If We Want Prosperity, Prices Should Be Determined by Markets rather than Politicians

November 8, 2015

What more can I say, except “Exactly!”

International Liberty

The communist economic system was a total disaster, but it wasn’t because of excessive taxation. Communist countries generally didn’t even have tax systems.

The real problem was that communism was based on central planning, which is the notion that supposedly wise bureaucrats and politicians could scientifically determine the allocation of resources.

But it turns out that even well-meaning commissars did a terrible job. There was massive inefficiency and widespread shortages. Simply stated, notwithstanding the delusions of some left-wing economists (see postscript of this column), the system was an economic catastrophe.

Why? Because there were no market-based prices.

And, as explained in this video from Learn Liberty, market-based prices are like an economy’s central nervous system, sending signals that enable the efficient and productive allocation of resources in ways that benefit consumers and maximize prosperity.

And just in case it’s not obvious from the video, a price system can’t…

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(Video) Why successful liberals are really conservatives

November 2, 2015

For Prager University, author and humorist Greg Gutfeld explains how, deep down inside, the most successful liberals (1) are really conservatives:

And look at how carefully some musicians (for example) protect their intellectual properties. Why, it’s almost as if they believed in property rights.

Footnote:
(1) For a lot of reasons, I prefer to call them what they are, “progressives” or “social democrats.” There’s nothing truly liberal about “liberals.”


#RaiseTheWage: We tried to warn you, Seattle, but you wouldn’t listen, and so…

October 30, 2015
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the wage! Obama!!”

We really did try to warn them: Increasing the minimum wage beyond economically sustainable(1) levels will lead to bad, albeit predictable consequences, such as job losses:

Seattle, which recently passed a $15 minimum wage, has seen the loss of 700 restaurant jobs despite the rest of the state seeing huge increases, according to a Wednesday report.

In its report, the American Enterprise Institute looked at restaurant job growth in both Seattle and the rest of Washington. The state itself has gained 5,800 industry jobs since January. Seattle, however, lost 700 jobs in the same time. The state minimum wage is $9.47. Back in June Seattle passed its own minimum wage of $15 an hour. The city ordinance is designed to phase in over the course of several years. It will reach $15 an hour by 2017 for most employers.

“One likely cause of the stagnation and decline of Seattle area restaurant jobs this year is the increase in the city’s minimum wage,” the report speculated. “It looks like the Seattle minimum wage hike is getting off to a pretty bad start. Especially considering that restaurant employment in the rest of the state is booming, and nearly 6,000 more restaurant workers are employed today than in January.”

As I’ve said before:

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.

That was in San Francisco. In Seattle, it looks like restaurant owners decided on some mixture of cutting labor hours, or perhaps moving out of Seattle altogether. In at least one case, workers asked to reduced their hours, so they wouldn’t lose their jobs… and their government subsidies.

Of course, this is to the benefit of areas with lower labor costs around Seattle; at least some of them absorbed those jobs and the tax revenue from people looking for better prices.

Meanwhile, assuming those restaurants didn’t close, let me introduce you to your new server:

Welcome to the future

Need no wages

The progressive elites running Seattle (and San Francisco and New York and Los Angeles and…) almost certainly feel good for fighting for “economic justice” and “fairness.

It’s a shame the average working stiff has to suffer for their egos.

PS: The ideal minimum wage is zero.

Foonote:
(1) One of the progressive left’s favorite environmental-justice words. Maybe we should use it so they can start to understand economics.


Governor Jindal’s Bold Reform Plan Slashes Revenue to DC, Abolishes the Corporate Income Tax

October 8, 2015

Of the remaining Republican candidates, Bobby Jindal is perhaps closest to my own policy preferences, at least on matters of entitlements, spending, and taxes. Dan Mitchell takes a look at Jindal’s proposed tax plan and likes what he sees. So do I. Jindal likely won’t be the nominee, but it’s to be hoped he’s an important part of the next administration, assuming the Republicans win.

