business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a lot of debate here on the site last week following the vote by the US House of Representatives to increase the minimum wage.

One MNB user wrote then that “This whole minimum wage debate seems pointless. Realistically, every household makes a minimum of about $20 per hour. If you make minimum wage the rest comes in the form of government subsidies (Food Stamps, WIC, utility assistance, public housing, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits, etc). If someone gets an increase in pay its just less assistance they can qualify for.”

To which we responded:

Hot damn! Talk about an epiphany! We used to think that poverty was a real problem in this country, but we now have been officially disabused of that notion.

It ends up that every household makes $20 per hour, and that all people in the lowest wage categories aren't really disadvantaged - just stupid and irresponsible.


One MNB user responded to the debate:

It's not "politically correct" to say it, but let's be honest and admit that (with some very, very rare exceptions) that the poor in America are either stupid (this includes people that are "mentally retarded" in the traditional sense, have serious learning disabilities, or had kids without a place for them to live) and/or irresponsible (this includes people who don't show up at work and get fired and/or people that drink so much or use so many drugs that they can't remember where to go to work). I live in San Francisco and there is no such thing as a smart hard working guy who "just does not make enough"...

As for San Francisco, we are going to get a lot more chain stores as more
and more smart hard working small business owners just give up since
this year they will have to start paying for:

1. Higher Wages (even to waiters and bartenders who make over $100K a
year in tips)
2. Health care
3. And the Big one more paid time off (for people who are sick or have
friends that are sick).


Another MNB user chimed in:

I would not have believed it if I did not have an employee that was working the system for all it was worth.

She wanted to make money but not too much because she would lose all the government benefits. She was making $10.00 per hour (20,800.00) per year. But towards the end of the year she would call out sick or leave early because she did not want to lose the food stamps, WIC and housing that the government helped pay for, not to mention the subsidized day care for which she paid $13.00 per week. Health care was not important because there was always the emergency room. When a promotion came up she deliberately failed the typing test because her standard of living would have gone down if she was promoted.

Her tax refund was over $4000.00 which by my calculation was probably more than she paid in. She got the check on a Friday and she proudly came in on the following Monday and told me she had spent the whole thing, it was incredible.


However, not everyone feels this way. One MNB user wrote:

Wow! I realize the retailing community can be a conservative bunch, but the venom displayed towards an increase in the minimum wage surprised me. It's one thing for a small business owner to raise the issue, but that wasn't the argument raised on Monday.

Ray England claims that "A federal minimum wage is a joke when it comes to the government doing something for working families." His trickle down economics (hasn't this theory itself been proven to be a joke?) states everyone above the minimum wage earner will be impacted, eventually eliminating the minimum wage job. Minimum wage earners must appreciate Mr. England's thoughtfulness. The minimum wage is at its lowest inflation adjusted value in over fifty years and hasn't seen an increase in ten years during which it suffered a 20% reduction in value.

He went on to say, "I just can't believe that there are millions of working families dependent on the main wage earner bringing home minimum wage." According to the Economic Policy Institute, "An estimated 1,395,000 single parents with children under 18 would benefit from a minimum wage increase to $7.25 by 2008. Single parents would benefit disproportionately from an increase * single parents are 9% of workers affected by an increase, but they make up only 7% of the overall workforce. Approximately 3.9 million parents with children under 18 would benefit."

But if Ray England doesn't believe it, then it must not be true.

KC, I share your views on the user who didn't think low wage earners could handle an increase in pay.

It's not only the content of these two views that is bothersome, it's the arrogant nature of them. 82 Republicans voted for the increase and small business concerns will be addressed by amendments in the Senate and by the President. But these two users are so against putting money in the hands of the poorest WORKING Americans that they felt the need to offer harsh criticism.


And another MNB user wrote:

I was disheartened to read some of the comments regarding the Congressional approval for a minimum wage increase. I think it particularly apt to quote two lines from Dr. Martin Luther King's Nobel Peace prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Dec 10 1964, when he said "I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder." It was the case then and unfortunately for millions of Americans it is the case 40 years later. In that same speech he also said "I refuse to accept the idea that the "is-ness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "ought-ness" that forever confronts him."

