Government-mandated minimum wages cost jobs

January 19, 2019

If only someone had warned us:

NYC restaurants cutting staff hours as minimum wage hits $15

The legal minimum wage for New York City employers with 11 or more workers rose more than 15 percent on Dec. 31, 2018, to $15 per hour from $13, giving fast-food, retail and other employees a bump in pay. But some New York City restaurant owners say the latest minimum wage hike is forcing them to cut workers’ hours just to stay afloat.

The article then makes an odd claim:

It’s not just a New York phenomenon, however: Minimum wages rose in 20 states with the new year, forcing businesses across the country to grapple with higher payrolls — and compete for workers with giants like Amazon that are already offering $15 an hour.

So, the need to “compete” for workers required the state to artificially raise wages beyond what many businesses can afford? This is helping how? 

The article then talks to someone “helped” by this new law:

“We lost control of our largest controllable expense,” he told CBS MoneyWatch. “So in order to live with that and stay in business, we’re cutting hours.”

Bloostein said he has scaled back on employee hours and no longer uses hosts and hostesses during lunch on light traffic days. Customers instead are greeted with a sign that reads, “Kindly select a table.” He also staggers employees’ start times. “These fewer hours add up to a lot of money in restaurants,” he said.

But the victims aren’t just the employees:

Bloostein said he has increased menu prices, too. “So as a result [of the minimum wage hike], it will cost more to dine out,” he said.

Meaning people on a budget will likely dine out less often. Great work!

As I’ve argued many times before, labor is a cost of doing business that businesses have to account for. When costs go up, these firms have only a few choices:

  1. They can pass on the cost to the consumer, risking the loss of customers’ business.
  2. They can cut labor costs by reducing hiring, cutting back hours, laying off employees, and automating.
  3. They can decide the reduced profit isn’t worth it and close shop, costing all employees their jobs.
  4. They can move out of the jurisdiction, probably costing local employees their jobs.

We’ve seen examples of this happening time and again in recent years, and the people who get hurt are the very ones these “enlightened” policies are supposed to help. Does a minimum wage of $15 per hour help when the jobs have been filled by order-taking kiosks and tablets?

Wages should only be determined by economic logic: what the business can afford to pay vs. the worker’s desired wage (and other benefits, such as learned skills, &c). If the business doesn’t pay enough for the work required, then they won’t find good employees: the business will suffer and they will be forced to raise wages to compete, if they want to stay in business.

Anything else is an attempt to impose utopia by people who don’t understand the way the world works, or by politicians looking for donations from unions.

h/t Mike LaChance at Legal Insurrection


Markets, Choice, and the Economic Illiteracy of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn

March 5, 2018

And it’s not just Sanders and Corbyn: most of the Left seems to have almost deliberately forgotten basic economics.

International Liberty

Not all leftists are alike.

I speculated a couple of years ago that there were four types of statists and put them on a spectrum. I put “rational leftists” at one end. If you wanted to pick a nation that represents this mindset, think Sweden. Nice, civilized, market-oriented, but plenty of redistribution.

On the other end of the spectrum were three less-palatable types.

  1. The “totalitarians,” which means a dictatorial state-run economy, as represented by the Soviet Union and China.
  2. The “socialists,” a democratically elected form of a state-run economy, as represented by post-WWII United Kingdom.
  3. The “crazies,” which I confess is a catch-all category to capture visceral, unthinking, and punitive intervention.

And for that final category, I listed Bernie Sanders and Greece as representatives.

And if you want to know why I listed Sanders, here’s some of Jeffrey Tucker’s FEE column from 2015.

Bernie Sanders, that sweet old…

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Is Trump Right about America Being the “Highest Taxed Nation”?

October 11, 2017

Many of Trump’s policy proposals are good ones, such as lowering the corporate tax rate. Trouble is, with his lack of self-control, he is his own worst enemy.

