Posts by Goldy

WHYY Duped by Fake Research Director at Fake Think Tank Citing Fake Poll

No one takes the Employment Policies Institute seriously

I grew up in Philadelphia, so I’ve got a ton of respect for WHYY, the local NPR and PBS affiliate (perhaps best known nationally as home to Terry Gross’ award-winning Fresh Air). Which is why I was so sorely disappointed to see WHYY’s “Newsworks” website give op-ed space to fake-think-tank anti-minimum wage shill Michael Saltsman: “Op-ed: Raising minimium wage won’t flip the Senate.”

I mean, for chrissakes, why not just print a goddamn press release?

Saltsman claims to be the research director at the mendaciously-named Employment Policies Institute, which likes to describe itself as a “non-profit think tank” while in fact being neither. Indeed, Saltsman’s faux-think-tank is actually just one of several profitable front groups run out of the DC-offices of lobbying and PR firm Berman and Company. And if the editors at WHYY think I’m exaggerating, they might want to listen to this 2014 interview with Terry Gross, in which the New York Times‘ Eric Lipton explains how this scam works:

LIPTON: Yeah, I was – you know, set up an interview with the research director. I got the address of his office. I went to the eighth floor of the building on Vermont Avenue, like four blocks from the White House. The elevator opens, and it’s Berman and Company. And I go in and, you know, there’s a bunch of awards on the wall, advertising awards, public relations awards that Berman and Company has won for its work, you know, doing ad campaigns on behalf of various industry groups.

And so I didn’t see any evidence at all that there was an Employment Policies Institute office. And in fact when I started to interview the people there, they explained that there are no employees at the Employment Policies Institute and that all the staff there works for Berman and Company, and then they sometimes are just detailed to the various think-tanks and various consumer groups that he operates out of his office.

And he bills them, sort of like a law firm would bill various clients.

Wow. What a great scam. And it has been from the Employment Policies Institute’s start. (Note: I refuse to refer to the organization by its three-letter abbreviation, EPI, because it was obviously named to sow confusion with the real EPI, the pre-existing and pro-minimum wage Economic Policy Institute. Hell, not-EPI even apes EPI’s favicon, causing me to repeatedly click on the wrong browser tab.)

A Tale of Two EPIs

What a bunch of shameless trolls.

Legally, not-EPI is registered as a tax-exempt 501c3 (or, illegally one might reasonably argue), so it doesn’t have to report the names of its funders—though it’s safe to assume its money mostly comes from the restaurant, accommodations, and retail industries. As for how it spends its money: “more than half” of its multi-million dollar budget is paid to for-profit Berman and Company for staffing and operations, an “atypical” arrangement that prompted Charity Navigator to issue a “Donor Advisory.”

For WHYY to allow Saltsman to misrepresent himself as a “research director” at an “institute” is just out-and-out irresponsible. He’s a PR flack, period. And as for the content of Saltsman’s op-ed, well, that’s just as bullshitty as its author.

Saltsman argues that Republicans shouldn’t run away from their longstanding opposition to the minimum wage, based on the thesis that opposing the minimum wage didn’t hurt them 2014. Oh please. First, even without Trump tearing apart the fragile Republican coalition, 2016 was always going to be an entirely different electorate than 2014; Democrats simply turn out in far greater numbers during presidential elections than they do during the midterms. Second, there has been an undeniable and dramatic shift in public opinion over the past couple years in favor of substantially raising the minimum wage.

Those are just facts. There’s no disputing them. Which perhaps explains why Saltsman felt forced to resort to inventing a poll:

This matters. My organization used Google’s consumer survey tool to survey 500 Pennsylvanians who plan to vote this fall. Over 40 percent of respondents said they were no more or less likely to vote for a candidate based on their opposition to minimum wage.

Well, if his PR firm conducted an online poll, I guess we should just take his word for it. It’s almost as ridiculous as his anecdotal citation of a single business closure in booming Brooklyn as evidence that a higher minimum wage is wreaking havoc on the New York economy.

