Seattle: $15 minimum wage already costing jobs

**Posted by Phineas

Depression-era unemployment

“But at least we raised the minimum wage!”

And it’s not even in effect, yet.

But, it’s not surprising. Business managers have to plan for the future, and a looming huge increase in their labor cost will force many to rethink how they do business in Seattle, if they continue to do business there at all. Writing for the free-market Washington Policy Center, Erin Shannon reports on how small businesses are planning to cut back on hiring, delaying expansion, or moving out of the city to deal with the new wage law. Most striking, though, is the account of one business owner who supported the law, but now thinks she may have made a mistake:

One of those business owners is a well-known and active supporter of “progressive” labor policies, including a higher minimum wage. Jody Hall, owner of Cupcake Royale, initially supported a $15 minimum wage. But now Hall admits the proposed policy is, “keeping me up at night like nothing ever has.”

While Hall has serious concerns with Mayor Ed Murray’s plan to phase in a $15 minimum wage over seven years with a temporary tip credit, her biggest fear is if voters approve the radical charter amendment sponsored by the group 15Now. The charter amendment would force all large employers to begin paying $15 in 2015, and would give small business owners just three years to acclimate to the high wage. And the 15Now proposal would not allow for any tip credit.

If the charter amendment passes, Hall says she would be forced to close half of her seven locations and lay off 50 of her 100 workers.

But beyond the differences between Mayor Murray’s proposal or the more aggressive 15Now proposal, Hall says she now has “serious second thoughts” about a $15 minimum wage in general, especially since Seattle would be “going it alone” with a wage that is significantly higher than any other minimum wage in the nation.

Hall’s second thoughts about a $15 minimum wage have led to second thoughts about expanding her business. She was set to open a new business in Seattle this year, but has tabled the plan until after voters have their say on the charter amendment in the November election. Hall says if she considers any new locations before then, they will be outside the city limits.

In other words, when progressivism meets economic reality, guess which wins? You would think a successful businesswoman like Hall would have seen this coming. Maybe she thought she’d get a waiver from Obama.

And pay special attention to her comment about “going it alone.” As minimum wage increases are applied and then have the same effect in various places, there will be more and more calls from the fairness crowd to apply these laws statewide and even nationwide, to make sure business owners can’t just move to a friendlier jurisdiction, which would be “unfair.” The minimum wage thus becomes a wedge issue in an attack on local control, federalism, and jurisdictional competition, things progressive just hate, because their favored policies usually fail.

Meanwhile, I want to thank Seattle for volunteering to be a case study on the foolishness of government control of wages.

via Adrian Moore

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

The IRS wants to tax your frequent flyer miles and hotel points

**Posted by Phineas

"Shakedown"

It’s as if the agency was worried it wasn’t hated enough.

Writing at Reason, Ira Stoll reports that the Internal Revenue Service is looking at taxing rewards points offered by airlines and hotel chains:

Just in time for your summer vacation, the IRS is getting ready to toughen the tax treatment on frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty reward programs.

The IRS announced in 2002 that it wouldn’t try to go after individuals for income taxes on frequent flyer miles or hotel loyalty points earned on company-paid business trips. Yet the temptation to wring some tax revenue out of the vast non-dollar economy of Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints, Marriott Rewards points, American Airlines AAdvantage miles, Delta Skymiles, and so on is apparently so great that that the government just cannot resist.

Sure enough, the Tax Foundation, a research group that tracks tax issues, flags a recent post on the View From the Wing blog that runs under the provocative headline, “The IRS Looks To Be on the Verge of Imposing a Big Tax Burden on Loyalty Points.”

The IRS’s plans are vague, but they have airlines and hotel owners concerned enough about the issue that they reportedly sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. “The IRS’ proposal to alter the tax treatment of loyalty programs will impose a significant new tax on existing and future loyalty points that travel customers enjoy and rely upon,” said the letter, according to a report in Politico. “Any change or clarification of loyalty program accounting should be made through the legislative process, not IRS promulgation.”

Frequent flyer mile fanatics got a wake-up call on the issue back in 2012 when Citibank sent IRS Forms 1099, documenting “miscellaneous income,” at a rate of 2.5 cents a mile, to customers who had signed up for an American Airlines-branded credit card and gotten 40,000 AAdvantage miles as a bonus. It was an unpleasant surprise to cardholders who thought they were getting a free trip, not an unwanted extra tax bill.

