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Washington Post Propaganda on Mimimum wage
Posted by: Jon Henke on Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Washington Post's campaign to discredit the Post's once-good reputation continues today in a piece on proposed changes to the Virginia Minimum Wage:
About 450,000 Virginians are paid the minimum wage, which works out to about $10,700 a year for those who work 40 hours a week.
The entire Virginia labor force is a bit over 4 million. If the Washington Post claim that about 450,000 Virginians are paid the minimum wage is correct, that would mean that more than 10% of Virginians are working minimum wage jobs. Which is absurd. Even a dishonest Webb campaign only claimed that 153,000 Virginians were earning minimum wage. The Post has inflated that already inflated dishonesty by 300%.

But forget common sense. One doesn't need it to figure out the number of Virginians earning minimum wage. These things can be easily checked if only Post had, I don't know, "a vetting process that goes on every day, every hour in newsrooms". If they had even "attempt[ed] to make sure what we have written is true". Granted, the following may not be "quality", but it has the benefit of being correct.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes statistics on minimum wage earners in Virginia. Under Number of workers At or below $5.15 per hour, the BLS discloses this figure...
Virginia - 60,000
It gets worse. Of the 60,000 earning minimum wage, only 22,000 people actually earn $5.15/hour. The other 38,000 earn less than $5.15/hr. But who earns less than $5.15/hr? About 70% of the people earning below $5.15/hr work in “Food preparation and serving related occupations” — i.e., waiters and waitresses. But, though they show up as “below $5.15/hr”, they are paid primarily through tips, which bring their average hourly earnings well over minimum wage.

Three questions arise.
  • Which interested pro-minimum wage party provided the Post with those blatantly incorrect numbers?

  • Why did the Post pass along their propaganda without disclosing the claimant?

  • Why didn't the Post do even the most minimal of checks to determine the accuracy of the figure?

If you also wonder how often these mistakes happen without being noticed and why the mistakes that get noticed seem to benefit Democrats and liberals....well, those are good questions, too.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
And if waiters and waitresses’ tips don’t make it to 5.15 an hour, the employer actually has to pay them that minimum wage.
 
Written By: Sean
URL: http://www.myelectionanalysis.com
If you also wonder how often these mistakes happen without being noticed and why the mistakes that get noticed seem to benefit Democrats and liberals....well, those are good questions, too.
Yep. Good, boring, redundant questions. How’re those subscriptions rate scandals going?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
B. Goldberg’s answer would probably be because of the overwhelming leftist slant of the news profession. Mistakes such as this don’t get noticed because they fit the narrative that the folks working in the newsroom personally believe. If I were going to speculate that bias is a reason, then this would probably be my answer as it doesn’t require a VLWC in the newsroom.
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
"Of the 60,000 earning minimum wage, only 22,000 people actually earn $5.15/hour."

I’d bet that 22,000 coincides nicely with the number of teenagers working in fast food and similar positions.
 
Written By: Scot
URL: http://
Virginia - 60,000
How many of the minimum wage earners work at Wal-Mart? May be interesting...
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
I also wonder how many of those minimum-wage earners are part-time second jobs for extra cash?
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
How many of the minimum wage earners work at Wal-Mart? May be interesting...
According to Wal-Mart:
People

* As of November 2006, the total number of Wal-Mart associates in Virginia is 38,168.
* The average wage for regular, full-time hourly associates in Virginia is $9.93 per hour (Wal-Mart Discount Stores, Supercenters, and Neighborhood Markets). Additionally, associates are eligible for performance-based bonuses.
* In recent years, Wal-Mart has contributed four percent of an associate’s eligible pay to their combined Profit Sharing and 401(k) Plan.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Newspapers generally pay pretty poorly. So which kinds of employees do they attract? Typically those who are economically illiterate and irrational re: money matters. The more rational and the better versed economically are attracted by higher paying professions.

In short: the reporter who wrote the story don’t know nuthin’ about economics, but he sure’s got a big heart (and probably a tiny bank account).
 
Written By: Come on, Please
URL: http://
About 450,000 Virginians are paid the minimum wage, which works out to about $10,700 a year for those who work 40 hours a week.
Devil’s advocacy:

This is sloppy, there is no way around that, but I think I know where the error is, and it’s not a simple lie or exagerration. The number of people that would be affected by a minimum wage increase in Virginia is 450000.

