The Case for a Higher Minimum Wage - New York Times Editorial Board



WHAT’S THE POINT OF THE MINIMUM WAGE? Most people think of the minimum wage as the lowest legal hourly pay. That’s true, but it is really much more than that. As defined in the name of the law that established it — the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 — the minimum wage is a fundamental labor standard designed to protect workers, just as child labor laws and overtime pay rules do. Labor standards, like environmental standards and investor protections, are essential to a functional economy. Properly set and enforced, these standards check exploitation, pollution and speculation. In the process, they promote broad and rising prosperity, as well as public confidence.

The minimum wage is specifically intended to take aim at the inherent imbalance in power between employers and low-wage workers that can push wages down to poverty levels. An appropriate wage floor set by Congress effectively substitutes for the bargaining power that low-wage workers lack. When low-end wages rise, poverty and inequality are reduced. But that doesn’t mean the minimum wage is a government program to provide welfare, as critics sometimes imply in an attempt to link it to unpopular policies. An hourly minimum of $10.10, for example, as Democrats have proposed, would reduce the number of people living in poverty by 4.6 million, according to widely accepted research, without requiring the government to tax, borrow or spend.

IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE? No. Other programs, including food stamps, Medicaid and the earned-income tax credit, also increase the meager resources of low-wage workers, but they do not provide bargaining power to claim a better wage.

We should all support the efforts to raise the minimum wage to $10.10/hour, and over a short time frame, to $15/hour. There is no substitute, and the GOP objections are not economic, but political.

Yes, we are in a changing economy, one with a shifting social contract. But those struggling at the bottom of the economic pyramid have little bargaining power: witness the efforts of workers at Wal-mart and fast food chains to get higher wages, which have been largely ineffective in changing the policies at those corporations. This is a social role that the federal government must play, which is why the law was passed in 1938, but the legislators left out automatic indexing of the minimum wage, which was a mistake.

Chamath Palihapitiya and the Neo-Libertarians of Silicon Valley

I left San Francisco after living there approximately one third of the time for four or five years, basically a year in aggregate. One of the things that really disturbed me was the underlying elitist, libertarian, dog-eat-dog, beggar-thy-neighbor attitude of many tech leaders, a neolibertarian ethos that has come to dominate much of the tech world there. This is shown to an extreme by Peter Thiel, who goes so far as to suggest that increases and welfare and giving women the vote made ‘capitalist democracy’ an oxymoron (see Peter Thiel, Techno-Utopian, and Beware Peter Thiel). But even a slightly more benign techo-libertarian like Eric Schmidt show his deeper leanings when he says I love gridlock’.

So this exchange last week between ex-Facebooker and angel Chamath Palihapitiya and Jason Calicanis, the host of This Week in Start-ups, is just the newest go around in the rapidly emerging neo-libertarian worldview of the tech elite in SF.

Calacanis makes a joke about the government shutdown, and this ensues:

Palihapitiya: The government, they’re completely useless.

Calacanis: The government got shut down today and the stock market went up 1 percent.

Palihapitiya: We’re in this really interesting shift. The center of power is here, make no mistake. I think we’ve known it now for probably four or five years.But it’s becoming excruciatingly, obviously clear to everyone else that where value is created is no longer in New York, it’s no longer in Washington, it’s no longer in LA. It’s in San Francisco and the Bay Area. And when you look at sort of, like, how markets react to things like that, and when there’s no reaction, it should be taken as a very subtle signal that the power dynamics have changed. Because markets value meaningful events, markets discount meaningless events. And so the functional value of the government is effectively discounted to zero …

Companies are transcending power now. We are becoming the eminent vehicles for change and influence, and capital structures that matter. If companies shut down, the stock market would collapse. If the government shuts down, nothing happens and we all move on, because it just doesn’t matter. Stasis in the government is actually good for all of us. It means they can neither do anything semi-useful nor anything really stupid. They just sit there and they just kind of, you know …


Calacanis: There you have it.

Yes. There you have it.

Kevin Roose sizes this up this way:

The bigger takeaway from Palihapitiya’s rant is that a certain strain of influential Silicon Valley thought has moved past passive political apathy and into a kind of anarchist cheerleading. Dysfunction and shutdowns are good, this line of thinking goes, because it hamstrings Washington’s ability to mess with the private sector’s profit-making schemes. And as long as the Bay Area is still churning out successful start-ups, what does it matter if hundreds of thousands of government workers are furloughed, essential services are cut off for low-income Americans, and the threat of a sovereign default endangers the entire economy?


For them [Bay area tech elite], government is mostly a hindrance — a regulatory obstacle to the kinds of disruptive start-ups they fund, and an enemy of a looser immigration policy that would allow their portfolio companies to recruit more talented foreign engineers.