I’ll say. I rarely rack up enough points for a free flight or hotel night, but I know plenty of people who fly a lot and who rely on those points to help cover the occasional vacation. Suddenly taxing them not only diminishes their value as a customer-retention tool, but also burdens the consumer by imposing a monetary cost for a non-monetary reward. (Sure, the points have “value,” but it’s not like real income. Just try paying for a meal with airline points…)

Stoll covers several problems with this plan, but I’ll add one of my own: this is another example of the gradual bureaucratic usurpation of legislative power that’s grown to be such a problem since the Progressive Era. Congress writes laws that allow regulatory agencies to create rules for their implementation, but agencies, like bureaucracies everywhere, constantly push the bounds of that authority to accumulate ever-greater power to themselves, to the point whereat they’re no longer writing rules, but actually making law in place of the elected legislature. Which, for progressive ideology, is a feature, not a bug. (1)

Although, perhaps “usurpation” is too strong a word. After all, congresses dominated by both Democrats and Republicans have gone along with this, even if they didn’t agree with progressive ideology, passing vague legislation and letting agencies “fill in the blanks.” It’s a tempting bit of laziness: as Washington accumulated more power to itself, Congress had to deal with more and more, until it became expedient to let someone else deal with the details. And it gives them political cover: It wasn’t your congressman who decided to tax your airline miles, it was the IRS. Left unsaid is how generations of congressmen and senators have enabled this.

Of the many reforms our government needs, congress reclaiming its power to make laws and reining in the bureaucracy –especially the IRS!– is high on the list.

Footnote:
(1) The basic idea is that democratically-elected legislatures are too prone to public passions, too full of unqualified people, to be trusted with governance. Progressives prefer unelected, dispassionate boards of technocrats who would practice scientific management of public affairs. They may be right about the problems of legislatures, but I think the last century has shown their solution is even worse.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

The racist origins of the minimum wage

**Posted by Phineas

Chattanooga VW workers, per MSNBC

Also supported a minimum wage

I came across an interesting blog post from a few weeks ago while trolling the news this morning for something interesting. Now, we all know about the racist history of the Democratic Party: the defense of slavery, even inciting a civil war to preserve it; the creation of terrorist organizations, such as the KKK, in order to keep Blacks from exercising their rights as free citizens; and the creation of Jim Crow, which created a legal framework for Blacks’ oppression that lasted into the 1960s.

But did you know the minimum wage, the distraction du jour for Democrats anxious to talk about anything other than Obamacare’s failures, itself had its roots in minority oppression? Here’s an excerpt from a short piece in Forbes by Carrie Sheffield:

The business-friendly National Center for Policy Analysis points out “the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, requiring ‘prevailing’ wages on federally assisted construction projects, was supported by the idea that it would keep contractors from using ‘cheap colored labor’ to underbid contractors using white labor.”

African-American economist Thomas Sowell with Stanford University‘s Hoover Institution gives an uncomfortable historical primer behind minimum wage laws:

“In 1925, a minimum-wage law was passed in the Canadian province of British Columbia, with the intent and effect of pricing Japanese immigrants out of jobs in the lumbering industry.

A Harvard professor of that era referred approvingly to Australia’s minimum wage law as a means to “protect the white Australian’s standard of living from the invidious competition of the colored races, particularly of the Chinese” who were willing to work for less.

In South Africa during the era of apartheid, white labor unions urged that a minimum-wage law be applied to all races, to keep black workers from taking jobs away from white unionized workers by working for less than the union pay scale.”

It is a plain-as-day fact that raising the cost of labor will force a business to do one of four things:

  • Go out of business
  • Accept lower profits
  • Raise prices for the consumer
  • Or cut employee hours or reduce the number of jobs to compensate for higher costs.

The first two are very unlikely to happen, which leaves passing on the cost to the consumer or cutting back on labor. And if the owners decide to cut back on labor, guess whose hours get the ax first? That’s right, it’s most likely the lower or unskilled employee, because it makes less sense to pay them the higher wage when you have more skilled employees who give more value in return for their wages. Now, just who makes up a large percentage of that at-risk labor force? That’s right: young Blacks.

The next time you encounter some Lefty blathering about raising the minimum wage, ask them why they have it in for young people and Blacks.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Obama to high-dollar donors: Americans are “better off” since I was elected

King Obama

Image via Salon.com

Oh really?

President Obama said Americans were “better off now than when I came into office,” during a fundraiser Monday night outside of Washington.

Obama also slammed congressional Republicans for their focus on the terror attack in Benghazi and the implementation of ObamaCare.

The president told attendees at the high-dollar soiree in Potomac, Maryland that his Republican opposition in Congress had been “captured by ideologues” whose principal focus was on “how to make people sufficiently skeptical, so they can win the next election.”

“The debate now is about what?” Obama asked. “Benghazi? ObamaCare? It becomes this endless loop.”

