Friday, March 27, 2015

Does the new minimum wage mean an end to tipping? « Hot Air

Does the new minimum wage mean an end to tipping? « Hot Air
Rushing through a steep increase in the minimum wage is going to have a number of effects on businesses, the prices consumers pay and employment. All of that is pretty much a given as we’ve discussed here on multiple occasions. At the LA Times, Michael Hiltzik takes a look at how such a change will affect one particular subset of lower wage workers, as well as one of the long established customs of American society… tipping. Strangely, the author seems to feel that tipping is not a plus for wait staff workers who excel at their jobs and bring home more money, but some sort of anchor around their necks.
The gradual move toward a higher minimum wage in many localities has revived the debate over restaurant tipping–not that it’s ever been too far below the surface.

There’s a good reason for the new attention on tipping: a differential between the minimum for tipped and non-tipped workers has been introduced in some places along with the higher minimum. It’s also advocated elsewhere, typically at the suggestion of restaurant owners who say it would moderate the strain on their bottom lines…

[T]ipping is an unfair mess. That’s absolutely true. As it’s practiced in the U.S., tipping is not even well understood by the diners who pay it. It causes resentment among recipients and headaches for their employers, and it’s subject to racial and gender distortions. As fundamental components of workers’ wages, tips are exploitative. According to the National Employment Law Project, they’re “notoriously erratic,” varying from shift to shift and by season, and shrinking during economic downturns.
Hiltzik’s argument will sound familiar to anyone who follows liberal complaints on virtually any subject which touches on the economy. Tipping, he seems to argue, is unfair to the lower paid worker because not everyone receives the same benefit and outside factors can affect how well the worker is compensated. In conservative circles, the explanation for this is summed up in easily digestible terms. The author is looking for equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

JSTOR: Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 123, No. 2 (April 2015), pp. 497-545

JSTOR: Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 123, No. 2 (April 2015), pp. 497-545


Abstract:

This study investigates the antipoverty efficacy of minimum wage policies. Proponents of these policies contend that employment impacts are negligible and suggest that consumers pay for higher labor costs through imperceptible increases in goods prices. Adopting this empirical scenario, the analysis demonstrates that an increase in the national minimum wage produces a value-added tax effect on consumer prices that is more regressive than a typical state sales tax and allocates benefits as higher earnings nearly evenly across the income distribution. These income-transfer outcomes sharply contradict portraying an increase in the minimum wage as an antipoverty initiative.

The Best Reason I'm Wrong On Gay Marriage

The Best Reason I'm Wrong On Gay Marriage

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Energy Sense from an Unlikely Source | Power Line

Energy Sense from an Unlikely Source | Power Line

The High Cost of Energy Illiteracy | Power Line

The High Cost of Energy Illiteracy | Power Line
At the base of this is near total illiteracy about energy. The latest example is the giddy celebration that Burlington, Vermont, has become carbon neutral! And if a New England hippie town of 50,000 can do it, then surely Cleveland can do it too, no?

Take the PBS headline: “Burlington Is First U.S. City to Hit 100 Percent Renewable Energy.” 100 percent renewable energy? So everyone in Burlington has quit driving cars? Did every Ben & Jerry’s-eating yuppie in town sell their gas-fired Viking and Wolf kitchen ranges and gas-fired home furnaces? Are they getting all their groceries and other goods delivered to town by horse-drawn carts instead of trucks? (I guess it is hard to be bothered with the distinction between electricity and energy. And factoring indirect energy use is apparently challenging, too.)

But then the complete PBS report lets out this little detail: “the biggest portion of the city’s renewable production comes from hydropower…”

Ah yes—hydropower: the one form of carbon-free electricity production that environmentalists strenuously oppose as much as nuclear power. Most state “renewable portfolio standards” (RPS) specifically exclude hydropower from the menu of energy options that states can use to meet the mandate.


In fact, in Colorado right now there is a bill in the legislature to remove the barriers to counting hydropower toward the state’s RPS targets. Naturally, “clean energy” advocates are opposed:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorizes hydroelectricity as clean, renewable energy, and the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) determined that it produces air emissions on par with wind and solar. There is no justifiable environmental reason to keep these restrictions in place.

