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Objective Truths Regarding Minimum Wage

Lenzini Photo portrait

Guest post by Matthew Lenzini, chairman of the Colonial Region Republicans.

I can’t recall a time when both of my parents didn’t work. My father for most of my childhood worked nights and weekends managing a Diner in South Philadelphia. My mother waited tables as a night shift waitress at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott. My first job in High School paid $4.75 an hour and truth be told, given my skill set at the time, I was probably overpaid. My parents instilled a sense of hard work and frugality in me that exists to this day. We never had much money and though I have been able to find some success in my life, I am a firm believer in adding value to society and living below my means. I believe that personal growth and success are core American Values. I believe that we live in the land of opportunity and that with hard work and a little luck, everyone has the ability to better their circumstances. This by no means, guarantees success but unlike many countries in the world, we all have a shot at the American Dream.

There has been a tremendous amount of discourse on the national stage regarding the federal minimum wage. Economically speaking, raising the minimum wage is actually bad for growth and harms those that we are most seeking to help, entry level workers and the working poor. I believe that much of what has been cast in the media is misleading. It is either intentionally misleading for political reasons or misguided due to misinformation and a lack of understanding. Unfortunately, feel good economic policies, catch the attention of the press and politicians oft present what appear to be efforts geared at helping the public but, are in fact bad policies based on popular demand, rather than sound judgement. I’d like to take a more objective and analytical look at unwinding four popular myths surrounding minimum wage in America that when analyzed, are in fact wrong and misleading:

  1. Minimum wage has not kept up with inflationary pressures
  2. Increases to minimum wage will improve the economy and decrease unemployment
  3. Minimum wage earners are on average 35 years old
  4. Raising the minimum wage helps working families

Myth 1: Minimum Wage has not kept up with Inflationary Pressures

The first minimum wage was enacted in the United States in 1938. At the time, the rate was set to $0.25 cents an hour.  There is a popular myth that the minimum wage rate has not kept up with inflation.

Objective Truth 1: Minimum Wage has kept up with inflation and the Consumer Price Index

If the 1938 wage were adjusted for annual inflation through 2015, the minimum wage rate would currently be around $4.90 give or take a few pennies. The federal government has reset minimum wage a number of times; typically during or after periods of rapid inflation. The table below highlights a few of the federal adjustments to minimum wage and the inflation adjusted wage today if there were no additional adjustments to the wage by the federal government.

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I’d like to note a few things regarding the table above. Inflation adjusted, the minimum wage has fluctuated some but typically stays within one or two standard deviations of the average, which is approximately $8.20. We have had an inflation adjusted range high of $10.07 in 1981 and a low of $4.97 in 1939. All in all, the current rate of $7.25 is well within one standard deviation, which is about +/- $1.25 of the average (this is well within tolerance limits for statistical measurements).

Now, there is an argument that rather than using inflation, one should use the Consumer Price Index. After all, the cost of goods and services changes over time. CPI uses a baseline year (1984) as an index. As such, 1984 has an index of 100 and all other years are adjusted using a percentage of the index. For instance, 1939 has an index of 13.9. If we take the 1981 wage of $3.35 and multiply it by 13.9 percent, we have a 1939 equivalent rate of $0.47. If we were to use similar dates to our inflation based analysis, we would get the following CPI adjusted rates. Again, we find that the federal rates are within a reasonable level of tolerance of the average. The greatest deviation occurring in 1939, one of the first years that a minimum wage ever existed which also happens to occur in the midst of the great depression.

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Myth 2: Increases to minimum wage will improve the economy and decrease unemployment

The U.S. labor participation rate is currently sitting below 63 percent. The last time the rate was this low, was in the late 1970s when we had according to President Carter, a crisis of confidence. The reason I use the labor participation rate instead of the more popular unemployment rate is that the unemployment rate only represents people that are actively seeking work. Anyone that has given up the hope of finding work, does not show up in the U.S. unemployment figures. The “real” rate of unemployment is closer to 10 or 11 percent. The unemployment rate has improved for the wrong reason; people have stopped looking for jobs. A number of legislators have pushed for an increase in the minimum wage. Their thought process is that a higher minimum wage will improve the economy and get people back to work. Unfortunately, that is very far from the economic reality.