International Liberty

Give him credit. Most elected officials are content to tinker at the edges, but Governor Jindal of Louisiana actually wants to solve problems.

Look what he’s done, for instance, on fiscal policy.

He sought to abolish his state’s personal income tax, a step that would have dramatically boosted the states competitiveness.

That effort stalled, but he actually has been successful in curtailing state spending. He’s amassed one of the best records for frugality of all governors seeking the GOP presidential nomination.

And he’s now joined the list of presidential candidates seeking to rewrite the internal revenue code.

Since we’ve already reviewed the tax reform plans put forth by Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Donald Trump, let’s do the same for the Louisiana governor.

Regular readers hopefully will recall that there are three big problems with the current tax code.

  1. High tax rates that undermine…

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Scholarly Evidence against the Welfare State

September 28, 2015

One of these days, we’re going to come to our economic senses. Soon, I hope.

International Liberty

I repeatedly try to convince people that the welfare state is bad for both taxpayers and poor people.

Sometimes I’ll add some more detailed economic analysis and explain that redistribution programs undermine growth by reducing labor supply (with Obamacare being the latest example).

And I’ve even explained that the welfare state has a negative impact on savings and wealth accumulation (these dramatic charts show Social Security debt in America compared to ever-growing nest eggs in Australia’s private pension system).

But if new research from the European Central Bank (ECB) is any indication, I should be giving more emphasis to this final point.

Culling from the abstract, here’s the key finding from the working paper by Pirmin Fessler and Martin Schürz.

…multilevel cross-country regressions show that the degree of welfare state spending across countries is negatively correlated with household net wealth. These findings suggest that social services provided by…

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Asia’s coal power climate joke

September 26, 2015

Obama wants to destroy the coal industry here, while California thinks it can heal the world on its own by forsaking the Demon Carbon. Meanwhile in Asia, they merely pay lip service to global warming while pressing on with building coal plants — and laughing at us behind our backs. And sometimes in front of them.

Watts Up With That?

energy-plugged-in-coal

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Mother Jones is celebrating that China has just committed $3.1 billion to help poor countries fight climate change. Mother Jones cautiously states they don’t know what China means by this statement. My guess is they know very well what China probably means – but they don’t want to detract from their climate story.

According to Mother Jones;

China followed up its promise Friday to create the world’s largest cap-and-trade program with yet another significant climate policy announcement: It will commit to spending $3.1 billion to help developing countries slash their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. China’s financial commitment, along with its new carbon market, are part of a comprehensive package of climate measures to be announced at a joint press conference featuring US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday in Washington, DC.

The new pledge, emerging from high-profile…

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Poverty, the Welfare State, and the Failure of Centralized Government

September 24, 2015

Centralize everything in DC’s hands, if you want to achieve perfect mediocrity.

International Liberty

As we get deeper into an election season, many politicians feel compelled to discuss how to deal with poverty.  And some of them may even be serious about trying to improve the system.

This hopefully will lead to big-picture discussions of key issues, such as why the poverty rate stopped falling in the mid-1960s.

If so, it helps to look past the headline numbers and actually understand the scope of the problem.

Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute explains that the official poverty data from the Census Bureau overstates the number of poor people.

…the official poverty rate is a positive embarrassment today. The poverty rate manifestly cannot do the single thing it was intended for: to count the number of people in our country subsisting below a fixed and absolute “poverty line.” Among its many other shortcomings, this index implicitly assumes that a family’s annual reported income…

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(Video) Is Capitalism moral?

September 14, 2015

The short answer is “yes, far more so than any other system.” Via Prager University, Walter Williams of George Mason University explains why:

You’d think this would be obvious, but too many people fall for the siren’s song of “economic justice,” or whatever the leftist claptrap of the week is.