I can sum up Saltsman’s “research” in six words: No data. No methodology. No credibility.

Saltsman is nothing more than a fake “research director” at a fake “institute” citing a fake “poll.” WHYY and other media outlets should be ashamed for allowing him to present himself as anything other than what he really is: a paid spokesperson for the hospitality and retail industries.


Damn You, $15 an Hour Minimum Wage!

Seattle Food Service Employment

Courtesy of friend of the blog, Invictus.

Anybody who actually lives, works, or eats in Seattle knows firsthand that our local restaurant industry is booming. But for those of you on a raw data diet, the Federal Reserve of St. Louis serves up the above bland-if-nourishing graph that confirms the intuition of our eyes and tastebuds: Seattle’s restaurant industry is booming. In fact, despite the doom and gloom predictions of minimum wage opponents, food service industry employment in the greater Seattle metropolitan area has actually accelerated since adopting our phased in $15 ordinance.

Damn you, $15 an hour minimum wage!

Of course, the graph above represents all of King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties, so what about Seattle proper? That’s not as easily discernible from the Fed data, but as Paul pointed out last week, a new report from the University of Washington finds wages, jobs, and hours up for Seattle’s low-wage workers over the first year of phase-in, without any observable negative impact on businesses:

The data are coming in, and they prove that contrary to the empty threats we’ve been hearing from conservatives, the sky has not fallen. Our job market is strong. Our workers are working more hours and making more money, which they are then spending locally, which allows employers to hire more people to meet with increased demand. Seattle’s march to the $15 minimum wage is right on track.

Yeah, I know, it’ll take years to tease out the full impact of the $15 ordinance, and even the analysis will be somewhat speculative and subjective. But so far, predictions of job losses remain theoretical while workers’ wage gains are very, very real.

The Real Cost of ST3 Would Come from Not Passing It

Sound Transit

Kudos to Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom for breaking down the taxpayer cost of the proposed Sound Transit 3 measure, especially his explanation of how property taxes really work:

Chances are, you’re now wondering if transit property taxes would skyrocket after 2017, presuming home values continue their rapid rise.

They wouldn’t.

Tim Eyman’s Initiative 747 capped the increases in property-tax collections for most local taxing districts at 1 percent, excluding new development.

So the average ST3 property-tax bill would increase 1 percent in 2018 and beyond. As a rate, the initial $25 would gradually decrease, if values rise.

Sure hope his paper’s editorial board digests this explanation before once again misinforming readers with bullshit claims that the property tax “would rise with the real-estate market.”

But as much as I appreciate Lindblom’s evenhanded explanation of the cost of passing ST3, I wish he had spent a couple hundred words explaining the high cost of doing nothing. And the cost is huge—assuming commuters value their own time.

According to Sound Transit our region’s population is expected to grow 30 percent by 2040—that’s about a million more people crowding our roads, ferries, buses, and rails. And they’re going to have to get to and from home, work, school, shopping, and leisure somehow. Build ST3 and many of these additional trips will occur on bus and rail. Don’t build ST3 and most of these new trips will be forced onto our already congested roads. While building ST3 isn’t likely to make our traffic better, it is almost certainly going to make it less worse.

How much less worse? I can only speculate. But even a modest reduction in the increase of cars on the roads would generate huge payoffs for those of us who continue to drive.

The math is actually quite simple. Imagine just a 10 minute difference each way on your daily commute—about 20 additional minutes a day stuck in traffic with a million more people and no ST3. Figuring 50 work weeks a year times 5 workdays a week, that’s an additional 83 hours a year of commuting without ST3 than with it. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Seattle’s mean hourly wage is currently about $30 an hour. So if you value your time, that would come to about $2,500 a year in opportunity cost lost in rejecting ST3, compared to an average $169 a year in new taxes (per adult) if we pass it. Hell, even if building ST3 only saves a minute each way from our daily commutes, the average taxpayer still comes out ahead.

