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Commentary: Lawmakers construct barriers to economic development with minimum wage bills

Commentary: Lawmakers construct barriers to economic development with minimum wage bills
October 12
03:00 2017

By Algenon Cash, Guest Columnist 

Lawmakers have recently caught my attention with bills to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.  Representative Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat, submitted the Economic Security Act of 2017 – a bill that would allow collective bargaining for state employees, raise the minimum wage and require employers to pay sick and family leave.

Keep in mind, this bill was filed at the tail end of a major announcement from Wendy’s, they are adding 1,000 self-ordering kiosks to stores by year end.  Undoubtedly these kiosks are designed to replace counter employees with emerging robots and other autonomous technologies. 

Wendy’s, Taco Bell and other major fast food chains are now advancing plans to integrate new technology as more political pressure builds for a $15 “living wage”, healthcare expenses continue rising uncontrollably and out of control government regulations add onerous costs for private companies.

Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics just released the September jobs report, the number of unemployed persons declined 331,000 to 6.8 million, but hidden in the figure is troubling news for retailers.  The sector loss 26,000 jobs in September as it battles online retailers not encumbered by brick-and-mortar overhead; not surprising after major retailers announced massive store closings.

Elected officials who introduce legislation adding more costs to an industry under such pressure are clearly disconnected from current market reality.

America is a story of innovation, creativity and disruptive technologies – we adapt with each passing generation.  But sometimes government and industry resist change, clinging to passing ideals, not realizing the only way forward is through embracing the very change they fear most.

Likewise, GOP lawmakers appear to be struggling with reality, they fail to understand companies are no longer simply companies.  They are brands, fully equipped with conscious and social priorities at the center. 

I personally struggle with the speed that our society is moving in regards to what may be socially acceptable and what little remains taboo.  But true leaders understand their views, beliefs and ideology is not easily transferred to the minds of everyone, as if we live collectively as the “Borg” upon a flying space ship – assimilating everyone in our path.

Any state lawmaker towing the party line and declaring HB2 did not adversely impact North Carolina’s economy is not fully connected to reality.  Could we have survived with the law in place?  Yes.  But there is no doubt that companies, trade associations and national events bypassed the state while we debated and figure out what we were doing.

Despite the campaign advertisements and charismatic politicians, government does not create jobs – risk hungry entrepreneurs, hardworking employees and willing investors create jobs.  And they do a pretty darn good job at it when opposing forces stay out the way.  In the end, government affects the playing field, often swinging outcomes one way or the other based on political priorities. 

We should all hope elected officials discover ways to be more in tune with market realities when advancing their political ideas.

Algenon Cash is the managing director of Wharton Gladden & Company, an investment banking firm, he is also a national spokesperson for the oil and natural gas industry.  Reach him at acash@nullwhartongladden.com.

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