Linky Friday: ‘Cause Ain’t No Such Things As Halfway Crooks Edition

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his food writing website Yonder and Home. Andrew is the host of Heard Tell podcast. Subscribe to Andrew's Heard Tell SubStack for free here:

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34 Responses

  1. Oscar Gordon says:

    LF5: Expanding the court is a sugar rush. Stay away from the sugar, eat the responsible diet, implement term limits.Report

  2. Saul Degraw says:

    LF4: My experience is that business owners want to do everything to “incentivize” employees except pay them more money.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I can kinda see this, that they are seeing this as a temporary hiccup, so offering more money will bite them in 6 months when the supply of labor increases, especially since they’ll have to pay current employees more as well.

      They should still just pay more, but I understand why they balk.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Business owners operate like this under normal circumstances though. Like the idea of having to offer more money to get workers is just heresy to them. I understand that they want more for themselves and to run the business but still.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Oh, I agree, and it’s not just small business owners, even major corporations would rather do anything other than offer more money to attract workers. And I think a lot of it has more to do with giving out raises than offering more. You get a cohort who come in at a higher wage because labor is tight, and it won’t be long before you have to raise wages across the board to avoid losing people, unless labor loosens up again real quick.Report

    • Philip H in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Exactly. One of our local popular oyster houses is now offering $12 as starting salary for non-tipped employees. Problem is they aren’t changing the base for tipped workers who are the people they need to hire. And then lamenting that can’t get enough people to work. Idiots.Report

    • Back when I was working for the state legislature, I was listening to an interim commission hearing on growing the number of jobs in the state. At some point during the testimony, the clearly exasperated chairwoman asked, “Is there anyone here waiting to give testimony whose starting wage for the new jobs they say they’ll bring if we give them help pay enough that the worker doesn’t qualify for one of food stamps or Medicaid? No? Then we’re done for the day.”

      Not too many years after that voters passed an initiative that raised the state’s minimum wage to $12/hr for 2020, plus inflation (this year, $12.32). Low end retail jobs along the Front Range are typically starting around $15-16/hr, so it’s in practice a minimum wage for rural areas. Those areas claimed wages that high would put them out of business, but they seem to have figured out how to cope.Report

  3. Philip H says:

    [LF-1] – I’d note that any Democratic politician so described would already have been run out of DC on a rail.

    [LF-3] – This is yet ANOTHER case where we collectively know how to alter these situations and refuse to use those data. This sort of resource shift is what one segment of the Defund the Police movement advocates for, but even that is seen in too many places as some deeply abhorrent Commie conspiracy. So more black men will die in traffic stops.Report

  4. LeeEsq says:

    A brief history of the commodification of art:

  5. Chip Daniels says:

    Via Balloon Juice, Kiglore Trout on Twitter breaks it down step by step how the rightwing tale of “workers loafing because of the social safety net” goes from one failed restauranter to national headline:

    Basically, the dude is a member of the local gentry who has connections in the media, and manages to gain a number of sympathetic ears, none of which bother to do even the most cursory check of him or his business.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Damn, something useful on Twitter.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        What I find interesting in these sorts of “lazy loafers” stories (and they have a long lineage, dating back to at least the Victorian times and the birth of the modern industrial economy) is how people regard work.

        Economists especially of the free market variety tell us that labor is a commodity to bought and sold on the open market, and its price and supply ought to follow the laws of economics.

        But is it really?

        For example, an argument could be made, has been made, that some sort of UBI would benefit the economy overall by giving people the freedom to pursue more speculative ventures like education or entrepreneurship.

        But what’s odd is that resistance to this idea of paying people money whether they work or not meets fierce resistance, even from those who would benefit the most from it.

        Because as the story above shows us, people generally don’t think of work in detached objective terms, they think of it in moral terms, that work itself is a moral good and people ought to do it regardless of the economics of the situation.

        This view holds a collectivist view of the economy, that everyone has a duty and responsibility to work.
        Which is why even though I support the idea of a UBI, I have really strong doubts as to whether it could be a political reality.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Be that as it may, we can actually see this phenomenon reflected in the stats. The red line is the unemployment rate (U3), and the blue line is the job openings rate. As you can see, the job opening rate is at the highest level since the BLS started measuring it in 2000. But what’s really extraordinary is that it’s at 4.9% with an unemployment rate of 6.2%. The last time the unemployment rate was that high was in April 2014, when the job openings rate was only 3.2%. And in July 2003, when unemployment was at 6.2%, the job openings rate was only 2.2%.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I don’t think anyone is doubting the reality of the trend, only that it has a simple fix.

        Offer higher wages.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Was the point of Chip’s comment and the linked Twitter thread not that this is fake news based on the lies of one particular individual? That’s the message I thought I was supposed to take away.

          Anyway, “just raise wages” isn’t always a viable solution. You can only raise prices so far before you start losing customers. Now, under normal circumstances I’d say that if you can’t hire the workers you need at the wage you need to pay to make enough profit to justify keeping the doors open, you should probably shut down. But when you’re hiring mainly unskilled workers, it can be tough to compete with the $400, $500 or more government is paying people each week to do literally nothing. How many people are going to work 30 hours per week for $20/hour when they can get $500 for nothing? After payroll taxes, you’re only netting a dollar or two per hour!

          The government doesn’t just have its thumb on the scale; it’s going full Chauvin on the scale.Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            Telling employers to “just raise wages” in a situation like this is like telling an athlete complaining about competitors using steroids to “just train harder.”Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

              Here’s where I get confused. Seems to me that higher wages for unskilled laborers increases the amount of disposable income those folks can spend thereby increasing the overall GCP (gross community product 😉 which leads to more equitable wealth distributions and higher standards of living.

