical or psychological problem; they’re not able to learn a skill that’s worth more than the minimum wage. 

In many other cases – including my own, way back when – it’s because of that hoary old conservative cliche, “bad choices” which, like so many conservative cliches, is true more often than not.  Criminal records, drug or alcohol problems, getting pregnant as a teenager, dropping out of school, or just plain dissipation – all of them get in the way of learning a skill, or even just-plain good work habits that can take a person out of the minimum wage world.   And, unfortunately, it’s not just ones’ own bad choices that’ll get you; when criminals, addicts and slackers go on to have kids, and raise them in poverty (yeah, the American version of it, bla bla bla), and pass the culture of poverty down to their families, the kids are indeed victims of those bad choices.  And yes, before the inevitable self-righteous leftyblogger points it out, society has made some bad choices as well – African-American and Indian societies are chronically dysfunctional a century and change after slavery and the extinction of native culture, respectively. 

Factor out that last bit there (I personally favor extending tribal gambling as “reparations” – perhaps we should legalize marijuana, licensing the sales to proven descendants of slaves, to continue the pattern); what is society’s obligation to insulate people from their own bad choices?  Their parents’ bad choices?

Why should anyone who works be unable to feed, shelter and clothe themselves, and I’m not even mentioning healthcare.

Because tacking a few extra dimes per hour onto a miserable paycheck isn’t going to change anything!

And more importantly, because merely “working” isn’t the point; if society subsidizes the mere act of showing up and “working” with food, shelter, clothing and healthcare, then eventually 90% of our society will be leaning against shovels (figuratively and literally) while the other 10% slaves away to pay the bills.

If society is going to subsidize anything, it should be good behavior  – staying in school, learning a skill that can eventually help someone support themselves and those for whom they’re responsible, putting down the damn bong and keeping your johnson in your pants and learning how to support oneself and, eventually, raise families that value the same thing.

Blogging is about advocacy, but I don’t understand advocacy that seeks to take from those who have the least to give. Does it bother Mitch that minimum wage workers in Hennepin county will individually pay more for the new baseball stadium than all the millionaires in Duluth put together?

Mark:  Show me where I’ve ever stumped for subidies of baseball parks.

You’ll be looking a long time.  I’ve always opposed it.

As well as, for that matter, government subsidies of all businesses; corporate welfare is just as debilitating as subsidizing poverty.

I continue to have problems with capitalists who think they sprang fully formed from Adam Smith’s forehead, and that they owe nothing to society or other workers. Right now the underpaid restaurant workers are supporting the overtime that drives our economy, feeding people who don’t have time to cook, but can’t afford to pay real prices.

This isn’t as stupid as the “slavery” crack above, but it does show exactly how “reality-based” Gisleson and his ilk are not, when he notes that… 

…to the [“]reality-based[“]: eating out shouldn’t be inexpensive, or competitive with cooking for yourself. Or do you hate all those restaurant workers that much?

Maybe Gisleson has never fed a family (I’m willing to bet on it); cooking at home is pretty much always cheaper, and can certainly be faster.

Of course, not being “reality-based”, and a mere bread-winner who’s been raising kids through thick and (at times, very) thin for the past 17 years, what would I know about “reality”, as people like Gisleson see it?

Minimum Brain

After years of exhorting (in the editorial pages) the government to jack up the minimum wage, as well as trying to push city governments to adopt “living wage” standards, the Strib notes that only a tiny, shrinking minority actually works for the minimum wage:

“I was working two jobs near minimum wage,” [a high school kid working at a coffee shop]  said. “But I just quit my second job at Godfather’s Pizza to work here.”

By state law, Javalive’s owner, Ken Beck, is required to pay his employees only $5.25 an hour. But Beck has found that he needs to offer more to attract good workers in a tight market.

All the more reason to keep the economy humming, right?

Good thing the DFL tax hikes got rejected.

But I digress:

Beck isn’t alone. Only a tiny fraction of Minnesota workers would be affected by the planned increase in the federal minimum wage, which would be phased in by the summer of 2009. And the share of those affected has been dropping steadily.

“They may run out of here with $10 an hour” once tips are included, Beck said. “To a certain extent, all the hoopla about the minimum wage is a moot point. In Faribault, you couldn’t hire anybody paying it.”

In early 2006, only about one in 12 jobs in Minnesota paid less than $7.15 an hour — a dime less than the new federal minimum wage approved by Congress this week, according to a state government analysis.

The share of workers in comparable low-wage jobs in early 1998 was nearly one in five.

“Wage inflation has made the minimum wage less and less relevant,” said Steve Hine, labor market information director at the state’s Department of Employment and Economic Development.