Objective Truth 2: Increasing the Minimum Wage will actually increase unemployment rates

The labor market reacts similarly to any other market. It is primarily driven by the laws of supply and demand. Without a minimum wage (which is effectively an artificial floor on the price of labor), the market would settle at a rate where the demand for labor and the supply for labor meet. In other words, without an artificial floor, we would reach the maximum economic output and we would have the lowest level of unemployment (excluding externalities such as a disincentive to work because one could “make” more on government subsidies aka welfare).

Artificial floors create economic loss. Essentially, supply will be higher than demand and the gap, essentially becomes unemployment. The higher the wage, the more people will be willing to work so there is more supply. However, given the higher wage, a business with limited resources will be able to hire fewer people. The graphic below highlights the conceptual increase in unemployment when the artificial floor is raised. This is not unique to labor, it is an economic reality for all goods and services. The unemployment rate is the gap that exists between the supply of labor and the demand for labor.

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Howard Schultz the CEO of Starbucks was asked about the $15 minimum wage in Seattle. He said that Starbucks would adapt. They can leverage technology and automation allowing them to hire fewer people but smaller companies don’t have that option – “I wouldn’t want to see the unintended consequences of job loss as a result of going that high. That would not be the case at Starbucks, but I suspect that most companies, especially small- and mid-sized companies, would not be able to afford it.” The net effect will be one of a few scenarios: a) the company uses more technology to maintain its margins b) the company raises prices c) the company goes out of business. None of these bode well for the employees or the consumer.

Myth 3: Minimum wage earners are on average are 35 years old

There is a myth that the average age of a minimum wage earner is 35 years old. I believe that this is a purposely misleading statistic, put forth by certain politicians seeking populist support for re-election.

Objective Truth 3: The distribution of minimum wage earners is skewed

If you have four 17 year olds and two 68 year old retirees (who are most likely working to have a second income above any retirement benefits), you have an average of about 35. When we look at the underlying data, we do in fact see that the distribution is skewed towards young people who are working in their first job and older Americans who may be working to supplement their income. So let’s also be clear that only about 4.3% of all working Americans earn the minimum wage. Most other workers earn more than the current rate. That number is down significantly from the 1980 high, where 15% of working Americans earned the minimum wage. 50% of minimum wage earners are under the age of 24 and 25% of minimum wage earners are teenagers.

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The vast majority 64% are part time employees who mostly occupy low skill jobs in the food services or retail spaces. Only about 20% of those that receive minimum wage are married and only 13% of minimum wage earners are married and over the age of 25. The vast majority, nearly 80% do not have a college education and most do not have a high school diploma. So the argument that too many Americans are trying to support their families on minimum wage is just not true. The percent of family head of household minimum wage earners is actually the lowest it has been since the metrics have been tracked, and the path to higher wages is and always should be improving your skill set.

Myth 4: Raising the minimum wage helps working families

A common element that is often missed in the debate surrounding minimum wage is the role of the earned income tax credits. Many supporters of raising the minimum wage will state that the intent is to help young working heads of household, support their family.

Objective Truth 4: Raising the minimum wage hurts those we intend to help

Unfortunately, by raising the minimum wage, we do the exact opposite, as mentioned above, when we raise the wage uniformly, we actually create higher levels of unemployment. A better targeted approach to helping families, is to continue to leverage the earned income tax credit. The earned income tax credit provides a financial benefit to those that are heads of their household and those with children. In essence, it is a much better way to pinpoint those working adults while still allowing businesses to employ as many people as possible (for instance high school students in their first job who have minimal skills and few responsibilities). The graphic below, is from the United States Treasury Department.

