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“The Real Job Killers”: Forget What Republicans Say, The Real Job Killers Are Lousy Jobs At Lousy Wages

House Speaker John Boehner says raising the minimum wage is “bad policy” because it will cause job losses.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says a minimum wage increase would be a job killer. Republicans and the Chamber also say unions are job killers, workplace safety regulations are job killers, environmental regulations are job killers, and the Affordable Care Act is a job killer. The California Chamber of Commerce even publishes an annual list of “job killers,” including almost any measures that lift wages or protect workers and the environment.

Most of this is bunk.

When in 1996 I recommended the minimum wage be raised, Republicans and the Chamber screamed it would “kill jobs.” In fact, in the four years after it was raised, the U.S. economy created more jobs than were ever created in any four-year period.

For one thing, a higher minimum wage doesn’t necessarily increase business costs. It draws more job applicants into the labor market, giving employers more choice of whom to hire. As a result, employers often get more reliable workers who remain longer – thereby saving employers at least as much money as they spend on higher wages.

A higher wage can also help build employee morale, resulting in better performance. Gap, America’s largest clothing retailer, recently announced it would boost its hourly wage to $10. Wall Street approved. “You treat people well, they’ll treat your customers well,” said Dorothy Lakner, a Wall Street analyst. “Gap had a strong year last year compared to a lot of their peers. That sends a pretty strong message to employees that, ‘we had a good year, but you’re going to be rewarded too.’”

Even when raising the minimum wage — or bargaining for higher wages and better working conditions, or requiring businesses to provide safer workplaces or a cleaner environment — increases  the cost of business, this doesn’t necessarily kill jobs.

Most companies today can easily absorb such costs without reducing payrolls. Corporate profits now account for the largest percentage of the economy on record.  Large companies are sitting on more than $1.5 trillion in cash they don’t even know what to do with. Many are using their cash to buy back their own shares of stock – artificially increasing share value by reducing the number of shares traded on the market.

Walmart spent $7.6 billion last year buying back shares of its own stock — a move that papered over its falling profits. Had it used that money on wages instead, it could have given its workers a raise from around $9 an hour to almost $15. Arguably, that would have been a better use of the money over the long-term – not only improving worker loyalty and morale but also giving workers enough to buy more goods from Walmart (reminiscent of Henry Ford’s pay strategy a century ago).

There’s also a deeper issue here.  Even assuming some of these measures might cause some job losses, does that mean we shouldn’t proceed with them?

Americans need jobs, but we also need minimally decent jobs. The nation could create millions of jobs tomorrow if we eliminated the minimum wage altogether and allowed employers to pay workers $1 an hour or less. But do we really want to do that?

Likewise, America could create lots of jobs if all health and safety regulations were repealed, but that would subject millions of workers to severe illness and injury.

Lots of jobs could be added if all environmental rules were eliminated, but that would result in the kind of air and water pollution that many people in poor nations have to contend with daily.

If the Affordable Care Act were repealed, hundreds of thousands of Americans would have to go back to working at jobs they don’t want but feel compelled to do in order to get health insurance.

We’d create jobs, but not progress. Progress requires creating more jobs that pay well, are safe, sustain the environment, and provide a modicum of security. If seeking to achieve a minimum level of decency ends up “killing” some jobs, then maybe those aren’t the kind of jobs we ought to try to preserve in the first place.

Finally, it’s important to remember the real source of job creation. Businesses hire more workers only when they have more customers. When they have fewer customers, they lay off workers. So the real job creators are consumers with enough money to buy.

Even Walmart may be starting to understand this. The company is “looking at” whether to support a minimum wage increase. David Tovar, a Walmart spokesman, noted that such a move would increase the company’s payroll costs but would also put more money in the pockets of some of Walmart’s customers.

In other words, forget what you’re hearing from the Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce. The real job killers in America are lousy jobs at lousy wages.

 

By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, February 28, 2014

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Jobs, Minimum Wage | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?”: Bobby Jindal Goes Panhandling

In the post this morning on the Romney donor network, I noted that in the underlying article from WaPo’s Wesley Lowery on that network’s favorite and slightly-less-favorite ‘16ers, there was nary a mention of onetime GOP “savior” Marco Rubio.