A few years back, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote “Nickeled and Dimed“, in which she spent time working at three minimum wage jobs to try to show her upper-middle-class, Volvo-driving, alpaca-wearing friends and readers exactly how awful the minimum wage life was.  As someone who was grindingly poor for a while (in 1991 my then-wife and I together made about $18,000, with one kid and another born late in the year), the book rang very phony to me; Ehrenreich didn’t live like a minimum wage worker, she lived like an upper-middle-class, Volvo-driving, alpaca-wearing, Whole-Foods-shopping liberal in a “poor person” Halloween costume.  And, phonier still, she scarcely touched on the two great truths of adult minimum wage workers:

  • For the most part, they move beyond minimum wage fairly quickly, as they learn their job and develop some skills
  • Those that don’t move up usually don’t due to some impairment (drugs, booze), bad choices (involvement in crime and the corrections system) or just-plain-choice (people who work at poor non-profits and marginal industries).

So after years of advocating for a non-solution to a non-problem (societally speaking), it’s nice to see the facts come out.


Lee Roper-Batker: “Two Plus Two Equals Orange”

We’ve talked about the “wage gap” in this space before, by way of noting that as long as you compare apples and apples, there really is none.

The media has carried Op Eds on both sides of the issue this past week – from the sublime (or at least sensible) to the ridiculous.

Representing sensible, Carrie Lukas writes in the WaPo:

 In truth, I’m the cause of the wage gap — I and hundreds of thousands of women like me. I have a good education and have worked full time for 10 years. Yet throughout my career, I’ve made things other than money a priority. I chose to work in the nonprofit world because I find it fulfilling. I sought out a specialty and employer that seemed best suited to balancing my work and family life. When I had my daughter, I took time off and then opted to stay home full time and telecommute. I’m not making as much money as I could, but I’m compensated by having the best working arrangement I could hope for.

Lukas hits on two of the key truths of the issue:  Women exercise different options before and during their careers.  Some pundits – Warren Farrell being a key one – might add that it’s because women have more socially-acceptable options than do most men; while our society is pretty open about women being anything from stay-at-home moms to CEOs, men with kids are pretty much expected to provide, provide, provide (to the point that if a marriage breaks down, or never happens, it’s a matter of rigidly-enforced law).

Women make similar trade-offs all the time. Surveys have shown for years that women tend to place a higher priority on flexibility and personal fulfillment than do men, who focus more on pay. Women tend to avoid jobs that require travel or relocation, and they take more time off and spend fewer hours in the office than men do. Men disproportionately take on the dirtiest, most dangerous and depressing jobs.

Leaving aside dirt and danger, there are some social norms at work here.  Women are more likely to go into lower-paying fields like social work, non-profits, humanities and services; Men are more apt to end up in engineering, technology and sciences, fields that pay more right out of the entry-level gate.  After that, of course, women are vastly more likely to take time -years – off to have and raise kids; men are not. 

If you take a man and a woman who start at a job at exactly the same time, earning exactly the same money, and check back twenty years later, what do you think you’ll see?  If the man has clocked twenty solid years of work without a non-vacation break, and the woman took ten years off in the middle to have and raise kids, who do you think is going to be paid more?

Who do you think should?

When women realize that it isn’t systemic bias but the choices they make that determine their earnings, they can make better-informed decisions.

Smart people – irrelevant of their gender, really, since many men do stay home with the kids these days – know this.

But Lee Roper-Batker, writing Friday’s Strib, does not.

Women’s personal choices are to blame for lower earnings? Systemic workplace discrimination for women is a myth? Rubbish. Lukas presumes that her choices represent the preferences and complex geographic, social, racial and economic realities of women everywhere.

 Roper-Batker then utterly fails to show that Lukas’ example isn’t germane.

 Her assumption is that if women sought “the dirtiest, most dangerous and depressing [of] jobs” like men did, we would achieve equal pay. Tell that to Lois Jenson [one of the Iron Range miners that won the stories lawsuit in 1988 enshrined in the movie North Country] and other women across the nation who “get dirty” fighting to earn a livable wage.

This, of course, is a red herring.  The example of a small group of women who won the right to work a dangerous, dirty job (and, more to the point, not be harassed on the job) has nothing to do with the raw comparative numbers of men and women at dirty, dangerous jobs; even less does it address the real point – that men go into higher paid work because they are expected to, and stay with it more consistently.

Roper-Batker shows a keen sense for comparing apples with axles:

In Minnesota, we’ve modeled how a marketplace can be corrected. In 1982, the Legislature passed the bipartisan State Employees Pay Equity Act. On paper, the bill outlawed sex discrimination against state government workers. In practice, it eliminated the wage gap among 45,000 Minnesotans. Since then, average earnings for women employed by the state have reached 97 percent of average earnings for their male colleagues.

Which, of course, directly supports Lukas’ point!  If you compare apples and apples – people of similar education, experience, and consistency on the job – men and women earn very much the same money.  Indeed, in fields where women start younger and work more consistently (technical writing being one in my personal experience) they tend to out-earn men.

But across the nation, women continue to represent a disproportionate (more than 64 percent) share of minimum wage earners — and an even more disproportionate 40 percent are women of color.

