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$15 Minimum
Blue Contradictions Coming to the Fore

Shortly before California Governor Jerry Brown announced a plan to boost the state’s pay floor to $15 per hour, President Obama’s economic advisers released an ominous report warning that low-paying American jobs were particularly vulnerable to automation. Vox reports:

This year’s [Economic Report of the President] contains a striking prediction about the effect of robots and automation on the job market … Low-paying jobs (those paying less than $20 an hour, or under $40,000 a year for full-time workers) have an 83 percent chance of being automated. Medium-paying jobs ($20 to $40 an hour, or $40,000 to $80,000 a year) have a 31 percent chance, and high-paying ones (more than $40 an hour, or more than $80,000 a year) have only a 4 percent chance.

Brown’s minimum wage scheme will, of course, artificially raise the cost of hiring the most at-risk workers. Though the robots are not ready to take over quite yet, an onerous wage floor only incentivizes further research into automation. This whole situation is a bizarre illustration of the layered contradictions contained in the blue coalition: anti-inequality crusaders want a radical minimum wage hike, which will likely have the effect of raising unemployment (and welfare eligibility) among economically deprived blue constituencies. Meanwhile, those most likely to benefit down the line from these kinds of moves are the socially liberal Silicon Valley executives and venture capitalists, who bankroll the Democratic Party despite some of their dearly held libertarian beliefs.

And this is but one example of how the blue model functions as an engine through which savvy wealthy people use the illusions of the Left to extract profit from the poor and working class. Other examples include: Guild protections for elite professionals that raise prices and reduce opportunity for less-credentialed workers; finance regulations that give hedge funds a leg up on less-sophisticated investors; and a constellation of higher ed regulations that enrich top administrators while impoverishing adjuncts and sending students deep into debt.

All these blue regulatory ideas are intended to address real concerns—access to a living wage, to quality professional services, or to retirement security—at a time of economic transition and dislocation. The question is: How do we weather this period in a humane and sustainable way? In almost all cases, the blue approach will have the opposite of its intended effect, favoring privileged insiders at the expense of those it is intended to help.

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  • Greg Olsen

    Raising the level of public dependency is a feature not a bug from the perspective of an elected Democrat or civil servant.

    The greatest damage of the Brown proposal is the impact on the poor communities of the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada Mountains. It will be destructive to rural communities, hastening the decline of agriculture and the extractive industries so hated by the coastal elites.

    • Neo

      There is no water, so who will notice ?

  • Andrew Allison

    The robots are already displacing workers in fast food chains (Google “fast food robots”). Next up, I suspect, will be agriculture — with devastating results for one of the largest employment sectors in California.

    • AD1980

      Not sure that agriculture will go that direction anytime soon. Not unless the cost of illegal labor increases and as long as we have open borders I don’t see that happening.

      • Andrew Allison

        Four years ago, in 2012, 95% of the California tomato crop was harvested mechanically. I bought my first machine harvested wine (an absolutely extraordinary Chenin Blanc) in the late 60s and suspect that well over half of CA grapes are now harvested mechanically. Stone fruit is also being harvested mechanically. Governor Moonbeam just gave growers a huge incentive to expand mechanical harvesting. You are correct that, as I wrote, the employment prospects for illegals also increased. The question is, for how long.

  • Anthony

    On the other hand, TAI, this is not a Blue Model issue, not a Silicon Valley issue, not a Left issue, not a Guild Protection issue but an American issue (economic and political) – requiring an American recognition that democratic capitalism is an evolving system that responds to transitions by radically transforming both economic relations and political institutions.

    To that end, “if the world is too complex and unpredictable for either markets or governments to achieve social objectives, then new systems of checks and balances must be designed so that political decision-making can constrain economic incentives and vice-versa. If the world is characterized by ambiguity and unpredictability, then the economic theories of the catalyzing transition period – rational expectations, efficient markets, and the neutrality of money – must be revised.

    On the whole, it is not the Blue Model, elites, “globalization, poor negotiation tactics, regulation, low-wage Mexican workers, or the overly clever Chinese that bear responsibility for what is ailing America. The responsibility lies instead with politicians peddling ideology over practicality – and thus with the citizens who elect them, as well as those who don’t bother to vote at all.”–bradford-delong-2

    • Of course, you’re citing a Clinton-Obama Leftist.

      • Anthony

        I knew nothing of the man’s politics; I cited his insightful perspective – information may be relevant whether one agrees with source or not.

        • Fred

          So wait a minute. Are you suggesting that a person’s biases and cognitive distortions are separable from his or her arguments and that dismissing the latter on the basis of the former is an ad hominem fallacy? What a novel concept. I wish I’d thought of it. Now if you’ve learned to apply that concept to your interactions here, that’s significant growth, and I applaud you for it. Keep stretching those limitations!

