A Reasonable Proposal on the Minimum Wage


Gather ‘round, kids, time for Crazy Uncle Bob to go off on another one of his political rants. This time I’m taking aim at the “Fight For 15” Campaign, one of the apparently far-left movements that seems to be gaining some traction as a way for the Democrats to both look like they are on the far fringe of socialism and at the same time are completely ignoring the Rust Belt workers all the pundits say they lost in the last twenty years which has cost them the middle of the country.

Truth is, there’s a lot to deride in this particular movement, not the least of which is the fact that whoever came up with the idea of a $15 an hour minimum wage seems to have pulled that number out of a very large hat. There are a few other things to look at sideways in this movement, most significantly the “all or nothing” attitude that seems to have taken hold in contemporary politics. It doesn’t help that the arguments in favor of this more than doubling of the minimum wage seems to be exclusively predicated on an argument that lies somewhere between “people need it” and “people deserve it”.

On the other hand, the arguments I’ve most often heard against it tend to come down to (a) minimum wage jobs are intended for entry level workers, not people supporting families, so running it up would only hurt business and (b) raising the minimum wage would drive up inflation. Considering the last I checked “business” is doing just fine, and with a sweet little tax cut in the works crying poor mouth on behalf of businesses is a hard sell in a one-sided recovery that as of May Goldman-Sachs was predicting had a 2/3 chance of being the longest on record. As far as inflation concerns go, the current inflation rate is 2.2% for the last 12 months as of September 2017 according to the Labor Department, which is hardly something to sound an alarm about.

But as I see it, none of that is really the problem in this whole debate. The problem is that, as I mentioned before, both sides have dug in with their cherished positions and neither one is considering anything resembling actual… you know… facts. Which I am more than willing to admit included myself. Until recently.

I finally got tired of the ridiculous notion of a $15 an hour minimum wage, so I decided to get some serious ammunition to use against the proponents of this monstrous idea, something nobody had ever brought out before. I decided to do a little digging and see what the actual history of the minimum wage was. According to CNN Money, the Federal Minimum wage has been increased almost two dozen times since its inception, so increasing it is not exactly a novel idea. However, using the inflation calculator at http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/ a couple of interesting facts emerge. The first is that, in inflation adjusted 2017 dollars, the minimum wage actually topped out in 1968 at $11.35. Now granted, that’s no $15 an hour, but it’s a far cry from $7.25 an hour. Another thing that jumped out at me was the trend line. Take a look at the table below and tell me if you notice anything:

Year Minimum Wage IAD 2017
1938 $0.25 $4.38
1939 $0.30 $5.33
1945 $0.40 $5.48
1950 $0.75 $7.68
1956 $1.00 $9.07
1961 $1.15 $9.49
1963 $1.25 $10.08
1967 $1.40 $10.35
1968 $1.60 $11.35
1975 $2.10 $9.63
1976 $2.30 $9.98
1979 $2.90 $9.86
1980 $3.10 $9.29
1981 $3.35 $9.10
1990 $3.80 $7.18
1991 $4.25 $7.70
1996 $4.75 $6.69
1997 $5.15 $6.54
2007 $5.85 $6.96
2008 $6.55 $7.51
2009 $7.25 $8.34

 

Do you see what I see? Because I see not just the minimum wage going up, but real purchasing power going up for the first… I dunno… thirty years. Consistently. That’s across Democratic and Republican administrations (although maybe Eisenhower was just a softy). Then the slow, occasionally interrupted downward trend started, and that was bipartisan too. It wasn’t until George W. Bush’s second term that we started to see an upward trend in real purchasing power for the minimum wage again.

So with these facts in hand, I would like to steer the conversation in a new direction by posing a question nobody seems to be asking: what is the purpose of the minimum wage? It’s not enough to say the purpose of a minimum wage is to put a price floor on labor; that is the effect. The purpose is the reason we institute such a law in the first place. The only moral justification for such a price floor is to ensure that workers who cannot otherwise command a sufficient wage may do so. Such workers, though it seems impolitic to say so in this day and age, tend to be either uneducated, lack desirable skills, or lack sufficient job history. But they still need to make enough to get by, even if “getting by” doesn’t mean much.

