In the most recent issue of Religion & Liberty, the “In the Liberal Tradition” section profiles Metropolitan St. Philip II of Moscow for his defense of faith and freedom in the face of the tyranny of Tsar Ivan IV, known to history as “Ivan the Terrible.” In contrast to Ivan, who used his power to oppress his own people, Philip taught, “He alone can in truth call himself sovereign who is master of himself, who is not subject to his passions and conquers by charity.” Among the many spiritual disciplines of the Orthodox Christian spiritual tradition geared towards freeing a person from being “subject to his passions,” we can see Philip’s love of labor in his many projects at the Solovki monastery in the years before he was made Metropolitan of Moscow. (more…)
There is much talk about raising minimum wage, even to the absurd rate of $22 per hour. President Obama has promised an increase to $9 per hour. Some small business owners, feeling the pinch of these raising wages, are turning to technology to solve their economic issues.
Carla Hesseltine, who runs a small bakery, is considering eliminating employees and replacing them with tablets that will take orders:
In order for her Just Cupcakes LLC to remain profitable in the face of higher expected labor costs, Ms. Hesseltine believes the customer-ordering process “would have to be more automated” at the Virginia Beach, Va., chain, which has two strip-mall locations as well as a food van. Thus, she could eliminate the 10 workers who currently ask customers what they would like to eat.
Small business owners can only raise prices so much without damaging sales, in order to cope with increased labor costs. Of course, there are costs involved with the set-up, upkeep and repair of technology, and the intangible cost of the loss of human contact.
Many studies about the effects of higher wages on overall employment tend to be politicized, clashing over whether the benefits of higher paid workers outweigh the costs of having fewer low-wage jobs. To support President Obama’s case for an increase in the minimum wage, the White House cites a 2009 academic study that says any adverse employment effect from such would be of a small and possibly irrelevant magnitude.
The raise in minimum wage to $9 does in fact seem to be minor. However, it is clear from Ms. Hesseltine’s story alone that tinkering with the minimum wage system will have ramifications. One could argue that the loss of minimum wage jobs will be balanced out by sales of technology and the jobs created there. It remains to be seen.
There are 14 million Americans who are out of work yet don’t show up in the monthly unemployment statistics. The federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for this group than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined. They are part of the hidden social safety net. They are the disabled former workers.
Whether you’re disabled often depends on your education level and what types of work you can do:
“We talk about the pain and what it’s like,” he says. “I always ask them, ‘What grade did you finish?'”
What grade did you finish, of course, is not really a medical question. But Dr. Timberlake believes he needs this information in disability cases because people who have only a high school education aren’t going to be able to get a sit-down job.
Dr. Timberlake is making a judgment call that if you have a particular back problem and a college degree, you’re not disabled. Without the degree, you are.
Joseph Sunde’s fine post today on vocation examines the dynamic between work and toil, the former corresponding to God’s creational ordinance and the latter referring to the corruption of that ordinance in light of the Fall into sin.
Joseph employs a distinction between “needs-based” work and something else, something privileged, a first-world kind of “fulfilling” work. The point DeKoster makes is right on target; we need to, in Bonhoeffer’s words, break through from the “it” of the work to the “you” (ultimately the divine “You”) that we meet in the work itself.
The discussions of these kinds of distinctions between “hard” work and “head” work have a long pedigree. There was a philosophical dispute running throughout the ancient and medieval eras about the value of the active versus the contemplative life. But I’d like to highlight a more proximate antecedent for some of this thinking, the British controversialist and critic John Ruskin (1819-1900).
“Want a job at the Pig?” asked my best friend Steve.
By my reaction, you would have thought he’d asked if I wanted a date with Kathy Ireland rather than inquiring about a job as a grocery sacker at the Piggly Wiggly. But I was living at Steve’s parent’s house rent-free, and needed to earn some money. And in Clarksville, Texas in 1985, the prospects of an inexperienced teen finding a good job were only slightly better than chances of dating a supermodel.
The elation was short-lived, though, and lasted only until I saw my first paycheck. As a full-time student working for a job that qualified for tips (I never, ever got tips) my employer was allowed to pay me the subminimum wage of $2.85 a hour (the equivalent of $5.87 in 2012). After FICA and Social Security took their cut, there wasn’t much left for me.
So if Ronald Reagan had announced in his State of the Union address that he was raising the minimum wage to $4.37 an hour (the equivalent in 1986 of Obama’s $9 minimum wage) I would have been ecstatic. Like all my fellow proletarian coworkers I was disdainful of Reagan’s economic policies, particularly his refusal to raise the minimum wage. Reagan’s was the only administration not to have raised the minimum wage since it was introduced nationally in 1938—a fact we often repeated in the breakroom as we looked at our paystubs and cussed the president.
Twenty-seven years later, though, I see the situation differently. I realize that I have not only my friend Steve but also President Reagan to thank for my getting hired at the Piggly Wiggly. Had the minimum wage been raised, the store owner could have never afforded to hire me. Since my labor was barely worth $2.85 an hour, having a government imposed price increase on wages of 52% would have priced me out of the market.
As William Graham Sumner explained in 1883, by attempting to do me a favor—by artificially raising the minimum wage I must be paid—the politicians were hurting both me and my potential employer:
Too many regulations: that’s the judgement of Fred Deluca, founder of the Subway restaurant chain. In an interview with CNBC, Deluca said he couldn’t start his business in today’s economic climate.
The Subway founder pointed to a number of government regulations that are degrading the business environment for entrepreneurs. Examples include the Affordable Care Act, an increase in the minimum wages and the end of the payroll tax holiday.
The Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare,” is “the biggest concern of our franchisees,” Deluca said. “They don’t know what to expect. It’s causing a lot of concern, but that too will be passed on to the consumer.”