International Liberty

In my ideal world, we’re having a substantive debate about corporate tax policy, double taxation, marginal tax rates, and fundamental tax reform (plus spending restraint so big tax cuts are feasible).

Sadly, we don’t live in my ideal world (other than my Georgia Bulldogs being undefeated). So instead of a serious discussion about things that matter, there’s a big fight in Washington about the meaning of Donald Trump’s words.

Politico has a report on this silly controversy. Here are some of highlights.

“We are the highest taxed nation in the world,” President Donald Trump has repeated over and over again. …He said it at a White House event last Friday. He’s tweeted it, repeated it in television interviews and declared it at countless rallies. It is his go-to talking point, his favorite line… It is also false — something fact checkers have been pointing out since…

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More Dishonest “Poverty” Research that Doesn’t Measure Poverty

June 25, 2017

Key point: “A country where everyone is impoverished will have zero or close-to-zero poverty because everyone is at the median income. But as I’ve explained before, a very wealthy society can have lots of “poverty” if some people are a lot richer than others.”

International Liberty

I periodically share data showing that living standards are higher in the United States than in Europe.

My goal isn’t to be jingoistic. Instead, I’m warning readers that we won’t be as prosperous if we copy out tax-and-spend friends on the other side of the Atlantic (just like I try to draw certain conclusions when showing how many low-tax jurisdictions have higher levels of economic output than the United States).

I’m sometimes asked, though, how America can be doing better than Europe when we have more poverty.

And when I ask them why they thinks that’s the case, they will point to sources such as this study from the German-based Institute of Labor Economics. Here’s some attention-grabbing data from the report.

The United States has the highest poverty rate both overall and among households with an employed person, but it stands farther away from the other countries on its in-work…

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(Video) Does the minimum wage prevent poverty?

May 22, 2017

Hint: No. In fact, I would argue that raising the minimum wage makes  becoming trapped in poverty more likely, because it become less and less affordable to hire the unskilled and marginally skilled and then train them, as opposed to hiring someone who already has the skills.

But that’s economics, something the Left thinks it can bend its will. Think again.

Anyway, here’s a short video from Prager University on the topic:


Welfare, Taxes, the Nanny State, and Supply-Side Economics

March 10, 2017

Remember, welfare traps people in poverty. It’s not a hand helping you up: it’s a hand grabbing your ankle and holding you back.

International Liberty

What’s the right way to define good tax policy? There are several possible answers to that question, including the all-important observation that the goal should be to only collect the amount of revenue needed to finance the legitimate functions of government, and not one penny above that amount.

But what if we want a more targeted definition? A simple principle to shape our understanding of tax policy?

I’m partial to what I wrote last year.

the essential insight of supply-side economics…when you tax something, you get less of it.

I’m not claiming this is my idea, by the way. It’s been around for a long time.

Indeed, it’s rumored that Reagan shared a version of this wisdom.

I don’t know if the Gipper actually said those exact words, but his grasp of tax policy was very impressive. And the changes he made led to very good results

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The forgotten lesson of Thanksgiving

November 24, 2016

Happy Turkey Day, everyone.

I remember in grammar school we used to be taught the “lessons of Thanksgiving,” including such wonderful things as sharing and gratitude. It seems one lesson never gets taught, though, and so reporter John Stossel wrote to remind us of it in this 2010 article:

Had today’s political class been in power in 1623, tomorrow’s holiday would have been called “Starvation Day” instead of Thanksgiving. Of course, most of us wouldn’t be alive to celebrate it.

Every year around this time, schoolchildren are taught about that wonderful day when Pilgrims and Native Americans shared the fruits of the harvest. But the first Thanksgiving in 1623 almost didn’t happen.

Long before the failure of modern socialism, the earliest European settlers gave us a dramatic demonstration of the fatal flaws of collectivism. Unfortunately, few Americans today know it.

The Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share the work and produce equally.

That’s why they nearly all starved.

