The Problem of Minimum Wage

No, I’m not going to rehash the problem that raising minimum wage means fewer entry jobs, which over time make for fewer people who even have the (timeliness, work) habits to hold a job, which, over time, impoverishes a society and leads to more welfare.  This is a classic “kindness can be cruel” paradox, impenetrable to do gooders who operate on feels.

Being the world’s worst-ever person (but I have to share the trophy with Kate) I’m not even going to rehash the whole “but people can’t live on minimum wage” controversy.  It’s true in most states of the Union (but not all) most single people can barely squeak by on minimum wage. It’s also true that you can’t raise a family on it (but then why should minimum wage earners be sole-earners when no one else can afford to be?) though this is somewhat mitigated by earned income credits, or at least it was the year when that was about our income.  Being the world’s worst person I’m just going to say “Good, it’s an incentive to move up the ladder.”  I’m also going to note that even in the current economy and for struggling millenials, everyone I know who got a minimum wage level job was making more within a year.

I’m going to admit there are cases of people trying to raise a family on minimum wage.  There are also cases of people trying to raise a family on nothing.  The problem of poverty and/or lack of ambition is not an easy one to solve, and hard cases make bad law.  Lousy social programs, too.  Minimum wage is one such, having far more horrible than good consequences.

Having a minimum wage at all is a left-hand policy, one that believes individuals, left on their own, will mercilessly exploit other humans beings, who, left on their own, have no recourse but taking it.

Like most such policies, and outside certain places and times, it is daft and more than a little presumptuous.  It assumes that one side is needlessly villainous, and the other side is completely helpless, BUT the bureaucrat, without the slightest knowledge of the business of one or the skills of the other has the right information to set “minimum wages.”

Sure men try to make as great a profit as they can on their business, which includes paying employees as little as they can get away with.  This means in practicality that they pay as little as they can to ensure a valuable worker isn’t poached by the next guy over.

This means when you start out, unless you have extensive preparation (and sometimes even then.  I’ve heard beginning engineers are a net DRAIN) you aren’t worth much and you get paid very little indeed.  (I worked for two years for just over $2 an hour.)   But, as your skill increases, and particularly your skill at your particular employment, your wage is raised, to prevent you finding someone who will pay you more.  Somewhere there, it will find its equilibrium, aka, what you’re worth.

This works for writers, who as contract workers have no minimum wage, for instance, and our advance often gets raised when we hit a new sales milestone, just so we won’t wander off to house B and say “Hey, do you need a novel?”

Yes, again, there are those people who will be exploited.  (There are people who ARE helpless and absent a kind-hearted boss will make next to nothing.)  But I submit it would be easier to have a more robust earned income supplementation than to distort our economy with A minimum wage law of any kind.  (Yeah, I’m a libertarian.  A man can seduce me by whispering in my ear “Taxation is theft.” BUT I’m also aware that some evils will always be with us, and that we’re not getting rid of redistribution.  Envy and its effects are a monkey-sin. I’d just be happy if government meddling did LESS harm.)

As I’ve said before, economics is a science.  Trying to legislate it makes as much sense as legislating the law of gravity or the rate of rain fall.  It might make you feel good, but it doesn’t work that way.

The way it works is by seeking other channels, which include being paid “under the table”, forcing other employees to work unpaid hours (trust me, it can be done, particularly in a bad economy) and firing the dead weight, and … hiring illegal labor.

The US doesn’t have an illegal immigration problem.  The US has a minimum wage problem.

Given our large and unguarded border (yes, wall, but how much will be built and how much will it stop armed coyotes and drug smugglers) with a country where the cost of living and wages are MUCH lower, paying $10 an hour (let alone $15) means you’ve built an attractive nuisance.  This is like having a pool without a fence or any barriers that might attract neighborhood children who can’t swim.

The minimum wage will attract otherwise honest people, cause them to risk their lives, feed illegal businesses and break the law. People will break every law to get here, because at that rate, and living 20 men to an apartment, they can send home enough to keep their wife and children in luxury.  You can’t stop men from coming over and trying to do that, particularly when the pay is for illegal work.  You just can’t. It’s a biological imperative for a father to take care of his brood.

On top of that there’s the corruption of the employer.  Oh, sure, if you’re hiring them with fake social security numbers, you’re paying minimum wage.  Probably.  Only they’re illegal, and it’s easy to make them work double time.  Or you know you don’t have to declare exactly how much they worked and pay benefits. They’re not going to file for taxes. A lot of employers will also hire under the table and pay less than minimum wage.

We also can’t stop the employer doing that, not even if the employer is otherwise an honest man and devoted to the nation.  Why not?

Because in many cases we’d be requiring them to kill off their business.  I understand many agricultural businesses simply can’t afford to pay minimum wage and stay in business.  At any rate, the attractive nuisance law applies again.   All it takes is some employers not being too scrupulous and hiring illegal workers.  Then the illegal workers allow these employers to lower the price of their product.

The end result is forcing everyone in that field to hire illegal workers.  Rumors that Toni Weisskopf drove by a home depot and said “I need to people to write novels” and Larry and I jumped in the back of the truck are somewhat exaggerated, but a similar effect is seen in my field, not from illegal laborers but from academicians moving into writing.  When someone starts writing science fiction to pad her university resume, she’ll take an absurdly low advance, now down to something like 3k per novel.  This is not her income, or even a decent part of her income, it’s just a satisfaction to “publish and perish.”  The ability to pay that low an advances forces down all the advances across the field.  It is not the sole explanation for why advances declined from a living wage in the forties and fifties to “money for some pizzas” now, but it is a portion of it. What it did to the field wasn’t pretty in terms of quality either.

What illegal labor does to the fields it takes over is not pretty either.  There is a lot less investment into working at very low wages in a foreign land, as a worker who will move around a lot, and who doesn’t care what his record is, than in building a career.  There is a reason we joke about things built by “Manuel labor” and their inherent shoddiness.

And the way to get rid of it is not a wall, nor enhanced verification.  When you have an attractive nuisance of this magnitude, the neighbors will be attracted, and man is a clever ape.  Humans will find a way.

The way to get rid of illegal immigration is to get rid of minimum wage and supplement the income of the truly needy in other ways.

What are the chances of getting rid of this bad idea whose time should never have come, but which has been with us for over a hundred years?

So. About that wall.  How much do you think it will cost to build and guard?



286 thoughts on “The Problem of Minimum Wage

  1. I’ve heard beginning engineers are a net DRAIN) you aren’t worth much and you get paid very little indeed.

    In the great majority of cases, this is absolutely true. Many shops put a great deal of effort into shortening the “coming-up-to-speed” period for new engineers, which in extreme cases can last as much as half a year, even if the new hire has excellent native skills.

    1. I think this can go both ways, too. I have an interest in opportunities beside my current work, and I recently interviewed at another place. During the interview, I felt a certain dread of “Oh, no, if I started working here, I’d have to learn an entirely new system, with new version control and debugging policies, and so forth”….

      In the end, my current company might not do everything they could to keep me…but there’s a certain “inertia” that keeps me where I currently am as well…

    2. One way businesses get around this is by hiring through Temp agencies. That allows an employee to get up to speed at a fixed cost without any commitment to retain those who cannot cut the mustard. In exchange for a slightly higher cost per hour the employer gains flexibility and offloads labor management & reporting to a third party.

      1. This is an inefficient workaround for the fact that it’s hard to fire someone (which is in part because there is a stigma to being fired) it’s not always the fault of the new person

  2. John McCain made people very angry when he was out claiming that nobody else would work the fields to pick the watermelon or cabbage or whatever, even if they were paid $50/hour, so we need the immigrants (in this case the migrant workers who were usually illegal and willing to work under the table for less than minimum wage). He was completely ignoring the fact that people used to do those jobs before migrant workers, that LEGAL migrant workers were having a hard time because of illegal ones, and that having a “mandatory” wage like $50 would attract tons of people to the job. But in his mind, nobody would be willing to be out in the sun for that long doing back breaking work because we’re coddled Americans. He upset all the farmers and construction workers and everybody else with a work ethic. Too bad it didn’t get him out of office.

    1. Yes, people did. Everyone who grew up on a farm did. See my post below, though. They shouldn’t turn up their noses at honest work if they’re able to do it, but we have a sizeable number that are.

      I used to do stints at Career Days, and usually I’d end up beside the Coca-Cola rep. Usually we didn’t get much interest. One day we have exactly none. Whereupon the Coca-Cola rep leaned to me and said “No one wants to do hard work anymore.” Unfortunately, I had to agree.

      I can go off on quite a screed about this. It’s looking down their noses at legal jobs as being beneath them. It’s an insidious thing. I don’t know if they’re learning it in schools or in homes, but it’s out there.

      What I do know is that if you need money and the only way to get it is digging a ditch, you say “Hand me the shovel.” The proper incentive can be an outstanding motivator.

      1. That’s why I said it offended anyone with a work ethic. I do understand that the work ethic has eroded quite a bit in the country. I was at one job where there was a guy who was given a job as a favor because the boss knew him and knew he needed one. But the boss wasn’t a push-over. This guy kept coming in late. So he was called in and he said it was because the buses didn’t run quite right for him to get in at 8. He’d get in at 8:15 or 8:30 depending on how late it was running. So they adjusted his shift to take that in to account. Instead of getting up and catching the same bus as he used to and get to work on time, he started waiting for the next bus or two and he was still chronically late getting to work. And he’d leave at his old clock out time. So he was let go.

        1. There are folk like that everywhere, Once had a fellow working for me, uh, who I supervised, while on Kwajalein. Shortly after he arrived, he joined the Masonic Lodge, of which I was an officer. Soon after, he started really slacking off. Hadn’t even completed his probation. When I called him on it, he said,’ You can’t fire me. I’m a Brother Mason!” Next strike, I had his rear sent back to Alabama. First, I suppose technically *I* didn’t fire him (decision was above my pay grade), but I *strongly* recommended, with documentation, why *my* boss should let him go. Second, the Masonic tradition is that you are not to ‘supplant’ a Brother, that is to push him out of a job so you can take his place. Booting someone who is (supposed to be) working for you but is not making any effort to do the job, in effect stealing from you/your company, is Fair Game. At least where I come from; not sure how they do thangs in ‘Bama.

      2. I would humbly propose that one factor that would cut into that work ethic would be to make working at 12 to be mostly illegal, and working at 16 (particularly with minimum wage laws) impractical.

        If you don’t get a work ethic when you are young, I would expect it to be difficult to develop when you’re 20 and already on welfare, which reinforces the idea that money is something you can get without effort….

      3. Here too. I just substituted a few hours with another cleaner who is a young student woman who does it to supplement her student grant. She said that several of the other students in the same place she has talked with would not clean because they think of it as a “shit job” which is kind of beneath them.

        What I wanted to suggest to her, but didn’t, was to say, next time somebody said something like that, that these kids don’t seem to have any problems living off cleaners. Their student grants come from taxes, cleaners pay taxes because we work. Yep, I’m supporting these little lazy shits.

        Heh. The way my head works I spend half of that shift planning a youtube video which would have showed all the most pitiful possible examples of cleaners, old women working extra hours because they try to pay off old debts (I know a few) and so, mostly old people preferably, working hard, then one of those young students sipping a latte and saying how that kind of work is beneath her, with some figures which would count how many of those cleaners are needed to support her (will never make it, I’m not good with people so the idea of trying to get people for it, and then direct them, is way too scary).

        1. My first jobs were babysitting, to begin with. I didn’t have an hourly wage until college but my first job was the campus dishroom in the dorms I lived in. Dealing with people’s leftovers on an industrial scale as a couple thousand freshman came through the lines every meal. Then I was a lab assistant. I made it through college without student loan debt because I was willing to take the available job first, and then look around and find better jobs. After I graduated, I got call center jobs and then research jobs and then temp jobs including dorm and apartment cleaning at the end of the semesters. Lots of jobs that were just grunt work and dirty but it kept me housed and fed and out of debt until I got a job in my field of study, which also started as a grunt job 3 days a week until I proved I was worth hiring full time.

