Wednesday, April 30, 2014

President Obama on the Minimum Wage

President Barack Obama devoted this weekend's Weekly Address to raising the minimum wage.

As every good politician knows, vignettes about real people often strike a chord with listeners. So the President opened his address by sharing the stories of two businesses that recently raised their employees wages to ten dollars an hour.

The President asserted  that they did it not just because "it's the right thing to do," (a proposition that he made no attempt to establish.) They did it because "it makes good business sense." And for businesses that can afford to do so, it does make good business sense. Hiring, training, and, most important, retaining the right employees are critical to the success of any business. Good wages play a part in that. 

 "That’s why," the President claims, "two months ago, I issued an Executive Order requiring workers on new federal contracts to be paid a fair wage of at least ten dollars and ten cents an hour."

The President follows this with a  call for Congress to act on a bill to make a ten dollar and ten cent minimum wage federal law.

Even the most fervent Obama supporters surely must feel skeptical that "good business sense" is the reason behind the President's actions. Some business owners might believe that it makes "good business sense" to let them make the call, just like the owners of the two businesses he praises in his address.

He does not say much more about "good business sense." Obama uses the remainder of his address to revert back to "the right thing to do" and to attack Republicans. He tries to finesse the objection that young people fill many minimum wage jobs by asserting that the average minimum wage earner is 35 years old. He conveniently leaves out the other objection that most minimum wage earners only work part time.

This allows him to make the appeal that "nobody who works full-time should ever have to live in poverty."

And, of course, he describes all minimum wager earners as "hard working." Well, some are and some aren't. The one's that are hard working will not be earning minimum wage for long.

Not Obama speech would be complete without manifesting his perverse view of American society. He concludes that raising the minimum wage is important because "we know that our economy works best when it works for all of us – not just a fortunate few."

Even without the devastating wreck of an economy left by President Bush, progressives still see our economy as only working for the "fortunate few."

Ironically, the statement serves as a stunning indictment of his own administration when he sees only the success of the "fortunate few." 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Discouraging Word

Home, home on the range,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where never is heard a discouraging word,
And the skies are not cloudy all day

Now that the standoff between Nevada rancher and the Bureau of Land Management has temporarily ended, a few ruminations from the range, or, some discouraging words.

As this story has spread across the internet and television, commentators have interjected or latched on to all sorts of aspects of the controversy--some important, other not so much.

~the national domain or public lands-- and who should own them

~states' rights

~rights of assembly and petition

~fair use of public lands

~the desert tortoise

~wild horses


~Chinese solar power companies

~Harry Reid and his morally obscene utterances

~and most discouraging--armed federal agents facing off against armed citizens

The bottom line is that Clive Bundy is a bit of a freeloader. He believes, perhaps justly, that the Bureau of Land Management imposed too many regulations on ranchers regarding grazing and watering rights and that the the BLM fails to use the fees paid by ranchers to enhance the quality of public lands. He is free to petition the government for a redress of his grievances. Since 1993, however, he has refused to pay the grazing fees that other ranchers pay. This gives him an unfair advantage in whatever competition exists among ranchers in the pricing and marketing of their cattle. Bundy had his say in courts of law and lost.

In addition, he has made some disturbing statements.  He asserted that "I abide by all  state laws. But I abide by almost zero federal laws." What kind of "patriot" is that?

Is that some sort of "authentic frontier gibberish?"

More to the issue, federal laws are the ones that pertain to the national domain. The United States acquired most of its territory through treaties, usually involving purchases or settlements after wars. Consequently, these lands belong to the United States as a whole before any settlement by Americans and applications for statehood.

Some pundits have argued that these lands should belong to the states. That may well be. Perhaps the government should sell off some of the lands and apply the proceeds to the national debt. A second benefit would be the reduction in costs for management of such lands.

Regardless of whether the land should be long to the United States or to Nevada, it does not belong exclusively to Clive Bundy.

Even the Nevada Cattlemen's Association is lukewarm in its support of Bundy. Read its statement here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

President Obama on Equal Pay Day

He opened his Weekly Address by acknowledging Equal Pay Day,  which "marks the extra time the average woman has to work into a new year to earn what a man earned the year before."

Sound like a national holiday? No, its merely the proclamation of an organization called the National Committee on Pay Equity .

President Obama asserts that "the average woman who works full-time in America earns less than a man – even when she’s in the same profession and has the same education."

