Posts by Hanna Brooks Olsen

Portable Benefits Get Big Nod In Obama’s Final SOTU

Portable Benefits Get Big Nod In Obama’s Final SOTU

Watching last night’s State of the Union was an emotional affair. The last SOTU of the Obama presidency, it was a particularly meaningful one; the empty chair left for victims of gun violence, the gravity of America’s many complicated issues, and the reality that the lectern would, in just a year, have a different face behind it weighed heavily on the room and on the millions of people watching at home. President Obama’s remarks served both to bolster the spirits of the public and to gently wag a finger at his colleagues, many of whom made up some of the least productive Congresses of the modern era. He took jabs at climate change deniers, hate-mongers, and Ted Cruz (because who else has been hot to carpet bomb civilians in the last year?), while encouraging Americans to think of themselves as creative, innovative, and hard-working people. He, like Jay Inslee just a few hours before him , tipped his hat to the myriad jobs being created by science, technology, research, and space exploration endeavors. He said, out loud, that we need to raise the minimum wage. All of that was great. But the point at which I nearly spat my tea at the C-SPAN broadcast was when I heard him mention what sounded to me an awful lot like an idea put forth by our very own Nick Hanauer and David Rolf in the Summer 2015 Democracy Journal. Here’s what they said: “Gone is the era of the lifetime career, let alone the lifelong job and the economic security that came with it, having been replaced by a new economy intent on recasting full-time employees into contractors, vendors, and temporary workers.” and also “Economic security is what frees us from the fear that one job loss, one illness—one economic downturn amidst a business cycle guaranteed to produce economic downturns—could cost us our home, our car, our family, and our
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Studying Minimum Wage During The Recession? Good Luck

Studying Minimum Wage During The Recession? Good Luck

To be considered even somewhat conclusive, a scientific study is typically expected to identify just one variable—one aspect of the research which can clearly be shown to have an impact on the outcome. For some reason, the same is not expected in political economy—at least not according to new research which “indicates” (kind of) that higher minimum wages lead to job losses among young, uneducated people. Conducted by Jeffrey Clemens at the University of California San Diego for the National Bureau of Economic Research, the paper cites higher minimum wages between 2006 and 2010 as the a major reason why employment among young people saw a sharp decline. “My baseline estimate is that this period’s full set of minimum wage increases reduced employment among individuals ages 16 to 30 with less than a high school education by 5.6 percentage points,” Clemens explains in the abstract adding that “this estimate accounts for 43 percent of the sustained, 13 percentage point decline in this skill group’s employment rate and a 0.49 percentage point decline in employment across the full population ages 16 to 64.” Clemens’ framework seems sounds on its face—he’s not just comparing unemployment to wages, and has also included additional numbers, including housing declines. However, at no point does the paper address the documented cultural trend of educated individuals re-entering or remaining in the low-wage workforce as a result of the recession, or the depletion of middle-income jobs during that same time . It’s no secret that during the Great Recession, workers of all skill and experience levels found themselves without a paycheck, or with a retirement fund that simply wasn’t going to cut it. As a result, many turned back to lower-skilled jobs in service and other industries to make ends meet, effectively crowding out individuals who were less desirable for the same jobs—not because employers didn’t want to pay high wages to unskilled workers, but because there were simply better
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Marco Rubio Says You Can’t Live on $10/Hr, So…What? People Just Die?

Marco Rubio Says You Can’t Live on $10/Hr, So…What? People Just Die?

At a campaign event back in October, Marco Rubio said something that is factually accurate: That poverty wages simply are not enough to support a family. “I have full confidence that the American private sector…won’t just create millions of jobs. They’ll create millions of jobs that pay more,” he said, standing in a backyard in (according to the clip) Portsmouth. “Because even the jobs that are being created now don’t pay enough. You can’t live on $10 an hour! You can’t live $11 an hour! We need to create jobs that pay much more than that. But we have to have an economy and economic policy that make America the best place in the world to create jobs that pay more.” There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s go point by point: Marco Rubio believes that the private sector, not the government, should be creating jobs and spreading wealth, even though he’s often said that a tax credit is the best way to put more money in the pockets of Americans. Marco Rubio doesn’t like the jobs that are being created now, even though he’s very much a believer that the economy is a game of straight supply-and-demand and thus, theoretically should believe that the jobs being created are the ones that are most in demand. Marco Rubio admits that the minimum wage—well below $10 or $11 in all states—is not enough to live on, and yet, does not suggest what to do about that. Marco Rubio wants people to be paid more than $11 per hour, but somehow refuses to admit that a quick way to do that is to raise the minimum wage. Marco Rubio says that to pay people more, we need to have “an economy and economic policy” that would favor job creators, though he fails to quite put
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It’s Too Soon to Tell if a Higher Minimum Wage is Eliminating Restaurant Jobs

It’s Too Soon to Tell if a Higher Minimum Wage is Eliminating Restaurant Jobs

Allow me to save you a click: The answer to the Atlantic’s recent question, “ Are Higher Minimum Wages Eliminating Restaurant Jobs? ” is “it’s too soon to tell.” That’s the gist of the article and that’s the answer to the question. It’s also the truth, because it is, in fact, too soon to tell. Atlantic writer Russell Berman, too, could have saved you a click by simply titling the article truthfully—”It’s Too Soon to Tell if Higher Minimum Wage is Eliminating Restaurant Jobs” would be accurate, as would “It’s Too Soon to Tell if Higher Minimum Wage is Boosting Restaurant Jobs”—but then, of course, the Berman and the Atlantic wouldn’t be able to stir up the frothy sea of ire that floods Facebook feeds and drowns out Twitter discussions when otherwise-respectable reporters opt to trot out dubious studies and play to the fears of those who believe the old adages of trickle-down economics. Let’s evaluate this piece by piece. The article is, from the beginning, set up to confirm every expectation of a person who wants to hear that raising the minimum wage has cost restaurant jobs, without ever actually succeeding in doing so. Even focusing on the restaurant industry as a yardstick of the efficacy of raising the minimum wage (the industry is the largest employer of those making under $10.10, but only 18% of near-minimum wage workers are employed by restaurants) is something of a red herring, but that’s a separate issue. Under a hero image of a woman in a McDonald’s uniform—doubling down on the idea of “burger-flipper”—within the first few lines, Berman goes ahead and answers his own question. “One early report suggests hiring has slowed in the cities that changed their policies this year, but it’s probably too early to tell, economists say,” reads the subheader. So the answer to Berman’s lead (and leading) question is: it’s too
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