          1. Thanks to the invention of MP3 players and audio books, such grunt work can actually be quite pleasant once you accept the parameters. Not for call centers, obviously, but miscellaneous cleaning tasks? Read [listen to] The Lord of the Rings or the collected writings of Robert Heinlein.

              1. Sure, but audiobooks can be a hazard while driving…

                A few years ago I had a part-time job driving a delivery van at night.

                One night, about 3:30 in the morning, was laughing so hard I lost control of the van and went four-wheels-off on the shoulder of Interstate 40 at about 70mph.

                Damn you, Terry Pratchett…!

                1. Easily addressed. Either eschew books likely to incur laughter (you can re-read all the Dresden Files in surprisingly brief time without much more than a chortle) or do as I do: don’t laugh.

        2. I recommend Torchship by Karl K. Gallagher to you.

          (This is also a good series for computer programmers, for reasons that become fully clear in book two.)

      4. Isn’t that all they hear from their career counselors?

        “Go to college so you don’t have to work at McDonald’s/ dig ditches/ do manual labor your entire life”

        1. If money ever fell from the sky, I would hire a cleaner… to teach my kids the way to do it right. I never learned (I come from a long line of non-domestic types), so it would be nice to pass that along.

          (It’s not that I don’t clean. It’s that I *know* there are efficient methods out there, but I never learned them.)

        2. Mike Rowe had a great dissertation on that a few years ago. Mostly the work smarter, not harder, meaning only white collar college jobs are worth going. And thus the decline in votech.

          1. I once attended a professional association program (I think that one was a talk by Steve Woznak) at the local welders union hall/education center, where they had a fully paid ab initio training program for welders. I had a look at the welding those students were producing as their graduation example: Holy Mackeral. I have never seen such fine work. And local industry was begging for certified welders for biotech stuff. And the union folks said they could not get enough candidates to enter the progam to meet the demand.

            I guess sitting in front of a laptop competing with all the H1b software engineers is better than pulling in a ton of cash as a welder.

            1. Machinists, too; lots of companies are begging for machinists, and the pay’s good. And when you learn more, and become more skilled, it gets better.

              That’s what son did when got out of the Army, and had a job before finished his classes. And yet, with that example in front of them, some of the guys in the classes didn’t seem to be working real hard to learn…

              1. CNC programmers too, down the street theyr ‘hiring cnc programmers’ sign only disappeared for about three months during the whole obama recession… enough to make me wonder how to learn it.

        3. The semester I took off at the suggestion of the Dean of Students I worked at McDonalds. I found the motivation to get good grades after that.

      5. Probably an offshoot of the “anyone with a brain should be doing university and white collar work” stupidity.

        Nobody thinks of himself as being dumb, so…

        1. A few minutes reflection will make it clear to anyone that’s “not dumb” that being versatile and a quick study is a *good* thing, and that there are certain types of skilled labor that can’t be ‘offshored’ and that are all but impossible to automate. You want ‘safe’ employment? (if there really is such a thing!) Look for that kind of job. Another approach is to be so good and productive at what you do that it’d take several people to replace you – and *still* not do the job as well. I know. That formula has worked pretty well for me. 😉

      6. Why would I want to work hard when I can make more money working indoors, sitting in a chair and do something I find rewarding and challenging?

      7. Part of the problem is that everyone wants to be paid by the hour. An old co-worker of mine grew up working in the orange groves. He said pickers used to be paid by the bag (bushel?). Good pickers could make good money. They wouldn’t climb down their ladder to move it. They’d just kick back and walk the ladder on two legs to the next spot. Others would be runners taking empty bags to the pickers and returning full bags to be counted. Hourly workers, however, have no need for speed. They get paid the same for two bags or twenty.

        1. I know some HVAC technicians and custom ductwork specialists that do ‘piece-work’, and wouldn’t have it any other way. Why? They’re good at what they do – and are *fast*. They get paid by the job (typically – installing all the ductwork and HVAC equipment in a new development), and finish fast enough to do have plenty of time to do additional side-work and/or hunt and fish when the season is at hand…

    2. It didn’t help that he totally ignored that part of why people aren’t taking the jobs is because the rules are enforced on legal workers– there is no way a native 16 year old is going to be allowed to be hired for $5 a bin plus a bunk and meals, transportation to town on Sunday.

      Illegals, on the other hand, can work for whatever they want, at pretty much any age, sleep 20+ in a one-bedroom rental where they eat communally, and even if the landlord complains the cops or anyone else won’t do anything about it.
      Even reporting actual crimes, unless there’s bodily harm in progress, will just get an “oh, they’re Mexican? Nothing we can do” response. I’ve heard of police actually helping at-fault drivers leave the scene of an accident because they were an (unlicensed) illegal (with no insurance). (Bryan Suits’ wife was a cop, and it happened to her. Argh.) You do all the paperwork to arrest them and they just vanish anyways.

      Oh, and for added pain, at least some of the moves to “combat illegal labor” look a lot like “take perishable produce hostage unless they ‘admit’ to the accusation and pay the fine”– even when it’s shown that their evidence is based on false information, like that trained pickers won’t be faster than the test case. (From memory, one example had a guy who was only somewhat experienced– one or two years– picking something like three times as fast as they estimated he “should” be able to.)

  3. Some years ago, the State of Georgia began nudging the unemployed toward farm labor. This was during an immigration crackdown (and apparently couldn’t find a pet judge to slap it down), and a number of illegals left the state. That cut into agricultural labor. Unfortunately, it didn’t work so well. It was hot, repetitive, and most just didn’t want to do that sort of work. I’ll leave what that means about modern work ethic to others.

    Yeah, I know the claim that there are jobs Americans no longer want to do is a favorite of the Left, but unfortunately the blind hog found an acorn. That’s due not so much to minimum wage as pure out sorriness. It’s the attitude that this sort of work is beneath them.

    That might say something about our support network, too. The option of taking a legal, available, job, or hunger can focus one’s mind marvelously. We don’t have that.

    Those on assistance who fear they might be sent to do farm work should put their minds at ease. Those jobs may not be with us long. As in any other industry, labor costs pushes mechanization. This past week I’ve passed farm where they’re setting out timber. There’s an automated machine for this now, No crews with dibbles or hoedads. Just two men, a tractor, and a machine. I think there’s one for setting out onions now. A friend and I worked on the concept, but couldn’t make anything of it. Now they’ve got them. How long before no one will need anyone, legals or illegals, to pick blueberries or load watermelons?

    1. As far as setting out trees goes, we had machinery for that in the christmas tree farming business back in the 1950s. One guy driving the tractor, two riding and handling the planter, could plant a field very quickly. The only time hand work came in was in replanting in fields that had been selectively cut in the previous November rather than clear cut.

      1. Toward the end of the 1970s, we used a dibble. Hoedads came later. My father and set out many a pine with a dibble. I’d see the ride-behind transplanters – they’re similar to tobacco transplanters – but they take a cleared area to run. This machine looks like a box, and does it automatically.

        A local paper company experimented with pine seeds. They’d broadcast them from the air over swampy areas. We tried that by hand once, distributing seed like we were sowing grain by hand, but didn’t get a good stand.

        1. Well, we used dibbles when replanting in selectively cut fields too. That’s the thing about any kind of silviculture–unless you do a clear-cut harvest of an area, replanting will always be by hand (I would think). Does the machine you’re talking about replant non-clear-cut fields? If so that’s something I hadn’t heard about.

          1. The machine is essentially a ride-behind transplanter that drops the pines without human intervention. It still has to have cleared land. I’m assuming a double-disk opens the furrow and a set of double wheels close it after the seedling drops. Never have been able to stop and see one in operation, or to walk up to one and inspect it.

            1. So basically they’ve just replaced the guys dropping the seedlings after the disks open the furrow with a feed mechanism, eh? I guess people are too expensive these days. 🙂

              1. Or the volunteers are too incompetent… anybody else remember the “volunteer to go plant trees” pushes in the early 90s at schools? I was mildly jealous I didn’t get to go– too young– but we did get “free” trees to take home and plant.

                1. After my time. We did count it a privilege to plant trees around campus. A friend and I were right proud to set out the dogwoods in the front campus. The last time I went by there, the old school was gone bu the dogwoods remained.

                  If a ride-behind transplanter was like the tobacco transplanter, it was dead simple. You just place the plants on a trap door type mechanism that opened and dropped the plant. Even the hand tobacco transplanter was dead simple, so much so I was using that for tomatoes as soon as I was big enough to carry it.

                  The dibbles we used were pretty simple, too. Just a wedge with a foot rest and a long handle to keep from stooping. Jab in the ground, step on it, move it forward, remove it, drop the seedling in the hole, step behind the hole to close it, and move to the next spot. Never used a hoedad, but they had a similar rhythm and were faster. As it was, my father and I could set out several hundred pines in half a day each, easy, with a dibble.

                  Once had a fellow say he’d pay a dollar a pine for someone to set them out, and I took him up on it. Knew I could make one or two hundred a day after work easy. Unfortunately he backed out.

                2. Back in the ’60s in CA, my Boy Scout troop was part of a major ‘volutneer’ effort to plant trees on, if my memory serves, a bare slope. There were a lot of us out there.

                  In the 90s every Arbor Day my kids school would give out tiny seedlings for the kids to plant at home. None of them every survived. 😉

                  1. Only person I heard of keeping one alive was my grandmother… she also had an eight foot tall avocado tree in her house. In the high desert.

                    1. It’s huge YMMV. Some have better results than others. There’s also the issue of proper varieties for the zone. Very easy to mess up. Then there’s the issue of microclimates.

                      Depending on the tree, seedlings can be surprisingly cheap. Pines where cheap as cheap could be. Fruit trees were pricey. Dogwoods at one time weren’t as pricey. Some trees can be on the order of the flowers every student used to grow and give to mom on Mother’s Day. Even if they didn’t survive, there wasn’t a large expense.

                    2. It probably also matters that they be kept HEALTHY, instead of pretty– while the “raise awareness/Smokey Bear Promotion’ ones we had mattered the opposite way. 😉

                  2. Survival of the planted trees was not relevant. Standard Liberal program: it is the effort, the show of concern, which counts, not whether anything useful results.

                  3. I remember those seedlings. Actually, mine survived, and both of my sisters did. Mine even survived my father’s cutting down a tree next to it and — whoops — getting my little pine.

                    He did have go out and lop off a few of the trunks because it was trying to be a coppice and the branches were rubbing against each other.

                    You can’t even tell it was damaged now.

                3. Oh, we didn’t use volunteers. It was a working farm. We paid the workers competitive wages for the seasonal work that needed doing.

                  1. On the farm, we weren’t volunteers, but it was right there with other chores.

                    BTW, since you mentioned Christmas trees, Eastern Cedar was once the Christmas Tree of choice in these parts, and when people were unable to cut them out of the woods, they bought them in town. Some of the local Christmas tree farms planted Eastern Cedar. Then other varieties gained popularity, and stands of Eastern Cedar went unsold.

                    I remember a large Christmas tree farm that had planted Eastern Cedar right before they lost popularity. Naturally, I thought that he would let the trees grow and sell them later for lumber. That made it a long-term investment, but no more so than pine. Thought that he might do pretty well. Evidently he didn’t see it that way, because not only did he get out of the Christmas tree business, but he bulldozed the cedars.

                    1. That was always the most difficult part of the business. When your crop takes 6-9 years to mature, you have to predict desire that far in advance. So if the current trendy tree is blue spruce, you can’t just plant blue spruce all over and expect the demand will be there when they’re ready to cut. We grew blue spruce, white spruce, douglas fir, concolor fir, and austrian pine. Some species were pretty steady sellers, but others waxed and waned with the whims of society.

    2. Another factor is the reduced cost of being on the dole. Used to there was embarrassment at being seen using food stamps but today we offer EBT cards that look, for all practical purpose, just like credit and debit cards that the well-employed use for their grocery purchases.

      1. In CA you get the same debit card for unemployment as for the other government-gives-you-money programs – pretty photo of Yosemite on the front, and a VISA logo on the lower corner.