But the message they’re pushing isn’t as simple as small-government libertarianism or selfish profit-seeking. It’s a kind of regional declaration of independence. The entrepreneurial community in San Francisco and Silicon Valley increasingly thinks of itself as a semi-autonomous region within the U.S. — one that has its own funding scheme, its own leaders, and its own paths to success. And the message they’re sending is simple: We matter, you don’t.

And they could be the answer to the GOP’s burning problem, which is finding a constituency that isn’t just the Confederacy. Yes, FWD.us the tech elite that back that neo-libertarianism will become the new quadrant of the right in American politics.


The recent Keystone Kops routine in Washington was the attempt of the Tea Partiers to move the country abruptly to the lower right quadrant of this chart, despite the rejection of those ideas by the electorate in the last presidential elections.

But the goals of the neo-libertarian, SF billionaires club are much more in line with American sentiment, especially those upward strivers on both populous coasts. They will be in favor of gay rights, legalization of pot, and women’s rights (Thiel’s bile and Twitter’s board of directors, notwithstanding). They will push for directed immigration relaxation on economic grounds: they want more Indian and Rumanian PhDs. And they will support corporatist globalism, and even the extreme risks posed by big banks will not bring them to argue for increased government regulation of the financial system.

But on the economics dimension they can go pretty far to the right. They will oppose raising taxes to better the welfare of poor people, or to underwrite better schools in districts that historically have done badly. They will oppose extending health care, and forget single payer.

They will be able to fund their objectives, and once they get over their dislike of government — which is completely useless, after all — they will likely start to play a larger role in the power vacuum left by the collapsing of the traditional constituencies of the fading conservative bloc in the US, which is aging, and out of step on a societal level with the sentiments of the young, who have come to accept interracial marriage, gays and lesbians, smoking pot, and the decline of religion as an ethical foundation.

The Myth Of Libertarian Populism, The Dream Of Fluidarity

The GOP is spinning a hopeful tale about a return to dominance in the US, but the demographics are against them in profound ways. They have become — for all intents and purposes — a party divided amongst itself, one that has chased away all the moderates, and has no one in a position to appeal to the center.

Paul Krugman weighs in against their newest fantasy — libertarian populism — which is an effort to sugarcoat the same old pill they have been peddling for years, and somehow use that to pull the so-called “missing white voters” — downscale, rural whites from the North — to come back to the polls and vote Republican. One of the biggest problems is that those missing whites are missing their food stamps, which the GOP is taking away. 

Paul Krugman, Delusions of Populism

More than 60 percent of those benefiting from unemployment insurance are white. Slightly less than half of food stamp beneficiaries are white, but in swing states the proportion is much higher. For example, in Ohio, 65 percent of households receiving food stamps are white. Nationally, 42 percent of Medicaid recipients are non-Hispanic whites, but, in Ohio, the number is 61 percent.

So when Republicans engineer sharp cuts in unemployment benefits, block the expansion of Medicaid and seek deep cuts in food stamp funding — all of which they have, in fact, done — they may be disproportionately hurting Those People; but they are also inflicting a lot of harm on the struggling Northern white families they are supposedly going to mobilize.

Which brings us back to why libertarian populism is, as I said, bunk. You could, I suppose, argue that destroying the safety net is a libertarian act — maybe freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. But populist it isn’t.

The true issue is a deep cultural divide between the extreme right GOP and the rest of the country, which ranges from libertarian to liberal. 

The Earth and its resources are treated as spoils by the powerful, who will use all the powers they have to continue the ruinous policies of the past. But the Earth must be reconsidered as a shared commons, and our principal purpose must be to move from the shambles of our current economic and geopolitic systems to a new order, based on sustainability and universal human rights.

However, we are unlikely to see a populist movement, today, in the US, especially among poor whites. One of the impacts of the modern paradox is that most people self-identify with the rich. The American mystique is that we are all middle class, only a few steps away from being a millionaire. This thinking persists in spite of 30 years of increasing inequality and the largest stratification of wealth in the advanced economies of the world. Upward mobility is increasingly a myth.

As a result of craning their necks to look up at the lifestyles of the rich and famous, which fill the magazine covers in the supermarket check-out lines, poor people avoid looking at the people standing beside them, in their neighborhoods. Instead they buy some lottery tickets and dream about what they’d do with a few million. We have no solidarity because we don’t see ourselves as ‘we’. Each American sees themself as an individual, outside of any demographics, ‘temporarily unwealthy’, a future millionaire.

So we aren’t marching, chanting, or demanding work, action, justice.

My hope is that something else, something new could happen. In the industrial age the solidarity of the working class opposed the oligarchy of capitalists. So, in a post-industrial era, can the fluidarity of the precariat oppose those who have made our lives precarious?

We aren’t in a time when class, race, and sex are forgotten. Far from it. But we may find ourselves in circumstances where the foundation of our life on Earth pushes other considerations to one side.

The Earth and its resources are treated as spoils by the powerful, who will use all the powers they have to continue the ruinous policies of the past. But the Earth must be reconsidered as a shared commons, and our principal purpose must be to move from the shambles of our current economic and geopolitic systems to a new order, based on sustainability and universal human rights.

