Thursday, October 12, 2006

Excessive Spending - Keep Minimum Wages Down

Yes, keep minimum wages down. That's what is advocated in Cafe Hayek, a site moderated by two George Mason University professors.

As a direct response to that, I wrote the following comment on their site:

"Let them eat cake."

I believe that was spoken by a French economist who didn't understand the connection between economic theory and political reality.


Then, Cafe Hayek had another post that expanded on the notion that raising minimum wages nationally makes companies uncompetitive and forces layoffs.

My response was:

If keeping wages low were the key to competing, then Costco would not be able to compete with Wal-Mart/Sam's Club. The fact that Costco not only competes, but pays significantly higher wages AND has higher customer satisfaction shows how spurious the argument against raising minimum wages is.

The number of employees affected would be a small fraction of total employment, but the positive impact to those employees would be significant.

Coffee shop tales notwithstanding, the fact is that minimum wage rates have never been the measure of any company's ability to compete.

They also quoted the "Coyote Blog" where the following was stated:

"In a number of locations, we have been forced by rising minimum wages and associated costs (particulalry workers comp.) to switch some of our cleaning and landscaping duties from our live on-site employees to local contractors. These contractors may pay their workers more than minimum wage, but the workers are often twice as productive as ours, yielding a cost savings for us. When minimum wages are $5.15 an hour, these contractors can't compete with our own workers, but when minimum wages rise over $7.00, as they are across the west coast, this option starts to become attractive."

My response to that post was:

Hmmm. As a small business owner, I would have to say that you are just making excuses for your own business inefficiency. After all, these contractors will have to pay the same minimum wages, so why can they do it and succeed when you do it and fail?

The argument about "affordability" is a red herring.

In an email to Prof. Russell of GMU, I wrote:
Perhaps, instead of railing against a few extra dollars an hour, you and your fellow economists can devise a workable roadmap from subsistence to success that can be taken to the single parents in the poor sections of Detroit and similar cities... one where money really doesn't matter. Of course, one could always say economics deals with the larger picture and creating workable "roadmaps" is not part of that process. Too many variables, etc. Yes, one could say that... and that increasing the minimum wage is a bad thing for the recipients... and it is okay to create a Catch-22, where you need a better education to get out of poverty, but it costs too much to get that education if you are earning "minimum wages"... and it's good for the poor to have competition between U.S. workers and Chinese workers for the entry-level jobs that are the path out of the minimum-wage trap.

One could say those things... and nothing is solved... but the macro numbers look good. At some point, there is a need for both business and government to recognized that leaving a permanent underclass to its own devices may be more expensive in the long run than creating and managing processes to address the situation. Lowering corporate taxes and outsourcing entry-level jobs has helped corporations, but not necessarily translated into opportunity for those on the lowest economic rung in the U.S. So, if increasing the minimum wage is too costly as a first step, what is the first step?
The U.S. has a healthy overall economy (despite pockets of recession like Michigan). Capitalism is the engine of the economy. But if capitalism has no room for compassion, then perhaps we must question its tenets. A system that care only for the winners does not necessarily reflect the founding principles of this country.

The pilgrims did not operate their settlements on the basis of "I got mine."

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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.
- O. Henry
... The Government is on course for an embarrassing showdown with the European Union, business groups and environmental charities after refusing to guarantee that billions of pounds of revenue it stands to earn from carbon-permit trading will be spent on combating climate change.
The Independent (UK)

Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)