Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Wal-Mart cancels plans to build three stores after D.C. leftists raise minimum wage 50%

From Fox Business, a story that shows how completely clueless left-wing politicians are about economics.

Excerpt:

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) no longer plans to build three stores in the nation’s capitol, after the city’s council voted to force large retailers to pay starting wages that are 50% higher than the minimum wage there.

The world’s largest retailer also said it will consider its options related to three other Washington, D.C., stores that are still under construction.

The bill, called the Large Retailer Accountability Act of 2013, was approved by an 8-to-5 vote, even though Walmart had warned that the company would leave the district.

“Nothing has changed from our perspective: we will not pursue Skyland, Capitol Gateway, and New York Avenue and will start to review the financial and legal implications on the three stores already under construction,” Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo said, referring to the locations of the planned stores.

“This was a difficult decision for us—and unfortunate news for most D.C. residents—but the Council has forced our hand.”

The district’s new law requires retailers with sales of more than $1 billion and with stores of at least 75,000 square feet to pay their workers starting salaries of at least $12.50 an hour, compared to the minimum wage of $8.25.

Unionized businesses are exempt from the measure. Large stores that already have a presence in D.C., including Target (TGT) and Macy’s (M), have four years to comply.

Now for most of my readers who understand economics, what happened here is going to be pretty obvious. But sometimes people get specialized in other areas and neglect the study of economics. The danger then is that they will be moved to support policies that appeal to their hearts. But it’s very important to understand that policies that sound good, like raising wages, often have unexpected negative results.

Here is George Mason University economics professor Walter Williams to explain the problem with increasing the minimum wage, starting with the basics of economics.

Excerpt:

Are people responsive to changes in price? For example, if the price of cars rose by 25 percent, would people purchase as many cars? Supposing housing prices rose by 25 percent, what would happen to sales? Those are big-ticket items, but what about smaller-priced items? If a supermarket raised its prices by 25 percent, would people purchase as much? It’s not rocket science to conclude that when prices rise, people adjust their behavior by purchasing less.

It’s almost childish to do so, but I’m going to ask questions about 25 percent price changes in the other way. What responses would people have if the price of cars or housing fell by 25 percent? What would happen to supermarket sales if prices fell by 25 percent? Again, it doesn’t require deep thinking to guess that people would purchase more.

This behavior in economics is known as the first fundamental law of demand. It holds that the higher the price of something the less people will take and that the lower the price the more people will take. There are no known exceptions to the law of demand. Any economist who could prove a real-world exception would probably be a candidate for the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and other honors.

[...]University of California, Irvine economist David Neumark has examined more than 100 major academic studies on the minimum wage. [...]About 85 percent of the studies “find a negative employment effect on low-skilled workers.” A 1976 American Economic Association survey found that 90 percent of its members agreed that increasing the minimum wage raises unemployment among young and unskilled workers. A 1990 survey found that 80 percent of economists agreed with the statement that increases in the minimum wage cause unemployment among the youth and low-skilled. If you’re looking for a consensus in most fields of study, examine the introductory and intermediate college textbooks in the field. Economics textbooks that mention the minimum wage say that it increases unemployment for the least skilled worker.

When considering what economic policies to adopt, it is not enough to do what feels good. Liberals and conservatives agree that it is good to help the poor. Liberals think that higher minimum wage rates help the poor, and conservatives think that lower minimum wage rates help the poor. This is not a topic that is up for debate, though, because economists across the idological spectrum agree on this one – and for the reasons outlined above and illustrated in the Wal-Mart case.

Take a look at this post from moderate Harvard University economist Greg Mankiw.

He writes:

I believe it is better to introduce students to economics with topics about which there is more of a professional consensus. In chapter two of the book, I include a table of propositions to which most economists subscribe, based on various polls of the profession. Here is the list, together with the percentage of economists who agree:

    1. A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available. (93%)
    2. Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce general economic welfare. (93%)
    3. Flexible and floating exchange rates offer an effective international monetary arrangement. (90%)
    4. Fiscal policy (e.g., tax cut and/or government expenditure increase) has a significant stimulative impact on a less than fully employed economy. (90%)
    5. The United States should not restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries. (90%)
    6. The United States should eliminate agricultural subsidies. (85%)
    7. Local and state governments should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises. (85%)
    8. If the federal budget is to be balanced, it should be done over the business cycle rather than yearly. (85%)
    9. The gap between Social Security funds and expenditures will become unsustainably large within the next fifty years if current policies remain unchanged. (85%)
    10. Cash payments increase the welfare of recipients to a greater degree than do transfers-in-kind of equal cash value. (84%)
    11. A large federal budget deficit has an adverse effect on the economy. (83%)
    12. A minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers. (79%)
    13. The government should restructure the welfare system along the lines of a “negative income tax.” (79%)
    14. Effluent taxes and marketable pollution permits represent a better approach to pollution control than imposition of pollution ceilings. (78%)