The GOP — even with libertarian populist mumbo-jumbo — are not going to take us there. I am not sure I am hearing that from any Democrats, either. We are hearing only small-bore arguments about divisive issues, and that satisfies the stalling of progress, and that stall is what the powers-that-be are after.

At some point, the American public is going to revolt against the nanny state and the leftward march of this president. I don’t know when the tipping point will come, but I believe it will come soon.


Because the left wants: The government to explode; to pay everyone; to hire everyone; they believe that money grows on trees; the earth is flat; the industrial age, factory-style government is a cool new thing; debts don’t have to be repaid; people of faith are ignorant and uneducated; unborn babies don’t matter; pornography is fine; traditional marriage is discriminatory; 32 oz. sodas are evil; red meat should be rationed; rich people are evil unless they are from Hollywood or are liberal Democrats; the Israelis are unreasonable; trans-fat must be stopped; kids trapped in failing schools should be patient; wild weather is a new thing; moral standards are passé; government run health care is high quality; the IRS should violate our constitutional rights; reporters should be spied on; Benghazi was handled well; the Second Amendment is outdated; and the First one has some problems too.

Their philosophy does not work and it got our nation into the mess it’s in.

Eventually Americans will rise up against this new era of big government and this new reign of politically correct terror. In the meantime Republicans — hold fast, get smarter, get disciplined, get on offense, and put on your big boy pants.

Bobby Jindal, GOP needs action, not navel-gazing

Bobby Jindal is the governor of Louisiana. This is the sort of person they are considering as a potential presidential candidate. He doesn’t sound like he want to be president of the United States. Perhaps president of the Conferacy.

Yes, by all means, I think the GOP should put on their big boy pants, by which I mean accepting the facts about the eight years of George W’s reign and the crazy days of post 9/11 insanity, and the financial chaos of 2008.

How Cold Is That Cold War, Anyway?

The US and Russia are still in a state of high alert, ready to send nuclear missiles at a moment’s notice, decades after the Soviet Union has fallen.

Letting Go of Our Nukes - Lawrence Krauss via NYTimes.com

It is hard to seriously suggest that from a national-security standpoint, 1,000 warheads are not enough to protect the United States. Such an arsenal is literally overkill, sufficient to destroy every major population center on the planet outside of our borders.

We would lose no real strategic security by such a reduction. The New Start treaty called for cuts in the number of deployed strategic warheads to 1,550. But even these levels are an anachronism, left over from the cold war. The president’s proposed level of 1,000 warheads would still provide an equivalent level of mutually assured destruction even against Russia, were it still a cold war aggressor. In the current climate, when more likely possible aggressors have fewer than 10 percent of this level, 1,000 weapons is more than adequate.

If we wish to convince countries like Iran that the development of nuclear weapons is not in their best interest, we need to demonstrate that maintaining or enhancing our own arsenal is not in our interest.

This is particularly important now, not just to dissuade nations like Iran from building nuclear arsenals, and others, like North Korea, from adding to theirs, but also to stem what may be a much more worrisome and unstable situation in Pakistan and India. With each country holding estimated stockpiles of around 100 weapons, and as historic tensions continue to flare between the two, the possibility of a nuclear conflagration there remains very real.

The effects of even a limited nuclear war between Pakistan and India would not be confined to that region. Scientific studies by the physicists Alan Robock of Rutgers University and Owen B. Toon of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and their colleagues found that a nuclear war in South Asia involving the detonation of even 100 Hiroshima-size weapons, far smaller than those in their arsenals, could kill as many as 20 million people from the blasts and resulting fires and radiation, and generate so much smoke that it would block 7 to 10 percent of the sunlight reaching the earth for at least a decade.

Financial reasons are also an argument for a unilateral reduction. Maintaining our nuclear stockpile at its current level is expensive, and infrastructure upgrades at our weapons laboratories and storage facilities to maintain these weapons would significantly strain an already bloated defense budget.

Mr. Obama can also take other steps to increase our nuclear security.

It may surprise people, for example, that the United States still has not explicitly renounced a policy of possible first use of nuclear weapons. If we truly believe that no country should initiate a nuclear attack, why don’t we take a lead by making this our policy? It does not constrain us from responding to any attack.

In this regard, there are 1,800 nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia still on “high alert” that can be launched within 10 to 15 minutes of a perceived threat, according to an estimate by Hans M. Kristensen and Matthew McKinzie in June’s Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

This outdated remnant of the cold war, designed to ensure the retaliatory capability of either country in the event of a perceived massive first strike, vastly increases the likelihood of an accidental launch of nuclear weapons. We should cancel this high alert. It is unnecessary now, not only because a massive first strike is no longer likely, but also because warheads on submarines are impervious to a possible first strike.

The US is so incensed about Iran getting nuclear weapons, but I am more worried about Pakistan.

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