Dramatic Increase in Poverty Rate: One Small Step for Obama, One Giant Step for the So-Called War on Poverty

September 11, 2015

Heard from someone online of her conversation with a person who thought the War on Poverty was going great until Reagan was elected. Looks like some hard facts are in order. (And before anyone says “That post was from 2010!”, consider this a refresher course for those who need it. Such as all progressives.)

International Liberty

The Census Bureau has just released the 2010 poverty numbers, and the new data is terrible.

There are now a record number of poor people in America, and the poverty rate has jumped to 15.1 percent.

But I don’t really blame President Obama for these grim numbers. Yes, he’s increased the burden of government, which doubtlessly has hindered the economy’s performance and made things worse, but the White House crowd legitimately can argue that they inherited a crummy situation.

What’s really striking, if we look at the chart, is that the poverty rate in America was steadily declining. But then, once President Lyndon Johnson started a “War on Poverty,” that progress came to a halt.

As I’ve explained before, the so-called War on Poverty has undermined economic progress by trapping people in lives of dependency. And this certainly is consistent with the data in the chart, which show…

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Seattle: #RaiseTheWage, choose to work less

July 26, 2015
Didn't pay attention

Seattle economics adviser

Okay, I have to admit it: I was wrong about the choices facing business owners when a jurisdiction mandates a minimum wage increase. On several occasions, I’ve written something like the following:

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.

Well, it seems I didn’t figure on one other possibility: employees demanding to work fewer hours.

Evidence is surfacing that some workers are asking their bosses for fewer hours as their wages rise – in a bid to keep overall income down so they don’t lose public subsidies for things like food, child care and rent.

Full Life Care, a home nursing nonprofit, told KIRO-TV in Seattle that several workers want to work less.

“If they cut down their hours to stay on those subsidies because the $15 per hour minimum wage didn’t actually help get them out of poverty, all you’ve done is put a burden on the business and given false hope to a lot of people,” said Jason Rantz, host of the Jason Rantz show on 97.3 KIRO-FM.

And…

The notion that employees are intentionally working less to preserve their welfare has been a hot topic on talk radio. While the claims are difficult to track, state stats indeed suggest few are moving off welfare programs under the new wage.

A minimum wage is a form of economic redistribution and welfare, taking money from business owners and giving it to the employees in the name of “fairness” and “justice.” The idea, as averred in the last quoted paragraph, is to help get people off government aid. Good intentions, no?

Well, we all know what’s said about using good intentions as paving material. Like so many welfare programs, the minimum wage creates a perverse incentive to not increase one’s income, for fear of losing desirable benefits. Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute has a wonderful chart and post explaining this very problem, what he calls a “poverty trap.” By raising the minimum wage, in addition to all the other problems it causes, Seattle is creating its own poverty trap, one that encourages people to work less.

Now how, I ask progressives, is that “progress?”

PS: Read the whole article for other problems caused by Seattle leftists’ good intentions arrogant, economically ignorant self-righteousness.


Must be a coincidence: San Francisco raises minimum wage, Chipotle’s raises prices

July 7, 2015
No way!!

No way!! Magical thinking doesn’t work??

I predicted this from the start. Oh, okay, I didn’t predict exactly *this*, per se, but, on the occasion of a popular San Francisco bookstore closing because of the minimum wage hike, I wrote the following:

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.

Borderlands Bookstore chose option three: close the doors and put everyone out of work. It just wasn’t worth it to fight to stay in business anymore.

Let us not be surprised, then, that the Chipotle’s restaurant chain chose option one: pass the costs on to the consumer.

• In our weekly survey of ten of Chipotle’s markets, we found the company implemented price increases in half of the surveyed markets this week—San Francisco, Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Orlando. In most markets, the price increases have been limited to beef and average about 4% on barbacoa and steak, toward the lower end of management’s expectation for a 4% to 6% price increase on beef.

• San Francisco, however, saw across-the-board price increases averaging over 10%, including 10% increases on chicken, carnitas (pork), sofritas (tofu), and vegetarian entrees along with a 14% increase on steak and barbacoa. We believe the outsized San Francisco price hike was likely because of increased minimum wages (which rose by 14% from $10.74 per hour to $12.25 on May 1) as well as scheduled minimum wage increases in future years (to $13 next year, $14 in 2017, and $15 in 2018).

