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“The Boost That Comes From Raising The Minimum Wage”: Au Contraire, Raising Wages Does Not Destroy Jobs

The standard argument — really, the only argument — against raising the minimum wage is that it will lead to job loss. The argument is beloved by die-hard opponents of raising the wage because it provides them with a veneer, however flimsy, of concern about the welfare of the working poor.

Economic studies have repeatedly shown that argument to be spurious. Now the latest survey of 350,000 small businesses from Paychex, a payroll provider company, and IHS, a business analysis firm, provides strong indications that the exact opposite may be true.

In April, the Paychex/IHS survey, which looks at employment in small businesses, found that the state with the highest percentage of annual job growth was Washington — the state with the highest minimum wage in the nation, $9.32 an hour. The metropolitan area with the highest percentage of annual job growth was San Francisco — the city with the highest minimum wage in the nation, at $10.74.

This suggests that the relationship between a high minimum wage and job creation needn’t be inverse. If anything, it suggests that relationship is direct.

To be sure, the Bay Area economy is booming, but minimum-wage opponents would nonetheless have us believe that mandating the payment of close to $11 an hour must cause job loss at least in fast-food joints and Chinatown’s kitchens. San Francisco shouldn’t be creating more small-business jobs than any other city. It’s theoretically impossible.

So much for the theory. San Francisco is doing exactly that.

The compatibility of higher wage standards and job creation shouldn’t come as a surprise. A classic study of fast-food employment by former White House economic adviser Alan Krueger and Berkeley economics professor David Card demonstrated that raising the minimum wage does not lead to an appreciable decline in employment. Opponents of a higher wage have invoked a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office that argued a raise in the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, as President Obama has advocated, might cost up to 500,000 jobs. But even that study said that the raise would increase the wages of 16.5 million Americans — at least 33 times the number of those who might lose jobs — and elevate 900,000 people out of poverty.

What critics of a higher minimum wage ignore is that, by putting more money into the pockets of the working poor — a group that necessarily spends nearly all its income on such locally provided basics as rent, food, transport and child care — an adequate minimum wage increases a community’s level of sales and thereby creates more jobs. The Los Angeles Economic Roundtable recently concluded that raising the hourly minimum to $15 in Los Angeles County — the nation’s largest, home to 10 million people — would generate an additional $9.2 billion in annual sales and create more than 50,000 jobs.

The Seattle City Council is expected to enact a proposal from Mayor Ed Murray, developed by a business-labor task force, to phase in a $15 citywide minimum wage over seven years. The progress of the measure is a testament not only to the fast-food workers nationwide who’ve been campaigning for $15 hourly pay from McDonald’s and other chains but also to local labor and community leaders. They injected that issue into last year’s mayoral election, winning a pledge from Murray to push for the $15 standard. With direct employee-employer collective bargaining close to a dead letter in the private-sector economy, the likely success of the Seattle measure points to a new model for bargaining, in which progressive governments respond to worker pressure by legislating the wage increases employees can no longer win in the workplace.

In a nation where most people’s wages have been stagnant or dropping for many years, and where the combination of globalization and de-unionization has stripped from workers the bargaining power they once possessed, the role of government in addressing wage issues has become more central than ever. By investing in job-creating public works, by raising the minimum wage, by lowering taxes on those corporations that give their workers annual productivity increases and raising taxes on those that don’t, government can take up the slack created by the suppression and near-disappearance of private-sector unions. But first, it must dispel the canard that raising wages destroys jobs. Now it can point to San Francisco and Washington as evidence that it doesn’t.


By: Harold Meyerson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 21, 2014

May 25, 2014 Posted by | Jobs, Minimum Wage | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Let’s Not Be Misled”: In VA Scandal, Let’s Have Accountability For All — Including Congress

While Congress eagerly prepares its latest political stunt – a resolution to oust Gen. Eric Shinseki as Veterans Affairs Secretary – members might want to consider their own responsibility for the scandalous inadequacy of veterans’ health care. Unlike most of them, especially on the Republican side, Shinseki opposed the incompetent war plans of the Bush administration that left so many American service men and women grievously wounded. And unlike most of them, especially on the Republican side, Shinseki has done much to reduce the backlog of veterans seeking care, despite the congressional failure to provide sufficient funding.