The number of people below the proposed minimum wage is 450000. Of course the error is compounded by suggesting that these people earn $5.25 x 40 x 51 = $10,700. The real answer would be somewhere between $10,700 and $15,000.
I’d bet that 22,000 coincides nicely with the number of teenagers working in fast food and similar positions.
But the whole "high school kids working at McDonald’s" is as big an exagerration and Limbaughlike misinformation as the error in the article.
"When you let the minimum wage fall as low as it’s fallen, it becomes almost irrelevant," said Harry J. Holzer, professor of public policy at Georgetown University and a former chief economist for the Labor Department. "This is an attempt to make it somewhat more meaningful, but not so meaningful that it destroys a lot of jobs."

While the number who make the federal minimum wage is minuscule compared with the total workforce of 132 million, economists think that several million workers would be affected by a change in the law. The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, estimates that the number of workers making at least $5.15 an hour but less than the Democrat-proposed $7.25 will be 5.6 million by 2009 — when the proposed increase would be fully phased in.

Then there are the workers who already make $7.25 an hour, or a little more. Liana Fox, an economic analyst for the institute, thinks these workers would also see a small bump in wages to keep the pecking order. The institute puts about 7.4 million workers in that category. That means 13 million people, or about 10 percent of the workforce, could be affected by an increase.

Of those workers, about 79 percent are 20 or older, the institute estimates. Forty-six percent work in sales or service. About 61 percent are white; 59 percent are women.

Locally, about 450,000 workers in Virginia — 13 percent of the state’s workforce — could be affected, according to an EPI analysis. The total in Maryland is 116,000 workers, 4.4 percent of the workforce. An analysis for the District was not possible; the sample size was too small.
In the end, you really do have 10% of Virginia’s workforce working for some seriously low wages, with only 38,000 of this number in the food service industry under MW earning tips.

So you have uncovered an factual error in a story that makes a valid point.

Cap
 
Written By: CaptinSarcastic
URL: http://
So you have uncovered an factual error in a story that makes a valid point.
The validity of the point is not so clear to me, but what you really mean is Jon has uncovered a factual error in a story that obscures a (debatable in my mind) valid point. It isn’t just an editing problem, it profoundly misleads people about the prevalence of low wage jobs and our living standards, a very widespread problem in the media.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Not all of life can reduced to competing statistics.

The fact remains that it is posssible for an American to be employed full time and still live below the poverty line, and this in a very rich country. There is something wrong with this picture!

Reducing everything to cost effectiveness, growth curves and stock market figures leaves out the main ingredient: we are talking about human beings. The concept, not heard of lately, of a fair wage for a day’s work, brought dignity to the laborer as well as his wage payer, Slavery was not abolished because of economic analyses; we acted on priciple. It seems talk of principles has gone out of fashion. We can only appreciate the ’bottom line’.

More and more, we are re-enacting Dickens’s stories, with dutiful ladies bringing baskets of food to the poor. It was a basket delivered, duty done, and back to our tea parties world. Only Dickens, himself, could see the larger picture of social injustice.






 
Written By: Laime
URL: http://
The validity of the point is not so clear to me, but what you really mean is Jon has uncovered a factual error in a story that obscures a (debatable in my mind) valid point. It isn’t just an editing problem, it profoundly misleads people about the prevalence of low wage jobs and our living standards, a very widespread problem in the media.
There are 450,000 people that would be impacted by a raise in the minimum wage, in other words are being paid between the current minimum wage and the proposes minimum wage. To misstate this as 450,000 at minimum wage is relatively insignificant and low wage jobs ARE prevalent as this 450,000 number shows. That’s 10% of the population of Virginia, and this does not include the jobless who are looking, or the jobless who have given up that make up the 750,000 living under the poverty line in Virginia.

I don’t think the media does ENOUGH to point this out, though I agree that they should be accurate when they report, even if they make a valid point.

Cap
 
Written By: CaptinSarcastic
URL: http://
This is sloppy, there is no way around that, but I think I know where the error is, and it’s not a simple lie or exagerration. The number of people that would be affected by a minimum wage increase in Virginia is 450000.
I don’t think that helps them much.

First, they’re citing EPI speculation, rather than concrete numbers. EPI is a liberal think-tank — a fact that should have been disclosed.

Second, as has been mentioned, the EPI numbers are not of ’people making minimum wage’.

