Monday, May 12, 2014

The Seattle Times (again)

Another day, another intellectually dubious editorial by the Seattle Times. This one's on the proposal to raise the city's wage to $15 per hour.

Let's take a look at a few of the most hilarious howlers, shall we?
The rhetoric was untethered from reality.

The Times uses the word 'rhetoric' three times in this editorial, which is an odd linguistic flourish. It couldn't be a way for the Times to imply supporters of a minimum wage increase are being dishonest, could it? Nah. 

A re-engineering this large will raise costs for Seattle’s large middle class, which is already struggling with Seattle’s rising cost of living. A $15 wage would not help a teacher in Greenwood, but would raise his or her restaurant tab

The Greenwood teacher's restaurant tab would probably be raised by, oh, a few pennies per meal. Also, the Greenwood teacher may well see positive benefits from the overall economic impact of a minimum-wage increase. This seems like a small price to pay to lift low-wage workers out of near-poverty — a point the Times does not raise, despite it being the main engine of the minimum-wage increase in the first place. 


During negotiations, representatives of the food-service industry sought to make tips count toward a $15 wage. But labor activists, who dislike tipping for philosophical reasons, largely won the debate. As a result, the take-home pay for Seattle servers will likely be reduced, because they might get less in tips. Don’t underestimate the price shock on restaurant-goers.

The Times editorial board is masterful at using opaque language to dishonestly neuter its opponents' arguments. Saying "labor activists1" argument on behalf of tipped workers is "philosophical" is a clever way to make those arguments seem impractical without actually having to address them. 
Setting aside the fact that many "tipped workers," such as cooks, don't actually receive tips; setting aside the fact that tipped workers are frequently the victims of wage theft; and setting aside the fact that tipped workers are twice as likely to live in poverty, the Times' argument is still wrong.
The data are largely in opposition to what the Times claims. There is no evidence that an increase in the minimum wage will lead to less tips. 



1 In the Seattle Times editorial pages, calling someone a "labor activist" is the exact same thing as calling them an "asshole."