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The Fast Food Nominees Goes Fast

Although we can’t for the life of us think of the name of the last Secretary of Labor, we’re momentarily aware of the fellow who won’t be the next one. President Donald Trump’s choice for the post, business executive Andrew Puzder, has withdrawn his briefly famous name from consideration, and for several reasons his departure is more newsworthy than the the position usually merits.
Puzder was a controversial nominee from the outset, even by the extreme standards of the Trump era. He’s an executive in the fast-food restaurant business, heading up the corporation that that owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.’s chains that proliferate throughout the land, so he’s an outspoken advocate against raising the minimum wage, which has long been a favored cause of the Democratic Party, and the company’s television advertisements have used attractive women in ways that aroused the ire of the Democrats’ feminist wing, and of course the vegan wing was also offended. He’d also faced credible and nationally-televised-by-Oprah but later recounted accusations of spousal abuse, which offended both the feminist wing of the Democratic Party and what’s left of the chivalrous wing of the Republican Party, and he was also an advocate for mass legal immigration and a lax response to the illegal sort, which amused the Democrats but troubled all sorts of pre- and post-Trump Republicans, and he’d also had one of those illegal alien domestic servants that have derailed both Democratic and Republican cabinet nominees over the past few decades.
Add it all up, and it was enough to unify all the Democrats and sway a decisive number of Republicans and force Puzder to withdraw. Other controversial Trump nominees have managed to squeak through, including the recently resigned National Security Advisor Gen. Michael Flynn, whose departure is an ongoing scandal, and Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who needed Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote, so Puzder’s scalp is being widely celebrated by the Democrats and their media allies. There are always a few nominees who don’t get confirmed, and so far Trump is batting better than the league average, but add Puzder’s embarrassment to Flynn’s departure and that scandals that entails, along with all the other leaked-from-the-White-House tales of White House dysfunction and the Democrats and their media allies are entitled to a certain amount of gloating.
Much like that decisive number of Republican congressmen who said they’d vote against the nomination, though, we’re not disappointed by the withdrawal. We’re also opposed to a raise in the minimum wage on the grounds that it will only hasten the automation that’s taking more American jobs than Mexico and China ever will, but such a self-interested advocate as Puzder seem a poor choice to make that argument. We don’t mind the sex appeal in the fast food commercials, and of course the strip club and beauty pageant mogul who nominated him didn’t either, but the domestic abuse charges offended our old-fashioned chivalrous Republican sensibilities, even if they didn’t bother a president who has faced similarly credible but ultimately withdrawn accusations, and the illegal alien housekeeper also seemed a disqualifying incident in the life of a potential Labor Secretary, even if the illegal-alien-hiring but tough-on-illegal-immigration president who appointed him didn’t have a problem with it. Even the conservative media more inclined to defend Trump seem to be having trouble working up much indignation about Puzder’s withdrawal.
Every administration has its confirmation failures, and as previously noted Trump is doing better than usual so far, but Puzder’s ignominious withdrawal and Flynn’s more noteworthy resignation and all the resulting stories from that, along with all the White House-leaked tales of White House dysfunction, all add up to a bigger story that the Democrats and their media allies are eager to tell. How big remains to be seen, but we suspect that in the end it won’t be just the Democrats telling it.

— Bud Norman

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From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

