Who Are The Biggest Fans Of Minimum Wage Hikes?

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Liberal politicians and media love to profile earnest minimum wage workers who benefit immediately from a minimum wage hike (even if they later lose their jobs because of it, after the media has moved on).

But we never see profiles of the biggest winners from minimum wage hikes: the salespeople whose job is to convince supermarkets, retail stores, and fast food restaurants to install self-service ordering and checkout kiosks.

Self-serve kiosks are no longer rare or remarkable; they are sweeping across America–and every time the minimum wage is increased, these technologies become more cost-competitive versus human workers.

In public documents, the companies selling these self-service machines tout their accuracy, ease of use, customer satisfaction, and various other features that are said to make them a wise investment.

But what these companies do not want to be seen promoting is how much labor they save – i.e., how many employees they make it possible to eliminate.

Consider an actual supermarket in Bethesda, Maryland. It has a sticker on its front door proudly proclaiming it has a unionized workforce.

The store has one employee bag groceries for every two traditional checkout lanes. So, for example, to check out six people at once, it used to employ six cashiers and three baggers, for a total of nine employees.

Then recently, over the course of a few days, it installed a group of self-service checkout machines. This cluster of six machines allows six customers to check out simultaneously, with…get this…just one employee monitoring them.

In the course of one week, this proud union shop had eliminated the need for eight workers per shift.

And the kiosk salesperson had scored another commission.

Think of all the self-service machines you saw in 2014. Now chew on the fact that 21 states have increased their minimum wage since New Year’s Eve, making those machines instantly more cost-competitive.

To be clear: there is nothing dishonorable about these salespeople or the stores that add these machines. Labor-saving devices – from the automobile to the dishwasher to the computer – are a basic feature of human progress and should be applauded.

The problem comes when government mandates like the minimum wage artificially hasten the adoption of labor-replacing devices, particularly in the midst of our ongoing underemployment crisis, with our nation experiencing the lowest labor force participation rates in three decades.

Rather than face this issue, many have their heads in the sand.

In the New York Times last summer, an article waxed eloquent about a burrito chain called Boloco. The Times noted how Boloco pays even its newest, least-efficient employee more than the minimum wage, in contrast to other fast food brands that were portrayed as stingy. The co-founder of Boloco was quoted as saying: “If we’re talking about building a business that’s successful, but our employees can’t go home and pay their bills, to me that success is a farce.” He even appeared at a photo op with Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and called for a minimum wage hike, saying that paying his workers more than minimum wage was “a no-brainer.”

But missing from the fawning media was one significant fact: Boloco uses self-ordering kiosks to reduce the need for paid employees.

Last year, for example, in its Bethesda location, not far from the supermarket mentioned above, Boloco typically had one cashier available to take orders–and four self-serve ordering kiosks. So to move five people through the line simultaneously, Boloco did not employ five workers; it employed one.

The kiosk vendor promotes its work for Boloco in materials that hint gently at the labor-replacement value of self-service machines: “Boloco wanted to keep its emphasis on guest service, without having to exponentially increase staff.” But don’t worry; it quotes a Boloco Vice President reassuring us that “Kiosks . . won’t ever 100 percent replace our cashiers. . . .”

By the way, Boloco just closed its Bethesda and Washington, DC outlets. It gave all of its now-unemployed former workers four weeks severance.

Now imagine Bethesda’s labor-replacing mechanization being replicated nationwide, and you have a sense of how our existing unemployment crisis is about to get a whole lot worse for low-skilled workers and the unemployed.

Gallup’s CEO recently posted an essay that called the official 5.6% unemployment rate “The Big Lie,” noting that “as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed.” With government-mandated wage hikes fueling the accelerating wave of self-service kiosks that will take over fast food restaurants, supermarkets, and dollar stores, many more Americans are about to be added to that figure. As union agitators promise fast food workers that they are soon going to make $15 per hour, many are actually headed to $0 per year.

Of course, mechanization is inevitable, over time. Machines get cheaper, and their quality improves. New jobs will emerge to replace many of the old ones lost.

