The Dishonest And Irresponsible Minimum Wage Issue.

Good bye. I know when I'm licked...

Good bye. I know when I’m licked…

I heard Bernie Sanders make another one of his economically-deranged statements as the crowd cheered, this one about how no American should work 40 hours a week and not have enough to live on. Then I went to the local Baskin-Robbins.

I ordered a single scoop of Chocolate Mousse Royale in a waffle cone. The cost was…$4.68.

For a single-scoop ice cream cone.

I will not go back to Baskin-Robbins again, which means I may have had my last ice cream cone. I also cannot believe that the company can continue selling ice cream cones at such absurd prices. When I worked for Baskin-Robbins as a summer job, a single-scoop cone cost $.29, and no, dinosaurs were not roaming the earth. I was paid the minimum wage, because a moron can do that job and you get to eat all the ice cream you want (within limits, which I thoroughly explored.)

Like most minimum wage jobs, scooping ice cream is overwhelmingly one filled by the young, who do not need a living wage, or those who have no skills or experience whatsoever and need to develop some. When the minimum wage goes up, companies eliminate jobs, and when it goes  up too much too fast, whole occupations and companies disappear. This isn’t capitalist propaganda: it’s true. Most of the jobs that disappear are those that make life a little more pleasant for those not doing them, like pumping gas, ushering in movie theaters, operating elevators, waiting on tables, and scooping ice cream, jobs that can be learned in about an hour or less by anyone with an IQ hovering around 90.

I ran a study on the issue at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: it indirectly got me fired, in fact, because the Chamber didn’t appreciate that the results didn’t support their position that raising the minimum wage causes inflation. (It usually results in increased inflation, but doesn’t have to. Ice cream cones can get more expensive without changing the price of automobiles, but unions usually succeed in making a minimum wage increase justification for a union wage hike, which is the another reason Democrats like to increase the minimum wage.)

This is going to be a big topic in the Presidential campaign, because people with IQ’s hovering around 90 are a substantial voting bloc for Democrats, and they really believe there is such a thing as a free lunch. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Congress’s official arbiter of such matters, produced a report last year estimating that while an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 would hike incomes for roughly 16.5 million workers, it would leave another 500,000 Americans unemployed. Never mind, say the Bernies among us; the important thing is to get those few ice-cream scoopers  who are left a little closer to the  obscene salaries made by greedy corporate CEOs, even if it gets the rest of them fired.  The scoopers and their equivalents are like the soldiers being sent into combat and told that the chances of them coming back alive are 1 out of 10, and who think, “Gee, I’m going to miss the other nine guys.” They think this way because they are either not very experienced in life, or not too bright…which is why they earn the minimum wage.

Various knee-jerk progressivism-infected cities, like Seattle, are leaping off the cliff with local $15 minimum wage increases, a one-way ratchet that will have significant negative effects on employment and the quality of life in those cities. Good restaurants will close; indeed, some already have.  The rest will be more expensive. Some of those former ice cream scoopers won’t be able to eat. The bright side: that will create more pressure for government handouts, and thus more Democrats.

I don’t know why the minimum wage can’t simply be incrementally raised by statute over time as the cost of living rises, if only to put a stop to the demagoguery of pols like Sanders. Convincing the dim, gullible and the ignorant to support policies that are likely to hurt them and make life less pleasant for the rest of us is an unethical, ugly practice that politicians excel at and will never cease, because it works. It always has. It also gradually eliminates lovely little moments of fun and pleasure that make our increasingly stressful existence more bearable, like licking an ice cream cone on a hot summer day.

142 thoughts on “The Dishonest And Irresponsible Minimum Wage Issue.

  1. My apologies for going off-topic, but felt compelled to share this:
    I just finished listening to Carol Costello talk with an economist, about the prices of gas trading downward of the next few months, possibly down to $2. Carol asked, “What if it goes down to $1.99? When was the last time that happened…..the 70’s? I can’t even remember back that far”

    (Facepalm)

    No…2009. 6 friggin years ago.

    She really isn’t all that bright.

    http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=EMM_EPMR_PTE_NUS_DPG&f=W

    P.S. – As recently as 1999, it was under $1!

    • “She really isn’t all that bright” is an understatement, and she presumes to act superior and smug to anyone who doesn’t follow her predictable, standard issue liberal journalist political views.

      • In Australia…. minimum wage is $17,
        A McDonalds scoop of “Soft Serve” in a cone costs 50c.

        It’s not the cost of wages, but ingredients. Use emulsified industrial fat with preservatives, sweeteners and colours rather than cream, and the price is lower.

        Go for boutique products with vanilla pods and cocoa beans, and you’re looking at $5-$7. Because people with money will pay for that, and a realistic non-starvation-level minimum wage means more people have money to spend – thereby leading to higher demand, and either increased prices (when unemployment is low) or decreased unemployment (when unemployment is high) as the slack is taken up.

        • That word ‘realistic’ is doing some heavy lifting in your statement I think. Do you agree that doubling the minimum wage is NOT realistic, except in those areas where it’s below the prevailing low skill wage? (McDonalds here is hiring at $10 to start for instance, WELL above the minimum wage)

          Inasmuch as the price of most goods is controlled by wages, the net effect of a small minimum wage increase should be close to zero because the increased spending money is offset by the increased price (with some short term benefits if prices don’t rise right away), and indeed it doesn’t seem to shift things consistently or much historically. The only time I would expect a net improvement is if the minimum is set just below what employers would otherwise pay, because it acts as a Schelling point. For example, if I think the laundromat attendant I’m hiring is worth about $7.50 or so, and the minimum wage is $7, then I’m going to offer the minimum,most employees for that sort of job will expect that as well, and I probably won’t have any problem hiring an adequate one at that price.

          The evidence for a negative effect on youth unemployment is much stronger.

  2. The days of the college or high school student working minimum wage jobs in my state are largely gone. They have been replaced by illegals who have been happy to work for nothing and thanks to motor-voter policies now show up at polling stations. Of course they are going to support candidates that promise $15 an hour. They do not realize that by doing so, they eliminate the jobs that brought them here.

  3. When I worked for Baskin-Robbins as a summer job, a single-scoop cone cost $.29, and no, dinosaurs were not roaming the earth. I was paid the minimum wage, because a moron can do that job and you get to eat all the ice cream you want (within limits, which I thoroughly explored.)

    What year was this? It’s likely that you worked this job at a time when the value of the minimum wage was much higher than it is today.

    The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Congress’s official arbiter of such matters, produced a report last year estimating that while an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 would hike incomes for roughly 16.5 million workers, it would leave another 500,000 Americans unemployed. Never mind, say the Bernies among us; the important thing is to get those few ice-cream scoopers who are left a little closer to the obscene salaries made by greedy corporate CEOs, even if it gets the rest of them fired. The scoopers and their equivalents are like the soldiers being sent into combat and told that the chances of them coming back alive are 1 out of 10, and who think, “Gee, I’m going to miss the other nine guys.

    I don’t see how that analogy holds up at all given the numbers you just presented. 500,000 (the amount of Americans who would be left unemployed due to hiking the wage to $10.10) is only about 3% of 16.5 million (the amount of Americans who would benefit from the increase).

    So really, it’s more like soldiers being told their chances of coming back alive are 9.7 out of 10, and who think, “Gee, I’m going to miss the other .3 guys.”

    • Except that I was writing about the scoopers. They are dead and don’t understand it, just as waiters will soon be replaced by touch screens, because the MW is too high. Sure, most minimum wage jobs won’t go away, but whole categories will, just like the movie ushers.

      Morever, that 500,000 figure was assuming a $5 an hour smaller increase than the $15 increase now in vogue.

      • Ah, I see your point now.

        I agree $15 is too much of an increase all at once. I agree that it should be a more gradual increase.

        • They don’t really need to honestly, because of the stupid American custom of tipping. At a decent restaurant, you can make less than minimum wage and rake in more than you could in another job that makes double minimum wage, especially if you go with the default 8% for tax purposes instead of reporting your actual tips like you are legally and ethically required to do.

      • I just had lunch at Olive Garden today and they have touch screens now, at this pace the server will now take care of 3 times the tables they have today and won’t even have to be pleasant (or speak English)… funny that you mention Seattle since it is close to where I saw this.

  4. “When I worked for Baskin-Robbins as a summer job, a single-scoop cone cost $.29, and no, dinosaurs were not roaming the earth.”