Looking at the trends above, this certainly seems more in line with the original intent of the minimum wage, and I believe that there is a way to get there without going so far as to demand $15 an hour, which even when viewing the historical record seems excessive. Going off the average rate of increase in real purchasing power for the first thirty years of the program and looking at the adjusted peak of the minimum wage, the logical solution is to set the minimum wage at $12.85 an hour. Heck, I’d even be willing to go up to $13.00 an hour for folks who like round numbers. After that peg it to inflation and call it a day.

Both sides are missing out on an opportunity by passing up on a compromise like this. Getting the minimum wage meaningfully into the double digits would be a win for the liberals, even if it isn’t $15 an hour. And for the Republicans? With the absurd tax plan they’re trying to railroad through Congress, tacking on a meaningful minimum wage increase would not only give serious cover to blue state Republicans, it might even be enough to tempt red state Democrats. If nothing else it would be something better to point to and say “See? We really DO care about the middle class and the poor!”

But I know it’ll never happen. Because this isn’t the season for reasonable proposals.

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Yes Virginia, There Is a Misanthrope


In this year of smear campaigns, fake news, and alternative facts, divisive tactics and hurtful rhetoric, Virginians are being asked to vote for a governor. Someone who can bring us all together as we face the challenges before our beloved Commonwealth and attempt to move past the tragedies that have shocked this nation. Someone who can heal the divide that has sprung up across so many constituencies, whether they be along partisan, racial, or even gender lines.

I am not that person.

Let’s face it, Virginia: you don’t want that. If you did, you wouldn’t even consider either of the guys running for office. Hell, you wouldn’t even consider anyone who would consider running for office in this day and age. So why are you settling for some hack who wants to cozy up to El Presidente without having the stones to openly embrace it, or the guy who can blow half of his lead in the polls in just over a week right before the election?

What I’m offering you is a real choice. Both of my opponents will pretend they care about you, the little people, and then go on to fulfill some bullshit agenda set for them from on high. I refuse to make any sort of empty promises, because the fact is I just don’t care about any of you. Unlike some politicians I can name, I don’t hate any specific group of people; in fact, I don’t hate anyone at all. I have a general disdain for humanity, but to say I hate you would imply a level of emotional investment I just can’t summon. So right there you’ve got at least a 50/50 chance of being better off with me in office.

As for my platform, I plan to institute a Bobpublic. What does that entail? Basically I’m in this for me. That’s right, I’m as rare as a unicorn and twice as beautiful: I’m an honest politician. I’m telling you straight out the only thing I want from being in office is everything I can get out of it. I’d admit to taking bribes and kickbacks except that quite frankly the only things people could bribe me to do are the things I was going to do anyway, so is it really a bribe? Sure, legally it is, but is it ethically a bribe? Either way I don’t care, I’d take the money. I’d even take the money for the stuff I wouldn’t do, just like the guys who are already in office. And just like them, I’d call the former “fundraising” and the latter “my salary”.

You want specifics of my platform? Sure, why not. I specifically plan to do whatever I feel like doing. Usually whatever makes my life better, or whatever amuses me. This would make your life better because, unlike most politicians, I wouldn’t go out of my way to make life miserable for specific groups of people. If something bad happened to anyone because of what I did, I would just consider it an added bonus (but for the papers I would refer to it as a “positive externality”, because we all like our leaders to sound educated).

You want me to get involved in social issues? You got it. Just to tweak My Not So Humble Sister, I’ll let the Washington Redskins keep their name, but they’ll have to change their team logo to a pile of small potatoes. Can a get a witness from the congregation and a side of fries?