        If you know what it is, it’s obvious – if not it just looks like any other debit card.

        1. I guessing it isn’t as apparent to the other people in line at the grocery as was handing over the Food Stamp vouchers?

          1. Exactly – I recall something about extreme concern for the self esteem of food stamp folks, and how now, with the debit card, they could buy booze with their benefits without shame.

      2. I remember the story — presented as outrageous — of a woman who “had” to go on food stamps because her paycheck had been delayed a week. Why, they got huffy at the grocery store where she had shopped for seven years!

        Without, apparently, having a dollar a week, which would have tided her over that time.

        She also didn’t find it as humiliating as she could have, apparently, since she didn’t mention saving that paycheck, when it arrived, to tide her over the next time.

    3. From what I heard from a college associate who sorted and packed peaches during the summer, one problem might also have been that some of the orchard owners had gotten too used to workers who had to tolerate bad conditions. Not “hot, hard, repetitious” but “illegals in a floodwater with boxes on their heads because the water was almost shoulder deep in the orchard, trying to salvage fruit” bad. The only reason my friend wasn’t in the water with the men was that she’s shorter than the water was deep. I probably wouldn’t work for that orchard owner any longer than absolutely necessary to keep from starving.

      1. I stink at hand work; I have a tendency to think about what I’m doing than let it flow. (My typing is up over high school; maybe 40 to 50 wpm at times, which is still bad.) My sister could out do me riding a tobacco harvester, so I usually worked at the barn. (Note: Flue-cured tobacco is selectively harvested, not all at once.) If it got too muddy for the harvester and we had to beat feet, then sometimes the barn hands would help out. I could out do my sister walking and priming because I’ve got longer arms.

        And TXRed, the farmer had to send the pickers into his flooded orchard or he’d loose his yearly income from that orchard, just like my uncle sent us out to slog through the mud if the tractor could go when the ride along harvester couldn’t. It had to be done or he could lose, in some years, his farm. Particularly if he didn’t have crop insurance. He may have had contract with a cannery to deliver x bushels of acceptable fruit by y date. Tobacco is almost all under contract nowadays. That’s kinda weird to me; for one hundred years it was auctioned. Not that I actually have dog in the fight except for the cousin who rents my mother’s farm.

        1. True, he’d lose the crop. My classmate, who had worked for the farmer for several years, implied that he could have afforded to miss a year like all the other farmers around him did (higher water in their orchards) because of the very low wages he paid his pickers. I don’t know the man, didn’t know the man, and can’t vouch for that part of her story. I do know he got busted for hiring illegals two years later. I suspect that it did not change anything.

    4. You know, I work nearly 80 hours a week between two jobs and I wouldn’t want to do farm labor. I would if there was nothing else and the other option was to starve but I don’t think that’s a problem with work ethic. And would you really want the people who find welfare to be preferable to a job helping on a farm, anyway? It would seem they would be more likely to do damage than good.

      1. I get rather snarky about this. Like I “loved” mixing mortar in a box, or digging foundations with a shovel and hammer (the hammer to knock the clay off); or sundry other things that aren’t the most pleasant in the world. But I’ve made money that way, doing that and tasks that the precious little darling can bear to do “Oh, it’s so hot. And this is hard. I’ve got a blister.

        Yeah, I’d want someone on welfare that was unemployed to get a taste of that. If they were someone there due to bad luck, they’d welcome having a job; if not, well, suck it up, buttercup. A lot of this isn’t rocket science, which is why a lot of them were traditional after-school jobs.

        1. There’s a thing that the WWII generation of men, and to lesser degrees later generations of males up through Vietnam, had that those since the end of the draft mostly don’t – in WWII, everyone who was not 4-F went through stuff that, for the rest of their lives, was absolute personally experienced existential proof that whatever labor they were engaged in, it was not the worst thing that could be happening to them.
          Since I started working before the WWII generation all retired, I got some of their wisdom, and “At least nobody is shooting at you” was something I heard more than once.

          1. At least nobody is shooting at you” is becoming appallingly less the case, or at least it did during Obama’s presidency.

    5. Unfortunately, it didn’t work so well. It was hot, repetitive, and most just didn’t want to do that sort of work. I’ll leave what that means about modern work ethic to others.

      They also hadn’t been trained for it, and have “helpfully” been prevented from accepting some of the benefits that make it work. Even since we moved up to Washington in the mid 90s, about half of the few picker’s cabins that were in use have gone away– not because people don’t want to use them, most of the ones that are in use are being used without the grower’s knowledge (yes, really, given the fines), but because they are not “good enough” for standards (mostly state, but that’s only because they’re a bit tougher than federal) for housing.

      Having to pay for meals, transportation and temporary housing take a big chunk out of earnings.

      1. Yea, there a lot of standards for housing migrant workers. And no child-labor is written into contracts that farmers have. How are my kids suppose to learn how to work if I can’t farm them out over the summer at my cousin’s?

  4. I used to make a decent amount above minimum wage. Now that the minimum is climbing, I’m not making much above the minimum (those few times when I actually get some hours.) There really isn’t money in photography, and all of those parents who complain that school photos cost too much (and then make illegal copies) have no idea how much production costs actually are. (The printers alone cost as much as a house in California—no joke—and maintenance costs are in line with a house as well.)

  5. “People will break every law to get here, because at that rate, and living 20 men to an apartment, they can send home enough to keep their wife and children in luxury.”
    Much as you have to admire their work ethic, this is a major part of the problem. And it’s not just taking care of the wife and kiddies, it’s establishing a mini empire back home to retire to. As an indication of the scope of this, it’s been estimated that remittance to Mexico from workers in the US (legal and otherwise) was $23 billion in 2015, Billion with a B. And naturally Mexico controls currency transfers such that they benefit hugely from the influx of hard US dollars.
    So, this subset of what the left styles as immigrants are in fact guest workers with no intention of ever becoming Americans.

    1. And this is how Trump will make the Mexicans pay for the wall – imagine a 5% tax on remittances? That’s a billion dollars right there…

      1. Per Larry Correia and Nicki Kenyon, it’s not doable without *serious* increases in surveillance powers.

        1. Even then, it would be trivial to circumvent. Send the money somewhere else, through a broker if necessary.

          And someone only needs to come up with a method *once*. Every immigrant community I’ve ever seen, legal or not, was tightly networked.

          1. It still takes money and time–and how many Mexican illegals are going to have connections outside of Mexico?

            They could wire it down to San Diego and walk the cash across…but that also has some obvious issues….

            And either way it lowers the profit from coming over.

            Grandfather use to say– a lock only stops an honest thief.

            1. Say, someone in Canada sets up a brokerage. Send them $100, they peel off $5 for their services and send $95 on to Mexico.

              If everyone else is doing is that way, you’ll probably do it too, particularly if transactions are small and frequent, which would keep the risk down.

              1. Of course, that comes with the risk that they’ll just pocket it entirely– and the small, frequent transactions mean that the percent will stay high, and that it is much easier for the gov’t to find the brokers, and go after them with money laundering charges.

              2. Just like a lock, or computer security– if you can access it at all, so can an unauthorized people. Security just makes it more of a pain than it’s worth for what they can get out of it.

              3. How do you send them the $100? Cash(which is illegal not to mention insecure)? checks (oops, how did you open the account without proof of citizenship)? Western Union (oops, US company, required proof of citizenship and legal income to use)?

          2. Any money flow can be traced already…. And if proof of citizenship / legitimate income is required to start the process, what then?

            1. Oooh, could do a two-fer– an “identity fee” that can be waived if you show the same sort of evidence you’d need to board a plane. (This also hits the states that haven’t gotten their drivers license up to snuff.) Following the Trump standard of using their own weapons against them….

  6. “The real minimum wage is zero.”

    If anyone does not believe this (and doesn’t live in one of one or two peculiar states) they should consider how much the person filling their gasoline tank is paid for doing so. Check the oil? Check the tires (tread and pressure)? Wipe the windows?

    And the checker at the “self service” checkouts?


    1. Now that I think of it, one thing I forgot to include in my anecdote below about looking for work: before I found that $8/hr job, I was seriously considering walking in to a hospital or non-profit and asking “Do you need a volunteer who could program computers?” figuring that a little bit on unpaid experience would bolster my resume.

      So, I can’t help but wonder, which is worse? Bolstering your resume working at #2/hr, or doing so at $0/hr? (The irony is that, now that I’ve looked into freelance work, I now understand that there’s little to no legal resistance to keep me from writing up a freelance contract that, when the dust settles, means I worked $2/hr…)

    2. > zero

      Actually, below that. “Unpaid” interns get nothing, and still have to cover the costs of getting to work, meals, healthcare, etc.

      “We can work you like a rented donkey, and you’ll do it for free for the ‘experience’!”

      “I do the job… and then I get paid.”
      – Captain Mal

      1. People tend to overlook the issue of opportunity cost. For example, let’s say you go to college and complete your degree in five years (slightly better than average and possible if the registrar’s office doesn’t screw you too badly with class schedules.) What most people overlook is that you could instead have taken a “minimum wage” job and earned five years’ wages, plus accrued experience, “time in field” and whatever raises and bonuses that might have been received en route. Call it an average of $10 an hour, forty hours a week, fifty weeks a year, over five years and your college education cost you $100,000 in foregone earnings. (The $10/hour assumes that overtime and other factors average out to that.)

        People also tend to overlook the total interest they will pay on their education mortgage loans, but leave us not attempt to calculate that.

        Oh, one other factor with any increase in minimum wage: the government(s) will enjoy an increase in taxes collected.

        1. Of course, you also have to factor in that government contracting has been requiring a college degree for any number of positions (IT for certain) for 20 years. If you think your business is going to compete for that, you hire those who check off the box.

          1. Like my beliefs in Santa and the Bunny of Easter, my confidence in government background checks is not what it once was. The reasoning underlying such lost faith escapes my recollection …

            It’s hard to keep up with the news in the early weeks of the Trump administration. Reader Martin Karo writes to note one story we have overlooked so far. He observes that the Daily Caller seems to be the go-to site on the story, with this excellent February 7 update as well as the February 4 report linked below. Mr. Karo titles this “We were in the very best of hands.” He writes:

            No doubt there’s a difference between avoiding Islamophobia and willful blindness to obvious risks, but let’s just say the Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence draw the line in a somewhat different place than the Power Line cognoscenti might. Herewith the tale of the intrepid Brothers Awan — brothers named Abid, Imran and Jamal Awan…who got themselves hired as IT professionals for numerous Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (listed in the House Directory here).

            Horatio Alger would be proud – they somehow managed to get themselves paid three times the average rate of IT professionals working in Congress. They displayed admirable thrift – all living in the same house (not their parents’). They pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, one overcoming bankruptcy (despite being incredibly overpaid) and a felony record to get themselves hired into sensitive Intel positions for prominent Democratic congresspersons. Inquisitive fellows, they were, poking around in congressional computer systems without authorization.

            Did I mention thrifty? Apparently in addition to illicit information acquisition, they saved money by allegedly taking home some odds and ends, office supplies, like pens and notepad and PCs and paperclips and servers and cell phones…

            There is no doubt more of the story to come. The house inhabited by the Awans was owned by yet another Democratic Committee IT staffer with a name that apparently hails from somewhere east of the Levantine. There were four brothers, not three; I speculate from the directory that brother Omar is the fourth, and based on the same directory, apparently also privy to some sensitive information. Note one of the staffers served by an Awan was the infamous Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Perhaps some foreign government other than Putin’s was the source of the ballyhooed DNC hack. No charges have yet been brought.
            [END EXCERPT]

            1. There’s always the shining example of the John Walker case, where the Navy gave the job of vetting sailors for security clearances to… the guy who was a Soviet spy.

  7. The response to California’s minimum wage so far is McDonalds replacing their front staff with touch screens. Soon their back staff as well. Robots can make fries and flip burgers, if the alternative is bankruptcy.

    As to illegal immigrants, having been through the US Immigration meat grinder, they’re illegal because you can’t really do it any other way. Legal immigration is not a practical thing for a guy who is going to go pick cabbages. He can’t really do it. A big agricorp has to do it for him. Then he’s essentially a slave.

