Minimum Wage

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.


Seattle’s Jobless Rate Drops Below Four Percent in September

Seattle choo-choo-chooses a higher minimum wage! (God, I'm sorry.

Seattle choo-choo-chooses a higher minimum wage! (God, I’m sorry.)

Mike Rosenberg at the Seattle Times writes:

For the first time in more than eight years, the Seattle-area unemployment rate has dipped below 4 percent, a milestone in the region’s continued economic resurgence, according to new figures released Wednesday.

September’s 3.9 percent unemployment rate for the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area is down from 4.1 percent a month prior, and 4.6 percent a year ago.

It is vitally important to note that we didn’t raise the minimum wage in Seattle so we could drive unemployment numbers down to nothing. Unemployment rises and falls in a dynamic economy, and Seattle’s unemployment rate will undoubtedly rise with the next recession. We raised the minimum wage because Seattle believes in inclusivity. The minimum wage was way too low, which was removing people from the economy. When everyone prospers, we all prosper more and the economy is strengthened in a positive feedback loop.

But this latest dip in unemployment is important because it refutes, yet again, the position that if we were to raise the minimum wage, restaurants would close in Seattle and automation would take all our jobs away and nobody would ever open a new business here. The sky has not fallen. (And now that some time has passed, people who were on the wrong side of the minimum wage fight will try to move the goalposts, claiming that nobody threatened those sorts of things. We can’t allow them to do that.  They most certainly did claim they’d never open new restaurants. Some argued that we’d lose a quarter of all restaurants downtown if the wage went up.)

We do not live in a restaurant-free hellhole. We are not scavenging for scraps in the empty husk of the downtown McDonald’s. The city is doing just fine, thanks. At some point, you have to apply Occam’s Razor to those threats and consider the source: maybe the restaurant owners who threaten apocalypse with every minimum wage hike are simply doing so because they don’t want to pay their employees more money?

Now, some might argue that Seattle would be doing even better if we didn’t raise the minimum wage. That argument is pretty dumb. Sure, we could goose unemployment numbers lower if we got rid of the minimum wage entirely, but then we’d be expecting those employees making $7, or $6, or $5 dollars an hour to figure out how to survive as human beings in Seattle in 2016. In fact, because that would literally be impossible, we’d likely be paying more in government programs for housing and food to subsidize low-wage employers.

So yes, the unemployment numbers are a great sign for Seattle. But they’re not just great because they mean more Seattleites are working — they’re great because they demonstrate that an economy doesn’t have to be a race to the bottom in order to succeed. Seattle is racing to the top by ensuring that even our lowest-paid workers have enough money to be full participants in the economy, and the sky hasn’t fallen. In fact, we’re flying high.



Governor of Maine Claims an Increased Minimum Wage Will Kill Senior Citizens, Somehow

If you think this is a dumb thing for the governor of Maine to say, history indicates that you should just wait a couple days; he's sure to say something even dumber pretty soon.

If you think this is a dumb thing for the governor of Maine to say, history indicates that you should just wait a couple days; he’s sure to say something even dumber pretty soon.

And here I thought we’d heard it all before.

Every time a community considers raising the minimum wage, business owners and conservative politicians love to toss out threats. They’ll never open new restaurants again. They’ll have to close their existing restaurants. No new businesses will want to move in. When the minimum wage is adopted, of course, those threats prove to be empty. Businesses keep opening and existing businesses keep hiring.

As Civic Ventures co-founder Nick Hanauer notes, a National Employment Law Project study found that when you measure all of “the nearly two dozen federal minimum wage hikes since 1938, total year-over-year employment actually increased 68 percent of the time.” The few times when employment stayed flat or decreased? They generally unfolded during recessions, when employment always decreases or stays flat.

The American people have finally figured out that these threats are baseless. Minimum wage increases are polling incredibly well around the country, because people understand that raising the minimum wage doesn’t kill business — in fact, when more people make more money, businesses have more customers. So I’ve figured for a while that conservative minimum-wage opponents were going to try to figure out a new tack; after all, they need to figure out a way that will allow their base—the top one percent—to keep their money.

I just didn’t figure that new tack would be quite this crazy:

[Maine] Gov. Paul LePage affirmed his statement Friday that two advocates of a state ballot question to increase the minimum wage should be jailed, saying they are guilty of the “attempted murder” of senior citizens because of the alleged impact of a wage increase.