Obama told donors that he preferred a robust Republican Party —  “I come from the Land of Lincoln” — but that the current iteration of the GOP did not believe “that government can get anything done.”

Obama’s remarks came at a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at the home of Jeffrey Drenzer, a medical training and technology executive. Tickets to the event, billed as an “intimate dinner,” ranged from $10,000 per person to $32,400 per couple.

Because it’s wrong to be skeptical about government. It’s wrong to expect your government should be held accountable for its incompetence. It’s wrong to think people should be able to hold on to more of their own money. It’s wrong to believe you need to do everything you can to foster a climate of investment and job growth.  And it’s wrong that people expect you to keep your promises on, I dunno, things like being able to keep their doctor and plans if they liked them.  Silly me.

Out here in the real world people are struggling to make ends meet, more are working part time and temporary positions – or have dropped out of the workforce altogether out of frustration, are paying more for their health insurance and/or are on plans they didn’t like and/or can barely afford … the list goes on. Our celebrity President can wine and dine and captivate his big money donors all he wants to, get them to (literally) buy anything he says, but no fancy speeches and no grand gestures on his part in efforts to sugarcoat today’s economic climate can/will change that.

Part time and temporary jobs are rising in the age of #Obamanomics

Unemployment line


Photo via the pepperhawkfarm blog.

What a surprise. Via the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) — While the U.S. economy has improved since the Great Recession ended five years ago, part-time and “contract” workers are filling many of the new jobs.

Contract workers made up less than half of one percent of all U.S. employment in the 1980s but now account for 2.3 percent. Economists predict contract workers will play a larger role in the years ahead.

They are a diverse army of laborers, ranging from janitors, security officers, home-care and food service-workers to computer programmers, freelance photographers and illustrators. Many are involved in manufacturing. Many others are self-employed, working under contracts that lay out specific responsibilities and deadlines.

Labor leaders and many economists worry. Contract workers have less job security and don’t contribute to the economy through spending as much as permanent, full-time workers. Nor do they have the same job protections. Few are union members.

“It is not hugely clear that we’re coming into a temp-worker, contract-worker, contingent-worker nation. But it’s something to keep an eye on,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute. “There’s definitely been an increase in the share of those working part time.”

Part-time and contract jobs in the past tended to rise during recessions and recede during recoveries. But maybe no longer: Part-time workers have accounted for more than 10 percent of U.S. job growth in the years since the recession officially ended in June 2009. Meanwhile, union membership has been sliding steadily since the mid-1980s.

And here I thought Obamacare and a national (and statewide in some parts of the country) push for a minimum wage hike were supposed to help people …

Obama’s economic recovery: the chart tells the story

**Posted by Phineas

Power Line presents three charts that show what a failure Obama’s statist economic policies have been. Here’s the one that really struck me:

BudgetChart03

(Click here for the full-sized version.)

This chart from the US Senate Budget Committee compares the trend in the labor force participation rate, roughly the percentage of the working age population that is either employed or looking for work, during the recovery from recession under both President Reagan and President Obama. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2007 recession began in December of that year. Obama entered office roughly 13 months later. Now, go to that point on both the Reagan (red) and Obama (blue) lines and trace their progress. This shows clearly that Obama’s economic policies have been a nightmare for working people, with hundreds of thousands, at least, just giving up looking for work.

Why on Earth, then, should any responsible citizen wish to vote for any candidate that promises to continue those same devastating policies?

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Reuters in shill mode for #Obamacare, declares it “saved” the US economy

Obama's media cheerleaders

”2, 4, 6, 8 – who do we appreciate?!”

You really can’t make this stuff up – oh  yeah, you can. If you’re Reuters (via Memeorandum):

WASHINGTON, April 30 (Reuters) – As the U.S. economy teetered on the brink of contraction in the first quarter, one thing stood out. Healthcare spending increased at its fastest pace in more than three decades.

That surge is attributed to the implementation of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Because of Obamacare, the nation narrowly avoided its first decline in output in three years.

“GDP growth would have … been negative were it not for healthcare spending,” said Harm Bandholz, chief economist at UniCredit Research in New York.

Healthcare spending increased at a 9.9 percent annual rate, the quickest since the third quarter of 1980, and it contributed 1.1 percentage points to GDP growth.

The economy expanded at only a 0.1 percent rate in the first quarter, held back by a drop in exports and business investment, which economists attributed to a harsh winter. A sharp slowdown in the pace of inventory accumulation was also a drag.

The gauge of healthcare spending published on Wednesday is simply an estimate based on Medicaid benefits, ACA insurance exchange enrollments, and other related information. Firm data will not be available until June, and the government could well revise its figures for both healthcare and overall GDP.