There’s nothing we can find in the Democratic National Committee’s recently “hacked” and by now widely-disseminated-across-the-internet computer files that indicates how much they’re paying their information technology and opposition research employees, but whatever it is they’re grossly overpaid. It’s embarrassing enough that an outfit in the business of the running the entire country can’t fend off such predictable cyber espionage, especially when there’s an ongoing criminal investigation into party’s presumptive presidential nominee’s similarly sloppy systems while serving as Secretary of State, but that newly-revealed case they came up with against the Republican party’s presumptive nominee was more cringe-inducing yet.
Hilariously stamped “confidential” on each of its 237 printed-out pages, the report does indeed make a convincing case that the presumptive Republican nominee is a rather nasty piece of work. “One thing is clear about about Donald Trump. There is only one person he has ever looked out for, and that is himself,” the report begins. “Whether it’s the American workers, the Republican Party, or his wives, Trump’s only fidelity has been to himself. Trump will say or do anything to get what he wants without regard for those he harms.” The following 236 pages have ample and needlessly repetitive citations to back it all up, along with all the mocking the handicapped and disparaging American prisoners of wars and downright creepily sexist statements and the four corporate bankruptcies and all the out-sourcing and hiring of foreign workers that the anti-outsourcing and anti-immigrant nominee did and the generally annoying schoolyard bully-boy persona he’s nursed in his long career as a reality star, along with most but not nearly all of the rest of the by-now familiar litany, and it’s all in Trump’s own spoken or written or “tweeted” words, along with the undeniably racist and sexist stuff he’s “re-tweeted,” and by now we don’t feel at all obligated to deny any of it, but by now the Democratic National Committee will have to come up with something better than that.
Such once respected and formerly Republican publications as The National Review and The Weekly Standard and The New Criterion and The Central Standard Times have been making the same points since the onset of the Republican primary campaign, when there were two or three men and one woman in the 17-person field that we thought would have made formidable nominees and fine presidents, and 12 others we would have found at least tolerable and likely electable, and it’s all too plain to see how that has worked out. We’d like to think we’ve been even more thorough in our criticisms of the presumptive Republican nominee than that 237-page report, and made the case with more literary flair, but What those sloppy and incomplete and surely overpaid cut-and-pasters don’t understand, and which has at long last dawned on us, is that none of it matters. Much of it is by now “old news,” as the presumptive Democratic and her former president husband have long used to describe their lifelong histories of scandals, and a lot of people seem to like the idea of a Nietzschean will-to-power type who will crush his enemies and revel in the lamentations of their women just like fellow celebrity former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did in that “Conan the Barbarian” hit, and even such reluctant sorts of Republicans as ourselves we can see the appeal given that the presumptive Democratic nominee is former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
She’s a nasty piece of work, too, and we and all the rest of the once respected and formerly Republican publications have been making that case since way back when the presumptive Republican nominee was inviting her to his latest wedding and telling his interviewers how great she was and contributing a six-figure check to her family’s phony-baloney influence-peddling “family foundation.” If the undoubtedly overpaid “oppo researchers” at the Republican National want a hacked report with at least more completeness and literary than their Democratic counterparts, they can feel free to have “fair use” to our many years of ridicule and denunciation and carefully cited criticisms of this awful woman. All that already well known and soon to be revived talk about Trump’s well-publicized and oft-bragged-about and thoroughly tawdry sex life is pretty much negated by any mention of the word “Clinton,” which is by now a double entendre, and at least he was the only one of the two in the current race who was getting all the action, so far as we know, and America always love a winner, except for that significant percentage of the electorate that seems to identify with victims. If Clinton never shafted any private sector workers, as Trump surely did, it’s only because she rarely hired any in her long and inglorious tax-supported history, and if Trump never peddled any public sector favors, as Clinton surely has, it was only because he’d never before offered his talents to public service and instead been in the public sector buying favors and then bragging about it on a Republican debate stage. As to which of these two awful people has ever demonstrated any fidelity to anyone but themselves, we’ll leave it to the rest of this suddenly strange country to decide.
We’re not inclined to offer advice to Democrats, but we feel such pity for those sorry but overpaid souls in the national committee’s “oppo research” department that we’ll suggest they not bother at all with Trump’s outrageously over-the-top remarks regarding immigration from Islamic countries, because as crazy as it admittedly is it isn’t quite so crazy as the presumptive Democratic nominee’s insistence that Islam has noting to do with terrorism, and it reminds everyone that her entire tenure as Secretary of State was just awful, and that people tend to believe the presumptive Republican nominee’s false claims that he’s called every major foreign policy decision of his lifetime perfectly, believe him. The report suggests attacking Trump on his calls for lower income tax rates at the top brackets and his opposition to a rise in the minimum wage, which once warmed our formerly Republican hearts, but by now Trump has of course abandoned these positions for the moment and is out-bidding the Democrat for the disgruntled support of her self-described socialist challenger. Back in the old days the presumptive Democratic nominee’s then-president husband gave rise to the term “triangulation” describe how they roped in all their party’s base without overly offending the Republicans, but we will warn his wife’s “oppo research” team that their opponent is also pretty good at it.
What that hapless Democratic “oppo research” team needs, if we were inclined to give them some advice, is something that even haven’t yet come up with on Trump. The estimable Jonah Goldberg over at the once respected and formerly Republican National Review noted that Trump has plausibly bragged about how he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any support, but amusingly wondered what might happen if Trump were to shoot a gorilla, and whether it would make any difference if the gorilla had come from Mexico or some Middle Eastern country. Something along those lines will probably be necessary, as the public now seems inured to the idea of some scandal-ridden miscreant running the country, and the polls show that the vast majority of the public can’t stand either of them, and our best guess is it will come down to some weird season finale twist in this gruesome surreality show.