I’m all for prayer in schools, as long as everyone converts to Bobtism. This requires a special ceremony in which everyone is Bobtised in a bobtismal fountain. Services are every week day from 4-7 and well drinks are half-price.

Now everyone please rise, place your hand somewhere that makes you feel good about yourself, and recite with me the new Pledge of Allegiance:

I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag
Of the United States of Bobmerica
And to the Bobpublic for which it stands
One Nation, Under Bob
With Liberty and Justice for Bob.

My fellow Virginians, when you go to the polls this November 7, make sure to vote Misanthrope. Not because you want to, but because your fellow Virginians deserve it.


Trick or Treat?


What can I say, I love Halloween. This year, instead of giving away candy, I’m giving away copies of my book. Yes, it’s been a few years since I pimped myself out so blatantly, so for the next few days I’m literally giving it away. Just visit http://tinyurl.com/mnsho-free for your copy!

Now’s your chance to get a copy of the book that collects the early years (which, let’s face it, is most of them) of the blog of the same name, as well as some stuff that you’ve never seen before!

My Not So Humble Opinion

It will change your life. Guaranteed. (1)

 

 

 

 

 

(1) Guarantee not valid where void. (2)

 

 

 

(2) Void where prohibited. (3)

 

 

 

(3) Prohibited where eligible.


Time to Pay the Piper


With the Washington Republicans once more pushing for tax cuts (which is about as unexpected as Democrats pushing for increased social program spending), we once again – or should I say “perennially” –  face the issue of increased budget deficits, gross overspending, and arguments over what is the right course for our nation’s economy.

Far be it from me to sit this one out.

Like any good armchair economist, politician, and red-blooded American who stands and/or takes a knee for the National Anthem (whichever you consider to be more patriotic), of course I’m certain I know what’s the right direction for our country, and I can sum it all up in a nifty catch phrase:

Somebody’s gotta take it in the shorts.

The problem as I see it is that we have lost sight of the idea of sacrifice in this country. Everyone looks to the government and sees one of two things: either a giant vampire sucking away all their hard-earned money, or a giant moneybag they can reach in and get whatever they want out. Ironically most people see the same thing at the same time. Frederick Bastiat put it best: “Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” Nobody wants to pay, but everybody wants to play.

And that’s how we got where we are today: everybody wants the government to pay for roads, schools, police, military, healthcare (well, maybe not everybody…), social security, you name it. And everybody thinks their taxes are too high. Nobody wants to pay in, but everybody wants a payout. That’s what’s scientifically referred to as an unsustainable system, and sooner or later:

Somebody’s gotta take it in the shorts.

So here’s my proposal. I don’t expect it will make anyone happy, which in politics is usually a good sign. The first thing the Republicans (and the libertarians too; don’t think I’m letting you guys off the hook) need to do is give up the idea of “small government”. The United States has over 326 million people. It’s the third most populous nation in the world behind only China and India. We’re the third largest country in the world in land mass, ahead of even Australia, and they’re a fucking continent. The point I’m trying to convey here is that there will be no “small” government for our nation.

But we can have a smart government. Annnnnnd here’s where I start pissing off the Democrats and all the lefties.

We need to start being realistic about our needs and our priorities. I’m not saying we can’t have a “wish list” for national priorities, but they need to be just that: priorities. What comes first? What do we have to have, what do we want to have, and what are luxuries that are nice to have but can be jettisoned at the first sign of a downturn? How much government involvement is required at any given level, and how much is too much? Where can we afford to pull back and accept that, while we would prefer to have it, we just can’t afford it?

And this is part of what I mean by “sacrifice”. There are things we want but we can’t afford. In our everyday lives if we can’t afford things we want, we have to learn to do without. If we go around racking up huge amounts of debt, we eventually run out of people willing to loan us money. So instead we prioritize, we pay for the things we need, and we find a way to make do.