He claims that this is wrong and and its is an embarrassment. 

He concludes that "Women deserve equal pay for equal work."

Of course, his conclusion does not follow the premises. Laboring in  the same profession and sharing the same amount of education is not the same as "equal work." 

This will someday end up on a logic textbook as an example of a non sequitur.

 And this statement makes this non-lawyer wonder how this could be. Gender discrimination is against the law

The President naturally dovetails alleged gender discrimination into his campaign for raising the minimum wage: 

"Most lower-wage workers in America are women.  So I've taken executive action to require federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees at least ten dollars and ten cents an hour."

And, of course, Obamacare:

"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, tens of millions of women are now guaranteed free preventive care like mammograms and contraceptive care, and the days when you could be charged more just for being a woman are over for good. Across the country, we’re bringing Americans together to help us make sure that a woman can have a baby without sacrificing her job, or take a day off to care for a sick child or parent without hitting hardship."

Women do not pay higher insurance premiums just because they are women.

And bringing Americans together? I think he means bringing Americans together in a federal court in the trial of a lawsuit.

And, of course, then there are those Republicans: 

"Here’s the problem, though.  On issues that would benefit millions of women, Republicans in Congress have blocked progress at every turn. Just this week, Senate Republicans blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, commonsense legislation that would help more women win equal pay for equal work."

The Paycheck Fairness Act makes procedural modifications of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Because progressivse cannot find conclusive evidence of wage discrimination, it must be because female workers fear employer retaliation. Otherwise we would hear all about it. The Fair Paycheck Act of 2014 intends to block employers from forbidding employee from discussing wages (in governmentese--"making wages more transparent" and prohibiting retaliation against employees "who raise concerns about gender-based wage discrimination."

Moreover, "House Republicans won’t vote to raise the minimum wage, but also refuse to "extend unemployment insurance for women out of work through no fault of their own."

Republicans did not refuse to extend unemployment insurance for women. They did it for everyone. And there are good reasons for acting the way they did. Although most Americans would rather work than collect unemployment insurance, one negative trade off that comes with this safety net is that sometimes there is no incentive to get out of it. It is meant to provide temporary assistance. Too many people, however,  depend upon it while searching for their career. They need to get a job--and while they are working seek their career. 


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Of Berettas and Bracelets

During questioning and testimony on Department of Justice budget allocations, Attorney General Eric Holder revealed the his department is exploring the development of gun safety bracelets. Such bracelets would allow a firearm to be discharged only by its lawful owner.

As usual, the government seeks to reduce the unlawful actions of criminals by narrowing the exercise of lawful actions by the average citizen.

Most law-abiding gun owners--females anyway--might enjoy bracelets such as this:

For those criminals unlawfully using firearms, there is a more appropriate bracelet already widely in use:

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Mobs Besiege Mozilla

Mozilla CEO Brendon Eich was forced to resign after only ten days on the job owing to pressure from homosexual rights advocates. A "virtual mob" assembled to destroy the Frankenstein of Firefox.

Eich created Javascript, co-founded Mozilla, and,--until his promotion--served as its chief technology officer

Back in 2008, Eich donated $1000 to the campaign on behalf of Proposition 8, an amending of California's state constitution restoring heterosexual relationships as the only ones legally recognized as marriage. A state court had earlier thrown out part of the California code on marriage and family law defining marriage solely between a man and a woman. Proposition 8 restored that definition until a federal court ruled against it. The revelation that Ein donated money came out in 2012. Nobody really cared. Once he received his promotion, however, a mob began to assemble.

The first members of the mob to gather consisted of husband and husband team of Hampton Catlin and Michael Linhorn Catlin, who founded the technology company rarebit.

Hamlin Catlin

                                                                        Michael Catlin

When they learned of Ein's promotion, they disassociated rarebit from the Mozilla. They communicated to Mozilla their intention to no longer develop applications for Mozilla software. CEO Hamlin Catlin explains it all here. As he writes, it is "very, very personal."

And that's the problem. It should not be personal; it should be business.

The decision of at rarebit was followed by the call for a  boycott of Mozilla by OKCupid, a dating site.

Apparently Mozilla began receiving criticisms and additional boycott threats within the "tech community."

It was time for Eich to go.

Mozilla chairwoman Mitchell Baker posted a somewhat incoherent piece explaining the decision here.

She asserts that Mozilla supports "both equality and free speech." She did not explicitly say so, but it appears that when they conflict, free speech must go.

