Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/13/2018: Dumb and Dumber


(I really looked forward to Saturday mornings in those days…)

1 There has to be a special Ethics Alarms category for this…But what? Lizzie Dunn sprayed herself in the face with sulphuric acid, stumbled into a deli on Staten Island, and told horrified customers as her face was melting that a middle-aged black woman had attacked her when Dunn refused her demand cigarettes and money at a bus stop.  Local news outlets spread the frightening tale of the acid-spraying stranger before police questioned Dunn and she recanted.Apparently she has a history of hurting herself. I’d include the photo of what her face looks like now, but that’s no way to start a long weekend.

2. From the “This is getting ridiculous” Dept. Stan Lee, ta Marvel Comics icon and the creator of many comic book heroes,is 95 years old but still pretty spry s he enjoys late life celebrity. The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes invited hm to be its ceremonial pregame puck dropper for yesterday’s game, but cancelled its invitation after some of the nurses who had cared for Lee at his home accused him of sexual harassment. Lee not only denies the allegation from the company that employed the nurses that he has “spoken inappropriately” to some of them and had tried to “grope them,” he claims to be the victim of a shakedown. His lawyers have threatened to sue the company for defamation, and Lee’s current nurse providers say he is a “perfect gentleman.”

This is #MeToo bullying. As usual, we have no way to know who is telling the truth, but the Coyotes are cowardly and unfair to embarrass Lee publicly by behaving as if he is guilty when investigations so far have proven no wrongdoing. He deserves the benefit of the doubt, and the prospect of eldercare nurses being primed to cry sexual misconduct when some geezer engages in dubious but harmless behavior that he was raised to think was a privilege of old age is frankly frightening.  Lee is wealthy, famous, and at his age poses no physical threat to any caretaker nor creates a hostile work environment in a profession that routinely faces far worse daily indignities than a pat on the rear or a racy wisecrack. He would be easy prey for #MeToo extortion: all that would be needed is a group of nurses to agree to accuse him and split the pay-off.  Meanwhile, the Coyotes would hardly be regarded as enablers of sexual violence if they let the guy drop a puck.

3. My empathy stops here. One of the latest fads capturing teenagers on social media is the “Tide Pods Challenge,” which requires intrepid kids to ingest those little laundry detergent capsules and post videos of themselves doing so online. The resulting fun videos often show the expected side effects of swallowing household cleaners: choking, gagging and vomiting. Some of the mor…sorry, teenagers video themselves”cooking” the packs by pan frying them before downing the yummy treats. There’s also a “Hypothetical edible Tide pods recipe” using a baking sheet, Sprite and parchment paper.

Just wait: someone will sue Tide for not having sufficient “Don’t eat soap” warnings on the box or the pods themselves.

American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that there were more than 10,500 reported incidents of children  5 years old and younger eating the brightly colored pods in 2017. That’s careless parenting. Teenagers who harm themselves eating laundry detergent on a dare, however, glean the same amount of sympathy from me that my father used to express when he read about an adult perishing in a game of Russian Roulette: zilch.

4. But it’s the progressive thought that counts. The national restaurant chain Red Robin announced that it has been forced to eliminate busboys at all of its 570 restaurants to offset the labor increases resulting from the increased salary costs created by minimum wage increases that went into effect on January 1 in 18 states and 19 localities across the country. Not only will these entry-level jobs vanish, the remaining employees will have their traditional tasks added to their own.

This result isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a surprise. While Bernie  blathered on about living wages, the immutable fact remains that some jobs just aren’t worth paying much for. Raise the mandatory hourly rate above a certain level, and the low-paid borderline employee doesn’t benefit, he loses his job. It has always been thus. Never mind: grandstanding politicians don’t care; they just want to play to their economics-challenged, safely middle-class base.

Last June, the Seattle Times reported that Seattle’s $15-an-hour minimum wage law caused a 9 % reduction in hours worked. For the average Seattle worker, that was a loss of about $125 per month. A University of Washington study estimated that about  5,000  ow-wage jobs would still be available in Seattle were it not for the popular minimum wage hike.

As I noted in 2016, Commentary mused on the strange trend of liberal legislators pushing extreme minimum wage increases on their cities and states despite the certainty of job losses:

“Why shouldn’t we in fact accept job loss?” asks New School economics and urban policy professor David Howell, who’s about to publish a white paper on the subject. “What’s so bad about getting rid of crappy jobs, forcing employers to upgrade, and having a serious program to compensate anyone who is in the slightest way harmed by that?”