Say it after me, kiddies: Economics wins; math wins. Rinse, repeat. No matter what the progressive tooth fairy told the San Francisco Board of Commissars Supervisors, when you mandate a wage increase, something has to give. In this case, the “giver” is “Workaday Joe,” the poor sap who has to bear the brunt of this and other increases to his cost of living.

Not that the limousine liberals of the Bay Area will notice, however: they either can afford higher prices, or they have expense accounts that can afford them. Regardless, they can continue feeling good about themselves.

And that’s all that matters to them.

via Moe Lane

RELATED: At Power Line, Scott Johnson looks at the killing of a woman by an illegal alien taking advantage of San Francisco’s “sanctuary” laws and meditates on its deep meaning.


(Video) Should government bail out the big banks?

June 22, 2015

"It's on"

Remember the financial panic of 2008? That was the time when, with the big investment banks teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and a worldwide credit crisis underway, the federal government stepped in to bail out the banks and restore stability to the system.

But was it the right thing to do? For Prager University, economist Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute argue the case for “no.” In her view, the practice of saving banks “too big to fail,” something begun under the Reagan administration, buys short term peace at the cost of creating a long-term monster: banks that engage in riskier and riskier practices leading to greater instability, secure in the knowledge that Uncle Sam (read: the taxpayer) will bail them out. Like giving an alcoholic a drink to steady his nerves, bailouts only enable bad behavior, they don’t cure it.

Here’s the video. See what you think:

The right thing to do, in my opinion, is to let wayward banks go bankrupt, but handle as the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s was handled: federal regulators take over, shareholders and bondholders are wiped out, management is fired, the bank’s assets are redistributed through the normal bankruptcy process, but individual depositor’s funds are protected. This would provide a brake against ever-riskier behavior, instead of shielding bankers from the consequences of their actions.

Of course, this wasn’t the whole cause of the financial crisis: government intervention in the housing market, in the form of encouraging bad lending practices and selling risky mortgages as government-backed securities played a huge role, too.

Hmmm…. Government intervention causes a problem. I’m detecting a pattern here. smiley idea

PS: A good book on the crisis is “Reckless Endangerment,” by Morgenson and Rosner.


Los Angeles: union hypocrisy on parade #RaiseTheWage

May 27, 2015
x

Union economics adviser at work

You have to love the moxie of these racketeers: demand a economically nonsensical minimum wage, $15 per hour, and then, when the city is about to implement it, demand an exception for union members because business owners have threatened to do the logical thing: cut jobs.

From The Los Angeles Times:

Labor leaders, who were among the strongest supporters of the citywide minimum wage increase approved last week by the Los Angeles City Council, are advocating last-minute changes to the law that could create an exemption for companies with unionized workforces.

The push to include an exception to the mandated wage increase for companies that let their employees collectively bargain was the latest unexpected detour as the city nears approval of its landmark legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.

For much of the past eight months, labor activists have argued against special considerations for business owners, such as restaurateurs, who said they would have trouble complying with the mandated pay increase.

But Rusty Hicks, who heads the county Federation of Labor and helps lead the Raise the Wage coalition, said Tuesday night that companies with workers represented by unions should have leeway to negotiate a wage below that mandated by the law.

Let’s review a basic lesson in economics, shall we, from another progressive, heavily unionized city:

Like I’ve said many times before: 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. Ritu Shah Burnham may have loved her business, or she may have hated it. But, regardless, she’s come to the conclusion it isn’t worth staying in business in Seattle. She isn’t the first, and other small businesses in other progressive cities have made the same choice.

Apparently Rusty Hicks understands economics better than the Los Angeles city council and realizes he stands to lose union (dues-paying) jobs when the minimum wage goes up. So, he wants the freedom to negotiate a lower wage, more in line with economic reality. Fine. He’s pursuing his members’ interests.

