#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.


Tales of the Nanny State: taxing your dessert, timing your TV watching

February 20, 2015
I said, no fun allowed!

I said, no fun allowed!

Because what Americans are yearning for right now is even more government intrusion into their daily lives:

The federal committee responsible for nutrition guidelines is calling for the adoption of “plant-based” diets, taxes on dessert, trained obesity “interventionists” at worksites, and electronic monitoring of how long Americans sit in front of the television.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) released its far-reaching 571-page report of recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Thursday, which detailed its plans to “transform the food system.”

The report is open for public comment for 45 days, and will be used as the basis by the government agencies to develop the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines are used as the basis for government food assistance programs, nutrition education efforts, and for making “decisions about national health objectives.”

DGAC proposed a variety of solutions to address obesity, and its promotion of what it calls the “culture of health.”

“The persistent high levels of overweight and obesity require urgent population- and individual-level strategies across multiple settings, including health care, communities, schools, worksites, and families,” they said.

And if that isn’t enough, DGAC wants to monitor your TV watching — for your own good, of course:

The amount of sedentary time Americans spend in front of computers and TV sets is also a concern to the federal panel.

They recommended “coaching or counseling sessions,” “peer-based social support,” and “electronic tracking and monitoring of the use of screen-based technologies” as a way to limit screen time.

The screen-time recommendations came from The Community Guide, a group affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reviewed studies that used an “electronic monitoring device to limit screen time” of teenagers.

Progressive America — where TV watches you!

Really, if these bureaucratic scolds wanted to annoy people so much they would elect even more small-government conservatives who would then take a meat ax to the bureaucracy, they couldn’t find a better way to go about it. “Sin taxes” are already so popular with the public.

I encourage them to press on.


Shock study results: Calling climate skeptics ‘deniers’ just pisses them off

February 3, 2015

Phineas Fahrquar:

I don’t see why it should, just because CBS’ Scott Pelley used the term in a deliberate comparison to Holocaust deniers meant to delegitimize their arguments. How sensitive does one have to be to be upset by that? /sarc

Originally posted on Watts Up With That?:

Academics discover civlity –

civility

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

A study into why skeptics are not persuaded by the apocalyptic predictions of broken climate models has concluded that the solution is better communication.
According to the Toronto Star;

““When talking to skeptics it is probably important to focus on aspects that both skeptics and believers have in common rather than the differences between them,” said Ana-Maria Bliuc, a behavioural social scientist at Australia’s Monash University and one of the authors of the study.

As an example, the focus could be on “things like cleaner air, low power consumption, improved public transport, better waste management, efficient agriculture, reforestation … (they) are all in public interest, regardless of position on climate change,” she said.

Improving communication between the two sides of this big divide could be an effective pathway to reaching consensus, said Bliuc.
http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2015/02/02/different-tack-needed-for-climate-change-skeptics-study-says.html

According to the study abstract;

“Of the…

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The death of free speech in Scotland: “Cultures rot from the bottom up”

January 4, 2015

liberal tolerance

That’s the assessment of Charles Cooke, who also saw that “Big Brother” tweet from Police Scotland about which I wrote a few days ago. He notes that, while the police statement was offensive enough, the fact that 20,000 Scots signed a petition demanding a columnist be investigated for her annoying comments was downright disturbing. In Cooke’s view, it’s a sign of serious rot in the culture of liberty, itself:

In situations such as these, it is easy and tempting to blame the police for their excesses, and to contend with irritation that they should know better. And so, of course, they should. It is easy, too, to slam the British parliament for continuing to permit such behavior. And, of course, it should be so slammed. Nevertheless, the ugly truth here is that, like the Canadians and the Australians and the New Zealanders and pretty much every people in the world apart from the Americans, there is a significant contingent within the British electorate that believes that the state should punish people who utter words and sentiments that the majority dislikes. Of course the police are looking into the rude and the eccentric. Their employers want them to do exactly that, and there are no constitutional prohibitions to prevent them from doing so.

Cultures rot from the bottom up. In a democracy, the authorities come to reflect societal trends — both good and ill. How sad to see Adam Smith’s body decaying in the streets.

(Emphasis added)

Cooke is right to remark on the difference between the political culture of the United States and its Anglospheric cousins when it comes to free speech, and it’s a fair observation to say we almost fetishize it. But alone among the UK and the it descendants, we assume that the right to speak one’s mind is a natural, unalienable right that is inherent in humans and preexists government. In that regard, we went beyond the 1689 English Bill of Rights, which grants rights via statute, and declared “life, liberty, and happiness,” to be rights superior to the law; that laws, indeed, are instituted to protect those rights. In Scotland and in the UK overall, the beliefs that gave rise to these rights seem to be fading in favor of a “right not to be offended.” (See also Australia, where a lesser commitment to free speech lead the prior government to try to use punitive fines to silence critics of a carbon tax.)

But I think Charles is too sanguine when he writes:

…like the Canadians and the Australians and the New Zealanders and pretty much every people in the world apart from the Americans, there is a significant contingent within the British electorate that believes that the state should punish people who utter words and sentiments that the majority dislikes.

Sadly, we have Speech Police, too; they generally, but not wholly, reside on the political Left. And it’s true that here, especially in an age of alternative media, they experience serious push-back from from defenders of the right to free speech. But they regularly try to punish “wrong” thought and words. Recall, for example the howling mob that went after Brendan Eich, then head of Mozilla, just because, years before, he had exercised his right to free speech to quietly donate to a group supporting traditional heterosexual marriage. Or the feminist banshees who attacked an astrophysicist for wearing a slightly tacky shirt, until he had to issue a tearful apology for his wardrobe.