Said Governor Jerry Brown on April 4, 2016 as he signed into law a phased state-wide increase in the minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour,

“Economically, minimum wages may not make sense. But morally, socially, and politically they make every sense because it binds the community together to make sure parents can take care of their kids.”


A recent study indicated that in California, a 10% increase in the minimum wage causes a 5% reduction in employment in industries with a high percentage of lower-paid employees, like the restaurant business. It is estimated that California will lose approximately 400,000 jobs by 2022 resulting from the $15 minimum wage.

Yes, but it will bind the community together!

24 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/13/2018: Dumb and Dumber

  1. “1. There has to be a special Ethics Alarms category for this…”
    I dunno. Sounds less an ethical issue than an untreated mental illness.

    “…morally, socially, and politically they make every sense because it binds the community together to make sure parents can take care of their kids.”
    Or at least makes sure that the government has to take care of the kids when the parents can’t get a job. But I’m sure that increasing government responsibility (and, oddly enough, power) never crossed ol’ Moonbeam’s mind.

  2. It’s simple economics. If the value of the marginal product of labor is less than its pay, you use less of it (unemploy or cut hours) until it is equal.

    The people most hurt are those least economically able in our society. Punishing the least educated, experienced, and able handicaps society, but to some it must feel good enough to continue to do so in the name of economic and social justice.

    The only way to make this work is to have governmental control of what had been private corporations. Imagine the government as an even bigger robber baron than it is already. Good luck with that.

    Feeling good and doing good are not the same thing.

  3. Last June, the Seattle Times reported that Seattle’s $15-an-hour minimum wage law caused a nine% reduction in hours worked.

    I hate to be that person but you can’t do that to the written word. It hurts.


    Nine percent
    9 percent



  4. 3- “someone will sue Tide for not having sufficient ‘Don’t eat soap’ warnings on the box or the pods themselves.”

    And items like these should be clearly labeled: “For external use only, do not use internally.”

    4- In 1970-71, after recovering from a work-related accident (broken arm falling off my bike on an icy road delivering papers) I bussed tables at the local “Pancake House” for $1.15/hour.

    Though it never translated into the pecuniary wherewithal (tips) I felt I deserved, all the waitresses whose tables I tended told me I was slick-titty-boom.

    I was fir…um…furloughed without limit after 6 months. Apparently I ”was willing as the dickens” but juuuuust not picking things up, figuratively.

    Thrown out of work at 16, I was crushed!

    Anywho, years later, one of my sister’s boyfriends (who also worked there for, oddly enough, 6 months) told me he found out he was canned because the manager didn’t want to pay a mandatory raise.

    Sweet vindication, and a flattering addendum to my work history/ résumé!

  5. Why do progressives pursue a policy they know will lead to job losses, like a $15 per hour minimum wage?

    Because for them, that short-term economic pain will have long-term payoffs at the ballot box.

    The people without work, will have to sign up for government assistance. The more people on government assistance, the more likely that they will become dependent on that assistance, like someone prescribed oxycontin for a bad back.

    The more people who are dependent on government assistance to get by, the more they become reliable votes for progressives.

    I first heard John Lewis speak in 1995, when the rule for the welfare reform bill that was part of the Contract with America was being debated in the House of Representatives. He wielded pastor Niemoller’s worlds against proponents of the bill, with the implication being that we were Nazis.

    As someone in college then, I was stunned. Even then,. I knew that the system needed to be changed. It was failing. John Lewis couldn’t defend the track record of welfare. His only idea was to keep doubling down on a failed system, rather than to consider alternative approaches to fix the problem.

    You know, Lewis can, given some of his other actions in recent years, go to hell for all I’m concerned. Yes, he did something good at Selma in 1965, but his actions in my adult lifetime have done a lot to tear this country apart. If Duke Cunningham’s five MiG kills and Navy Cross didn’t give him a pass for his misdeeds, then why should John Lewis get a pass?

  6. Hey Jack, I was curious about the Seattle thing because a few things seems ambiguous.

    >How is Seattle’s unemployment rate after this change
    it’s 3.7%, still very good compared to the average
    >what was the minimum wage before, is the current increase a 9% of less one?
    This is actually weird all I can find about it is that it was somewhere around $9-11, but I’m pretty sure a $6-4 increase is more than 9%.

    I honestly see this as a good thing. Unemployment hasn’t skyrocketed (it looks like it’s up less than half a percent from last year and overall is still decreasing from 3 years ago. Meanwhile people are working harder (but less hours!) for more pay. This just seems like good news and more good news. We want people to work hard and develop skills both at work and away, and it’s always good if existing jobs pay more for less hours, right?