It may then come as a surprise that there are clean energy supporters who are actively fighting against this bill. Conservation Colorado, the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association, and the Distributed Wind Energy Association are all opposing the inclusion of hydroelectricity as a renewable energy resource despite the EPA’s evaluation.
In other words, no Burlingtons for you, Colorado.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Meaning of Walmart's Wage Hike | The Weekly Standard

The Meaning of Walmart's Wage Hike | The Weekly Standard
Markets work. That’s the message from Walmart’s decision to raise its starting wage for 500,000 of its 1.3 million US employees to $10 per hour starting next year. That’s 37% above the statutory minimum of $7.25. No, the notably cost-conscious company, the largest private-sector employer in America, the world’s largest retailer, and a company that has prospered by making stuff available at prices that lower- and middle-income Americans can afford -- microwave ovens go for $44 -- didn’t suddenly turn wildly philanthropic. Or decide to bow to pressure from President Obama, who recently attacked office-supply company Staples for what he deemed indefensibly low wages in the face of its high profits, or from trade union organizers. Instead Walmart responded to pressure in two markets.

The first is the retail market in which it competes for customers. Until low gasoline prices fattened the wallets of its customers in the fourth quarter of last year and drove customer traffic up for the first time in two years, Walmart was struggling to retain the loyalty of its customers. In part, but only in part, this was because those customers had not benefitted significantly form the economic recovery.

The second market in which Walmart found itself at an increasing competitive disadvantage is the labor market, a disadvantage that affected its ability to compete for customers. The company found itself employing increasingly unresponsive and at times surly sales staff and poor in-store managers. Waiting times to get to cashiers became intolerable, food past its sell-by date was left on display, stores became dingy and unattractive, and staff were not deployed efficiently, leaving stores under-staffed at peak times. The better employees, from starting-level workers to store managers, were being lured away from Walmart by other retailers such as Starbucks, Gap, and Ikea as a recovering labor market drove the unemployment rate down from 10% in October 2009 to 5.7% last month. Hiring by businesses is at its fastest pace since 2000, and the job-vacancy rate at its highest level since 2001 as employers find themselves unable to find suitable workers to fill out their staffs.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Article « The Rape Culture Lie « Commentary Magazine

Article « The Rape Culture Lie « Commentary Magazine
Is rape a serious problem and a horrible crime? Of course. Is there injustice in the world? Absolutely. Is America’s current “conversation” about “rape culture” a complete and total farce? Sadly, yes. In a September essay for Time, Camille Paglia argued that the modern campus is simply incapable of recognizing real evil, criminalizing “oafish hookup dramas.” She may be right, but the problem is deeper and more ambiguous than that.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Juan Williams: America’s Most Influential Thinker on Race - WSJ

Juan Williams: America’s Most Influential Thinker on Race - WSJ
By JUAN WILLIAMS Feb. 20, 2015 6:55 p.m. ET

In his office hangs a copy of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in America. When his critics, and he has many, call him names, he likes to point to it and shout out, “I’m a free man!” This black history month is an opportunity to celebrate the most influential thinker on racial issues in America today—Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas .

Justice Thomas, who has been on the court nearly a quarter-century, remains a polarizing figure—loved by conservatives and loathed by liberals. But his “free”-thinking legal opinions are opening new roads for the American political debate on racial justice.

His opinions are rooted in the premise that the 14th Amendment—guaranteeing equal rights for all—cannot mean different things for different people. As he wrote in Fisher v. University of Texas (2013), he is opposed to “perpetual racial tinkering” by judges to fix racial imbalance and inequality at schools and the workplace. Yet he never contends racism has gone away. The fact that a 2001 article in Time magazine about him was headlined “Uncle Tom Justice” reminds us that racism stubbornly persists.

His only current rival in the race debate is President Obama. At moments of racial controversy the nation’s first black president has used his national pulpit to give voice to black fear that racial stereotyping led to tragedy. But that is as far as he is willing to go. His attorney general, Eric Holder , has gone further by calling Americans “cowards” when it comes to discussing race. And some critics have chastised him even for that.

Justice Thomas, meanwhile, is reshaping the law and government policy on race by virtue of the power of his opinions from the bench. Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American on the Supreme Court, stood up as a voice insisting on rights for black people. Justice Thomas, the second black man on the court, takes a different tack. He stands up for individual rights as a sure blanket of legal protection for everyone, including minorities.

In his dissent in Grutter v. Bollinger, a case that preserved the affirmative-action policies of the University of Michigan Law School, he quoted an 1865 speech by Frederick Douglass : “‘What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice.’ . . . Like Douglass, I believe blacks can achieve in every avenue of American life without the meddling of university administrators.”

The principal point Justice Thomas has made in a variety of cases is that black people deserve to be treated as independent, competent, self-sufficient citizens. He rejects the idea that 21st-century government and the courts should continue to view blacks as victims of a history of slavery and racism.