In 2014, a married minimum wage earner with two children, receives an additional $5,460 dollars of tax credits.   Assuming that the average work year consists of 2080 hours at 40 hours a week, this would equate to an additional $2.63 an hour above the minimum wage. If we were to add the two, the hourly wage would be $9.88 an hour. This figure does not include any other state benefits, housing assistance, education assistance or other government program support.

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Summary: I have only touched on a few of the more common misconceptions that surround the minimum wage debate in America. The truth of the matter is, that many politicians will push for an increased minimum wage rate either because they know it will get votes or because they are ill-informed. The minimum wage has been raised in the past. It will be raised again. We cannot however afford to do so arbitrarily and without thoughtful and informed decision making. Plenty of ideas feel good but they have to make sense in the longer run. We need to do away with feel good economics and political ideologies that are crafted on ideals that are not grounded in economic truths. Policies that pander to populist ideas that will only hurt those that we intend to help.

Matthew can be reached at Lenzinml@yahoo.com

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Below is a guest post from the Sound Money Defense League. CRI does not necessarily endorse or oppose the views expressed in the article below, but we do believe it’s important to understand the value of money and how currencies get debased.

We Americans no longer carry gold and silver money in our pockets and purses as our grandparents did during their lives. But we still carry the history, legacy and spirit of those gold and silver coins in our language – with more meaning than you might imagine.

“Sound money” has a clear message recognized for centuries around the world. It describes the musical, metallic ring of a gold, silver, or copper coin dropped on any hard surface of glass, stone, wood, or metal. Sound money literally refers to real wealth, with a natural, unmistakable signature of honesty and integrity, as opposed to the swishy paper and plastic debt used almost exclusively today.

The term “sound money” is believed to come from Ancient Rome, where small silver coins were standard in everyday commerce, for paying Roman soldiers to buying exotic goods from all corners of the known world. As Rome squandered its wealth, it found what seemed an easy shortcut to shore up the treasury. It gradually debased those silver coins with common metals, ultimately cutting the silver content to just 5 percent.

But that didn’t fool anyone for long, most of all disciplined Roman soldiers, who did not appreciate being paid with worthless mystery metal in return for risking their lives on Rome’s bloody battlefields.

Do You Want True Money or a Debased Dud?

Not every Roman soldier had room in his gear for a touchstone, usually fieldstone or slate, also used to test the purity of metals. But they quickly discovered the difference in the sound of true money and a debased dud.

They recognized that real silver had a distinctive melodious ring when bounced on a hard surface, such as the blade of a handy sword, a bronze breastplate, or an ornate marble floor. Sound money carried the ‘ring of truth,’ while debased coinage landed with a dull, disappointing thud.

The debasement of Rome’s silver currency unmasked the deceit of a bankrupt empire, which ended with the fall of Rome, a pattern repeated many times. Sound money’s “ring of truth” had found its place in the history of money and of nations.

As the United States grew westward to the Pacific Coast and north to Alaska, gold, silver and copper coins of all nations were legal tender in the young United States until the 1850’s, and were in use even long after that. Americans with no formal education in reading, writing and arithmetic relied on the sight, sound, and feel of the only money they knew. Learning the different musical ringing sounds of those coins could easily qualify even a prairie settler fresh off the wagon train as an economic expert.

In the Old West of the range roving American cowboy, the ring from that silver dollar tossed on the bar of polished oak told the saloon keeper he was pouring whiskey for sound money, and not for a counterfeit forgery.

The sound money test unmasked one of the most famous counterfeiting schemes in American coinage history. The Liberty Nickel (1883-1913) was originally struck without the words “Five Cents,” bearing instead only the Roman numeral “V.” Gold plated Liberty Nickels were passed off as a newly designed $5 gold piece, but the sound money test quickly identified the scandal. Within six months of issuing the first “V” nickels, the U.S. Mint added the words “Five Cents.” But for the next many years, every Liberty $5 Half Eagle in town was tested for its ring of truth.