    I’m a good little proggy so I do WANT $15/hr to be a good thing, but I’m open to more data if you (or one of the other people here) are willing to provide and talk about it.

    • Here’s 538’s analysis, which was one of many that came out in June. Employment is up almost everywhere and in among most groups, so that might compensate statistically for the negative effect of the minimum wage, but the job-killing effects of the MW has never seriously been challenged.

      The MW makes sense at a gut level, and that’s about it. Its concept warps our society and markets in lots of insidious ways. Kids think if payment is below the MW, then it’s an insult.

      Having never thought about it much, I assumed the MW was a good thing until I supervised an independent study on the question with a public policy research foundation I was running. (It almost got me fired.)

      • “A recent study indicated that in California, a 10% increase in the minimum wage causes a 5% reduction in employment in industries with a high percentage of lower-paid employees, like the restaurant business. It is estimated that California will lose approximately 400,000 jobs by 2022 resulting from the $15 minimum wage”.

        What is being expressed here with the above statement is the price elasticity of demand for low skill labor. If the above data is true then the outcome will be higher aggregate income for the state to tax but fewer people paying it.

        What it does not show is the increase in public assistance payments made to those losing positions, nor does it factor in the spillover costs associated with the underground economy that absorbs the idled low skill workers.

        AC. U3 unemployment statistics are reliable insofar as they capture only those seeking work and receiving UE benefits. U3 cannot capture absolute data if the idled worker does not register with an unemployment office, drops out of the labor force or works in the shadows. Local statistics also do not reflect outmigration of idled workers that leave an area to find work. Without knowing the various measured populations it is hard to draw conclusions about the relative health of a local area.

        • You also have to factor in the number of low-wage workers who simply LEAVE places Seattle to get jobs in a better city or state. Once they’ve fled the city, they don’t count towards the city’s unemployment rate anymore.

          Here in California it’s just a fact of life that people are constantly weighing whether to pull up stakes and run off to the greener pastures of Texas or Tennessee, the Dakotas, Arizona, etc. It’s a constant temptation. Every year I lose friends this way.

    • I think you missed the part where the average minimum wage Seattle worker is now bringing home $125 less per month. That seems like a negative factor to me.

      Overall municipal unemployment statistics aren’t too helpful here – what’s the unemployment rate among low-wage and unskilled workers? Also, how many people have left Seattle to find work in nearby cities or states that didn’t raise the minimum wage? If someone leaves the Seattle job market looking for work, their absence actually improves the city’s unemployment rate, but the job they used to have is still gone.

      The main problem with a minimum wage is that it distorts the entire economic system. If last year people were barely getting by on $10/hr, and you raise the minimum wage to $15/hr, those who manage to keep their jobs and work the same hours as before will benefit greatly – for a while. But increased labor costs across the economy will raise prices, and within a short time, $15/hr is barely enough to get by, and you’re back where you started. Except now, retirees and others on fixed incomes have increased pressure pushing them down the economic ladder, because they have to buy stuff, too, and they didn’t get a raise.

      An economy is a complex machine with millions of moving parts. You can’t just push one lever and fix things for one group of people – that complex machine will shift and twist and adjust until things return to equilibrium, which usually means hurting other groups of people in unforeseen ways.

  7. No. 1 Self-face melting

    I have no words. Crazy is as crazy does.

    No. 2: Stan Lee

    It was inevitable that #MeToo would go off the rails, and this is an example of exactly what that looks like. But I predict it will get much, much worse before it gets better.

    What I cannot predict is what the ultimate result will be, but it is not beyond the pale to think that men and women will come to reflexively distrust each other. That’s a scary thought, but it could be where we’re headed. Apparently, in some places, we are already there.

    No 3. Empathy

    Another red-letter day for social media. Will hemlock be next? If so, the upside is that it can only improve the gene pool and reduce the number of children suffering under failed parenting. Perhaps this is what evolution really looks like.

    No. 4. Progressive thought

    “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense. But morally, socially, and politically they make every sense because it binds the community together to make sure parents can take care of their kids.”

    This is signature significance. “If even one child…” restated.

    • ”It was inevitable that #MeToo would go off the rails”

      Inevitable? Hell yeah it was inevitable; it was predicted, kickstarted, and anointed to boot.

      The talented Emily Linden:

      (bolds/caps mine throughout)
      “Here’s an unpopular opinion, I’m actually not at all concerned about innocent men losing their jobs over false sexual assault/harassment allegations.

      If some innocent men’s reputations have to take a hit in the process of undoing the patriarchy, THAT IS A PRICE I’M WILLING TO PAY.”