— Bud Norman

Race and the Race

Democrats are constantly calling for a frank national conservation about race, as if it hasn’t ranked right up there with sports and weather and the sex lives of celebrities as one of the three or four most discussed topics of the past 240 years or so, but there are times when we wonder just how frank they want that conversation to be. Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate was one of those times.
If you haven’t been following the Democrats’ low-rated reality show, self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the cranky-and-kooky-old-coot next door character, has lately usurped the starring role from former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who started out as the heroine of the series. A couple of episodes ago a lot of fishy officiating and some suspicious coin tosses delivered an embarrassingly minuscule margin of victory for Clinton in Iowa, then the next week she suffered a rout in New Hampshire, but now the scene significantly shifts to South Carolina. Attentive viewers of the show will have noticed that Iowa and New Hampshire are so chock full of white people that even most of the Democrats there are white, while South Carolina’s white people are so overwhelmingly Republican these days that most of the Democrats in the state are largely black, and although no self-respecting Democrat would care to frankly converse about it that is the all-important backstory to this week’s episode.
The same unmentionable backstory would have you believe that our heroine and aspiring queen is much adored by her would-be black subjects, and there are polls to back this up, but some plot twist might await. She once served as Secretary of State for the First Black President, even though she was once his fierce rival, and somehow remains married to the first First Black President, although no one can quite remember why he was once so beloved by his black subjects, and the lovably-cranky-and-kooky-next-door-neighbor is from a state so white that the Eskimos have 200 words for it, and there’s also something slightly Jewish about him, which is another one of those complicated subplots in these Democratic shows that is best not frankly discussed, but there’s still some uncertainty. Sanders is offering free stuff and a guillotines-and-all revolution, which always have some appeal, the heroine and queen in waiting is looking more and more like a corrupt and incompetent villainess, which eventually dispirits even the party’s most die-hard fans, and Thursday’s debate offered both a chance to make their discreetly worded pitches to the South Carolina’s largely black Democrats.
Which apparently means trying to out-do one another with fulsome praise for the past seven years and a month or so of First Black President Barack Obama’s administration. A truly frank conversation would acknowledge that pretty much every economic indicator from unemployment to household wealth to home ownership to business start-ups indicates that it has been a disaster for black America, race relations have not improved, that the coming downturn is bound to be worse yet, but that went politely unmentioned in the Democrats’ South Carolina debate. Obama’s approval rating among black Americans still exceeds even the worse-than-Depression-era unemployment rate for black youths, and in Democratic politics fealty to his legacy is just as important as advocating minimum-wage hikes that will surely exacerbate that black youth unemployment problem.
The Democrats’ idea of a frank conversation about race is also full of indignant talk about rolling back the community policing and stiff-sentencing policies that drastically reduced the rates of murder and other serious crimes in black communities and throughout the nation at large, which we frankly cannot understand at all. Listening to rich white Democratic lady and the merely well-off white Democratic gentleman from the whitest state in the union you’d think that it was some mean old Republicans who passed all those community policing and stiff-sentencing policies that have locked up so many misunderstood young black men, but we were living in an inner-city war zone at the time and well recall that the rich white Democrat woman’s husband signed the bill they’re talking about the well-off gentleman from the whitest state in the union also voted for it and all of our black neighbors and most of the Congressional Black Caucus were also clamoring for get-tough measures. The “Black Lives Matter” movement, which no doubt includes a few of the thousands of black lives that were saved provably saved by those get-tough measures, is more concerned with the smaller numbers of lives lost to police shootings, however, and therefore so are the Democratic candidates.
A truly frank conversation about the matter would acknowledge that some of those police shootings were entirely justified, such as the one that set off all the rioting and arson and lawsuits and federal investigations in Ferguson, Mo., and that the ones that do arouse the most justifiable suspicion almost invariably occur in Democratic jurisdictions where every agency of the local government is corrupt and the local economies have been devastated by Democratic taxation and regulatory policies. The Democrats pride themselves on frankly noting the racial income inequality in America, and happily ignore the growing inequality over the past seven years and a month or so for the First Black President, but they won’t acknowledge the direct correlation between education or income, or the fact that Democratic-aligned teachers’ unions and Democrat-dominated academia and a general Democratic revulsion to private enterprise and innovation have prevented the voucher and charter school reforms that might address that glaring educational inequality.
In such a gloriously diverse country as America a truly frank discussion about race would also acknowledge that illegal immigration from mostly Latino countries has also had a mostly adverse economic and political effect on America in general and its black citizens in particularly, but there’s also a caucus coming in Nevada and the Democrats there are largely Latino, so the frankness of that conversation was proscribed. Both candidates dared to criticize the First Black President for recently deporting some of the trainloads of unaccompanied minors from Central America in recents years, following many years of non-enforcement of the laws and executive orders about unaccompanied minors that seemed to invite them all in, and although we doubt this played well with South Carolina Democrats they really don’t have any choice except for some Republicans named Cruz or Rubio, or maybe that Spanish-speaking Bush guy with the Latino wife, and it might even be Trump.
Any of those guys could make a convincing pitch to black Democrats in South Carolina or elsewhere, about breaking up the educational monopolies and the big city machines and the plans to make everyone equally poor, but that would require a truly frank national conversation and the democracy of reality television doesn’t yet seem ready for something that real.