At the same time, people must improve their skills to survive in this new economy. But instead of having a national conversation about the need for struggling Americans to get to work on improving their skills, we continue to debate endlessly the notion that politicians can wave a magic minimum wage wand and deliver pain-free higher salaries to these workers.

American workers desperately need leaders focused on policies to strengthen our economy, improve our schools, speed economic growth, and create new jobs. In the meantime, there are probably more than a few self-serve kiosk salespeople rooting instead for more minimum wage hikes.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

The Big, Fat ‘American Worker Recruitment First’ Lie of H-1B

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You’ve heard it from Big Government lobbyists. You’ve heard it from Big Business lackeys in both political parties. And you’ve heard it from journalists, pundits, and think-tankers ad nauseam:

The H-1B foreign guest worker program, they claim, requires American employers to first show that they searched for and tried to recruit American workers before tapping an ever-growing government-rigged pipeline of cheap foreign workers.

The foot soldiers of the open-borders brigade are lying, deluded, ignorant, or bought-off.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee brought top independent academics and informed whistleblowers to Washington to expose the truth. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, hosted Howard University associate professor of public policy Ron Hira, Rutgers University professor Hal Salzman, Infosys whistleblower Jay Palmer, and former computer programmer-turned-lawyer John Miano, who brought much-needed reality checks on the systemic betrayal of American workers to the Beltway table.

Miano’s testimony was particularly important because he explained how the little-known “OPT” (Optical Training Program) for foreign students is being used to circumvent H-1B and supply large corporations with cheap foreign labor. President Obama has expanded this regulatory program by unfettered administrative fiat. As Miano noted, “OPT has no labor protections of any kind. Aliens on OPT do not even have to be paid at all. While DHS requires aliens to work in an area related to their major area of study, DHS has no ability to ensure that this happens. Under OPT, over 125,000 foreign workers a year are simply turned loose in America with no supervision or restrictions.”

Also on hand at the hearing: a few Big Tech shills toeing the Zuckerberg/Gates/Chamber of Commerce line that there’s a catastrophic American tech worker shortage, even as thousands upon thousands of American workers are being laid off in favor of underpaid, easily exploited H-1Bs. (Just use H-1B-promoter Google’s search engine and type in “Southern California Edison” and “layoffs.”)

Grassley put it plainly: “Most people believe that employers are supposed to recruit Americans before they petition for an H-1B worker. Yet, under the law, most employers are not required to prove to the Department of Labor that they tried to find an American to fill the job first.”

He added, “And, if there is an equally or even better qualified U.S. worker available, the company does not have to offer him or her the job. Over the years, the program has become a government-assisted way for employers to bring in cheaper foreign labor, and now it appears these foreign workers take over — rather than complement — the U.S. workforce.”

Hira affirmed: “It’s absolutely not true” that employers seeking H-1Bs must put American workers first, either by “law or regulations.”

How did this myth gain such traction? Many commentators and journalists confuse the labor certification process required for companies applying to obtain green cards (lawful permanent residency status) for H-1B workers with the Labor Condition Application (LCA) process for H-1Bs. Labor certification in the green card process “exists to protect U.S. workers and the U.S. labor market by ensuring that foreign workers seeking immigrant visa classifications are not displacing equally qualified U.S. workers.” Only in extremely narrow and exceptional circumstances do these nominal protections exist in the H-1B LCA process. (Companies must be classified as “H-1B dependent” for the requirements to apply. Big Tech giants like Facebook have been lobbying mightily to avoid the classification.) And even those narrow exceptions are easily and often circumvented by H-1B foreign worker traffickers.

Conservative journalist W. James Antle gets to the heart of the matter: “If the government has discretion in how it exercises its legitimate authority over who comes and who goes, a prerequisite for national sovereignty, then shouldn’t it exercise such discretion in a way that minimizes the impoverishment of Americans?”

For a very brief window, Grassley and, yes, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a small group of H-1B-employing banks, and other financial institutions that accepted federal bailout money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) did have to demonstrate that they had taken “good-faith steps to recruit U.S. workers” and offer them wages “at least as high” as those offered to H-1B workers. In addition, the targeted employers had to show that they “must not have laid off, and will not lay off, any U.S. worker in a job essentially equivalent to the H-1B position in the area of intended employment of the H-1B worker” within a narrow time frame.

