Brexit Catastrophisation Watch, Part 1

Since there seems to be no imminent end to the petulant, childish rage of disappointed Remain supporters at the prospect of being forcibly ripped away from their beloved European Union, we may as well start cataloguing some of the most hyperbolic and far-fetched tales of woe and prophesies of doom.

The inaugural submission comes, naturally, from the Guardian:

Social services for older and disabled people face crisis because post-Brexit migration restrictions could cause a massive shortage of care workers, leading care organisations have said.

The 1.4-million-strong UK care sector’s reliance on European migrant workers means it is vital they are given the right to remain in any future migration arrangements, the charities Independent Age and the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK) said.

Currently about 84,000 care workers – equivalent to one in 20 of England’s growing care workforce – are from European Economic Area countries. About 90% do not have British citizenship and their future immigration status remains uncertain.

The charities said failure to tackle workforce shortages would mean thousands of older people would lose out on support, meaning they could be left housebound, struggle to recover properly from a stroke or fall, or fail to get assistance in getting up and dressed in the morning.

Translation: overturn the EU referendum result, or granny gets it.

(Note too the hyperbolic doomsday assumption of “a scenario which closed off all migration”, something which no serious person expects to happen).

The counterargument to this mini-tantrum, of course, is that cheap, young foreign labour from the EU and elsewhere has helped to ensure that care workers in Britain are paid an absolute pittance – often hovering around minimum wage – for performing a physically and mentally taxing job requiring skill, tact, empathy, good humour and great emotional intelligence in order to look after our loved ones in their final years.

The surly Guardianista charities moaning about the potential impact of Brexit on their sector clearly have no qualms or concerns that a worker can often make more money flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant than caring for our elderly and infirm senior citizens. This is just fine, apparently. But the mere possibility that free movement of labour restrictions might force employers to pay less desultory sums of money to frontline staff sends these “charities” into paroxysms of terror and rage. Whose side are they on? Not that of the patients or the care workers, that’s for sure.

Want to stop the endless drip-drip of care home abuse scandals? Try getting outraged that care is a borderline minimum wage occupation in this country, understand that people who might just as easily be flipping burgers for a living won’t always display the same dedication as Florence Nightingale – and be inordinately grateful for those care workers who do possess these criminally undervalued qualities. And in the meantime, forgive me for questioning the calibration of these charities’ moral compasses.

But why should we be surprised by their intervention? Everything about modern leftism and pro-Europeanism revolves around signalling virtue and ostentatiously displaying the “right” progressive beliefs to the right people.

And right now, it is far more important to be seen opposing those awful racist Brexiteers than it is to question the moral sustainability of an industry which hits its profit margin targets by providing our oldest and most vulnerable citizens with a Tesco Value standard of care.

 

nursing-care-home-abuse

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Notes: The Moral Rot Behind The ‘Fight For 15’ Campaign

Fight for 15 - Care Workers

Notes – a new feature I’m trialling on the blog, in an attempt to publish the occasional random thoughts which never coalesce into a concise argument with a proper beginning, middle and an end. These will be sporadic, and if I haven’t contradicted myself at least once by the end of the year then I’m probably not doing it right.

 

My favourite fast food restaurant in the United States without a doubt is Chick-Fil-A. If they franchised internationally and I had the spare cash, I would open one here in London and it would easily do as well as recent US arrivals Five Guys and Shake Shack.

The reason that Chick-Fil-A is so good – besides the great tasting food – is the service, which (at least in the locations I have visited) goes above and beyond what one might expect in any fast food restaurant in Britain. As you arrive, a team member is always on hand to open the door for you and give you a warm greeting. That’s nice. Then, somebody with a smiling countenance and a decent command of English takes your order, usually getting it right the first time. And while you are sitting at the table eating, another team member circulates the restaurant offering to top up patron’s drinks from the soda fountain. Not only is there bottomless soda, you don’t even have to stand up and wipe the grease from your fingers to get your own refill.

When I go to my local McDonald’s on Kilburn High Road, I don’t expect any of this. I know that the restaurant will be in a state of perpetual chaos whether it is rammed at lunchtime or if tumbleweeds are blowing through in the dead hours. I know that asking for an extra barbecue sauce is like asking the server if they will donate a kidney. I know that the person taking my order will be unfriendly verging on hostile at least half the time, and I learned the hard way the necessity of carefully examining the contents of the bag to catch the frequent mistakes in the order before leaving the store.