    While I agree with your position that the minimum wage should be tied to inflation and local cost of living, I think this is fallacious reasoning. There are many factors that go into the cost of a scoop of ice cream, and you cannot take a price increase as, in itself, proof that a minimum wage increase [i]causes[/i] the increase in price. While the labor costs do influence the cost of the product, so do the costs of materials and overhead. Milk and sugar, the main ingredients in ice cream, have gone up drastically in price since dinosaurs and Jack’s hair roamed the earth (I can make hair jokes, sir, because I’m going gray at the age of 23). So have transportation costs for the product (increases in fuel prices hit refrigerated trucks even harder than traditional ones because of their increased fuel consumption). Utility costs, and thus the overhead for individual locations, has gone up – especially for an ice-cream shop, which is reliant on absurdly inefficient open-top freezers to keep their ice cream cold while allowing the customer to see it. So all in all, I think the impact of the minimum wage increase is relatively small compared to all of these other effects, not to mention that this makes it incredibly difficult to measure the impact of minimum wage with any reliability (no offense) because to accurately measure something, you need a controlled environment. The natural fluctuations of commodity prices over time, and the varying speed of inflation, makes this next to impossible to achieve over the amount of time needed.

    I would also like to take issue with your characterization of minimum wage jobs as being primarily held by the young. Nearly every minimum wage job I see now is held by a surly, inefficient adult, rather than a surly, inefficient teenager or young adult.

      • So is shipping, store overhead, and utility payments, not to mention economies of scale. A pint of ice cream at the grocery store is shipped in a large crate, via a larger truck, and stored in a much more efficient manner. Not to mention, as Bill notes, the markup from how much they think they can get out of you.

        • I’d also venture that the economy of scale would also apply to the method of selling; groceries can basically sell in bulk, while ice cream shops generally have a model of selling a much smaller unit to each individual customer.

        • Believe it or not, shipping ice cream is very expensive. The reason for that is because it has a tendency to melt. Trucking companies don’t like to ship it, and when they do, they have to have top-notch, reliable reefers, on the ball drivers, a huge amount of insurance, and more than a little luck. Reefer vans aren’t at all like refrigerators. The best they can do is fight to keep the product within 10 degrees of what it was when loaded, IF the van was properly pre-cooled. Then, the driver has to go on specific routes, so that a Thermo-King repairman is less than about 5 minutes away. You also have to factor in ambient temp, which often means night driving only. This is just the first few things I remember off the top of my head. If that stuff melts, you are sca-rewed! Imagine 20 pallets of Ben & Jerrys, each pallet with 2100 containers of that stuff.

  5. “I don’t know why the minimum wage can’t simply be incrementally raised by statute over time as the cost of living rises,”

    Good question–why hasn’t it?

    The same article you cute says the last hike was in 2009–to $7.25.

    Before that, in 1997, it went all the way up–to $5.15.

    So, from $5.15 18 years ago to $7.25 today, and NOW you’re asking what’s the hurry, why not slow it down? Because we are WAY overdue–compare that 18-year increase to inflation over the same period.

    Do the math–where were you on this issue ten years ago when indexing could have saved a lot of misery? Sorry, I have no pity for your ice cream sticker shock. Not after 18 years of repressed wages for millions of adults, not just your teen years of fond memory.

    • Doesn’t indexing create its own vicious cycle, though? My experience while I was a federal worker in the DC area perhaps biases me: No sooner would we see a Cost-Of-Living-Allowance (COLA) increase in our pay, than lo and behold! every merchant in town would jack-up prices to meet or exceed the rate of increase. There was no gain in purchasing power, and no change in the actual value of goods and services. Just “indexed negation” of any and all economic benefit, if not indexed degradation.

      • Yep. Arbitrarily raise the cost to value ratio anywhere in the economy in violation of natural market forces and the result is inflation across the board.

        Interestingly enough, economic data indicates that before the government started playing economic God, inflation was next to non-existent and unemployment was at a healthy level.

        • Texagg, I don’t know which is greater – your ignorance, or your arrogance in claiming you know something.

          Would you please give a citation for “economic data indicates that before the government started playing economic God, inflation was next to non-existent and unemployment was at a healthy level.”

          What “economic data?” Where? Put up or shut up.

          • Check out any of the online inflation calculators built on data ranging back to the early 1800s tiger. You’ll find some enlightenment there.

            Plug the data into a cool excel file a make a graph. Tell me why a near flat line means and then a sudden mountain-like increase when the gov decided that Keynes wasn’t a complete retard and wanted to try his magic economics.

            Idiot.

              • Sorry Jack, that was a short fuse reaction. But I do have little patience with individuals who are quick to accuse someone of not doing research when their own method of operation consists of blindly linking the latest article by Krugman or something he’s found on Wikipedia.

            • And, o wise one, what is the date at which you suggest “the gov decided that Keynes wasn’t a complete retard and wanted to try his magic economics.” What is the date and the event at which you see this magical change beginning?

            • texagg04, I’m curious as to how you can make any claims about the employment rate in the early 1800s, especially in order to compare it to today’s levels. How was it even measured? Do you factor in slave labor?

            • You really ought to think twice before calling others “idiot,” and try following your advice.

              If you look at a chart that depicts imputed unemployment since 1890 – like this one –

              – you’ll quickly see who’s the idiot.

              The highest rates of unemployment were in the 1890s, up in the 12% range. Then the Great Depression drove it up to 22%, before the country wised up and elected Roosevelt.

              Now – you have cleverly refused to put a date on when you think the government became all socialist, driving up unemployment. I can’t read your mind, but I’lll make a crazy assumption that you think it began with Roosevelt.

              If that’s the case, then the country’s highest levels of unemployment came BEFORE, not after, the government “started playing economic god.”

              Since then, you can see visually, the volatility of unemployment has decreased, not increased – and the highest level of unemployment since WWII has been about 10% (during the presidency of St. Reagan, by the way).

              So: there’s the data. You asked for it. You got it. It says the opposite of what you claim it says. Boom.

              You accuse me of being “quick to accuse someone of not doing research when their own method of operation consists of blindly linking the latest article by Krugman or something he’s found on Wikipedia.”

              So – over to you. I gave you a citation, with all kinds of footnotes: BLS, Christina Romer. Where’s your data? Where’s your definition of “started playing Economic God?”

              Where’s your content?

              • There is none–it’s just the “stab in the back” myth. “Everything was great in this country until the [insert despised group here] ruined everything!”

              • That’s overly simplistic. And the assumption that the election of Roosevelt cured the Great Depression is downright childishly naive. Average family wages are the same today as they were in the Reagan era. That’s not adjusted for inflation. That’s actual dollars. The last recession somehow “ended” without ending, apart from families having to adjust to the lowered expectations. The kind of debt individuals, families and the government carry today was unheard of two generations ago. And the new reality is couples working 3-4 part-time jobs, which is supposed to count as job growth. The most secure jobs are in the public sector, supported by (and draining) the private sector. These things are not sustainable. A Scientologist is more grounded in reality that a Keynesian economist.

                • Isaac, your ire is misplaced. I was trying to get Texagg to fix a date when, as he claimed, big government began going Keynesian and causing unemoyment to rise.
                  We’re still waiting to hear his answer, I merely surmised that perhaps he meant around the election of Roosevelt.
                  All I did was refute texagg’s claim that unemployment has gone up in the days of big government–sometime after 1800 according g to him.
                  I said nothing about causality, nor inflation, nor cost of living.
                  Go yell at Texagg, and let’s try and keep it to one issue at a time.

                  • If you don’t fudge the numbers and consider employment to mean decent, private sector jobs, Texagg’s point stands though. The current problems I pointed out (bloated public sector, unsustainable debt, etc.) are the kind of problems that come from governments taking over chunks of the economy, not from dust bowls.

                    It doesn’t really matter exactly when the government got “too big” to me. I think you can objectively narrow it down to early to mid 1900s though. By the 70’s you can see the damage, and in the current time there are whole cities like Detroit decimated by Leftist, one-party government, with the rest of the country still advancing in that direction.

                    What I find interesting is that if humans were objective, to the level of Mr. Spock, we would each have an idea, to the best of our knowledge and judgement, of exactly how much government we would personally consider “too much.” You can measure this based on number and reach of laws, percentage of income preempted by government, ratio of public to private sector jobs, etc. Since all of those metrics have pointed to a much larger government today than in the past, and the government is ever increasing in size and scope, this would mean that the ratio of self-identifying economic conservatives should be increasing annually, as the size of the government passes what more individuals consider acceptable. Instead, as government grows larger, more individuals identify as economically liberal, which suggests that humans are not driven by logic, and that increased government breeds greedy dependency at the expense of better judgement.

                    • You really want to get on this sinking ship?

                      Let’s recap: Texagg claimed that Keynesian Big Government is the major explanation for higher inflation and unemployment.