    So they sneak in, and the government lets them. Because it’s cheaper for agricorps, and they give political donations.

    In truth, if the USA (and Canada, and Europe) are -serious- about illegal immigration, and they should be, there is an easy and cheap solution. No government services for illegals. No welfare, no food stamps, no subsidized housing, no medicare, no public schools, no driver’s licenses, etc.

    The number of people who are going to be willing to put up with that, for the privilege of cutting lawns in America at five bucks an hour, is small.

    The -stupid- way of stopping illegals is to build a wall, then capture and deport them. Expensive, abusive and corrosive to freedom. And dangerous. Illegals have guns too.

    Also, what happens when Mexico builds a wall and refuses to take deportees back? You going to put 30 million people in jail? And feed them with what? You know Mexico is going to do that.

    Just slowly shut off the beer tap. They’ll wander home on their own soon enough.

      1. Jose there, he’s not a Mexican citizen. Don’t care what he says. Probably Canadian and not our problem. No record of him or his family anywhere in our files.
        When dealing with a corrupt government always remember that they believe the truth is whatever they say it is.

          1. Sarah, I’ve been pondering the ‘blood-and-soil’ concept since I saw you mention it in your post yesterday (was it just yesterday?!). Wondering if you might devote a post to the topic sometime? Questions that have been drifting through my brain: how long does it take a people, staying in one area/one piece of land, to be blood-and-soil invested in it? And if (along with deliberately breaking down the traditional family so as to weaken our social structure) there is a deliberate attempt to keep people in America from becoming blood-and-soil invested in their land. I think some here ARE blood-and-soil invested, and many are close to it, but would like to see more of what you think.

            1. From my observation and experience in small town America, at least two maybe three generations. But even that is dependent on the existing social structure. The more entrenched, solid, and active that is, the longer it takes for entry into the anointed realms.

              1. I recently found a newspaper article showing that some distant relatives (7th or 8th cousins, likely- I didn’t count) were living in the same home my direct ancestor lived in in 1780. OTOH, of all my direct ancestors, none have died within 50 miles of where they were born since arriving in North America. And of course that’s true of the initial immigrants… Where I currently live, it seems a vast majority of the people are related by blood or marriage within 3 generations. I suspect from the last name there may be one family in town that I’m 5th cousin to, but I’d have to ask for the names of their grandparents to start looking it up. I’m curious, not that curious. I will note that according to the locals I don’t live in MY house, I live in the old T——- home. The walls of the HS have each graduating class back to the 40’s. The same last names are repeated over and over- and over again. I have 5 children. 3 live in a different state, and the last graduates HS this year. I suspect the last one to graduate HS and the one still left at home will eventually find someplace far away to live.

                1. A friend used to work at the US Consulate office in Bremen Germany. She was discussing the lack of local jobs with some of her neighbors. She mentioned that VW was opening a new factory in a town 75 km away. They were shocked! How could a Bremener work in another city. Their families had been in Bremen for hundreds upon hundreds of years. They laughed the comment off since she was a silly American.

                  1. My wife commuted that far every working day for twenty years. My usual commute was more like 30 miles.

                  2. I met people who lived in the Capital Region of NYS (Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, etc.) who were very proud of the fact that they’d never left their home town. Born there, lived and worked there. Planning on dying there. Not even crossing the river to go to a movie or something. And in Scotland, except for corporate types who would commute, 20 miles was a holiday day trip. They were that attached to their home location that it took major planning to go very far.

                    1. And I drive the kids 500 miles a couple of times a year to visit Grandma. By myself. It’s about ten hours (given mandatory stops; potty training can make it much longer.) Note that this is only one state away, too.

                    2. I have read there are rivers in England where there are notable differences in DNA between populations separated by the river. I live in a different part of NY, and according to the 4 of my children who went through the local school, by graduation time, a significant portion of each class has never been outside the county.

                  3. My dad was stationed in Germany in the 90s. He took us all over Europe in a minivan. The Europeans didn’t approve of the number of children in our family.

                    1. They would have disapproved of *something* no matter what…

                      In the ’90s in the USA, the popular hate was for “people who drive minivans.”

          2. I am certainly hoping you are right. However, if they get cut-off from the American beer tap, and things go Venezuela…

    1. Providing benefits for illegals is already supposed to be prohibited (as the progs will loudly proclaim any time the issue is brought up). That’s one of the reasons why illegals engage in identity theft. Get an identity linked to a citizen, and suddenly your immigration status doesn’t matter when it comes to applying for benefits.

      1. Not quite true junior – the fallback position is while government benefits might be curtailed – they get Workers Compensation in I think all states (I know in the vast majority of them). If you are serious about it – cut off Workers Comp benefits for them – or at least only provide emergency services – or just provide medical benefits and not salary replacement. There are actually insurance companies that will buy an injured worker a house in his home country to get him to go home and get cheaper medical bills. (just search workers compensation illegal immigrant to get articles about judges ruling (and in some cases overturning state law) – that illegal immigrants get benefits).

        1. Workers Comp might be a problem (I don’t know enough to talk about it), but it’s just a small piece of the problem. The bigger problem is their ability to tap into the full array of welfare benefits via identity theft. Until you shut that down that much more lucrative avenue, fixing Workers Comp won’t do any good.

    2. The purpose of a wall on our Southern border is more likely prevention of infiltrating terrorists — it’s worked in Israel. Raising the cost to drug smugglers in order to promote domestic industry is another benefit.

      1. If I were both a better chemist and a (far) worse person, I’d look into synthesizing something truly nasty and name it ‘fleek’. Maybe it’s outdated now, but I really dislike that ‘on fleek’ thing and well, what more effective way to put it in its place?

          1. Oh, wait, that’s a dressy French cop.

            It’s kind of a cute phrase, it came from nowhere, and it is one of the few English slang terms with a definite known living coiner. That alone makes it cute.

      2. Drug smuggling by dedicated aircraft, as was popular in the 1980s, has largely been stopped by strong aeriall patrolling (see the ICE P-3s) combined with the aerostat radars, plus the OTH radar system – you just can’t get a plane in anymore like you used to.

        So they moved to try building semi-submersibles, and then actual submarines (they busted upone scheme that had hired ex-Soviet sub designers and were building a quite substantial cargo sub modularly inland), and moved to hide ‘product’ inside other imports – which travel through the approved entry ports.

        While the “coyotes make illegals carry bales of dope on their backs” still happens, it’s not the main channel for the cartels – there’s just not enough volume.

        1. Last I heard, the Navy, Coast Guard, and DEA were pointing fingers at each other and the submarines weren’t being interdicted.

    3. “Also, what happens when Mexico builds a wall and refuses to take deportees back? You going to put 30 million people in jail? And feed them with what? You know Mexico is going to do that.”

      No, we’re not going to put 30 million people in jail. They made their way in; when they can’t live here they’ll make their way back.

    4. Also, what happens when Mexico builds a wall and refuses to take deportees back? You going to put 30 million people in jail? And feed them with what? You know Mexico is going to do that.

      Mexico can’t afford to build a wall. There’s already a lot of talk about how expensive it would be for the US to just *finish* the one that’s already been started. Mexico has only a fraction of the income that the US does.

      Additionally, Mexico needs a good relationship with the US. Refusing to take back any deportees would risk things like trade agreements with the US. Mexico also wants the money that illegals from Mexico send back home. Threatening to put any of the country’s citizens in limbo would merely act to discourage them even more from going to the US. Currently, if an illegal gets caught, they just get slapped on the wrist and sent home (after possibly serving prison time for other crimes). If Mexico refused to accept its citizens back as deportees, that would represent a huge change.

      1. Data point, from today’s Wall Street Journal:

        Mexicans Vow to Fight Trump by Jamming Courts
        Influential Mexicans are pushing an aggressive strategy to fight a likely increase in deportations of their undocumented compatriots in the U.S.: jam U.S. immigration courts in hopes of causing the system to break down.

        [Link not available to noon-subscribers; Google (Yahoo, whatever) headline or portion of article for non-subscriber access.]

        It is not necessary for Mexico to maintain a good relationship with America, only to retain a good relationship with some Americans — the kinds who think putting American interests first is racist, nationalist, fascist, speciesist …

  8. A lot of public sector unions are behind minimum wage increases. This creates for them an opportunity to lobby for more wage increases when contract talks happen.

    As to minimum wage increases hurting people. A lot of the real minimum wage earners used to be school age kids. Working a few shifts at the local fast food chain, other store or business to earn fun money etc. With the drive to increase the minimum wage a lot of these entry level students are going to be passed over for more stable and dependable employees. This ends up cutting off teaching teenagers a proper work ethic which they would have learned. I believe in some areas we are starting to see how this is affecting society, and not in a good way.

    1. I haven’t liked the minimum wage since the first time I had a job, which was right after I graduated high school (somehow I couldn’t get anyone to hire me before then.)

      I worked at tailoring, but I had only a little experience and I was slow. I asked the shop owner if she could pay me less than minimum wage, because I wasn’t worth minimum wage and we both knew it.

      No can do, of course so I started at minimum wage. I was slow enough and cost her enough money that by the end of summer she’d switched to paying me for piecework.

      Which is somehow different than paying below minimum wage/ sarc.

    2. A lot of public sector unions have also turned around and demanded the right to contract their members for sub-minimum wages. If you can’t out-work ’em, drive up the competition’s costs.

      1. It’s how they get more members to pay dues to support the union bureaucracy and money laundering back to Democrats.

      2. A funny example of this is the Unions in California trying to get people to sign a petition to raise the minimum wage, while requesting an exception to the *current* minimum wage so that they could pay people to collect signatures, and still come in under budget given their limited resources.

        (If I remember correctly, they were even granted the exemption…)

        1. Not just that- as far as I understand, the unions got themselves exempted from the new minimum wage rules, or it goes into force slower for them or something.

        2. It’s not necessarily for petition signers.

          What the unions have been attempting to do (and I don’t know if they succeeded in all of the locales) was getting an exemption from the new minimum wage laws if and only if there was a union contract in place that provided for lower wages. It should be noted that, in LA at least, they got the new minimum wage law passed, and then started up the attempt to get the exemption.

    3. It can be more than just lobbying. One transit district had a contract that stated that the bottom level of pay for a new hire was a certain multiple of the minimum wage, and pay went up from there as a multiple of base pay. So if the minimum wage increased EVERYBODY got a raise over and above any raise that had been negotiated.

      So if the minimum wage was $1, the base pay for a new hire would be $2.40, someone with 2 years $2.50, with increases coming less frequently as it went up till you maxed at 30 years. But if the minimum wage went up to $1.50 then base pay would suddenly be $3.60, and things would go up from there.

      If you negotiated wage increases as a percentage rather than a set amount you can see how things could get out of hand rather quickly.

  9. The first job I had after graduate school paid me $8/hr for part-time, which was above the minimum wage at the time…but when you have a wife and two girls to support, there’s no way that you can do so on such a pittance of pay. (Incidentally, this is how much I also was paid *before* graduate school, for a similar job — software development — so I essentially pushed a big “PAUSE” button to go to graduate school, and build up some debt.)

    About a month after working, my employer liked what I was doing, so he bumped my wage up to $11/hr. Still not enough (particularly for part-time work), but I slogged along. I moved to a different employer around the time I was no longer needed, to get something at $14/hr, which gradually grew over time.

    It took years to get to the point where we were paying down debt rather than building it up, and with medical bills coming up, I’d argue that we might not be there. Having student loans loom over me isn’t helping much at all.

    But the thing is, I wasn’t able to support my family on $8/hr, but it was better than supporting them on credit card debt (which, if you think about it, is NEGATIVE dollars/hr), and it allowed me to build up experience that others wanted to tap into.