              Now, of course *mandating* that increase will (let’s agree) put some employer with low profit margins out of business. But in the long term, shouldn’t the lost jobs/capital due to the wage boost be recaptured by new jobs/capital investment trying to capture some of that increased GCP?

              One other thing: to your specific point about high unemployment benefits working against employers’ ability to recapture those workers even at a higher wage, doesn’t this suggest that high UI payouts will have an indirect effect of increasing wages over the long term anyway?Report

              • InMD in reply to Stillwater says:

                The ol’ pay your burger flippers enough that they themselves can buy burgers from you too theory, eh?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD says:

                Ha! My robot burger flippers don’t want to buy my burgers!Report

              • InMD in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                The machines are still a few generations away from getting a taste for meat.Report

              • Burger flipping isn’t the only place they can reduce the number of staff. McDonald’s here was experimenting with ordering kiosks and centralized handling drive-through orders. The latter seemed to do okay. Particularly outside of the rush hours, one person could handle two or three franchises. The former was, IMO, designed to fail. It took an insane number of button presses to tell them, “Quarter pounder meal, medium, no cheese, Diet Coke.”

                For hobby purposes I’ve been looking at a couple of pieces of software that the creators are billing as “speech to intent.” Limited vocabulary, aimed at pulling out keywords very accurately and ignoring the rest. And let’s face it, for the wages you pay one person to work the cash register for a day, mostly doing speech-to-intent processing and pushing buttons, you can put a super computer in the kiosk.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Michael Cain says:

                The other thing about remote-operator drive-thru orders is that your restaurant staff no longer has to speak English, which means that McDonald’s can respond to minimum-wage laws by just paying illegal immigrants cash under the table.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Brandon Berg says:

              How is that true if it’s a condition that affects everyone. I can see your point if one business, was impacted, but if it’s impacting every business looking for workers at that level, then I fail to see who is on steroids?Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            So you’re saying that the government is establishing a minimum floor on wages, and thereby forcing all businesses to offer more than that?

            Sounds like a win-win to me.Report

            • There is a difference between a $15/hr minimum wage paid in return for (presumably constructive) labor, and $600/week long-term unemployment (or a UBI at that level) given in return for no labor. I’m sure there’s an equilibrium state, but I always worry about transitions.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            Raising wages doesn’t have the impact on costs for restaurants most people think it does.

            Standard is that 1/3 of costs should be food, 1/3 wages, 1/3 overhead. Then you add your profit margin.

            So, let’s assume a $10 burger and fry meal. $3 wages, $3 food, $3 overhead, and you make $1. Across the board raise of 25% from $12 to $15/hour. So, now wages are $3.75. Damn. There goes 3/4 of your profit. That’ll torpedo you.

            But… can you charge $10.75 for that burger? How much business will you lose as a result? Likely, not much. And you gave everyone a 25% raise. Yowza.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Kazzy says:

              Especially if all your competitors were also forced to give their employees the very same pay raise.

              I get what the market fundamentalists are saying, that it isn’t possible to just arbitrarily command the economy to produce higher wages without some sort of side effects or negative consequences.

              But it is equally true that economies are like ecosystems, they are marvelously adaptable and durable.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I’m not weighing in on any specific policy but the notion that small increases in wages will make costs skyrocket is just misplaced.

                It has an impact, no doubt. Anyone saying it won’t isn’t being honest. But so too is anyone saying that the impact is enormous.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

              Right, I understand that the price increases are not one-to-one, but it is important to note that wages are also embedded in your non-payroll expenses. Your ground-beef supplier has workers to pay, which means that the price you pay for ground beef will go up as well.

              So if payroll is 30% of your expenses, your costs won’t go up 10% for a 10% increase in wages, but they’ll probably go up more than 3%. Maybe 5%.

              Also, as I pointed out above, even $20/hour probably isn’t competitive with $500/week unemployment, unless people are so desperate for extra money that they’re willing to work for $1-2 per hour. ($20 x 30 hours – 0.0765% payroll taxes = $554, so a net of $54/30 = $1.80/hour).We’re probably looking at $25/hour or more to be reasonably competitive with a bit of light unemployment fraud. Of course, in some states unemployment might be as low as $400 or so ($300 federal + $100 state), so there’s a little give there.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

              “let’s assume a $10 burger and fry meal”

              me: (looks at McDonald’s ad campaign touting their $3 burger and fry meal) How about let’s don’t assume that?Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            The government doesn’t just have its thumb on the scale; it’s going full Chauvin on the scale.

            First off, ISWYDT, nicely done.

            Second, unless there is evidence the unemployment benefit is the federal governments attempt at backdoor minimum wage (rather than a short term experiment in UBI), I’m not sure how there are any thumbs, much less knees on the scale. The term implies an intent to muck things up, rather than simply providing a stop gap for the (ideally temporary) loss of jobs. Since government can not know exactly when the crisis will abate enough to eliminate the need for the extended benefits, they have to kinda pick a term that will hopefully fill the gap.

            Businesses complaining that they can’t get people to come back to work because the benefit exceeds the wage they are willing to pay is not a thumb on the scale, it’s them complaining that they don’t want to have to pay more and thus raise prices. Even though every economist out there is expecting some degree of inflation after the restrictions are relaxed and folks start going out and spending money again, so businesses will probably raise prices anyway.

            As for the Twitter thread, here we have a guy who is not some small business owner barely hanging on to their livelihood, casting himself in that role because he just don’t wanna pay more money to attract employees. I have very little sympathy for people who what to put on a pity party for themselves because the realities of economics are a b*tch.

            He can either offer more, or struggle through until the benefits expire.Report