So raising the minimum wage is killing people now? LePage’s rationale is that an increased minimum wage is “attempted murder in my mind because it is pushing people to the brink of survival.” He says it will increase costs, which means senior citizens on a fixed income won’t be able to afford goods and services and so they’ll starve to death.

Of course, studies in Seattle show that an increased minimum wage has resulted in “little or no” increase to costs. And if there has been an increase in senior citizen deaths in Seattle due to these nonexistent cost hikes, I sure haven’t heard about it. (Seems like it would be tough to measure a response to something that hasn’t happened, but I’m not a genius like Governor LePage, so what do I know?)

Look: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but there is no correlation between senior citizen deaths and the minimum wage. Governor LePage is spinning bullshit out of thin air. And it should go without saying that it is highly irresponsible for a sitting governor to accuse two private citizens of attempted murder. Of course, LePage is the same hopelessly racist brain donor who said that Donald Trump needs to be in charge so he can show “authoritarian power.” He’s about the furthest thing from an expert on any legitimate topic that you can imagine.

LePage’s claims aren’t going to catch on, because they’re completely insane. But LePage does prove that the conservative anti-minimum wage crowd is on the hunt for a new message (lord knows their old message isn’t working anymore.) Let’s hope their next attempts to find plausible claims are a little more believable—and responsible—than these.



Before the New Overtime Rule Kicks In, Walmart Gives Managers a Raise


Daniel Wiessner and Nandita Bose report for Reuters:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc has raised salaries for entry-level managers before a rule change that extends mandatory overtime pay to more than 4 million U.S. workers, in an attempt to shield itself from unpredictable additional costs for salaried employees.

The raise was pretty significant—$45,000 per year to $48,500. And as Wiessner and Bose note, this decision wasn’t made out of the kindness of Walmart’s heart. (For those of you who flunked out of anatomy in college, here’s a tip: Walmart doesn’t have a heart because it’s not a living organism.) Walmart was simply ensuring that their managers were paid above the $47,500 threshold adopted by President Obama’s Department of Labor. That $3,500 raise might sound like a lot, but it’s probably peanuts compared to the overtime Walmart would have to pay its workers under the revised overtime threshold.

And that’s exactly how the overtime rule is supposed to work. The old threshold—an embarrassing $23,660 per year—was so pitifully low that a whole generation of Americans grew up thinking that overtime only existed for unionized employees and government workers. We need an overtime rule that ensures low-wage employers (and yes, even though Walmart pays slightly more than the minimum wage now for starting employees, I’d still count them as a low-wage employers; equivalent managers at Costco earn $60,000 per year and up) pay a living wage to their employees.

Note, too, that once Walmart raises their employees wages above the threshold, they can expect those employees to work over 40 hours a week without additional pay. That’s how it’s supposed to happen. The government isn’t taking away an employers’ ability to expect more work out of their employers, it’s simply asking employers to pay their employees fairly for the time they work.

But before we go crazy high-fiving Walmart for the good things they’ve done for their employees (fact check: Walmart is still not a living organism and so doesn’t have hands to high five) let’s acknowledge something. Walmart could have paid their employees this much before the overtime rule; this extra $3,500 per employee amounts to basically nothing when put up against the $14.7 billion annual profit the company turns.

Really what this proves is that the wages are not set by the almighty invisible hand of the market. Workers are not paid what they’re worth—employers pay their workers as little as they possibly can. This is why unions, where workers collectively barter for higher wages, are a great idea; individual negotiations generally aren’t as fruitful for the employees. These stronger regulations, in tandem with the $15 minimum wage, are providing some of the benefits once provided by unions.

The next time someone tells you workers shouldn’t be paid more than they’re “worth,” that the market sets wages through a simple mechanism of supply and demand, I want you to remember this story. Would Walmart have raised their managers’ pay by over three thousand dollars a year had the Obama Administration not proposed raising the overtime rule? That doesn’t seem likely to me.The invisible hand doesn’t exist. Workers aren’t paid what the market decides they’re worth—they’re paid what employers think they can get away with paying.


Anti-Minimum Wage Blogger Accidentally Makes the Case for Economic Inclusion

This doesn't happen when you raise the minimum wage.

This doesn’t happen when you raise the minimum wage.