What has recently made my local McDonald’s much better is the fact that they have just installed the new automatic order terminals. And now, I never have to have another human interaction there again, because the computer does it for me. I never went to McDonald’s for the stellar service or pleasant dining experience, and so I am happy to interact with a machine instead of a human being.

This is what Fight for 15 campaigners and other proponents of a higher minimum wage don’t get. If the labour is not worth $15 an hour and people do not want to pay the prices required to sustain profit margins with artificially higher labour costs, employers will look to replace human labour with technology as soon as it becomes practicable to do so. Somewhere like Chick-fil-A, a more traditional values-oriented chain with a premium on customer service, can perhaps withstand the tide. But McDonald’s and most other fast food retailers can not. The price of virtue-signalling middle class campaigners taking time off from their college classes or creative industry jobs to campaign for higher wages for fast food workers is that many of the latter will be thrown onto the unemployment scrapheap. Perfectly good entry-level jobs will be lost, and the ladders to better employment which they provide destroyed, just so that Guardian readers can feel better about themselves.

From Breitbart:

Wendy’s fast food restaurant chain says it will begin offering self-serve kiosks at its 6,000-plus locations across America, making them available to costumers by the end of 2016.

The fast food giant’s decision to move toward automation comes just as “Fight for $15”–a progressive protest movement, pushing minimum wage hikes–is applying pressure on state governments to raise wages for low-skilled fast food workers.

Last August, Wendy’s CFO Todd Penegor told investors that mandated wage hikes will cause his company to pursue other innovative avenues that could lead to fewer jobs for low-skill workers.

“We continue to look at initiatives and how we work to offset any impacts of future wage inflation through technology initiatives, whether that’s customer self-order kiosks, whether that’s automating more in the back of the house in the restaurant,” Penegor said, adding that “you’ll see a lot more coming on that front later this year from us.”

On the same conference call, Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick said that individual Wendy’s franchises “will likely look at the opportunity to reduce overall staff, look at the opportunity to certainly reduce hours and any other cost reduction opportunities, not just price.”

But let’s look at another job staffed largely by people on minimum wage – the caring industry. This is a hard job, one whose financial rewards in no way meet the stresses and challenges of the work, looking after the health and sometimes social needs of elderly people. Some people in this line of work go above and beyond the call of duty, adding infinitely more value to the lives of the people in their care than will ever be reflected in their pay packets. Why? Because we don’t care about our aged relatives, particularly here in the West.

Well, maybe that’s unfair – we do care about them sentimentally speaking. But when it comes to putting our money where our mouth is, the indifference curve between purchasing a marginal improvement in quality of life for an elderly relative and buying the new iPhone is skewed horribly against grandpa. And if we can store our ageing relatives away in warehouses staffed by well-meaning but overwhelmed eighteen year olds, eye-rollingly disinterested others with hopefully one or two saints thrown in to ensure some minimum quality of life, that’s fine by us.

We could end the sorry drip-drip of nursing home abuse scandals tomorrow if we wanted to – by giving the profession the respect that it deserves, requiring some kind of training or qualification before employees are entrusted with vulnerable human beings, and ensuring that an attractive career path is in place for carers. That we fail to do so is a reflection not on government, not on the employers, but on ourselves. We permit this to happen, each one of us.

I’ve never understood why the Fight for 15 and minimum wage campaigners chose to go to the wall fighting for the rights of burger flippers to be paid in some cases significantly more than their labour is worth, while all the time there is a population of living saints among us – the carers, people who clean up the blood (and worse) in our care homes, and provide a vital measure of compassion and comfort to people in the sunset of their lives – being paid equally poorly. I am no advocate of wage controls, but the person who goes above and beyond to provide just a moment of personalised attention to a neglected older person despite having been on their feet for 12 hours straight seems to be an infinitely better figurehead for the movement than the person who operates the deep fat fryer at KFC.

If anything, Fight for 15 is a giant abdication of personal responsibility, declaring to the world that we are too lazy or selfish to stop eating manufactured food that costs almost nothing to produce or pay care workers a pittance while still expecting them to be Florence Nightingale, and that we would much rather the government step in to artificially hike the wages of those we are unwilling to pay better ourselves. The average Fight for 15 campaigner is quite happy to continue eating cheap fast food – they just want government to assuage their guilty consciences by topping up the wages of those whose labour does not command the minimum price.

Maybe this just speaks to the sickness at the heart of our decadent, self-absorbed late-stage imperial decline-ravaged Western society – our hearts brim over with compassion for the person who remembers not to put the pickle in our 99p cheeseburger, while we utterly neglect our ageing relatives and those who care for them on McDonald’s money.