She also made the by now transparently false claim that Mozilla culture supports "diversity and inclusiveness."

She never really explained how Eich's presence violated those values, only that Mozilla "failed to be guided by our community." In other words, Mozilla allowed homosexual rights advocates to enforce their "very, very  personal" views on Mozilla.

                                                                      Mitchell Baker

This seems to be the most recent but probably not the last fallout from the battle over Proposition 8. One of the sideshows of that battle was the effort of homosexual rights advocates to secure the names of those who donated to groups supporting Proposition 8. At that time, California campaign disclosure laws preserved the privacy of political donations. A judge overturned this law as well, and so the names of donors such as Brendan Eich became public.

Now we see the reason behind that lawsuit.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sages About Wages

This week's White House "Weekly Address" continues to drive home the theme of economic inequality.

Vice-President Joe Biden gave the the address, entitled "Raise the Minimum Wage: Its the Right Thing To Do For Hardworking Americans." The address appears to be in support of the pending  Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2014, which would raise the minimum wage in several increments to $10.10 an hour.

Well, should we? I do not know. My gut reaction is "Sure, why not." The minimum wage certainly has not kept up with inflation. Our government's inflationary fiscal policies have certainly eroded the impact of a minimum wage. Maybe we need more government intervention to ameliorate the impact of early government intervention !?!  Of course, the minimum wage has been supplemented by expansion of food stamps, school lunch programs, etc.

Should we raise it to $10.10? Not so sure. It seems a little high for unskilled workers.

At any rate, here is Joe Biden with his pitch:

As is the case in many claims by politicians left and right, the call for increasing the minimum wage is more important politically than economically.

That is why the Vice-President's message is filled with as much sloganeering as economic data.

Biden notes the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and makes the obvious observation that "there is no reason why an American working forty hours a week has to live in poverty." Moreover, he continues, "and you all know [duh] that's incredibly hard for an individual to live on, let alone raise a family on." 

A cursory look at a report on the minimum wage by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals the emptiness of Biden's rhetoric.

Hardly anyone is attempting to raise a family on a forty hour a week job at minimum wage.

--Only 2% of minimum wage workers are full time.

--Only 2% of minimum wage workers are married.

--Only 3% of minimum wage workers are over twenty five years of age.

Minimum wage jobs are largely for young, unskilled people working part time; there is a difference between a job and a career.

And, of course, American notions of what constitutes poverty are almost meaningless both historically and globally. The average American is richer than 98% of people who have ever lived on the face of the earth. Biden inadvertently acknowledges this fact when he says that one of the benefits of a minimum wage increase  is that it will contribute to the economy by allowing the less affluent to "put gas in their automobile."

Biden contributes to the "war on women" narrative by claiming that "the low minimum wage is one reason why women in America make only 77 cents on a dollar that a man makes." 

Because the statistical category "Women" is so large, it is nearly impossible to derive any meaningful conclusions by its use. There are never married women, married women, divorced women, women with children, women without children, women without even a high school education, and women with advanced degrees. And, most importantly, there are women who work part time and women who work full time.  They differ in the world of economic analysis. They can be grouped together only in the world of political rhetoric. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6% of women earned wages at or below minimum wage compared to 4% of men. Yawn.

Biden credits companies like Costco and the Gap for paying above minimum wage. In fact, most companies do so. The majority of workers earning at or below minimum wage are engaged in food service industries, where tips constitute a significant portion of overall income.

Biden credits state governors for increasing the minimum wage at the state level. In fact, according to the Department of Labor, nearly half the states have minimum wage requirements higher than the federal government. So the impact of raising the federal minimum wage might depend upon what the states have implemented already.

Finally, Biden claims that three out of four Americans support raising the minimum wage. That might be so. It depends on how the question is phrased. All Americans favor anything beneficial to themselves or others when they do not have to consider the trade offs.

Investor Peter Schiff went "incognito" to explore the willingness of Americans to support higher wages when confronted WITH the trade offs. The trade off for higher wages is, as one might expect, higher prices.  He posted the clip below a few months back when several unions came our for a $15 an hour minimum wage.  Of course, we have no idea about Schiff's selectivity in which interviews he decided to include in his edit. For what its worth:

When all is said and done, I guess the strongest reason for increasing the minimum wage is that it will have a negligible impact on almost everyone--including those people it is designed to benefit.

The only real gains will be realized by the politicians who vote for it.