— Bud Norman

Badgering in the Badger State

President Barack Obama was warmly welcomed to Wisconsin by Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday, then let loose with another one of his characteristic petty partisan screeds, this one ridiculing his host. The characteristically petty partisan crowd roared its approval, of course, and the characteristically petty partisan press described it as part of a “victory lap” after a week of favorable legislation and Supreme Court rulings, of course, but not a word of it bears more skeptical scrutiny.
Speaking to an adoring throng in LaCrosse, Obama likened the entire Republican to a senile “Uncle Harry” making nonsensical statements at a family Thanksgiving dinner, adding that “You still love him. He’s still a member of your family. Right? But you’ve got to correct him. You don’t want to put him charge of stuff.” He also compared Wisconsin’s government under Walker to that of neighboring and more-Democratic Minnesota, noting that Minnesota had raised taxes on the wealthy, increased the minimum wage, expanded Medicaid, implemented all-day kindergarten, offered subsidies for college, and had a lower unemployment rate and higher median income. With the applause indicating that he had an audience willing to believe that higher taxes and higher labor costs and increased government spending is the obvious explanation for Minnesota’s relatively healthier economy, Obama then boasted of his own successes with this same formula, and contrasted his humane approach with the Republicans’ policy of giving tax breaks to the wealthy and letting everyone else fend for themselves. Such callous economics was the cause of the ’08 financial crisis, Obama told the crowd, anding that “Being an American is not about taking as much as you can from your neighbor before they take as much as they can from you. We are not a bunch of individuals out here on our own. We are a community, we are family. We are in this together.”
One hardly knows where to begin rebutting such hogwash, but it might as well be at the beginning with that crack about the crazy uncle. This comes from the World’s Greatest Orator, who was going to end the era of partisan division and facilitate a serious discussion about the nature’s future. It also comes from the leader of a party that features a crazy and foul-mouthed Uncle Joe and a creepy face-lifted Aunt Nancy and a perverted Cousin Anthony who keeps sending pictures of his underwear-clas private parts over his cell phone and a First Mom who insists that everyone eat their vegetables while she wolfs down what the fancy chefs who’ve been flown have created and a cackling evil stepmother Hillary who seems next in line to lead our very dysfunctional national family, and we can’t share the audience’s satisfaction that everything has worked out so well since they’ve been “put in charge of stuff.”
Walker does a fine enough job defending his controversial policies in an op-ed article at Real Clear Politics, graciously headlined “Welcome to Wisconsin, Mr. President,” noting the significant economic gains that have lately occurred in his state in spite of the sluggish national economy. He didn’t anticipate the part about Minnesota, so for his benefit we’ll add that the high tax rates on job-creators cannot possibly explain the state’s job creations, the minimum wage increase is less than a year old and hasn’t yet pushed up overall wages and has almost certainly eliminated many minimum-wage jobs, the Medicaid expansion wouldn’t have been necessary if the Minnesota economy were as robust as he represents it, and probably was made more necessary by the many Minnesotans who lost the suddenly more-expensive health plans they liked and were promised they could keep but were relegated to Medicaid by Obamacare, there’s no proof that all-day kindergarten does children much good, somebody’s still paying those ever-increasing college costs that always go up further with the subsidies, and a more telling basis for comparison would be the relative improvement of the Wisconsin and Minnesota economies over the past few years.
Nor does the broader American economy seem to justify such arrogance. The labor participation rate is at a low unseen since Jimmy Carter’s presidency, wages remain stagnant, the Gross Domestic Product contracted the first quarter of this year and the most optimistic predictions having it growing at around 2 percent or a fraction over the full year, such meager advances have added more than $8 trillion to the national debt during the Obama presidency, and no one who isn’t within clapping distance of the presidents anticipates that happy days will soon be here again. We’re not heartened by the rest of the president’s great week, either. The Supreme Court ruled that the Obamacare law doesn’t say what it says on the written 2,000-plus, but that instead it means whatever five justice of the Supreme Court would prefer it said, and then on the big same-sex marriage decision it pretty much concluded the same thing about the Constitution, and whatever political benefits might redound to the president neither development is likely to do much good for the rule of law and Constitutional restraints on the federal government. A lot of Republicans and a few cowed Democrats also gave the president “fast track” authority to negotiate a top-secret free-trade deal with numerous Asian nations, and although we’re generally free traders we don’t like the top-secret and remain worried that it will allow him to pull some immigration and environmental shenanigans.
Most annoying, though, were his descriptions of capitalism and socialism. The natural rights of individuals to voluntarily trade and contract with another in a free market, an arrangement that has produced greater wealth and one more to advance civilization than any cockamamie bureaucratic regulatory scheme, is explained in terms of “taking as much as you can from your neighbor before they take as much as they can from you.” Any individual who has become self-sufficient by voluntarily trading and contract with another individual in a free market should be grievously offended by this, and we daresay their neighbors should be as well. But then again, we’re “not a bunch of individuals” in Obama’s America, we are a “family.” Obama is presumably the father, although regrettably not the absent sort of father figure he grew up without, and as that cheering throng of hipsters in LaCrosse would probably tell you, with all their progressive sophistication, father knows best.
On second thought, the very most annoying part of Obama’s speech was that line about how the unregulated avarice of that ruthless capitalist system that leaves everyone to fend for themselves was the cause of the ’08 financial crisis. The lie is so oft-repeated that it goes almost unnoticed and almost entirely unquestioned, but the pesky fact remains that it wasn’t caused by lack of regulations that prevented greedy bankers from making home loans to people who clearly could never repay them, but rather because of presumably well-intentioned government interventions in the free market, which encouraged and cajoled and eventually coerced the bankers to make those loans in the cause of affordable housing and civil rights and fairness and all sorts of focus-group tested themes. Obama surely knows this, as he did pro bono work for some subprime borrowers that forced Citibank to write them mortgage, and was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus was it was screaming racism at the regulatory “watchdogs” who were warning of the coming collapse and successfully resisting George W. Bush’s efforts to stop it, and he surely knows that as a result of his efforts housing became less affordable and black Americans wound up disproportionately poorer, as they remain today, and that in the end it was disastrously unfair to all the more credit-worthy homeowners and their creditors as well as just about everyone else.
Obama’s at least a deft enough orator to leave that part out.. We’re looking forward to Walker’s announcement that he’ll be running for president, and expect much better from him, and although he seems a nice and Wisconsin sort of fellow who won’t resort to petty partisanship and sneering ridicule we hope he will bluntly talk back to such hogwash.