Sound money means simplicity, honesty, and trustworthy recognition. It stands for strength and durability, which were also characteristics of those pioneering Americans who built our nation.

The ring of sound money for centuries has transcended borders and nationalities by singing its own melodic language. No matter what words were stamped into a precious metal coin, that ring of sound money certified its value, or exposed the deception.

Governments Have Distorted the Meaning of Money

“Sound money” carries such a powerful message there’s little wonder that governments issuing paper fiat currency have attempted to corrupt its meaning, with help from unimaginative and lazy educators and journalists.

“Hard currency” first referred to metal coins, not paper money, but the term over the years has come to mean that flimsy, paper, folding cash is more trustworthy than a handwritten check or IOU.

“Good as gold” is another aberration of “sound money,” usually referring to credit worthiness, even though there is no credit as good as gold.

When Washington and Wall Street began pushing plastic credit cards, which are nothing more than debt disguised as wealth, Americans were introduced to the gold card along with the credit rating and FICO score as a false measure of one’s financial worth. Today, the newest edition of the $100 Federal Reserve note carries a golden inkwell and feather pen, as if to sarcastically say money itself is a masquerade of paper script and not precious metal.

Americans today have no memory of those times when gold, silver, and copper coins were tossed across a store counter, or counted out by hand, to pay for everything from penny candies to Ford Model-T automobiles. That era began ending when President Roosevelt in 1933 outlawed the use of gold coins in everyday American commerce.

The separation of Americans from their Constitutional heritage to true money continued through 1964, with the end of small coinage containing 90% silver. The deception was complete by 1982 when copper quietly disappeared from the Lincoln penny.

But no government could remove the ringing echo of sound money from history, or from us. And government cannot camouflage its counterfeits with gold colored paint. You can experience sound money’s evident ring of truth for yourself. Toss any gold or silver coin on your kitchen table and you will hear the history of honest money ringing down through the centuries.

And perhaps, thanks to grassroots projects like the Sound Money Defense League, you will hear the trumpeting of better days to come.

Sound Money Defense League and MoneyMetals.com columnist Guy Christopher is a veteran writer living on the Gulf Coast. A retired investigative journalist, published author, and former stockbroker, Christopher has taught college as an adjunct professor and is a veteran of the 101st Airborne in Vietnam.

 

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This article is based off a column originally published in FEE

If this was yours, would you complain? nauticexpo.com

The presidential race is heating up and both major political parties have populist candidates- that means candidates who are running on the kind of anti-establishment, anti-greed platform the left, middle, and right generally agree on.

One of these candidates, the avowed Socialist Bernie Sanders, believes the world is a zero-sum game: If I have, then you don’t, and vic-versa. He does not see the potential for us both to have, but sees the possibility that I can take from you and vice -versa. In a recent speech, Sanders lamented that people are spending money on deodorant or sneakers when children are hungry. He literally said:

“You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country. I don’t think the media appreciates the kind of stress that ordinary Americans are working on.”

Not to be outside, a comedian named Louis C.K. followed up with a joke on a similar note:

“My life is really evil.

There are people who are starving in the world, and I drive an Infiniti. That’s really evil…. There are people who are like born and then they go, “Oh, I’m hungry,” and then they just die, and that’s all they ever got to do.

And, meanwhile, I’m in my car — boom boom, brrr! — like having a great time, and I sleep like a baby…. I could trade my Infiniti for like a really good car, like a nice Ford Focus… and I’d get back like twenty thousand dollars, and I could save hundreds of people from dying of starvation with that money.

 And every day, I don’t do it.

Louis C.K’s joke reflects a common complaint about markets—that markets enable people to purchase luxury goods while other people starve.”

This article is about debating whether it’s bad to purchase big-ticket items, especially when roughly 47 millions Americans are receiving SNAP benefits (aka food stamps), when so many young people live in crime-ridden areas and have parents who cannot afford to move their child to a safer school, 93 million-plus working-age Americans do not have a job, and median household incomes have fallen since 2008. When you look at the hundreds of millions of us struggling in this economy, it’s easy to get disgusted with the wealthy, some of whom probably don’t deserve their wealth (like if they earned it illicitly or obtained it by some other means than honest work), and who go drink $900 a bottle wines in restaurants in the swanky parts of Manhattan or who fly around in private jets that the rest of us can only see from the ground.

