Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Scott Walker vs. the Walton Family and McDonald’s’ CEO

The left claims they’re for American workers, and they’ve got lame ideas, things like minimum wage. Instead of focusing on that, we need to talk about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go well beyond minimum wage.

Scott Walker, yesterday

Yep, raising the minimum wage and instituting policies that get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage definitely are mutually exclusive.  Which I presume is why “the left” never, ever talks about getting people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage. They’re talking about raising the minimum wage instead!

When Clinton, Sanders, Obama, whoever, proposes free community college and free or low-tuition state university access, they always make clear that those proposals are alternatives to, not in addition to, raising the minimum wage.  It’s one or the other; not both.

So really, it comes down to three alternative choices: (1) raise the minimum wage (the Democrats); (2) or make community college and state universities free or low-tuition, by supporting them through state and federal funding (the Democrats); or gutting state funding for state university and community college systems (Scott Walker).

We do indeed need to talk about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.  And talk, we will.  Or at least the Democratic primary candidates will; not sure that the Republican ones will, since neither Walker nor any other the others has, yet.  But, I mean, maybe Douglas Holtz-Eakin has some ideas that he can pass along to one or another of them.  Who knows?  Maybe to Scott Walker!  Ideas about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage, while further gutting the federal and state tax bases, at least for the wealthy and for corporations.

Of course, we also need to talk about how we get people jobs that employ those newly acquired skills and qualifications—the ones they needed to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.  Presumably jobs that pay more than the minimum wage.  Scott Walker apparently is unaware that there are huge numbers of people who have skills and qualifications for good jobs but haven’t found a good job, some of them who lost the one they had.  Or maybe he’s aware of it and wants government to get out of the way.  Let Detroit go bankrupt!  Kill the National Labor Relations Act!  And the Fair Labor Standards Act!

In any event, it’s completely unclear where people will stop in for hamburgers and fries, and where they will buy extremely cheap household items, once the fast food industry and Walmart have ceased to exist because there no longer are Americans who lack the skills and qualifications for good jobs and they’ve all found good jobs because we elected a Republican president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law that says that the way for people to get good jobs is for people to get good jobs.  Rather than, say, electing a Republican president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law that says that the way for people to get full-time jobs is for people to get full-time jobs although with no promise that they will be good jobs and instead might be full-time minimum-wage ones.*

And certainly rather than electing a Democratic president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law significantly increasing the minimum wage, thus precluding persuading Congress to enact legislation than would assist people in getting people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.  And precluding even talking about it!

The good news for us Dems is that if Walker wins the nomination, we won’t have to worry about Walmart and McDonald’s exercising their First Amendment speech rights by donating to Walker’s campaign or Super PAC, since if he wins he will put them out of business.

*Paragraph edited slightly for clarity. 7/15 at 10:09 a.m.


ADDENDUM: Okay. Just want to clarify, with the following exchange between reader Carol and me in the Comments thread:


July 14, 2015 3:11 pm

I was just curious, maybe I haven’t been listening closely, but when do Democrats state that education and the minimum wage are mutually exclusive? The minimum wage would be a short term solution to the fact that we have more and more people working in minimum wage jobs (that require a lot more skills than hamburger flipping, but hey, who cares about that discussion?) who can’t even feed their family, including those who have been pushed out of jobs that paid OK into jobs that don’t during this last and current depression. Education and training are long term solutions to meet a work world that (foolishly in most cases) wants more and more certification for jobs that don’t warrant the training. OJT really should be what should be provided, but most employers are too short-sighted and stupid to invest in their workers (see how many tolerate huge turnover when the real solution would be adequate pay and OJT). Whether education really should serve as the free training ground for employers who don’t even know what is needed is dubious. Education is always a good, but jobs training? Each business has specific skills, and from where I sit no one wants to take the time to show their employees what those are, preferring the sink or swim method. I see the massive stupidification of management as a big issue, and employees suffer.


Beverly Mann

July 14, 2015 3:56 pm

Damn. I forgot to say that this post is sarcasm. It’s sarcasm, Carol. The Democrats have not stated that education and the minimum wage are mutually exclusive. Scott Walker said that; the Democrats have not. The Democrats do understand that raising the minimum wage for people who right this very minute have minimum wage jobs—a large percentage of Walmart employees, fast food and other restaurant workers, hotel workers, and many, many others—does not actually preclude training people for non-minimum-wage jobs.

As [commenter] Denis Drew points out, the Germans have figured out how to train most of their workforce for non-minimum-wage jobs. And, largely because German labor has a big say in how businesses are run there, through co-determination worker councils that bring the workers into the design and manufacturing process throughout, Germany has managed also to actually have non-minimum-wage jobs available to their skilled workers, through increased productivity (the kind that economists talk about; not the kind that Jeb Bush talked about a few days ago).

Now that that’s clear ….

Added 7/14 at 4:10 p.m.


UPDATE: Am I reading too much into this, or did Oklahoma’s Republican Party call Walmart and fast food chain minimum-wage workers who receive food stamps animals who live in national parks?

