Pesky Brother-in-Law, 2013 Labor Day Edition

September 1st, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Ah, Labor Day.

An extra day of rest from the weekly toil, and often an end-of-summer barbecue with friends, family, and oh yeah…that annoying brother-in-law, uncle, or neighbor who’s got it all figured out ‘cause he learned it on Fox.  

In yet another helpful service we provide here at OTE, here are some snappy comebacks designed to nicely and efficiently set the record straight, and do so well before you throw the burgers on the grill.

[Earlier versions of the pesky bro-in-law series can be found here, here, here, and here.]

You can’t raise the minimum wage!  That’s a job killer.

[Put down that brew, and hit ‘em with a bit of stroke and kick.]

“Well, now just hold on their, bro.  I get your logic—increase the wage by fiat and you’ll force employers to lay people off, right?”

[Wait for a bunch of knowing nods, then…]

“Wrong!  The damn thing has been around since the 1930s—why, that’s even older than you, Grams!  [pause for polite laughter…] It’s been raised dozens of times.  And 18 states plus DC have their own minimums, higher than the federal level, which by the way is…wait for it…$7.25 an hour [give a despairing head shake].  Good luck gettin’ by on that.”

“So, if you were right, bro, we’d know it.  Every time some politician talks about giving low-wage workers a boost, the workers are all for it and the owners are against it.  I mean, a minimum wage increase hurt low-wage workers so much, why are they in the streets beggin’ for it?!  And look at those folks…they’re not kids, a lot of ‘em look like grownups to me.”

“So, I’m not saying a minimum wage increase is a free lunch or that it might not come out in slightly higher prices…it will certainly cut into profits.  But jeez, last I checked the folks who live off corporate profits are doin’ great…it’s the one’s flippin’ the burgers we outta be worried about.”

“Grams, your cobbler just gets better every Labor Day….”

“Why there’s no point in arguing for more manufacturing jobs.  That’s over.  Wake up and smell the global economy.” 

“Really, bro-in-law…really?  You’re ready to give up on America making things again?  Cause I gotta tell ya, that’s exactly what the folks we’re trying to compete with want to hear.”

I’m not saying we’re going back to the old days, and sure, a lot of stuff we buy comes from abroad.  But think about that…if we’re buying stuff from them, how come they’re not buying stuff from us?

Of course, they are—we’ve export a bunch of stuff.  But we import a lot more.  All’s I’m saying is we outta balance that out a bit.  [Give that facial expression that says ‘am I right?...who could be against that?’]

Fact is that selling more manufactured goods abroad is something lots of other countries work at.  They’re in the game and we’re watching from the sidelines, hopin’ someone asks us to join in.  Sometimes they bend the rules too, like moving their prices around to make their stuff cheap and our stuff more expensive.  And that just isn’t right.

So, I agree with you that some stuff is over.  Japan and China got consumer electronics.  But don’t tell me that advanced battery production, or wind power, or solar panels are over.  Some country out there is going to dominate those markets, and damn it, I say it should be the good ole USA!”

[You might even get some applause on that one!]

Yeah, there’s too much unemployment.  But there’s nothin’ to be done about it.

[In disbelief:] “Nothin’ to be done about it!?  For real, bro, you’re just way to ready to give up on some really important stuff here.

Let me just ask everybody: does anybody think there’s work to be done in this country that’s not getting done?  [Look around, acknowledging nodding heads.]  That school down on Parker; how about the ball field over on Crestwood?  Have you driven into the city lately?

I mean, come on—we got at least two problems: a bunch of people who can’t find enough work and a ton of work to do on our public goods, on our infrastructure.  Common sense, dude—marry the two problems off into one solution.

[There you go again, ready to spend everybody’s money…don’t you know this deficit and debt are killin’ us…you tryin’ to bankrupt our kids?!] [He probably gets some nods here, but you strike back!]

NO, I decidedly do not know that!  We’ve all got a right to our own opinion, but not our own facts.  Sure, the deficit was huge a few years back but it’s been coming down fast.  [Probably don’t want to use the numbers or you’ll turn everyone off—at least, that’s what happens when I do it at parties…but: the budget deficit as a share of GDP was 10% in 2009 and is expect to be about 4% next year.]