                      I suggested he provide a date for when this Keynesian overthrow began; he still has refused to do so.

                      YOU on the other hand suggest that it happened in the “early to mid-1900s.” A tad vague, don’t you think? If you peg it before the 1930s, then you could indeed argue, along with apparently Texagg, that BIG GOVERNMENT CAUSES THE DEPRESSION AND ITS ATTENDANT UNEMPLOYMENT.

                      First of all, that would be novel indeed. Can you name a single other economist who would ever, with a straight face, make such a claim?

                      And by the way – since Keynes didn’t really come on the scene until the mid-late 30s – what is it with Keynesian thinking having driven it?

                      I already gave you a data series, grounded in BLS data —
                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_Unemployment_1890-2008.gif
                      and that from other economists, which shows even to the naked eye that unemployment has been generally more mild since WWII. Now, by what logic do you then conclude that black is white and that unemployment got worse?

                      OH I GET IT. YOU JUST CHANGE THE DEFINITION OF EMPLOYMENT.

                      As you put it, “f you don’t fudge the numbers and consider employment to mean decent, private sector jobs,” then TexAgg is right.

                      Are you insane? A ditch-digger for Halliburton is a real job, but a ditch-digger employed by the City of Houston isn’t? An economist at CitiBank si a real job, but an economist at the Fed isn’t?

                      Listen, you can come up with all the reasons to dsilike big government you want; but you’re not entitled to rewrite economics. NOBODY in the profession agrees with you that government jobs are “fudged.” They pay real money, they drive economic multiplier behavior, their purchasing power is jsut as big, and they are funded as much by debt as are private sector jobs.

                      Seriously: you can’t just define your way out of data that disproves your prejudices, not if you want the least bit of economic credibility.

                    • “If you don’t fudge the numbers and consider employment to mean decent, private sector jobs, Texagg’s point stands though.”

                      So if you ignore all jobs which you are ideologically opposed to, than yeah, employment is way lower than it was in the 1800s.

                      I don’t much care for plastic surgeons, people in marketing, or Comcast customer service reps. Let’s pretend their jobs don’t count toward employment either! Wheee!

                    • Tex: “You may want to amend your erroneous statement lest you be a liar. I have answered you on the topic at hand.”

                      I must have missed it. Where did you provide a date, other than the vague “early 1800s?”

                    • Please don’t be a moron also.

                      Charlesgreen, in typically left wing asinine form, asks a dumb question like a “specific date in which the fed got too big”. Really? I’m not answering dumb high school debate tactic questions.

                      My answer is sufficient.

                    • Nice try, Texagg – ignore the question and double down on insults. It’s your basic approach.

                      Not gonna let you get away with it, though.

                      YOU SAID, and I quote:
                      1. “economic data indicates that before the government started playing economic God, inflation was next to non-existent and unemployment was at a healthy level.”
                      and
                      2. “a sudden mountain-like increase when the gov decided that Keynes wasn’t a complete retard and wanted to try his magic economics.”

                      Now, I’ve already proved to you that the largest rate of unemployment in the US since 1880 was in the early 1930s. Inconveniently for you, however, Keynes hadn’t EVEN BEEN PUBLISHED then. So, I guess the data actually show the reverse of your first claim.

                      In case you don’t get the form of a reductio ad absurdum argument, if the government did indeed try Keynes’ magic economics and suddenly drive a mountain-like increase in unemployment, then it would have happened AFTER Keynes was read by anybody. But it DIDN’T. In fact, unemployment has been lower post-Keynes than it was pre-Keynes. QED. Get it? That means you’re wrong. Absurdly wrong. Logically wrong on the face of it.

                      Now, I note you’ve conveniently decided to ignore the data about unemployment and try to make the case based on inflation (not a bad strategy, since you’re oh-for-one on the unemployment issue). And you decide to trot out a two-datapoint series – years and inflation rates. You note that both have gone up (as has the size of government, which you conveniently leave out as a dataseries, because data is not your friend).

                      Know what else has gone up? The average height of Americans. Their health. The age at which they die. The number of pets per American. The population in the Sunbelt. The price of polo pony feed. And GDP per capita (though not as fast as Denmark and Sweden, whose GDP per capita exceeds ours).

                      I think even you know the name of the fallacy of trying to infer causality from a paucity of data – especially something as bizarre as “big government causes inflation.”

                      It is OBVIOUS that you have NEVER READ anything by Keynes; obvious because anyone who had a passing familiarity with his works would never make the blatantly ignorant statements you make about him, e.g. that Keynes argued flatly for “print more money.” I could ask you to cite the passage where he makes such a claim, but you probably don’t even know where to find the book.

                      This stupidness has wasted enough of my time. I’m irked at myself for allowing myself to be annoyed by such childish pretenses at argumentation.

                    • You shouldn’t be uncomfortable with what is in fact ethics evolution and enlightenment. Human beings constantly refine what they know to be right and wrong. Our treatment of animals is one of the most obvious examples…as we learn how much animals reason and feel, we have abandoned the idea that animals are just here on earth for man to use or abuse as he sees fit.

                      Similarly, the inequality of the genders was long seen as natural by both genders. TR was raised in a culture that had no qualms about hunting at all—it was barely removed from the American wilderness and the pioneer experience, and Africa was looked upon an a huge, backward, primitive jungle of endless exotic wonders to be killed or exploited. A 19th Century man like Teddy can’t be fairly or reasonably judged by 21st Century ethical standards…it’s like saying that Johnny Weismuller was a lousy swimmer because all of his records have been broken by women. It’s like saying Aristotle was an ignorant dolt. Morality is static; like knowledge and athletic achievement, ethics evolves, and usually improves. You’re preaching presentism, and I reject it. So should you.

              • Awesome Wikipedia link. I think the X inside the little black square is most informative. I went ahead and did some of the sweat work on that tidbit for you: Here’s a solid take down of that chart and Lebergott’s estimating method.

                Here’s the numbers, Charles, plug em into an excel and make a chart. On the left (the 4 digit number) is the year in question. On the right, is the Consumer Price Index, the data from the 1800s gleaned from several available sources.

                1800 51
                1801 50
                1802 43
                1803 45
                1804 45
                1805 45
                1806 47
                1807 44
                1808 48
                1809 47
                1810 47
                1811 50
                1812 51
                1813 58
                1814 63
                1815 55
                1816 51
                1817 48
                1818 46
                1819 46
                1820 42
                1821 40
                1822 40
                1823 36
                1824 33
                1825 34
                1826 34
                1827 34
                1828 33
                1829 32
                1830 32
                1831 32
                1832 30
                1833 29
                1834 30
                1835 31
                1836 33
                1837 34
                1838 32
                1839 32
                1840 30
                1841 31
                1842 29
                1843 28
                1844 28
                1845 28
                1846 27
                1847 28
                1848 26
                1849 25
                1850 25
                1851 25
                1852 25
                1853 25
                1854 27
                1855 28
                1856 27
                1857 28
                1858 26
                1859 27
                1860 27
                1861 27
                1862 30
                1863 37
                1864 47
                1865 46
                1866 44
                1867 42
                1868 40
                1869 40
                1870 38
                1871 36
                1872 36
                1873 36
                1874 34
                1875 33
                1876 32
                1877 32
                1878 29
                1879 28
                1880 29
                1881 29
                1882 29
                1883 28
                1884 27
                1885 27
                1886 27
                1887 27
                1888 27
                1889 27
                1890 27
                1891 27
                1892 27
                1893 27
                1894 26
                1895 25
                1896 25
                1897 25
                1898 25
                1899 25
                1900 25
                1901 25
                1902 26
                1903 27
                1904 27
                1905 27
                1906 27
                1907 28
                1908 27
                1909 27
                1910 28
                1911 28
                1912 29
                1913 29.7
                1914 30.1
                1915 30.4
                1916 32.7
                1917 38.5
                1918 45.2
                1919 52.1
                1920 60.2
                1921 53.6
                1922 50.3
                1923 51.2
                1924 51.5
                1925 52.7
                1926 53.2
                1927 52.2
                1928 51.6
                1929 51.6
                1930 50.2
                1931 45.7
                1932 41
                1933 38.9
                1934 40.2
                1935 41.2
                1936 41.7
                1937 43.2
                1938 42.3
                1939 41.8
                1940 42.1
                1941 44.2
                1942 49.1
                1943 52
                1944 52.9
                1945 54.1
                1946 58.6
                1947 67.1
                1948 72.2
                1949 71.5
                1950 72.3
                1951 78
                1952 79.8
                1953 80.4
                1954 80.7
                1955 80.5
                1956 81.7
                1957 84.4
                1958 86.7
                1959 87.6
                1960 88.9
                1961 89.8
                1962 90.9
                1963 92
                1964 93.2
                1965 94.7
                1966 97.5
                1967 100.2
                1968 104.5
                1969 110.2
                1970 116.7
                1971 121.7
                1972 125.7
                1973 133.4
                1974 148.2
                1975 161.7
                1976 171
                1977 182.1
                1978 196
                1979 218.1
                1980 247.6
                1981 273.2
                1982 290
                1983 299.3
                1984 312.2
                1985 323.2
                1986 329.4
                1987 341.4
                1988 355.4
                1989 372.5
                1990 392.6
                1991 409.3
                1992 421.7
                1993 434.1
                1994 445.4
                1995 457.9
                1996 471.3
                1997 482.4
                1998 489.8
                1999 500.6
                2000 517.5
                2001 532.1
                2002 540.5
                2003 552.8
                2004 567.6
                2005 586.9
                2006 605.8
                2007 623.1
                2008 647
                2009 644.7
                2010 655.3
                2011 676
                2012 689.9
                2013 700
                2014 708.7