      A price she’s willing to pay??? You gotta be effin’ kidding me! That arrogant hubris is absolutely staggering.

      • I bet she wouldn’t be so willing to pay the price if she were one of the men she’s so indifferent about.

        Talk about your Golden Rule fails.

        • ”I bet she wouldn’t be so willing to pay the price if she were one of the men she’s so indifferent about.”

          Rarely do great intellects, tasked with informing the great unwashed what’s best for them, consider the possibility of being held to their own standards, though the ironic Karma would be saccharine sweet.

          A comment I made to a 10/15/2014 EA post “Ethics Heroes: 28 Harvard Law Professors”

          Instructive here might be the cautionary tale of one Dr. Judith Grossman, who helped craft a world that deems the Y-Chromosomal as a lower form of life.

          “I am a feminist. I have marched at the barricades, subscribed to Ms. magazine, and knocked on many a door in support of progressive candidates committed to women’s rights. Until a month ago, I would have expressed unqualified support for Title IX and for the Violence Against Women Act.”

          The talented Dr. Grossman, her life’s work consumed with making this a better world for at least half of us (myself, as an evil male, part of the “other half”) received an epiphany that would be politely described as “poetic justice.”

          Her own little bundle of joy was ensnared by the world she helped to craft.

          “But that was before my son, a senior at a small liberal-arts college in New England, was charged—by an ex-girlfriend—with alleged acts of “nonconsensual sex” that supposedly occurred during the course of their relationship A FEW YEARS EARLIER. (bolds mine).

          “What followed was a nightmare—a fall through Alice’s looking-glass into a world that I could not possibly have believed existed, least of all behind the ivy-covered walls thought to protect an ostensible dedication to enlightenment and intellectual betterment.”

          She was positively aghast that Sonny would not be afforded the presumption of innocence.

          The humanity!

          I’m reminded of what Major G. F. Devin (Peter Jason) presciently tells Gunny Highway (Clint Eastwood) in “Heartbreak Ridge.”

          “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.”

          • This reminds me of a 2013 story in which a woman in Iceland complained to the government that her male co-worker was being paid more.

            Because of Iceland’s authoritarian “equal-pay” laws (attempts to erase the long-debunked “gender wage gap,”) a committee ruled in her favor, because her co-worker was a man and shouldn’t have been earning more than a woman.

            Instead of raising her pay, her employers did the obvious thing and simply reduced her male co-worker’s pay instead. Now they were equal!

            “I went away crying” she said later in an interview. “I would have never gone forward with the case knowing it would only lead to my colleague receiving less.”

            Play a stupid game and you win stupid prizes.

  8. #1 is the perfect example of the Ethics Incompleteness Theorem. No classification system for ethical behavior could possibly be so extensive to cover every act of imbelicilia. Far too many categories would have a population of one.

  9. The Democratic Party is outsmarting the American people. When they say “bind the community together” they mean “force them into our breadlines, where they will come to depend on our crumbs for their survival, keeping us permanently in power.”

    When they say “Let’s have a program to compensate anyone harmed by our policies,” they mean, “let’s force people out of jobs and onto welfare programs. Then we can insist that PEOPLE WILL DIE if those mean old Republicans ever try to take them out of those welfare programs and put them back into jobs.”

    These politicians are not stupid. They know how to introduce, market and institutionalize socialism. They know that socialism is not good economic sense for the commoner. But it’s a great pathway to success for aspiring ruling-class-for-lifers. You can enjoy a long lifetime of continuous lucrative public service, getting buildings and parks named after you, fancying yourself a champion of the (poor and ravaged) people, and securing cushy jobs in academia, government, media, entertainment, and elite crony corporations for every single one of your children, relatives, and friends.

  10. “…because it binds the community together…”

    I suppose chatting with your neighbors while standing in the unemployment or welfare line is a form of community-building.

  11. The minimum wage in 1980 was $3.10. In 2017 dollars that would be $9.65 (according to the website I used to calculate it…). When I worked my way through college at local factories I was paid (as a seasonal temp, remember) $6.00 per hour. College tuition at WMU was about $50 per credit hour. I graduated with zero college debt thanks mostly to these jobs. Fast forward to 2012 – my son began school at Michigan State, tuition had increased tenfold since 1980, and he was making 9 bucks an hour in the summer. I don’t know if a $15 MW is the right answer, but real wages have decreased in the last 30 years. Our local factories are advertising direct-hire jobs at $12 per hour and are excited about that number! Living on that wage is simply not possible in this area. Gone are the days of graduating HS and getting a job that can pay the bills and raise a family and buy a house, and, and, and…

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