When you raise the price of anything – including labor – fewer people will buy it. Wal-Mart will still spend the money on new stores and new employees, just not in Washington, D.C. – not with those laws. Notice that number one on his list is the case of rent control, where government good-intentioners try to hold the price of rent down. What happens next? Well, it the price goes down then everyone wants to buy more of whatever just went on sale. But the people providing what just went on sale stop making it because they can’t make a profit. The unexpected consequence is that there is a housing shortage. The quantity of housing decreases, and the quality of housing decreases. The quality decreases because demand is so high that property owners no longer have to maintain the properties, since demand has skyrocketed. Economics is something that everyone should study, so that we don’t just have good intentions, but also have good results.

 

Filed under: News, , , , , , , ,

Economist Walter Williams blames school violence on secularism and moral relativism

Economist Walter Williams

Economist Walter Williams

My two favorite economists are Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell. Both are conservative or libertarian. Both of them happen to be black. But neither is especially outspoken about religion. But imagine my surprise when I read this CNS News column on gun violence in schools by Walter Williams, who I always thought was the more libertarian of the two.

Look:

When I attended primary and secondary school — during the 1940s and ’50s — one didn’t hear of the kind of shooting mayhem that’s become routine today. Why? It surely wasn’t because of strict firearm laws. My replica of the 1902 Sears mail-order catalog shows 35 pages of firearm advertisements. People just sent in their money, and a firearm was shipped.

Dr. John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” reports that until the 1960s, some New York City public high schools had shooting clubs where students competed in citywide shooting contests for university scholarships. They carried their rifles to school on the subways and, upon arrival, turned them over to their homeroom teacher or the gym coach and retrieved their rifles after school for target practice. Virginia’s rural areas had a long tradition of high-school students going hunting in the morning before school and sometimes storing their rifles in the trunks of their cars that were parked on school grounds. Often a youngster’s 12th or 14th birthday present was a shiny new .22-caliber rifle, given to him by his father.

Fathers? Children don’t grow up with fathers any more, 42% of the time. And why not? The feminists told us that men are evil, and that marriage is sexist. And the socialists told us that rewarding single motherhood was a good idea, because it makes women who don’t bother to get married before having sex more equal to those who do bother to get married first. But fatherlessness is a huge factor in criminal behavior, as I showed before.

Dr. Williams continues:

What explains today’s behavior versus yesteryear’s? For well over a half-century, the nation’s liberals and progressives — along with the education establishment, pseudo-intellectuals and the courts — have waged war on traditions, customs and moral values. These people taught their vision, that there are no moral absolutes, to our young people. To them, what’s moral or immoral is a matter of convenience, personal opinion or a consensus.

During the ’50s and ’60s, the education establishment launched its agenda to undermine lessons children learned from their parents and the church with fads such as “values clarification.” So-called sex education classes are simply indoctrination that sought to undermine family and church strictures against premarital sex.
Lessons of abstinence were ridiculed and considered passé and replaced with lessons about condoms, birth control pills and abortions. Further undermining of parental authority came with legal and extralegal measures to assist teenage abortions with neither parental knowledge nor consent.

Customs, traditions, moral values and rules of etiquette, not laws and government regulations, are what make for a civilized society. These behavioral norms — transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings — represent a body of wisdom distilled through ages of experience, trial and error, and looking at what works.

The importance of customs, traditions and moral values as a means of regulating behavior is that people behave themselves even if nobody’s watching. Police and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct so as to produce a civilized society. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. The more uncivilized we become the more laws that are needed to regulate behavior.

Many customs, traditions and moral values have been discarded without an appreciation for the role they played in creating a civilized society, and now we’re paying the price. What’s worse is that instead of a return to what worked, people want to replace what worked with what sounds good, such as zero-tolerance policies in which bringing a water pistol, drawing a picture of a pistol, or pointing a finger and shouting “bang-bang” produces a school suspension or arrest.

See, now that’s a smart libertarian. Smart libertarians understand that liberty depends on people being aware of the design of the universe, and the objective moral obligations imposed by that design. If we don’t promote institutions and people that help us to explore the design of the universe, then we are going to have to rely on big government to regulate us instead of regulating ourselves. What we’ve done instead is make impossible to speak about the reality of God and the reality of objective morality in schools, or in any other public place, for that matter. Hearing about God and morality is just too offensive to people who want to put their own selfishness above the moral law.

Similarly, libertarians should not be pushing for promiscuity, abortion and same-sex marriage, either. Intact families are necessary for raising the next generation of citizens to be well-adjusted, law-abiding and productive. Marriages are more stable when the participants are chaste and/or abstinent for a period of time early in the relationship. And children do better when raised by a mother and a father, and less well in other arrangements. Either we feel an obligation to control our own desires and make a plan for marriage success, so that we can provide children with a stable nurturing environment, or the government will have to control the anti-social behavior of fatherless children.