This morning, Tim Worstall wrote a post about Civic Ventures founder Nick Hanauer. It’s not much of a post, really: Worstall just attacks Hanauer’s most recent article for PBS Newshour by block-quoting it and then block-quoting a column Worstall himself wrote back in May. (As we all know, there’s nothing in all of blogdom that’s more thrilling than a battle of the block quotes.)

Anyway, to summarize Worstall’s many paragraphs of quoted text: he’s arguing that a National Employment Law Project (NELP) study Hanauer quoted in his article only looks at the total number of Americans employed, not at the granular levels of unemployment among smaller portions of the population. If you’ll permit me a single block quote from Worstall’s post, I think this gets to the crux of his argument:

A place that more than doubles its population is going to have more jobs at the end of the process than at the beginning. This proves absolutely nothing at all about the minimum wage.

Hmmmmm. Okay. I’d argue that what the NELP article does most effectively is it disproves the claims that the apocalypse will unfold if the minimum wage is raised—the restaurant owners who say they’ll never open another restaurant in their “beloved Seattle” if the minimum wage goes up, say, or the newspaper editorial boards that promise nobody will ever open another hotel near an airport if a higher minimum wage is adopted there. Never—not once since the adoption of the federal minimum wage—has that kind of apocalyptic scenario happened in America.

The NELP report is a call for reasonable discourse when it comes to the minimum wage—a plea for business owners to stop threatening their employees with rampant layoffs if the wage goes up, and a demand that newspaper editorial boards address the topic with a more level head. The minimum wage does not cause an outsize drop in employment numbers. Doesn’t happen. The polling successes of wage increases indicates that the American people agree: we need a more rational discussion about what the minimum wage can and can’t do. Stop with the fear-mongering.

Of course, people like Tim Worstall love the fear-mongering because it doesn’t facilitate discussion. If the top one percent can just blithely threaten the lowest earners in a society with unemployment, that works out much better for the top one percent. But when NELP comes along and indicates that unemployment doesn’t skyrocket when wages increase, that removes one of their most successful arguments.

I do want to point out, though, that what Worstall says in the block quote above is central to the idea of middle-out economics. When more people are involved in an economy, that economy thrives. Add more workers to an economy—workers who spend money as empowered consumers—and you’ll get more jobs. America is exponentially more prosperous now than it was in the times of slavery, say, or when women were largely removed from the workforce. When we allow more immigrants and refugees to take part in the economy, and when we encourage the full participation of LGBTQ citizens, the economy does better. That’s because the top one percent are not the true job creators in this economy—you are. And I am. We all are.

The best way to grow the economy is to ensure that more people are fully engaged as consumers. They buy more goods and services, which increases demand, which means employers have to hire more employees to keep up with that spending. NELP’s study is a major step toward this new and exciting understanding of economics. I’m glad to see Worstall staggering toward embracing a more inclusive economics. Maybe one day he’ll accidentally block quote his way to enlightenment.

As Minneapolis Considers Raising the Minimum Wage to $15, the Same Tired Opposition Kicks In

logo210Eric Roper at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says a new study commissioned by the Minneapolis City Council found that raising the minimum wage to $15 “would boost pay for many workers without much impact on businesses.” Roper continues:

The study revealed to City Council members Wednesday spanned more than 200 pages and noted that about 71,000 workers in Minneapolis would benefit from a $15 an hour minimum wage. About half those beneficiaries would be nonwhite (including Hispanics), and just under half are also residents of the city.

Of course, some people immediately questioned the study:

“I was really hoping we could to get a study back that kind of shows us what the cost-benefit was, how it would affect businesses,” [Minneapolis Councilmember Lisa] Goodman said. “But when I see a report that basically says, ‘There’s no negative to businesses at all,’ it’s hard for me to consider the report completely unbiased.”

I want to address that point about bias at the end of Councilmember Goodman’s quote. As I’ve said, everyone is biased. I am naturally biased toward the minimum wage, because I believe that when more people have more money, everybody does better. Others are biased against the minimum wage. This is how it works. Not one report ever produced in the history of the world has ever been absolutely free from human bias. Generally, I find when someone considers a study or news report to be “unbiased,” they mean that it aligns with their perspective and worldview.

So if everyone is biased, what can we do? Well, what matters are results. And the fact is, Seattle’s minimum wage study has found that since we raised the minimum wage in Seattle employment is up, workers are working more hours, and more businesses opened in Seattle. Those restaurant owners who predicted gloom and doom were wrong, and if there is a significant negative to Seattle-area businesses, I haven’t heard about it yet. So based on Seattle’s results, I don’t find the Minneapolis report to be too much of a stretch at all. Why would their results be any different than ours?