Can't we as a society, just for once, get beyond our selfishness and cynicism and allow this Congressional move to stand as a national commitment and promise to our working class poor to make things better?


Still another MNB user wrote:

Does (the person) that wrote the paragraph about everyone making at least $20 / hour know that $20 / hour would equal $41,600 per year and the national MEDIAN is $46,000?




On the subject of food from cloned animals, MNB user David Farnam wrote:

There was a piece on PBS probably a year ago that was completely eye opening. They were interviewing an emissary from Africa who was on tour meeting with various agricultural research companies like Monsanto and the like.

I will never forget what this woman said about organic foods. I don’t have a quote but the gist of her message was that she was all for bioengineered foods and making farming easier and producing higher yield crops. They showed farmers in her country struggling against pests, plant disease and substandard soil conditions. She seemed to think that the only reason the US has an organic movement at all is due the plentiful supply of food we enjoy.

In the fight against starvation I can see her point.

In the fight against cancer our family chooses organic natural foods.


In the case of food and milk from clones, we feel strongly that everyone should be able to make a choice – which is why we believe it is so important that these foods be accurately labeled.

But you’re right. For many people, the choice will not be between cloned food and organic food. It will be between eating and not eating…and it would be arrogant for society not to do everything and anything possible to make sure that their hunger is addressed and eliminated.

For us, that is a moral issue that is far more important than whether cloning is ethical or moral.




Regarding the class action suit against Costco alleging gender discrimination, one MNB user wrote:

Those 700 women at Costco who were denied promotions don't have to feel alone. My guess is that thousands of men at Costco have been denied promotions as well. Imagine someone at Wal-Mart reading this story?

Working at Costco is like the Holy Grail of retail jobs. Some people pray every day they will someday work for Costco, make a decent wage and get some nice benefits. For others, it’s not good enough. They want to sue the hand that feeds them.





MNB user David Mace had some thoughts about the news that Tesco won’t be opening stores in the US until the fourth quarter of this year:

From the ‘tales’ I’ve been hearing the past few years, this chain is for real, notwithstanding the delay in setting up its US stores. From what I hear from KC and others, this outfit doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, figuring it can afford to be a bit cautious in order to do the right thing. This is only a momentary reprieve for US competitors who will soon be faced with an adversary that offers shoppers more of what they want in terms of taste, convenience, variety, freshness and service.

Agreed.




We got a number of emails responding to last week’s MNB Radio commentary about the importance of doing the little things right, which we illustrated by talking about how the buttons on LL Bean shirts are vastly superior to those on shirts by Territory Ahead shirts…and how not doing the little things right can hurt a brand’s image and sales.

MNB user W. Patrick McSweeney wrote:

You’re hit a hot button here (pun intended) and are absolutely right. I’ve got shirts from LL Bean and Lands End that are more than 10 years old and the buttons (as well as the shirts) continue to last. Yet similar shirts I’ve purchased from department stores or other mail order outfits haven’t stood up like those from Bean or Lands End. So I’m hesitant to purchase from anyone else because I know I’m getting a dependable product at a fair price and great value from the folks in Maine and Wisconsin.

Another MNB user wrote:

I feel your pain with the buttons. Thanks for a great story to help illuminate this point. When I talk about quality, I frequently use shirts as an example.

And MNB user Steven Ritchey wrote:

I think a number of stores would increase their sales if they would pay attention to the details. An example, last year around Labor Day I went to a local chain store to get charcoal and lighter fluid for a group cookout. Found a large display of Kingsford charcoal on the back aisle of the store, no lighter fluid with the display, none on the shelf either. Nothing else was merchandised with it, no butane lighters, rubs, seasonings, just charcoal on the pallet it shipped on. Part of the risk of course is when the customer sees something like this, they will walk and buy their entire bill of groceries elsewhere. As it was, I went across the street to a competitors store and got what I needed. This is not the first time I’ve seen this happen. I think instead of looking for the next “big idea”, a number of retailers to look at how well they do what they do now and get the little things right, this is how you sustain business.
KC's View: