While the Media Keeps Messing Up the $15 Story, One Pseudonymous Blogger Keeps Getting It Right

Seattle certainly isn’t suffering from a shortage of uninformed chatterers with opinions about the $15 minimum wage. But the problem with opinions is that they’re not facts. Q13 Fox can quote a pizza restaurant owner’s charges that the increased minimum wage ran her out of business, but if they don’t investigate the facts behind the situation their report is less than useless, as Paul Constant pointed out this morning. Here’s the thing: really good data analysis is very hard to come by. People get confused, they read the data wrong, they’re not smart enough to determine the actual patterns behind everyday life. A very good data analyst is rarer than a four-leaf clover.

That’s why I was so thrilled to learn about Invictus this morning. Barry Ritholtz explains on his Big Picture blog that Invictus has to keep his identity hidden behind a pseudonym because he “works at a shop that does not allow its staff to publish economic and data analysis outside of their formal imprimatur.” Even though his identity is obscured, Invictus is obsessed with getting to the truth about Seattle’s minimum wage. On Twitter and in posts on the Big Picture, Invictus has been hammering at conservative fear mongering on Seattle’s minimum wage.

Invictus’s biggest fight is against the Washington Policy Center, which has been spreading misleading stories about restaurant closures in Seattle using what he characterizes as “poor, misinformed, and data-free sources” to support their scurrilous charges. The Washington Policy Center says that restaurants in Seattle are closing. Invictus responded with a chart sourced from public information readily available at the King County Office of Economic and Financial analysis:

City of Seattle Food Business Count

That’s some beautiful data right there. It conclusively disproves the claim that Seattle is losing restaurants at a rapid clip, or that restaurant growth is slowing down in anticipation of the increased minimum wage.

Still, the data on that chart doesn’t include April 1st, when Seattle took the first step in our minimum-wage increase, so conservative blogs have been perpetuating the idea that Seattle’s restaurant growth would flatline or even decline as soon as the minimum wage goes up. The Z Pizza story gave them another opportunity to spread that fear around. This morning, Invictus responded with his own fresh chart demonstrating “the NAICS codes for the food service industry in Seattle via up to date licensed business counts” through yesterday. Guess what? The minimum wage doesn’t seem to be hurting food service licenses at all. In fact, they’re way higher than they have been in over a year: 

Seattle NAICS

Look at that chart! I think I’ve got a man-crush on Invictus right now.

Almost a decade ago, Nate Silver’s groundbreaking presidential coverage proved that America was desperately in need of deep, data-driven journalism. The panicked media frenzy over $15 minimum wages demonstrates that we need much more of this kind of factual analysis. Invictus’s research and reportage on this subject is invaluable, and it’s not even his day job!

If you want to know the truth about Seattle’s economy, you’ll stop following @Q13FOX on social media and start following @TBPInvictus. That’s where all the real news is happening.

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Nick Hanauer