But there was another famous name missing from a list that ultimately included non-world-beaters like Mike Pence along with the notation that Mitt’s donors generally love GOP governors: the two-term governor of Louisiana.

I was reminded of that fact in reading a separate piece from National Review’s Eliana Johnson about Bobby Jindal’s preparations for an almost certain presidential run:

Though Jindal skewered Mitt Romney just a week after the 2012 election, he’s now turning to the Romney camp in an effort to beef up his fundraising operation. Sources say he is looking to tap Romney’s vast donor network and has asked Romney’s finance director, Spencer Zwick, for an assist with introductions to some of the Romney campaign’s top givers.

A number of the GOP’s likely Republican presidential candidates, including Rand Paul, are looking to Zwick to make these introductions. That’s in part a rite of passage – presidential contenders always want access to the fundraising list compiled by the previous candidate – and in part because the Romney team, which opted out of the public-financing system, was able to raise over $1 billion, an unprecedented amount for a GOP candidate. Romney and Zwick’s stable of top-dollar donors also has an especially loyal reputation relative to that of other nominees from both parties.

So even as the Romney donor network discusses their relationships with and preferences among a long list of potential 2016 candidates (including Paul, who was mentioned in surprisingly favorable terms in the Lowery piece), Bobby Jindal is looking for ways to invite himself into that world to make a pitch. This is not a good sign for him. Nor is it a particularly good sign, BTW, that he designated himself head of the crusade for “religious liberty” in a Big Speech in California right before said crusade fell into a giant ravine next door in Arizona.

Poor Bobby. Here’s a guy so brilliant and accomplished that you’d think all he’d have to do is stand in front of GOP “invisible primary” audiences with his resume in hand and just say: “Ecce Homo!” Instead he’s running around throwing himself in front of cameras, and seeking access to donor networks, like he’s just another pol. Makes you want to cry.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, February 28, 2014

March 1, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans | , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Infinite Circle Of Black Responsibility”: Part Of The Privilege Of Whiteness Is You Don’t Have To Have Responsibility For Anyone Else

In 2006, after being a United States senator for one year, Barack Obama made an appearance on Meet the Press. After talking about the Iraq War for a while, Tim Russert asked Obama this: “I want to talk a little bit about the language people are using in the politics now of 2006, and I refer you to some comments that Harry Belafonte made yesterday. He said that Homeland Security had become the new Gestapo. What do you think of that?” Obama said he never uses Nazi analogies, but people are concerned about striking the balance between privacy and security. Russert pressed on, asking Obama to take a position on whether some insulting things Belafonte had said about George W. Bush were “appropriate.”

I thought of that interview today as I watched another interview, this one with Bill O’Reilly interviewing White House aide Valerie Jarrett. I bring it up not because it’s important to be mad at Bill O’Reilly (it isn’t), but because it’s yet another demonstration of the rules both prominent and ordinary black people have to live with. Unlike white Americans, they are subject to an entirely different and far more wide-ranging kind of responsibility. A black senator has to answer for the remarks of every black activist, black musicians are responsible for the actions of every wayward teenager, and black people everywhere carry with them a thousand sins committed by others. That burden isn’t just psychological; as we’ve seen in cases like those of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, it can be deadly.

Yesterday, President Obama held an event at the White House called “My Brother’s Keeper,” to encourage people to help create more opportunities for young men of color. Afterward, O’Reilly told Jarrett that on “the streets,” there’s a problematic culture. “It’s not just blacks—it’s the poor, and the hard core, what they call ‘gangstas.'” He went on: “You have to attack the fundamental disease if you want to cure it. Now I submit to you that you’re going to have to get people like Jay-Z, all right, Kanye West, all of these gangsta rappers, to knock it off.”

You may laugh at the idea that disproportionately high levels of incarceration among young black men can be laid at the feet of Kim Kardashian’s husband. And I’m pretty sure that crime in America predates “Straight Outta Compton,” though we might have to look that up. But the truth is that Bill O’Reilly could hear a rap song about butterflies and rainbows, and the first thing to pop into his head would be “gangsta rap!” because it’s black people rapping.