And that’s just your daily commute. Throw in all the other times you find yourself stuck in traffic at all hours of the day and night, and those minutes start to really add up. It quickly becomes apparent that both collectively and individually, the cost in lost time and productivity from not building ST3 far, far exceeds the cost of building it.

Of course, that’s a lot harder to quantify than ST3’s $53 billion price tag. But it’s worth a mention.

Carl’s Jr. CEO Concern-Trolls Workers Whose Jobs He Wants to Automate

Lost in Space

Danger, Will Robinson: I’m coming for your job!

Writing in an op-ed on, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s CEO Andy Puzder warns about “The Harsh Reality of Regulating Overtime Pay.”

Turning highly sought-after entry level management careers into hourly jobs where employees punch a clock and are compensated for time spent rather than time well spent is hardly an improvement on the path from the working class to the middle class.

“Highly sought-after entry level management careers,” my ass. During my coverage of the fast food strikes in 2013, I heard from a number of fast food workers who turned down “assistant manager” promotions because the extra 50 cents an hour wasn’t worth the extra 20 hours a week of unpaid overtime work. But either way, Puzder’s alleged concern for employee welfare is nothing short of ironic coming from a guy who fondly muses about the idea of replacing all of his workers with robots:

“They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case,” says Puzder of swapping employees for machines.

What a charmer.

The harsh reality is that CEOs like Puzder couldn’t give a shit about the welfare of their employees (let alone the welfare of their franchisees’ employees). “Millennials like not seeing people,” Puzder explained to Business Insider in describing his robotized utopia. So if he could have automated all his workers out of their jobs, he’d already have done so.

But he can’t. So he hasn’t. Likewise, you can be sure that if Puzder could run his restaurants with fewer employees working fewer hours he already would be. So don’t expect to see any overtime-rule-induced mass layoffs at Carl’s Jr. or Hardee’s anytime soon.

Of course, it’s not just Puzder wiping away crocodile tears on behalf of the 12.5 million Americans who will soon be forced to endure higher pay for fewer hours at the cold unfeeling hands of government bureaucrats. Paul’s got a rundown of various conservative objections to the new higher overtime threshold, and frankly, they all strike me as rather weird. Most bizarre is the repeated assertion that salaried workers would somehow prefer to go unpaid for their overtime hours rather than suffer the humiliation of having to “punch in” like a lowly hourly prole. “Forcing More Workers to Punch a Clock Isn’t Progress,” cries Koch-funded Carrie Lucas at the National Review.

Oy. Speaking of things I’d like to punch.

Puzder proudly describes himself as a member of the Job Creators Network—a network with close ties to notorious D.C. public relations firm Berman and Company, and from the looks of their landing page, apparently consists of rich old white men concern-trolling on behalf of the young off-white workers they pay poverty wages. (Um, maybe they should’ve focused-grouped their website’s white-man-on-top motif?)

Job Creator's Network

2015 Webby Awards winner for “Most Condescending Landing Page”

But Puzder and his Job Creators Network buddies aren’t really interested in creating jobs at all. Quite the opposite. Like all self-interested businesspeople, they’re focused on minimizing their labor costs as much as possible. And if that means a brave new world of employee-free restaurants, Puzder is eager to embrace the future without an ounce of regret: “I want to try it,” he told Business Insider.

So enough already with this paternalistic bullshit about defending “entry-level” workers from the dangers of higher wages and more benefits. It just isn’t believable. And it never has been.

$15 Then! (Yet Another Reason Why a $15 Minimum Wage Isn’t as “Insane” as You Think)

Last night during the Democratic debate, when asked if she would sign a $15 an hour federal minimum wage should the bill come across her desk, Hillary Clinton snapped back, “Of course I would … if we have a Democratic Congress, we will go to $15.” Clinton has previously backed state and city efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15, but this is the first time she’s on the record supporting that number at the federal level.

My, how far the $15 movement has come. And yet, not quite so far as it first appears.

Back in 2012, when New York City fast food workers first walked off the job demanding a $15 minimum wage and the right to organize, the political and media establishment collectively rolled its eyes at such an “insane” demand. But that was back when $15 was still worth, well, $15 — at least in 2012 money. Four years later, adjusted even for our current anemic rate of inflation, those same three five-spots are only worth about $14.46. And not even Bernie Sanders is talking about jumping to $15 now. He proposes a gradual phase-in through 2022 (a full decade after that first fast food strike!), when $15 will only be worth about $12.80 in 2012 dollars.

That’s not nothing. But in today’s money, it’s about $4,600 a year less than what those fast food workers were striking for. Because inflation!

So yeah, the rapid progression of $15 from fringe idea to the most loudly shouted about point of agreement in the Democratic debate is nothing short of amazing. Still, whatever your first impression of the proposal, it’s important to remember that $15 now isn’t the same thing as $15 then.

Free Marketeers Are Losing the Debate (and Their Minds) Over the Minimum Wage

Milton Friedman

If Milton Friedman were alive today, he’d be…

Writing in The Week, Shikha Dalmia, a senior analyst at the libertarian Reason Foundation (motto: “free minds and free markets”), adds absolutely nothing to the minimum wage debate beyond the same old 1980s-era trickle-down bullshit:

Progressives have gone crazy over the minimum wage.

As opposed to conservative Republicans, who I guess are sanely campaigning on promises to deport 10 million immigrants, build a giant border wall, carpet bomb Syria/Iran/whoever, return us to the gold standard, and punish women who have abortions.

President Obama got the ball rolling when he called for hiking the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. Now, both Democratic presidential candidates are trying to one-up him, with Bernie Sanders demanding a $15 federal wage and Hillary Clinton $12. Meanwhile, California and New York have already passed laws mandating the Bernie rate, and scores of cities across the country are clamoring to follow suit.

Actually, President Obama first got the ball rolling back in 2008, when he campaigned on raising the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour — equivalent to about $10.50 today (about 40 cents below the 1968 inflation-adjusted peak of $10.90). So, yeah, Obama’s been pretty damn consistent on this issue, like, forever.

As for Hillary Clinton’s proposed $12 an hour minimum wage, phased in over five years, by the time it would be fully implemented in 2022, it would stand about 30 cents below the 1968 inflation-adjusted peak. So again, no historical outlier here.

And while Bernie Sanders’ $15 minimum wage would represent an inflation-adjusted high, he too proposes phasing it in over five years, so it’s not quite the jump it first appears: about a 22 percent premium over 1968 (but about half what it would have been had the minimum wage kept pace with productivity gains as it had done over its first 30 years).


So I’m failing to see what’s so “crazy” about all this.

And all the while, minimum wage advocates are making increasingly fanciful claims on behalf of their beloved laws.

The left’s minimum wage obsession dovetails with a shifting academic consensus that until the 1990s considered such hikes a recipe for killing jobs, especially for low-skilled workers.

If by “fanciful claims” Dalmia means  touting the latest “academic consensus,” then yes, guilty as charged.

For a long time, the generally accepted rule of thumb was that, all else remaining equal, every 10 percent increase in the minimum wage would decrease low-skilled employment by 1 to 2 percent, since the more employers had to pay these employees, the fewer jobs they could afford to provide.

This consensus began to fray with a 1992 study by economists David Card and Alan Kreuger, who found that New Jersey’s minimum wage hike — from $4.25 to $5.05 — did not lead to expected job losses in the state’s fast food restaurants.

In other words, the “generally accepted rule of thumb” was refuted by, you know, actual data.

This finding has been hotly contested,

… by free market ideologues like Shikha Dalmia…

… but even if it were true, it doesn’t mean there are no other downsides to minimum wage laws. For example, sometimes employers don’t respond to minimum wage hikes by laying off workers, but instead by raising prices for consumers.

