Here Are the Six Steps of Denial for Minimum Wage Opponents

Step 4, as described by the Seattle Times Editorial Board.

Step 4, as described by the Seattle Times Editorial Board.

In a brilliant bit of aggregation, Working Washington has collected all of the Seattle Times Editorial Board’s anti-$15 editorials in one post. Using headlines and a line or two from each of the 15 editorials the Ed Board has published, the post runs in chronological order from October 2013 to two days ago, and it spans the fight for $15 in both SeaTac and Seattle. It’s a fascinating look at how opponents always respond to arguments for raising the minimum wage with the same canned replies. And this collection is particularly interesting because it provides a taxonomy of the steps of denial that minimum-wage opponents go through. Here they are, in order:

1: Apocalyptic threats.  “…forget about anyone building another hotel in the city of SeaTac,” the Editorial Board warned in their very first anti-$15 editorial, as though travelers would suddenly stop needing places to sleep because the minimum wage increased. Less than a year later, when Seattle started considering a $15 minimum wage of its own, the Editorial Board warned that doing so could “undercut the economy’s resurgence,” thereby casting us forever to the hellhole that was the Great Recession.

2: We’re through the looking glass, here, people! It’s vital for minimum-wage opponents to try to trigger feelings of shame and alienation in municipal areas by pointing out that they are doing something that has literally never been done before. Surely if nobody else has raised the minimum wage this high, it must be a bad idea, right?  “SeaTac has just volunteered to conduct an economic experiment on itself,” the Editorial Board warned. Then, when Seattle got in on the fight, the Editorial Board’s metaphors got a little eerie: “Seattle is about to take off on a flight unfathomable just a year ago.Oh, no! You mean like in Lost? They try to shame the city for standing alone: “Significantly, no other local city is proposing such a broad wage hike.” They warn that “the higher [the minimum wage] goes beyond historic precedent, the higher the risk.” This step might go extinct as more and more cities and states embrace $15, but it’s likely to be replaced by more region-specific shaming: “okay, it worked in Seattle,” other editorial boards might claim, “but it would never work here because of a lower cost of living/landlocked geography/we live in a red state/our city’s name doesn’t rhyme with ‘Seattle.'”

3:Calls for take-backsies: Once the laws have passed, the Editorial Board tries the classic cry of “you’ll regret this!” They quote so-called experts who are willing to make dire statements warning that raising the wage “is a pretty dramatic change and could have some significant impacts.” They call for a panic-button that can be pushed so the law can be immediately withdrawn the moment something baaaaaad happens: “Seattle’s leadership must promise the law is not etched in stone…If the most dire predictions are realized, the City Council must revisit assumptions it used in passing the highest minimum wage in the country, and reopen the law.”

4: Calls for quarantine. After it becomes clear that there’s no turning back, the Editorial Board wants to treat the area as though it’s just suffered an outbreak of swine flu: “Will investors stop building hotels in SeaTac? Will airlines change operations to avoid higher labor costs here?…Caution is warranted.” They warned other areas considering a raise that they should not “let the rhetoric of the minimum-wage debate obscure this fact: Seattle is gambling with its economy.” These gambling-addicted regions should be contained under non-porous domes, the Editorial Board charges, so the rest of the world can watch and see what happens.

5: Bargaining. Here’s where it gets really sad. The Editorial Board tries to get special treatment for some business owners, as in the story headlined “Seattle’s minimum wage law unfairly discriminates against franchise owners.” And they even try to take away the increased minimum wage for some people: “Washington should consider reducing the minimum wage for 16- and 17-year-olds.” If they can’t shrink the minimum wage for everyone, they at least want to carve out as many special-interest groups as possible, to make them ineligible for the increased wage.

6: But what do we really know, anyway? This is a riff on quarantining, in which they argue that in order to appear rational, we must wait until all the evidence comes in. (Presumably, all the evidence will never come in.) In their most recent editorial against a $13.50 statewide minimum wage, the Editorial Board warns that “the jury is still out” in Seattle, that since enough time hasn’t passed—and really, who knows what quantifies “enough time?”—they can’t recommend the change for everyone else. After the wage was raised in SeaTac, the Editorial Board quoted someone who said “I would counsel the folks in Seattle to see how it goes in SeaTac.” Presumably, if the Editorial Board had their way, we’d still be waiting to raise the wage here.