Let me issue a few corrections to this White House talking points memo disguised as a “straight news piece.”  1) There will be no “firm” numbers on Obamacare from this administration. Ever.  2) Constant “revisions” in economic numbers are a hallmark of Team Obama (see 1).  3) Millions lost plans they liked, lost jobs, or had their FT status cut to part time as  a result of Obamacare.  This is not “saving” the economy, no matter how high the Reuters cheerleaders jump for our celebrity President.

What we’re seeing here is the latest attempt by the mainstream media to “rehabilitate” the reputation of Obamacare in the eyes of the American public. Most people don’t like it – many (and not just on the right) absolutely despise it. After months of (finally) trying to hammer the administration and Congressional Democrats over their lies on “if you like it you can keep it” (which the right predicted would happen before the bill was shoved down the throats of the American people), the MSM is back into “cover Obama” mode – especially on this issue.  Just in time for the election season as it kicks into high gear. They’re already trying desperately to find people who Obamacare has “helped”, and have managed to locate a few – as if that makes up for all the damage done from its passage in the first place.

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t fall for their attempts at whitewashing the truth.  Obamacare is and always will be an utter failure, because you can’t take back the pain and misery this has caused average citizens in terms of health care, health costs, job security, and full time status.   As the old saying goes, you can paint an old barn a shiny shade of red, but in the end it’s still gonna be the same old barn.  Would someone alert Reuters, please?

Obama Reuters

Really, Reuters?

Related: Twitchy Team – ‘Not a joke’: Brit Hume calls Reuters’ absurd Obamacare spin ‘classic liberal thinking’

Fleeing California: Toyota takes its business (and its jobs) to Texas

**Posted by Phineas

Moving

Oh, man, this is just a gut punch to the Southern California economy:

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to move large numbers of jobs from its sales and marketing headquarters in Torrance to suburban Dallas, according to a person familiar with the automaker’s plans.

The move, creating a new North American headquarters, would put management of Toyota’s U.S. business close to where it builds most cars for this market.

North American Chief Executive Jim Lentz is expected to brief employees Monday, said the person, who was not authorized to speak publicly. Toyota declined to detail its plans. About 5,300 people work at Toyota’s Torrance complex. It is unclear how many workers will be asked to move to Texas. The move is expected to take several years.

I don’t know how many will move to Texas, but I bet several thousand won’t. And that doesn’t even address the ripple effects in the region’s economy, all sorts of support businesses that would lose the revenue spent by those employees — restaurants, dry cleaners, janitorial companies, you name it. Those people won’t be heading for Texas; they’ll be stuck here. And it’s going to hurt.

Toyota originally came to LA in the late 1950s, and staying here made sense for them for a long time, in spite of increasingly burdensome taxes and regulations. After all, most of their cars entered the US through the huge Port Of Los Angeles, so it made sense to have the North American HQ nearby.

But, with the passage of time, Toyota, like so many foreign car manufacturers, built more and more of their cars here in the US, mostly choosing to construct their facilities in business-friendly Southern states… such as Texas. The last auto manufacturing plant in California, coincidentally Toyota’s, closed in 2010. Eventually, economic logic (1) lead the company to decide that the cost of living and business in California wasn’t worth staying in California, not when their manufacturing operations had all shifted to Texas and nearby states.

As Dale Buss writes at Forbes. After talking about the structural shift in Toyota’s business, he looks at the once-Golden State:

Besides, California’s business climate is becoming an even bigger downer. California has become infamous with business executives and owners there not only for high tax rates and complex taxing schemes but also for overzealous regulations and regulators that have managed to stifle the entrepreneurial energy of thousands of companies.

Even Hollywood movie studios have been souring about producing flicks in California, increasingly reckoning that the sweet tax breaks and assistance packages now offered by so many other states offset the legacy advantages and ideal production climate in California.

About the only vast remaining pocket of dynamism in the California economy is Silicon Valley, where the mastery of the global digital economy by companies ranging from Google to Hewlett-Packard has become so complete that they have been able to succeed despite the home-state business landscape.

In the annual Chief Executive magazine “Best States / Worst States” ranking that surveys CEOs for their opinions, Texas has been holding on to the No. 1 spot for a while; California seems permanently relegated to No. 50.

As Automotive News put it, “Despite the deep, creative talent pool in greater Los Angeles, doing business in California has become more expensive for companies and their workers.” Bestplaces.net said that the cost of living for employees is 39 percent higher in Torrance than in Plano, and housing costs are 63 percent lower in Plano.

