Farm-to-Table for Bad Information


energy and bullshit


I am reminded of the above law each and every day. And a law it is. Inviolable.

No sooner had I posted the other day about the shoddy “work” coming out of AEI than, voilà, said shoddy “work” is being trumpeted by pompous blowhard Stuart Varney on Fox News. I’ve seen this happen time and again and again. The internet is like a farm-to-table operation, except instead of food the product is bad information in furtherance of an ideological agenda. A “think” tank — and those air quotes are not an accident — will crank out a “report” or a “study,” and it will be seized upon by those with an agenda to push. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Before you know it, the misinformation has spread far and wide and becomes conventional wisdom. And so it is with AEI, Heritage, Cato and the rest of the billionaire supporters of bad information, which is truly a shame, for these were once respectable academic and intellectual shops. *Sigh* No longer.

Below is a transcript of the first 100 seconds or so – little more than 1½ minutes – because that’s really all you need to see, of a recent Varney & Co. clip in which Mr. Varney opined on AEI’s recent “report” on Seattle’s minimum wage. Feel free to watch the balance with an air sickness bag at the ready. As I mentioned in my previous post (see link above), it is all too easy for a lay person to get sucked into a narrative because they don’t know any better and rely on news outlets for true and accurate information. Sadly, the woman in clip who was supposed to “defend” the increased Seattle minimum wage – Tamara Holder – was uninformed as to the deceitfulness of the AEI and the tricks they recently employed in claiming that the April minimum wage increase in Seattle is having adverse consequences. She was, consequently, steam-rolled by Varney. Tamara, it didn’t have to be that way. Ping me on Twitter next time and I’ll set you right.

The video is here. Below is the transcript with my footnotes:

STUART VARNEY: I’ve got a new report and it’s from the American Enterprise Institute. It says: In Seattle the minimum wage hike went to $11 an hour in April – that was April of this year – Seattle goes to 11 bucks an hour. What happened in May? The worst decline in restaurant employment in Seattle 1 since the great recession; they lost 1,000 jobs in May 2. Look who’s here – Tamara Holder, who’s going to have to defend this, aren’t you?

TAMARA HOLDER: Well, I’m not gonna win, we know that, so I’m just gonna start with my hands behind my back. 3

VARNEY: So what would be your defense? $11 an hour goes up to in April and that city loses a thousand fast food jobs in May. 4 Doesn’t that destroy the whole rationale for this living wage?

HOLDER: Let’s just start with where you got your information – from the American Enterprise Institute, which would be of course, Stuart, a far right or center-right think tank. So, you don’t know how their leanings are skewed, except to the right. They definitely don’t support it.

VARNEY: You don’t trust the numbers? Those are hard numbers – 1,000 jobs gone. I mean, that’s, they didn’t make it up. 5

HOLDER: 1,000 jobs in a city of millions of people is not a lot, especially… 6

VARNEY: It’s in the fast food business. [Crosstalk] That was the very area where they raised the minimum wage. 7

HOLDER: Stuart, you don’t know why those 1,000 people – 1,000, oh my gosh it is a thousand people – it’s like the biggest destruction of America of all-time.

VARNEY: Well, doesn’t it just show you that when you raise immediately the wages of people who haven’t done anything to earn that wage whatsoever, you simply legislated that higher wage, doesn’t it show you that employers employ less people at that higher wage? 8


1. The decline was for the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) which has a population over five times larger than Seattle city. To say that “Seattle” lost 1,000 jobs in May is simply untrue. Again, see my prior post or the Media Matters takedown, which covered some of the same ground I did.

2. See #1.

3. Tamara, armed with the facts – had you read my previous post on this – the outcome would have been much different. Very little has gone conservatives’ way thus far in the Seattle minimum wage debate, so your spidey senses should always tingle when it appears they’ve got something.

4. See #1.

5. Actually, they did.

6. Seattle is not a city of millions of people.

7. They didn’t raise the minimum wage solely for workers in the fast food business. They raised it for everyone – in the city of Seattle, that is. With a population of 650,000. Not for the MSA with a population of 3,600,000.

8. No, Stuart, the AEI “report” doesn’t show what you think it shows.

The above literally took place in the span of 100 seconds. I kid you not. See for yourself. This is what passes for news.

I’m feeling dirty. Gotta go shower. BRB.

Okay, having gotten that out of my system, here’s a little nugget that I picked up during my various conversations with Seattle contacts over the past few days. A comprehensive, long-term study is being undertaken to determine the effects of Seattle’s minimum wage ordinance over time.

The link to the study is right here, and here’s a synopsis:

The Seattle Minimum Wage Study is a multi-faceted evaluation of the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance’s effects on workers, employers, and the local economy. The project is funded by a contract with the City of Seattle and by grants from multiple foundations concerned with low-wage work and public policy.

The Seattle Minimum Wage Study seeks to advance academic and policy debates regarding the Seattle minimum wage ordinance and related minimum wage policies by applying rigorous methods to fundamental questions:

  • What is the impact of a higher minimum wage on workers, their families, employers, and the community?

  • Does a higher minimum wage impact employment and earnings among low-wage workers?

  • Does the higher minimum wage affect overall employment, business longevity, or the mix of firms that do business in Seattle?

  • How do businesses adapt to higher labor costs?

  • How does the higher minimum wage affect consumer prices?

  • Does a higher minimum wage improve quality of life measures, including health, nutrition, and family daily life?

  • Does the minimum wage affect public assistance program eligibility and benefits received?

  • Do nonprofit service organizations respond to higher wage rates by cutting back on services to vulnerable families?

  • How do low-income families and employers experience the implementation of the policy and how do they perceive its benefits and costs?

This is a very exciting development that will hopeful shed a lot of light, and answer a lot of questions, about the effects of minimum wage, and increases to it. This is important stuff.


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Discussions found on the web:
  1. Iamthe50percent commented on Aug 13

    I think your earlier report of Chipotle citing rising real estate costs is the salient thing here. Rising real estate rents causing price increases and belt tightening. Rising prices causing some decline in sales causing more belt tightening. But that’s a guess, hopefully better thought out than mindless right wing propaganda being shouted out on Faux Noise? How can anyone serious accept an invitation to appear there?

    I’ve never seen anywhere else the figure you cited of labor being 22% of fast food costs, but I believe it.

    Franchise costs, rents, raw materials (purchased from the franchising monopolist), garbage, inspections, these have to be at least as significant as minimum wage labor.

  2. VennData commented on Aug 13

    “…McDonald’s might have some explaining to do. The fast-food chain has one of the highest ratios of CEO pay to that of the company’s average worker, at 644 to 1, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Under a requirement approved last week by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, public companies such as McDonald’s will have to disclose a similar metric annually, handing new ammunition to critics of C-suite pay packages…”

    And those CEOs are doing such a great job too.

    Remember investors. Their outrageous pay is coming out of YOUR dividends.

  3. Slash commented on Aug 13

    Of course, their selection of such an ineffectual “spokesperson” for the “pro” side of raising the minimum wage was not an accident. Can’t have somebody making Varney look stupid, so you must select someone (not an economist, not even educated in finance, according to my Google of this person; she’s a lawyer) even dumber than he is in regards to this issue.

    • DeDude commented on Aug 14

      Yep that’s their “fair-and-balanced” strategy. They also have a black guy who can barely speak and certainly cannot think. Easy to “win” if you can select a weak opponent.

  4. ComradeAnon commented on Aug 13

    And since republicans in Congress get their “news” from said entertainment network, they are in complete agreement with their constituents. That also get their “news” from said entertainment network. Epistemic closure at it’s best.

    • VennData commented on Aug 14

      The GOP Media Machine grinds on.

  5. KDawg commented on Aug 13

    Even if raising minimum wage did slightly decrease employment, would it be wrong to do?

    What is the purpose of employment if not to allow you to live with dignity?

    Let’s put the minimum wage to $1 an hour. Wow, look at all those jobs! And all those working homeless people! What a great policy!

    • Iamthe50percent commented on Aug 13

      An excellent riposte to those arguing, “Why don’t we just make the minimum wage $1,000 an hour and we can all be rich?” I’ll try to remember it.

    • KDawg commented on Aug 14

      Except that the people you will be responding to don’t even want a minimum wage. They will just say that that the market will put a natural floor on wages and the invisible hand will make life grand.

      They are partially right and it is these half truths that make their propaganda so appealing to so many people.

    • Ralph commented on Aug 14

      The same invisible hand’s greatest hits include Slavery, Child Labor, and unsafe working conditions.

  6. ilsm commented on Aug 13

    Humpty Dumpty. Control the questions steer the mad hatter.

    Varney displays: false dichotomy, burden of proof, and non sequitur.

    Three of top 10 logical fallacies seems to be Fox News standard.

  7. DeDude commented on Aug 14

    “The Seattle Minimum Wage Study” is excellent news. Just like the studies of the stimulus effects we need some real scientific studies. Not that Faux “news” will ever cite such studies, but it is important for the reality based world to understand these complicated issues.

    • Invictus commented on Aug 14

      I have no idea – nor does anyone – what that study will conclude. That said, you are exactly right that we need such studies to understand our world and our economy. Full stop.

  8. efrltd commented on Aug 14

    So what did fast food employment do? Go up? Stay the same? Drop? What will it do in six months? In a year? What happened to the prices? In six months? In a year? Interesting to claim error by AEI, but based on what? Obviously, not facts. Therefore, neither side has much footing. Reason tells us the prices of burgers goes, to pick up incremental greater costs of labor, and something has to give. More frozen entries in the microwave? More burgers on the home grill? Their price doesn’t rise with the pop in minimum wage. You are aware their are two minimum wages? The statutory one. And no pay, when you’re out the door. How many are out the door? How many will be out the door? What’s the effects of raising the minimum wage? No effect? Not some psycho babel about fair. Nobody has any idea what’s fair. That’s just made up off the cuff? Maybe it’s more? Maybe it’s less? (But nobody ever mentions that one, do they?) Technically, what’s the elasticity of demand for buger labor? Or other low paying jobs? Inelastic, then the jobs don’t fall as much as the pay goes up. Elastic, and the pay rise doesn’t cover the fall in number of employed. I don’t see any of those facts covered. Only time I see facts is upper mgt. of burger companies plainly explaining its elastic. The help can be replaced with automation, and higher paid, but far fewer, minimum wage workers. Where’s the facts supporting the ‘fair’ wage, the high minimum wage. Complaining is all and well, but this complaining is no more, and no less, vacuous than the AEI ‘study’ studied in the negative critic.

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