The most amazing thing about these six steps? None of them are based in reality. The apocalyptic threats are untrue. Claims that raising the minimum wage is unprecedented are patently false. Demands to insert a back-door into the law are just a desperate attempt to turn back the tide. Calls to quarantine the region are just a desperate attempt to keep other cities from realizing that a higher minimum wage would be good for them. Attempts to carve out smaller groups from the increased wage are an attempt to diminish the positive impact of the law. And cries of ignorance after the wage has been raised are simply an attempt to obfuscate the positive impact that anyone who lives in an area that has raised the wage can see with their own eyes.

I have a message for the Editorial Board. Speaking as someone who has dealt with grief, speaking as someone who has quit smoking after a pack-a-day-for-12-years habit, I understand that these steps are totally necessary. Humans can’t adapt to major change without a long process of mental gymnastics. That’s fine. It’s totally normal. But what’s not normal is to keep cycling through the first six steps again and again, as you’ve already done now with SeaTac and then with Seattle. Do you really want to go through this whole frustrating six-step cycle again, on the state level? It’s time for the members of the Editorial Board to finally come together and take that important leap to the seventh, and most important step in this process: Acceptance. Trust me, it feels great up here.

Daily Clips: April 29th, 2016

Oklahoma court decides it’s not technically rape if it’s oral and she’s drunk: Good god. This 5-0 decision is sickening and sets an awful precedent.

We know we hate the establishment-but do we know what it is? The term gets thrown around a lot. Has it lost it’s essential meaning as a result?

Brooks bemoans Donald Trump’s nomination: Schadenfreude in column form.

Obama’s economic disappointment: Yesterday, I featured the New York Times feature article on Obama and his economic legacy. Here is an entirely different take. The title kind of tips the author’s hand.

Tweet of the day:



Daily Clips: April 28th, 2016

President Obama weighs his economic legacy: We’re now at that self-aggrandizing stage in a president’s term where they start to “cement” their legacy. Barack Obama certainly used this feature article in the New York Times to do just that. He speaks at length about the state of the US economy and how it’s not actually as bad as many Americans seem to think. The president does an admirable job of selling his economic policies.

However, at times, the president sounds like he doesn’t respect the economic anxiety of many Americans (or their economic acumen):

Asked if he was frustrated by all the criticism, Obama insisted that he wasn’t, at least not personally. ‘It has frustrated me only insofar as it has shaped the political debate,’ he said. ‘We were moving so fast early on that we couldn’t take victory laps. We couldn’t explain everything we were doing. I mean, one day we’re saving the banks; the next day we’re saving the auto industry; the next day we’re trying to see whether we can have some impact on the housing market.’

I understand that he got thrust into a terrible economic situation, but this comment clearly shows his disdain for public opinion. It reminds me of ObamaCare’s architect Jonathan Gruber’s comments about “the stupidity of the American voter.” Too often, this administration passes the blame onto the American people, and I find that to be the sign of weak/ineffective leadership.

A conversation with Joseph Stiglitz: Gillian White at the Atlantic sits down with Stiglitz to discuss inequality in American society.

Trump’s new campaign slogan? “America First”: Jingoism 101.

Tweet of the day:


The $15 Minimum Wage Is Apparently a Time Traveler

Raising the minimum wage is powerful. Powerful enough to lift millions out of poverty. Powerful enough to reduce dependence on social services, such as food stamps. And, apparently, powerful enough to go back in time and change unemployment numbers for teens and also spur lawmakers to create policies to address those numbers.

At least, that’s what the conservative bloggers over at ShiftWA seem to think—which would certainly explain their apparent fear of a minimum wage increase. I mean, if it’s so completely able to change the arc of time, what can’t it do?

teen unemployment minimum wage

Their most recent example of the minimum wage’s might is Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s youth employment initiative which, they say, is a direct response to the massive decline in youth employment as a direct result of the gradual ascent to $15. First pointed out by right-wing think tank the Washington Policy Center, the initiative is designed to help encourage businesses to hire more youths, and to train young people to make them more job-ready. Because, according to WPC and Shift, it’s the minimum wage that has made it so hard for them to get hired.

Nevermind the fact that Washington’s schools are literally criminally underfunded, which could contribute to a dearth of teens with necessary skills the join the workforce (according to the Mayor’s office, “nearly 70% of employers report graduates are deficient in critical thinking and problem solving skills essential to successful job performance”)—no, the reason teens and other young folks can’t get hired is because of a law that went into effect just about 400 days ago.

That makes perfect sense, assuming that the minimum wage increase was somehow impacting employment long before it actually became a law, let alone went into effect.