    1. I’ve contended before that it IS possible to survive and even raise a family on minimum wage (even back when it was a lot lower than it is now). It helps a whole lot if you aren’t trying to keep up the typical urban American lifestyle with the typical bills, but I’ve done it. We lived on less than $350/month for one year in Alaska — but we had no rent, mortgage, or utilities. We had very few expenses outside of food for two adults and three children (ages ten, eight, and seven), gas for one vehicle, and a little propane for lights and a cook stove. Oh, and gas, etc., for a chainsaw. But we were living in a tiny, very rustic cabin with no electricity or running water, loaned to us by my brother (who was himself living in a small travel trailer, which he could move to different job sites). And my ex took whatever work he could find, even if it was pumping gas, whenever he could get it.

      We also survived on Airman Basic pay for several years (with tiny increases as my ex went up in rank) with the same three children, renting apartments, and a couple of times, buying a cheap place to live. I’m not sure how Airman Basic pay back in the 1970’s computed as far as hourly wage, but IIRC, he was bringing in about $500/month. Of course, we did have access to military medical care, which did help a lot. And I can remember at the end of the month scrounging the sofa cushions looking for loose change to buy a package of ramen noodles.

      So yes, it’s hard, but it can be done. And as Sarah said, it’s a darned good incentive to work to increase your income (or cut your expenses — I had a garden any place I could, for example; our clothes were second-hand or donated; our vehicles were old and cheap).

  10. The minimum wage is simply a symptom of a bigger problem, amd amvery old one; the impulse to look to the State for solutions outside its perview and far beyond its competence to enact.

    Seriously; why is it even an idea,to have a minimum wage? Why did anyone think it would work?

    Similarly; why did anyone think that a government funded endowment for the Arts would produce anything BUT drek?

    Government are good at brute force and bean counting. Road building, surpressing outbreaks of barbarism, and delivering the mail play to those strengths. Getting between employer and employee does not.

      1. This is why I love tax cuts. It is hard for them to enforce the new Whatever Regulation on you if they can’t afford to pay Whatever Inspectors to come around and get up in your bizznizz.

        Starve The Beast!

      2. Note that they can legislate the reporting of salary and weather. For example, examine the climate record.

        1. And retroactively – “Oh, that? That’s just an adjustment.”

          Much like the revised economic figures, coming out quietly months later, which contradicted the loudly trumpeted prior figures supporting the repeating “Summer of Recovery” narratives, the numbers will say what they are told to say.

          1. … the numbers will say what they are told to say.

            And there meine freunde, is why my sister abandoned pursuit of her Masters in Statistics at Georgetown. She, silly girl, thought the purpose of Statistics was to discern knowledge and discovered that advancement in the field depended on the ability to obscure knowledge.

    1. “Seriously; why is it even an idea,to have a minimum wage? Why did anyone think it would work?”

      The idea was to avoid people being paid “starvation wages”–and when there was less than full employment, illegal immigration wasn’t widespread, the welfare state was nonexistent, and automation wasn’t advanced, it made a certain amount of sense.
      The problem was that the situation changed.

      1. Well, no. In the first place, “less than full employment” is a Keynesian myth. Jean-Baptiste Say showed that you could have overproduction, underconsumption, or unemployment in some industries, but it was balanced by the reverse in others; the solution was for resources and labor to change industries. Keynes claimed to have refuted Say’s law, but his “restatement” of it was completely different from what Say said, so clearly so that I suspect Keynes of intentionally lying to an audience of economists who hadn’t read the classics and couldn’t follow a proof by mathematical induction.

        But beyond that, businesses will pay the market clearing wage, where the supply of workers approximates the supply of jobs. If you pay more than that, you don’t make as much money; if you pay less, you won’t be able to find workers . . . either because they stay home or because your competitors hire them away. But the other thing that happens, if you raise pay rates about market clearing wage because the law compels you to, is that workers start costing more than they add to your net revenue, which gives you an incentive to let them go, or not hire them. And both of those were really easy back in the era you’re looking back at.

        1. The problem with economics as a discipline is the tendency to assume that people will make rational decisions. The problem with politicizing economics is the tendency to,assume that the irrational decisions people make can be ‘fixed’.

          1. That’s not an assumption of the approaches to economics that I follow. Nothing in what I said assumes it. What I said was that certain policies give businesses an *incentive* to make certain decisions. That doesn’t imply that they’ll always act on that incentive. On the other hand, “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet”: If you set things up so that it pays off for people to behave a certain way, you should expect that they’ll tend to behave that way.

            1. Ironically enough, minimum wage is a social justice issue.

              In the opposite direction that most would expect… like Sarah says, it’s an attractive nuisance; it makes it hard for people to do what they ought, ie, the society is designed against promoting justice.

          2. The problem with figuring out what is “rational” is that you’ve got to have all the relevant data– and the Grand Theory cannot, because it only had broad sweeps.

            1. Sometimes something that seems irrational to me is the result of me not understanding the assumptions fully enough.

              It’s like the “problem of evil” where the three basic qualities of God — omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevalence — are proof that God cannot exist…unless you realize that (1) our understanding of these three things are likely naive, and (2) other assumptions can affect the issues brought up in the proof.

              The problem we have with bureaucrats is that they cannot fully understand all the assumptions that apply to any given person; hence any “informed” bureaucratic decision will *never* be fully informed. (Any decision made by a given person will never be fully informed, either, but his information will likely be much more complete than any given bureaucrat’s.)

          3. Actually, the problem with politicizing economics isn’t just the assumption that irrational decisions people make can be “fixed”. The other problematic assumption is that, even conceding that people in general might make irrational decisions, bureaucrats are somehow special people who *don’t* make irrational decisions, and thus are in a position to “fix” the “irrationality” of others.

            1. You want an example of “irrational decisions” consider my habit of spending money that should by any rational analysis go into my retirement fund, on here-and-now entertainment, such as books or movies or even cable television (or, for that matter, internet.)

              Then there is the money I waste on occasionally dining out, or on steak instead of hamburger. Or money spent on quality wine when Gallo will get me just as drunk much more cheaply, and probably faster because I don’t spend time savoring its flavour.

              1. “Rational” analysis can be a funny thing. Sure, that money going into books or movies would theoretically go into retirement; however, if you don’t spend *some* money to decompress, you might not make it to retirement.

                And I could see a bureaucrat demanding you buy Gallo because it’s less expensive, but thereby getting you more drunk (and thereby shorten your lifespan) than had you stuck with quality wine. Which, of course, assumes that your goal is to have a longer, more prudent life, rather than a shorter, more interesting one.

                And that doesn’t consider the bureaucrat who decrees that everyone has to buy quality wine because everyone should be happy (and what could more logically lead to happiness than having a glass of quality wine every night with dinner?), never mind that some people don’t want anything to do with alcohol, or that some people prefer the cheap stuff, or that some people can *only* afford the cheap stuff, and thus buying the expensive stuff is a financial burden.

    2. Work?

      For what end?

      Canute’s ordering the tide out worked, since his end was to silence the hyperbolic flattery of his courtiers.

      Likewise, those who work to increase the minimum wage to flatter their egos about how wonderful they are at minimum cost to them — that works.

  11. I submit it would be easier to have a more robust earned income supplementation than to distort our economy with A minimum wage law of any kind.

    Like most (all?) Liberal pieties, the MW seeks to keep its costs obscure and diversified while highlighting and localizing its benefits. That still doesn’t make the lunch free. It would be more honest and more economically efficient to stick to direct income supplements — but it would also be much clearer to the public what the costs of such policies are.

  12. On the cost of the wall:
    My husband, mostly for gits and shiggles, conservatively estimated about $18 ish billion just on WAGs, very ball park “what can I come up with in 20 min because dang it I’m curious and have time to kill” figures for dimensions (likely on the low rather than high end he was aiming for a very rough MINIMUM). Not counting materials, law suits, congressional interference, and other similar expenses. He’s also not worked a government contract before as a mason so he doesn’t know what fees that would tack on. He’s also not 100% sure there are enough masons in the country not already committed to other things to actually grab enough of them to do it. So yeah, you could probably double the total without too much issue and still shoot under.

    He also figured getting it done before Trump left office would take a special kind of miracle.

    1. Not to mention: what happens if Mexico doesn’t pay? The country is already trillions in debt.

      1. I honestly don’t care if Mexico pays for the wall or not. I think that is a very short-sighted argument — if it prevents terrorists from coming in, and slows the drug cartels (I’m more concerned about the cartels and gangs than I am about the drugs, bad as they are), it will be well worth the cost. Shut down a few totally unnecessary government departments and we’ll save more than enough money to cover the cost of that wall, even if it triples in cost.

        The only problem is, if Canada keeps going the direction they are, we may end up needing one on that border, too.

        1. A fee on remittances home would “pay” for the wall — and reduce the benefits of illegal labor here by Mexican nationals.

          I’ve seen reports that the Trump administration is conferring with Israel on their methods of constructing such a security barrier and the figures were about a third less than what our estimates were. Some $ figures here:

          Copying Israel’s wall would cut Trump’s price nearly in half
          A virtually impenetrable fence quickly and cheaply built by Israel to keep terrorists and thousands of unwanted refugees out is fast becoming a model for President Trump’s wall as lawmakers begin to look for funding the top campaign promise of the 2016 election.

          Israel’s example is being bolstered Wednesday by a new report from Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson who recently visited the Jewish State and returned with an armload of evidence that the fence helping to keep Israel safe is one the U.S. government should consider.

          Just consider price: Israel’s fence cost $2 million a mile to build. The U.S. fence and wall have cost nearly double, at $3.5 million per mile.
          [END EXCERPT]

        2. You don’t need a physical wall.

          Just declare a prohibited zone and pay a bounty for any noncitizen taken there.

          1. What happens the first time somebody tries to claim a bounty on a citizen taken there?

            Don’t think for a moment that there won’t be useful idiots volunteering to “put their bodies between Uncle Sam’s terrorists and Saddam’s “baby milk factories” innocent migrants.

            1. Every solution has its price. What matters is whether you’re willing to pay it.

              I don’t see an actual, physical wall happening. And even then, it will get dug under, flown over, or floated around.

              Short of the CIA getting satellites with “go away” mind-control beams, there’s no bloodless solution. And even if the CIA *had* mind-control beams, that’d only work until people figured out how many layers of aluminum foil they needed to make their sombreros from…

            2. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Citizenship doesn’t excuse being an accomplice anywhere else.

            3. Fine the party for violating the prohibited zone the amount of the bounty, plus a bit more? Third offense is a time-out behind some bars for the slow learners.

    2. The cheapest way to stop drug cartels, illegal immigration and etc. on the southern border is to move the US Army Sniper school from Ft. Benning to Ft. Huachuca, and make the last week or so live fire exercises.

      And leave the bodies where they fall as a warning to the next people.

      1. That could get… very ugly indeed. There’s a LOT of traffic across that line. I did a bout of training out there. (Unrelated to immigration things.)

        1. Put up signs saying (in English and Spanish) “You will be killed if you go beyond this line”. If you’re feeling merciful, seed the area with a few realistic-looking dummies to drive the point home.

          Then do it. You might want to consider giving an award for accurate shots for violators. Doubled or tripled for journalists or demonstrators who pass it.

          No, I am not a nice person. Then again, I consider eliminating anyone stupid enough to ignore explicit warnings from the gene pool a positive thing.

          1. I suggested that to someone once who was horrified at the idea. I pointed out that that IS how some other countries patrol their border. A few days later she said, “You’re right. We could do it that way.”

          1. It’s not the snipers I’m worried about. Well, actually it is, but it’s more what the media will do to them unless we can, potentially add the media to the wrong side of that live fire exercise.

      2. I know an elderly co-worker who grew up on the Texas side of the Mexican border. He insists that the Texas Rangers used to do exactly that. There had been problems in the county from Mexican gangs crossing the river to rob Texas ranchers and it was more than the local ‘church deacons*’ could handle so The Rangers came down and hunted them, then staked the bodies out by the rail-line as examples. He was a small. Hold at the time, but says it made quite an impression on him.

        * He describes the local ‘deacons’ as ‘They didn’t bother to wear hoods because there were so few people in the county that everyone knew who they were anyways’.

        1. If the “gangs” were anything like the “raiders” up in California, given what they’d do to those they “robbed,” staking the corpses out as a warning was probably generous.