Now that I’ve antagonized the politicians, let me take a moment to antagonize the tax payers. Because the fact is regardless of how we set our priorities, we will never be able to cut back enough to support the lavish lifestyle Americans still desire at the bargain-basement prices they demand. Or, to put it another way:

Somebody’s gotta take it in the shorts. (Are you starting to see a pattern here?)

For starters, everyone needs to accept not just no tax cuts, but higher taxes. Yes, you heard me right. I’m asking Americans to suck it up and start paying higher taxes. “But Bob,” I hear you cry through your American Exceptionalism rage, “you claim to be a libertarian! By definition you should be opposed to taxation on principle!” Well, one, I don’t claim to be a doctrinaire libertarian these days, two, even if I was being a libertarian seems to mean being contrarian by definition, and three, I actually do believe I can be a libertarian AND support higher taxes.

Here’s why: a core tenet of libertarianism is personal responsibility, as well as a belief in the free market. As in “you get what you pay for and you pay for what you get.” And the simple fact is Americans have been getting a lot of stuff without actually paying for it for a long time now. Want proof? Here you go: http://www.usdebtclock.org/. The U.S. Debt is currently over twenty trillion dollars. That’s trillion with a T. That’s the debt, not the deficit. The deficit, for those of you who listen to politicians toss around the term so loosely, is how much we keep borrowing because we can’t be bothered to actually come up with enough money to actually cover the amount we spend as a nation each year.

Let’s put that in more simplistic terms, shall we? Imagine you owe $10,000 on your credit cards. Every month you borrow another $1,000 to cover your extravagant lifestyle. Your friends and family stage an intervention with you to try to reign in your spending and get you on the right path, and you promise to only borrow $500 dollars a month. You’ve cut your deficit spending in half! Aren’t you being fiscally responsible!

This is what politicians are talking about when they make a big deal about not increasing the deficit. They don’t want to borrow even more money every year just to cover the spending they themselves have already approved. And why do they keep approving it? Because they want to get re-elected. Because they know that if they make the tough choices they will get voted out by… us. We’re the problem.

So here’s what I’m calling for: We need to suck it up. We need to accept that it’s time to pay the piper. We need to accept that we can’t have it all. Tax the rich? Yes. But also tax the middle class, and the poor. Tax everyone, because everyone is part of the problem, and we all have to be part of the solution.

Everybody’s gotta take it in the shorts.

Here are a few proposals to consider for ways that everyone can take a hit:

  • Raise taxes across the board. Yes, it’s unpopular, but people need to start deciding what they truly value and if you want it, pay for it.
  • Get rid of the mortgage deduction. It’s already being baked into the price of houses anyway.
  • Raise the eligibility age on Social Security and Medicare. As life expectancy and health outcomes improve into later age ranges, societal expectations toward the elderly need to change.
  • Eliminate deductions for charitable donations. Yeah, I know this is a non-starter, but so is everything else on the list. The fact is the government should not be in the business of social policy. The government should be in the business of providing services and collecting money for those services. Either people want to support charities or they don’t; if they do they should do so because they believe in that cause, not because they want a tax break.
  • Speaking of social policy, let’s get rid of any and all subsidies for businesses. I realize this is more budget that tax policy, but considering many elements of the tax code involve businesses getting tax write-offs for a variety of reasons, it qualifies on both counts. A tax deduction is a subsidy as much as a direct cash payment is, and if a business can’t survive without that kind of support, we need to reconsider how we do business.
  • Finally, here’s one that’s going to hurt me personally, but like I said, everybody’s gotta take it in the shorts. Let’s get rid of the tax deduction for student loan interest. We can have a conversation about a better way to do higher education in this country, but for the time being we still have a huge bill to pay, and the better educated you are the better chance there is you have a job making enough money that you can kick in toward that bill.