But what is a “luxury good”, and why are we taxing it? Most people would not argue that a private jet is “luxury”. What about deodorant? Most of us need that! And if one deodorant is $5 and one is $50, is the $50 deodorant “luxury”, how about Hermes belts, some of which run into the four digits. Are these luxury, or necessity, since all of us who wear pants need belts?

The reason classical liberal economic policies, such as the ones CRI advocates for, work is because the true value of an item is determined by those who buy it, not by society at large, and not by government officials who are taking guesses. There is no one item everyone in America owns, not by brand, and not by type. Most people have cars and car insurance, but not everyone does. Certainly there is no book or movie everyone’s seen or dog/cat food all dog/cat owners use, if they use it at all. Those who use or consume a particular product figure out what the value is and pay accordingly. if the collective value becomes too high for us, and we determine we don’t need or want that product or service anymore, we just say no (unless the government mandates it). If Hermes wasn’t making money selling belts for thousands of bucks, they’d stop doing it. Clearly, some are willing to pay for that, so they keep making it, and thus keep their workers employed.

Those goods and services we value more will end up having more people working in those industries, and the industries will less support lose ground. This is why there are lots of gun manufacturers, but far fewer bow and arrow makers. Or, more car manufacturing plants, but fewer horse and buggy plants. Why some people decide to fly first-class as opposed to economy on the same airplane, or even choose one airline over another, or to fly or not to fly. Market forces generally determine that the lower something costs, the more it will be purchased. For the same reason those of you who buy books on your book reader might stock up on paid books under $5, but if books were all $25, you’d buy far fewer of them (we assume you aren’t addicted to ‘free-books). When goods and services are cheap, we can consume more of them, building more industries and making more people prosperous. This is why keeping tax rates as low as possible is so important- the more cost you add, the less people can and will purchase something. This is how a person with just a two hundred dollars can buy a DVD Player, two six-packs, chips and dip, and still have enough for a month’s electric and water bill while $200 wasn’t enough to buy a DVD player when they first came out. So if you managed to buy one, you didn’t have left-over for anything else.

Therefore, it’s unreasonable to suggest that buying luxury goods is somehow bad. Yes, a millionaire could give $25,000 to a charity, or to the government, to feed, clothe, or house poor families. But if that millionaire purchased a new car at $25,000, that would help keep the auto workers, the truck drivers, and the car dealer owner and his/her employees employed. Diffusing the money among them is no different than diffusing money among the millions of hungry kids. Yes, some businesses don’t always pay or treat their workers fairly, but these businesses are absolutely in the minority.

So the next time a politician tries to tell you that luxury items are evil because they are expensive,and redistributing the wealth is the only logical solution, walk away.

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This week is National School Choice Week, a week where we draw attention to the need for parents and families to have School Choice as an option for all students.

No doubt this week is under fire from school choice opponents who worry school choice is a corporate, Koch-brother funded project to destroy public schools and, more importantly, public teacher’s unions,but those of us who believe in “free to choose” ask just one question:

1. “Who is more likely to make a better decision about a child’s future: That child’s legal guardian, or elected and unelected officials in state capitals and Washington D.C.?”

If you believe government officials, union leaders, school boards, superintendents, Department of Education employees, and politicians can all make a better decision about your child than you can, school choice is not something you will support. But if you believe schools should be run at the local level, with fewer mandates from above and more support for those who are there day-to-day, and if you believe students are unique human beings who should not be forced into “one-size-fits-all” based on their parents’ financial ability to find another school, then school choice week is for you.

If you believe there should be accountability for performance in our education system, without automatically blaming teachers and parents for poor performance, instead of the system which has been created, school choice is for you.