And in this, O’Reilly resembles Michael Dunn, the man who gunned down Jordan Davis over his music. Over and over in his jailhouse writings, Dunn references the “culture” around rap music as one of criminality and danger, citing it as the source of crimes committed by black people. So naturally, when he heard that music coming from the next car over, he thought he was about to be the victim of a drive-by, and the only alternative was to pull out his gun and start firing first.

This is about the collectivization of every misdeed committed by a black person, the way all black people are implicated and have responsibilities imposed on them. When a white man beats his children or kills his wife or robs a liquor store or commits insider trading, nobody tells Bill O’Reilly that he, as a white person, needs to do something about it. And he sure as hell doesn’t go on the air and say that white people need better role models. There isn’t a thing called “white on white crime,” but there is a thing called “black on black crime,” because crimes committed by black people are black crimes, born from blackness and soiling all black people, but crimes committed by white people have nothing to do with the race of the perpetrators; they’re just crimes, no modifier needed.

My guess is that if you asked Bill O’Reilly what responsibility white musicians or white politicians have for the thousands of white crimes committed every year, he would have no idea what you’re talking about. It would sound like gibberish to him. As I’ve written before, a big part of the privilege of whiteness is that you don’t have to have responsibility for anyone else. You can be just yourself. The security guard is not going to follow you around in a store because some other white person shoplifted there last week. A TV host is not going to demand that you defend something stupid another white person said, for no reason other than the fact that the two of you are white. No one is going to think that because of the music you’re playing, it might be a good idea to fire ten bullets into your car.

Creating that broad black responsibility doesn’t just happen, it has to be reinforced and maintained. Nobody does it with more vigor than Bill O’Reilly and the rancid cauldron of race-baiting that is the network for whom he works. The real mystery is why the White House keeps trying to court him. They actually invited him to that event yesterday.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, February 28, 2014

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Bill O'Reilly, Racism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Illegitimate Power Structure”: To Defeat GOP’s Restrictive Voting Laws, Debunk ‘Voter Fraud’

Growing up in Jim Crow Arkansas, Bill Clinton saw how the state’s dominant political and racial elite maintained power by suppressing the rights of minority voters who threatened their authority – and as a young activist worked to bring down that illegitimate power structure. So when Clinton says “There is no greater assault on our core values than the rampant efforts to restrict the right to vote” – as he does in a new video released by the Democratic National Committee – the former president knows of what he speaks.

In the segregationist South of Clinton’s youth, the enemies of the universal franchise were Democrats, but times have changed. Not just below the Mason-Dixon line but across the country, it is Republicans who have sought to limit ballot access and discourage participation by minorities, the poor, the young, and anyone else who might vote for a Democratic candidate.

No doubt that is why, at long last, the Democratic Party has launched a national organizing project, spearheaded by Clinton, to educate voters, demand reforms, and push back against restrictive laws. Returning to his role as the nation’s “explainer-in-chief,” Clinton may be able to draw public attention to the travesty of voter ID requirements and all the other tactics of suppression used by Republicans to shrink the electorate.

His first task is to debunk the claims of  “voter fraud” fabricated by Republican legislators and right-wing media outlets as the rationale for restrictive laws. Lent a spurious credibility by the legendary abuses of old-time political machines, those claims make voter suppression seem respectable and even virtuous.

Some years ago the Brennan Center for Justice, based at New York University and led by former Clinton speechwriter Michael Waldman, issued a 45-page report on voter fraud that remains definitive. “There have been a handful of substantiated cases of individual ineligible voters attempting to defraud the election system,” the report noted. “But by any measure, voter fraud is extraordinarily rare.” And because fraud is so unusual, GOP counter-measures such as voter ID do much more harm than good.

As the Brennan Center study noted, even some Republicans know that their leaders have exaggerated stories of fraud for partisan advantage. In 2007, the Houston Chronicle quoted Royal Masset, the former political director of the Texas Republican Party, who observed that among Republicans it is “an article of religious faith that voter fraud is causing us to lose elections.” Masset admitted that suspicion is false, but said he believed that requiring voters to provide photo ID could sufficiently reduce participation by legitimate Democratic voters to add three percent to Republican tallies.