They nearly starved because too few people were willing to work hard to make the land productive enough to feed everyone, knowing they could still draw from the communal pot regardless of their (lack of) effort. Hence, not enough food was produced and the Colony nearly died.

But it didn’t. Having seen the failure of communalism and a planned economy, the colony’s leaders decided to divide the land into plots of private property and make each family responsible for their own livelihood. The results, as reported by Governor Bradford were amazing:

“This had very good success,” Bradford wrote, “for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many.”

In other words, private property and a free market made prosperity possible, while Socialism nearly got everyone killed.

Read the rest before you settle down to turkey and football (and the inevitable food coma), and let’s keep this forgotten lesson in mind.

Enjoy the day, folks!

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


“You cannot legislate the poor into freedom”

November 15, 2016

Still holds true after 85 years:

Adrian Rogers redistribution

Source: Someone on Twitter or Facebook, can’t recall whom.

But it’s the thought that counts.


Pension Promises to State and Local Bureaucrats Are a Ticking Time Bomb

October 17, 2016

Interestingly, these pension bombs aren’t limited to just Blue states.

International Liberty

America’s main long-run retirement challenge is our pay-as-you-go Social Security system, which was created back when everyone assumed we would always have a “population pyramid,” meaning relatively few retirees and lots of workers.

But as longevity has increased and fertility has decreased, the population pyramid increasingly looks like a cylinder. This helps to explain why the inflation-adjusted shortfall for Social Security is now about $37 trillion (and if you include the long-run shortfalls for Medicare and Medicaid, the outlook is even worse).

But Social Security is not the only government-created retirement problem. State and local governments have “defined benefit” pension systems for their bureaucrats, which means that their bureaucrats, when they retire (often at an early age), are entitled to receive monthly checks for the rest of their lives based on formulas devised by each state (based on factors such as years employed in the bureaucracy, pay…

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(Video) Pop Quiz: Can government run the economy?

August 8, 2016

Okay, it’s a trick question. The answer is “yes” and “no.” Yes, the government has the power to regulate almost all the economy (especially since the horrific Wickard v. Filburn case).

But it is also an emphatic “no,” because government rarely does a good job. In fact, government regulation often does more harm than good. A much better alternative is to let the economy run itself in a free market.

For Prager University, Steve Forbes explains why:

Now put down your pencils, close your exam books, and turn them in as you leave.

Class dismissed.


(Video) Lemonade Stand Economics: a basic lesson for progressives

July 22, 2016

When writing about the minimum wage or Obamacare, I’ve often made the point that, in the face of government-imposed higher costs, businesses have few choices:

  • Pass the cost on to the consumer by increasing prices
  • Reduce costs by cutting back on labor (reduced hours, automation, &c.)
  • Accept a smaller profit margin
  • Or just say “screw it all” and go out of business

The following video from Prager University makes a similar point, using that American icon, the kid’s lemonade stand, as an example:

Progressives take note. This is a lesson you need to learn.

By the way, those evil oil companies the Left likes to rail at? Their average profit margin is just above six percent. You know what industry has a larger profit margin? Law firms. They net on average a whopping 30 percent.

Maybe the government should regulate law firms? smiley thinking


Italy’s Fiscal and Demographic Death Spiral

July 5, 2016

An overly generous welfare state combined with demographic decline. There’s a recipe for national collapse.

International Liberty

European economic analysts are paying too much attention to the United Kingdom and too little attention to Italy.

Yes, the Brexit decision is important, and the United Kingdom is the world’s 5th-largest economy so it merits attention to see if there are any speed bumps as it escapes from the slowly sinking ship otherwise known as the European Union.

But one of the other passengers on that doomed ship is Italy, the world’s 8th-largest economy. And if the UK merits attention because of uncertainty on its way to a brighter future, then Italy should be getting five-alarm focus for its festering economic crisis as it descends into chaos.