How odd that he doesn’t want to allow that same freedom to all workers and business owners.

Afterthought: There is actually a sneaky benefit to this for the unions, besides preserving jobs. If unions can negotiate lower wages, there would then be an incentive for non-union businesses to unionize. That would lead to more union jobs and more dues coming into the union’s coffers. Oh, Rusty. You sly dog, you.

via Michael Strain


Instead of Ending Poverty, Big Government Subsidizes Dependency

May 20, 2015

I wish more people would see this: while begun with the best of intentions, the welfare state only traps people in poverty, providing an anchor that weighs against bettering their own lot.

International Liberty

President Obama recently took part in a poverty panel at Georgetown University. By D.C. standards, it was ideologically balanced since there were three statists against one conservative (I’ve dealt with that kind of “balance” when dealing with the media, as you can see here and here).

You won’t be surprised to learn that the President basically regurgitated the standard inside-the-beltway argument that caring for the poor means you have to support bigger government and more redistribution.

Many observers were unimpressed. Here’s some of what Bill McGurn wrote for the Wall Street Journal.

The unifying progressive contention here is the assertion that America isn’t “investing” enough in the poor—by which is meant the government isn’t spending enough. …President Obama…went on to declare it will be next to impossible to find “common ground” on poverty until his critics accept his spending argument.

I think this argument is nonsense. We’re spending record…

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The Ticking Fiscal Time Bomb of Social Security

May 11, 2015

If you don’t think the health of Social Security is a big problem, consider this one fact: when adjusted for inflation, the shortfall is $40 trillion, with a “T.” The next president has to deal with this mess, whether he wants to or not. In fact, events may force him (or her) to deal with it. And because we’ve let it go so long, it’s going to hurt.

International Liberty

America has a giant long-run problem largely caused by poorly designed entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

So when I wrote last month about proposals by some Democrats to expand Social Security, I was less than enthusiastic.

…demographic changes and ill-designed programs will combine to dramatically expand the size of the public sector over the next few decades. So it’s really amazing that some politicians, led by the clownish Elizabeth Warren, want to dig the hole deeper. …I’m surprised demagogues such as Elizabeth Warren haven’t rallied behind a plan to simply add a bunch of zeroes to the IOUs already sitting in the so-called Social Security Trust Fund. …If Hillary winds up endorsing Warren’s reckless plan, it will give us another data point for our I-can’t-believe-she-said-that collection.

But it turns out I may have been too nice in…

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(Video) In praise of Calvin Coolidge, the “Great Refrainer”

May 4, 2015

Via Prager University, recent years have given me a far greater appreciation of the virtues of our 30th president:

The lecturer, Amity Shlaes, has not only written a well-received biography of Coolidge, but also a revisionist history of the Great Depression that should be must reading.


#RaiseTheWage – Seattle pizzeria to close thanks to economic ignorance

April 29, 2015
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least they raised the wage!!”

To paraphrase Mark 8:36, “For what good does it do a city to raise the wages of it workers, yet forfeit the jobs?” In Seattle, San Francisco’s northern soul-mate, they may well be asking that very question:

It may be one of the first casualties of Seattle’s new minimum wage law. The owner of Z Pizza says she’s being forced to close her doors, because she can’t afford the higher labor costs.

Devin Jeran was happy to get a raise, when Seattle’s minimum wage went up to $11 an hour at the beginning of the month.

“I definitely recognize that having more money is important,” he says, “especially in a city as expensive as this one.”

Unfortunately, he’ll only enjoy that bigger paycheck for a few more months. In August, his boss is shutting down Z Pizza and putting him and his 11 co-workers out of work.

“Fortunately she keeps us in the loop, she didn’t just tell us last minute.”

Ritu Shah Burnham doesn’t want to go out of business, but says she can’t afford the city’s mandated wage hikes.

