Week in Review: Answering the Bell

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Answering the Bell

I’ll confess to having never heard of Kristen Bell before this video of her surfaced recently (such is my familiarity with modern-day pop culture). Apparently she’s an actress and a singer — and also, if that video is any indication, an aspiring economist.

The video is entertaining, if for no other reason than it calls to mind the common joke at the expense of those who sing poorly, in which they are advised against quitting their day job. This time, of course, the scenario is reversed. Singing is her day job, and she does it quite well. So well, in fact, that I’m going to go ahead and suggest she stick to it.

Watch the video for yourself (be advised that there’s a bit of bad language at the end), but here’s the gist of it: Ms. Bell, dressed as Mary Poppins, performs a little number to the tune of “A Spoonful of Sugar.” Except the lyrics are changed so that she’s calling for “just a three-dollar increase” in the federal minimum wage. The current floor of $7.25 an hour simply isn’t enough to live on, she melodiously explains, but one stroke of the government pen can make everybody’s financial worries melt away.

For a retort to all this, I couldn’t possibly do better than this video from our clever friends at Reason, who trot out Bert the chimney sweep to suggest that “just three pages of econ” might help Ms. Bell see the flaws in her reasoning.

I did, however, visit this topic in the not-too-distant past, in a column I wrote in response to cries, both nationally and here in Nevada, for a minimum-wage hike. As I wrote then:

Minimum-wage laws kill jobs. And increasing the minimum wage would kill even more of them. This is true for a very simple reason: If you increase the cost of something to an employer, he will be able to afford less of it. This means that entry-level jobs will disappear or, as we’re seeing already, human workers will be replaced by machines. In other words, minimum-wage laws hurt the very people they’re intended to help by pricing those people out of the labor market.           

Ms. Bell would have us believe that providing current low-wage employees a life of abundance is as simple as legislating more money into their pockets. But as I noted in that excerpt (and as the Reason video points out as well), her policy prescription would actually do serious harm to many of those same employees — by turning them into former employees.

But the most obnoxious line from Ms. Bell’s ditty refers to “the CEOs in fancy suits each giving their own trumpet toots” who “forget how hard it is to work a shift.” And she’s just getting warmed up. “They don’t like to break a sweat,” she informs us. “They prefer to just collect.”

Now, I find this maddening — and not just because I’m a CEO who wears fancy suits (they’re not actually all that fancy).

Only someone completely detached from the real world (as Hollywood types can often be) could fail to appreciate how much “sweat” goes into building and growing a business. Ms. Bell’s casual and ignorant dismissal of the tireless effort entrepreneurs put forth in order to earn their success would be insulting — if the source weren’t far too comical to take seriously.

No fair-minded person would deny that some people in this country are worse off than others, especially during these tough times. But the way to create economic opportunity for all is to remove governmental barriers to business development and job growth, not erect new ones.

Raising the minimum wage would only make things more difficult for those who are now struggling — and no amount of lyrical wit or musical talent can alter that reality.

•••

Speaking of musical talent (see what I did there?), last week I offered to buy a cup of coffee for the first person who wrote in and accurately identified the first song I learned to play on guitar, and I noted that I’d referenced some of the song’s lyrics somewhere in that column.

Some of our staff warned me that the hint wasn’t obvious enough, and it seems they were right, because nobody came up with the correct answer. However, there were lots of great guesses, my favorites including Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business” and Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” (I have to admit, that last one gave me a chuckle). Anyway, I’m going to give you all another shot at it, but this time I’ll help you out a bit more. The artist is Pink Floyd, and the relevant line from last week’s column referred to teachers trading the “hot air” of union rhetoric for the “cool breeze” of reason and logic.

No winner this time, and I’m drinking all the coffee myself.

Have a great weekend!

 

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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