          Short version, there’s a reason I have no trouble believing anything bad I have thus far heard about Daesh.

      3. The cheapest way to screw up the drug cartels would be to admit that drug prohibition doesn’t work worth a damn, costs the flipping earth, and erodes basic civil rights, and halt the drug war. The
        last DEA figures I saw (late ’90’s, and hadn’t changed much for a decade) indicated that ‘regular users’ (once a month or more) of illegal drugs amounted to about 16 million people, of which 10-11 million were basically pot smokers, leaving 5-6 million out of (then) more than 270 million population. Slightly over 2%. That isn’t an ‘epidemic’, it’s a hiccup.

        Also, anything that gets the government the hell out of second guessing the treatment of chronic pain has to be a plus. It may sound mean of me, but if saving all those 6 million ‘hard drug’ users causes one person with legitimate chronic pain to be unable to get the opiates necessary to be relieved of it, the hell with saving the 6 million.

        1. When you have an organization full of agressive, lethal people used to making lots of money and your market goes away, do you (a) shut down your organization and tell those people to go work at McDonalds, or (b) find another market?

            1. What numbers do you want to look at?

              I can’t find any numbers for Colorado for 2015 or 2016.

              The cartels are still shipping illegal drugs (just not pot) to Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

              In fact they’re shipping more here because we had so many stoners move in from the rest of the country who brought *other* habits with them. Or at least other proclivities.

              We’ve still got people making, shipping, selling and using meth, heroin, cocaine, MDMA, LSD etc.

              I’m all in favor of winding down the war on drugs, I’m just pretty sure it’s going to have negative effects as well as positive.

              1. I’d look at the number in OD deaths from harder drugs, since the cartels can now get more of their supply from in-state sources.

                From memory, the black tar junk is getting more and more common, and they’re smuggling in (of all things) prescription pain pills, too. (not that THAT ends up in the news much)

                You still have to move the pot, of course, but shaking down locals is faster– don’t even have to kill anybody, most of the time.

              2. You mean like this:

                Doesn’t really show much of anything–Heroin/opioids tend to get popular when hope drops. Usually under a Progressive administration.

                It’s really too soon to tell how MJ legalization will effect things.

                > they’re smuggling in (of all things) prescription pain pills, too.

                Talked to a guy who did QA for Pharmaceutical Labs–or rather he did QA on the QA folks.

                Turns out there’s a big market for counterfeit pharmaceuticals.


              3. I’m sure you’re right, especially since the government (bless it’s nonexistant heart) will certainly botch legalization to some degree. But there was amperiod, during the run-up to prohibition, when multiple states had dry laws AND no laws against pot, cocaine, or heroin. And in each case, the primary social problem with drugs remained aclohol abuse. Now, cultures change. But the DEA firgures I was seeing in the late ’90’s seem to indicate that ours hasn’t changed that much.

                The ‘hard drug’ ‘epidemic’ is a hobgoblin that the State has used to makes us clamor for more police powers. Whenever you read about a SWAT team raiding a VFW poker game, that is fallout of the drug war; no-knock ‘dynamic entry’ (read; Eliot Ness style) raids became common because of the drug war. The idea that it is accemptable for agents of the State to kick somebody’s door in at 2am and throw flashbang grenades around (into cribs, in at least one case) is down to the drug war.

                And the drug war has been going on for a long time with no sign of progress.

                1. Problem: when you “hear about” horrible abusive raids the thing that is being sold, by the news and/or activists, is your outrage.

                  When you can get details, it frequently does not hold up at all– like that “kid expelled for bringing the one ring to school” story (actually got expelled for telling another kid he’d put his magician’s kit ring around the kid’s throat, strangle him to death, and hide the body so that nobody would ever find it…but the story the expelled kid’s father sold to the newspapers obviously did not include those details) or the “gun happy racist cop wanna-be guns down cute black teenage kid who was just walking to his dad’s.” (Actually ‘community watch guy notices adult-sized person acting strangely in a manner consistent with casing houses, when there has been a spate of burglaries, calls the police and ends up shooting teenager with known criminal issues after said teen beats his head against the cement walkway, then family lawyer releases old photograph and edits the story.’)

                  1. You make good points, BUT;

                    There is no goddamned excuse I can think of for raiding a VFW poker game. I don’t goddamned CARE if gambling is technically illegal. The goddamned STATE runs a numbers racket; they can leave the VFW (an organization I don’t usually have much time for) alone. I followed that story for as long as I could. I never ran into any reasoning on the police side that didn’t boil down to “Move along, nothing to see here.”

                    There is no goddamned excuse for raiding the wrong address, especially is you injure the people AT the wrong address. If you are going in like Gangbusters, it should be worth the jobs of every single person involved. It seldom even gets anyone in serious trouble. Multiple examples, each and every year.

                    There is absolutely no goddamned excuse for raiding a home where your intelligence has TOLD you there is a infant child and trowing flash bangs around so carelessly that one ends up in the crib, leaving the infant with life threatening burns. Furthermore, declining to pay the family just about anything they goddamned ask for in the way of medical expenses should be grounds for feeding any politician or bureaucrat involved into a meat grinder on primetime television.

                    One of the most infuriating developments in the last few years has been the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the way it seems to choose to mostly champion a parade of losers who probably deserved to be shot, while ignoring cases where the police behaved recklessly, or on information that was wrong and should have been checked, or some similar indefensible idiocy. It’s almost as if the establishment Left were acting to discredit the idea that the police should be held accountable for pseudo-military buffoonery.

                    I really do try to follow up. With a single exception (who was loathed by his own department), every actual police officer I have ever interacted with has been a decent person who has treated me well, even when I was in the wrong, and it was late and miserable out. I don’t LIKE being opposed to police. But the Militarization of the police, plus police unions makes for awful blunders that are never answered for.

                    And the militarization comes from the drug war.

                    1. There is no goddamned excuse I can think of for raiding a VFW poker game.

                      For the same reason people fire rockets from hospitals– they realize that decent people will respond that way.

                      Being in the VFW doesn’t automatically make you an awesome person, but it does make people less likely to look closely. It’s not like criminals are going to be reluctant to abuse other folks’ good nature, is it?

                      There is no goddamned excuse for raiding the wrong address, especially is you injure the people AT the wrong address.

                      And we’ve run into your demand for absolute perfection again– the conversation has dead-ended.

                      Zero errors is not possible, and holding only that stuff you don’t personally approve of to the standard does not allow for conversation.

                    2. Please allow me to clarify;

                      When I say “wrong address”, I mean not just an address that the police mistakenly believe harbors illegal activity. That kind of mistake I could understand. What I mean is, they have one address on their paperwork and raid another. I don’t expect zero mistakes. I DO expect the police to at least raid the address they got the warrant for.

                      Of course, if they weren’t kicking doors in over consensual crime, the consequences of such a wrong address would be a good deal less extreme.

                    3. I think you’ve misdiagnosed the problem: it isn’t that these types of “errors” occur, it is that the repercussions are inadequate to deter their recurrence.

                      Same problem as when IRS agents improperly delay routine approval of tax exempt status to “opposition” political groups or the EPA spills millions of gallons of toxic waste into watersheds.

                    4. Militarization might instead be caused by a) changes in litigation which make one guy swinging a club too much of a legal risk b) increased need to be able to handle PCP type berserkers who cannot reliably be made to comply through pain alone. Correlation is not causation, militarization happened over many years, and the emphasis on the drug war is not the sole thing to change in the lives of policemen.

                    5. > What I mean is, they have one address
                      > on their paperwork and raid another.

                      I’ve been on the receiving end of that. A full-on, Geraldo Rivera style drug raid, complete with two paddy wagons and a TV van, with uniformed thugs trying to kick in the front and back doors simultaneously.

                      Fortunately, they were as incompetent at that as they were for finding the right house. And despite all the manpower and the TV crew, they hadn’t bothered to get a warrant.

                      We had a nice armed standoff until a patrol car screamed up twenty minutes later, and they slid the warrant under the door. It then took about 0.2 seconds to point out to them they had the wrong house.

                      I wound up eating the property damage rather than go up against the city attorney in the city court against the city police. But if it happens again, I’ve nothing better to do nowadays. And off-site video surveillance storage. And a *really* bad attitude.

                    6. But Black Lives Matter needs those cases. If they made a stink about legitimate problems, cops could be prosecuted, reforms could be made, etc, thus taking the wind from their sales. Only by protesting doing the right thing can they guarantee their continued grievances.

                    7. @Foxfier:

                      Just to clarify, the VFW Raid I believe he is talking about weren’t a bunch of hardened criminals preying on the naive.

                      It was a bunch of old guys sitting around playing penny-ante (or nickel, or whatever) poker. No one was there under duress, no one was making YUGE bank, just some old military guys playing cards.

                      But SOMETHING must be done about illegal gambling, right?

                    8. There are a lot of “VFW hall raided for gambling” news stories. That’s because the VFW groups tend to rent out their halls.

                      The most recent that made news, in ’14, was definitely not “a bunch of old guys playing penny poker”– it was a group in a rented hall claiming to be a legit poker tournament raising money for charity. Charges were dismissed against the guys who got conned. (Who were also not a bunch of old guys, from the list of names and ages available in various Chattanooga news sources; average age seems to be high 30s, though the sample size is small; some were VFW members, though. Makes sense, it’s handy to have someone to watch the hall and lock up afterwards, so why not spend a bit for what you think is a good cause?)

                      It was also not sought out– there were multiple complaints filed, probably by people who figured out it wasn’t an actual charity; after a year of investigation on the organizers, they broke it up.


                      The most likely “outrage” is the ’07 one that is the only major source on– but if you dig around for a while to get any kind of specifics (it was Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1837), you can find the old news articles (copied and pasted) saying that they were raided specifically because it was not a friendly poker game, the “house” was taking a cut of the pot.

                      The police even PUBLICLY POINTED THIS OUT in the release on the story…which is a big part of why I do not trust the Reason brand.

                      It is also not at all uncommon for the Vice Squads to show up because some bright bulb bought poker machines and re-installed the coin catchers, so that they’re not toys anymore. (My great uncle had slot machines in his basement with the coin catcher removed so you could pull the money right back out.) Whole lot of those stories, and we’re not talking “one or two machines”– we’re talking dozens.

                2. And the drug war has been going on for a long time with no sign of progress.

                  Bullshit. We’ve had riots over the allegedly wrongful deaths of people with THC in their systems. Which would’ve gotten there with other chemicals which combined would have impaired risk assessment.

                    1. It’s a change. You did not specify progress for whom. As far as I know, riots in say the twenties and fifties were for other reasons.

                      In theory, one could purport to think that the riots will discredit the soft on drugs position, leading to legislation that will fix things by redefining manslaughter, homicide and murder as not applying to those dead with drugs in their system. In practice, that will never happen. Before there is sufficient support to send everything to hell by murdering the problem away, there will be consensus enough to fix things by actually effective means, or at least mitigate them to the point they are much less important. Interdicting trafficking has always been first aid, the center of gravity is the users, and most influential there how every one treats those close to them.

                      People who think that a kid dead with drugs in their system isn’t evidence of parental neglect aren’t as much discouraging people from using the stuff.

        2. That few? That’s what, six hundred Blokhin-months to cut the problem down to a manageable size?

          1. Keep in mind, the numbers hadn’t changed much in a decade (I spent a week checking almanacs), but ‘hard drug’ addicts tend to die in abiut 5 years (studies show they’d do better with a legal market, BTW). So, some die every year and are replaced by other addictive personalities who aren’t content with booze.

            1. Better as in die faster or slower? Did these studies consider that permitting lawful organizations to make and sell a chemical product that they know will kill the user permits lawful organizations to make and sell a chemical product that they know will kill the user? True legalization would be a boon to everyone interested in a final solution to the druggie problem, as drug users would consider their welfare less when making decisions about what to purchase and consume.

              Synthesize a couple of recreational drugs that metabolize together to cause organ failure. Sell them separate with dire warnings about consuming them together, and wait for the market to ignore them.