                Once you’ve made your chart, tell me what the generally flat line of prices from, oh, 1800 through about, oh, WW1 tell you? The economy, prices and inflation (though suffering the occasional natural hiccup) stayed stable enough.

                Let’s see, the oddly wild years from oh, WW1 through about oh, the start of the “Great Society” would be the era when the Federal Reserve and the Gov started playing with Keynesianism. I wouldn’t characterize that era as too terribly stable in terms of inflation, but stable enough still compared to when Big Gov really kicked in the next bit of the chart.

                So, how bout the chart after “Great Society”, when massive public spending and policies that essentially compelled a variety of prices and costs in the economy became the modus operandi of politicians? Looks kind of like the side of Mount Everest. Now, I don’t know about you, but when costs skyrocket like that, it isn’t natural, but the natural result of an arbitrary input into the economy. Of course, wages can’t keep up with that and not contribute to the skyrocket. That is simple math that even you can figure out.

                I do love how you Krug-bots think FDR solved the Great Depression. You do know that WW2 happened right? That the vast bulk of employment came in terms of the need to kill and destroy or support the killing and destroying of Germans and Japanese right? You do know that right?

                “Boom”

                Boom? I’ll allow you the use of middle school economics (though it leads you to some pretty silly conclusions), but the use of middle school punch lines is a bit juvenile.

                • Arg…the text file had considerably greater distance between the “years column” and the “CPI column”.

                  But I think you can figure out that the 4 digit number on the left are years.

                  I think.

                • Texagg, you make me laugh. You cite a “solid takedown” of the chart I cited.

                  That takedown includes the following statement, which you conveniently overlook.

                  “Michael Darby maintains that official figures vastly overstate unemployment between 1931 and 1942 because they improperly count millions of workers supported by federal work relief programs as unemployed. He argues that these jobs were substantially fulltime and paid competitive wages, so these workers should be counted as government employees.”

                  You can’t have it both ways, Texagg. You can say unemployment was overstated because of all these government jobs and therefore the Great Depression really wasn’t all that bad. Or, you could say unemployment would have been awful but for the fact that the government stepped in and created a bunch of jobs.

                  So which do you want? You want to be right that unemployment was low in the 30s? Then you have to admit that what was, in retrospect, a Keynesian solution to the problem is what allows you to make that claim.

                  Would you rather claim that unemployment was high? Then you have to admit that the effects of it were muted because of “keynesianism.”

                  Your choice.

                  • What are you talking about?

                    I think you’ve really confused yourself severely…

                    Please read my response below and you’ll realize that inflation has been the thrust of my discussion…since the beginning.

                • Well, this conversation got heated. And silly.

                  Chris said: “So if you ignore all jobs which you are ideologically opposed to, than yeah, employment is way lower than it was in the 1800s.
                  I don’t much care for plastic surgeons, people in marketing, or Comcast customer service reps. Let’s pretend their jobs don’t count toward employment either! Wheee!”

                  I assumed that we were having an adult-level conversation and you already understood that government jobs do not create wealth. Their existence and sustainability depend on the wealth generated by the private sector.

                  Here in California, we have a massive, crushing debt crisis because politicians thought they could improve employment by just having the government hire more people. To the point that the Federal Government may have to actually bail out the entire state. But sure, let’s just count every job the same, full time, part time, public, or private, so that we all can be collectively dumber and have less information.

                  As for “fudging the numbers” in unemployment, if you’re just using the standard unemployment number and trying to make some larger argument, then there’s no more accurate way to describe it. You learn almost nothing that way. That figure doesn’t count long-term unemployed, and it doesn’t differentiate between a full-time or part-time job. And of course, it doesn’t differentiate between private sector, wealth-creating jobs, and government jobs, even though the latter depend on the former.

                  It’s as simple-minded a case as comparing basketball players using only points-per-game.

                  Here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/dandimicco/2015/02/13/jobs-the-real-unemployment-rate-please-anyone/

                  • “Reply” button isn’t available to me on Charles’ post or Chris’, hence I’m replying here.

                    To this: “Listen, you can come up with all the reasons to dsilike big government you want; but you’re not entitled to rewrite economics. NOBODY in the profession agrees with you that government jobs are “fudged.” They pay real money, they drive economic multiplier behavior, their purchasing power is jsut as big, and they are funded as much by debt as are private sector jobs.
                    Seriously: you can’t just define your way out of data that disproves your prejudices, not if you want the least bit of economic credibility.”

                    Aaaand, that’s where I just blue-screened. Are you saying that no one in the world of economics thinks that there is a critical difference between public and private sector jobs? So a state with a 50/50 split between government and private jobs is just as economically healthy as a state with a 20/80 split, all else being equal? What am I even supposed to say in response to that?

                    I guess you can brush up on the ground rules of that larger discussion here: http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/2634/economics/private-sector-vs-public-sector/

                    But what NO sane person (I thought) would argue against is that the private sector is a real indicator of economic health. Counting government jobs tells you nothing. Congress can mandate 20 million new mailmen tomorrow; that doesn’t make the economy any healthier. All government services and jobs are 1. financed by the private sector 2. exist in service of the private sector, and 3. are completely dependent on the wealth generated by the private sector. The private sector in turn needs government for purposes of fairness and facilitation, not so that it can exist.

                    • That’s a good little article you cited.
                      Question: why’d you stop reading it half way through?

                    • Try Googling C+I+G — it’s the basic definition of GDP in any Econ textbook I know. Not just C+I, and certainly not C+ I – G.
                      Your ideology is fuzzing your ability to honk clearly about economics. You’re not alone in this.

                    • In reply to below: This is why I’m stymied by this conversation. Either you’re not tracking or being willfully obtuse. The link objectively presents both sides of the issue, as I made pretty clear it does. I posted it mostly as a rhetorical device, since it’s probably meant for 6th graders. You can decide for yourself which point of view is stronger, but notice that the only case apologists for government are making is that government might add SOMETHING to the economy. No one outside of YouTube comment-level discussion is going to deny that the private sector funds the public. Everybody gets this. The only thing left to argue about is whether the public sector is giving the people their money’s worth at any given time and place.

                      I suppose I could make it even simpler: Which hypothetical do you think would be real, good news for the economy? A. Barack Obama announces that he’s going to mandate the hiring of 1 million new policemen over the next year to fix unemployment, or B. a new, cheaper line of cars is introduced by GM, and demand is so strong that GM announces it will be building new plants and hiring 1 million people over the next year? They both introduce the same number of new jobs that pay real paychecks.

                    • I’m considering bowing out of this particular sub-thread as you are doing a far more excellent job spanking around the Left-of-Center crowd on this than I.

                    • Isaac, let’s dial it down. I certainly agree with you that the general economic health of an economy ultimately depends more on the private sector than the public. No argument here (I’m an MBA and proud of it).

                      But – that general point gets inflated way out of proportion in discussions like this, and it’s worth pointing out some of the limitations of the general point.

                      First, it is largely a point about managerial effectiveness and innovation, both of which – all else equal – run higher in the private sector. Again, no argument.

                      But – the managerial point doesn’t make any ECONOMIC difference, except in a much longer term. A dollar paid to an aerospace engineer has exactly the same impact on national accounts, multipliers, debt levels, housing prices and CPI, whether that engineer works for NASA or for General Dynamics. Ditto for your cops vs. auto workers example. In the economy, a buck is a buck is a buck.

