By Lucas O’Connor/Two Cathedrals
Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published at Two Cathedrals in September. But with the mayoral runoff election beginning to heat up, it’s worth bringing back now.
Kevin Faulconer has a problem. He’s the Republican Party’s standard-bearer in the race for mayor, but the base doesn’t really know him yet. So in the early campaign he needs to be focused on proving his far-right bona fides to the base that Krvaric and DeMaio built, and to do that he has to go out and say some pretty outlandish things. It happened over the weekend when Faulconer tried to explain his common sense take on economics.
He also opposes raising California’s minimum wage from $8 an hour to $9 next July and to $10 in January 2016.
“I support more jobs for working families, not fewer jobs, which is what this bill will lead to,” Faulconer said Friday of the minimum wage bill. “Common sense tells us companies will hire fewer people, which could stall economic growth.”
Let’s look at what Kevin Faulconer’s version of common sense means here. He’s saying that if people have money, it’s bad for them and bad for the economy. These, of course, are people who would spend that money in the local economy, supporting locally owned businesses and sustaining jobs for everyone else in the community.
He’s also very specifically drawing a distinction between jobs that allow you to afford to live in San Diego and the jobs he wants to create. He’s saying the sorts of jobs that pay enough to allow a full-time employee to make it in San Diego are a problem for our economy, and Kevin Faulconer is very clear that he will not be a mayor who helps working families by helping them find a way out of poverty. You don’t have to be an economist to see a problem or two with Faulconer’s fretting here, but the common sense doesn’t stop there.
By saying that an increase in the minimum wage would hinder economic growth, Faulconer is also saying the economy would be better off if the minimum wage were lower, or didn’t exist at all (It’s probably helpful to note that even with the increase that has Faulconer fumbling to the nearest fainting couch, its inflation-adjusted value would still be below the 1960s level). Not only that, everyone making more than minimum wage (or more than nothing, if you think about it) is even worse, blocking the creation of more and more jobs with every dollar they make. Common sense right?
But here’s the common-sense rub: In the article above, Faulconer’s minimum wage stance is stacked alongside his recent support from the Chamber of Commerce. Do you think Kevin Faulconer went into the Chamber of Commerce and told them that if they make more money, it’s bad for them, for each other, and for the economy overall? Did he tell them that when they make money, they kill jobs? That the best thing they could do for San Diego would be to run their business at a loss? Would Vegas even offer odds on the possibility that this happened?
Or did Faulconer reserve that sort of criticism for people who are paid below the federal poverty line and way below the basic costs of living in San Diego?
Of course, he would have been much closer to right if he said those things to the Chamber of Commerce instead of working families. The top 1% in this country has captured 95% of the income gains since the recession ended, and while the stock market has set new record highs, the top 10% of households own 90% of the stock. Meanwhile, corporate profits are skyrocketing, and it’s lower-wage and middle-wage jobs that took disproportionately large hits to real income, including many of the lowest-paying sectors in our economy. In short:
The economy remains depressed for most wage-earning families. With sustained, relatively high rates of unemployment, businesses are under no pressure to raise their employees’ incomes because both workers and employers know that many people without jobs would be willing to work for less. The share of Americans working or looking for work is at its lowest in 35 years.
In other words, we’re living the exact opposite of the ‘common sense’ that Kevin Faulconer is trying to sell, because the cure he’s selling is just more of the disease. He might as well stand on the OB Pier and tell us it’s snowing, because that’s about as real as economic recovery trickling down… except maybe for some of his friends at the Chamber.
Perhaps Faulconer really believes this stuff and this really reflects his common sense, in which case he really shouldn’t be allowed near a budget. Perhaps he’s pandering to a base that isn’t comfortable with him just yet, in which case there are some major questions about who would really be running things if Faulconer becomes mayor. Perhaps both. Either way, Kevin Faulconer has a common sense problem.