Thus, over the last 10 years, the Lone Star State has stolen so many jobs from the paragon of the Pacific Coast that Toyota’s reported move should come as no big surprise.

No, it’s no surprise, but it is maddening because it is a largely self-inflicted wound. Business flight has been going on for a few years, now, and, no, “Green jobs” just aren’t going to fill the gap. Heck, a businessman even set up a consulting firm to help companies “abandon ship.”

Losing Toyota should be a loud, blaring alarm for Governor Brown and the progressive oligarchs who dominate our legislature, for it’s their policies, piling on regulations and taxes year after year, decade after decade, that have made it nearly impossible to build a business here. (Just read this “Dear California” letter from a small businesswoman who’d had enough.) And for those companies that had been successful, the incentive to move finally grows too great to resist. But they won’t learn, not until it gets much worse. Like all good oligarchs, they’re isolated in their ivory tower of safe seats and unaccountability (2).

Keep watch at the I-10 crossing into Arizona: pretty soon, a lot of those taillights you see  heading East are going to be on the back of Toyotas.

And they ain’t coming back.

Footnote:
(1) Something progressives should acquaint themselves with, sometime.
(2) And, before anyone else can say it, yes, that’s our fault as voters.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Detecting life in the CA economy, state senate moves to kill it

**Posted by Phineas

california_state_flag

Well, at least California’s legislative Democrats are consistent: if it works, regulate it, and if it makes money, tax it. In the latest example, Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) has authored a bill to slap a nearly ten-percent tax on oil extraction:

The Senate Education Committee voted 5-2 — the minimum number of votes needed — to advance a bill that would levy a 9.5% tax on oil pumped from the ground in California. The aim is to raise $2 billion annually to be divided among state universities and colleges, state parks, and human service programs, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The controversial SB 1017, which was authored by Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), has been dubbed a “job killer” by the California Chamber of Commerce, as it would most likely decrease oil production and drive oil companies out of California, costing thousands of jobs. One such company, Occidental Petroleum, is leaving California for Houston, Texas — dubbed “the energy capital of the world” — after being in Los Angeles for nearly a century.

Apparently it never occurred to Senator Evans or the Education Committee that a regime of low taxes and moderate regulation would generate more revenue through the jobs created both directly and through supporting businesses. Maybe she should visit Texas and take notes. Oh, and the heartland of that oil production would be in areas with the worst unemployment, our Central Valley. Why does she hate the jobless? (Or, perhaps more accurately, why does she hate the prospect of them not needing state aid?)

Instead, she and her fellow Democrats must think that being in California is so wonderful that no one would ever go elsewhere, regardless of how many burdens and barriers Sacramento creates. If so, this former California businesswoman has a message for her.

California has had an amazing economy and has an incredible potential future, but even it can be killed with enough mismanagement.  Senator Evans and her colleagues really need to review the fable of the goose that laid the golden eggs: its owner, not satisfied with the eggs the goose was laying at a steady rate, killed it to get all the eggs he thought were inside. Instead, he wound up with no more eggs and a dead goose.

Golden eggs, golden state.

PS: With the Democrats’ two-thirds super-majority broken in the Senate for now, thanks to three corrupt Democrat senators getting caught, there’s no chance this bill will make it to the governor’s desk. For now. But expect them to have it ready, if and when they regain that majority.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Report: Problematic, tax cheating IRS employees received bonuses, PTO

IRS

The IRS.

Via Fox News:

IRS employees who had been disciplined for tax and conduct issues were nonetheless rewarded with monetary awards or time off, according to a watchdog report released Tuesday.

The report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that while for the most part the reward program for IRS workers complied with federal regulations, employees who had themselves failed to pay their federal taxes and had discipline problems were also rewarded.

“While not prohibited, providing awards to employees who have been disciplined for failing to pay federal taxes appears to create a conflict with the IRS’s charge of ensuring the integrity of the system of tax administration,” Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George said.

The watchdog found that in the period from October 1, 2010 to December 31, 2012 over 2,800 employees who had been disciplined for conduct problems, including issues with federal tax compliance, had received over $2.8 million in monetary awards and over 27,000 hours in time-off awards.

The watchdog found that the more than 1,100 employees who had issues with tax compliance received more than $1 million in monetary awards and more than 10,000 hours in time-off awards.

Hmmm … I think I’m in the wrong line of work.

Seriously, this shouldn’t take anyone by surprise, considering the government’s penchant for rewarding people who don’t deserve it.   Yet it – specifically the IRS – will shamelessly, for political purposes, unfairly scrutinize innocent Tea Party groups – and are ultimately the “overseers” of Obamacare over the long term.  If that doesn’t keep you awake at night …