Obamacare is Bad News for Your Wallet Today and Worse News for Your Wallet Tomorrow

July 9, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

The Democrats and their enablers, including the big insurance companies and groups like AARP, have much to answer for.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

I wrote a few weeks ago about the hidden economic damage of Obamacare, particularly the harm to the job market.

Today, let’s get further depressed by looking at the ever-worsening fiscal damage of the law.

Here’s some of what Chuck Blahous of Mercatus wrote about this costly new entitlement.

The ACA was enacted in 2010 with the promise of reducing the federal budget deficit while expanding health insurance coverage. Nearly lost amid the recent press cheerleading over ACA enrollment figures is that this promise has disintegrated, and now no one…can say how much fiscal damage the ACA will ultimately cause. …CBO currently estimates that the ACA’s coverage provisions will cost the federal government $92 billion a year by FY2015. This is roughly 0.5 percent of projected U.S. economic output for 2015, well exceeding the relative costs of Social Security and Medicaid at similar points in their histories. (The amount falls…

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(Video) 1948 cartoon: “Make Mine Freedom!”

July 7, 2014

Here’s a neat animated short from almost 70 years ago that does a darned good job showing the differences between a society based on individual liberty and the free market, on the one hand, and those based on statism (Socialism, Communism, and Fascism) on the other. It makes good use of humor to get its point across:

Nowadays, I think we could add another “-ISM” to that patent medicine’s list of ingredients: the religious totalitarianism of Islamism.

Via Dan Mitchell, this was part of good post on how the Left was wrong about unemployment insurance.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#RaiseTheWage: Seattle businesses push back against minimum wage increase

July 6, 2014
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the minimum wage!”

Rick Moran at PJMedia has an article up about an effort on the part of Seattle business owners to get a measure on the ballot that would roll back the city’s recently passed $15 per hour minimum wage to a more “reasonable” $12.50. You can go there to get the details (there are accusations of fraud in the petitions to get the measure on the ballot), but here is a portion in which a Seattle business owner describes the very real impact raising the minimum wage has on his and other businesses:

That favorite coffee shop that you go to? That great neighborhood restaurant? That store where you buy your books, pet food, art supplies, or clothes? Each of those businesses survives on around a 5 percent net profit margin. That means that at the end of the year, after all the expenses—the payroll, the supplies, the inventory, insurance, rent, etc.—we all will end up with only about 5 percent income in our pockets if we’re doing a half-decent job. Maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less—but you get the idea. This does not leave a small local business with much room to absorb even a small increase in costs, much less the 60 percent increase demanded by the well-meaning but ill-researched and biased reporters and neighbors involved in this discussion.

Here are some more boring facts:

Payroll is approximately 30 percent of my entire costs at Liberty, the bar I own (the average in this business seems to be 30 to 35 percent). If the minimum wage goes up to $12.50 an hour (a reasonable middle ground some have proposed), that would be an increase of 34 percent, which means just to stay even I’d have to raise prices 10 percent across the board—the labor’s percentage increase in total cost to operate Liberty.

If the minimum wage goes to $15 an hour, I’d have to raise my contribution to payroll by 18 percent. So my costs would have to rise by no less than 18 percent, just for payroll—and that’s before my vendors’ increases in costs have to be considered, which I believe will be around another 5 percent, and that’s before Liberty adds any profit.

So it’s not impossible to imagine that costs for business like mine in Seattle will go up by no less than 20 percent.

Those increases are way more than my income. Again, my profit is around 5 percent. And it’s not just me, that’s across the board—for restaurants, for bars, for clothing stores, for pet stores, for art supply stores—many of whom have set costs and are competing with online retail. This makes it very difficult for them to adjust their purchasing.

So, what are this business owner’s options? That’s his problem, not the Seattle city council’s.

Thomas Sowell has often observed that politicians almost never feel the economic consequences of the decisions they force on the rest of us. While they’re buying their way to reelection by handing out goodies and making themselves feel good by supposedly “fighting for the people,” someone else has to pay the cost — in this case, the businessman who takes less profit, the worker who gets fewer hours, or the consumer who pays higher prices.

I left a comment to Moran’s post and I want to share part of it here. It’s anecdotal, but I think it illustrates the very real effects of politicians thinking they can ignore the laws of economics:

A friend supervises minimum wage, hourly employees in an educational setting. Our minimum wage [in California] has just gone up to $9 per hour. She has told me that she knows for a fact her budget for hiring will not increase, so she has to cut employee hours and, perhaps, eliminate a couple of jobs. Now, someone explain to me again how this increase actually helped these workers? But it sure made the pols in Sacramento feel good about themselves.

