KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Minimum wage fight is about hating capitalism, not helping workers

Dec 5, 2023, 6:49 PM

Image: Members of the Renton City Council can be seen during a meeting on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023....

Members of the Renton City Council can be seen during a meeting on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023. (Image courtesy of the city of Renton's YouTube page)

(Image courtesy of the city of Renton's YouTube page)

The City of Renton is the latest Washington city to dive into the minimum wage debate. As is usually the case, the activist push is more about dismantling capitalism than it is about helping workers.

The activist-backed initiative would raise the minimum wage to $19.00 an hour. That’s just 97 cents under the minimum wage paid in Seattle, where the cost of living is considerably higher. It would be the third highest minimum wage in the country if it were to be enacted today. And it would be adjusted annually for inflation, making it difficult for businesses to budget for the following year.

The group, Raise the Wage Renton, hoped their measure would be passed by the council but it failed 5-2. The activists collected enough signatures to force a vote in the February special election so, ultimately, residents will decide.

More from Renton: Minimum wage initiative to go before the voters

Residents will almost assuredly vote yes. But if they think this is about helping them, they should read the fine print.

This is anti-business, not pro-worker

Large companies are required to implement the wage increase almost immediately. But the ordinance offers smaller companies a multi-year, phased-in approach. However you analyze this, the move is intended to punish a business without bankrupting them.

Activists foolishly believe they know more about running a business than actual business owners. When it comes to large companies, they assume the businesses are run by greedy capitalists who are hanging on to too much profit. They don’t think the additional wage dollars will hurt much. They’ve obviously never considered how corporate budgets are planned. We know that a sudden increase in labor costs will disrupt a company’s finances, leading to downsizing, outsourcing, or automation. We’ve already seen that happen in cities with obscenely high minimum wages.

The activists phase-in the wage hike for small businesses because, presumably, they know it could hurt small businesses. Why is that? Small businesses generally have limited financial resources and less capacity to absorb increased costs. Why is it that these activists think implementing this three years from now will mean these businesses have more financial resources and an ability to absorb the higher labor costs? It’s a silly assumption. It also doesn’t matter that the wage will be phased in because they’ll be forced to adopt it early in order to compete with bigger companies offering substantially more wages. They’ll have to raise wages and almost certainly cut hours or downsize staff.

And why is it that the financial well being of a small business employee doesn’t matter as much as the worker at a big box store or coffee chain? Isn’t this about helping the worker? No, it’s about dictating how businesses operate and limiting profit.

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Disingenuous arguments

You can even tell this isn’t about the workers because of the lazy talking points that activists use to push these wage hikes. Some are certainly true, but they’re mostly misleading.

“Working families have more income to spend at local businesses and on necessities like child care and health care. They’re less likely to miss a rental payment and become homeless. Good jobs make our communities stronger,” the Raise the Wage Renton website says.

It would be more accurate to say those with jobs that don’t see a reduction in hours will have more money to spend at local businesses, Though, you might be spending more at those local businesses so that the unearned wage hike costs are offset. The unskilled workers who miss out on job opportunities, seeing that employers will seek applicants with more skills to justify paying $19 an hour, will continue to struggle paying their rent, if they’re able to make it at all.

Then they tell you that workers “can’t afford” to rent a home or apartment in most of Washington until they earn at least twice the minimum wage. That’s staggering, of course, and one wonders why we don’t have a much higher homeless population. (Hint: it’s because they’re basing whether or not you can “afford” a place on you spending more than 30% of your income on housing; if you spend 32%, you “can’t afford” to rent).

They also try to trick you into accepting their outlandish claims, hoping you don’t read carefully. For example, in Seattle’s local newspaper, a reporter, citing analysis, writes, “there is no state or local area where a full-time worker making the minimum wage could afford a two-bedroom rental without working more than 40 hours a week.” If you didn’t read carefully, you’d have glossed over the two-bedroom qualifier. If you’re single and without a child, you shouldn’t rent a two-bedroom home or apartment you can’t afford. If you’re a couple, and both are making minimum wage, then why are we judging affordability on a one-person household? So what are the actual stats when you account for real world scenarios on who is even looking for a two bedroom?

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It doesn’t matter

Does any of this matter? No. Renton voters will undoubtedly support this decision, even if it will hurt them because they’re not thinking about the unintended consequences.

Activists, many being openly anti-capitalist, want the public to think that all big businesses are greedy and that they exploit all of their workers. When one is fed a diet of this misinformation while not addressing the real reason they’re making low wages (lack of skills and experience since minimum wage jobs are almost always intended to be jobs you take on early in a career as a way to gain experience), it’s easy to resent your employer. We have a generation of employees who demand a work/life imbalance: less work, more life, and at higher rates. It’s a dangerous combination.

Everyone wants higher pay. It’s hard to say no to that, regardless of your income level. Activists know that, which is why they love putting wage hikes in front of voters. (It’s also why they hate voters weighing in on tax hikes.) And they’ll win in Renton, but workers and businesses will hurt. Sadly, activists will come up with another scheme that they’ll pretend will help the people their previous idea hurt and we’ll continue the vicious cycle of groups causing pain being trusted to solve the crisis they created.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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Rantz: Minimum wage fight is about hating capitalism, not helping workers