December 19, 2013
We have tried a number of times (here, here, and here) to explain the simple math behind the populist call for a higher minimum wage (that appears to be founding the President’s new class warfare) but in the following clip, we hope, Peter Schiff visits a local Wal-Mart in the hopes of explaining that magic money trees are not real.
Posing as representatives of “15 for 15,” a make-believe organization advocating that Walmart raise prices by 15% and use the extra cash to pay its low-skilled workers $15 per hour (Schiff suggests that the surcharge be added to customer’s bills at checkout, just like a gratuity at a restaurant).
Not surprisingly few shoppers supported his cause. Even those who felt Walmart workers should be paid more did not want to pay higher prices themselves to make it possible.
Perhaps, as Schiff notes, those demanding higher wages for Walmart’s workers should consider the importance of low prices to Walmart’s customers.
Those who advocate across the board wage increases assume that the company can meet the additional payroll by simply dipping into profits. But with just $6,600 profit per employee any significant raise in pay will largely cut into profits, greatly alter return on equity, and force dramatic changes in the company’s operations. In truth the kind of pay raises envisioned by the activists, must lead to price increases. Advocates assume that shoppers will gladly support higher prices if they lead to higher wages for workers not higher profit for shareholders. Mr. Schiff’s experiment shows thishope to be delusional. If Wal-Mart loses customers, it will invariably lose workers. Do progressives assume that workers earning no pay would be less of a burden on society than a worker earning low pay?
Mr. Schiff would certainly agree that it is increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to raise a family on entry level Wal-Mart pay. But he argues that such jobs were never intended to be careers, but simply stepping stones for low skilled workers to gain entry into the labor force. The fact that the economy is now providing no other stones on which to step is not the fault of Wal-Mart. Instead, the better paying jobs that used to form the backbone of the middle class have been strangled by an out of control government that strangles businesses with excessive taxation and regulation.