Part of that crisis is quasi-permanent stagnation, as illustrated by this map showing changes in per-capita economic output since 1995.

To state that Italy is the slow student in the class is an understatement. There’s been a two-decade period with…

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(Video) Fossil Fuels, the Greenest fuels

May 15, 2016

In the Environmentalist Left’s rush to condemn the use fossil fuels and bring us all to a renewable, sustainable Paradise, they forget the good that fossil fuels have done in making possible a modern world that is far cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous than ever before. For Praeger University, Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress is here with a reminder:

Of course, many of us remember terrible smog problems in major cities, such as my own Los Angeles as recently as the late 80s. Heck, here’s what it looked like in the 1950s:

*cough* *hack*

*cough* *hack*

So, yeah, fossil fuels used with poor technology were a problem. But the tech has gotten better and the air (and water and land) has cleaned up, thanks in part to reasonable regulation.

But Green and other environmental radicals (and the companies that benefit from government-subsidized “Green” tech sales) aren’t satisfied with “reasonable.” They want to eliminate fossil fuels for a number of reasons: economic self-interest, political ideology, and even a near-religious utopianism.

What they fail to see (or see but won’t admit) is that their “solutions” are uneconomical (wind and solar just can’t make it in the market place without government’s thumb on the scale, for example), corrupt (remember Solyndra?), or keep people in less developed countries from achieving a better life for themselves in the form that they want. (Insufferably paternalistic, when you think about it.)

Sure, eventually we’ll want to transition away from fossil fuels, but that will happen only when genuinely economically sustainable (remember that word?) alternatives come along that provide us with the same benefits at at least the same cost.

Until then, we need fossil fuels. So let’s keep some perspective.


Failing State: $15 minimum wage drives clothing manufacturer out of Los Angeles

April 17, 2016
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the minimum wage! Yay, Jerry Brown!!”

In my posts on the minimum wage and the Left’s push to raise it ever higher, I’ve tried to point out one key truth: Labor is a cost of doing business that businesses have to account for. When costs go up, these firms have only a few choices:

  1. They can pass on the cost to the consumer, risking the loss of customers’ business.
  2. They can cut labor costs by reducing hiring, cutting back hours, laying off employees, and automating.
  3. They can decide the reduced profit isn’t worth it and close shop, costing all employees their jobs.
  4. They can move out of the jurisdiction, probably costing local employees their jobs.

The government of California recently decided to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022, an increase of 50% from today’s state-mandated rate. At the bill’s signing, the Governor said the measure didn’t make “economic sense.” (1)

One employer, at least, agrees with him:

Los Angeles was once the epicenter of apparel manufacturing, attracting buyers from across the world to its clothing factories, sample rooms and design studios.

But over the years, cheap overseas labor lured many apparel makers to outsource to foreign competitors in far-flung places such as China and Vietnam.

Now, Los Angeles firms are facing another big hurdle — California’s minimum wage hitting $15 an hour by 2022 — which could spur more garment makers to exit the state.

Last week American Apparel, the biggest clothing maker in Los Angeles, said it might outsource the making of some garments to another manufacturer in the U.S., and wiped out about 500 local jobs. The company still employs about 4,000 workers in Southern California.

“The exodus has begun,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Cal State Channel Islands and a former director at Forever 21. “The garment industry is gradually shrinking and that trend will likely continue.”

When San Francisco raised the city’s minimum wage, a beloved bookstore closed shop because the cost of business had grown too high. Seattle has lost 700 restaurant jobs because the restaurant industry’s thin profit margins cannot support a $15 minimum wage.

And it’s not just current workers who are harmed: low-skill or unskilled youths looking for that first job are going to discover its harder to find one. Not only will fewer jobs be available out of the limited pool of funds set aside for hiring, but employers are going to want more for their money: employees who already have skills, who require less training. The unskilled 17 year old looking for his or her first job is going to be a lot less attractive.

