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Writing in City Journal, John Tierney provides a good example of how the Left ruins the lives of ordinary people. He writes about the refusal of New York City to allow Wal-Marts.
If budget-cutters in Washington decided to eliminate food-stamp benefits to New Yorkers, the city’s politicians would be denouncing the cruelty of the “Republican war on the poor.” Yet Mayor Bill De Blasio and the city council are already inflicting the same sort of pain on low-income New Yorkers by denying them access to one of the nation’s most effective anti-poverty programs: Walmart.
When he was mayor, Michael Bloomberg supported Walmart’s efforts to open a store in New York, but the company faced unremitting resistance from unions and elected officials, and it gave up the fight once de Blasio moved into GracieMansion. “I have been adamant that I don’t think Walmart—the company, the stores—belong in New York City,” de Blasio said.
Walmart’s benefits are obvious to shoppers and to economists like Jason Furman, who served in the Clinton administration and was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama. In a paper, “Walmart: A Progressive Success Story,” Furman cited estimates that Walmart, by driving down prices, saved the typical American family more than $2,300 annually. That was about the same amount that a family on food stamps then received from the federal government.
How could any progressive with a conscience oppose an organization that confers such benefits? How could de Blasio and the city council effectively take money out of the pockets of the poorest families in New York? Because—though they would deny it—they care a lot more about pleasing powerful labor interests, especially the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which helped lead the long fight to keep Walmart out of the five boroughs. …
More on the Left’s war on ordinary people comes from Hot Air’s report on the types of restaurants that are failing in San Francisco as a result of the higher minimum wage.
… The Washington Examiner takes a look at a new study by the HarvardBusinessSchool this week which specifically digs into the restaurant business in San Francisco, where they have been jacking up their minimum wage like a golden escalator. The results pretty much speak for themselves.
San Francisco’s higher minimum wage is causing an increasing number of restaurants to go out of business even before it is fully phased in, a new study by the HarvardBusinessSchool found.
The closings were concentrated among struggling, lower-rated restaurants. The higher minimum also caused fewer new restaurants to open, it found.
“We provide suggestive evidence that higher minimum wage increases overall exit rates among restaurants, where a $1 increase in the minimum wage leads to approximately a 4 to 10 percent increase in the likelihood of exit,” report Dara Lee and Michael Luca, authors of “Survival of the Fittest: The Impact of the Minimum Wage on Firm Exit.” The study used as a case study San Francisco, which has an estimated 6,000 restaurants in the Bay Area and is ratcheting up its minimum wage. Restaurants are one of the largest employers of minimum wage workers. …
More on the subject from American Interest.
… More interesting, though, are the study’s findings about which restaurants are forced to leave by the higher wage floors. The authors compared rates of departure of restaurants across different Yelp ratings, and found that the policy hit low and mid-quality restaurants much harder than top-tier restaurants. ”Our point estimates suggest that a $1 increase in the minimum wage leads to an approximate 14 percent increase in the likelihood of exit for the median 3.5-star restaurant but the impact falls to zero for five-star restaurants.” …
… this study puts the appeal of superficially progressive measures like the minimum wage hike among the wealthy into sharp relief: It will help clear out the restaurant scene of establishments they don’t want to go to while taking jobs away from people they don’t know.
American Interest has more on California’s war on the working poor. this time using traffic fines. For example, $490 for stop light violations
Pressed to come up with the money to stave off its public employee pension time bomb, the state of California is jacking up the cost of traffic tickets. Reuters reports:
California legislators have raised fines for traffic infractions to some of the highest in the United States to generate revenue, and the poor are bearing an unfair burden, losing cars and jobs because they cannot pay them, civil rights activists said on Friday.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area said in a new report that the $490 fine for a red light ticket in California was three times the national average. The cost was even higher if motorists wanted to attend traffic school in lieu of a conviction or were late paying.
This is a variation of what we call the “blue civil war”—the way the tightening fiscal vise around state and local governments end up pitting Democratic constituencies against one another. In this case, poor and minority Californians, who tend to need to drive further to work, are paying the brunt of the increased traffic fines—which are going to cover the retirement hole for unionized public employees. …
Zimbabwe shows another way governments ruin lives. AP reports on farmers there cheated by the state.
Farmer Simon Kahari recently sold tobacco worth more than $6,000 at an auction in Zimbabwe, a small fortune reflecting the golden leaf’s resurgence in this southern African country. Yet because of Zimbabwe’s dire economic problems he ended up sleeping in an auction house toilet that night, hungry and wondering if and when he would be able to access his earnings.
“I don’t have any money for food or anything,” Kahari said. “I came here expecting to be paid, so now I will have to borrow.”
Many of Zimbabwe’s tobacco farmers share the same plight during the ongoing selling season of the crop, Zimbabwe’s second biggest earner after gold. While exported tobacco rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars, small-time farmers feel left out of the lucrative cycle.
A cash shortage that underlines the country’s deepening economic woes has left farmers who travel long distances to auctions unpaid, stranded and desperate.
Farmers like Kahari are not paid in cash because of the currency shortage. But they need the money because much of Zimbabwe, especially rural areas where there is little infrastructure, is a cash-based society.
Instead, their earnings are deposited into accounts that they must open at bank branches at the auction houses. Then the farmers must stick around for weeks, hoping for the daily withdrawal limit of $100 but often getting no more than $50.
Meanwhile, tobacco sales have jumped 30 percent from last year, earning $300 million so far, according to the country’s Tobacco Industry Marketing Board. …
Now for the pièce de résistance of today’s post on how the left makes everything worse, we have a story from Reuters on water so filthy and oily in Venezuela’s oil ports that the tankers filling up there have to be cleaned before the rest of the world’s ports will let them enter.
In the scorching heat of the Caribbean Sea, workers in scuba suits scrub crude oil by hand from the hull of the Caspian Galaxy, a tanker so filthy it can’t set sail in international waters.
The vessel is among many that are constantly contaminated at two major export terminals where they load crude from Venezuela’s state-run oil company, PDVSA. The water here has an oily sheen from leaks in the rusty pipelines under the surface.
That means the tankers have to be cleaned before traveling to many foreign ports, which won’t admit crude-stained ships for fear of environmental damage to their harbors, port facilities or other vessels.
The laborious hand-cleaning operation is one of many causes of chronic delays for dozens of tankers that deliver Venezuela’s principle export to customers worldwide, according to three executives of the state-run firm, eight employees of maritime firms that contract with PDVSA and Thomson Reuters vessel-tracking data. …
… At oil export terminals around the world – where crude leaks like those in Venezuela are relatively rare – an oil-stained tanker would normally be taken out of the water and cleaned with industrial equipment in a dry dock.
But Venezuela has just one small dry dock and lacks the cash or the time to send its soiled tankers there for proper cleaning, according to the PDVSA executives, ship captains and two workers from tanker cleaning companies.
So workers on a small fishing boat clean the giant tanker with thousands of scrub-brush strokes. The work – which involves scouring ships above and below the water line – can take up to ten days per vessel, a worker involved in the cleaning said.
In a scene witnessed by Reuters in April, workers wearing scuba suits baked on the deck of a small boat as they reached out with brushes to scrub the Caspian Galaxy, a tanker leased for one trip by a PDVSA customer.
The workers labored just offshore from Amuay beach, near a tourist hub and PDVSA’s largest refinery. The crews here have washed so many vessels in recent months that they have dubbed their operation “the boatwash”. …