                      Also, there are exceptions even to the general management rule: the entire country of Singapore is basically a public sector venture, and is extraordinarily efficient and creative. And it’s often not as clear as your cops vs autos example: let’s note that a lot of America’s best and brightest are using their intellectual capabilities for marketing sugar water and cooking up synthetic financial engineering products. Those are not self-evidently better uses of human resources than the CDC, for example. Not all government is the DMV; let’s don’t forget the Cable Company is private sector.

                      The simple case for Keynesian economics is that, left to itself, a capitalist economy seems prone to cyclical crises; in such cases, the government has a useful role to play by increasing fiscal policy. When such a crisis passes, the right thing to do is to pay down the surplus (as Clinton was able to do).

                      So yes, private sector employment is ultimately a better driver of wealth, because of efficiency and innovation. But this simple point has been turned into an ideological fetish by the Austerians, who have caused serious harm by their obsession with strangling government at all times, without regard to specifics. They have continually been wrong, in particular in forecasting hyper-inflation (it’s nowhere, still), and currency “debasement” (check the dollar’s strength against nearly all currencies in recent years).

                      The fact that the ideologues have basically shut down the appropriate fiscal response for the last decade, at a time of very large unemployment and available super-low interest rates, has condemned an entire generation of college grads to sub-optimal careers, and created a third-world-type level of infrastructure for us here in the US. Our economic policy, and that of the EEC, have been near-criminal in the harm created by the over-inflated fear of debt (debt which is largely owed to ourselves, by the way).

                      The whole litany of “private sector good – public sector bad” is blunt instrument thinking. It is as much wrong as right, and it’s very harmful to serious economic dialogue to have such simplistic formulations given credence.

                      That’s my take on it, in any case.

      • You’re just a right-wing doom-and-gloomer. What happened to your ability to think magically? You used to be fun, man!

    • How are the wages repressed? I don’t think there should be a minimum wage at all, but since there has to be one politically, it might as well be consistent.

      It’s not a sticker shock issue. It’s a “well, here’s a business that can’t go on much longer” issue. I think I made that clear. We’re only overdue in the sense that its been a long time since the last time the demogogues were demogoguing. The MW should never be raised. If your job is worth a nickel an hour, that’s what you should be paid. Markets set the wages very efficiently. Nobody should be satisfied with a minimum.

      • Sorry I completely disagree. If there is no minimum wage employers will pay the person who will accept the lowest wage no matter if he can perform the job or not. That’s why you see track homes that have horrible workmen ship because those builders are paying piece work wages , but of you go on a union job or a job where the owner has set a minimum wage scale the work is of a much higher quality.

        I’ve worked for union plumbing shops and no union plumbing shops and hands down the union shops had better trained people who did better work.

        • It’s also true that if you had no minimum wage at all, you’d have even more people scrambling for unemployment compensation, and even more resultant vicious political rhetoric about “subsidizing lazy people.” You’d also have even more illegal immigration, because many of the same people who dislike minimum wage laws seem to like hiring low-cost illegal aliens.

          Honestly it’s one of those “good in theory” ideas that falls apart on contact with the real world, along with “let’s get rid of regulation.”

        • Were the union shops able to charge more than their non-union competition? If so, this might be a case of “you get what you pay for”; some people are willing to pay for crap if it’s cheap, and some employers are perfectly happy to take advantage of that. That said, your observation does square with some research suggesting that employers may in part adjust to the minimum wage by improving efficiency and performance.

          • Unless its a government project yes the union shops were able to charge more. On government projects everyone whether they be union or nor have to abide by the Davis Bacon wage scale .

        • “If there is no minimum wage employers will pay the person who will accept the lowest wage no matter if he can perform the job or not.”

          Come on. You know that’s ridiculous.

          • Jack, if you can hire five men for what you would pay one man and get them to do the work of two you’ve made money.

            Ive seen plumbing jobs where the guys doing the plumbing all had a basic understanding of what to do but I wouldn’t call any of them plumbers but between the five of them they would get job done fast and cheap so the company they worked for was under bidding everyone. The only problem is that the work is so bad that most of it presents a hazard to the people in the buildings or the community.

            The same people who don’t want a minimum wage also don’t want minimum licensing requirements. It use to be that you had to have a master plumber on each job site and everyone had to be a journeymen plumber, now the company just has to have a master plumber on the pay roll.

    • “I don’t know why the minimum wage can’t simply be incrementally raised by statute over time as the cost of living rises,”

      Good question–why hasn’t it?

      I heard it best explained by Thomas Sowell, I believe. People who oppose the minimum wage will oppose automatic upward adjustments. People who favor a minimum wage will not want to give up their ability to demagogue about it from time to time..

      Simply put, neither side wants to lose the ability to address the issue.

      -Jut

    • Well, Charles, according to my calculations, that $5.15 minimum wage in 1997 should be something like $7.66 if the wage rose with inflation. Perhaps we aren’t as “overdue” as you think.

      • Glenn, you’re right that my adjectives overstepped the data. I am directionally correct, but I agree it’s not as “overdue” as I stated. Thanks for the tuning.

  6. I think what both sides of this debate are missing (other than token lip service) is that middle income jobs are essentially gone in the US. As a rust belt native, most of our male high school grads went to work directly for a car company, engineering plant, robotics company, steel company, etc. No costly college education required and while you will never be a millionaire, you certainly can put a roof over your head and raise a few kids.

    The US job market is now largely composed of white collar jobs and low-level service minimum wage jobs. Those minimum wage jobs (in Jack’s time) were fine because they usually employed younger workers on their way to bigger and better things. Now though, those minimum wage jobs are filled by adults. At my local McDonalds (I love the $1 ice teas), I would bet money that the entire work force is over 25 years old, and the average age is in the 40s.

    So, I would like everyone’s focus to be on bringing back or creating real jobs for working people. If that happens, then I don’t care if minimum wage earners get paid crap for scooping ice cream, because it’s not a career.
    If we don’t figure out how to fix this, then we will be paying $10 for an ice cream cone OR we will have to have massive wealth distribution. I don’t think anybody wants that.

      • I have, but those are usually either moms trying to bring in a few more dollars or retirees who just want to get out of the house, not, of course, career people.

        • Partially yes, but interestingly enough, you identify that American labor has become too expensive… And your ilk’s desire is to make it more expensive?

          Somehow that line about insanity is rising to the surface again.

          • Let me use simpler terms for you — although I am under no delusion that I can fix stupid:

            $15/hr to scoop ice cream — too much money
            $15/hr to work for SKILLED labor — NOT too much money.

            Let me know if you need a chart.

            And if Baskin Robbins could figure out a way to send ice cream scoopers overseas, they would have done it. That’s the problem with those pesky service jobs.

            • Is Beth’s point that there are no skilled laborers overseas? That’s kinda racist. You can get any kind of labor overseas somewhere for cheaper than you can here. Americans are more cash-rich and have higher standards of living than anyone, including those vaunted Norwegians who still can’t afford to go out for pizza more than once a month.

              • I guess I do need a chart. Our skilled jobs HAVE gone overseas, leaving primarily unskilled service jobs here — jobs that usually pay a minimum wage. One cannot raise a family on a minimum wage salary. So, we either have to have more skilled labor jobs, raise the minimum wage for everybody (whether skilled or unskilled), or have massive wealth redistribution.

                This isn’t rocket science people.

                • I don’t see anyone disagreeing with you that more skilled labor jobs would be nice. But the United States government cannot make that happen, and private-sector jobs are not created by anyone for their own sake. Barack Obama has been the most corporate-welfare-friendly president in history, and all of those billions funneled from government into business hasn’t moved the needle on getting us these skilled labor jobs you speak of. Instead more of us are stringing part-time jobs together.

                  It is also counterproductive in the long run to force obsolete products and services to continue existing for the sake of keeping jobs. So what you’re advocating for is more innovation, more start-ups, and more risk-taking from the private sector. That means we need more venture capitalism and more savvy rich people with lots of money on hand that they don’t need. Which I am often told is a bad thing.

                  If THAT can’t work, why would we then “have to” start redistributing wealth? Every generation of poor people in America has been better off, and had better quality of life, than the last, mostly because of advances in technology and industry that were originally made possible by rich people and available only TO rich people. Again, I’m no economist, but it seems like a boom in cheap housing would fix just about every problem people have with trying to earn a “living wage.”

                • We have quite a few openings for skilled labor jobs. Most of the people who need jobs don’t have the necessary skills for those jobs. I notice another option: People either learn to generate enough wealth and value to support a family without the help of the government, or they don’t start a family. However, obviously this isn’t an option for those who already have a family, which means it’s not a complete solution in and of itself. Still, I thought it was worth bringing up.