Great work, legislature and governor, activists and union leaders.You’re driving businesses out of state, costing people jobs, and making it harder to find work. Well done.

They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. In this case, that road runs through Sacramento.

RELATED: Moe Lane notes that AA was bleeding cash from paying already-uneconomical wages.

Footnote:
(1) I leave it to the reader as an exercise to determine why a governor would sign a bill he says make no economic sense. Or, you can read the article.

 


French President Approaches Cliff, Steps on Accelerator

January 19, 2016

France has been dirigiste since Louis XIV centralized all power under him, and the French leadership has been trapped in that intellectual straitjacket ever since. The idea of lowering the burden of government and letting market forces work is probably inconceivable to President Hollande — and most of his people.

International Liberty

When I wrote back in 2012 that France was committing fiscal suicide, I should have guessed that President Hollande would get impatient and push for even more statism.

Sure enough, the BBC reports that France’s President has a new plan. The ostensible goal is to reduce unemployment, but the practical effect is to expand the size and scope of government.

President Francois Hollande has set out a €2bn (£1.5bn) job creation plan in an attempt to lift France out of what he called a state of “economic emergency”. Under a two-year scheme, firms with fewer than 250 staff will get subsidies if they take on a young or unemployed person for six months or more. In addition, about 500,000 vocational training schemes will be created.

Needless to say, if subsidies and handouts were the key to job creation, France already would have full employment.

In reality, real jobs are created

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The Value-Added Tax Should Be Political Poison for Advocates of Limited Government

January 15, 2016

Tweeted this last night, but it’s worth its own post. There’s a lot to like about Ted Cruz, but his insistence that his new tax plan doesn’t contain a VAT, thus giving advocates of big government another revenue stream, is an annoying dodge. I wish he’d drop it, and the VAT.

International Liberty

It’s not my role to pick sides in political fights, but I am very interested in trying to make bad ideas radioactive so that politicians won’t be tempted to do the wrong thing.

This is why I’m a big fan of the no-tax-hike pledge. The folks in Washington salivate at the prospect of getting more of our money, but they are less likely to act on their desires if they’re scared that breaking their promises means they’ll lose the next election.

It’s also why I want the value-added tax (VAT) to become a third-rail issue. Simply stated, it would be a catastrophic mistake to give Washington an additional source of tax revenue. Especially since the European evidence shows that it’s a money machine to expand the welfare state.

Given my concerns, I was understandably distressed that two lawmakers (and presidential candidates) who normally support smaller government, Rand Paul

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So-Called Paycheck Fairness Was the Nuttiest Idea at the Democrats’ debate

December 20, 2015

Remember what Margaret Thatcher said; it applies to the Democrats: They would rather everyone were poorer, as long as the gap between rich and poor were narrower. We would rather *everyone* be richer, and the “gap” be damned. The difference is crucial and fundamental.

International Liberty

Normally I’m very happy to work for the Cato Institute, both because it is a principled and effective organization.

But I wondered about my career choices last night because I was stuck with the very unpleasant task of live-tweeting the Democrat presidential debate. Cleaning out septic tanks would have been a more enjoyable way to spend my time.

Of all the crazy things that were discussed (you can see my contemporaneous reactions on my Twitter feed), the Clinton-Sanders-O’Malley support for so-called Paycheck Fairness legislation would be at the top of my list.

Yes, I was irked by the myopic fixation on income inequality, the support for class-warfare taxation, and the reflexive advocacy for more government spending, but messing around with the price system – because of an assertion that women are paid 77 cents for every $1 received by men – is an entirely different level…

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Minimum Wage Mandates Help Workers…into the Unemployment Line

December 17, 2015

Progressive city councils (Hello, Seattle and Los Angeles!) and state governments (Hiya, California!) have a lot to answer for: pricing out of the job market the very people they claim to want to help — young people and the poor.