Third — and this is important — the numbers aren’t even of people making less than the possible future minimum wage. Here’s the study. (pdf) Their "people affected" includes both direct and indirect affects. Workers "directly" affected is 172,000....far less than 450,000, and still not a match for people "paid the minimum wage". So only 172,000 currently make 7.25 or less. (oh, and almost a third of that number consists of 16-19 year olds....and almost half of the benefits of the increased MW will go to households in the top 3 quintiles)

And guess who else benefits when the minimum wage goes up? Union workers, whose wages are frequently pegged to a multiple of the minimum wage. Huzzah. According to the Washington Post, they’re now minimum wage earners.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
"That’s 10% of the population of Virginia, and this does not include the jobless who are looking, or the jobless who have given up that make up the 750,000 living under the poverty line in Virginia."
Wow, is anyone working in Virginia?

(PS. Don’t forget the dead; they aren’t working. I think it’s a safe bet that at least some of them would prefer to be.)

 
Written By: Unknown
URL: http://
The fact remains that it is posssible for an American to be employed full time and still live below the poverty line, and this in a very rich country. There is something wrong with this picture!
You’re right, Laime!

The problem is the arbitrarily set poverty line, which is above the common living standards of a generation ago.
Reducing everything to cost effectiveness, growth curves and stock market figures leaves out the main ingredient: we are talking about human beings.
[sarcasm]Good Lord, Laime, what have we been thinking?[/sarcasm]

Of course we’re talking about human beings. All costs we’re discussing here are human costs, including those that deal with money and securities. We’re not idiots or monsters, so stop treating us like idiots and monsters.
The concept, not heard of lately, of a fair wage for a day’s work, brought dignity to the laborer as well as his wage payer
If someone digs a hole in the middle of the desert and fills it back in, day after day, why should anyone pay him to do so? I mean, he’s certainly working, and doing difficult work at that. But the only thing that could bring his work "dignity" is if he’s doing something useful for someone else, so that he’s not just robbing people of their hard-earned money.
I also note that you’ve failed to define what "fair" means. I’ve got a great definition of "fair" for you, though: two transacting parties trade on any terms they like — both parties have to agree on the price before the transaction takes place. That way, nobody trades away anything in exchange for something they consider less valuable. No slavery, no coercion of any kind.

Oh wait! That’s free enterprise.
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
Congradulations, Jon. You found a factual error made by a newspaper. It happens all the time, to liberal, conservative, and purportedly non-partisan sources of information. It happens monthly: weekly: daily.

Cap has provided some helpful background: the 400,000 comes from another relevant factoid related to the proposed legislative matter in question, the number of people estimated to be affected by the new law, not the number making the old wage. I hope the Post prints a correction, and life goes on.

So what is this tired cr*p?

If you also wonder how often these mistakes happen without being noticed and why the mistakes that get noticed seem to benefit Democrats and liberals....well, those are good questions, too.

I really don’t enjoy watching you pander to what you perceive as your audience, Jon. It’s fundamentally depressing to watch you open a column with some relevant statistical analysis, framed by some supportable, bounded conclusions about motives, preferences and outcomes on the part of various actors - and then feeling the need to bait the hook with something chunkier, throw out garbage like this.

Word: The Washington Post capped off last week’s news with a ringing posthumous endorsement of Pinochet. It makes me ill to watch intelligent people like you insinuate and misrepresent statistically inevitable coverage errors with some sort of sweeping pro-liberal bias even as mainstream media panders ever more exclusively to conservative facts, conservative stories and conservative interpretations.

Ironically, you framed that sentence as a perfect demonstration - why do mistakes that *get noticed* seem to benefit liberals? Because there’s an army of ideologically hostile conservatives looking for mistakes, an infrastructure to fund them and a belligerent audience fed a steady stream of demagoguery to act on them. What a surprise, the mistakes that get all the screaming about (*noticed*) are always the ones that benefited liberals!

Meanwhile, the ISG found that, for a random example, the DoD underestimated violent acts on Iraq on a random single day by more than 1000 percent, and... guess what? A mistake noticed by no one and discussed by the same!! What a surprise! If a tree falls in the forest and it doesn’t help conservatives anecdotally misrepresent error as liberal bias, does it make a sound? Of course not!
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
The liberal commenters on this thread have just proved that facts don’t matter to liberals. The Post overstated the number of minimum wage workers in Virginia by a factor of 7.5, and the only defense is a reference to the unsubstantiated claim by a liberal think tank that said "450,000 workers in Virginia...could be affected" by an increase in the minimum wage. That is a pretty lame argument by even the low standards liberals have set for themselves.

