The working class in the United States has no better champion than Barack Obama. Like most champions of the working class, he has never actually worked at a real job and instead divided his time between academia, non-profits and politics which explains his current work ethic in which he tries to get a speech in between every two vacations..
The progressive law professors, who are currently the only thing standing between the working class and the abyss, at least according to other progressive professors, not only haven’t worked for a living, but don’t know what working for a living entails and don’t even understand the concept. Other things that they don’t understand include personal responsibility, consequences, elementary arithmetic and human free will.
That last one never fails to throw them for a loop. No sooner do they pass some comprehensive plan intended to ameliorate a terrible problem then they discover that the working people have made a hash out of it. But they never despair because they are certain that there is no progressive solution that cannot be fixed by an even more comprehensive progressive solution.
ObamaCare isn’t working? Go Single Payer? There are no more doctors? Outlaw illness. People are still getting sick? Fine them for sabotaging progressive medicine. Like the island whose colonial overlords tried to solve their rat problem by dropping snakes only to discover that it now had a snake problem, progressives always have solutions. The trouble is that they never understand the problem.
The protectors of the working class, currently presiding over a country where over 90 million adults are not in the workforce, keep dropping snakes on the island without ever figuring out why so many people are dying of snakebites. B.O. or Before Obama, 63 percent of working age Americans had jobs. Today it’s 58 percent. And Obama is trying to see if he can drop the country below the 50 mark.
The latest snake that Obama is trying to drop on the island is a minimum wage hike. A minimum wage hike sounds like a great idea to a progressive professor who, like Marie Antoinette, wonders why the poor can’t just eat cake during a bread shortage. If the poor aren’t making enough money, just raise their salaries. If their salaries go up, they’ll have more money and the government will be able to spend more money creating jobs that it can then tax using a magic perpetual motion machine.
The first casualty of the minimum wage hike will be some 500,000 jobs. While just 19 percent of the minimum wage increase will go to those below the poverty line, the same isn’t true of that 500,000. The most disposable workers also tend to be the poorest in the new economy. They are the first ones out the door when a small business comes up against the ObamaCare employer mandate or a minimum wage hike. It doesn’t take much to push them out from full time to part time and from part time to the unemployment line and from the unemployment line to permanent unemployment.
Purge six figures worth of workers and suddenly income inequality becomes an even bigger problem that the Harvard and Yale Friends of the Working Class can use to run for reelection. It doesn’t occur to progressive professors slash community organizers that the living standard of the poor is not defined by an infographic comparing their income to Bill Gates’ spectacles budget or George Soros’ villain lair complete with lasers and piranhas.
It isn’t even defined by their salary, but by the buying power of that salary.
A salary is just a number. It was once possible to buy a meal for a dime and a politician for a hundred dollars. Today dinner with a politician will cost you that hundred and the politician may cost you a hundred thousand.
The businesses that minimum wage workers depend on are peopled with other minimum wage workers. Even assuming that the pay hike were employment neutral, which it most certainly is not, it would rebalance once the businesses they patronize pass on the pay hike as a price hike. And then before you know it everyone is making more money that still buys about the same amount that their old paychecks did.
Income inequality is class warfare, a subject of interest to Marxist professors and sober news anchors who are deeply concerned about the words scrolling across their teleprompters, but of very little relevance to the price of a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk and a pound of ground beef. The prices of basic staples have risen sharply under the Friend of the Working Class in Washington. While he dines on faux Wagyu beef at White House dinners, the working class victims of his class warfare are standing in Aisle 9 trying to assemble a puzzle that consists of their upcoming paycheck, a Payday loan and a grocery list.
The woman weighting a can of beans in one hand and her pocketbook in the other trying to decide what she can afford to take home doesn’t need income equality with a Harvard Law prof. What she needs a living standard that will allow her to afford what working Americans used to be able to afford. A minimum wage hike is a blunt instrument that looks good until it puts her out of a job or until she comes back to Aisle 9 and sees that the price hikes match her new paycheck.
Progressives don’t particularly care about the woman in Aisle 9. They eat up hard luck stories on NPR and CNN the way that their great-grandparents marveled at hunger in Africa because of the way that it makes them feel, not because they understand how those people live or care about them. They use them to feel charitable and to win elections. Each progressive solution makes life worse in Aisle 9, but they never visit Aisle 9. If they did, they would outlaw the other half of the products in it that they haven’t already outlawed through various contrived legalisms.
In the Venezuelan Aisle 9, mobs are fighting over powdered milk in government stores in a country that has 85 percent of the oil reserves in the region. Everyone is entitled to powdered milk and other price controlled staples. But being entitled to something doesn’t mean that you can get it. Not until the government seizes control of the entire production process of powdered milk and then when that is done, no one will ever drink powdered milk again.
The path to Venezuela’s Aisle 9 is surprisingly similar to America’s Aisle 9. It began with a series of blunt force measures that were meant to address the standard of living problem in a country with runaway inflation. Governments can raise wages or lower food prices, but they can’t enforce the availability of food or jobs and they can’t control how the working class will work around the consequences of foodless government supermarkets and minimum wage jobs that have been priced out of the marketplace.
Venezuela’s Friend of the Working Class, Hugo Chavez, kicked the golden bucket with an estimated net worth of 2 billion dollars. The Friends of the Working Class are also doing comfortably well in D.C. where it pays to be an expert on poverty and an advocate for helping the working class by adding 12 million illegal aliens to the job market with illegal alien amnesty, shutting down jobs with environmental regulations and freeing the people still working from that dreaded “job lock”.
For the Washington Friends of the Working Class drifting from one cocktail party and fundraising dinner to another, the minimum wage hike is their latest gimmick for winning in 2016. They are as ignorant of the lives of the waiters who bring them their Wagyu beef and the vagaries of a working class budget as they are of Ancient Sanskrit or the geography of the moon.
The working class that they preach about is an unreal abstract to them that is reducible to their party, their movement and their agenda. Their legislation is blessed by their empathy. It does not occur to them that their programs can backfire and that unintended consequences follow from confusing magical thinking with hard numbers. In Aisle 9, things are simple and inflexible, but in politics and academia everything is subjective.
Weighing a can of food in your hands that you need but cannot afford wonderfully focuses the mind on the real, but at the cocktail parties of the Friends of the Working Class, everything is wonderfully unreal. Life is full of possibilities, vacations, conferences and elections. There are no hard facts, only ideas and slogans. Everything and everyone does what you want them to.
Like The Great Gatsby’s Tom and Daisy, the progressive law professors and community organizers inhabit a “vast carelessness” of conferences and cocktail parties from which they emerge to carelessly smash things up before retreating back into it with no real awareness of what they have done and a certainty that the people on Aisle 9 whose lives they have smashed up ought to be grateful to them.
Daniel Greenfield is a nationally syndicated columnist. He is also the publisher of Sultan Knish.