      • Or is it the the strong dollar that makes imports cheaper and exports more expensive which increase the demand for forign produced goods and decreases the demand for domesticly produced goods. Defict spending on the part of the federal government is the only way to balance the out flow of money that results from a current account defict.

    • I don’t think anybody wants the dearth of middle-income jobs that would result from a free-college-for-all policy, either.

  7. How different, really, is Bernie Sanders in the thrust of his rhetoric from the bureaucrats who would be implementing Milton Friedman’s “negative tax?”

    I guess I stand closer and more comfortably in favor of savage, cruel, mean, Darwinist, voluntary-redistributionist policies, where no bureaucrats are in the middle between the haves and have-nots. If the haves truly do not need the have-nots, then it’s exclusively the burden of the have-nots to make themselves indispensable or survive otherwise, or else, they just have to die. Whether that reality prevails, or some other reality involving coercion and force to perpetuate various schemes of involuntary redistributionism, either way, the human animal will figure out a way to impose tyranny and misery upon its own masses. I dare say that tyranny is a more enduring, resilient, and unchanging social institution than even, say, “marriage.”

  8. I advocate a lower minimum wage for dependent teens and young adults, but a living wage for all others. Not all jobs require a lot of brain power – some require a strong body, the ability to labor outdoors in inclement weather, shifts and schedules that change daily or weekly, and some require the patience of Job listening to some bitter old man bitch about how much his ice cream cones cost. Not everyone has the ability to be an accountant, engineer, electrician, doctor or internet pundit…but everyone has to make a living. Not everyone can go to college. Many of these people are forced to work several jobs to make ends meet and if they have children the kids are either left to fend for themselves for long periods or are spending way too much time in day care…or, more likely, ruining grandma’s peaceful retirement. Just because a worker is not an Einstein, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to make enough to rent an apartment and have the basic comforts of life. If your business model relies on paying your workers less than minimum wage….then you need to rethink your business model. If they are adults who labor for you full time and help keep that roof over your head, and your belly full, then, damn it, they deserve you to return the favor.

      • And here, Tex, I thought you might offer one of your dissertations that debunks the myth of the ethics of Takers ruling over Makers. Tsk, tsk! All you’ve done is make me hungry. Not for popcorn, but for some BUTTAH!

    • Okay, so you’re giving an employer the option of paying more for an employee or less for an employee? Which will he or she pick? I’m guessing the cheaper one.

      So the next step would have to be a National Bureau to Scrutinize and Decide which Jobs Qualify for Minimum Wage.

      • And which employer would any employee with anything positive to offer at all want to work for? The one who pays less or the one who pays more?

        It’s almost like, there’s a market, that’s like, free or something, and it leads to people getting paid what they’re worth.

    • A job pays what the employer decides it is worth and what the market will bear. I am not paying a relatively unskilled person $15/hour to do landscaping when I can get cheap labor to do it for $9/hour. If you can’t get a job that pays enough to cover your expenses, then you need to better yourself until you can command that kind of wage, and that may mean going back to school at night, staycationing, and not going to special events. It may also mean deferring getting married and it may mean deferring having kids, because it is not fair that those of us who produce finance programs that pay for your kids’ diapers and formula while you finish your degree. Even if you do, that doesn’t automatically mean you get that higher wage. A potential employer has every right to say “that’s nice, but this is all I’m prepared to offer,” and if you don’t like it, feel free to look someplace else. An employer is your employer, not your parent, and he isn’t required to make certain you can pay your rent, keep food on the table, etc. If your rent goes up, that doesn’t entitle you to a raise, and if the economy tanks, the employer has every right to do a pay cut across the board. What’s more, he doesn’t have to tell you when or even if you will recover that 10%. Even when the economy rebounds, if he decides that he’d rather have that 10% go to his pocket rather than yours, he can do that. If you don’t like it, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. It’s entitled attitudes like this that gave us the Occupy movement that failed miserably.

  9. I get the impression that no liberal commentator has ever held a minimum wage job, or has ever had to work to live, really. If they had, they would know how employment works. With minimum wage jobs, you have these things called raises and promotions. I worked one of these ‘minimum wage’ jobs for 4 years, but I actually only made minimum wage for 3 months. McDonald’s had quarterly reviews and different performance levels had different raises. So, by the time I left, I was making double the minimum wage after working mostly part time at McDonalds. You had to be completely incompetent to still be making minimum wage after a year. Now, I just got raises. For people who weren’t moving on to other things, McDonalds continually (and almost pathologically) tried to get them to become a manager. They had the manager training sessions on VHS that you could get paid to watch in the break room after your shift (for overtime pay). No one over 20 who worked there wasn’t a manager or manager-trainee unless they were a college student, new, or semi-retired. Don’t even get me started on waiters, many of them make more than the nurses in town. You don’t need a separate wage for adults, they will get raises and promotions if they can keep a job. Employers don’t hire people to make sure those people have enough money. They hire them to get work done. If you aren’t making them money, why should they give you money?

    What these commentators also don’t realize is the vast difference in cost of living across the country. I’m sure minimum wage looks terrible in Washington D.C., but where I live, a 2 income couple making minimum wage (that’s about $30,000/year) can buy a house. There are many 2 bed, 1 bath houses in my town that sell for less than $25,000. Ok, you might not want them, but they are habitable, they just aren’t pretty. Remember, the MEDIAN family only makes $45,000 in my state. Paramedics make $15/ hour here. LPN’s make $20/hr. What makes these low skill, inexperienced workers worth as much as them? A better question would be why are we paying the average ‘underpaid’ teacher $50,000/year here?

    • True, true. A minimum wage should represent the value of the work you get from the laziest, least competent and least qualified employee doing the easiest possible job. For anything above that, you generally would earn a raise pretty quick. A got a raise as soon as I threatened to leave my first fast-food job just because I was pretty good at it and actually kinda cared about doing good work.

    • I’m liberal and I worked minimum wage and then (more lucrative) waitress jobs. What a ridiculous statement to make.

      In fact, I am going to require my kiddos to get minimum wage jobs once they are old enough to work. I feel it builds character.

    • Yeah, also a liberal who worked (slightly above) minimum wage at Wal-Mart for three years while going to college and getting my teaching credential. I support raising the wage precisely because of my experience there.

      But I’m sure it’s very comforting believing that anyone who disagrees with you just doesn’t know any better.

    • I worked a night shift operating a plastics mold making parsons tables and Amerivan eagles; delivered pizzas; drove a taxi in NYC; baled hay, picked cherries and weeded strawberries (the last for $0.25 per hour, by the way).
      Not all were ennobling (plastic molding rots the brain, baling hay builds it), but I’m glad of all those experiences. With that plus an MBA, I think I may in fact have a clue how the job thing works.
      And yet, somehow, I support an increase in the minimum wage.
      Another theory shot to hell, darn it.

      • I’m pretty sure “I get the impression” implies that Michael was making a rhetorical point, and not actually stating that he believes it’s a fact that no liberal commenter has ever worked for minimum wage. Just a crazy guess.

        The fact that all 3 of you seemed to have turned out okay despite having to deal with what you consider an insufficient minimum wage kinda supports his point, that a minimum wage job is an entry point to work, and not a career.

        • Counterpoint: I also survived largely on government subsidies and student loans during my time at Wal-Mart. My BA in English Education (which took me five years to complete) was completely paid for by the government through the Pell Grant and the State University Grant; for my teaching credential (which took me a year and a half), I took out loans. There is no way I would have be a teacher today had I had to rely on Wal-Mart pay alone. I would still be working there, and I wouldn’t have been able to afford college.

          I was one of the lucky ones; many of my peers at Wal-Mart couldn’t afford school on their own, and weren’t eligible for grants. Some of them worked more than one job; one of them worked three AND went to school, AND still qualified for grants. Many of them relied on others for transportation, as they couldn’t afford cars. Saving money? A pipe dream; all the money we made went to rent, food and bills, immediately.

          Wanna reduce government spending? Raise the minimum wage.

  10. Humorous aside- using a CPI calculator, you’d have to have been working in 1931 for the 29 cent ice cream cone to cost 4.55 today.

    The fun bit about the minimum wage increases are when the VSPs realize their nannies and housekeepers need to be paid that wage… or start going under the table.

    My favorite comments were about the bookstore that was closing in SF because of the minimum wage. “But people should be able to agree to a lower wage.” Um, no. That’s the point of a regulated wage, you schmuck. That’s why you have to be careful with the damn things.

  11. I wonder how many of these ice cream scoopers could afford Baskin-Robbins if they didn’t get a hefty employee discount.