Left unanswered is just how $7.25 per hour (7.25 x 40 hrs = $290; 290 x 4 = $1160 per month; 1160 x 12 = $13,920 per year) will be any more compassionate than $5.15 per hour. Try living as a single person in the DC area on $14,000 per year, let alone with a family to support. I lived in DC almost twenty years ago and a month’s income at the new minimum wage would pay about half of the monthly rent that I and three of my college buddies paid in 1988 for a brownstone three blocks away from a crack house that was torched by arsonists (i.e. it was far from the nicest area of town).

Also left unsaid is that the vast majority of minimum wage earners only earn minimum wage for a short period of time and almost none of them are supporting a family. The truth is that the proposed, nominal increase in the minimum wage will help no one in any meaningful way and will hurt millions of unskilled American laborers who cannot enter the labor force as a result of the loss of jobs. It will, however, serve as a political issue for the Democrats in their appeal to the consciences of Virginia soccer moms who have just been falsely told that the number of minimum wage workers in their state is 7.5 times as large as it really is and who have been misled into thinking that there are more than the actual handful of heads of households "Working full time and raising a family...[in] poverty"

I agree that it is a travesty for anyone to work full time and live in poverty. But instead of artificially overpricing unskilled labor, let’s improve the public school system that Democrats have ruined so that people can acquire skills more readily and charge more for their labor.
 
Written By: Jt007
URL: http://
"..robbing people of their hard-earned money"
——-
I do wish you could get away from the ’robbing’ slogan. By that kind of reasoning, you could arrive at the conclusion that the plantation owners were ’robbed’ of their slaves.
###

"...both parties have to agree on the price before the transaction takes place..."
——————-
So, if I’m starving when offered a job to labor for eight hours for a sandwich, I am ’freely’ accepting this transaction?

Just like voting does not automatically produce an inclusive, tolerant democracy, the concept of ’freedom’ is also limited by an individual’s access to its manifestations.
###

I’m not arguing here about your basic economic faith. I accept it as a direction marker. But it serves no one to sweep the negative aspects under the rug and pretend they’re not there.

One of my college professors held to the principle that he would not give a good grade to any student thesis that did not show a thorough understanding of the oppostition view. By failing to even consider anything outside of your ready-made formula, you undermine your credibility as an advocate, in my humble eyes.
 
Written By: Laime
URL: http://
The minimun wage raise, Its about time!!!

For too long now, the Christian Reconstructionist have kept those citizens who work in low paying jobs at the same 5.15 per hour rate of pay as they had been when the disasterous Repubnik Revoloution (Coup) occured. Finally our citizens are getting what they deserve... Good Pay. Too bad they are not raising it to $15.00 an hour. And a little price freeze will do wonders for the economy. The way Big Business keeps people poor is to say "Well we got to off-set these wage increases with price hikes".

They do not. Especially with CEO’s receaving 50 million a year in Christmas Bonus alone. Think how many people could get a good wage if that company had spent that 50 million on its workers.

By the way, it was George’s "Every Child left behind act" That has ruined our education system. All George is trying to do is shut down Public schools in favior of Christian Schools because Public Schools teach the fact of evolution!!

Commentary by Magnum.
 
Written By: Magnum Serpentine
URL: http://
The Post will issue a correction Friday that may need more corrections later:

An article Wednesday about a proposal by Virginia Democratic legislators
to raise the $5.15 an hour minimum wage to $7.25 an hour incorrectly stated
the number of Virginia residents who currently earn the minimum wage.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 60,000 Virginia
residents earn the minimum wage. But if the Democratic plan is approved,
about 462,000 Virginia residents would get a pay raise because they
currently earn less then $7.25 an hour, according to the nonpartisan
Economic Policy Institute.
 
Written By: Todd
URL: http://www-wine-compass.com
Argh! C’mon, Post, this is NOT hard stuff. I already covered the necessary correction to the correction in a comment above. And they should spare us the ’non-partisan’ line. Sure, for legal purposes, they are a non-partisan entity. But ideologically, they’re liberal.

I’ll be blogging that, too. Thanks for the tip.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net

 
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