“Ah,” you say. “It’s true their behavior was reprehensible, but surely the authorities wouldn’t themselves stoop to the level of the Scottish police!” Oh, no? Well, consider this:

Dig around, and you’ll find plenty more.

Our politicians would have been far less likely to attempt these and other speech-suppressing measures, if they didn’t think there was a significant number of people in favor of such things.

It may not be as advanced as in the UK, but the “cultural rot” Cooke wrote of is a danger here, too, and we need to always be on guard against it.

RELATED: Mark Steyn on the death of free speech. Jazz Shaw on how the UK is now less free than the US.

Footnote:
(1) Remember when I said it was “mostly” on the Left?


Good Lord, the government really is planning to ban donut sprinkles!

December 30, 2014
Enemy of the State

Enemy of the State

I thought a friend was joking when he said the government was “going after” sprinkles, but then I saw an item in  this morning’s bulletin from the California Political Review that lead me to Warner Todd Huston’s post at Publius Forum, which in turn lead me to this jaw-dropper from Mike Flynn at Breitbart from before Christmas:

Early next year, the FDA is expected to finalize a new regulation intended to eradicate even trace amounts of partially hydrogenated oils, known as trans fats, from our diets.

Although the amount of trans fats Americans consume has declined significantly in recent years, the FDA’s quest to completely eliminate a particular type of trans fat threatens to eliminate the noble “sprinkle,” used to decorate holiday treats and donuts. Even a small amount of joy is suspect in the FDA’s brave, new, food-monitored world.

In recent years, research has determined that consuming large amounts of trans fats is harmful to the heart. Trans fats have been in the American diet since the 1950s, but recent awareness of its health risks have pushed food companies and restaurants to minimize its use. Today, Americans consume just 1.3 grams of trans fats a day, around 0.6% of total caloric intake. No research has shown this level of consumption to pose any risk.

Flynn goes on to point out the irony in the situation: the very organization that now pushes for a total trans-fat ban, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), in the 1980s and 1990s was urging restaurants and food manufacturers to switch to trans-fats, because they were “healthier.” Oops.

And now we’re supposed to trust them and the FDA on this.

The argument over trans-fats aside, this is another example of the eternal desire of the Nanny State to regulate and control everything in our lives — for our own good, of course. You’re not capable of making your own decisions over your own affairs –what foods to eat, what kind of lighting to use, &c.– so boards of experts, that progressive ideal, have to make them for you.

There’s another imperative behind this and other examples of nanny-statism: the built-in, always-on need of all regulatory agencies to ensure there is a reason for their continued existence and for increasing their budgets. No problem is ever truly solved; there is always some new rule to issue, some standard to tighten, even if there is no real problem that needs fixing. But the regulators need their enemy: To admit they’ve accomplished their goals would mean they don’t need more money, maybe not as many staff. It might even leave them vulnerable to the unthinkable: budget cuts or –gasp!– elimination.

And, of course, there wouldn’t be new jobs for crusading nanny-staters fresh out of graduate school.

Enjoy your sprinkled donuts while you can, before Nanny takes them away.

RELATED: Nanny-statism is a feature of the Administrative State, which gives bureaucratic agencies the power to write rules that have the force of law without democratic accountability. A recent book by Philip Hamburger argues that such powers are not only unconstitutional, they are extra-constitutional, not being recognized by our foundational documents at all. Bureaucratic nonsense like the above, such as banning traditional cookies, makes me sympathetic to the idea.

 

 


Free to speak your mind in Scotland, as long as the police approve

December 30, 2014

This from the land of Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment, which informed so much of our own political thinking, from before the Revolution to the present day:

Most of the replies were what one would expect from stiff-necked Scotsmen, along the lines of “Go bugger yourself!” Quite apart from the police having almost no business monitoring what anyone says on the Internet, one has to wonder at the resources being diverted from solving real crimes — you know, against life and property.

Of course, this isn’t the first instance of criminalizing thought in the UK in recent years. Just last year, a minor politician was arrested for reading from a work by Winston Churchill, on the grounds it might have been offensive to Muslims. Before that, another man was hauled in for posting online a couple of mildly tasteless jokes about Nelson Mandela when the former South African president was dying. Do some searching and you’ll quickly find more.

Freedom of thought and speech isn’t quite dead in the nation that gave birth to it, but it’s clearly on life support.

PS: In case they pull the tweet, here’s a graphic:

Scotland police

Carry on, Citizen.

 


The Gruberization of environmental policies

November 29, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Shoot, we know they think we’re children who needed to be lied to in order to pass the healthcare legislation they (and no one else) wanted, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the same is true with environmentalism, too.

Originally posted on Watts Up With That?:

Gruber Gruber

Accumulation of fraudulent EPA regulations impacts energy, economy, jobs, families and health

Guest essay by Paul Driessen

Call it the Gruberization of America’s energy and environmental policies.

Former White House medical consultant Jonathan Gruber pocketed millions of taxpayer dollars before infamously explaining how ObamaCare was enacted. “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” he said. “It was really, really critical to getting the bill passed.” At least one key provision was a “very clever basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”

The Barack Obama/Gina McCarthy Environmental Protection Agency is likewise exploiting its lack of transparency and most Americans’ lack of scientific understanding. EPA bureaucrats and their hired scientists, pressure groups and PR flacks are getting rich and powerful by implementing costly, punitive, dictatorial regulations “for our own good,” and pretending to be honest and publicly spirited.

EPA’s latest regulatory onslaught is its “Clean…

View original 1,262 more words


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