— Bud Norman

The Hipsters are a Riot

The civil disturbance that occurred in Seattle over the past weekend has been described as a “hipster riot,” and the term seems delightfully apt. We’re kicking ourselves for not having secured the domain rights to hipsterriot.com, because it might just be the next big trend.
What happened in Seattle didn’t get nearly the attention paid to the riots in Baltimore, and some will suggest this is because the racist media prefer to publicize the violent rampages of oppressed black youths rather than admit that relatively pampered white youths are capable of the same sort of misbehavior, but our long experience of white guilt-ridden reporters suggests otherwise. Baltimore was more likely a bigger deal because the destruction was greater, with the Seattle rioters barely managing 16 arrests and three wounded police officers and a few burned-out automobiles and smashed storefronts before a rather robust show of law enforcement put an end to it, and such low-level rioting has been such a routine occurrence in Seattle since the big riot outside the World Trade Organization meeting back in ’99 that the city might as well mention it in the Chamber of Commerce brochures as proof of it’s cutting-edge hipster appeal. Still, we suspect it’s mainly because the white guilt-ridden reporters would rather make excuses for oppressed black youths with some plausible complaints about their police department run by their notoriously corrupt city than try to explain a relatively pampered bunch of white boys acting up on behalf of more government and calling themselves “anarchists.” This probably also explains the disproportionate attention paid to the two the riots by the president and other politicians, all of whom seem to have lost their knack for spotting the next big trend.
While a whopping 96 percent of Americans are bracing themselves for yet another long, hot summer of race rioting, we’re also anticipating an accompanying trend of hipster rioting. There’s a seemingly endless supply of hipsters these days, after all, even here in Wichita. We can remember a time in the late ’70s when the entire local hipster community could easily fit into The Cedar Lounge for an Embarrassment-Inevitable double-bill and barely violate the fire code, but these days there’s enough of them to sustain a dozen coffee shops spread clear from the far-east side to the far-west side as well as another dozen or so bars where there are more “alternative” bands playing than there the sorts of bands that they’re an alternative to, and judging by all the similarly unpressed and hirsute actors in the television commercials they’re apparently a major market across the country. Persuading them to riot shouldn’t be any harder than persuading them to get tattooed or grow lumberjack beards or buy all those electronic gizmos that so engross them in the local hipster establishments.
Rioting is the latest black youth craze, for one thing, and the hipsters have been following the lead of the ghettos at least since Norman Mailer was writing “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster” way back in the ’50s. The hipster rioters in Seattle added the black rioters’ complaints about the police to their own catalogue of complaints, and they have plenty more of their own. The young hipsters bear a large share of the nation’s one trillion dollar student loan debt, and will eventually be asked to chip on the federal government’s $17 trillion of debt, and it’s not as if the robust 0.2 percent growth rate in the Gross Domestic Product is going to provide the kinds of lucrative jobs that will help pay for it all, and the inevitable defense cuts will only encourage the Islamic radicals who don’t seem to cotton to even the hipsters with beards, and sooner or later even the most up-to-date hipsters will find themselves offending somebody with an organized grievance group, but of course none of that will be the reasons for the rioting. Instead they’ll find some corporation doing something they don’t like, or some church holding to it’s long-held notions about sexual morality, or some job-creating free trade agreement that’s still in effect, or they’ll notice that some highly productive square is getting paid more than they are, or some other last vestige of the old capitalist economic system, and they’ll riot for some big-government solution in the name of “anarchy.” It makes no more sense than their young black counterparts burning down their own neighborhoods demanding more of the same old big government solutions that made those areas so flammable, but riots needn’t make sense.
Perhaps some sense will eventually be imposed on the hipsters, as it has been on the owner of San Francisco comic book store who proudly supported the city’s generous increase in the minimum wage until it had passed and he realized that he would need to come up with an additional $80,000 in revenue keep his business afloat. The picture of his staff that appeared in The National Review’s rather hilarious account of his travails shows a stereotypically hip group of soon-to-be-unemployed youngsters standing around their obligatorily bearded boss, and although they look to be nice enough people we can’t help but think they’ve got it coming. Their city prides itself on its progressive and tolerant and hipper-than-thou attitudes, and is one of the most racially segregated and economically exclusive and intellectually rigid and easily ridiculed places in the country as a result, and we can’t help think it has a few riots coming as well.
If the hipsters were the ruggedly individualistic non-conformists they claim to be they’d be demanding less government, a less rigid enforcement of the latest social strictures, and they’d probably stop to wonder why they’re all getting tattooed and growing lumberjack beards buying the latest electronic gizmos. They probably wouldn’t be rioting, either, and if they were they’d be able to provide some more cogent explanation for it. We recall Marlon Brando’s leather-jacketed biker thug in “The Wild Ones” being asked what he was rebelling against, and mumbling “Whattaya got?” in response, and that made more sense and strikes us as far hipper than the big-government anarchy that those Seattle hipsters are going on about.