Those employees are student workers, often from minority groups, who work to help pay their way through school. And they are very real victims of progressives’ “good intentions.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Herbert Hoover’s Anti-Market Policies Helped Turn an Economic Downturn into a Great Depression

June 30, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

One of the things that opened my eyes to how badly History is taught in our schools was the realization that, far from being the laissez-faire conservative progressives made him out to be, Herbert Hoover was himself a statist whose policies helped turn a sharp recession into the Great Depression. Mitchell provides a good overview, including a must-see video from Prager University.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

There have been many truly awful presidents elected in the United States, but if I had to pick my least favorite, I might choose Herbert Hoover.

I obviously have disdain for Hoover’s big-government policies, but I also am extremely irritated that – as Jonah Goldberg explained – he allowed the left to create an utterly bogus narrative that the Great Depression was caused by capitalism and free markets.

Indeed, the Center for Freedom and Prosperity produced a video demonstrating that the statist policies of both Hoover and Roosevelt helped trigger, deepen, and lengthen the economic slump.

Building on that theme, here’s a new video from Prager University that looks specifically at the misguided policies of Herbert Hoover.

Amen. Great job unmasking Hoover’s terrible record.

As I explained when correcting a glaring error by Andrew Sullivan, Hoover was a big-government interventionist. Heck, even FDR’s inner circle understood that the New Deal…

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Income Inequality and Guilt-Ridden Leftists

June 6, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

In other words, “You have been successful, and for your sins you will be punished!” And then the policies they advocate create the inequality they purport to hate. Genius.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

Our leftist friends have decided that income inequality is a scourge that must be addressed.

That might be a noble goal if they were motivated by a desire to improve the lives of the less fortunate.

Based on their policy proposals, though, it appears that the main goal is to punish the so-called rich. And they’re so fixated on that objective, Margaret Thatcher pointed out, that they’re willing to make the poor worse off.

And what’s especially bizarre is that rich leftists are among the biggest cheerleaders for these policies. Heck, I’ve even debated some of these limousine liberals, as you can see here and here.

But maybe their feelings of self-loathing and guilt are justified. After all, it seems that statist policies are actually associated with higher degrees of income inequality.

Let’s see what Steve Moore and Rich Vedder discovered when they looked at evidence…

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It begins: SeaTac businesses add “living wage surcharge” to cover minimum wage

June 6, 2014

When discussing Seattle’s new, progressive –FAIR!!– $15 per hour minimum wage, I wrote that business owners had just a few choices in response:

Critics, on the other hand (and including your humble correspondent), argue that the laws of economics cannot be repealed by legislative fiat: raise the cost of labor, and businesses will be faced with a choice from among four options — pass the costs on to the consumer; reduce labor costs by cutting hours or whole jobs; eat the costs and accept lower profits; or cease doing business in that jurisdiction, either by moving or closing shop. 

Having seen some businesses hold off on hiring, while others moved out of Seattle, we now have an example of another option: pass the cost along to the consumer:

And just look at that sales tax, too: 10.9%. Add the “living wage charge” and…

Yep. This is going to be a very interesting experiment.

via Twitchy

UPDATE: Just had it pointed out to me that SeaTac is not Seattle. My mistake; I’m not that familiar with Washington. Still, it can’t be all that long before Seattle itself sees these “living wage surcharges.” Also fixed the headline.

via:

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Be Thankful for Capitalism and Rich Entrepreneurs

June 3, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Earned vs. unearned wealth, free market vs. statist.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

In previous columns, I’ve explained why a wealth tax is a very bad idea. And I’ve also pontificated on why leftists are wrong to pursue policies of coerced equality.

So it goes without saying that I’m a big fan of a new Wall Street Journal column by John Steele Gordon.

He writes that the anti-wealth ideology animating the political elite is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how large fortunes are generated.

He starts by pointing out that many of today’s richest people earned their money as a result of the microprocessor, a technological development that has dramatically improved the lives of ordinary people.

The French economist Thomas Piketty, in his new book “Capital in the 21st Century,” calls for an 80% tax on incomes over $250,000 and a 2% annual tax on net worth in order to prevent an excessive concentration of wealth. That is a monumentally…

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Seattle approves $15 minimum wage, higher unemployment

June 3, 2014
x

Seattle minimum wage proponent

I wrote about this last week, when it was still just a proposal, noting how some businesses were already slowing hiring and moving out of the city, and how even progressives were coming to have second thoughts.

Well, they did it:

Seattle’s city council on Monday unanimously approved an increase in the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, making it the nation’s highest by far.

The increase was formally proposed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, and his spokesman said he intends to sign the ordinance on Tuesday.

Washington already has the nation’s highest state-level minimum wage, at $9.32. That rate also applies to the city.

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, and Democrats in Congress have been pushing for a gradual increase to $10.10, but so far to little effect.

The increase to $15 in Seattle will take place over several years based on a scale that considers the size of and benefits offered by an employer. It will apply first to many large businesses in 2017 and then to all businesses by 2021.

The first increase, on April 1, 2015, brings the minimum wage to $10 for some businesses and $11 for others.

While the law phases in increases starting only with “large businesses,” that designation includes franchises. In other words, if you’re a franchisee with only a couple of Taco Bells, you’re still considered a large employer because you’re part of a large chain; even though your revenue only comes from two locations, you’re still on the hook for $15 per hour starting in 2017. You’re welcome.

This is going to be a good experiment (and, dare I say it? A “teachable moment?”) for several reasons. Advocates of raising the wage say it’s only fair, that minimum wage earners aren’t paid enough to live on, and that the costs to society will be minimal as businesses adjust. And there is some little evidence for the latter, as we have indeed learned to live with the costs previous minimum wage increases. (Whether those wage increases have been worth the costs, however, is another argument for another time.) Advocates in Seattle argue that raising the wage will help around 100,000 people.

Critics, on the other hand (and including your humble correspondent), argue that the laws of economics cannot be repealed by legislative fiat: raise the cost of labor, and businesses will be faced with a choice from among four options — pass the costs on to the consumer; reduce labor costs by cutting hours or whole jobs; eat the costs and accept lower profits; or cease doing business in that jurisdiction, either by moving or closing shop. We’ve already seen in the Seattle case that some businesses are moving to nearby towns that have not raised their wage. And, here in California, where the wage was recently raised to $9 per our and there is a proposal to raise it statewide to $13, some businesses are closing, choosing to put their capital to work where they can get a better return on investment. In each case, these are jobs lost.

Critics also maintain that raising the cost of labor gradually prices out the unskilled, such as teens looking for their first jobs, where they can acquire valuable skills and habits for later, better-paying work. A very interesting piece at AEI (h/t Andrew Garland in the Sister Toldjah comments section) argues for this very point by examining the effects on teen hiring as the minimum wage rose 41% between 2007 and 2009:

And that’s exactly what happened when the minimum wage rose by 41% between 2007 and 2009 – it had a disastrous effect on teenagers. The jobless rate for 16-19 year olds increased by ten percentage points, from about 16% in 2007 to more than 26% in 2009.  Of course, the overall US jobless rate was increasing at the same time, from about 5% to 10%. Therefore, the graph attempts to better isolate the effects of the minimum wage increases between 2007 and 2009 on teenagers by plotting the difference between the teenage jobless rate and the overall jobless rate, i.e. “excess teen unemployment,” and the minimum wage.

During the 2002-2007 period when the minimum wage was $5.15 per hour, teenage unemployment exceeded the national jobless rate by about 11% on average. Each of the three minimum wage increases was accompanied by a 2 percentage point increase in the amount that the teenage jobless rate exceeded the overall rate, from 11 to 13% after the 2007 increase from $5.15 to $5.85 per hour, from 13% to 15% following the second hike to $6.55 per hour, and from 15% to 17% following the last increase to $7.25. The 17.5% “excess teen unemployment” in October 2009 was the highest on record, going back to at least 1972, and was almost 5 percent higher than the peak teen jobless rate gap following the last recession (12.7% in June 2003).

Bottom Line: Artificially raising wages for unskilled workers reduces the demand for those workers at the same time that it increases the number of unskilled workers looking for work, which results in an excess supply of unskilled workers. Period. And another term for an “excess supply of unskilled workers” is an “increase in the teenage jobless rate.”

It will be interesting and edifying how Seattle’s experiment in progressive labor law plays out. I suspect it won’t have nearly the benefit that advocates like Seattle Mayor Murray or California State Senator Leno predict.

And it’s a shame others have to suffer for their hubris.

RELATED: This Center for Freedom and Prosperity video provides a good overview of why minimum wage laws are job killers.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Worried about Inequality? Then Focus on Helping the Poor, not Punishing the Rich

June 2, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Privatized retirement accounts are such a sensible idea. No wonder Washington won’t agree to them. :/

Originally posted on International Liberty:

I haven’t spent much time writing about Thomas Piketty’s inequality book for the simple reason that my goal is economic liberty, not equality.

That being said, I think that Piketty is fundamentally misguided even if the goal is helping the poor. Simply stated, long-run growth is the best way of reducing poverty and boosting living standards. Piketty, by contrast, focuses on redistribution – even though this would require punitive taxation, thus undermining growth and hurting the less fortunate.

This is very obvious when we look at economic performance in market-oriented nations and compare it to economic performance in countries where government plays a bigger role.

Most recently, I showed how Poland is out-pacing Ukraine.

I’ve compared South Korea and North Korea.

The data for Chile, Argentina, and Venezuela is very powerful.

I’ve shown how Singapore has eclipsed Jamaica.

And we can see that Hong Kong…

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California Senate passes $13 minimum wage, jobs flee in terror

June 1, 2014
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least they raised the minimum wage!”

Perhaps they didn’t want to be left behind by their progressive friends in Seattle, but the California State Senate last Wednesday passed a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $13 per hour by 2017. From the legislative analyst’s summary:

SB 935, as amended, Leno. Minimum wage: annual adjustment.

Existing law requires that, on and after July 1, 2014, the minimum wage for all industries be not less than $9 per hour. Existing law further increases the minimum wage, on and after January 1, 2016, to not less than $10 per hour.

This bill would increase the minimum wage, on and after January 1, 2015, to not less than $11 per hour, on and after January 1, 2016, to not less than $12 per hour, and on and after January 1, 2017, to not less than $13 per hour. The bill would require the automatic adjustment of the minimum wage annually thereafter, to maintain employee purchasing power diminished by the rate of inflation during the previous year. The adjustment would be calculated using the California Consumer Price Index, as specified. The bill would prohibit the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) from reducing the minimum wage and from adjusting the minimum wage if the average percentage of inflation for the previous year was negative. The bill would require the IWC to publicize the automatically adjusted minimum wage.

The bill would provide that its provisions not be construed to preclude the IWC from increasing the minimum wage to an amount greater than the calculation would provide or to preclude or supersede an increase of the minimum wage that is greater than the state minimum wage by any local government or tribal government.
The bill would apply to all industries, including public and private employment.

(h/t California Political Review)

“Leno” is Senator Mark Leno, whose district includes, naturally, San Francisco. You can kind of guess his politics. (He also backed a bill allowing children to have more than two parents. Yes, you read that right.) He’s also a prime example of Thomas Sowell’s observation about politicians who don’t have to suffer the consequences of decisions they impose on others. In this case, causing the cost of labor to skyrocket forces business owners to decide whether to pass on the cost to consumers, cut workers’ hours or whole jobs, or go out of business. As the head of CKE Restaurants told CNBC, people are doing all three:

CKE Restaurants’ roots began in California roughly seven decades ago, but you won’t see the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s expanding there much anymore.

What’s causing what company CEO Andy Puzder describes as “very little growth” in the state?

In part it’s because “the minimum wage is so high so it’s harder to come up with profitable business models,” Puzder said in an interview. The state’s minimum wage is set to rise to $9 in July, making it among the nation’s highest, and $10 by January 2016.

In cities in other states where the minimum wage has gone up considerably, Puzder said “franchisees are closing locations” after riding out lease expirations.

If the federal minimum hourly pay shoots up to $10.10 from the current $7.25—as many lawmakers and President Barack Obama are advocating—Puzder predicts fewer entry-level jobs will be created. If this happens, CKE would also create fewer positions, he forecast.

A recent nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office study also predicted mass job losses, estimating that a hike to $10.10 could result in a loss of about half a million jobs by late 2016, even as it lifted many above the poverty line.

(h/t California Political Review)

For some reason, I don’t think those who lose their jobs because of the wage increase will see themselves as “lifted out of poverty.”

Minimum-wage jobs are not meant to be lifelong careers. For people just entering the labor market, they’re ways to acquire skills needed to move on to better-paying jobs. For others, they’re a means to bring in additional, supplementary income into the household. The pro-increase arguments distort facts and wrap them in myth, all to disguise what is really a wealth redistribution program.

CKE’s Puzder goes on to relate how, when minimum wage increases are combined with the added expenses imposed by Obamacare, franchisees have chosen not to open new restaurants or have even closed locations, meaning these are jobs lost. But they do it because they can get a better return on their investment money elsewhere, such as by putting it in bonds.

It’s called economic common sense, something Senator Leno and his colleagues are woefully lacking in.

PS: SB 935 has now gone to the Assembly, and I will be shocked if it doesn’t pass. It’s frightening to think we have to rely on Governor Brown to be the sane one in the room and veto this bill when it shows up on his desk.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Will Chile’s Politicians Ruin the Latin Tiger?

May 25, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Sigh. The Left never learns. I wonder what “Killing the goose that laid the golden egg” is in Spanish?