And so Roper-Batker moves on to comparing apples with bowling balls – or at least, we think they’re bowling balls; one doesn’t know what sampling of “women” comprise 64 percent of minimum wage earners; all women over the age of 15?  People over 18, or over 21?  Comparing state employees with a general swathe of minimum-wage workers is misleading to the point of meaningless.  Without addressing why adults are working for minimum wage (or even knowing that they’re adults at all), it seems Roper-Bakter is tossing factoids out and hoping that her audience doesn’t care enough to ask questions.

According to Amy Caiazza, program director for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, economists give three reasons for the wage gap.

One-third is due to differences in skills and education. Solution: Let’s fund expanded education and training for women that will lead to higher-paying jobs.

But women are already a decisive majority of students in higher education – and the number is rising, to the point where people are seeing a crisis

Another third is due to job segregation: Women tend to cluster in lower-paying occupations. Solution: Let’s work to expand our girls’ visions of the types of jobs they can occupy.

But we’ve been “expanding girls’ visions” for a couple of generations.  When I was in high school, the girls got endless rah-rah about how they could be anything at all.  And they were!  Among my female classmates from Jamestown High in 1981 are doctors, lawyers, nurses, military officers and noncoms, teachers, scientists, engineers and professionals, as well as housewives and service workers – pretty much the gamut of the American labor force.  If a bunch of girls from all kinds of backgrounds from a rural town from almost thirty years ago are all over the occupational map, how can it be that Lee Roper-Bakter, president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, can think that girls today, beneficiaries of boundless information, generations of their mothers, aunts and sisters working in the big world, and thirty years of constant pep-talking about their potential (that has made them three-fifths of our college students) could be doing worse?

Indeed – what actual evidence is there that girls today don’t have every bit as expansive a vision of their future as boys do?  Quite the contrary – since women are approaching 60% of those in higher education, after a generation of feminized education, it’d seem quite likely the opposite has happened; boys’ visions are the ones becoming constricted.

(Barring, of course, the girls who get pregnant as teenagers and take themselves out of the workforce, and consign themselves to the minimum-wage ghetto right out of life’s gate.  Of this, of course, Roper-Bakter makes no mention – even though they are a drag on women’s numbers in general.  Five’ll get you ten they’re a big part of the “minimum wage” numbers Roper-Batker cited, but I suspect she’d be the last one to tell you).

The final third of the wage gap is “unexplainable.” Solution: Let’s work together to end factors like sexism and racism that suppress women’s pay.

But other than a disjointed, out-of-context claim about minimum-wage workers, Roper-Batker can’t really make the association between sexism and racism with any meaningful numbers.  Are black women really paid less than black men with similar experience, training and consistency on the job?

These smack of systemic failures to me, but ones that can be corrected. The glass ceiling and gender-typed jobs are not illusions, as Lukas suggests, but social constructs.

At this point in history, Roper-Batker might be right.  They might be social constructs – where “society” means “left-leaning dogmo-feminist lobbyists pimping a government solution that might address a non-existent problem – but will certainly give plenty of power and influence to the likes of Lee Roper-Batker”.

 Just as Lois Jenson’s courage ended sexual harassment as an accepted workplace practice, legislation will end persistent wage gaps.

This is ludicrous.


Let’s take the real-world example that Lukas alludes to, and that I cited; a man and a woman who start with the same background and salary.  How – why – should the government mandate that the woman, with ten years’ less experience than the man after twenty years, be paid the same?

And has anyone shown that male apples and female apples – people with the same training, experience and time on the job – aren’t paid the same? 


So while Lukas blames women for the wage gap and doesn’t support federal legislation requiring “paycheck fairness,” the state of Minnesota knows better. It has already demonstrated that the proof is in the numbers — or legislation — to correct the marketplace. Now we just need to expand it, for the rest of us.

The piece is instructive in its incoherence.  Although there’s no demonstrable problem, Roper-Batker wants the government to tackle it anyway.

Robbing from the axles to spite the apples.

Robbing Pedro to pay Pauline

Jay Reding on the minimum wage:

The left wants to argue that the minimum wage is a transfer of assets from the rich (business owners) to the poor. The reality of the minimum wage is that it ends up being an asset transfer between poor people — or more likely an asset transfer between disadvantaged people and less disadvantaged people. Any increase in the marginal cost of labor tends to be felt most strongly at the bottom — if labor costs rise, businesses are less likely to hire workers who have a higher likelihood of producing less value for their costs. That means people who have families, less reliable access to transportation, or other personal problems. Single mothers, ex-convicts, people on drug treatment, all of those groups that are the most disadvantaged.

Increasing the minimum wage is pure political theater. All it does is assuage the guilt of wealthy white liberals while doing little to nothing to help people.

On the upside – how many of those “first 100 hours” did Pelosi and Company waste on this “lack of wealth” transfer?