              Excepting the violent ones in their late teens, stoners should have a longer shelf life than five years. So the replacement rate for the real core of the problem shouldn’t mitigate the solution so much. Sixteen million is much cheaper than depopulating Mexico.

              1. You don’t even need to synthesize them. A lot of people mix alcohol with downers to get a longer, smoother high. Until they get so mellow they forget to breathe…

        3. Even a Constitutional amendment couldn’t stamp out alcohol, the drug of choice for millions. All it did was create a thriving criminal underground, and make criminals of people who patronized it.

          The Fed couldn’t get rid of alcohol… but they have successfully managed to tax it.

          Legalizing drugs wouldn’t get rid of the DEA, which has shoehorned itself into lawful prescriptions now, among other things, but it would make it hard for it to justify its current headcount. And the tax revenues would be nice.

    3. “He’s also not 100% sure there are enough masons in the country not already committed to other things to actually grab enough of them to do it.”

      Does the US Military no longer need to train combat engineers / SeaBees / etc.?

      1. He was doing his math from strictly the civilian/contractor side. He and I discussed a few other options after he’d written it up, but we never got to hard numbers on that end (Mostly because we discussed it right before bed and didn’t want to get the paper back out.)

        1. Actually I would expect SFF novels to be a plus in a science position resume. Many scientists are SF geeks, For HR or fuzzy studies like psych or sociology maybe not so much though it should be. The ability to look outside the box and articulate what you see is a valuable talent.

          1. It depends. When I was finishing up my physics degree, one of my professors told me, “You know, if you want to work in physics you’re going to have to give up that science fiction stuff.”

            I ignored him.

            1. Tell that to Dr. Pournelle, or Dr. Forward (Who started Tethers Unlimited with a Dr. Robert Hoyt Hmmm . . .).

            2. Asimov has a grudge against a chemistry professor who told him he got a bad grade because he couldn’t write. Asimov replied he hoped he didn’t tell his fans.

              OTOH, when he gave his doctorate presentation, the very last question had to do with a pseudopaper he wrote as a science fiction story.

              1. IIRC he was afraid that his story would be “brought up” in a bad way but apparently they saw it as the joke that he intended it to be and enjoyed it. 😀

    1. Writing novels got Isaac Asimov frozen out of teaching at Boston University, even though he was a tenured professor. He gave them the finger and turned to writing full time. After be became famous they tried to cash in on the relationship since he’d never resigned his tenure.

      (interestingly, the Wikipedia account makes it sound like Asimov chose to leave BU voluntarily; his own account is much different and quite bitter)

      1. As I recall, Asimov was prone to bitterness. He publicly repudiated his friendship with Heinlein, blaming Ginny for converting Bob from a Left to Right … and somewhat impugning Bob’s manhood for letting his second wife twist him like that.

  13. One problem is that no one alive today has actually experienced a true Capitalist ‘free market’ economy. There are simply shades of grey on the intensity of Soviet Central Planning economies. Trump mentions import tariffs; “Horrible, a distortion of the free market”. Liberals mention ‘living wages’; no screaming, but this is also a distortion of the free market. Trump should suggest that tariffs are necessary to provide all Americans a ‘living wage’.
    The greatest distortion, is of course Government regulations. I suggested to some Liberals in the family we should abolish the EPA. What!!! Then greedy capitalist could pollute to their hearts content!!! No. Any industry has inputs, a process and an output that is the product and the waste. Since the waste is a known thing, the method of eliminating it/mitigating the effects from the environment has probably already been created.
    Likewise, somewhere in our past we went from the Government protecting the workforce to the Government considering it another cog in their social justice program. I remember my first ‘real job’ where I was automating the Center’s personnel listing. The Secretary I was helping pulled out one of her old reports and I asked, what to the red dots and the 1/2 red dots represent. Well, quarterly, they were required to send to the EEO a report of the percentage of different racial quotas. No problem, I can add that… NO NO NO!!! You can not have any list or database containing racial identifiers. Hewlett Packard maintained our computer on contract, and the Government suggested that to maintain the contract, they would have to provide a listing of racial quotas quarterly. HP’s response was that they didn’t need our business that badly.
    The final insult I endured (I was a short-timer about to retire, so I didn’t really care), was the Navy’s VPP or Voluntary Protection Program; brought to you by the geniuses at OSHA. Note that ‘V’. The message came down from the Station Captain that he expected 100% compliance and enrollment in the plan. I of course, asked what exactly was the definition of Voluntary, but I of course, was a known trouble-maker. [My previous big issue was the Voluntary Credit Card for Travel, which, also was mandatory for anyone that traveled more than once a year. The Government used your personal credit rating to secure a line of credit, and often could not get around to reimbursing you before the bill was due. Several members of our Credit Union (I was Treasurer) had bad credit for late payments to the Government ‘free’ credit card. I told my Department Head, he could require me to have a card, but that I would ‘sue, sue, sue’. The Station Legal department told him; Don’t do it, he will win.
    These people are ‘qualified’ to determine minimum wage? They are not qualified to pour urine out of a boot with the directions on the heel.
    +2 points to RES for Raising the cost to drug smugglers in order to promote domestic industry is another benefit.

    1. > There are simply shades of grey on the intensity of Soviet
      > Central Planning economies.

      I beg to differ. They are much more like Nazi Germany’s planning. Remember the Soviets *owned* the factories, the Nazis just put a gun to the head of the factory owners and told them what to do.

      1. Oh dear, are you saying our wonderful progressives are more like Nazis than Commies? I wonder how they will react. You are correct. But both had the same vanity that central planning was superior. After all, that is why they are always excited about light rail… they get a tingly feeling up their leg at the thought of forcing the proles/untermenchen to use the train.

        1. [B}oth had the same vanity that central planning was superior.
          Central planning is superior. For the planners. Who else matters?

            1. I meant I don’t care how they react when I tell them that. If they want to get all brown shirt on me, well, I’m ok with that.

        2. The core delusion of central planning is the idea that the planners will get it right. As a Crank, my philosophy is that in anything complicated that involves large numbers of people ‘getting it right’ is more luck than anything else. Thus I feel that the odds are that what central planning does in force everybody to make the SAME mistakes, eliminating the pssibility that one set of mistakes will offset another.

    2. I of course, asked what exactly was the definition of Voluntary

      Well, as one of the drill sergeants in Basic told us, when they asked for a volunteer they expected us all to step up… because we volunteered when we joined the Army.

      And anyway, isn’t NAVY an acronym for “Never Again Volunteer Yourself”?


    3. The Government used your personal credit rating to secure a line of credit, and often could not get around to reimbursing you before the bill was due.

      They still do, and the paper for reimbursing doesn’t start until you get off orders.

      This includes flights around the world, if you’re going commercial.

      And no matter how long they take to pay you, the interest hits are yours.

  14. Walter Williams has a recent column about problems with minimum wage. Interestingly enough he looks to South Africa and how the white unions were FOR a minimum wage… but only for blacks, so it would price the blacks out of the market. Then he brings it home:

    Our nation’s first minimum wage law, the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, had racist motivation. During its legislative debate, its congressional supporters made such statements as, “That contractor has cheap colored labor that he transports, and he puts them in cabins, and it is labor of that sort that is in competition with white labor throughout the country.” During hearings, American Federation of Labor President William Green complained, “Colored labor is being sought to demoralize wage rates.”


    1. There are a number of racist little secrets like that about many of the Left’s favorite policies. See also gun control, birth control/abortion.

    2. Union rules of seniority and last fired, first fired tend to disproportionately harm African-American workers, as well. Federal minimum wage laws were also established to protect Yankee union labor from Southern price competition.

      Funny how that works.

  15. The thing that strikes me about minimum wage is how out of touch with current financial reality it is. The proposed $15 an hour minimum wage comes to $30K a year for full time work. Well, C and I have a combined income a bit higher than that. We moved from San Diego to Riverside last year, partly because we were being priced out of the rental market for one-bedroom apartments. There is no way $30K could support a family with children; I doubt that $60K could do so, even if you ignore the need to pay for child care to enable both spouses to work. And yet people in San Diego seem to think of $15K as a “living wage.”

    So why aren’t we seeing proposal to raise minimum wage to $25 an hour, or maybe $35 an hour? Could it be that advocates of minimum wage think it would be unrealistic to suppose that businesses could pay that much, or would go on hiring people if they had to? But they seem completely confident that businesses can pay $15 an hour, nearly twice the current minimum wage. It isn’t as if they had actually done studies to find how far pay rates can stretch; the studies that purpose to show that minimum wage doesn’t reduce unemployment seem to have look at increases by less than 25%, and the current increase is a lot more than that.

    I remember David Friedman suggesting that most people could imagine what they would spend their incomes on if all their current expenses miraculously vanished, and thus were prepared to accept that someone earning twice what they did had a reasonable need for it; but after that, it was “No one could possibly need that much money!” I wonder if some similar imaginative limit is at work here.

    1. The sanity of a national MW is only clear to those who imagine the cost of living in Norman, Oklahoma and in Santa Clara, California are comparable. Well, they must be: there are Whole Foods stores near each.

      1. Couple decades ago my friend transferred from the oil patch boonies of SoCal to oil patch central in Tulsa OK. He took a 10% pay cut as the company paid a 10% cost of living bonus for Californians doing the same work as Okies. He sold his 2 br condo in Yorba Linda and bought a 2500 sqft house on a 1 acre horse property for cash and had enough money left over to buy his teen age daughter a horse.

        1. Yeah, but he lived in Oklahoma. Almost as bad as moving to Texas.

          And had a horse.

          I guess horses ain’t so bad. LOTS of eating on one of them.

          1. Everyone at the home office thought Tulsa was the center of the universe.

            The daughter decided it was civilized due to availability of sushi.

      2. This. I have a friend in KS who raised a family one the money we could barely survive on in urban CO when we only had toddlers. I have friends in NYC who make what we do and barely make it as single people…

        1. So is $30K an annual income that could support a family in urban Colorado, or in Kansas? Just to get a point of comparison. I suspect that it’s seriously too little anywhere on the Clinton Archipelago, which implies that its pundits want some poor people to lose what jobs they have and the others to still be desperately short of funds. . . .

          1. It depends on what level at which you wish to live, and how big your family is.

            For example:

            Not even *rural*, and that’s not a “bad” neighborhood.


            Yeah, it’s out in Greeley, but if you’ve got 2-3 kids, and can work from there it’s not bad.


            This is out in Grand Junction, which is a big town (not a small city), but it’s hella livable.

            So yeah, you could make it on 30k a year here if you worked at it–shopped at the cheapest grocery store in town, Salvation Army and Walmart, bought an older car you could work on yourself etc.

              1. That’s why we’re buying a place in Arvada instead of

                But the 30k a year (as specified) is based on $15 (alleged living wage) multiplied by 2080 (number of hours in a year). If Greely/Colorado had that as a minimum wage…well, there would be a lot more automation so FINDING a job would be difficult. But working the assumptions in that, you could get a job down at the local stop and rob and keep a kid and a wife on that wage. Barely.

                1. Relatives in Greeley, CO report that it’s now an oil shale-patch town, with way too many newcomers driving up all the prices, so that one might be a distorted data point.

      3. A friend of mine is an engineer in Memphis. His employer sent him to San Francisco for six months, and put him up in an apartment near Presidio.

        He made *excellent* money; enough that he had no debt and paid cash for a Corvette. But then he found out that just the rent on that apartment was more than he actually made…

        While wages and real estate vary widely across the country, consumer items are about the same. $150 for broadband is a serious monthly expense in one place; just a decent restaurant meal somewhere else.

    2. And the reason you’re priced out of 1 BR apartments, much less larger one- is because of government regulation out there that limits the supply. Don’t know if CA has statewide rent control. That would do it also.

      1. California does not have statewide rent control. And if San Diego had rent control, it would have been much less likely that the price would have made it impossible for us to find a place to live, though the waiting time might have been prohibitive.