    Many people in my area are still struggling to get jobs of any substance above minimum wage as better jobs melted down last decade and haven’t been replaced here. Other businesses are relying on infinite replacement for low wage, ‘part-time’ no benefit instead of promoting and increasign wages. It’s not just McJobs and Wallyworld (they actually have bennies) but all the support jobs people in 30s and 40s took five years ago to put food on the table and had no increase because that’s what all the companies in the area pay. Changing companies to try for better pay has minimal impact. Prices, (esp food) have gone up during the last oil spike but they haven’t come down while wages are constant. Companies have already shed as many positions as they could five years back, but haven’t rebound and you need people to do the job and provide the service. I’d like to see nay-sayers live on 280$ a week.

    I agree that a massive jump is unrealistic, but I believe this is more like a negotiation and 15$ is the asking price to set a new level. Keying it to some index isn’t so great either as the indexes have been monkeyed with to look good at election time. These ‘cost of living’ people must buy all their food at some magic grocery where food costs half what our competitive stores charge, maybe a five dollar increase stepped over 5 years would unplug the compesation-constipation at the sub 10$ wage jobs.

    • Despite all this whining about the minimum wage, minimal skill jobs are pretty easy to get. The companies my wife works for are always looking for workers and you only need a 1 month to a 1 year program for training. Yes, the pay isn’t great for the 1 month of training jobs, but it is about $20,000/year ($40,000/year for the 1 year of training jobs). At my university, we continually have trouble finding faculty candidates. Despite reading an unending supply of ‘poor adjunct’ articles about the terrible plight of faculty who can’t get permanent positions, we have trouble finding people who even want to apply for tenure-track positions. They only want jobs at the top schools with the top pay in the most desirable locations. They are like aspiring actors who keep working as waiters and waitresses because they are ‘going to be a star’, complaining about their pay and working conditions, but rejecting better job offers because they aren’t ‘star’ jobs.

      You want to fix the system? Take ownership of the companies away from Wall Street and give it back to the owners of the companies. Good businesses pay workers what they are worth, bad businesses go out of business. Right now, all business is run by and for the benefit of Wall Street, not the business. Exempt all shares held in retirement accounts from counting as voting shares of the company (or give the workers proxy votes for the shares they hold). Make it a conflict of interest for the CEO of a company to serve on the board of a competing company. I think that will make a difference.

  12. http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/min-wage-2013-02.pdf Not the most groundbreaking paper (and I think the title is a tad overblown), but a useful summary of some of the past research on this issue (one potential question the author almost touches upon, but just misses, is whether regional discrepancies in minimum wage levels affect migration from one region of the US to another).

    On a side note, the minimum wage was actually relatively higher compared to median/average income in the US back in the glory days of the post-WWII era (even before the Johnson administration).

    • That factoid reminds me of another one: that in the early days, Social Security was only for people who outlived the average life expectancy. Today, the very suggestion of raising the age for Social Security outrages everyone, even though life expectancy has shot up higher and higher. Give people a stat that you can arbitrarily adjust by law to put more cash in people’s pockets, and the simplest of simpletons will have something that they can trumpet as a cure-all for the world’s suffering (the kind of cure-all they like the most, i.e., one that requires they themselves to do nothing.)

    • There is a huge geographic component, but some things like medical are no cheaper in low wage regions. So low min wage is especially onerous there. Moving away costs money too.

      • Tennessee was just named the #1 state for economic growth, 2nd year in a row. They still don’t have a state minimum wage.

  13. As the director of a public library I am always flabbergasted at the $15 figure. We cannot achieve “shared prosperity” by jumping the minimum wage in a way that risks massive layoffs and substantial decreases in services. Which of my employees to I let go? The single adult? College student? The computer teacher who teaches workplace skills, resume writing, and assists in filling out online job applications to those who lose their jobs because of the increase? Then there will be the necessary increases to all salaries. Such a huge jump without corresponding funding puts nonprofits out of business, leaving citizens who will need more services without support.

    • I’ve heard people argue that there will be a “trickle up” if minimum wage increases, and everyone will earn more. And then everyone will have more money which means the economy will grow! Yes, people actually say these things.

      • Another Keynesian solution is basically “PRINT MORE MONEY!!!!”

        Ducktales, a children’s cartoon, had a great episode on this topic.

        Cartoonists get this…

        Keynesians don’t.

  14. In some areas a MW of $15 is acceptable based on the cost of living in the area. Boston is certainly far more expensive than Norman, Oklahoma. My assumption is any increase should be incremental over a period of time so market conditions can adapt. $15 in most areas and you will see a nice line forming at unemployment. Think of those dollars.

    Back in another age I worked for a company that was in service industry and that means MW labor. Our retention rates were horrid and that is symptomatic of the industry. In this instance casual dining.

    Is 250-300% turnover positive for operation? Nope. What was done was to go 30% above MW – a bold stroke that brings into play costs. How do you address increased labor costs without impacting the bottom line?

    Two avenues were followed at the district and local management level. Both were cost control. The first was to trim food costs by a variety of methods. Some were successful and some were not, but costs were cut 1.5%. Huge.

    The second was to reduce energy costs. A special “team” was developed to examine company and franchise locations with the lowest energy bills. Many new procedures were implemented and that brought us inline with increased labor costs without anyone getting canned. Retention figures increased dramatically.

    Company became attractive and was sold. Back to MW!

  15. Relevant: In-N-Out Burger and Chick-Fil-A a reputation for superior customer service among drive-thru chains. Both pay above minimum wage. In-N-Out pays more than fast-casual places like Chipotle or Panera- over $10 an hour, with full benefits.

    Even among the “cheapest” chains, almost no one has a policy of sticking to minimum wage for entry-level jobs. If you look sharper and more interested than the average bum who applies for a job at Wendy’s, the manager might offer to start you at a slightly higher wage.

    I think what consensus there is among the sharpest brains in economics, is that minimum wage increases don’t hurt anything if they don’t cross the invisible line of what employers are willing and able to pay the least skilled workers. That invisible line is different from place to place, should be determined at the state level, and increases should be infrequent and small. A leap to anything like $15 is just crazy talk.

  16. “Nice try, Texagg – ignore the question and double down on insults. It’s your basic approach.”

    Tiger, you are the one responsible for the tone of this discussion. If you will recall you came at me from an angle that I don’t discuss in good faith or put in effort to do my own research (versus linking to the quickest wikipedia search or linking to the first google hit of an article written by a Krug-bot). I’ve explained this before. I keep things civil as long as possible, but if you start out rude, you’ll get 10 times in return. It’s tit-for-tat, but I’ll accept that flaw in this context. If I ascribe a label to you, it is only after your commentary demonstrates the label is accurate. If I make a statement that you don’t seem to read, I call you inattentive. Upon correction if it still seems that you failed to read it, I call you illiterate – which I think is slightly more complimentary than calling you someone who just doesn’t care enough to try.

    You started this tone, own it.

    “YOU SAID, and I quote:
    1. “economic data indicates that before the government started playing economic God, inflation was next to non-existent and unemployment was at a healthy level.”
    and
    2. “a sudden mountain-like increase when the gov decided that Keynes wasn’t a complete retard and wanted to try his magic economics.””

    Here’s the full quote, chuck:

    “Yep. Arbitrarily raise the cost to value ratio anywhere in the economy in violation of natural market forces and the result is inflation across the board.

    Interestingly enough, economic data indicates that before the government started playing economic God, inflation was next to non-existent and unemployment was at a healthy level.”

    I have given you what you need to create a chart all of your own. I don’t know how to link to an excel graph, otherwise I would have done it for you. If you need instructions on how to create an excel graph, I’ll gladly give it to you. And explanation of said visual is attached to the data I gave you. I’m not going to explain it again. I presume you aren’t illiterate.

    That second sentence is clumsy, at best, I presumed that based on my first sentence, which focuses wholly on inflation, you’d recognize that is the thrust of comment. But here, consider this as a deeper exegesis on the comment: inflation (as the data shows) has SPIRALLED out of control since the era that began the MASSIVE infusion of federal spending. You’d be blind not to see that (but I presume you haven’t even looked). Now, wrap your mind around this: an unemployed person living in an era in which cost of living is incredibly LOW, is not nearly as hard off as an unemployed person living in an era when cost of living is prohibitively high. That is to say, higher unemployment #s during less expensive eras can still be healthier numbers than lower unemployment numbers during say, our current era.

    Now to correct your juxtaposition which borders on dishonesty (which I don’t put past a Leftist), comment #2 about “mountain like increase”, IN context (which you deceptively left out) clearly refers to inflation. I’ll accept an apology from you now or I’ll just have to settle on you being a liar.