Deluca also said payroll taxes are a burden passed on to customers, and sales then decline. He said that if he were to try and start his business in today’s tangle of regulations and burdensome costs, “…Subway would not exist.”
My friend John Teevan of Grace College sends out a monthly newsletter, “Economic Prospect.” He passes along this in the current edition:
I found this note from a newly retired accountant (age 66) who has not gone on social security yet. His income as a part-time accountant in his town was $60,000.
“My income is $60,000 and my IRS taxes are 10,000, my FICA deduction is $8,000, my state income tax is $2500, and my property tax is $6000. So I pay a total of $26,500 in taxes leaving me $33,500.
However, I have additional costs that I would like to (but can’t) deduct from my income. As I watch ‘government accounting’ I realize that these should be considered real costs.
I have saved $200,000 and invested the money in bonds earning 1% ($2000).
I could have invested that money in CDs earning 5% (10,000), but as the Fed has lowered the interest rate the cost to me is the difference: $8000.
In addition I am now entitled to social security and at my level of income over the years I would have received $28,000 this year, but I have chosen not to take Social Security saving Uncle Sam that money.
So I have contributed a total of $36,000 to Uncle Sam in foregone interest and foregone Social Security payments. Who got the benefit of that $36,000?
Uncle Sam; not me.
So if I add up my total contributions to the government this past year I paid $26,500 in taxes and paid $36,000 in lost income. These two come to $62,500…more than the $60,000 I earned.
While I enjoy my new job, when I think about this, I start to feel like one of Pharaoh’s slaves toiling to roll immense stones up from the Nile to his pyramid.”
Send John a message if you’d like to be added to his “Economic Prospect” list. It’s always a great read.
On National Review Online, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg reflects on President Obama’s State of the Union address last night, and flags the “reality-denial” that is expressed by “a few token references to free enterprise and rewarding individual initiative (to reassure us we’re still living in America instead of just another declining European social democracy).” More:
Judging from the president’s remarks, you’d never guess we just had a negative quarter of economic growth; or that the unemployment rate just ticked up again; or that millions of Americans have simply given up looking for work; or that Obamacare is (as predicted) already driving up the health-care costs that the president claimed are falling (just ask those businesses busy shifting thousands of employees into part-time positions in order to cap their exploding health-care costs); or that . . . again, I fear I am belaboring the point.
What’s the plan from the White House?
… we hear the president tell us, yet again, that we need to pump more money into universities and colleges. Never mind the higher-education bubble, which is going to implode sooner than most people think. We’re also told that we need to develop high-speed rail. One wonders if anyone has asked people in the People’s Republic of California how that’s working out. Then there is the apparently endless promise of green energy, which, despite the billions of taxpayer dollars poured into it, hasn’t actually created that many jobs at all. In addition to all this, we are now informed we must raise the minimum wage. Never mind all the evidence underscoring just how much damage minimum-wage laws do to the job prospects of the poor and many young people, not to mention newly arrived immigrants who just want a chance to start working.
Read “Rhetoric versus Reality” by Samuel Gregg on NRO.
And pick up a copy of Gregg’s new book Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future here.
Thanks to RealClearPolicy for linking.
Video: UAW President Bob King thanks Planned Parenthood, environmentalists, clergy, et al., at anti Right-To-Work Protest
LifeSiteNews.com looks at the — at first blush as least — strange alliance between the United Auto Workers union and Planned Parenthood on the Michigan Right to Work issue. Elise Hilton of the Acton Institute, interviewed by LifeSiteNews reporter Kirsten Andersen, says that the UAW, Planned Parenthood and other like minded groups are afraid that right-to-work laws will help defund the progressive agenda.
“I don’t think people outside of maybe the leadership of the UAW or Planned Parenthood know about the strong ties between unions and Planned Parenthood,” Hilton told LifeSiteNews.com. “I don’t think they realize that the president of Planned Parenthood was the keynote speaker for the UAW conference, or that the UAW says on their own website that they ‘strenuously support a woman’s right to choose.’”
The ties between unions and the pro-choice movement go beyond mutual support. The leadership of the two groups overlaps, as well.
Last year, the UAW appointed Mary Beth Cahill director of its national political efforts. Cahill had previously spent five years running EMILY’s list, a political action committee (PAC) dedicated to electing pro-abortion politicians.
UAW President Bob King showered Cahill with praise for her efforts, saying, “During her five years at EMILY’s List, she helped turn the pro-choice PAC into an unrivaled political powerhouse—the largest in the country at the time.”
Read the entire LifeSiteNews.com article, with more analysis from Hilton, here.
The Michigan legislature passed right-to-work legislation today, a landmark event that promises to accelerate the state’s rebound from the near-collapse it suffered in the deep recession of 2008. The bills are now headed to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk. The right-to-work passage was a stunning reversal for unions in a very blue state — the home of the United Auto Workers. Following setbacks for organized labor in Wisconsin last year, the unions next turned to Michigan in an attempt to enshrine prerogatives for their organizing efforts in the state constitution. A union-backed ballot proposal was handily defeated by voters in the Nov. 6 election.
But according to some on the Christian left, the right-to-work law is the worst thing that could happen to “workers.” Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a retired auxiliary bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, argued in an opinion piece that right-to-work “devastates economic justice.” He claims to speak not just for Catholics or for Christians but quite simply for faith communities all over the world:
At the core of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and all great religions are the values of dignity and respect, values from which economic justice and the right to organize can never be separated.
Gov. Rick Snyder’s Presbyterian tradition “affirms the rights of labor organization and collective bargaining as minimum demands of justice.” Similar statements have been made by the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, to name but a few. (more…)