Naturally, business leaders immediately complained about the report—including Matt Perry, head of the Southwest Business Association, who told the Star Tribune that “When I read this report and it says there will be minimal or no cost to the business, that just doesn’t jibe with what we’re hearing back from business owners.” Which, okay.

But the business owners aren’t able to predict the future. That’s not their job. They’re most likely putting the increased wages up against their current expenses and sales, which isn’t the right way to go about it. Minimum wages have phase-in periods to allow businesses to adjust, and when minimum-wage employees are paid more, they spend more in the local economy. The business owners don’t account for these changes because they can’t. That’s why we commission studies from experts who can analyze the data and make predictions based on that analysis. (But isn’t this a circular argument? you ask. After all, you just said that every study is biased. And yes, that’s true. This is why you want to hire the best, smartest people possible and take their inherent human bias into account when they get back to you. Simply hiring a human being to do the work of investigating the numbers for you doesn’t absolve you of all responsibility; you have to vet their work.)

So when we get right down to it, the response to this 200-page study is about what you’d expect: people who support the minimum wage think it’s great, people who are on the fence are likely going to take it into account as they make up their minds, and people who are against the minimum-wage increase think the report is biased. The lines have been drawn, and they follow the usual patterns.

The sides of the minimum wage argument are obvious because raising the minimum wage is like any other wage negotiation, but on a much larger scale. Say you’re in your boss’s office for your annual review and you know your business has had a great year, so you’re asking for a raise. Your boss, meanwhile, argues that she thinks business might be down for the year to come. It’s a negotiation; you want the highest outcome, your boss wants to pay the least possible amount.

The minimum wage debate is nothing more than a negotiation tactic for the lowest-paid Americans. Bosses will use intimidation to try to scare workers into arguing against their own interests. Because this report offers good news for workers that might undermine the anti-minimum-wage argument, businesses (and politicians who are in business’s corner) will try to float it as a biased or flawed study.

The comments section of the Star Tribune story is full of people making the argument for business using all kinds of threats and intimidation tactics. Many people argue that residents of Minneapolis will take their business outside the city to deal with the increase in costs that a minimum wage might bring. (Seattle has seen little or no cost increase after raising the minimum wage, and on a more basic level the argument that someone is going to travel thirty minutes to an hour out of their way every time they want to eat a meal is ridiculous.) Someone else argues that “Wait staff will see their tips plummet if $15/hr.” (That hasn’t been the case with Seattle, though a few upscale restaurant owners have experimented with going tip-free and adding service charges.)

This argument is basically the classic “we’ll-cut-jobs” argument dressed up with a few numbers that don’t amount to much:

One of my relatives runs 2 fast food locations here. According to him- his labor costs are 30% of his sales and av. pay is 10$ an hr. A move to 15$ essentially moves the labor percentage from 30% to 45% and he loses money. He has to move his prices +12% to get the labor back to 30%. However, when you raise your prices 12% your going to get fewer customers. His solution is to close one restaurant and enjoy extra sales from the one that remains as some customers from closed restaurant change locations. Thus he has less sales and less profit but the one that remains is now doing higher volume and better margins.

These are the perils of trying to predict the future based on your current numbers that I was talking about earlier. Again, Seattle has not seen a 12 percent increase in costs. This is because when minimum-wage employees get a raise, they tend to spend it, and they spend it in their local community. We’re all doing better because we’re all doing better. Plenty of restaurant owners threatened to close businesses in Seattle if we raised the minimum wage. It hasn’t happened; in fact, many who threatened a restaurant apocalypse have opened even more restaurants since the wage has gone up.

But here’s the comment that really made me mad:

Just where do they think the money for  doubling of the minium wage will come from.   Seattle tried this. The facts are in. After just one year, Seattle is the ONLY city in the state that had jobs lost, hours cut, and benefits cut.   Unemployment went up 1% in the city, while it dropped everywhere else in the state and in the nation.    But lefties never let facts get in the way of their disasterous decisions.

This is just flat out not true. It is, in fact, a lie. Since the wage increased here, Seattle’s wages are up, low-wage employment is up, the number of hours worked are up, and more businesses opened. The University of Washington study backs me up. I can understand when people try to manipulate reality to fit their worldview; that’s human nature. But when you flat-out spread disinformation—and easily disprovable disinformation at that—you’re crossing a line. You’re a liar.