Actually, if she bothered to read the latest academic literature instead of just reflexively dismissing it, Dalmia would learn that rising prices (along with increased worker productivity, reduced turnover costs, and rising consumer demand from higher paid workers) is prominently part of the mechanism that explains why rising wages do not result in net job losses.

(Minimum wage opponents haven’t helped their case by hitching it almost exclusively to job losses while ignoring the other, equally pernicious, adjustment responses by businesses.)

No, they most certainly haven’t helped their case. But that’s mostly because their equilibrium theory is so clearly contradicted by economic reality.

There is only one scenario, according to Naval Postgraduate School economist David Henderson, under which a modest legally mandated minimum wage might do more good than harm: when employers enjoy monopsony power (a monopoly on the buying side) in the labor market, either because there are very few of them or because workers can’t leave for some reason. Employers then have a relatively free hand to hold wages down. A mandated minimum wage under those circumstances merely diverts the firm’s “excess profits” to the worker, something that would have happened automatically in a more competitive market. But it doesn’t diminish a company’s productivity or its incentive for additional hiring — thereby actually boosting job growth. But genuine monopsony isn’t common and would require a very finely calibrated and skillfully crafted minimum wage, which is not how blanket policies work in the real world.

The founder of economics, libertarian heartthrob Adam Smith, would disagree.

America’s federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour works out to about 42 percent of its $17.40 hourly median wage. Even the most gung-ho academics only advocate raising it to 50 percent of the median — which means a little over $8.70. This in itself is a crude benchmark that lumps together high-wage service occupations with low-wage construction and other non-service ones whose market realities are completely different. Be that as it may, it is inconceivable that a $15 minimum wage — equal to 86 percent of America’s median wage, and the highest in the Western world — wouldn’t kill jobs, especially in small towns and cities where wages tend to be lower. Witness the chronic double-digit unemployment rate that a far less insane minimum wage has generated in France, Spain, Belgium, and other European countries.

Oh, this again. Please. There’s a reason why Dalmia (and every other $15 opponent) neglects to explain the empirical rationale behind the 50 percent minimum-to-median ratio; it’s because there isn’t any. (Also, her “86 percent” number? That’s bullshit. By 2022, when it’s fully phased in, Sanders’ $15 minimum would equal about 69 percent of median, while Clinton’s $12 figure would equal the 55 percent ratio we enjoyed back in 1968).

And yet, minimum wage enthusiasts are abandoning all caution and making increasingly extravagant claims. Here are four of their sillier arguments:

Or rather, four of her sillier arguments.

False: Minimum wage hikes will lead to productivity-boosting automation

The standard rap against minimum wage laws is that by raising the cost of hiring workers, they prompt companies to invest in labor-saving technologies, throwing people out of work. But Matthew Yglesias claims that this would by no means be a “bad thing.” Why? Because productivity is the engine of economic progress. And if machines are more productive than people, then policies that prod employers to replace people with machines would mean more wealth without toil for everyone. This is the reverse of the Luddite fallacy that seeks to boost jobs by eschewing labor-saving technologies. Nobel laureate Milton Friedman once heard a Third World bureaucrat, suffering from this fallacy, defend his decision to have poor workers dig a massive canal with shovels rather than earth movers because that meant more jobs. Friedman asked: Why don’t you replace their shovels with spoons?

Increasing productivity is not simply a matter of increasing output, but doing so in the most cost-effective way. You do not encourage that with policies that force investments in capital equipment when labor is plentiful. Indeed, this raises the overall opportunity cost, rendering an economy less efficient. If Friedman were alive, he may well have asked Yglesias why, by his logic, he doesn’t just advocate a ban on all manual labor.

If Friedman were alive, he’d be scratching at the lid of his coffin. Which if you think is an unserious rebuttal, well, yes, but no more unserious than Dalmia’s lazy “why not ban all manual labor” reductio ad absurdum.