Instead, in an era with a rising number of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and immigrants, he cheers personal responsibility as the basis of equal rights. In his concurring opinion in Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena (1995), he made the case against government set-asides for minority businesses by arguing that “racial paternalism and its unintended consequences can be as poisonous and pernicious as any other form of discrimination.” The Constitution, he said, bans discrimination by “those who wish to oppress a race or by those who have a sincere desire to help.”

In the same vein he contends that people who insist on racial diversity as a worthy principle are hiding assumptions of black inferiority. “After all, if separation itself is a harm, and if integration therefore is the only way that blacks can receive a proper education, then there must be something inferior about blacks,” he wrote in his concurring opinion in Missouri v. Jenkins (1995). “Under this theory, segregation injures blacks because blacks, when left on their own, cannot achieve. To my way of thinking that conclusion is the result of a jurisprudence based upon a theory of black inferiority.”

Justice Thomas holds that quality education should be the focus of educators for children of all races and argues there is no proof that integration necessarily improves education. Black leaders, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Thurgood Marshall, he has noted, were educated at black schools.

He also makes the case that diversity in school admissions has never been proven to raise black achievement to the level of people admitted with no special consideration. “Racial imbalance is not segregation,” he wrote in a 2007 case ending Seattle and Louisville plans to reverse racial segregation in schools, “and the mere incantation of terms like re-segregation and remediation cannot make up the difference.” Federal judges, he said, are “not social engineers” charged with creating plans to achieve racial equality.

As he wrote in his concurring opinion in Fisher, even if schools have the best intentions and justify lower standards for blacks seeking college admission in the name of reparations for past injury, “racial discrimination is never benign. . . . There can be no doubt that the University’s discrimination injures white and Asian applicants who are denied admission because of their race.”

This line of thinking has helped to rein in ambitious diversity and desegregation plans in K-12 schools as well as at universities. It has also made Justice Thomas the target of liberal derision. Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson once said he simply “doesn’t like black people” or “being black.” Nevada Sen. Harry Reid once dismissed him as one of “five white men” on the high court. Paradoxically, these bitter attacks are still more evidence that Clarence Thomas is now leading the national debate on race.

Mr. Williams is a political analyst for Fox News and a columnist for the Hill. He is the author of “Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary” (Times Books, Random House, 1998).

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

How Walmart Made Liberals Turn Right - Reason.com

How Walmart Made Liberals Turn Right - Reason.com

A couple of weeks ago Walmart announced it would raise hourly wages for half a million employees. The New York Times argued it should be forced to raise pay even further through an increase in the national minimum wage. After all, the paper said, there is “little doubt that Walmart (and other employers) would pay more if low wages were not, in effect, subsidized by taxpayers, who pay for the food stamps and other public assistance that low-wage workers rely on to get by.”

The Times was referring to a study, such as it was, purporting to show Walmart’s low wages cost taxpayers $6.2 billion in public assistance, including food stamps, Medicaid, and housing benefits. Other studies have purported to show similar things about the fast-food industry—which ostensibly costs the taxpayers $7 billion in social-welfare spending.

These tendentious claims have several shortcomings, such as loaded assumptions (PolitiFact has ruled a similar claim, by an MSNBC figure, “mostly false”) and the fact that a slightly smaller percentage of Walmart’s workforce receives public benefits than the average for the U.S. retail sector as a whole.

Imagine, too, what would happen if Walmart and fast-food restaurants went out of business tomorrow. Would other companies snap up all their employees, perhaps even pay them better? Probably not. (In fact, the increase in job applicants might depress wages elsewhere.) It is far more likely that the shutdowns would lead to higher unemployment and therefore even more social-welfare spending. Hence Walmart and other low-wage employers probably reduce the total amount of social-welfare spending in the U.S., rather than increase it.

But forget all that. Assume the company’s critics are right—that Walmart is leaning on public assistance to avoid pay hikes it otherwise would have to make. The criticism here isn’t simply an economic one. It’s also a moral one.

Greed, stinginess, lack of compassion—those qualities that supposedly produce Walmart’s low wages—are character flaws. Indeed, one of the groups criticizing Walmart’s pay scales is Americans for Tax Fairness—and fairness is a question of moral judgment. Another left-leaning group, Demos, lamented in a report on raising Walmart pay that “American workers are working harder for less” even as the rich get richer. Walmart, says The American Prospect, creates “an America where millions of people who get up and go to work each day are nevertheless paid too little to feed themselves.”