“I’ve let one person go since April 1, I’ve cut hours since April 1, I’ve taken them myself because I don’t pay myself,” she says. “I’ve also raised my prices a little bit, there’s no other way to do it.”

Like I’ve said many times before: 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. Ritu Shah Burnham may have loved her business, or she may have hated it. But, regardless, she’s come to the conclusion it isn’t worth staying in business in Seattle. She isn’t the first, and other small businesses in other progressive cities have made the same choice.

And their workers have wound up looking for work.

What’s especially galling about this, aside from the hubris of thinking one can bend economic laws to one’s will, like a financial Lysenko, is that the progressive, social justice warrior-pols passing these laws don’t have to live with the immediate consequences: it’s not their profits that get hurt, not their business that becomes unsustainable, not their job that’s lost. They’re not the kid looking for his or her first job, only to learn the employer has cut back on hiring because he can’t afford as many employees as he used to. But these politicians do it while appealing to the god “Fairness,” assuming that it will all work out in the end with a wave of the hand, or that it will be the next guy’s problem. Whatever. They still get to hug themselves for being such wonderful people.

Their self-righteous arrogance is astounding and infuriating. It’s genuinely harming people


California: SEIU demands increase in minimum wage, jobs be damned

April 16, 2015
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the minimum wage! Obama!!”

Fresno is fifth-largest city in California, the largest that’s not on the coast, and the largest in the Central Valley, that agricultural cornucopia that’s being destroyed by drought and environmentalist idiocies.

But don’t get me started on that.

Anyway, just by its position and population Fresno is important to the state’s economy, particularly our agricultural sector. (Where do you think your raisins come from?) But, like much of the Central Valley, it’s suffered more than the rest of California from the 2008 recession and the pathetic recovery: unemployment in the Fresno area in 2014 was still over 11%, well above California’s statewide average of 7.1% at the end of that year.

So, when your city is suffering from a lack of jobs, what’s the first thing you think of to increase opportunities for work?

That’s right! You demand an increase to the cost of labor!

On Wednesday, according to the Fresno Bee, over 150 people joined other workers around the country marking Tax Day by marching in rallies organized by unions as they demanded the current federal minimum wage of $7.24 an hour be raised, as well as the California $9 minimum wage.

Standing in front of a McDonald’s, the protesters–comprised of home and child care workers, county and state workers, students and community leaders, but no fast-food workers–chanted, “Hold the burgers, hold the fries. Make our wages super-sized.”

Union members from the Services Employees International (SEIU) helped lead the way; one member, Beau Reynolds with SEIU Local 100, told the Bee, “We’re here to stand up. We’re here to join forces and we are here to demand better. To demand better wages, to demand better benefits and to demand the right and respect that all working families deserve.”

Notice that none of those protesting in front of McD’s actually work there: they’re just there in service of SEIU’s political goal, which is to get a general increase in the minimum wage, which would include the union’s members, leading in turn to higher dues-revenues for the union to spend on politics. (And union bosses’ salaries…)

But the fast-food workers on the inside? The ones inside who didn’t march, the supposed beneficiaries of SEIU’s fight for economic justice? Apparently they know what happens when you raise labor costs too high:

Welcome to the future

Welcome to the future

In other words, when government raises the cost of doing business —and labor is a cost!— business owners have just a few choices: pass the cost to the consumer and risk losing their custom; reduce profits to perhaps unacceptably low levels; reduce labor costs by cutting back hours, letting people go, and not hiring; or just getting out of the business. They’re already learning this in progressive Seattle, and it looks like the Fresno McDonald’s workers understand basic economics, too, unlike SEIU.

Or maybe SEIU just doesn’t care that fast food workers can be replaced with kiosks, as long as they themselves get their cut.

Either way, they’re not helping Fresno county’s unemployment problem.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The Free Market Works in Health Care…When It’s Allowed

April 9, 2015

Best thing we can do to rein in healthcare costs is a) Get rid of Obamacare and b) return insurance to its traditional roe of protection against catastrophe.

