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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Over-Entitled Graduate Gets Smacked Down

If you were out of work for a length of time and were told that you had to participate in a mandatory work experience placement as a requirement for receiving your unemployment benefits, would you:

1. Be grateful for the safety net that exists to support you, and comply with the programme, or

2. Take the government to court for enslaving you, citing the European Convention on Human Rights?

Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson both decided to opt for choice 2. According to The Telegraph:

Ms Reilly’s barrister told the High Court that the geology graduate’s stint at the Poundland near her home in Kings Heath, Birmingham, involved her carrying out “unpaid menial work”.

This consisted of very basic tasks such as sweeping and shelf-stacking “without training, supervision or remuneration”.

If indeed this is all that the work involved, this is disappointing as it breaches the terms by which the companies participate in the back-to-work schemes. In exchange for receiving free labour, the participating firms should ensure that they fulfil their obligations by providing a suitable induction, training and supervision. However, this is a reason to update and modify the scheme, not to abolish it altogether. The secondary benefits (keeping people in the habit of work during a period of unemployment, and providing additional labour to British companies so that they can generate further profits and employ more people) remain intact, even if the primary benefit was not realised in this case.

And it is hardly slavery.

Fortunately, the presiding judge agreed. The Telegraph gors on to report:

Mr Justice Foskett criticised the DWP for the lack of clarity over the potential loss of benefits to claimants who fail to take part in the schemes without good reason.

But addressing the issue of article four of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans forced labour and slavery, he said the schemes were “are a very long way removed from the kind of colonial exploitation of labour that led to the formulation of Article 4. “

“The Convention is, of course, a living instrument, capable of development to meet modern conditions, and views may reasonably differ about the merits of a scheme that requires individuals to ‘work for their benefits’ as a means of assisting them back into the workplace,” he added.

If the Department for Work and Pensions has not been crystal clear on the conditions for receiving benefits and the potential ways in which they could be forfeited, this needs to be remedied immediately.

However, the broader ruling, upholding the government’s back-to-work schemes, is very satisfactory indeed. Crying “slavery” and running to the European Convention on Human Rights because you dislike the “menial” work you are asked to do is overdramatic in the extreme, and does a disservice to the many people around the world who are in actual bondage, the victims of sex trafficking or any other kind of real slavery.

Not being able to watch Jeremy Kyle on television every morning while you balance a work placement with job searching ≠ modern day slavery.

It just doesn’t.

Labour Party Balderdash On Jobs

Ed Miliband Jobs Guarantee

 

Good news, everyone. Ed Miliband has solved the youth unemployment crisis in Britain. I guess he was lying in bed last night and the ghost of Michael Foot visited him and told him what had to be done to make everything better again.

Once he and his merry band of super-competent cabinet colleagues are sworn in as the next government in 2015, everything will be fine. Rainbows will appear in the sky and bunny rabbits will hop across the land. We know this because, at the one-day Labour Party conference in Coventry today, Mr. Miliband unveiled his “real jobs guarantee”.

The nasty Conservative Party, of course, likes young people to be unemployed. It gives us right-wingers a kick to pay taxes so that people can receive Jobseekers Allowance indefinitely.

His plan – to give every young person who has been unemployed for 12 months or more a guaranteed internship with a company, paid at the minimum wage – would be paid for by another £600m arbitrary raid on bankers bonuses.

Miliband says:

“To business we say, we’ll pay the wages, if you provide the training … To young people: if you’re out of work for a year we’ll guarantee you the opportunity to work.”

The BBC article goes on to mention:

“Those taking part will be expected to turn up for work, as well as looking for a full-time job and complete training, or face “tough consequences” – including possible benefit sanctions.”

What other tough consequence could there possibly be for failing to turn up for work or complete the other requirements for receiving government benefits, other than to lose those benefits? Being scolded by someone at the Job Centre? Being sent a letter of disapproval? Anyway.

I almost don’t feel as though it is worth delving into the flaws in this dystopian policy, especially given the fact that Labour’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, was apparently clueless when it came to how much the scheme would cost, and whether this cost would be fully met by their proposed one-time (but seemingly all-the-time) tax on bankers’ bonuses.

Nonetheless, a couple of points of rebuttal, just to go through the motions:

1.Guess what, not all “bankers” had a hand in bringing about the global economic downturn. In fact, a lot of people in quite a lot of industries, and government positions also had a hand in it. So when will the Labour Party get over trying to use banks as a piggy bank to raid at will to fund their latest scheme? Gordon Brown was either Chancellor of the Exchequer or Prime Minister for the decade leading up to the collapse, so how about we also arbitrarily add a 10% tax surcharge on all of his future income to help him atone for the consequences of his calamitous incompetence?