    “Now, I’ve already proved to you that the largest rate of unemployment in the US since 1880 was in the early 1930s. Inconveniently for you, however, Keynes hadn’t EVEN BEEN PUBLISHED then. So, I guess the data actually show the reverse of your first claim.”

    Not really. You are the one who is making an entire diatribe off of an assumption you invented answering your silly “put a date on it” question which I have no need to answer. Look at the chart. It’s really simple. It really, really is.

    “In case you don’t get the form of a reductio ad absurdum argument, if the government did indeed try Keynes’ magic economics and suddenly drive a mountain-like increase in unemployment, then it would have happened AFTER Keynes was read by anybody. But it DIDN’T. In fact, unemployment has been lower post-Keynes than it was pre-Keynes. QED. Get it? That means you’re wrong. Absurdly wrong. Logically wrong on the face of it.”

    I’m not sure I said “lower” or “higher”…I do recall saying “healthier” (which makes a difference as to whether higher or lower numbers matter, given the era the unemployment occurs…

    “Now, I note you’ve conveniently decided to ignore the data about unemployment and try to make the case based on inflation (not a bad strategy, since you’re oh-for-one on the unemployment issue). And you decide to trot out a two-datapoint series – years and inflation rates. You note that both have gone up (as has the size of government, which you conveniently leave out as a dataseries, because data is not your friend).”

    Since this is based on your misreading of my comments and your assumptions of how you wanted me to answer your facile question that didn’t need answering, there’s no point commenting here other than you also misread that the two sets of data weren’t years and inflation rates, but years and consumer price index…

    “Know what else has gone up? The average height of Americans. Their health. The age at which they die. The number of pets per American. The population in the Sunbelt. The price of polo pony feed. And GDP per capita (though not as fast as Denmark and Sweden, whose GDP per capita exceeds ours).”

    Is this supposed to make a difference or are you rambling now?

    “I think even you know the name of the fallacy of trying to infer causality from a paucity of data – especially something as bizarre as “big government causes inflation.”

    Fairly certain that this is what I said:

    “Arbitrarily raise the cost to value ratio anywhere in the economy in violation of natural market forces and the result is inflation across the board.”

    Then further expounded that the government decided to pour money that had no associated value with it into the market… I did refer to “big government” as a summation of the characterization of my argument you made.

    “It is OBVIOUS that you have NEVER READ anything by Keynes; obvious because anyone who had a passing familiarity with his works would never make the blatantly ignorant statements you make about him, e.g. that Keynes argued flatly for “print more money.” I could ask you to cite the passage where he makes such a claim, but you probably don’t even know where to find the book.”

    This is rich. Anyone with a brain here knows that “print more money” is a summary euphemism for federal policy that involves simply increasing the cash flow…be it through debt spending or actually increasing the money supply, disbursed often through make work programs or “stimuli”. Fairly certain all those types of policies fall squarely in ole Meynard’s school of thought.

    But of course, playing silly word games like you pose is the equivalent of asking for an exact date that the federal government went astray, so I shouldn’t expect better…

    “This stupidness has wasted enough of my time. I’m irked at myself for allowing myself to be annoyed by such childish pretenses at argumentation.”

    I agree, life is too precious to waste: so, try being less stupid and engage in less childish argumentation…but, for what it’s worth I’ve enjoyed reading your childish arguments.

  17. There are a number of issues that are depressingly under-discussed by people who ought to care about this sort of thing, i.e. more or less the entire country. I’d like to address them here.

    First, people are obligated to be aware not only of all of the effects of a minimum wage, but also the root problem that they’re trying to solve in the first place. Unfortunately, society at large lacks the basic analytical skills to realize that not only will such a simplistic rule as “you have to pay people more money for the same job” have terrible side effects, it will utterly fail to solve the original problem in the first place. This is actually the main problem, which I revisit later in this piece.

    Regarding the economy, wealth/work/value is like water: we want it, we can transfer it, and it takes effort to get. Money is like pipes and tanks: it allows us to efficiently transport and store work. Dumping money into the economy with “stimulus packages” does not “prime the pump” with water; it builds more pipes and expects water to flow into them. The minimum wage does not cause water to flow into the economy; it introduces a minimum flow rate. Its most basic effect is to stop the smallest flows of wealth, which are almost 100% to poor people.

    To put the minimum wage in perspective, we know poor people would choose to work jobs paying less than minimum wage if they had the option, because it’s better than not having a job. Nobody likes this state of affairs. So, in order to resolve this exploitation of a person choosing the lesser of two evils, we choose to take away the lesser of two evils as an option for the poor person, under the pretense of forcing an employer to pay poor people more. Wait, no, they’re forced to pay the employees they don’t lay off more. I can’t believe I have to state it explicitly; it sounds so feeble-minded when I spell it out. It’s basic economics; I knew it even before I took the class in college.

    The solution to poverty is not to limit people’s options, but to create more options for them. However, since creating options takes (among many other engineering skills) imagination, critical and complex thought, research and studies, consultations with all affected parties (“stakeholders”) and thinking ahead more than a few months into the future, citizens find it much easier to jump onto one side of this false dichotomy when they hear the rallying cry of the con artists. Well, politicians, but the difference is pedantry.

    One side is lured by a shiny rule which is sure to solve the problem, because it makes it illegal to pay poor people less money! Rules make everything better, because all it takes to solve a problem is to outlaw it! This attitude is a classic type of semantics addiction. The other side knows this idea is nonsense, but doesn’t bother offering any solution of their own. Whatever they’re using, it’s not empathy, because then they would try to at least help people get what they really want. The first side will continue to push this solution until something is introduced which addresses their very real problem.

    Part of this root problem is that most people don’t have basic analytical skills, or many of the other skills necessary to generate wealth, and politicians profit off of their ignorance. Fortunately, I’m fairly certain that this is not a hardware problem. The human brain is perfectly adequate for housing a mature, proactive person, if exercised properly, so most humans are capable of becoming such. The problem is with people’s software, so to speak: most people don’t learn all the mental skills of self-development which must be combined to be able to generate wealth. Their minds are neither strong nor versatile. They fall prey to addictions, whether physical, mental or emotional. To survive, they fall back on whatever skills they managed to learn. Some attempt to make rules which would require the system to sustain them, so they don’t have to change. Some attempt to substitute cleverness, shrewdness, or interpersonal skills for hard work. Some are overwhelmed by problems which could be solved if they were clever, or shrewd, or personable. Many people seldom consider the consequences of their actions, and burden their families and communities with their mistakes.

    It’s high time we actually addressed these problems. It’s the only realistic option, because continuing to attempt to come up with a solution to the ills of society that the government can successfully implement on a population that remains complacent, entitled, and delusional, whether it be minimum wage or the invisible hand of the market, will never work. There is no such solution. No system can stand up to the collective selfishness and foolishness of millions of modern humans. The solution lies in defeating foolishness and selfishness, for which task a positive attitude is necessary but far from sufficient.

    There are eight basic skills one must practice to be mature and responsible: analysis, synthesis, organization, operation, semantics, empathy, tactics, and strategy. With these skills, people can not only better deal with their own problems, but also feel secure enough to spend effort helping each other. Such skilled people can generate enough value that if they are rare, they can get whatever job they want, and if the economy is full of them, the overall prosperity will be so great that even menial jobs will be decently rewarding, and they can create a life of satisfaction for themselves no matter what job they take.

    The solution to people lacking these important skills is to teach them, to change their metacognitive paradigms. I have a plan to do this, but I’m having trouble recruiting people, because people don’t care enough about the problem, or they don’t think it’s possible, or they’re too busy with their own problems. I’m working on finding people who would be willing to contribute their skills. You who actually read to the end of this post, you might have the interest and resolve I’m looking for. If you’d like more specifics, you can email me at “exceph” at gmail dot com.

    • well done.

      Though your essay asserts you don’t think the two sides of the debate care about the real problem, your essay interestingly enough lines up with my thoughts on the issue… And there’s little doubt which side of the issue I lean towards.

      • Thank you.

        Perhaps I phrased it rather aggressively. I think people care about the real problem, in a visceral sort of way. For various reasons, they just don’t go through the engineering process to come up with solutions that actually work.

        Would you be interested in teaching some of your skills, such as analysis?

        • I think your comment says “life is complicated and being successful at it is difficult and fraught with dangers no governmental programs can obviate” with which I wholeheartedly agree. Her Hillaryness notwithstanding, it takes generations of good parenting and/or genes and a lot of good luck and hard work for any individual to thrive.

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