Thomas Sowell has posted a more traditional argument against gun control, in the extremist left-wing UK Guardian, of all places.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Walter Williams: where is the outrage over black-on-black crimes?

Walter Williams

Walter Williams

A recent editorial by George Mason University professor of economics Walter Williams.

Excerpt:

Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Using the 94-percent figure means that 262,621 were murdered by other blacks.

Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, the black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it’s 22 times that of whites.

Coupled with being most of the nation’s homicide victims, blacks are most of the victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault and robbery.

The magnitude of this tragic mayhem can be viewed in another light. According to a Tuskegee Institute study, between 1882 and 1968, 3,446 blacks were lynched at the hands of whites. Black fatalities during the Korean War (3,075), Vietnam War (7,243) and all wars since 1980 (8,197) come to 18,515, a number that pales in comparison with black loss of life at home.

It’s a tragic commentary to be able to say that young black males have a greater chance of reaching maturity on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan than on the streets of Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, Newark and other cities.

You might remember that the NAACP just recently came out for gay marriage. Do they have their priorities straight?

Filed under: Commentary, , , , ,

Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell discuss the changing meaning of poverty

My two favorite economists! (8.5 minutes)

They mention the book “Life at the Bottom”. The book is free, and you can read all the chapters online right here.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , ,

Walter Williams on CEO salaries and celebrity salaries

Walter Williams

Walter Williams

From CNS News.

Excerpt:

It turns out that the top 10 CEOs have an average salary of $43 million, which pales in comparison with America’s top 10 celebrities, who earn an average salary of $100 million.

When you recognize that celebrities earn salaries that are some multiples of CEO salaries, you have to ask: Why is it that rich CEOs are demonized and not celebrities? A clue might be found if you asked: Who’s doing the demonizing?

It turns out that the demonizing is led by politicians and leftists with the help of the news media, and like sheep, the public often goes along. Why demonize CEOs? My colleague Dr. Thomas Sowell explained it in his brand-new book, “The Thomas Sowell Reader.” One of his readings, titled “Ivan and Boris – and Us,” starts off with a fable of two poor Russian peasants.

Ivan finds a magic lamp and rubs it, and the jinni grants him one wish. As it turns out, Boris has a goat, but Ivan doesn’t. Ivan’s wish is for Boris’ goat to die. That vision reflects the feelings of too many Americans. If all CEOs worked for nothing, it would mean absolutely little or nothing to the average American’s bottom line.

For politicians, it’s another story: Demonize people whose power you want to usurp. That’s the typical way totalitarians gain power. They give the masses someone to hate. In 18th-century France, it was Maximilien Robespierre’s promoting hatred of the aristocracy that was the key to his acquiring more dictatorial power than the aristocracy had ever had.

In the 20th century, the communists gained power by promoting public hatred of the czars and capitalists. In Germany, Adolf Hitler gained power by promoting hatred of Jews and Bolsheviks. In each case, the power gained led to greater misery and bloodshed than anything the old regime could have done.

Let me be clear: I’m not equating America’s liberals with Robespierre, Josef Stalin and Hitler. I am saying that promoting jealousy, fear and hate is an effective strategy for politicians and their liberal followers to control and micromanage businesses.

Tom sent me this article that shows that raising taxes on the wealthy doesn’t even produce more revenue.

Excerpt:

All this nostalgia about the good old days of 70% tax rates makes it sound as though only the highest incomes would face higher tax rates. In reality, there were a dozen tax rates between 48% and 70% during the 1970s… the individual income tax actually brought in less revenue when the highest tax rate was 70% to 91% than it did when the highest tax rate was 28%.

[...]President John F. Kennedy’s across-the-board tax cuts reduced the lowest and highest tax rates to 14% and 70% respectively after 1964, yet revenues (after excluding the 5%-10% surtaxes of 1969-70) rose to 8% of GDP. President Reagan’s across-the-board tax cuts further reduced the lowest and highest tax rates to 11% and 50%, yet revenues rose again to 8.3% of GDP. The 1986 tax reform slashed the top tax rate to 28%, yet revenues dipped trivially to 8.1% of GDP.

Why would a Christian care how much money other people have at all? If you see someone who is poor, help them. If you see someone who needs a gift, give them a gift. The Bible teaches individual charity – you choose who to give your money to and how much to give, after you’ve paid your taxes to Caesar. I think it’s time that we took the Bible seriously on money… there are an awful lot of people sinning by breaking people into groups based on how much money they have – or what the color of their skin is. You do the best you can with what you can earn, and stop being concerned about taking money from people who have more than you do. The purpose of life is not to make everyone happy by making the secular government allocate everyone an equal amount of stuff – how unBiblical.

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