Anyone paying attention knows by now that those secret waiting lists at VA facilities – which may have led to the premature deaths of scores of injured veterans – are a direct consequence of policy decisions made in the White House years before Barack Obama got there. The misguided invasion of Iraq, carried out with insufficient numbers of troops shielded by insufficient armor, led directly to thousands of new cases of traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other physical and mental illnesses requiring speedy treatment.

A substantial portion of the estimated three-trillion-dollar price of that war is represented by the cost of decent care for veterans. But even as that war raged on, the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress repeatedly refused to appropriate sufficient funding for VA health care. This financial stinginess toward vets was consistent with Bush’s refusal to take any steps to pay for his expensive war (and to protect his skewed tax cuts instead). As Alec McGillis explained in The New Republic, legislators who voted for war while opposing expansion of the VA are hypocrites, particularly when they claim to care about veterans.  So are the Republican governors who claim to care about vets but refuse to expand Medicaid, which would provide coverage for more than 250,000 impoverished veterans.

Breaking down the voting record, year after year, the pattern along party lines is clear: Republicans regularly seek cuts in VA funding and oppose Democratic efforts to increase that funding – a pattern that extends back to the first years of the Iraq and Afghan conflicts and continues to this day. As recently as last February, Senate Republicans filibustered a Democratic bill that would have added $20 billion in VA funding over the next decade, which would have built at least 26 new VA health care facilities. The Republicans killed that bill because Democratic leaders refused to add an amendment on Iran sanctions – designed to scuttle the ongoing nuclear negotiations – and because they just don’t want to spend more money on vets. Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee, said the costs of the expansion bill would be covered by savings from the end of troop deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. But with cruel irony, according to The Washington Post, “Republicans indicated that they prefer to dedicate the savings toward deficit reduction” rather than improved services.

What those who have served should get is the kind of care that has made the VA among the most successful health systems in the world (for those who can access its services). Instead they will get political swaggering, as members of Congress seek to score points against President Obama by attacking Shinseki, and dogmatic opportunism, as right-wing ideologues insist the VA is just another big government program to cut or even abolish. The Republicans who are susceptible to such proposals should be very careful, lest they arouse the anger of the normally conservative American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, whose leaders react with anger and outrage to the idea of privatization. As American Legion commander Dan Dellinger said in congressional testimony last week, his organization overwhelmingly “finds that veterans are extremely satisfied with their health care team and medical providers.”

So let’s not be misled about the VA by Washington’s loudmouths and poseurs – the warmongers who never face up to the price of their enthusiasm in lives and treasure. When politicians demand accountability from their betters, including a war hero like Eric Shinseki, let’s remember that they should be held accountable, too.


By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief,; Featured Post, The National Memo, May 23, 2014

May 25, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Veterans Administration | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Koch Cadre Billionaire Defends Nazi Comments”: For The Continued Success Of The Richest Americans

Ken Langone, the billionaire Home Depot founder, GOP donor and an ally of Charles and David Koch, clumsily defended his March 2014 comments comparing populist criticism of the 1% with the rise of Nazi Germany, in an interview with Capital New York published this week.

Langone, a regular attendee of the twice-yearly secret strategy sessions for the mega rich organized by Charles and David Koch, has been speaking publicly of his concerns for the continued success of the richest Americans.

“We’re being strangled by regulation,” Langone told a conference of hedge fund managers in Las Vegas in mid May, as reported by CNN. “You’re in the 1%, there’s nothing wrong with that,” he continued. “You can do so much more with money than pay your taxes.”

The Top One Percent as Victims

Now, Langone has spoken to defend his past Nazi comparison, despite having somewhat backtracked just two months earlier.

From Huff Post:

Billionaire Kenneth Langone is still defending his comparison of income inequality talking points to rhetoric in Nazi Germany, after apologizing two months ago for the comments.

In a Capital New York interview published Monday morning, the Home Depot co-founder and Republican megadonor said it was a fair analogy to illustrate how democratic elections can yield results he finds terrifying.

“I simply said just because we’re a democracy doesn’t mean you can’t have bad results,” he said. “That’s all! I stand on what I said.”

Huff Post continued:

In a March interview with Politico, which owns Capital, Langone said a GOP pivot toward the economic populism championed by progressives and by such Tea Party candidates as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would mirror the rise of Adolf Hitler.

“I hope it’s not working,” Langone said of the political appeals at the time. “Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany.”

Koch “Cadre”

The Kochs have been building their politcal network for more than forty years.

Nicholas Confessore, wrote about the history of the Koch brothers political activities in a front page New York Times story on May 18, 2014, detailing the origins of the present day Koch political operation.

According to Confessore, in a speech given to business leaders and others in 1974, Charles Koch outlined that vision saying: “The development of a well-financed cadre of sound proponents of the free enterprise philosophy is the most critical need facing us today.”

The Koch brothers are not the only billionaires using their wealth to push for radical deregulation. They now have a whole cadre.


By: Nick Surgey, The Center For Media and Democracy, May 19, 2014

May 25, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Economic Inequality, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Empty In The Middle”: Don’t Be Fooled, McConnell’s Victory In Kentucky Is Also A Tea Party Win

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell’s primary victory on Tuesday night in Kentucky will undoubtedly tempt many a pundit to write the Tea Party’s eulogy. But the Tea Party will achieve in electoral death what it could never achieve in life: lasting control of the GOP agenda.

McConnell won because he’s got a familiar name, a lot of money and the kind of political clout that makes up for occasional lapses from orthodoxy. That might not be enough next time – as a local Kentucky Republican leader told the National Journal last week, the state party is “still McConnell’s Republican Party, but it’s edging toward being Rand [Paul]’s Republican Party”. But, it was enough to keep it from being challenger Matt Bevin’s Republican party – especially after his unforced errors and willingness to prize ideological purity over more pragmatic concerns (like the $2bn in pork McConnell brought home for agreeing to end the government shutdown).

McConnell didn’t win because he became a Tea Party member – he’s so conservative, he didn’t have to. (A vote analysis casts him as one of the top 25 conservative members of the Senate, and Tea Party darling and intrastate rival Paul is at number 19.) Instead, McConnell’s win just shows how easily the GOP grows over its fringes.

What’s happening in the Republican party is the worst of both the Tea Party and more traditional “free-market” (but never really as free as advertised) economics: an aggressive “pro-business” agenda combined with radically retrogressive social policies.

You could even say at this point that the GOP isn’t a big tent or even a coalition – it’s a torus, an ever-expanding donut-shaped object that’s empty in the middle.

The hole is where principles used to be, because flexibility comes at the price of purity. McConnell successfully neutralized challenger Bevin by being unafraid to grovel: he not only took junior Senator Rand Paul’s endorsement and staff, for example, but he also put up with their eye-rolling (and nose-holding) in exchange for that support.

There’s a history to the GOP establishment simply absorbing insurgent movements and moving right. The GOP has co-opted individual leaders (like Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater) and even entire voting blocs (fundamentalist Christians). Each of those assimilations marched the party rightward to the point that, according to political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal, the party today is the most conservative it’s been in one hundred years.

When the Tea Party complains that the Republican party has become too moderate, it can’t be measuring against the party of the last century, much less the last administration. Yet the anti-establishment drumbeat that has echoed through the culture has created a situation in which a majority of GOP voters – 54% – think the party should move even further to the right.

Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker put this in more quantitative terms: since 1975, Senate Republicans have moved twice as far to the right as Democrats have to the left – and McConnell has been a part of the leading edge. A statistical analysis of his votes since he came to the senate in 1984 shows that he’s voted more conservatively every year since.

At each level of governance below the Senate, the conservative undertow grows stronger. The House Republican caucus has shifted to the right six times further than the Democrats have left. And when you get closer to home – state-level offices and local races – you can see policies rolling backwards years of progress, most notably in reproductive health, gay rights and, most alarmingly, voting rights.

The media has meanwhile abetted this fiction of Tea Party radicalism versus establishment centrism. It takes precious little for be labelled a “moderate conservative” these days (and to reap the benefits of having even one area of ideological overlap with the great majority of political reporters who map moderate in their own views). Therefore we get a “moderate Pete King” (despite his history of anti-Muslim speech and advocacy of a greater surveillance state) and the “moderate” Jeb Bush lauded as a pragmatic voice of reason in the GOP. (People seem to have forgotten the radicalism of Bush’s governorship, from his direct intervention on the Terri Schaivo case to a fiscal record with the Cato Institute seal of approval.)