The fact is that the “academic consensus” is that a higher minimum wage does indeed lead to higher worker productivity. Which in the aggregate is a good a thing, regardless of whether it comes from the substitution of labor-saving technology, or, as researchers at the prestigious Cornell University School of Hotel Administration conclude: because “better compensated employees tend to be happier, more productive, and less likely to quit their jobs.

False: Minimum wage hikes helps firms make more money

This claim strains credulity. How would a $15 mandate that almost doubles a company’s labor costs actually boost profits? The argument that former Labor Secretary Robert Reich offers is that higher wages means happier employees and lower turnover, something that saves a company money. If so, the million-dollar question is why aren’t greedy companies doing this already? Are they too stupid or sadistic or both to pass up on a win-win deal for both themselves and their workers?

Yes, many employers are too stupid or sadistic or both.

But rhetorical questions aside, I just re-watched that Robert Reich video Dalmia links to, and nowhere in it does he imply that raising the minimum wage would boost companies’ profits. What he’s saying (and again, what the “academic consensus” says) is that lower turnover “helps employers save money,” thus offsetting part of the cost of higher wages:

In fact, I don’t know anybody on our side who is pushing the “boosts profits” argument. If anything, one of the things that is ailing our economy is the six percent of GDP or so — about a trillion dollars a year — that used to go to wages but now goes to profits. Shifting some of that back into pockets of workers would be a good thing.

False: Minimum wage hikes will stimulate the economy

Michael Reich, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, claims not only that a $15 minimum wage wouldn’t produce job losses in the short run, but would actually stimulate the economy, resulting in job gains in the long run. “They’d (employees) have more money to spend, the overall level of demand for goods and services would be higher, and so would the level of employment,” he claims.

But shifting wealth around doesn’t generate real economic growth. Boosting productivity does. Indeed, ordering employers to give artificial raises means that they would have less money to spend or invest, cancelling out any extra spending by workers.

Oy. Again, raising the minimum wage increases productivity. That’s the “academic consensus,” not just Michael Reich’s.

As to Dalmia’s larger point about “shifting wealth around” not generating real economic growth, well she’s absolutely right — if we’re shifting wealth into the pockets of the super-wealthy. A 2014 working paper from the OECD found that widening income inequality knocked a cumulative 6 to 9 percent off US GDP growth over the previous two decades due to the drag of stagnant wages on the 70 percent of the economy that is driven by consumer spending.

Wow. Just imagine how many more jobs there would be today if our economy was 9 percent larger!

False: Minimum wage hikes will diminish the strain on welfare programs

Advocates of the minimum wage claim that without a suitably high minimum, low-income workers are forced to rely on food stamps and health care programs to make ends meet. In essence, they argue, welfare programs end up subsidizing McDonald’s low-wage workforce, which is hardly fair to taxpayers. Forcing companies to pay something resembling “living” wages would diminish low-wage workers’ dependence on government programs.

This assumes that boosting the minimum wage would hand more workers a raise than it would throw people out of work, of course — which is hardly a reasonable assumption, as pointed out earlier. Indeed, notes University of California, Irvine’s David Neumark, the probability that a family will escape poverty due to higher wages will be offset by the probability that another will enter poverty because it has been priced out of the labor market.

So, here’s the thing: We’ve been raising the minimum wage for 78 years, and there is simply no evidence of any correlation between minimum wage hikes and net job losses! Nada. Bupkes. Zilch. Dalmia’s got the gall to accuse minimum wage advocates of making “extravagant claims,” and yet Dalmia is unable to support her core argument by, you know, facts.

The core fallacy in this line of reasoning is that employers can set wages based on employee needs rather than market forces. Hence, they can simply be forced to hand over more money to their workers. That, however, is not how things work, especially in a globalized world where forcing employers to cough up wages higher than the market can bear would undermine their competitiveness — not something that helps anyone in the long run.