If you believe public schools who wish to have your child attend should have to work hard for your tax dollars, like every non-monopolized market in the private sector (i.e. sectors where companies use government to give themselves business or hurt competition), instead of requiring children whose parents aren’t rich to go to a school based only by their zip code, school choice is for you.

If the thought of stagnating academic performance, the rising number of students who enter college needing to take remedial classes, and the high drop-out rate for both high school and college bothers you, school choice is for you.

If you believe money spent on education, where Delaware spends to the tune of $13,000 per student per year and $16,500 if you include capital spending (refurbishing or building schools, source: DE DOE), ought to be spent efficiently and with the student’s best interest at heart, school choice is for you.

If you feel genuinely heartbroken every time you hear about another shooting in places like Wilmington, and know most of those young people get involved in drugs and gangs because they don’t have hope for a better future, school choice is for you.

If you are concerned about the values being spread in society at large, and would like to see your child(ren) be placed in a school setting which is closer to the values you wish the child to learn, school choice is for you.

If you believe America is a great nation with a lot of untapped talent among our youth, and want to see students use their talents in the best way possible, school choice is for you.

And lastly, If you believe a high-quality education is a fundamental right for each child to have, then school choice is for you.

If you believe school choice is something we can all work for together, then join the Caesar Rodney Institute in celebration of National School Choice Week, and let’s support #SchoolChoice!

Why do you support school choice?

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Legislative Hall in Dover, Delaware

This article originally appeared at the Watchdog.org website on January 20, 2015. Read the original at http://watchdog.org/193657/legislative-priorities-2015-delaware-way/

Last week was the first week the state Legislature was in session, but they will soon adjourn for budget and finance hearings before getting back to lawmaking in mid-March. Five new representatives and one new senator took their oaths of office for the first time, but this Legislature looks almost identical to the last one: the Democrats control the governor’s mansion, the House of Representatives 25-16, down from 27-14 last year, and the Senate 12-9, down from 13-8.

Notably absent from the last General Assembly were bills to make Delaware’s economy more free as the state—well-known as the “Switzerland of America” for its easy incorporation process and fair Court of Chancery—faces competition from Nevada and North Dakota for corporate business and from the Sun Belt for jobs. This year the Caesar Rodney Institute hopes to see legislation to address the following issues:

1. Education Savings Accounts: Delaware has “school choice”-IF your idea of school choice is to allow a child to transfer from one public school district to another (provided that district has room).While that’s better than nothing, that’s not really school choice.

CRI supported a bill last year called the “Parent Empowerment Education Savings Account Act” (PEESAA) which would have introduced Education Savings Accounts as an option for low-income and special-needs students who are the most likely to need additional services not being offered by the traditional public schools. This bill was tabled in the House Education Committee but we hope ESA’s and other bills encouraging school choice are brought up this year.

2. Prevailing Wage (PW): Delaware has an insanely wide range of wages a that business who wants a public construction contract has to pay its employees to get the contract.

Every January the state Department of Labor mails out its PW survey to union-friendly contractors and conveniently “forgets” to remind non-union-friendly construction companies to ask for, and return, the survey. This results in wage variance like $14.51 per hour for a bricklayer in Sussex County, but $48.08 per hour for the same job in Kent and New Castle Counties. Not to be outdone, boilermakers get $71.87 an hour in New Castle County, but “only” $30.73 in Kent County.

These high rates prevent many construction projects from being started and make those which are done more expensive for taxpayers. If the PW won’t be eliminated, we hope the state will instead use the U.S. Occupational Employment Statistics survey. This would reduce rates by almost 40 percent on average and free up nearly $63 million of spending from the State’s FY15 capital budget, including almost $18 million for more school capital improvements.