        In any case, the people who want to raise California minimum wage are probably not going to do away with zoning restrictions that keep housing expensive. So the higher minimum wage still won’t pay for housing. In fact, it seems plausible that if higher minimum wage did actually raise people’s incomes, the high pay would largely go into bidding up the price of housing. . . .

        1. Generally the “rent control” in California (at least in the Bay Area) was that landlords could only increase rent by 10% (IIRC) per-annum.

          They could, however, increase the rents as much as they wanted if the tenant moved out.

            1. Nah, landlords are just like that.

              I’ve lived in 21 places since 1984, not counting military deployments. Had a lot of landlords. Some of them are cheap bastards, but most are just cheap.

    1. Wildlife and livestock would be a big problem with mines. You can’t drive cattle through a wall to create a gate. (Unless it was built by the lowest bidder.)

    2. Actually you don’t want to use mines. To dangerous to work around. You use mass produced artificial cockleburs seeded over the area. The cockle that get picked up are tracked and the response can vary as needed. Send out a drone to investigate. Analyze movement patterns and determination if it is wildlife or humans, then alert ICE. Engage automated mortars. Etc. just have a good lockout ragout if you use the mortars. Very low cost and flexible area denial system. DARPA did the groundwork at least a decade ago.

  16. Your post reminds me of the Franklin quote:
    “I am for doing good to the poor, but…I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed…that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.” Benjamin Franklin

    On the immigration subject, I have very mixed feelings. We get a lot of immigrants who simply do not “believe in” America’s founding ideals. They don’t want to become Americans but want America to be whatever they came out of just with more of the stuff money can buy. That would be less of a problem if our education and entertainment industries were dedicated to teaching and spreading those ideals–those coming over fresh might not believe in liberty and self-reliance, but their children and grandchildren largely would. Instead “education” and “entertainment” are largely dedicated to denigrating those very ideals. The result is breeding up new generations opposed to everything America stands for.

    Indeed, there must be something deeply appealing in those American ideals for them to have held on so long and so well in the face of such organized opposition.

    “New Media” and indie publication is, at least, giving us a chance to end-run around those entertainers and educators opposed to American ideals. I’m not sure that the tide has turned yet–saw too many false starts in that direction in the past–but we’re maybe seeing a start from which some momentum can be built.

    1. On reflection, I wasn’t really clear on the “mixed feelings” aspect regarding immigration. Mixed because, if we had an education and entertainment industry that taught and lauded America’s founding ideals, rather than just the opposite, then I’d be all for immigration being nearly wide open. Yes, we’d get a lot of people who don’t believe in those ideals coming in, but many of their children, and most of their grandchildren, would.

      But we don’t have that. We have entertainment and education industries that are actually opposed to ideals of liberty and self-reliance one that makes excuses for our enemies and encourages those within our own ranks, that actively opposes assimilation. So when the people who don’t believe in those ideals come here, they remain opposed, as do their children, and their grandchildren.

      And if not stopped one way or another, the “turn American into a third world hellhole” will eventually outnumber the rest of us with disastrous consequences.

  17. I bow to Thomas Sowell on the subject of his gains from a low minimum wage and the external costs of a higher and higher minimum wage. See also indexed minimum wage. Agreed that the minimum wages bandied around today have all the defects of an indexed minimum wage in inflationary times – there isn’t enough value there to justify the amounts in question as the minimum.

    That said the minimum wage serves an important and a useful function in a market economy. Assuming a market economy is desired then it follows that approaching the conditions of a model market economy is desirable. These conditions include market information.

    When I knew something about it USDA published a useful market letter (data maintained on a legacy DOS system written up with Word Perfect but that’s a story for another day. It worked; the manual seeking of today’s prices and input of daily data was the nuisance part) for agricultural products. Sellers at a port of entry, say Nogales, could ship toward a region then toward a market then toward a stall. Labor is not nearly so mobile but in Theory where everything works it might be and in reality ultimately is more or less at least for breadwinners.

    Similarly a worker knowing the minimum wage can estimate a minimum wage job, a better than minimum wage, first step raise and otherwise make better informed decisions in the job market.

    Keeping the workers ignorant is an important goal of management. When I knew something about it at a major Puget Sound employer mere national defense secrets like a zero day flaw in the Minute Man launch console logic – it was fail safe, system shutdown not launch – were common knowledge while HR guarded its secrets well – and I add stupidly. A friend of mine did some top dollar short term consulting during a brief lay-off. Negotiating to come back HR took that as his prevailing wage while gone and paid him grossly over market to come back and work for his old boss doing about the same work he’d been laid off from. With blind hiring it took his old boss three iterations of a customized job request and him three iterations of a job application before HR matched the two back up.

    Clear cut doesn’t have to be large area. Some of the timber companies do strips then look to volunteer seedlings with seeding from both sides. No idea how that is working today if at all.

    Agricultural labor can often be handled locally if it is accepted as seasonal work. Where I live seed potatoes are a big deal because the winter weather is cold enough that blights (and rusts and smuts and… ) are not an issue and the crop hasn’t failed yet. Schools are closed for harvest and anybody who wants to pitches in though as fewer people want to the market finds a way to substitute. Driving if nothing else is easy enough. The problem with a paid employee market for seasonal agricultural labor is earning a year round wage in a seasonal market or being migrant. Winter wheat farmers can be at loose ends with the crop in the ground covered by snow but the hired hand can’t do much to earn his money. Apple growers need a mob today, nobody yesterday and nobody tomorrow.

    I’ve walked over national borders. Nice to think of a wall as a simple all it costs is money – and a few lives – solution and it may be part of a closed border system. In my younger days I’ve have volunteered to deter coyotes from IMHO taking advantage of travelers and of the U.S.. But the only way to close the border effectively is a defense in depth in which strange travelers in Phoenix or Sandpoint better have an American Express card. At that price in terms of civil liberties my willingness to participate or oppose tilts the other way in favor of a good for Jews in the Attic test.

    Bottom line, on conservative principles, I’d be inclined to go slow about abolishing a traditional minimum wage unless the information is otherwise available.

    1. Less than 4 percent of (and this is critical) ALL hourly paid workers work at, or below minimum wage. Since that includes all tipped employees (which I would guess are the majority of the minimum wage earners), and that doesn’t include salaried people in the equation, there just aren’t that many people in the “makes minimum wage” bucket.

      The biggest impact would be on those whose contracts specify a multiple of minimum wage, or a percentage over. But they’re mostly union, and their unions can figure that out.

      1. That’d explain why the usual offers here are ten or fifteen cents more than minimum wage.

        I guess it makes the statistics look better.

  18. Rumors that Toni Weisskopf drove by a home depot and said “I need to people to write novels” and Larry and I jumped in the back of the truck are somewhat exaggerated, but a similar effect is seen in my field, not from illegal laborers but from academicians moving into writing.

    *gets the giggles* Ooooh, the PC police are gonna go nuts….

    1. Myself, I’ve been tempted to ask which Home Depot…

      AFAIK, all of my ancestors are from well north of their heritage – but give me two or three weeks working in the back yard every day, and I pass. (Now, I would have to hope that Toni doesn’t know Spanish – I can fake the broken English, but Spanish, no…)

    2. “Rumors that Toni Weisskopf drove by a home depot and said “I need to people to write novels” and Larry and I jumped in the back of the truck are somewhat exaggerated”

      Change “home depot” to “science fiction convention” and it’s less exaggerated still. 😎

  19. This is something I’ve been saying for many years now; if you want to significantly reduce illegal integration then remove the minimum wage. If an employer must resort to illegally low wages or other illegal practices to stay in business then they will necessarily favor the illegal immigrant over a citizen because a citizen can agree to the illegal wave or practice without consequence and later provide evidence for criminal and/or civil charges. The illegal immigrant has an incentive to not take recourse through the legal system. Besides, the minimum wage is always made moot by inflation. A cabbage picker is always with the same regardless of government interference. If we pretend that all cabbage pickers are paid a legal wage then the price of cabbage will increase as well every other product at the bottom end of the past scale. Once those prices increase then all other prices will follow because the value didn’t change, only the numeration of the value changed.

    1. > If an employer must resort to illegally low wages
      > or other illegal practices to stay in business then

      …then they should be fined or imprisoned.

      There’d probably be fewer illegal aliens if there were fewer criminal employers subsidizing them.

      1. I’m not opposed to that in theory, or even much in practice, but in some cases it really is a vicious chain of events. Company A decides to use illegals to improve their bottom line, so company B decides to follow to remain competitive, and suddenly companies C-Z have to follow suit or be driven from the market. If laws had actually been enforced back with company A, the whole chain of events may have been stopped, but instead we’ve now got entire industries built on illegal labor and none can compete with legal labor.

    2. As an empirical data point on th impact of things like this: When the US economy tanked in 2008, a lot of people went home to Mexico to ride it out there.

  20. Deserving poor who could not make their own way got charity. Underserving poor who would not make their own way got stepped over and left behind. Government has driven out charity, replaced it with entitlements, and we all worse off for it.

  21. A few things to add –
    * Don’t forget the taxes. Minimum wage isn’t minimum. Once you throw in the social security and everything else government it’s about 30% higher. One more incentive to pay under the table.

    * All things being equal – it’s easier for an American employer to hire foreign workers than domestic workers. Someone on a work visa isn’t going to file EEOC complaints, need time off for birthdays, hangovers, or bar mitzvahs, apply for unemployment the second you fire them for cause (and make you sit through those senseless interviews trying to prove that yes, you did tell them in writing that they couldn’t steal from the till), or get crabby that you’re not paying $7k a year for their health insurance. During the GOP debates Trump was asked about hiring Eastern Europeans for his hotels’ peak seasons. He made some crap up about not having enough locals for the jobs. Being honest would have been better – they’re just easier to work with. The government has made it a nuisance to hire Americans. I say this as a hotelier who’s staff is entirely American born. I can’t afford to pay green card holders; they ask for too much money. So I hire Americans and put up with the crap, all to save a buck.

  22. “A man can seduce me by whispering in my ear ‘Taxation is theft.'”

    That’s you. But until theres a libertarian Barry White, the movement probably won’t get much traction.

  23. What are the chances of getting rid of this bad idea whose time should never have come, but which has been with us for over a hundred years?
    Conservatives: right in theory from the get-go

    So. About that wall. How much do you think it will cost to build and guard?
    Alt-Right: Have unhappy reality down cold.

    Now if we could just get that happy medium going…

  24. See original for embedded links to data.

    The Self-Funding Border Wall
    By Mark Krikorian — February 16, 2017

    I’ve made no secret of my opinion that enhanced efforts at the border are less important than other measures in regaining control over immigration. I think the enforcement benefit of the next dollar we spend would be greater in, say, implementing an exit-tracking system. But the idea that we can’t afford a border wall has never struck me as plausible.

    Well, it became even less plausible when my colleague Steven Camarota ran the numbers. It turns out that if a wall reduces the expected illegal flow by just 9-12 percent over the next decade, the wall will pay for itself.

    The report is based on data from the National Academies of Sciences, the Institute for Defense Analyses, and the Heritage Foundation. It estimates that each illegal border-crosser represents a net fiscal drain of nearly $75,000. (Including their children would make the drain even larger.) If the border wall prevented 160,000 to 200,000 illegal crossings over the next decade (out of a projected 10-year total of 1.7 million successful infiltrations), it would be enough to cover the estimated $12 to $15 billion in construction costs.

    There are caveats and qualifications, though they cut both ways. The NAS based its cost estimates on “net present value,” meaning it discounts future costs; the savings would be even greater using a different accounting method. On the other hand, half of new illegal aliens are visa overstayers, to whom a wall is irrelevant. What’s more, the wall will be built with federal funds, while much of the cost of immigration – and thus the savings from better enforcement – is borne by state and local governments (which will probably just squander the windfall).

    But no tweak of the numbers can change the basic fact that letting unskilled people settle in the United States costs taxpayers a pile of money. And letting fewer in will save money. So even without a remittances tax or a hike in visa fees, even a minimally effective wall won’t in the end cost American taxpayers anything. That may not be as sexy as “Mexico will pay for it,” but it’s good enough for government work.

    [Emphasis Added]

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