Originally posted on International Liberty:

There aren’t any nations with pure libertarian economic policy, but there are a handful of jurisdictions that deserve praise, either because they have comparatively low levels of statism or because they have made big strides in the right direction.

Hong Kong and Singapore are examples of the former, and Switzerland deserves honorable mention.

And if we look at nations that have moved in the right direction, then Chile is definitely a success story.

The free-market revolution in Chile is remarkable. If you look at the Economic Freedom of the Worldrankings, Chile was in last place in 1970 and third from the bottom in 1975. But then reforms began. It climbed to 60th place in 1980, 40th place in 1985, 28th place in 2000, and Chile now has one of the world’s freest economies, hovering around 10th place.

And the results are amazing. Now known as the Latin…

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The racist origins of the minimum wage

May 20, 2014
Chattanooga VW workers, per MSNBC

Also supported a minimum wage

I came across an interesting blog post from a few weeks ago while trolling the news this morning for something interesting. Now, we all know about the racist history of the Democratic Party: the defense of slavery, even inciting a civil war to preserve it; the creation of terrorist organizations, such as the KKK, in order to keep Blacks from exercising their rights as free citizens; and the creation of Jim Crow, which created a legal framework for Blacks’ oppression that lasted into the 1960s.

But did you know the minimum wage, the distraction du jour for Democrats anxious to talk about anything other than Obamacare’s failures, itself had its roots in minority oppression? Here’s an excerpt from a short piece in Forbes by Carrie Sheffield:

The business-friendly National Center for Policy Analysis points out “the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, requiring ‘prevailing’ wages on federally assisted construction projects, was supported by the idea that it would keep contractors from using ‘cheap colored labor’ to underbid contractors using white labor.”

African-American economist Thomas Sowell with Stanford University‘s Hoover Institution gives an uncomfortable historical primer behind minimum wage laws:

“In 1925, a minimum-wage law was passed in the Canadian province of British Columbia, with the intent and effect of pricing Japanese immigrants out of jobs in the lumbering industry.

A Harvard professor of that era referred approvingly to Australia’s minimum wage law as a means to “protect the white Australian’s standard of living from the invidious competition of the colored races, particularly of the Chinese” who were willing to work for less.

In South Africa during the era of apartheid, white labor unions urged that a minimum-wage law be applied to all races, to keep black workers from taking jobs away from white unionized workers by working for less than the union pay scale.”

It is a plain-as-day fact that raising the cost of labor will force a business to do one of four things:

  • Go out of business
  • Accept lower profits
  • Raise prices for the consumer
  • Or cut employee hours or reduce the number of jobs to compensate for higher costs.

The first two are very unlikely to happen, which leaves passing on the cost to the consumer or cutting back on labor. And if the owners decide to cut back on labor, guess whose hours get the ax first? That’s right, it’s most likely the lower or unskilled employee, because it makes less sense to pay them the higher wage when you have more skilled employees who give more value in return for their wages. Now, just who makes up a large percentage of that at-risk labor force? That’s right: young Blacks.

The next time you encounter some Lefty blathering about raising the minimum wage, ask them why they have it in for young people and Blacks.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The Slow-Motion Train Wreck of Entitlement Programs

May 8, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Another of the definitions of insanity: refusal to change policies and programs that are clearly headed for disaster. Also, progressives.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

The Census Bureau just released a report on America’s aging population.

The big takeaway is that our population will be getting much older between now and 2050.

And since I’m a baby boomer, I very much like the fact that we’re expected to live longer.

But as a public finance economist, I’m not nearly as happy.

As I explain in this interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Digital Network (and as confirmed by BIS, OECD, and IMF data), the United States is going to get deluged by a tsunami of entitlement spending.

I mentioned that it’s important to focus on the ratio of workers to retirees. This “dependency ratio” matters because economic output largely is a function of an economy’s working-age population.

To cite my famous cartoons, you need a sufficient number of people pulling the wagon to support those riding in the wagon.

Here’s a chart…

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Greedy Politicians Get their Comeuppance as Taxpayers Escape

May 3, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

First it was Toyota here in California fleeing to Texas, and now Pfizer want to reincorporate in the UK. Both are perfect illustrations of the insanity of statist tax policy: legislators think they can take as much as they want, and the “marks” will keep on paying. But, eventually, the marks have had enough and simply leave, thus leaving the greedy, foolish legislator with nothing.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

If you’re a regular reader, you already know I’m a big supporter of tax competition and tax havens.

Here’s the premise: Politicians almost always are focused on their next election and this encourages them to pursue policies that are designed to maximize votes and power within that short time horizon. Unfortunately, this often results in very short-sighted and misguided fiscal policies that burden the economy, such as class-warfare tax policy and counterproductive government spending.

So we need some sort of countervailing force that will make such policies less attractive to the political class. We don’t have anything that inhibits wasteful spending,* but we do have something that discourages politicians from class-warfare tax policy. Tax competition and tax havens give taxpayers some ability to escape extortionate tax policies.

Now we have a couple of new – and very high-profile – examples of this process.

First, a big American drug company…

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Obama minimum wage edict leads to job losses at military bases

April 29, 2014
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we won the election! Obama!!”

Democrats and their Leftist allies are desperate to find any issue to run on in the coming elections, other than Obamacare. One of their tactics has been to try to gin up class warfare based on raising the minimum wage. They argue that it will help the poor, raise living standards, and, of course, be more “fair.” Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians, on the other hand, contend that increasing the cost of labor will only mean higher prices to the consumer, fewer jobs for the marginally skilled, and be particularly harmful to minorities. This video is a good example of how minimum wage laws kill jobs.

Needless to say, I come down on the side of those opposed to the Democrats’ demands for a minimum wage increase. But honest, intelligent people (1) can reasonably disagree.  To help solve this disagreement, a real-world, real-time example would be nice. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as the case may be), we have one. As Byron York reports in The Washington Examiner, President Obama’s edict raising the minimum wage for federal contract employees on military bases is leading to the closure of fast-food restaurants on those bases, thus costing jobs:

Obama’s order does not take effect until January 1, 2015. But there are signs it is already having an effect — and it is not what the president and his party said it would be.

In late March, the publication Military Times reported that three McDonald’s fast-food restaurants, plus one other lesser-known food outlet, will soon close at Navy bases, while other national-name chains have “asked to be released from their Army and Air Force Exchange Service contracts to operate fast-food restaurants at two other installations.”

Military Times quoted sources saying the closures are related to the coming mandatory wage increases, with one source saying they are “the tip of the iceberg.”

And increasing the minimum wage isn’t the only way Washington is increasing the cost of labor:

The administration is making it very expensive to do business on military bases, and not just because of the minimum wage. Under federal contracting law, some businesses operating on military installations must also pay their workers something called a health and welfare payment, which last year was $2.56 an hour but which the administration has now raised to $3.81 an hour.

In the past, fast-food employers did not have to pay the health and welfare payment, but last fall the Obama Labor Department ruled that they must. So add $3.81 per hour, per employee to the employers’ cost. And then add Obama’s $2.85 an hour increase in the minimum wage. Together, employers are looking at paying $6.66 (2) more per hour, per employee. That’s a back-breaking burden. (Just for good measure, the administration also demanded such employers provide paid holidays and vacation time.)

As I wrote above, the natural business response to this is to either raise prices for the consumer, or cut back on employee hours — or cut jobs altogether. Well, guess what? York reports that military contracts do not allow the businesses to raise their prices above what’s common in the outside community. So, even though Obama is raising wages well above the prevailing standard, employers are forbidden to recoup their costs. What does that leave?

Closing the business altogether.

If there’s no chance for profit, why stay open? When you add up the numbers for all four major services, we’re looking at potentially 10,000 jobs going up in smoke. Not to mention the ripple effect in the outside communities.

Here we have a current, ongoing example of how raising the minimum wage harms people by killing jobs. (3) How then, is the Democratic proposal a good idea?

I’m waiting. smiley well I'm waiting

 

Footnote:
(1) Thus excluding Democratic pols and activists.
(2) How fitting.
(3) Yes, military contract law made the situation worse by forbidding compensatory price increases. So, increasing costs for the consumer –including minimum wage earners!– is a good thing? And what’s to say the Obama administration, if they got their way on the minimum wage, wouldn’t try to extend price controls when the inevitable complaints arose? We are talking dyed-in-the-wool statists, after all. One bad policy, raising the minimum wage, inevitably leads to more bad policy. Just look at the history to-date of Obamacare.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Fleeing California: Toyota takes its business (and its jobs) to Texas

April 28, 2014

Moving

Oh, man, this is just a gut punch to the Southern California economy:

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to move large numbers of jobs from its sales and marketing headquarters in Torrance to suburban Dallas, according to a person familiar with the automaker’s plans.

The move, creating a new North American headquarters, would put management of Toyota’s U.S. business close to where it builds most cars for this market.

North American Chief Executive Jim Lentz is expected to brief employees Monday, said the person, who was not authorized to speak publicly. Toyota declined to detail its plans. About 5,300 people work at Toyota’s Torrance complex. It is unclear how many workers will be asked to move to Texas. The move is expected to take several years.

I don’t know how many will move to Texas, but I bet several thousand won’t. And that doesn’t even address the ripple effects in the region’s economy, all sorts of support businesses that would lose the revenue spent by those employees — restaurants, dry cleaners, janitorial companies, you name it. Those people won’t be heading for Texas; they’ll be stuck here. And it’s going to hurt.

Toyota originally came to LA in the late 1950s, and staying here made sense for them for a long time, in spite of increasingly burdensome taxes and regulations. After all, most of their cars entered the US through the huge Port Of Los Angeles, so it made sense to have the North American HQ nearby.

But, with the passage of time, Toyota, like so many foreign car manufacturers, built more and more of their cars here in the US, mostly choosing to construct their facilities in business-friendly Southern states… such as Texas. The last auto manufacturing plant in California, coincidentally Toyota’s, closed in 2010. Eventually, economic logic (1) lead the company to decide that the cost of living and business in California wasn’t worth staying in California, not when their manufacturing operations had all shifted to Texas and nearby states.

As Dale Buss writes at Forbes. After talking about the structural shift in Toyota’s business, he looks at the once-Golden State:

Besides, California’s business climate is becoming an even bigger downer. California has become infamous with business executives and owners there not only for high tax rates and complex taxing schemes but also for overzealous regulations and regulators that have managed to stifle the entrepreneurial energy of thousands of companies.

Even Hollywood movie studios have been souring about producing flicks in California, increasingly reckoning that the sweet tax breaks and assistance packages now offered by so many other states offset the legacy advantages and ideal production climate in California.

About the only vast remaining pocket of dynamism in the California economy is Silicon Valley, where the mastery of the global digital economy by companies ranging from Google to Hewlett-Packard has become so complete that they have been able to succeed despite the home-state business landscape.

In the annual Chief Executive magazine “Best States / Worst States” ranking that surveys CEOs for their opinions, Texas has been holding on to the No. 1 spot for a while; California seems permanently relegated to No. 50.

As Automotive News put it, “Despite the deep, creative talent pool in greater Los Angeles, doing business in California has become more expensive for companies and their workers.” Bestplaces.net said that the cost of living for employees is 39 percent higher in Torrance than in Plano, and housing costs are 63 percent lower in Plano.

Thus, over the last 10 years, the Lone Star State has stolen so many jobs from the paragon of the Pacific Coast that Toyota’s reported move should come as no big surprise.

No, it’s no surprise, but it is maddening because it is a largely self-inflicted wound. Business flight has been going on for a few years, now, and, no, “Green jobs” just aren’t going to fill the gap. Heck, a businessman even set up a consulting firm to help companies “abandon ship.”

Losing Toyota should be a loud, blaring alarm for Governor Brown and the progressive oligarchs who dominate our legislature, for it’s their policies, piling on regulations and taxes year after year, decade after decade, that have made it nearly impossible to build a business here. (Just read this “Dear California” letter from a small businesswoman who’d had enough.) And for those companies that had been successful, the incentive to move finally grows too great to resist. But they won’t learn, not until it gets much worse. Like all good oligarchs, they’re isolated in their ivory tower of safe seats and unaccountability (2).

Keep watch at the I-10 crossing into Arizona: pretty soon, a lot of those taillights you see  heading East are going to be on the back of Toyotas.

And they ain’t coming back.

Footnote:
(1) Something progressives should acquaint themselves with, sometime.
(2) And, before anyone else can say it, yes, that’s our fault as voters.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Switzerland’s “Debt Brake” Is a Role Model for Spending Control and Fiscal Restraint

April 27, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

I think Mitchell has the right of it: the root of the problem is government spending growing too fast, not deficit spending or even debt, per se. Maybe the Swiss solution is something we should look at. (Yep. The original article is about two years old. I ran across while cruising the Internet and thought it worth sharing, even at its “advanced age.”)

Originally posted on International Liberty:

I’ve argued, ad nauseam, that the single most important goal of fiscal policy is (or should be) to make sure the private sector grows faster than the government. This “golden rule” is the best way of enabling growth and avoiding fiscal crises, and I’ve cited nations that have made progress by restraining government spending.

But what’s the best way of actually imposing such a rule, particularly since politicians like using taxpayer money as a slush fund?

Well, the Swiss voters took matters into their own hands, as I describe in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Americans looking for a way to tame government profligacy should look to Switzerland. In 2001, 85% of its voters approved an initiative that effectively requires its central government spending to grow no faster than trendline revenue. The reform, called a “debt brake” in Switzerland, has been very successful. Before the law went into…

View original 550 more words


#Obamacare: more proof that liberals don’t “get” economics

April 22, 2014
x

Obamacare insurance commissioner

Sometimes I think one of the greatest acts of charity I could perform would be to buy progressives each a copy of Thomas Sowell’s “Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy,” because they clearly were not paying attention in high school or college:

The practice of offering relatively inexpensive health plans with bare-bones provider networks has created tension between making health care affordable and keeping it accessible. It’s set to come to a head this week in Olympia.

The growth of “narrow networks” in Washington comes as the Affordable Care Act limits the ability of insurance companies to control their costs. That’s made it harder to offer plans at a range of prices — something the companies want to do as they compete for comparison shoppers on the health exchanges.

Many companies figured out they could sell cheaper plans that offer consumers fewer choices of where to get care. That caught some consumers, and Washington’s insurance commissioner, by surprise.

Commissioner Mike Kreidler says companies need to justify those narrow networks.

Mr. Kreidler wants insurance companies to prove they need to narrow their networks; after all, under Obamacare, they’re not really allowed to run their own businesses anymore. So he’s proposing new rules, regulations, and reporting requirements that have even the people running Washington’s exchange screaming that this will increase costs to the consumer and hinder companies from providing effective service. Kreidler, however, like many other fans of bureaucracy, just doesn’t get it:

Kreidler says he doesn’t believe prices will increase. He sees himself as walking a fine line, but with his compass oriented decidedly toward the consumer.

“Oriented” like a missile aimed straight at their wallets, he means.

Moe Lane provides a succinct explanation of why, to put it kindly, Mr. Kreidler’s belief is… “ignorant:”

There are three major elements to healthcare plan decisions:

  • Cost: How much does it cost per month or year, just to have it?
  • Deductible: How much does the consumer have to kick in for any given procedure?
  • Network: Who is willing to take you on as a patient, if you use that plan?

With me so far?  Good.  What Obamacare does is turn all of this into a zero-sum game: it mandates an across-the-board, let’s-slap-something-together, we-don’t-care-about-your-stinking-special-circumstances product and doesn’t really care how insurers and consumers cope with the situation.  So the insurers are left with a quandary: if they want to keep the networks intact, thanks to the various mandated procedures and general bureaucratic detritus either the total cost will go up, individual plan deductibles will, or both. And the same is true for the other two categories: push one down and the other two rise. All the good intentions in the world will not alter this calculation.

To use another example, the three legs of Obamacare mentioned above are like a balloon: squeeze one portion, and another must expand. It’s a law of physics, just as the cost to do business and the consequent price of insurance policies are subject to immutable laws of economics.

But technocrats like Mike Kreidler think they can control complex economies with a flourish of their pen, without there being any consequences for others. Perhaps along with a good book on economics, he should learn a lesson in humility and study the parable of King Canute.

Meanwhile, Washington voters should think of Mr. Kreidler and his “compass” as their premiums go up. They elected him with 58% of the vote in 2012; 2016 would be a good time to undo that mistake.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Ted Cruz explains #Obamacare’s success in one graphic

April 13, 2014
"Your MEA shop steward"

“Obamacare salesman on the job”

With the recent announcement of more than seven million sign-ups for Obamacare, the administration and its supporters have been running around shouting “Success! SUCCESS!!”, as if an enrollment figure means that the implementation of the law itself, with its myriad problems (for example) (1), will be just a matter of working “the bugs” out.

Nevertheless, seven million was the administration’s goal, and they met it. So, how does one explain this victory? How did they do it?

Senator Ted Cruz is ready with the answer:

obamacare broken window bastiat ted cruz

Apparently the good Senator is a student of Frederic Bastiat’s “Parable of the broken window.” Would that the rest of Congress were.

Footnote:
(1) For lots more, check out my Obamacare archives.

via Dan Mitchell

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


From Wyoming to New York: America’s Best and Worst States for Tax

April 5, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

I’m very disappointed in my beloved California; we’re only #4 on this list. Surely we can do better and drive more people and jobs away!

Originally posted on International Liberty:

Last August, I shared a fascinating map from the Tax Foundation.

It showed which states have chased away taxable income and which ones have attracted more taxpayers (along with their taxable income).

In other words, what are the “Golden Geese” doing with their money?

Well, the obvious and unsurprising answer is that they are escaping high-tax states and moving to states that aren’t quite so greedy.

Now we have another map from the Tax Foundation. They’ve just released the latest data on state and local tax burdens as a share of state income. Because of lags in data, we’re looking at 2011 numbers, but that’s not important. The main thing is to notice that the states with the highest tax burdens are very much correlated with the states that suffered the great loss of taxable income.

State-Local Tax

You can tell a few additional things just by looking at the…

View original 434 more words


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