          • Anthony

            See Oct, 23, 2014 reply and April 2016 update.

          • Jim__L

            Anthony, from the evidence here, Fred is not stalking you. No one is seeking or singling you out.

            From time to time various people on this board come across your posts and decide to reply. Frequently those replies are critical (there’s a lot to criticize, believe it or not) and many are frustrated — sarcastic or angry, even.

            Your reactions are reminiscent of nothing so much as a World Cup player (or maybe a toddler) who has experienced inadvertent contact with a playmate. It’s victim mentality at its worst.

            No one here knows who you are in real life, and no one cares. No one here can do anything to actually hurt you, and if anyone tried, I’m pretty sure the posters here on TAI (Fred and myself included) would condemn it.

            We’re engaging in free, public discussion. It’s the Internet, so there is some rough and tumble — which is really not bad on this site, all things considered.

            Please consider the content of your critics’ replies. The old Dominican adage, “Never deny, seldom affirm, always distinguish” might help you deal with critics in a constructive way.

            And by the way, feel free to call me on it if I’m not following my own advice. =) That happens sometimes.

          • Anthony

            Look young man talk about what you know and write to someone else.

          • Tom

            Playing by your own rules would be of benefit in this matter.

          • Anthony

            Obviously, you have nothing to do; this post is more than 72 hours old. I’m done here and don’t know what you’re referencing but it’s immaterial. Thanks.

    • JimB

      “The perfect is the enemy of the possible” is an old political adage. From another source “That which cannot continue, won’t”. We are experiencing the consequences of a lot of feel-good legislation set up over the years by an increasingly dominant political class. Think about the rule-making that bypasses public vote. And the amount of money sucked up by government at every level. Maybe we have reached critical mass.

      • Anthony

        Whatever critical mass is to be reached, one thing not to be denied is that there is a sense of the end of an era. The current political mood (in some instances) seems to suggest as much. But tearing up no longer viable arrangements may lead us where without true understanding of causes, motives, and ends.

        Also from another source, “I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, not to hate them, but to understand them.” (Baruch Spinoza)

  • Matt B

    I sure hope the ATM that will be making my Big Mac will accept food stamps!

    • John Stephens

      Food stamps? Your information is severely out of date, it’s all done by EBT cards now. I admit I don’t know if they can be used to purchase fast food, but if not it’s a simple thing to change.

      • AD1980

        In the drive thru windows around Phoenix, I’ve seen plenty of signage saying they accept EBT cards.

      • Jim__L

        A few years ago on a Burger King near me, there was a huge banner visible from the freeway, that announced that they accepted EBT.

        So will 7-11. You can see the labels next to the price tags on the candy bars saying they’ll accept EBT.

  • “favoring privileged insiders at the expense of those it is intended to help”

    Another classic example. Affirmative Action preferences in Ivy League admissions. On the face of it, intended to give Black and Hispanic minorities access to treasured educational opportunities. In reality: a boondoogle to protect the white upper class against competition from hard-working motivated Asian competitors.

  • m a

    “All these blue regulatory ideas are intended to address real concerns—…”

    No. No they’re not. They are intended to do exactly the things they will accomplish, the things that are quite easily seen as the logical consequences. These folk do understand these regulatory ideas will have net negative affects on the poor. They don’t care because this is about sucking up to their power base/supporters. This is an opportunity for graft, for enriching cronies, for politicians to ensure there’s a revolving door from government to industry jobs.

    Its exactly the same as gun laws, laws which are justified as efforts to reduce crime when they can not possibly achieve that. Evident in that every mass shooting results in proposed laws that even the authors admit would not have prevented the incident cited as justification. Gun laws intended effect is their obvious and logical one– reduction in the ability of the law abiding citizen and people collectively to defend themselves. To preclude them from being a threat to the government. The fact they’re now more vulnerable to criminals is an unfortunate side effect to the law’s intended goal.

    • Greg

      Exactly. Gun control is not about guns; it’s about control.

  • Neo

    You just got to understand the logic.

    If low-paying American jobs were particularly vulnerable to automation,
    then simply raise the minimum wage so they aren’t low-paying any more.

    • Fifty Ville

      There is no logic there to understand.

      • f1b0nacc1

        I believe that is his point

  • Terenc Blakely

    “President Obama’s economic advisers released an ominous report warning that low-paying American jobs were particularly vulnerable to automation.”

    A feature not a bug. Lefties want a growing, ever desperate, permanent underclass utterly dependent on their largess to survive. Such an underclass not only is a means for lefties to attain more power, it satisfies their autocratic impulses.

  • johngardner

    Don’t despair California businesses! An excellent business environment exists right across the state line in Nevada while leaving many of you close enough to service California markets!

  • JimB

    New Yorkers of a certain age will remember the Automat.

    • sukietawdry


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