The time to extract penance from the banks was at the time of the bailouts, but it didn’t happen. The Labour government missed the opportunity. Businesses cannot plan for the future and grow and prosper if they don’t know if they will be hit by a new punitive tax at any moment to fund the latest socialist pipe dream. Should the country have extracted more of a toll from the financial sector at the time? Almost certainly. But we didn’t, and now it is too late, and we have Gordon Brown and his heirs and successors in today’s Labour Party to thank for it.

2. This policy is so vague as to be worthless. Mr. Miliband says that “saying ‘no’ is not an option”, but doesn’t outline the consequences of saying no. After never once having gotten tough before in their history, does anyone really expect that this Labour policy, if implemented, would actually have any real teeth?

3. Youth unemployment currently stands at around 22.5%, or 1.042 million people. How, exactly, is a future Labour government going to coerce enough firms to take people on in order to reduce this to 0%? The answer is, of course, that they won’t. And if they even come close, it will only be because they bully firms into taking on people to do non-jobs that are of no training value, just to help the government meet its target.

4. Go away, and come back when you have a real jobs policy or any kind of plan that will actually solve the problem of youth unemployment. And in the meantime, perhaps stop demonising the current government’s “Welfare to Work” plans, which are much more cost-neutral and much more likely to succeed.

Slave Labour, Or Earning Your Keep?

Welfare To Work - Job Centre Plus

 

Much hand-wringing in The Guardian today, as they continue their ideological crusade against the government’s Welfare-to-Work programme. This time, the cause for outrage is the discovery that several large charities also signed up to participate in the scheme.

In high dudgeon, the article demands:

“The question is, what were large voluntary sector organisations doing embracing such arrangements when people think of them as supporting the disadvantaged? Who is speaking up for disempowered and marginalised people, including the young, disabled and unemployed?”

Obviously, offering work experience opportunities to predominantly young, less affluent people with little prior experience of the workplace doesn’t count as “supporting the disadvantaged”. No, they are clearly much better supported when they are kept on welfare forever, with little to no hope of finding work. Note to Peter Beresford – helping people doesn’t always just come in the form of writing them a benefit cheque – sometimes equally important are the non-financial benefits that can be offered – such as work experience.

He goes on to comment:

“But this isn’t the first time that we have seen big charities behaving more like corporates.”

And:

“…many charities have lost sight of their traditional value-base, and become indistinguishable from the state and private sectors. They have become permeated by their personnel, ways of working and ethics.”

Remember, everyone. Capitalism = bad. Corporations = bad. Emulating a corporation or profit-making organisation, in any way (including striving to be more efficient, lower overheads or improve productivity) = bad. In fact we would all do well to remember the true intended beneficiaries of some of these third sector organisations – the people who work for them, not the people they claim to help and represent.

Continuing the theme, Iain Duncan-Smith (the Work & Pensions Secretary) embarked on a war of words with Simon Cowell when he lamented that perhaps too many young people see the only path to wealth and prosperity as being through entering TV talent shows and trying to “make it big”.

This is one of those rather eye-rollingly typically conservative comments moaning about the youth of today, and it received a predictable backlash from Mr. Cowell, the end result of which appears to be that Simon Cowell may take on an apprentice or two, and Iain Duncan-Smith has won front-row seats to the taping of the next episode of X Factor.

But joking aside – and ignoring for one moment the terrible thought of Simon Cowell moulding a group of impressionable young people in his own image – what exactly is wrong with the idea of workfare, and why do so many on the British left get upset about it?

The left wants to preserve an umbrella of universal, unearned benefits, for everyone. They were furious when the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government moved to put a cap on child benefit payments for households earning over £40,000 per year, because they (probably quite correctly) realised that if the wealthier segments of the population whose taxes fund this benefit then don’t also receive a portion of it back themselves, they will be much less inclined to support it, possibly leading to a slipperly slope where eventually it is abolished.

And in much the same way, we hear cries of “slave labour!” when the government tries to introduce what is actually a very sensible scheme to offer unpaid work experience to the long-term unemployed. Of course, the work is “unpaid” only in the sense that the companies taking on and training these individuals do not give them a paycheque – they still continue to receive their Jobseekers Allowance benefits courtesy of the taxpayer.

There is nothing kind or compassionate about leaving people to fester on benefits without helping them back to work. This government programme is voluntary, and has loopholes large enough to drive a truck through to ensure that those who can’t be bothered to attend their placements, or those who commit all but the most egregious of offences while on their placement will remarkably still keep their benefits nonetheless.

But despite being emasculated by these concessions to Labour scare-mongering, the Welfare-to-Work scheme will still provide valuable work experience for young people who, in many cases, have not had the opportunity to experience the workplace, thus helping to prepare them for a lifetime of productive self-sufficiency. This programme is designed to help people help themselves, and therefore it deserves the support of the so-called “compassionate” Left.