This all may have happened with or without the Tea Party – it’s just as attributable to the disintegration of campaign finance laws as it is to a grassroots movement. But the Tea Party gave the GOP the illusion of resurgence that’s turned out to be something more like a sugar high.

This rightward drift of the movement would probably be more alarming to liberals if it wasn’t so objectively risky for GOP. Though a combination of socially libertarian policies and moderately conservative financial ones has the potential to attract young voters (and women and minorities), that’s not what’s apparently on the agenda.

Rand Paul, who is both beloved by the Tea Party and a magnet for libertarian youth, nonetheless still echoes the worst of the GOP’s talking points on race and gender. Polling after the 2012 elections showed that the GOP had failed to significantly improve its appeal to any demographic outside already partisan voters. And, as other polling – including internal Republican analysis – has shown, without demographic expansion, the GOP is doomed anyway.

McConnell’s win fits nicely into a narrative of declining Tea Party influence. Yet the reality is that the Tea Party has won, even if their candidate didn’t. And, in more ways than one, both the GOP and “the establishment” are losing more every time.


By: Ana Marie Cox, The Guardian, May 21, 2014

May 25, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Mitch Mc Connell, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Feckless Coward”: Boehner’s Wimpiness Exposed, As Democrats Call His Bluff

I’ve been making the case that when it comes to immigration reform, John Boehner is a feckless coward who, caught between two bad political choices, is content to defer action indefinitely while engaging in empty excuse-making to save face. Thankfully, I don’t have to make that case anymore. John Boehner is making it for me.

For months now, Boehner has been arguing that the biggest obstacle to passing immigration reform in the House is that the Republicans just can’t trust President Obama to actually enforce the law when it comes to border security and deportations. This is a ridiculous standard on its face – the House GOP didn’t trust George W. Bush on enforcement, so it’s doubtful that any president could meet their maximalist expectations. And as my colleague Jim Newell points out, Boehner is essentially arguing against the passage of any legislation on any issue. If you can’t trust the president, why bother?

Faced with Boehner’s obvious bluffing on the trust issue, the Democrats called him out. Yesterday, Harry Reid offered Boehner a way around his crippling mistrust of the president: pass comprehensive reform legislation now, but tweak the bill so that it takes effect in 2017, after Obama has left office. “If Republicans don’t trust President Obama, let’s give them a chance to implement the bill under President Rand Paul or President Theodore Cruz,” Reid said.

Problem solved, right? Hah… no. Boehner’s office released the following statement shooting down the idea: “Such a scenario would eliminate any incentive for the administration to act on border security or enforce the law for the remainder of President Obama’s term.”

So Republicans can’t implement immigration reform now because Obama won’t enforce the law. But they also can’t wait to implement immigration reform because Obama needs incentives to enforce the law? Boehner has put himself in the position of arguing that he can’t act because Obama needs to be incentivized to do something he won’t do anyway.

Boehner is just making up reasons for why he can’t act on his own stated convictions and get immigration reform passed. It has nothing to do with President Obama and everything to do with Boehner not wanting to jeopardize his own grasp on power and his party’s chances to make gains in the midterms.

Brian Beutler points out that the threat of executive action to limit deportations further reduces the chances of reform passing, since it’ll agitate the hardline reform opponents in the House and make Boehner even more reluctant to act (if that’s even possible). Any move from the White House will be seized upon by Boehner and the Republicans as an out-of-control imperial president circumventing the will of Congress, and they’re far more eager to make that argument to voters heading into the midterms than to arrive at a coherent policy outcome.

That’s the reason Boehner is contorting himself into logical inconsistencies on immigration. Acting to pass legislation threatens to damage him politically. Inaction puts the spotlight on President Obama. And for all of Boehner’s talk about his commitment to immigration reform, he’s more invested in saving his own skin.


By: Simon Maloy, Salon, May 23, 2014

May 25, 2014 Posted by | Immigration Reform, John Boehner | , , , , , | 2 Comments

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