Contagion of the Cities
They can't believe you're nice to people who can't do anything for you
© 2014 Garry Knight, used under a Creative Commons license
Regular readers will be familiar with the conservative Contagion of the Cities shtick, which goes back to the bad old Son of Sam days of crime and disorder but persists even as American cities thrive and prosper. There is, for example, the Republican talking point about how cities like San Francisco are coated with bum shit, and the one about how everyone is fleeing New York, which explains why it’s so easy to get a cheap apartment there.
The latest variation (actually a revival) is about the perverse habit liberal cities have acquired of making sure its humblest workers get an almost-living wage. Here is Jazz Shaw at Hot Air, riffing off a New York Post story about how New York’s raising of the minimum wage so that tipped employees can get $15 an hour has caused restaurant jobs to “evaporate”:
As the New York Post reported this weekend, the law of unintended consequences has come roaring into play. They feature the story of one taco and tequila joint on the upper west side that’s been doing a thriving business for a quarter of a century. But now it’s all coming to an end, and they’re far from the only restaurant feeling these effects.
A taco and tequila joint! Well, if the Upper West Side can’t sustain that, it’s curtains for Gotham. Extra points for the “far from the only restaurant” bit, after which Shaw cites... one other restaurant.
The Post names a couple others, but see if you can spot the chicken-and-egg issue here:
Since the $15-an-hour minimum wage hit New York City in December, Liz and Nat Milner say, they’ve been forced to slash their full- and part-time staff to 45 people from 60. Quality has suffered, they admit, and customers have noticed: They’re not coming in like they used to, and when they do, they’re spending less.
Now these guys are talking about their own restaurant, and we know no restauranteur ever lied about his business, but if people are “not coming in like they used to, and when they do, they’re spending less,” might it have to do with something other than higher wages for the staff? Might it be, as has happened every season in New York since time immemorial, that the restaurant just isn’t pulling like it used to? I’d say your beef is with the free market, Liz and Nat!
Shaw claims “as of August, the restaurant industry in the Big Apple has shed a shocking 4,000 jobs this year. And as Gabriela’s shows us, the pain isn’t over yet.” But how much “pain” is that? Shaw's own source — FEE, the Foundation for Economic Education, a libertoid derp cluster — puts the total NYC eatery job count at 318,000. (Seems low to me, but let’s go with it.) Haul out the calculator: 4,000 jobs from 318,000 is a drop of... 1.3%.
Doesn’t seem too bad, especially given the notorious turnover in the New York restaurant scene, but Shaw portrays it as a catastrophe wholly attributable to a higher minimum wage. And his readers can be counted on to buy it, in part because their sense of scale is based on their own humble hamlets, hollers, and business park dormitory complexes; in their world, a loss of 4,000 jobs would be massive, so it must be massive in New York, too. It’s similar to the reason why footage of a single dirty alley in Baltimore, like the one Trump circulated last year, can convince them that the whole city is a pigsty. Also, since restaurants hang around forever in their little corner of the world — look how long the McDonald’s was there before it was replaced by that Starbucks! — they can’t grasp Manhattan’s hyper-competitive business environment.
Having made his bullshit case, Shaw affects to gloat:
What happened to Gabriela’s Restaurant and Tequila Bar is a sobering tale for the entire industry. If only somebody had warned the city that this was going to happen.
Okay, that’s a pretty bad joke. Everyone warned them it would happen, but they pushed through anyway to satisfy their liberal voter base.
If only those New Yorkers, who know nothing at all about making a buck, had listened to libertarian think tanks!
This kind of bullshittery is hilariously transparent to those of us who have lived in big cities. But the Contagion of the Cities shtick is not meant for people who know anything about those cities, but for people who live in fear of them, fear stoked by people like Trump (who, giving richness to the jest, is himself a New Yorker). It’s not a fear they seek to confront and lose; they cherish their fear, because it is part of their identity. So they won’t go to cities, or if they do stay near the hotel, not to protect themselves but to protect their vision of America — a country where, if you’re too nice to bums and busboys and immigrants who can do nothing for you and are often not even white, your urban liberal perversity will be punished by Unintended Consequences, while those who know enough to exploit and immiserate such people, and who worship a president who is the king of all exploiters, will inherit the all-white, sanitized, gun-guarded Suburb in the Kingdom of Heaven.