Are there more deductions, loopholes, and giveaways we can live without? Yes there are. Are these the ones that need to go first, or at all? Maybe not. But the conversation needs to start somewhere. And “get your hands off my government money!” isn’t the right place to start it. A better place to start would be the words of one of our former presidents: “my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”


Please Stop, You’re Making Me Look Bad


Okay, normally I’m vehemently opposed to identity politics on so many levels. I mean, yes, I’m still (sort of) a libertarian, so that right there is strike one. And I truly believe they are more trouble than value, being used divisively by both sides rather than in any meaningful and constructive way, so that’s strike two. And let’s be honest here, I’m a straight white cis-gender male, so there’s really no universe in which identity politics are going to paint me as the good guy.

But it’s that last point I really want to visit, because of late there’s been a reactionary force on the rise in American politics, a sort of “counter” identity politics that I feel a responsibility to speak out against. As someone told me recently, things have gotten to the point that if you don’t specifically stand against them, you are passively with them. And there are some groups out there who are trying to claim me on the basis of my ethnicity, my gender, or my sexual orientation that I have to say the following to:

PLEASE STOP, YOU’RE MAKING ME LOOK BAD.

Seriously, this shit is getting out of hand. I’ll take just a few of them to the carpet individually, but if you see yourself even remotely empathizing, supporting, or even thinking “yeah, but they kind of have a point” then you need to rethink your priorities.

Neo-Nazis: I’m going to tackle these fuck-knuckles first, mostly because it shames me that I even need to. What fucking century is this? What world do we live in that I even need to explicitly say “Nazis bad”? I would try to say something like “look, I get it, you’re angry, you’re lost, you’re hurting, you just want to belong”, but fuck that. You signed up with the Nazis. Lonely? Get a dog. Angry? Get a therapist. Lost? Get a counselor. Hurting? So are a lot of people. Just want to belong? May I suggest joining a club. Know what I don’t suggest? Joining the fucking Nazis. Here’s a hint: when you’re on the opposite side of FDR, Churchill, and Indiana Jones, you’re on the wrong side.

White Supremacists: All the hate, twice the crazy. (Here’s a pro-tip for you, President Trump: if you want to engage in some moral equivalency, this would be the way to do it.) While the Nazis have a twisted and warped ideology, they at least aren’t completely ignorant of modern history. I mean, I have yet to hear a Nazi say “Germany was just trying to fight off France’s War of Aggression.” There’s no point in trying to convince white supremacists of this, but again, we seem to live in a day and age where this needs to be explicitly said (especially since I was raised in Virginia, where apparently this is not taken as a given): The American Civil War was about slavery. Full stop. “No, wait, it was about states’ rights!” Yeah, the rights of some states to declare certain people the property of other people. And in case I wasn’t clear enough, let me go even further and say slavery is wrong. I don’t care what color your skin is, what your racial or ethnic background, who you worship, who you love… you know what guys, just read the fucking Constitution. I mean seriously, read the god damn thing. And not just the part that starts “A well regulated militia”.

InCels: This is one I just found out about, and while I thought the Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) made my skin crawl, these guys manage to take it to a whole new low. For those of you like myself who have never heard of this particular group of self-aggrandizing asshats, the term is short for “Involuntarily Celibate”. Apparently the conceit they have is that the fact they can’t get laid is because women are evil and have failed them, because they are men and… okay, this is the part that gets fuzzy, but it basically involves some mental gymnastics and a lot of hand waving… and therefore they deserve sex. The disturbing levels of entitlement, anger and bitterness, not to mention outright misogyny and rage prevalent among this group is frightening.

These guys probably bother me more than the others because they strike a little too close to home. I can actually remember a time in my own life when I could honestly say if all cops were women I couldn’t get arrested, and yeah, it made me a little bitter and occasionally angry. But my anger was channeled toward “what am I doing wrong?” not “why are women not giving me what I so clearly deserve?” (The fact that I was saying this while unemployed, living with my parents, and apparently incapable of dragging my ass to a gym is an irony not completely lost on me.) I would try offering some advice to these guys, but having been all too close to that abyss myself I already know it won’t help. I can only hope that one day they will realize that the path they are walking at best ends in further isolation, and at worst ends in misery and madness. If there was any chance they would listen to my advice, it would be this: stop worrying about sex. Wake up, smell your own bullshit, and do something to make your own life less pathetic. It really doesn’t matter if that makes you more appealing to someone else; you still gotta live with you.

That’s not all the groups out there who are co-opting my identity for their own ends, but that’s all I have the energy to throw the bullshit flag on right now. If there’s anyone I missed, please feel free to mention them and I’ll be sure to give them a tip of the hat in my next installment, “No Seriously, Just Shut The Fuck Up Already.”


A Response to Recent Events in Charlottesville


First let me state clearly what long-time followers of this blog should already know: I am a passionate defender of the right to free speech. I believe in the First Amendment, and have often said that while I may not agree with what you have to say, I will fully defend your right to say it.

However.

There are lines. Some ideologies, some belief systems are not only inherently hateful, they are inherently violent and intent on doing violence toward others. There is a point at which even allowing these viewpoints to be aired is an act of violence, as those who espouse these beliefs have shown time and again they will not stop with speech but will follow it up with action.

I am writing about those who espouse Nazi ideology, the KKK, white supremacists, and anyone who would stand with them.

In order for a civilized society to function, let alone thrive, we must all agree to live by at least the most basic rules. Those rules must also be reciprocal; “one set of rules for you, another set of rules for me” is a relic of a bygone age. It pains me to suggest that any viewpoint, no matter how odious, should not be allowed in the public sphere. But “I just want to have my say in peace” are words that have never been uttered in sincerity by anyone affiliated with any of these groups, and to labor under the delusion that they will ever be willing to participate in civil society by the same rules as the rest of us is a fantasy.

Rights are not absolute; “your right to punch ends where my nose begins,” as the oft-quoted aphorism goes. These groups and others like them have made it clear through word and deed that they will not be satisfied to live in a society that encompasses any noses other than their own, and they will gladly throw the first punch. That being the case, they have surrendered the right to voice those views or to demonstrate in the public space.

This is not a radical notion. If I threaten to harm someone by name (“I’m going to kill John Smith”), that is a crime. If I threaten to harm someone by description (“I’m going to kill that guy in the blue shirt”), that is a crime. If I threaten to harm a group of people (“I’m going to kill everyone I see in a blue shirt”), that is a crime. None of this is “protected speech”. Simply changing it to “should” rather than “will” is not a magic formula, especially when there is a history of violent action among a particular group, and that action is motivated by that same speech. Likewise, solicitation and incitement to riot are not covered as “protected speech”, and yet that is exactly what is happening again and again at these “rallies”.

This has to stop. We claim to be a civilized nation. It is time we stop letting evil use our own ideals against us.


New White House Travel Guidelines


Here at MNSHO, we have managed to obtain an advance copy of the President’s proposed new visa requirements. Enjoy.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for applying for a visa to enter the United States of America legally. We value visitors from other countries, and we want to assure you that your application will be considered with the greatest respect.

Please take the time to complete the survey below and return it to your nearest American Consulate office. Allow 6-8 months for processing.

Regards,

The U.S. State Department

 

Question 1: What is your name?

Question 2: What is your real name?

Question 3: What is your date of birth?

Question 4: Can you provide a copy of your birth certificate (long form) on request?

Question 5: Can you prove it isn’t a forgery?

Question 6: What is the purpose of your visit to America?

Question 7: You’re just coming here to steal our jobs, aren’t you?

Question 8: Why are you taking jobs away from REAL Americans?

Question 9: Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Democratic Communist Party?

Question 10: Translate the following passage: Трамп для президента в 2020 году.

Question 11: Solve for the following: If I got 304 electoral votes and you got 227 electoral votes, who’s gonna MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, HUH HILLARY?!?

Question 12: Are you a white, Christian, heterosexual, cisgender male?

 

 

 

Criteria for a visa: How did they answer question 12?