— Bud Norman

Minimum Wages and Minimal Logic

Those mischievous economists at the Congressional Budget Office are back in the news, this time with a report suggesting that raising the minimum wage would also raise the unemployment rate.
The notion that raising the cost of something such as unskilled labor might also reduce the demand for it will seem reasonable enough to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of economics, but it has provoked an outcry among those with a more sophisticated view of these things. There apparently are studies out there by some experts or another suggesting that raising the cost of something doesn’t affect the demand for it and that people will gladly continue paying a higher price for something long after the cost has exceed its actual economic value, no matter how many centuries of economic history sense suggest otherwise, and we are told that it would be downright anti-science to argue with an expert’s study. Advocates for an increase in the minimum wage also note that the CBO has concluded that minimum wage workers would make more money if the minimum wage were increased, which will also seem reasonable enough to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of economics, and argue that so far as social justice and all the jazz goes the lost jobs would be offset by the gains those lucky enough to keep their swelled wages.
Neither argument is convincing. The president and any economists supporting his call for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour clearly haven’t spent much time lately in the drive-thru lane of a fast-food restaurant, where they surely would have encountered uncouth and innumerate workers whose feeble efforts could not possibly provide a profitable return on that exorbitant amount, and we don’t doubt there are far more of them than the 500,000 or that the CBO has estimated will get the axe. There’s also the distinct possibility that a few million more over-paid workers will demand a bump up above the minimum and find that they are no longer worth the cost. Despite our dissatisfaction with these workers’ performances we are not so insouciant about their fates as the more high-minded activists seem to be, and we don’t share the view that they’re better of unemployed at $10.10 an hour rather than employed at the current rates.
This is a most unfashionable point of view, however, and it remains to be seen if it will prevail. The last time the CBO raised such a fuss was when it reported that more than a million people will be induced to leave the labor force rather than relinquish their Obamacare subsidies, and presidential and bien-pensant opinion concluded that they’d all better off and free to pursue careers in the arts. As much as we’re looking forward to the artistic renaissance that will surely flower from all those fast-food workers laid off to make room burger-flipping robots, it doesn’t seem likely to spur an economic revival any time soon.

— Bud Norman

What They’re Thinking, If Anything

All the talk on conservative talk radio lately has been about immigration reform, and mostly it concerns an expected capitulation on some sort of euphemized amnesty by the Republican congressional leadership. The most discussed issue, of course, is about what in the world the Republican congressional leadership is thinking.
Although the expected capitulation is not yet a done deal, and some reliable sources are reporting that cooler heads in the Republican caucus might yet prevail, there is ample reason for concern. Enough Senate Republicans have already gone wobbly to help pass a bill so awful that it has been endorsed by President Barack Obama, several prominent House Republicans have been making worrisome pronouncements in recent months, and last week the party’s leaders issued a statement of principles on the immigration issue that strikes the more rock-ribbed rank-and-file of the GOP as insufficiently principled. Given the leadership’s spotty track record of acting according to its constituents’ will, conservatives can be forgiven for already cussing the as-yet-unannounced deal.
Also understandable is the confusion about what could possibly cause the leadership to act so stupidly. Perhaps they have a sincere belief that a path to citizenship for the industrious undocumented workers who have been forced to live in the shadows as they have contributed so much to our country is the best and fairest economic policy for America, but sincere beliefs are a far-fetched explanation for any politician’s actions, and especially so if it is a self-proclaimed Republican sincerely believing that flooding an already depressed labor market with millions more unskilled laborers flouting the law is either fair or good for the economy. Politics is usually a plausible reason for a politician’s actions, but in this case the leadership’s reported stand would provide the opposition with millions of additional voters while further enraging its own base of support. With neither of these usual explanations at hand, many conservatives have sought to explain the Republican leadership’s inexplicable behavior with strange theories that it’s all part of a plan to limit the party’s widely expected gains in the upcoming mid-term elections and thereby set up a more favorable political climate in the 2016 presidential race or some similarly convoluted scheme.
A more likely explanation is that the leadership is more concerned with the potential donations of the party’s big business wing that is eager for a wage-depressing flood of cheap new labor, but even if that is the case they’re still making the wrong political calculations. After running a series of exceedingly immigrant-friendly presidential candidates who lost the Latino vote by landslide margins it should be clear that the party won’t benefit from further immigration any time soon, and the costs of the full-scale conservative revolt that a capitulation will provoke cannot be paid by any amount of corporate donations. The expense of fending off primary challenges against every single Republican who goes along with this nonsense will eat up most of the money, and when disgruntled conservatives stay home in the general elections the price will be higher yet.
Should the Republicans stand fast against any sort of amnesty for illegal immigrants it would likely bolster their chances in the mid-terms and several elections beyond. Much of the opposition to unfettered immigration comes from such traditional Democratic voting blocs as African-Americans, low-wage workers, and union members, and although it’s unlikely any of them could be persuaded to vote for a Republican the issue could keep many of them at home and safely away from the polls. Even the big business wing of the party might be persuaded to continue contributing the big bucks against a party that wants to flood the market with cheap unskilled labor but simultaneously make it more expensive with a rise in the minimum wage, and the Republicans could truly make the compelling claim that they are a party of competitive free market capitalism and not crony corporatism.