While all this other stuff—the complaining, the distortions, the confirmation bias—is all a normal part of the political process, the fact that liars are trying to manipulate outcomes indicates to me that the opposition is getting desperate. They can’t stand the reality of Seattle’s minimum wage experiment, and so they’re forced to create a false reality that confirms their beliefs. That kind of gaslighting simply won’t stand; Seattle’s successes are too many—and too public—for these weasels to get away with their dirty tricks.

Don’t fall for these lies, Minneapolis. Seattle is proof that you’ll all do better when everyone gets a raise.



Why An “Objective” Economist Attacked Me On Twitter

The fight continues!

The fight continues!

Yesterday, Daniel Beekman at the Seattle Times reported that city councilmember Kshama Sawant sent a sternly worded letter taking issue with aspects of a recent University of Washington study of Seattle’s minimum wage. Sawant had two main areas of contention: first, she questioned some of the methodology of the study, including its approach of frankensteining together a hypothetical “Synthetic Seattle” where the minimum wage didn’t go up. In the real world, Seattle saw lots of good news—higher pay, more jobs, more hours worked—but this imaginary “Synthetic Seattle,” which was compiled together out of lower-wage parts of Washington State, did even better.

But Councilmember Sawant also had a problem with the “anti-minimum wage editorializing” by UW Professor Jacob Vigdor. In a letter signed by all the UW researchers, Vigdor and the other professors responded:

 With regards to Dr. Vigdor’s public commentary, we are very aware that the value of this study rests entirely on the perception that it is an objective, nonpartisan effort. We are also aware, however, that our work product is a public document, subject to partisan interpretation. As you know, selected findings from this study have been used to promote both a positive view of the minimum wage (as in the Bernstein piece) and a negative view (as in the Monson piece).

Dr. Vigdor and other team members have conducted interviews across the media and political spectrum, with full knowledge that anything said can be edited or taken out of context. This is a risk that we can only avoid by refusing contact with the media. As the most misleading representations of the report have been authored by individuals who did not contact any member of our study team, we do not feel that a withdrawal from public commentary on our own work would enhance public understanding.

Hmmm. Who could they be talking about in that second paragraph—the bit referring to the “most misleading representations of the report” and so on? Gosh, I wonder. I wrote the first summary of the UW study back in July, before Professor Vigdor presented it to the City Council, and he famously went ballistic in response, leaving comments on the article, in our Facebook feed, on Twitter, and over email. To my knowledge, Vigdor hasn’t responded as vigorously or as ferociously to anyone—on the left or the right—in the time since.

I stand by my interpretation. Unlike many of the conservative commentators who misconstrue the study as definitive proof that Seattle lost jobs due to the minimum wage, I acknowledge the “Synthetic Seattle” model in my write-up. (Plenty of second-hand conservative sources now repeat the lie that employment is down in Seattle without ever mentioning that employment is only down when considered in relation to the even-higher numbers of the imaginary Synthetic Seattle.) And in fact, in real Seattle, as I said, “wages are up, low-wage employment is up, and the number of hours worked are up.” So what could Vigdor’s problem be? Why hasn’t he tackled these conservative pundits with the same ferocity that he brought to my report?

I couldn’t tell you for sure, but I do find it interesting how the UW team acknowledges that they value “an objective, nonpartisan” stance; they seem to blame any partisan slant that may be attributed to their team as “edited or taken out of context.” Jud Lounsbury has reported at The Progressive that Vigdor has a professional relationship with at least two conservative think tanks, both of which have done considerable work to discredit the minimum wage. Further, Seattlish dug up some of Vigdor’s own old blog posts from 2014 where he wrote that the minimum wage is at once “a lousy anti-poverty program” and “largely a tax on food.” These posts are not edited or taken out of context and they are decidedly not “objective” or “nonpartisan.”

Look: I think objectivity is bunk. Everyone has an agenda. I wouldn’t even be upset if Vigdor just admitted his preconceptions. When scientists perform experiments, they always carry expectations about what’s going to happen. The trick is to be transparent about those expectations, and to report honestly on the findings. This is what we expect of our scientists, and it should be what we expect of our economists.

But for the researchers behind the UW study to claim objectivity as a goal in the same letter that they gloss over Vigdor’s personal failure to be objective is more than a little suspicious.