More recently  one of the dimmer lights in the Pennsylvania Republican Party – the majority leader of the state House of Representatives, in fact – boasted that the voter ID statute he had rammed through the legislature would  “allow Governor Romney to win the election” in November 2012. Although Mike Turzai later insisted that “there has been a history of voter fraud in Pennsylvania,” the state government conceded in court that it could cite no evidence showing that “in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania or elsewhere.”

Clinton can also consult the President’s Commission on Election Administration, a bipartisan panel appointed by President Obama to improve the country’s voting systems. In its final report issued last January, the commission forthrightly acknowledged that true voter fraud is “rare.” It was a singular admission by a group whose co-chairs included Benjamin Ginsberg, an aggressive Republican election attorney who bears the burden of responsibility for the outcome of Bush-Gore 2000.

If he is in a bipartisan mood, as he often is, Clinton would surely find the commission’s report uplifting – especially its recommendations to make voting more modern, more efficient, and above all more accessible. For both parties to improve and expand the democratic rights of citizens would be uplifting indeed.

But Clinton is more likely to find himself feeling less kindly toward the Republicans, as they continue to promote outrageous suppression while feigning outrage over “fraud.” The Democrats may be equally motivated by partisan self-interest – but so long as they defend the rights of the intimidated and the disenfranchised, their moral force will be undiminished.

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, February 28, 2014

March 1, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Voter Fraud, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When The Pot Calls The Kettle Lazy”: Thanks To Boehner’s ‘Leadership’, Capitol Hill Has Set New Benchmarks For Ineptitude

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) hosted a lively press conference with Capitol Hill reporters yesterday – the “boner” joke won’t be forgotten anytime soon – but there was something in his opening statement that was so audacious, I’m surprised it was largely ignored.

“You know, back in 2012 the president chose politics over governing. He took the year off, got little done, and this year I’m beginning to see the same pattern of behavior. We’ve seen more and more that the president has no interest in doing the big things that he got elected to do.”

Boehner added that President Obama intends to “pack it in for the year” and “just wait for the election.”

There’s hypocritical rhetoric. There’s breathtaking hypocritical rhetoric. Then there’s rhetoric so hypocritical that it ruptures the space-time continuum.

Reasonable people can debate the merits of competing proposals or policy strategies, but for Speaker Boehner to suggest President Obama is uninterested in governing, lacks ambition, and intends to do nothing for the rest of the 2014 is so head-spinning that it’s genuinely alarming Boehner was able to say the words out loud without laughing hysterically.

Let’s briefly review reality in case it still matters. John Boehner claimed the Speaker’s gavel three years ago, and since that time, he’s racked up zero major legislative accomplishments. While Obama has at times been desperate to get something, anything, done with this Congress, Boehner has tried and failed to lead House Republicans towards anything resembling governing.

The result has been the least productive Congress since clerks started keeping track several generations ago. Thanks to Boehner’s “leadership,” Capitol Hill is establishing new benchmarks for ineptitude, giving the “do-nothing Congress” phrase an updated definition to reflect levels of ineffectiveness few thought possible before 2011.

And yet the Speaker wants to complain that Obama “got little done” after Republicans took control of the House majority.

As for the president having “no interest” in doing “big things,” this is the exact opposite of our version of reality. Obama it appears is preoccupied with doing big things – the Speaker should have listened a little closer to the State of the Union address being delivered a few feet in front of him – while Boehner has said it’s time for Americans to start expecting less. Indeed, House Republicans leaders have been quite explicit on this point, saying the GOP does not like and does not want big policy breakthroughs.

Finally, the very idea that the president intends to coast through the rest of 2014 without doing any actual work buries the needle on the Irony-o-meter because it’s House Republicans who’ve already announced, more than once, that they intend to coast through the rest of 2014 without doing any actual work.

We’ve become all too familiar with the GOP’s reliance on the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” game, but this is ridiculous.

I have no idea whether Boehner actually believes what he said yesterday. But whether the rest of us should believe his comments is clear.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 28, 2014

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Congress, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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