— Bud Norman

Happy Days Aren’t Here Again

Until last Friday we’d been hearing a lot a giddy talk about an economic recovery, but it all seems to have abruptly ended with the release of the latest jobs report.
The numbers were so abysmally bad that even the giddiest talkers didn’t bother to deny it. There was yet another dip in the unemployment rate to a almost respectable-sounding 6.7 percent, but by now everyone knows that isn’t good news. A mere 74,000 new jobs were created in December, most of them low-paying, and the decline is due more to the 535,000 who gave up trying to find work and are thus no longer counted among the unemployed. The number of Americans with jobs is now about the same as it was when the recovery supposedly began in 2009, the number of Americans who have resigned themselves to permanent unemployment is the highest since the days of Jimmy Carter, and the best that the bull such as Heidi Hartman of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research can say about it is “Let’s not panic.”
We expect Hartmann will be satisfied with the lack of panic that ensues. Now that the dismal jobs figures have run their course on the news cycle the press can get back to covering the scandals of Gov. Chris Christie or anyone else who might challenge Hillary Clinton in the next presidential race, the bureaucrats will continue writing regulations and bothering businesses, the Federal Reserve will continue printing money even if enough people drop out of the labor market to achieve that 6.5 percent benchmark that was supposed to put an end to it, Democrats will keep on advocating for bringing in millions more illegal immigrant workers to flood the job market and raising the minimum wage and any other crazy scheme that might worsen the situation, while the Republicans will offer whatever futile resistance they can muster as they bide their time until the mid-term elections. The general public, as least those gainfully employed or with unemployment benefits still coming in the mail, will continue to regard it as normal.
A record number of Americans relegated to permanent unemployment ought to be a big story, prominent enough at least to inform the debate about illegal immigration and the minimum wage and whatever it is that the president hopes to do about income inequality, but the popular preference for other topics is understandable. A significant change in the country’s economic policies can’t occur until after the next president is elected, and if the press can successfully assassinate the character of any of Hillary Clinton’s challengers it will take at least another four years, so for the moment there’s really nothing to be done about it.
Still, we though it worth noting.

— Bud Norman

Liberty, Equality, Fries

A hamburger, like any other work of art, is judged by a purely subjective standard. Every person has his own peculiar preferences for this venerable American delicacy, but to our tastes it is best with a thick slab of ground beef and a thin slice of tomato, some onion, a bit of lettuce, perhaps a dash of relish if we’re in a fanciful mood, and most importantly with no ketchup or mayonnaise but plenty of mustard. This is our standard order on the rare occasions we find ourselves in a drive-thru line, always enunciated so clearly it cannot be mistaken over the tinny sound system we are shouting into, and we invariably arrive home to discover that even such a simple recipe is beyond the capabilities of your average fast food worker.
The incompetence, surliness, and general zit-faced stupidity of the average fast food workers are so widely acknowledged as t have become a staple stereotype of the popular culture, yet now they find themselves the celebrated heroes at the vanguard of the labor movement. A protest took place Thursday with picket signs outside a thousand of the big-name fast food joints in 50 cities demanding the right to collective bargaining and a substantial raise for the employees within, and the organizers at the Service Employees International Union are hoping it will eventually lead to an increase in the minimum wage for all workers to $15 an hour, force more raises for those just above that level of remuneration, and reverse the declining fortunes of the labor unions with thousands of grateful new members and their dues. They might just pull it off, as crazier things have happened, but we suspect the chances are about as good as getting the right items and correct change at a drive-thru window.
Fast food workers aren’t the grimy-faced miners or rosy-cheeked sweat shop seamstresses who were once the public face of the union movement, and although their lot in life is unenviable it is hardly the stuff of a Woody Guthrie folk song. They are often teenagers working part time for illicit beers, switch blade knives, rock ‘n’ roll recordings, or whatever else the young folks are spending their disposable income on these days, and in many cases they are people looking to supplement Social Security checks or other sources of income. News reports indicate that the modern economy has increased the average fast food worker’s age by several years, and that many are struggling to support family on the industry’s admittedly meager wages, but in any case they are not the most inspiring exemplars of the American work ethic. Worse yet, from a public relations point of view, fast food is shunned as a culinary evil by the same bossy bleeding-hearts that can usually be counted on to sympathize with a labor strike.
Should the fast food labor uprising win all of its demands, the victory will likely prove hollow. Many fast-food franchises will be forced to raise prices to pay for the higher wages, and the resulting decline in business will result in fewer jobs, while others will simply purchase labor-saving machinery that is suddenly cost-effective and actually knows the difference between mayonnaise and mustard. The inflation that inevitably follows a country-wide pay hike would eat up much of the increased wages of those who do get a fast food job, and those who don’t are unlikely to find work elsewhere in an economy further hampered by yet another will-intentioned law. With teen unemployment at record levels, this is a particularly inopportune time to insist on such job-killing measures.
On occasion we will encounter a fast food worker who is competent, polite, and seemingly intelligent, and we happily assume he will soon be doing something bigger and better. Denying these young people the opportunity to demonstrate these qualities to potential employers in order to over-pay their indolent co-workers seems a shame, like a hamburger with ketchup or mayonnaise.