But this American worker-first provision, vociferously opposed by Big Business and Big Government, expired in 2011. The refusal of the vast majority of politicians and the White House to embrace these protections for all U.S. workers tells you everything you need to know about H-1B’s big, fat lies.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

A Few Words On Living In Obama World

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Barack Obama is living in his own dream world.

To hear him tell it, thanks to six glorious years of his leadership, America is in great shape again at home and overseas.

According to his boasts, which the mainstream media rarely challenge, the economy has rebounded from the Great Recession; and federal budget deficits have been sliced in half under his watch.

Never mind that we’re in the slowest economic recovery since FDR’s awful policies prolonged the Great Depression.

Never mind that the “official” unemployment rate of 5.7 percent is a statistical fraud because it doesn’t count the millions who’ve dropped out of the job market.

Never mind that the federal government still spends $486 billion more every year than it takes in and future deficits are projected to be a trillion bucks a year.

And never mind that ObamaCare is a fiscal time bomb that’s already driven up the cost of health insurance for millions of individuals and small business owners.

Pay no attention to all those grim realities at home, says our strange man in the Oval Office. All is well on Obama World.

And don’t worry about those bloody wars going on in Syria and what’s left of Iraq. Don’t worry about the future of Afghanistan or the recent terrorist takeover in Yemen, either.

We have ISIS terrorists on the run, President Obama says. We’ve outfoxed Putin in Ukraine. Soon, we’ll sign a deal with Iran’s mullahs about ending their nuclear weapons program.

Dream on, Mr. President. Time’s running out.

After six years of President Obama, it’s frightening to see what an alien, almost un-American worldview he has and how he puts it into practice daily.

When it comes to religion, everyone knows the president lives on another planet.

He’s clearly more interested in sticking up for Islam than for Christianity. And, I swear, he’s more comfortable quoting from the Koran than from the Bible.

He outdid himself at a recent prayer breakfast when he tried to equate the atrocities committed by modern Islamic terrorists with what Christians did during the Crusades a thousand years ago.

But President Obama is most dangerous to the country when he delves into foreign policy.

When he goes overseas to visit our allies, he’s more likely to start off by apologizing for America’s history of slavery or blaming America for something like climate change.

His recent move to unilaterally ease our 54-year-old economic embargo with communist Cuba is a perfect example of how badly Obama negotiates and what he thinks is important.

The Castro Brothers are still high-fiving each other. But the United States — and the imprisoned and impoverished Cuban people — got little in return for making it much easier for trade and travel activities to take place between our countries.

Compare Obama’s blase attitude toward communism and its victims with Ronald Reagan’s. In 1987, my father went to Berlin and challenged the USSR to allow more political and economic freedom for its captive countries.

At the Brandenburg Gate, he called for Mr. Gorbachev to prove he was serious about liberalization by tearing down the Wall.

When the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall came along in 2009, Obama showed how little he cared by skipping the ceremony and sending a video message.

The good news is that in two years, President Obama and his world will be gone.

We’ll be back to reality, and someone much more competent — President Hillary or Jeb or Scott or Rand or whoever — will have to clean up all of his messes.

Whoever our next president is, we’ll be better off. There’s no way in heck he or she could be as strange or as harmful to the country as Barack Obama.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

The Fed Could Ruin The Country With Their $4.5 Trillion Magic Trick

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Here, we call it quantitative easing.

Wow, that’s a really tortured way of saying printing money.  Everyone knows printing money is bad.  Every politician and economist, deep in their hearts, knows there is no free lunch–that is unless you are a member of the Paul Krugman fanclub.

There WILL be consequences to the Fed making up $4.5 trillion out of thin air.  There always are consequences.  The problem is that you just always can’t foresee in what form they will materialize.