3. Make Delaware the next right-to-work state: Delaware is not a right-to-work (RTW) state and, between that and our inconsistent-as-applied PW law, many businesses outside the state choose not to move here. Incorporating and buying office space in Wilmington for some high-paying executive jobs is one thing. But Moody’s Analytics in late 2013 said Delaware was the only state at immediate risk of falling back into a recession and a lot of this is due to more businesses closing than opening in Delaware. Pass legislation to end forced unionization and support pro-job growth policies instead.

4. Tax and regulatory reform: Only five states have a Gross Receipts Tax, which is a tax on revenue generated before profit and loss is factored in. Three of those states have no further taxes on corporate earnings and the only other state (Virginia) that does has lower tax rates. Between this tax, high personal and corporate income taxes, franchise taxes, and overall over-regulation by state agencies, Delaware is increasingly threatening its “Incorporation Golden Goose” as Nevada and North Dakota work to take business from the state. This needs to be addressed.

5. Work to lower energy prices: Delaware has electric rates 25 percent higher than the states we compete with for jobs like nearby Virginia. We import close to one-third of our electricity from out of state, the highest rate in the nation. Some of this is due to our geography, but a lot of it is due to the state’s failure to build a network of natural gas pipelines from the Marcellus Shale to Delaware.

Coupled with the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) carbon tax scheme and taxpayer subsidizing of “green” companies like Bluewater Wind (gone), Fisker Automotive (didn’t build cars in Delaware), and Bloom Energy (still has not brought the promised 900 high-paying full-time jobs), Delaware cannot grow its economy if energy prices are high. We want the Legislature to pass natural gas pipeline extension and end participation in RGGI and subsidies for “green” companies.

What issues do you think the state Legislature should focus on this year?

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Since 2008 America has seen a greater number of businesses close than open. According to Gallup, roughly 6 million businesses out of 26 legally recognized actually function; the rest are inactive or exist only on paper. Of these 6 million “real” businesses, 3.8 million employ 1-4 employees. Only about 108,000 businesses in America (2% of “real businesses”) employ 100+ people. If we continue to kill off small business with over-regulation and over-taxation, how will the government be able to pay its bills, short of more printing, borrowing, and cancelling debts?

From Gallup: (article truncated for space)

“The U.S. now ranks not first, not second, not third, but 12th among developed nations in terms of business startup activity. Countries such as Hungary, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Israel and Italy all have higher startup rates than America does.

We are behind in starting new firms per capita, and this is our single most serious economic problem. Yet it seems like a secret. You never see it mentioned in the media, nor hear from a politician that, for the first time in 35 years, American business deaths now outnumber business births.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the total number of new business startups and business closures per year — the birth and death rates of American companies — have crossed for the first time since the measurement began. I am referring to employer businesses, those with one or more employees, the real engines of economic growth. Four hundred thousand new businesses are being born annually nationwide, while 470,000 per year are dying.

You may not have seen this graph before.

Until 2008, startups outpaced business failures by about 100,000 per year. But in the past six years, that number suddenly turned upside down. There has been an underground earthquake. As you read this, we are at minus 70,000 in terms of business survival. The data are very slow coming out of the U.S. Department of Census, via the Small Business Administration, so it lags real time by two years.

Here’s why: Entrepreneurship is not systematically built into our culture the way innovation or intellectual development is. You might say, “Well, I see a lot of entrepreneurial activity in the country.” Yes, that’s true, but entrepreneurship is now in decline for the first time since the U.S. government started measuring it.

Because we have misdiagnosed the cause and effect of economic growth, we have misdiagnosed the cause and effect of job creation. To get back on track, we need to quit pinning everything on innovation, and we need to start focusing on the almighty entrepreneurs and business builders. And that means we have to find them.”

No matter how much some people will try to convince you the Roaring Twenties are back, the reality is that we have far too many businesses closing and not enough replacing them.Businesses do open and close all the time, but a lot of business closings are small businesses getting shut down because of government policy via regulation and taxation. A lot of these policies are Cronyist policies pushed by big business to weaken their competition, which is smaller stores. Thus for example, a big chain like Costco can safely come out in favor of the minimum wage increase knowing it will end up hurting the roughly 80 percent of businesses which employ nine or fewer people, while at the same time reaping the benefits of “caring” for their employees (note: we don’t object to Costco paying its employees well; we applaud it. But just because Costco might be able to afford a wage increase doesn’t mean every business can).

Crony business policies, government bureaucrats who make new regulations to justify their jobs, politicians who want to “do something” to get votes, and a well-intentioned but misinformed public which votes for things like minimum wage hikes  all result in a decline in new business startups and jobs lost and never created in the first place. We at CRI support economic policies which make it easier for people to start businesses and create new (hopefully well-paying) job opportunities without sacrificing necessary regulations and basic standards of decency. But unless we fundamentally change the way our country is operating, that 70,000 per year decrease in total businesses operating in America will increase in number.

Help support CRI! Your support allows us to research and provide analysis to the public on policies which will best grow the economy and create jobs. An end to the prevailing wage, Right to Work legislation, an end to Delaware’s gross receipts tax and lower corporate income taxes and personal income taxes, health care reform which encourages innovation from the private sector, and energy policies which would give people more choices would go a long way to helping Delaware, and America, make a sound economic recovery for all. Please consider making a contribution today.

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Earlier this week Business Insider UK published an article titled, “Conservatives will hate this: Proof That Government Spending Cuts Hurt Economic Growth”. From the article:

“… austerity subtracted about 0.76 percentage points off the real growth rate of the economy between the middle of 2010 and the middle of 2011. If real government spending had remained constant at mid-2010 levels and everything else stayed constant, (yes we know these are big assumptions) the US economy would now be about 1.2 per cent larger.

There’s a secondary conclusion, too: War is good (economically), it turns out.”

They provided a graph (created by Matt Klein of the Financial Times) with data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) “proving” that Keynesianism works. Without public spending, the author argued, our economy can’t grow.

US govt spending growth contribution detail

Enter the Foundation for Economic Freedom, whose founder Leonard Reed once published the famous short story “I, Pencil.” You absolutely should read this, by the way. An economist named Robert Murphy points out the fallacy in the calculations made for the graph above:

“Edwards (the author of the Business Times UK article) seems to think that the above chart shows at least a correlation between government spending and economic growth. After all, he wrote that the BEA chart “seems to show that government has a pretty straightforward effect on GDP.” But… the chart does nothing of the kind.

Look carefully at the legend. The various colored rectangles are different components of government spending. Specifically, the rectangles indicate how the change in each component — positive or negative — relates to the change in overall GDP. The black line is not GDP growth, but is instead the sum of the various components of government spending… if we take the BEA’s word for how much each component of government spending contributed to GDP growth in each quarter, then we can stack those numbers on top of each other and even add them up! Contrary to Edwards, the FT chart doesn’t “show” anything at all, except that the BEA each quarter announces how much various components of government spending contributed to, or subtracted from, GDP growth.

After this discussion, we can see why pretty charts from the FT showcasing government spending’s “contribution to GDP growth” quarter by quarter don’t really mean anything. It’s the same for the ex post “empirical” analyses that concluded that the Obama stimulus package “saved or created” such-and-such million jobs. The underlying models that generate these estimates assume a Keynesian world, and thus cannot test whether the Keynesian model is correct.”

Even though the government prints and issues money, it’s the private sector (both businesses and consumers) who determine the value of a good or service. The government can only run on money taken from the private sector; printing into eternity is Quantitative Easing, which causes inflation if too much is printed. So they tax or borrow it from the people. If government spending really did save economies, both Delaware and America would have people making record amounts of money instead of seeing wages stagnate. The Federal Reserve would not have to continue holding interest rates low in order to convince people to buy things like homes or cars or take out student loans.

Check out CRI’s analysis here and here.

The bottom line is, Keynesianism does not work in the real world, despite efforts by its supporters to say it does. The less the government spends, the less the government needs. Even The News Journal noted that in a recent editorial.

As we approach 2015, here’s to more free markets and less government spending at all levels.

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