International Liberty

As you can see from this interview, I get rather frustrated by the minimum wage debate. I’m baffled that some people don’t realize that jobs won’t be created unless it’s profitable to create them.

You would think the negative effects of a higher minimum wage in Seattle would be all the evidence that’s needed, but I’ve noted before that many people decide this issue based on emotion rather than logic.

So even though we have lots of evidence already that wage mandates cause joblessness (especially for minorities), let’s add to our collection.

Here are some excerpts from a Wall Street Journal column by Professor David Neumark from the University of California Irvine.

Economists have written scores of papers on the topic dating back 100 years, and the vast majority of these studies point to job losses for the least-skilled. They are based on fundamental economic reasoning—that…

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#RaiseTheWage – Applebee’s testing tablet ordering in California

November 22, 2015
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the wage!”

Action, meet reaction.

Last night I took my wife and our two young grandchildren to Applebee’s. It went great — our 4 and 2 year old charges were more decorous than half the patrons.

But I digress. Here’s what caught my attention: Applebee’s is testing a new ordering policy — using the technology that is rapidly becoming prominent in fast food restaurants. Every table had an online electronic tablet, with the menu, ordering and payment process built in. One can place the order and have the busboy bring your food.

For now, one can still use a waiter for service, but obviously the plan is to reduce or eliminate that service. That makes PARTICULARLY good sense in California, which is rapidly becoming the home of the $15 minimum wage. Moreover, California is one of only 7 states that requires “tip” employees to be paid a FULL minimum wage IN ADDITION TO all tips collected. That can make a meal too pricey — reducing the number of times patrons choose to dine out.

California’s minimum wage is currently $9 per hour and will rise to $10 in January. Here in Los Angeles, the minimum wage has been $15 dollars since June, and there is pressure to make that the statewide minimum.

The upshot? Expect to see more and more restaurants going to electronic ordering and payment systems, and more and more waiters and waitresses out of work, as progressive social justice warriors and the pols who appease them make it impossible to do business in the once-Golden State. Again, for those didn’t learn this in school, math wins:

Labor is a cost, because the business owner has to provide wages and, often, benefits that cost him more money. When a government mandate increases that cost, the business owner has three choices: pass the cost along to the customer, who may decide it’s too much and stop shopping there; cut employee hours and stop hiring to save on labor costs, thus costing potential jobs and putting a burden on workers still employed; and, finally, just decide it’s not worth it anymore and close up shop. In the low-margin bookseller business, Borderlands’ owner chose the last course as the only one viable.

San Francisco’s Borderlands bookstore chose to close its doors because it could no longer make enough money to make staying in business worthwhile. Applebee’s (and I’m sure other restaurants and fast-food establishments) are looking to cut back on labor hours in order to balance the increased cost of labor. In each case, employees have lost jobs as a consequence of government interference in the labor-management relationship. It’s only going to get worse, too as long as statists in government continue to act as if the laws of economics will bend to their will and that their actions have no consequences.

It must be nice in their fantasy world; it’s a shame others have to suffer because of those fantasies.


The Value-Added Tax: A Nixonian Scheme to Fund Bigger Government

November 21, 2015

The VAT is to me an obviously bad idea, especially as long as there is also an income tax. But why Senators Cruz and Paul would support one is way beyond me.

International Liberty

In early 2013, a reader asked me the best place to go if America suffered a Greek-style economic collapse.

I suggested Australia might be the best option, even if I would be too stubborn to take my own advice.

Perhaps because of an irrational form of patriotism, I’m fairly certain that I will always live in the United States and I will be fighting to preserve (or restore) liberty until my last breath.

But while I intend to stay in America, there is one thing that would make me very pessimistic about my country’s future.

Simply stated, if politicians ever manage to impose a value-added tax on the United States, the statists will have won a giant victory and it will be much harder to restrain big government.

But you don’t have to believe me. Folks on the left openly admit that a VAT is necessary to…

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