International Liberty

I’ve often complained that government-created third-party payer is the main problem with America’s healthcare system, and I was making that point well before Obamacare was imposed upon the country.

The issue is very straightforward. In a genuine free market, people pay “out of pocket” for routine expenses. And they rely on insurance only in cases where they may face large, unexpected costs.

But in our current healthcare system, thanks to Medicare, Medicaid, and the tax code’s healthcare exclusion, most of us buy services with other people’s money and that dramatically distorts incentives.

Here’s some of what I wrote about this messed-up approach back in 2009.

…our pre-paid health care system is somewhat akin to going to an all-you-can-eat restaurant. We have an incentive to over-consume since we’ve already paid. Except this analogy is insufficient. When we go to all-you-can-eat restaurants…

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#RaiseTheWage – In which Seattle Leftists gets a needed lesson in economics

March 16, 2015
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the minimum wage!”

It must be nice to be a progressive; you never have to worry about the real-world consequences of your actions. Fighting for social justice? Great! Let’s raise that minimum wage in the interests of (all bow) fairness. Surely those petit bourgeois small business owners can afford it — they’re probably making more money than they should, anyway. It’s time to spread the wealth around. You, the city councilors and progressive voters of Seattle know better than any shop owner what he can afford to pay!

Strangest thing about choices: they have consequences.

Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law goes into effect on April 1, 2015. As that date approaches, restaurants across the city are making the financial decision to close shop. The Washington Policy Center writes that “closings have occurred across the city, from Grub in the upscale Queen Anne Hill neighborhood, to Little Uncle in gritty Pioneer Square, to the Boat Street Cafe on Western Avenue near the waterfront.”

Of course, restaurants close for a variety of reasons. But, according to Seattle Magazine, the “impending minimum wage hike to $15 per hour” is playing a “major factor.” That’s not surprising, considering “about 36% of restaurant earnings go to paying labor costs.” Seattle Magazine,

“Washington Restaurant Association’s Anthony Anton puts it this way: “It’s not a political problem; it’s a math problem.”

“He estimates that a common budget breakdown among sustaining Seattle restaurants so far has been the following: 36 percent of funds are devoted to labor, 30 percent to food costs and 30 percent go to everything else (all other operational costs). The remaining 4 percent has been the profit margin, and as a result, in a $700,000 restaurant, he estimates that the average restauranteur in Seattle has been making $28,000 a year.

“With the minimum wage spike, however, he says that if restaurant owners made no changes, the labor cost in quick service restaurants would rise to 42 percent and in full service restaurants to 47 percent.”

Restaurant owners, expecting to operate on thinner margins, have tried to adapt in several ways including “higher menu prices, cheaper, lower-quality ingredients, reduced opening times, and cutting work hours and firing workers,” according to The Seattle Times and Seattle Eater magazine. As the Washington Policy Center points out, when these strategies are not enough, businesses close, “workers lose their jobs and the neighborhood loses a prized amenity.”

I imagine reaction of residents must be like that of fans of a beloved local bookstore were shocked when it closed after The Special City raised its minimum wage — they cry “I had no idea!”.

Damn straight. It’s also called “magical thinking,” in which you get to do whatever you want with no blow-back. Then you wake up and realize it was all a dream.

Like I’ve written many times before, there are basic rules of economics our economically illiterate progressive compatriots need to hear. Again:

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.

Do recall this mandated wage increase comes on top of any additional expenses required under Obamacare. No wonder owners in the thin-margin restaurant business are calling it quits!

Dan Mitchell calls it “Destroying Jobs with Innumerate Compassion.” Perfect.

Of course, this won’t stop the progressives who run the LA city council from making a similar mistake, here, because… magical thinking.

Via Rick Moran, who also quotes a great explanation from Reason about the connection between the value of labor and the minimum wage.

RELATED: Earlier posts on Seattle and the minimum wage.