And I’ll tell you this, it would come down even faster if we could get some more growth going, putting folks back to work earning again and spinning off more revenues.  True, we’d have to invest a bit more as a nation to fix a lot of what’s old and broken.  But you talk about the world we want to leave to our kids??  That’s the one I’d like to leave them—with parents with jobs making ends meet, decent schools and parks and libraries and roads.

It’s Labor Day, bro—let’s talk about getting some folks back to work!

Now, get that damn potato salad over here, pronto!”

UPDATE: Just in case somebody goes to the “lazy Americans” place, Tom Schaller’s got all the push back you need, and more.  Relative to workers in other advanced economies, our workforce works more hours, takes fewer vacations, is more productive, and yet most workers benefit less from those productivity gains than workers elsewhere.

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7 comments in reply to "Pesky Brother-in-Law, 2013 Labor Day Edition"

  1. Mitchell Freedman says:

    Love it. I’ve done with more with uncles than bros-in-law. Still, I’ve reached an age of 56 and mostly I just laugh at them, say they don’t know a damned thing about history, sociology or even evolution (when they try to tell me nature does not support altruism) and again laugh.

    We are all helpless. We are all hopeless. We don’t count. Whoever we vote for, they are more interested in bombing darker skinned people than raising the minimum wage.


    • Perplexed says:

      -”We are all helpless. We are all hopeless.”

      Is it really more hopeless now than it was in 1775? Does it matter?

      “We don’t count. Whoever we vote for, they are more interested in bombing darker skinned people than raising the minimum wage.”

      Maybe those who we would rather vote are being screened out precisely so we can’t vote for them?

      Welcome to life in Lesterland! Maybe trying to convince our uncles and brothers-in-laws is only a small part of the answer, and maybe we’re really not so “helpless;” see this TED talk for an alternative opinion:

      http://www.ted.com/talks/lawrence_lessig_we_the_people_and_the_republic_we_must_reclaim.html


  2. Allen says:

    Love these annual brother-in-law posts. They (brother-in-laws) never learn, so it’s necessary to counter their FOX-supplied arguments year after year.

    Thanks Jared!


  3. urban legend says:

    Shorter versions, generally one or two syllable words, when quick response is at a premium and want to shift the burden of argument:

    You can’t raise the minimum wage! That’s a job killer

    It doesn’t kill jobs — never has in over 70 years — because no business gets a competitive advantage and people who spend all their money have more money to spend. (31 words, one four-syllable, three three-syllable, 18 are one syllable, all easy.)

    “There’s no point in arguing for more manufacturing jobs. That’s over. Wake up and smell the global economy.”

    The U.S. is great at manufacturing the most complex products. We need to make sure other countries are playing by the rules. (23 words)

    Yeah, there’s too much unemployment. But there’s nothin’ to be done about it.

    Our national infrastructure sucks. One hundred year old roads, bridges, sewers, ocean ports, power grids, transportation systems, schools, are crumbling. We’re falling way behind other countries. We have millions of jobs improving and fixing the country that aren’t getting done. We’ve brought down unemployment before, we can do it again if we try. (53 words)

    There you go again, ready to spend everybody’s money…don’t you know this deficit and debt are killin’ us…you tryin’ to bankrupt our kids?!

    We’ve had much worse deficits before, and we got out of them with economic growth. You can’t have economic growth with too many people out of a job. The kids would rather have a father or mother who has a job and isn’t unemployed now than worry about some debt we all will share in paying off 30 years from now. (61 words)


  4. Avedon says:

    Urban Legend, much as I applaud your pursuit of brevity, I have to say that “The U.S. is great at manufacturing the most complex products. We need to make sure other countries are playing by the rules” misses the mark and doesn’t make the point of “if we’re buying stuff from them, how come they’re not buying stuff from us?”

    First of all, those other countries aren’t the ones who aren’t “playing by the rules” – we are. Introducing that idea just muddies the waters, so let’s stick to this:

    They are selling stuff to us – a lot of it, by the way, the stuff we used to sell them until we sold them our companies and patents – and now we buy stuff from them precisely because we aren’t making it anymore. You want to restore the trade balance and create more American jobs, you gotta make your own stuff.


  5. Dave says:

    “But don’t tell me that advanced battery production, or wind power, or solar panels are over. Some country out there is going to dominate those markets, and damn it, I say it should be the good ole USA!”

    I have a plan to make this work. If I find any success in my current venture, any proceeds will be put to this task AND employing a forgotten American minority population en mass.


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