My lack of objectivity is a matter of record. I believe that when people who work in restaurants make enough money to eat in restaurants, we all do better. I believe that people who threaten the end of the world when the minimum wage goes up are trying to intimidate workers out of the money that they’ve earned. And I believe that everybody’s got an angle, and the people who say they don’t have an angle are the people you should trust the least.

Are You Ready for the Trickle Down Economics Comeback Tour?

Remember how this guy's policies almost destroyed the economy forever? Some folks are arguing that the only way to fix the problems in the economy are by bringing this guy's policies back.

Remember how this guy’s policies almost destroyed the economy forever? Some folks are arguing that the only way to fix the problems in the economy are by bringing this guy’s policies back.

“Supply-side economics has been discredited since the Bush tax cuts failed to boost economic growth, but there is another way of thinking about the problem,” Bloomberg’s Tyler Cowen writes in his review of Edward Conard’s new book. That other way? “It is not enough for funds to be left in the hands of the wealthy; rather they must be invested in risk-bearing equity capital, focused on innovation.”

Conard argues in his new book The Upside of Inequality: How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class that trickle down economics—he calls it “supply-side economics,” but they’re the same thing; “supply-side” is just a fresh coat of lipstick on a pig—is still the best way to boost the economy. The trick, Cowen explains, is to put the “concept of risk-bearing at the core” of trickle down, which means encouraging the top one percent to invest their money in the economy rather than dumping it in offshore accounts or sealing it away in illiquid accounts.

But forty years of trickle-down policies have proven that when you give money to the top one percent, they keep it and figure out new ways to hoard even more of it. How do you supposedly encourage the wealthy to undertake risky investments? Cowen proposes ending the “bureaucratization of society” and “excess regulation,” which are, in fact, the same goals that trickle-downers like Ronald Reagan, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, and George W. Bush have been aspiring toward for generations.

The concept of trickle down economics has been propped up for all these years by three core strategies: trickle-down clowns demand tax cuts for the rich, deregulation for the powerful, and wage suppression for everyone else. As we’ve seen, Cowen has already made the case for deregulation. Where does he stand on tax cuts?

While we shouldn’t rely on tax cuts, they may still play a role in this debate. Cuts in marginal tax rates became overrated after the Reagan recovery years of the 1980s, but maybe after the failed Bush experience they are now somewhat underrated.

Uh-huh. So he’s arguing that tax cuts are a part of the solution to the problems caused by tax cuts. Cowen also refers to wages as “only one small part of a much bigger story,” which is as close to a capitulation to reality as we’ll find in this piece. (When even Donald Trump admits that the minimum wage should be increased, you know it’s well past time to raise the minimum wage.) If trickle-downers get their way, this crack in their paradigm will be easily spackled over by a tiny increase in the federal minimum wage—maybe adding two or three quarters to the current $7.25 minimum—whereupon pundits like Cowen will declare the mission accomplished and move back to cutting taxes and regulations like usual.

So what, in a perfect world, would be the end result of this zombie trickle down economics? Let’s pretend for a moment that cutting taxes and regulations would inspire a bunch of risky investments, even though they clearly won’t. Cowen drops this doozy of a best-case scenario:

You may recall that the iPhone made its debut in 2007, and it sold very well during the tough economic times that followed.  Had there been more innovations of import, a simultaneous growth of production and market demand could have been self-validating and pulled the economy out of recession more quickly.

This is…not good policy. This is the equivalent of someone taking over a failing Hollywood movie studio with a simplistic plan of making more big blockbusters like Titanic and The Avengers to repair the studio’s finances. While there will always be outlying successes like the iPhone and Amazon and Avatar to lead a particular field,  you simply can’t rely on or even plan for that outsize success. You can’t build an economy on one or two huge winners; you have to foster an environment that creates more winners up and down the income scale. By embracing policies that encourage more people to have an opportunity to succeed, you’re not taking away from the success of companies like Apple, you’re creating a positive environment for everyone.

Still, I do find a small amount of hope in reading Cowen’s post. It marks an important stage in the lifespan of trickle down economics. For many decades, we couldn’t get conservative politicians and policy-makers to even begin to admit that trickle down wasn’t working. Now that Cowen is trying to repackage and ever-so-slightly reformulate trickle down, perhaps this is a sign that conservatives are finally ready to move toward a new economic model? After all, admitting that you have a problem is the first step toward bettering yourself.