Whoa. If the Republicans keep this up, the Walmart family and fast food chain executives will start their own Super PAC.  To help Democratic candidates!  If a Republican wins the White House, their companies might have to start paying their employees enough for them to afford groceries.

Added 7/14 at 5:45 p.m.

Tags: , , , , , , , Comments (18) | |

Okay, so Douglas Holtz-Eakin thinks that proposing policies that have been proposed before but have not been adopted (or are no longer in force) is the same as proposing policies that have been adopted and are still in place. Seriously, he completely conflates the two.

Many conservatives breathed a sigh of relief after the speech, having feared a fresh set of innovative proposals that might have required serious responses. “I think it’s a horse race between what’s more tired, her or the material,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “There really isn’t anything new here. It’s really more of the same, and I don’t understand how that would produce an outcome different from the last six or seven years.”

Clinton speech react: ‘Is that it?’, Ben White, Politico, today

Okay, I realize that the Republicans have settled on a tactic of pretending that Democratic economic policy proposals that either never were in place or that have been repealed (e.g., Glass-Steagall) or have been dramatically altered (a progressive income tax system; e.g., large government expenditures for infrastructure, college funding, science and medical research) don’t work because they currently aren’t working.

But if Douglas Holtz-Eakin truly doesn’t understand how implementing policies that have never been implemented, and reimplementing ones that worked very well during their existence, might produce an outcome different from the last six or seven years, he’s not very smart.

The subtitle of White’s article is “The Democratic front-runner manages to underwhelm both Wall Street and its reformers in her signature economic policy speech.”  And I myself certainly would like to see an end to what feels like a repeated tease.  It’s past time for her to stop announcing (or hinting) that she’ll be announcing specific policy proposals on such-and-such day, and actually announce specific policy proposals.  The generics phase of her campaign has more than worn out its welcome, I think.

I, of course, hope that the Republicans actually expect to convince people that the George W. Bush administration’s and current Kansas’s, Wisconsin’s, New Jersey’s detaxification/disinvestment policies—the ones that were enacted, not just proposed—worked, and that earlier, far more progressive tax policies didn’t, and that the deregulation of the finance industry was a good thing and the laws that the deregulation juggernaut repealed held back the economy of the postwar decades.  That way they’ll keep up their Mad Hatter routine long enough for someone—Bernie Sanders, if not Clinton—to ask them, rhetorically, which of the policies Clinton and other Democrats are proposing are currently in place.  And which of the policies that the Republicans are proposing more and more and more of worked during the Bush administration.

Or, for that matter, during the Hoover administration.  Jeb Bush has said that the way to raise GDP substantially is for people who have part-time jobs and want, but can’t find, full-time jobs to get full-time jobs.  Isn’t that similar to what Herbert Hoover’s economic plan was in 1930, and in 1931, and in 1932?  The way to end the Great Depression was for the unemployed to get jobs?

Maybe not.  Maybe Hoover just never thought of that plan.  Jeb Bush, though, has thought of it.  And if he’s elected, we’ll see how it works.

Tags: , , , , Comments (4) | |

Douglas Holtz-Eakin: Balancing the Budget Is Just a Sales Gimmick to Gut the Federal Government. And We Republicans Think It Will Work! [UPDATED]

But several right-leaning fiscal experts described a balanced budget as a tool to force a fractious Congress to tackle the nation’s long-term budget problems.

“It is important to reduce the debt, and balancing gets you there faster,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and a prominent Republican economist. “That’s paramount.”

He said a balanced budget is a goal everyone could understand. “It gives Congress a way to say no,” he said. “Transparency and political buy-in are important, and people understand balanced budgets. It has a lot of virtues.”

So there we have it.  Balancing the budget is just a sales gimmick by Republicans to gut the federal government.  And they think it will work.  As both a sales gimmick and of course as a way to gut the federal government.  

People may understand what balanced budgets are, but they do not understand balanced budgets.  They would, if we had a president willing and able to explain such complexities to the masses, and to explain exactly what Holtz-Eakin just has, to the readers of today’s New York Times: that, while it is important to keep budget deficits below a certain level relative to revenue and relative to GDP over the long haul, it is not important to actually balance the federal budget. But the Republicans can convince the public that it is, because people understand the concept of balanced budgets, and can thereby, via semantics trickery, accomplish the Republican goal of gutting the federal government.

But we don’t.  Have a president who is willing and able to explain such complexities to the masses, that is.

We do, though, now have Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who has just provided a nice quote, should other Dem politicians recognize its value and decide to use it.  Here’s hoping.


UPDATE: Regular AB reader and commenter rjs and I just had the following exchange in the Comments to my post:

rjs:  as an economist, he should know that as long as we’re running trade defcits, it impossible for the feederal government to run a balanced budget while the private sector is deleveraging

Me:  He probably does know. But he also knows that the public doesn’t know that. (I didn’t.) And when you’re goal is really to gut the federal government, and you think you’ve found a way to con the public into thinking your goal is something else, that’s all that matters.

These people are downright diabolical.

Tags: , , , Comments (18) | |