 

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The Arrogance Of Middle Class Activists Calling For A Higher Minimum Wage

Too often, left-wing activism is about making the activists and supporters involved feel good about themselves rather than advocating for policies which might actually help the people for whom they claim to speak

Watch this short, 30 second video. It perfectly sums up everything that is wrong with much of the modern Left in Britain and America.

The footage shows young, left-wing activists descending upon a Taco Bell fast foot restaurant in Austin, Texas, to encourage the mostly minimum-wage workers to go on strike as part of their “Fight for 15” campaign to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Suffice it to say that their intrusion is not appreciated by the staff of the restaurant, who react to having their difficult job made harder by the presence of young do-gooder activists by curtly asking them to leave.

The exchange goes as follows:

Activist: —- our first day of action, which we’re —

Worker: This is also a job that I am trying to do, and y’all are hindering my work.

Activist: We just wanted —

Worker: You may leave the building.

Activist: [aggrieved] We just wanted to let you know that if you’d like to come out on strike, your action is protected by the federal government to go on strike for fifteen dollars an hour and better conditions on the job. Now, have a wonderful day, thank you so much.

Other Activists: [self-satisfied] Wooooo! [applause]

Sadly, this sums up the net result of much left-wing activism, from the Fight for 15 campaign in the United States to yesterday’s unsung anti-austerity march in London.

This is what one of the London demonstrators had to say when asked why he was marching against David Cameron’s Conservative government:

Austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity. We need to mobilise people against neoliberalism, which is the ideology driving this government.
Everything I like about this country is under threat: the NHS, state schooling, a decent provision for the weakest and most vulnerable, and much more. Injustice enrages me: I feel I must stand up against it.

Quick, get that superhero some tights and a cape! “Injustice enrages me”? Puh-leaze. This is virtue-signalling of the highest order, one man’s glitzy attempt to use the austerity myth to demonstrate how much more of an enlightened, compassionate person he is than those Evil Tories who operate on the scandalous basis that the state should not be an auxiliary parent or banker of first resort to its citizens.

And so it is with the Fight for 15 activists in America, as well as those who believe that George Osborne’s (already misguided) national living wage is not high enough, and that the minimum wage should be hiked even further.

Never mind all of the evidence which shows that creating and then incessantly hiking a minimum wage simply renders those people whose skills and value-adding capability are not worth the new wage effectively unemployable. Never mind that this great exercise in conspicuous compassion actually dooms people to long-term unemployment. Never mind all of that, because walking around with placards demanding higher wages for poor people makes young left-wing activists (and some older activists who should know better) look good to their friends.

And so it is with issue after issue. Unlimited immigration from those eastern European countries which joined the EU in 2014? The Left sang stirring hymns to multiculturalism while their compatriots at the bottom end of the UK labour market experienced far greater competition and wage stagnation as a direct consequence. But does the modern, middle-class Left care about those suffering working class communities? Of course not – unless they contain an imperilled steelworks, that is, in which case they will feign an interest for so long as it makes a good anti-Tory photo op. Otherwise most of them couldn’t care less.

Young lefty hipsters get to experience all of the positives of immigration, like being able to get their London flats cleaned for £10 an hour at the swipe of an iPhone (yes, I do it too), and to hell with those at the sharp end. Worse still, the modern Left have spent the last decade screaming “racism!” at anybody who dares to utter a different viewpoint on immigration, including many of their own working-class “comrades” who either defected to UKIP or sat at home in last year’s general election. And even now they can only bring themselves to show sympathy for exploited immigrants, but not for the local working classes whose wages and conditions were negatively impacted.

Minimum Wage cartoon - ladder

Brendan O’Neill calls them the middle-class clerisy. Many others would probably call them something far worse. But in any case, this current generation of left-wing campaigners show a remarkable aptitude for broadcasting their own right-on, progressive credentials but much less concern for formulating and then advocating policies which actually help the jobless, the low-paid or their other “pet projects”.

Which brings us back to the unedifying spectacle of twenty or so young, idealistic but not very bright left-wing activists bursting into fast food restaurant and urging the harried workers inside to put down the burger flippers and join in their glorious revolution. How incredibly patronising.