Washington state has had high numbers of teen unemployment for years; a 2011 report found that “Washington teens are only slightly better off than teens in Georgia when it comes to unemployment rates” (for reference, the 2011 minimum wage in both of those states was and $8.65 and $5.15, respectively, so it’s safe to assume that was not wage-based, either). A few years later, in 2014, Washington’s minimum wage had gone up, while its teen unemployment rate had gone down to about 25%.

Today—post minimum wage increase—it’s 13%, according to the city.

Part of the reason for the decrease? Youth employment initiatives like the Mayor’s, which have existed for years and are kind of a staple in city, county, state, and federal politics. Programs like Youth at Work and the (partially) privately-funded Summer Youth Employment Program have been actively trying to place kids in jobs because it’s good for the economy, not because the minimum wage has made them impossible to hire.

Murray’s youth employment initiative is likely not intended to cover up the blunder that is the minimum wage ordinance, but rather, to fulfill a promise he made in his State of the City address this year, wherein he addressed the racial achievement gap that has plagued Seattle since long before anyone uttered the words “$15.” From his speech (wherein he announced the doubling of the youth employment initiative among other investments in racial equity programs that have nothing to do with the minimum wage):

I believe that when our young black men are at their best, Seattle is at its best. My vision is that in 10 years, all of Seattle’s young people will have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits that come with a growing city and a growing economy.

Yes, that definitely sounds like an elaborate coverup of a failed policy and not, you know, a politician addressing a systemic issue that is failing thousands of King County residents.

Unless, of course, you believe that the minimum wage is so vastly powerful that it has managed to reach back through decades to change the course of history specifically to ensure that at this very moment, the Mayor is forced to (horror of horrors) take affirmative action to help vulnerable community members find jobs because some other community members are now pulling down what’s close to a wage they can live on. Yes, that explanation makes sense.

minimum wage facts

The minimum wage: It’s magical AF

Daily Clips: April 27th, 2016

How to persuade rich people to pay more taxes: The author looks at various “cognitive errors” of rich individuals and how these affect their views on taxes. I’m not entirely sure that we’ll ever be able to convince the wealthy to pay more taxes. The people we actually need to persuade are the 99%. We need to create an economic narrative and theory which adequately explains why higher taxes on the wealthy is good for everyone, including the top 1%.

Smaller US goods trade gap seen boosting first quarter GDP growth: “The U.S. goods trade deficit narrowed sharply to a one-year low in March, as both imports and exports fell, suggesting economic growth in the first-quarter was probably not as weak as currently anticipated.

The racist roots of Virginia’s felon disenfranchisement: Fascinating historical analysis.

Why Tuesday was a very good night for Senate Democrats: 

1) The establishment’s preferred candidate won in PA (Katie McGinty). While “McGinty has her struggles…but she comes from a working-class background and would be the state’s first female senator.”

2) They’ve got a potential new leader in Chris Van Hollen. Here’s his victory speech from last night:


New Report: Want to Lower Incarceration Rates? Raise the Minimum Wage.

From the Wikipedia article on Incarceration in the United States.

From the Wikipedia article on Incarceration in the United States.


Max Ehrenfreund at the Washington Post reports on a fascinating new look at how to lower mass incarceration numbers.

Mass incarceration is failing to prevent crime, according to the Obama administration — so much so that the president’s staff is looking in a few unconventional places for new ideas on public safety.

For example, raising the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour could prevent as many as half a million crimes annually, according to a new report from the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, a group of economists and researchers charged with providing the president with analysis and advice on economic questions… The authors consider a few ways of reducing crime. They forecast that hiking the federal minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $12 would reduce crime by 3 percent to 5 percent, as fewer people would be forced to turn to illegal activity to make ends meet. By contrast, spending an additional $10 billion on incarceration — a massive increase — would reduce crime by only 1 percent to 4 percent, according to the report.

Of all the many reasons to raise the minimum wage, I have never once seen reduced incarceration mentioned as a benefit, so that’s certainly something to be added to the list.

But I also need to point out that America’s shameful incarceration rate is not a problem that can be fixed with strictly economic solutions. Much of our prison problem has to do with systematic racism, and many of the incarcerated were put there due to dumb, overly aggressive drug laws that target people of color and/or poor people. This is a problem that spans generations; it has ruined neighborhoods and families and many, many lives.

Resolving our problem with rampant incarceration is not going to happen with the passage of a single law. We need a suite of laws and policy on a national level to begin to address the problem—drug law reform, sentencing reform, reinstating voting rights for people who’ve done their time, finding ways to make re-entering the work force easier, encouraging programs that cut recidivism. Raising the minimum wage is important—if people make enough money to survive, they’re less likely to do something desperate that will force them into our criminal justice system in the first place—but it is only a first step in a very long journey that this country must agree to take.


Daily Clips: April 26th, 2016

How Reaganomics, deregulation and bailouts led to the rise of Trump: A really powerful piece of journalism on how the American voter has been duped into believing trickle-down economics. I found this passage in particular to be precise and distressing:

It took Everyman on Main Street some time to figure out that they’ve been had and finally revolt — 35 years to be more precise. There has been no shortage of big promises since Reagan’s “It’s Morning again in America,” but in the end, they all left the middle class staring into thin wallets while their manipulators were living high on the hog. The failed big ideas began with Reaganomics. The stimulating effect of its tax cuts was supposed to “trickle down” to the masses, but the flow had the viscosity of molasses and stuck with the ultrarich.

More American children and teens aren’t just obese. They’re morbidly obese. According to Vox, “new research suggests” that “the fraction of adolescents with severe obesity — a body mass index of 40 or greater — has more than doubled from 0.9 percent in 1999 to 2.4 percent in 2013 and 2014.”

Federal judge upholds voter ID law in North Carolina: The land of the free.

Tweet of the day: Take a bow, Yglesias.

Remember: Bathrooms and Guns Don’t Mix

Something about the conservative argument sure does stink.

Something about the conservative argument sure does stink.

Sometimes two very different hot-topic news stories combine into one ugly Frankenstein’s monster of a newspocalypse. Those kind of car-crash current event moments are most likely to happen in Florida. The Orlando Weekly reports that gun-lovers and the anti-trans bathroom bills have finally reached a boiling point:

After Target announced its transgender customers and employees can use store bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, Orlando-based Liberty Counsel president Anita Staver said she would be taking her Glock .45 into Target’s restrooms, saying the gun “identifies as my bodyguard.”

I mean, the cravenness of the move is almost admirable: Staver is combining the current conservative anti-trans panic and the perennial conservative pro-gun fever into a perfect storm of idiocy and opportunism. Staver says by bringing her gun into restrooms in Target, she is seeking “protection from the perverts who will use the law to gain access to women.” (Somewhat related: I wrote about the NRA’s very bad advice about bathroom gun etiquette last month.)

This is fear mongering of the highest order. I mean, Staver is practically reaching Glenn-Beck-in-2009 levels of apocalyptic panic, here. Her portrayal of bathrooms as lawless zones where anyone can and will be attacked with full approval from the government is beyond over-the-top.  But more importantly, her combining of trans bathroom issues with rampant gun culture reveals a serious logical fallacy in the conservative position.

Let’s for a minute consider the conservative opposition to trans bathroom access: without strict laws to enforce the division of genders, they argue, bathrooms will be overrun by sex offenders attacking women. Presumably, those laws will empower business owners to verify the genders of people who use restrooms in their establishments. It’s unclear how that will happen, especially since in many states it’s possible to change your gender on your drivers license with the help of a physician.(Here are the laws in Washington state; you can look up laws in the rest of the country here.)  Maybe business owners will be deputized to do genital checks? Did anyone think these laws through?

So the line between government-endorsed bathroom assaults and sane civilization, conservatives argue, is…a law. And yet gun-lovers like Staver absolutely adore the fallacy that argues if you pass gun responsibility laws, only criminals will have guns. Armed with Reason in 2013 published a fantastic post refuting right-wing ideologues like Sarah Palin, who argues that “The bad guys, the criminals, don’t follow laws and restricting more of America’s freedoms when it comes to self-defense isn’t the answer.”  Staver’s combination of anti-trans laws and the glorification of guns highlights a real intellectual inconsistency in her rhetoric.

I’m confused here: which is it? You simply can’t have it both ways: if scofflaws can ignore gun laws, what’s keeping scofflaws from ignoring bathroom laws? Or is it possible that the pro-gun lobby is simply using their argument to keep sane gun responsibility laws from being passed, while the anti-trans protesters are using laws to normalize their bigotry? It’s almost as though these conservative arguments are reductive and opportunistic. Or something.

Worse, Staver’s public buffoonery suggests and glorifies violence against trans Americans, which is a growing problem. The fact that it’s okay in America in 2016 for someone to discuss her intention to murder someone in a public bathroom is not just a political talking point—it’s an indictment of the state of our discourse.