You get the idea: Walmart has a moral obligation to pay its workers more—and it would, if not for all the food stamps, housing assistance and medical benefits those workers receive from the federal government.

What is this but the conservative welfare critique applied to a different party? It’s not economic circumstances that have led to Walmart’s low wages, but moral shortcomings. Government assistance has lulled an able-bodied company into dependency and complacency, draining it of the will and the incentive to do the right thing for its workers.

The two arguments continue running in parallel. Conservatives argue that poor people would be better off in the long run if they took even menial jobs, and thereby started to develop the habits of character that are essential for anyone who wishes to prosper.

Liberals argue that Walmart and other low-wage companies would be better off if they paid workers more. As Demos argued two years ago: “Walmart . . . workers earn too little to generate the consumer demand that supports hiring and would lead to economic recovery. . . . If Walmart redirected its current spending to invest in its workforce, the benefits would extend to all stake-holders in the company—customers, stockholders, taxpayers, employees and their families—and the economy as a whole.”

Monday, March 02, 2015

Dear Ultra-Rich Man : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education

Dear Ultra-Rich Man : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education
You probably don’t know me, but unlike you, I am one of the 99 percent, a proud and unapologetic advocate of free and open markets. I’m writing you because your letter to other rich guys has gone viral. Each time I saw it, I thought, “Somebody should respond to this guy.” I got tired of waiting. So I hope you’ll read this. I leave your prose in italics so I can address your major points in turn.


Can We Know Right and Wrong Without God? | PJ Lifestyle

Can We Know Right and Wrong Without God? | PJ Lifestyle
Believers commonly assert that, without God, there can be no “objective right and wrong.” Yet, such an assertion ignores what it means to be objective. When we identify something as objective rather than subjective, we’re saying it can be observed in the real world. We’re saying it can be perceived, or conceived through reason applied to our perception. Even the most fervent believer must confess that God transcends our human perception, and therefore cannot be cited as a source of objective morality.
Believers offer our appeal to God as the source of “objective morality” in answer to such blatant subjectivism or moral relativism. Right and wrong can’t be left to whim, we argue. But our appeal to God doesn’t solve the problem.
Subjectivism – whether personal, social, or “supernatural” – wreaks havoc on human life and happiness. Until we can answer it with (genuine) moral certainty – that is, until we can show that morality is based on facts – it will continue to do so. From muggings and rapes, to school shootings and truck bombings, to concentration camps and gulags, to religious “inquisitions” and divinely inspired acts of terrorism – all such mayhem is caused by subjectivism. And the is-ought dichotomy is what makes subjectivism seem plausible.
The “Is-Ought” Dichotomy

This “is-ought dichotomy” is the philosophical dead end in which believers spar with secular subjectivists. Our culture has given up on the task of discovering a truly objective morality, because we have largely bought into the notion that values cannot be derived from facts, that we cannot discern an “ought” from an “is.”
The Natural World Provides Guideposts for Appropriate Human Action

The primary such guidepost is a standard of value from which to judge the appropriateness of all other conceived values, an end unto itself which all other ends support.
An end is a goal toward which one acts; a means is the action one takes toward a goal. For instance, if a student studies in order to get an education, the education is an end toward which his studying is the means. Likewise, if a person works in order to earn a paycheck, the paycheck is an end toward which his work is the means. But notice that such goals are not ends in themselves. A student gets an education so that he can pursue a career – which he pursues in order to support himself and earn a paycheck – which he earns in order to buy things – which he buys in order to use for various other purposes – which he pursues in order to accomplish still other goals – and so on. Each end presupposes another. So where does it all end?

If we are to establish an objective, fact-based morality, we need to discover a final end – one toward which all of our other goals and values are properly aimed. Such an end is by that fact our standard of moral value – the standard against which we can objectively assess the value of all our choices and actions. So the question becomes: What is our ultimate goal?
When we identify this ultimate goal, the question of what we ought to do becomes objectively answerable. That, and only that, is how we discern an objective morality.

As this series continues, we will present and evaluate this objective standard of value. Biddle offers it as an alternative to religion. But one need not be an atheist to accept it. Indeed, the discovery of an objective standard for moral action should embolden the believer and deepen our appreciation of God.

As a father, I may answer any challenge from my son with the proverbial “because I told you so.” In doing so, I don’t offer an actual reason. I merely assert my authority. While that authority proves legitimate, my ultimate desire for my son is that he one day understand why my instruction and rules serve his interest.

Similarly, the appeal to God as a moral authority may prove correct, but says nothing of why his prescriptions are good for us. A consideration of objective morality works to bridge that gap.