— Bud Norman

Yet Another Speech

President Barack Obama gave yet another “major address” on Wednesday, this time about the economy, but it wasn’t like the good old days. We’re wizened enough to recall a time when every Obama oration was treated as a stop-the-presses event, whether it was major or not, but this time is barely rated a mention.
Obama’s speech at Illinois’ Knox College came in at a Castro-esque one hour and six minutes long, but the hourly updates on the radio gave it only a few seconds. The more high-minded media outlets gave it the dutiful respect of more than a minute of air-time or just enough column inches to necessitate a jump to the inner pages, and the right-wing ranters on talk radio had a few indignant comments, but it wasn’t enough to knock the naming of the new royal baby off the top of the news budget. Even the votes in Congress to continue the National Security Agency’s spying on average Americans and to slow the increase in student loan interest rates were considered livelier topics.
Being both unaccountably curious and almost insanely stout we managed to slog our way through a transcript of the entire speech, and although we concede the possibility that it somehow sounded better in Obama’s sonorous baritone we must say that it was just awful. Not only was it badly written, with an abundance of mixed metaphors and clichés and faux-folksiness and talk of the damage done by meat cleavers left in place, it was also chockfull of half-truths and full-blown untruths and a down-right demagogic dismissal of any disagreement. Mostly is was the same old class-warfare rhetoric that Obama has been peddling his entire political career, as if income inequality were the only flaw in an otherwise flawlessly functioning economy, and a handful of policy proposals that would only make things worse.
Obama starts the hour-long monologue by noting a speech he had given at the college shortly before being elected to the Senate, as if 2005 were so long ago, and admitting that he gave basically the same speech then. After a hackneyed history of the middle class descent into destitution that preceded him, Obama then offered a surprisingly upbeat assessment of the current economy. He touted the stock market’s climb to new highs, as if it weren’t a Fed-fueled bubble, cited the massive new regulations of the financial industry, as if they had done anything but make finance more expensive, touted the boom in fossil fuel production, as if it weren’t occurring on privates lands despite his best efforts to impose higher energy costs on the country, bragged about the revival of the auto industry, as if Detroit had not recently declared bankruptcy, and boasted of doubling wind and solar energy, as if that highly subsidized and ultimately inconsequential increase weren’t the reason that he’s been trying to increase the cost of fossil fuels. He even boasted of deficit reduction, as if the national debt had not increased by nearly seven trillion dollars on his watch.
If there is anything amiss in the economy, say a sluggish growth rate or persistently high level of unemployment and even higher levels of unemployment, Obama places the blame solely on the Republicans that have apparently been running the government unimpeded for the past five years. He’s revived the old argument that all the country’s calamities are a result of “sequester” budget cuts, as if his office did come up with the idea in the first place, and insists that any further decreases in spending must be done with a scalpel rather than that meat cleaver the Republicans have left in place. Of course there was nothing in speech to suggest where that scalpel should cut, just as every Obama has proposed spending increases rather than cuts to anything but national defense, and there were plenty of calls for more and more government.
He called for an increase in the minimum wage, as if high unemployment is a result of too-cheap labor costs, and for immigration reform that would flood the low-skilled labor market with tens of millions of new job-seekers, as if that’s going to alleviate unemployment, and the usual demand for more revenues, as if a healthy tax-hike is just the elixir required for an ailing economy. The rest of it was more lamenting the fact that some people do better in life than others, and although he offered no specific remedies for this injustice the implication seemed to be some people simply shouldn’t be allowed to prosper so much. How this will spur economic growth remained unexplained, but it seems to involve tax hikes.
Perhaps the press paid such scant attention because Obama has promised a series of similar speeches around the country, and they want to dole out his eloquence in measured portions. After months of speculation that various issues have been ginned-up to distract attention from the sorry state of the economy, there is now speculation that Obama has once again “pivoted” to the economy to distract attention from various controversies that have swirled about the White House lately. Obama dismissed these issues as “phony scandals,” as if any concern about the fatal mishaps and cynical lies that were the Benghazi scandal, or the Internal Revenue Services harassment of the president’s political enemies, or the criminalization of investigative reporting, or that congressionally-approved NSA spying on average Americans are of no consequence.
Those things are important, in our view, but so is the president’s stubborn insistence on the same policies that have made this the slowest and weakest economic recovery in the nation’s history.

— Bud Norman