These activists, who think they understand economics because they have seen a few Bernie Sanders speeches on YouTube (or attended one of John McDonnell’s “New Economics” lectures in Britain) are behaving as though they are the enlightened saviours of the oppressed working classes, who lack the intelligence and agency to take action on their own. I have worked a few minimum wage jobs in my youth, and if some self-aggrandising students had burst into my workplace telling me to strike, tried to “organise” me and presumed to act on my behalf I would have sent them straight out of the third floor window, never mind the door.

Minimum wage jobs are a valuable first rung on the career ladder for many people, particularly young people with fewer marketable skills, those still living at home or those providing a second income to a household. Hiking the minimum or living wage will give a marginal benefit to some of these people at the expense of putting others out of work entirely. Some of the Taco Bell workers in that video would likely lose their jobs as a consequence – even if their jobs survived the initial hike, they could easily fall victim to the next wave of automation now coming to the fast food industry (as wage costs increase, firms will look to substitute technology for humans wherever possible).

Many of the workers in that Taco Bell restaurant could probably have told the young demonstrators some of these things, if only they had bothered to ask them (or speak to others in their position) before charging in on their white horses to save the day. But they didn’t. They already know what is best for fast food workers, just like sanctimonious British leftists knew that immigration was an unambiguously Good Thing back in 2004.

And since left-wing policymakers and their army of activists have already done the thinking and come up with the solution, the role of the low-paid worker is simply  to sit back and thank these enlightened, compassionate souls for coming to their aid as they put them all out of work make everything wonderful. God forbid they formulate or express any ideas of their own, especially if those ideas are contrary to the narrative prepared for them by Labour or the Democratic Party.

Who are these impertinent Taco Bell workers to tell the Fight for 15 campaigners to leave their restaurant, anyway? Don’t they know how lucky they are to have these young, middle class people fighting their corner? After all, they’re just lowly fast food employees.

 

Fight for 15 protest - minimum wage - fast food

Cartoon: Lisa Benson, shown at danieljmitchell.wordpress.com

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Don’t Congratulate George Osborne For Stealing Labour’s Living Wage

George Osborne - Budget 2015 - Living Wage - Minimum Wage - Conservative Party

 

We are in danger of getting so carried away praising George Osborne’s tactical genius in commandeering Labour’s compulsory national living wage that we forget to notice his total betrayal of conservative principles.

On a purely tactical level, George Osborne’s Budget of 2015 – the Conservative Party’s first for nineteen years – was a masterstroke.

At the nadir of Ed Miliband’s dismal attempt at being Leader of the Opposition, the Labour Party attempted to wow voters with their feeble plan to increase the minimum wage to £8 per hour – by the year 2020. And yet despite having defeated Labour resoundingly in the 2015 general election, it seems that the Tories were only just getting started – they have now twisted the knife by neutralising Labour’s main line of attack against the budget with their secret weapon, a re-branded “national living wage” of £9 per hour by 2020. With Tories like this, who needs the Labour Party anyway?

A fair question. But given George Osborne’s shameless appropriation of a flagship Labour policy, here’s another equally valid question: why bother voting Conservative ever again, either?

The national minimum wage – state control over the wages and employment conditions of over one million people – is a thoroughly un-conservative idea. What’s more, George Osborne’s rush to embrace the living wage makes a mockery of conservative arguments against government-controlled pay – either the Chancellor is deliberately riding roughshod over conservative orthodoxy, or he genuinely believes that conservatives were wrong about the minimum wage all along.

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On Premier League Football And Income Inequality

Premier League Wages Income Inequality

 

Isn’t it awful? The English Premier League has just signed a new television rights deal with Sky and BT worth a cool £5.4bn, while some of their employees earn only the minimum wage. What a searing indictment of our society, of capitalism itself!

Except, of course, that it is no such thing.

Presented once again with a golden opportunity – an open goal, as it were – to talk about real, tangible ways to improve the living standards and life opportunities for those on low incomes, the British left did what it now does best: furiously ignore the real problem, forget actually helping the poor, while training all of their rhetorical guns on a few wealthy scapegoats.

From the Mirror:

Despite a £1.78 billion pay bill last year, not a single top-flight club has committed to giving all ground staff and suppliers the £7.65-an-hour “living wage”.

Pampered players can earn eight-figure annual salaries – with England and Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, 29, pulling in £300,000 a week and Manchester City’s Argentinian forward Sergio Aguero, 26, £220,000 a week.

Veteran Labour MP Frank Field has written to all 20 Premier League clubs demanding action.

But he got just six replies – with not one club committing to the full rate. Sunderland said the issue “did not merit further discussion”.

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