First of all, most of these minimum wage jobs are in the service sector, and since you can’t offshore the work of a barista or a retail clerk or hotel housekeeper, there isn’t much threat from cheap-labor global competition. But Dalmia’s core fallacy is that the market for labor operates like the market for bananas. It doesn’t.

The problem for Dalmia and her ilk is that this is about much more than just the minimum wage; this is about the entire free market philosophy to which she has dedicated her life. For if we do raise the minimum wage and the job losses don’t come — if we shove the labor market into “disequilibrium,” yet disaster never strikes — then the question must be asked: What else have the neoliberals gotten wrong?

The answer, Dalmia must fear, is everything.

Employment Policies Institute Is a PR Firm Masquerading as a Think Tank. And They SUCK at It.

No one takes the Employment Policies Institute seriously


As research director at the mendaciously named Employment Policies Institute, Michael Saltsman has one job, and one job only: Defend his restaurant and retail industry patrons from proposals to raise the minimum wage. And yet it is on Saltsman’s watch that the $15 minimum wage has quickly transformed from a “near insane idea” to codified law in Seattle, California, and New York.

To borrow a phrase from the Republican frontrunner: Sad!

No wonder Saltsman has taken to the pages of the Orange County Register to blindly lash out at the upstart minimum wage advocates who are, let’s be honest, totally kicking his supply-side ass:

Advocates for the policy at a far-left Seattle think tank made the contrarian case that California’s rising minimum wage is entirely consistent with our past experience.

Hey, that’s us! And yet in criticizing our post, Saltsman not only fails to extend the common courtesy of throwing us a link, he refuses to even mention our name. What a dick.

Here at 100% plutocrat-funded Civic Ventures, we chuckle at the notion that our shop is “far-left” (Nick Hanauer’s mission is to save capitalism, not overthrow it), though since such ideological nomenclature is inherently subjective, whatever. But to be clear: We are not, nor have we ever claimed to be a “think tank.” (I only chose the title “senior fellow” because I think it’s funny.)

Compare that to Saltsman’s Employment Policies Institute, which disingenuously claims to be a “non-profit think tank,” while actually being neither. In fact, it is actually just one of several profitable front groups run out of the offices of DC-based lobbying and PR firm Berman and Company. In a 2014 interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, the New York Times‘ Eric Lipton explains how it works:

LIPTON: Yeah, I was – you know, set up an interview with the research director. I got the address of his office. I went to the eighth floor of the building on Vermont Avenue, like four blocks from the White House. The elevator opens, and it’s Berman and Company. And I go in and, you know, there’s a bunch of awards on the wall, advertising awards, public relations awards that Berman and Company has won for its work, you know, doing ad campaigns on behalf of various industry groups.

And so I didn’t see any evidence at all that there was an Employment Policies Institute office. And in fact when I started to interview the people there, they explained that there are no employees at the Employment Policies Institute and that all the staff there works for Berman and Company, and then they sometimes are just detailed to the various think-tanks and various consumer groups that he operates out of his office.

And he bills them, sort of like a law firm would bill various clients.

Wow. What a great scam. And it has been from the Employment Policies Institute’s start. Note: I refuse to refer to the organization by its three-letter abbreviation, EPI, because it was obviously named to sow confusion with the real EPI, the pre-existing and pro-minimum wage Economic Policy Institute. Hell, not-EPI even apes EPI’s favicon, causing me to repeatedly click on the wrong browser tab:

A Tale of Two EPIs

What a bunch of shameless trolls.

Legally, not-EPI is registered as a tax-exempt 501c3 (or, illegally one might reasonably argue; something the IRS should look into before President Cruz eliminates the agency), so it doesn’t have to report the names of its funders—though it’s safe to assume its money mostly comes from the restaurant, accommodations, and retail industries. As for how it spends its money: “more than half” of its multi-million dollar budget is paid to for-profit Berman and Company for staffing and operations, an “atypical” arrangement that prompted Charity Navigator to issue a “Donor Advisory.”

And what sort of return are not-EPI’s donors getting on their investment? Not much these days. Minimum wage hikes have been passed all over the place in recent years, even in blood-red states like Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota and Nebraska. Ouch. Oh, and the Orange County Register? For all that donor money, you’d think not-EPI could place its op-ed in a more prestigious (and less infamously libertarian) outlet. I mean, according to Saltsman, Civic Ventures isn’t even worthy of mentioning by name, and yet we routinely get our stuff placed in the likes of Politico, the Atlantic, the Hill, PBS NewshourDemocracy Journal, and the New York Times.

Hey, where’s Rick Berman’s TED Talk, Michael? My boss has two of ’em! Geez, for a high-priced PR firm you guys sure do a shitty job of garnering press.

Sure, I suppose I could spend some time actually refuting Saltsman’s op-ed instead of just shoving his face in it. But really, why bother? Saltsman is a huckster and a hack—a paid propagandist masquerading as a “research director” at an “institute” that doesn’t exist. With this, I’ve now linked to his op-ed four times, showing him more respect than he showed me and infinitely more than he deserves.

But if he thinks I’m going conflate his solemn tone with serious discourse, he’s got another think coming. Civic Ventures is not a “think tank” or an “institute,” nor do we pretend to be. We’ve got no funders to appease, no conventions to uphold, no fiction to maintain. So there’s nothing to constrain me from calling bullshit on Berman and Company’s fake think tank game.

We’re kicking your ass in the minimum wage debate, Michael, because we’re right and you’re wrong. And because frankly, we’re simply better at this PR stuff than you.

Shut Up! Shut Up! Shut Up, Already! The Minimum Wage Does NOT Kill Jobs!


While the headline is worse than what follows, Peter Coy’s latest piece in Bloomberg Businessweek — “The $15 Minimum Wage Will Kill Jobs. Should You Care?” — is an object lesson in the power of sheer repetition to overwhelm the actual facts. Oy:

Start with an unpopular but irrefutable fact: Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, as some states are doing, will create both winners and losers. The winners will be workers who get paid more, of course. The losers will be low-skilled workers who don’t get paid at all, because employers couldn’t afford to keep them on.

In the short term, no doubt, yes. Some businesses will struggle to adapt, and fail. Some workers will lose their current jobs. But then, that’s true of every economic innovation, from new technologies to new regulatory policies. The more pertinent question is not whether $15 will cause some workers to lose their jobs, but whether it will cause net job loss in the aggregate over time.* And on this, there is simply no historical evidence to suggest that it will.

Coy repeats former Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Katherine Abraham’s claim that we “have no experience with an increase in the national minimum of that size,” but a quick glance at past hikes shows that this simply isn’t true. We have plenty of experience with 50 percent, 60 percent, even 94 percent minimum wage increases phased in over several years, with no evidence of any discernible correlation between rising wages and rising unemployment.

Might $15 result in a substantial net loss of jobs? I suppose. As they say in the footnote to all those investment brochures, “past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.” But while Coy’s job losses remain theoretical, I can absolutely guarantee you that the wage gains are real.

So yeah, despite how frequently and faithfully it is repeated, the assertion that “the $15 minimum wage will kill jobs” — that $15 is “a job-killer” — is totally unsupported by the facts. A more honest (if admittedly less click-baity) headline would have been: “If the $15 Minimum Wage Kills Jobs, Should You Care?” You’re welcome, Peter.

Which finally brings me to Coy’s larger thesis: that when it comes to the minimum wage and free trade, those bemoaning job losses from one often ignore the job losses from the other. An interesting point. Too bad I’m so exhausted from reading Coy’s credulous headline to give it the serious discussion it deserves.


* Actually, I don’t really believe net job loss is the appropriate metric at all. But that’s a subject for another conversation.