So the Federal Open Market Committee minutes of their recent meeting are going to be released today.  This is the group of wizards who look into the crystal ball every month and decide how to financially engineer the U.S. economy.  Over the last decade, they have decided that in order to save us from our free-market principles, they would print almost five trillion dollars and distort the U.S. bond market by acting as a buyer and keeping interest rates low.

Of course, there was no collusion between the White House and the Fed on this effort.  The fact that if interest rates rise we can’t service our debt (and social spending would be obliterated) is not the point.  The point is the Fed says they did this in order to achieve full employment.

And they have succeeded!  Unemployment is way down in the six percent handle. The fact that one-hundred million Americans have given up looking for work and left the workforce is not to be uttered in the hallowed halls of the Federal Reserve.

In any event, most likely today, we will be given the wonderful news that the Fed has decided to stop easing quantitatively.  I feel much better, don’t you?  They still are keeping short term rates at zero, and they still have to pull five trillion dollars back out of the economy at some point; but Obama will be out of office by then (at least I think), and he won’t have to worry about it.

Whew, I feel better knowing he won’t have to face the consequences of his actions.  But when has he faced any consequences?  (That’s another column.)

The market will have to face this modicum of financial responsibility. And the markets are not going to like it.

Markets never like rising rates. It’s not different this time.

America can’t get away from the fact that we have been living on a QE sugar-high, an irrational bond market, and debt.  At some point, we will have to pay the piper.

Photo credit: shutterstock.com

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

EXPOSED: The Ugly Truth Behind New Jobs Report The Obama-Backing Media Won’t Tell You

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Whenever a new government report comes out that gives the left-leaning media any reason to raise a cheer for the Obama administration, you can bet the progressive chorus will begin to sing the praises of their champion.

And so it goes after today’s release of the latest jobs creation and unemployment report from the Labor Department.

Right on cue, outlets such as The Huffington Post sound a triumphant trumpet for the latest figures — 248,000 jobs created last month, with the country’s unemployment rate falling to 5.9%.

Here’s how The Huffington Post helped to lead the cheerleading for Obama, citing a report by the reliably pro-administration Associated Press:

The mostly positive government report also showed that employers added 69,000 more jobs in July and August than previously estimated.

The rate fell from 6.1 percent in August and is now close to 5.5 percent, which many economists consider a healthy level.

The improved figures come after President Barack Obama touted his administration’s economic achievements in a speech Thursday. The economy is the top issue in voters’ minds as the November elections near.

So, right after the president’s speech at Northwestern University in which he extolled the virtues of his economic policies and programs…right when polling shows that the economy and the jobs market are at the top of most voters’ list of concerns…right as the real pressure mounts on vulnerable Democrats heading into crucial midterm elections — we get this “mostly positive” government report.

Well, let’s look a little deeper than the glossy surface reflection of Obama’s self-congratulatory talking points — the ones that make for the kind of glib arguments that miss the underlying fundamentals — the fundamentals showing a perilous weakness.

Beneath those top-line talking-point numbers — new jobs, lower unemployment — beneath those figures lies a much-more telling statistic. The labor force participation rate — the not-so-rosy number that Obama and his cheerleaders in the media don’t want to shout about.

Zerohedge.com reveals the ugly truth — that, once again last month, a ton of folks dropped out of the U.S. labor market. They became a drain on the system rather than contributors to it. Instead of paying taxes, they’ll suck up government benefits funded from tax revenues paid by others.

While by now everyone should know the answer, for those curious why the US unemployment rate just slid once more to a meager 5.9%, the lowest print since the summer of 2008, the answer is the same one we have shown every month since 2010: the collapse in the labor force participation rate, which in September slide from an already three decade low 62.8% to 62.7% – the lowest in over 36 years, matching the February 1978 lows.

And while according to the Household Survey, 232K people found jobs, what is more disturbing is that the people not in the labor force, rose to a new record high, increasing by 315,000 to 92.6 million!

So, far more people last month left the labor force than joined or rejoined it. Far more Americans gave up on finding work and dropped out.

The truth is, America is working less…even as Obama is gloating more.

 

Photo Credit: Ruslan Guzov | shutterstock.com

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom