February 12, 2007

On Seriousness and Incentives

Justin Katz

Although I'll resist the temptation to offer snarky comments about the qualities of "serious" columnists, I will acknowledge that they aren't apparent in Froma Harrop's lunge into the minimum wage debate:

There is a conservative worldview that people who don’t make serious money aren’t serious people. Economic incentives are for entrepreneurs. For the low-of-wage, you put a bowl of nuggets on the ground and pat their heads.

Longtime readers might have the general sense that I haven't found Harrop's powers of perception to be particularly impressive, but it appears that she has now confused the worldviews of conservatives and liberals! Condescending handouts and a general premise that disadvantaged people are constitutionally incapable of capitalizing on profferred opportunities are ideological markers of the Left. Contra Harrop, contriving regular increases in pay for sticking it out in the same menial, bottom-rung job — far from creating it — undermines incentive. In summary, as I've said recently, piecemeal minimum wage laws are precisely the scattered nuggets and pats on the head that Harrop laments, and any attempted push of such legislation past that point would be devastating.

I'm left struggling for words to say about a columnist who could write the following:

If business owners can’t make a decent profit paying their workers a minimum wage — that adjusted for inflation would still be lower than it was in 1969 — then perhaps, just perhaps, they shouldn’t be in business.

Nevermind that, as I explained in the post just linked, beginning small businesses on razor-thin margins represents an escape from the rut of low-wage work, and knocking such businesses off the playing field will only ease the growth of megaglobalconglomerates. As is more often the case than I've interest in voicing, I find myself wondering whether the letters FROMA HARROP are some supremely clever acronym or anagram meaning "out of touch columnist" and can only opine that she is clearly too well paid.

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This is all that needs to be said about minimum wage...


Companies maintain the new wage was raised to $6.75 per hour from $5.15 per hour to help the breadwinners in working-poor families. Teens typically have other means of support.

Mark Messner, owner of Pepi's Pizza in south Phoenix, estimates he has employed more than 2,000 high school students since 1990. But he plans to lay off three teenage workers and decrease hours worked by others. Of his 25-person workforce, roughly 75 percent are in high school.

"I've had to go to some of my kids and say, 'Look, my payroll just increased 13 percent,' " he said. " 'Sorry, I don't have any hours for you.' "

Posted by: Greg at February 12, 2007 11:58 AM

You've heard of an armchair general? Froma is an armchair entrepreneur.

Posted by: SusanD at February 12, 2007 9:30 PM

I was going to suggest that she is in general an armchair...

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 12, 2007 9:33 PM

I assume Froma realizes that as someone in the ProJo's employ who does not parrot the conservative party line, she is going to be abused by the blogiverse. I don't agree with everything she writes, but the woman has a pair many males wished they did.
I've encountered her on occasion in her former job as business reporter, and the woman doesn't strike me as a flaming liberal at all.

Posted by: Rhody at February 13, 2007 12:20 AM

And your perspective would be? I know, I know, you claim to be moderate if not conservative.

Posted by: smmtheory at February 13, 2007 7:11 PM

Just curious: anybody still calling Froma liberal after the way she came down on Edwards' bloggers today?

Posted by: Rhody at February 15, 2007 12:32 AM

I don't see anything in that column that negates a charge of liberalism.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 15, 2007 5:59 AM

Well, Dan Yorke sure isn't liberal, and Froma shares his low regard for bloggers - I'd love to hear the conservative take on Yorke's remarks about bloggers the other day ("they write with one hand on the keyboard and the other pleasuring themselves").

Posted by: Rhody at February 17, 2007 4:38 PM
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