Posts filed under “Financial Press”

Farm-to-Table for Bad Information


energy and bullshit


I am reminded of the above law each and every day. And a law it is. Inviolable.

No sooner had I posted the other day about the shoddy “work” coming out of AEI than, voilà, said shoddy “work” is being trumpeted by pompous blowhard Stuart Varney on Fox News. I’ve seen this happen time and again and again. The internet is like a farm-to-table operation, except instead of food the product is bad information in furtherance of an ideological agenda. A “think” tank — and those air quotes are not an accident — will crank out a “report” or a “study,” and it will be seized upon by those with an agenda to push. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Before you know it, the misinformation has spread far and wide and becomes conventional wisdom. And so it is with AEI, Heritage, Cato and the rest of the billionaire supporters of bad information, which is truly a shame, for these were once respectable academic and intellectual shops. *Sigh* No longer.

Below is a transcript of the first 100 seconds or so – little more than 1½ minutes – because that’s really all you need to see, of a recent Varney & Co. clip in which Mr. Varney opined on AEI’s recent “report” on Seattle’s minimum wage. Feel free to watch the balance with an air sickness bag at the ready. As I mentioned in my previous post (see link above), it is all too easy for a lay person to get sucked into a narrative because they don’t know any better and rely on news outlets for true and accurate information. Sadly, the woman in clip who was supposed to “defend” the increased Seattle minimum wage – Tamara Holder – was uninformed as to the deceitfulness of the AEI and the tricks they recently employed in claiming that the April minimum wage increase in Seattle is having adverse consequences. She was, consequently, steam-rolled by Varney. Tamara, it didn’t have to be that way. Ping me on Twitter next time and I’ll set you right.

The video is here. Below is the transcript with my footnotes:

STUART VARNEY: I’ve got a new report and it’s from the American Enterprise Institute. It says: In Seattle the minimum wage hike went to $11 an hour in April – that was April of this year – Seattle goes to 11 bucks an hour. What happened in May? The worst decline in restaurant employment in Seattle 1 since the great recession; they lost 1,000 jobs in May 2. Look who’s here – Tamara Holder, who’s going to have to defend this, aren’t you?

TAMARA HOLDER: Well, I’m not gonna win, we know that, so I’m just gonna start with my hands behind my back. 3

VARNEY: So what would be your defense? $11 an hour goes up to in April and that city loses a thousand fast food jobs in May. 4 Doesn’t that destroy the whole rationale for this living wage?

HOLDER: Let’s just start with where you got your information – from the American Enterprise Institute, which would be of course, Stuart, a far right or center-right think tank. So, you don’t know how their leanings are skewed, except to the right. They definitely don’t support it.

VARNEY: You don’t trust the numbers? Those are hard numbers – 1,000 jobs gone. I mean, that’s, they didn’t make it up. 5

HOLDER: 1,000 jobs in a city of millions of people is not a lot, especially… 6

VARNEY: It’s in the fast food business. [Crosstalk] That was the very area where they raised the minimum wage. 7

HOLDER: Stuart, you don’t know why those 1,000 people – 1,000, oh my gosh it is a thousand people – it’s like the biggest destruction of America of all-time.

VARNEY: Well, doesn’t it just show you that when you raise immediately the wages of people who haven’t done anything to earn that wage whatsoever, you simply legislated that higher wage, doesn’t it show you that employers employ less people at that higher wage? 8


1. The decline was for the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) which has a population over five times larger than Seattle city. To say that “Seattle” lost 1,000 jobs in May is simply untrue. Again, see my prior post or the Media Matters takedown, which covered some of the same ground I did.

2. See #1.

3. Tamara, armed with the facts – had you read my previous post on this – the outcome would have been much different. Very little has gone conservatives’ way thus far in the Seattle minimum wage debate, so your spidey senses should always tingle when it appears they’ve got something.

4. See #1.

5. Actually, they did.

6. Seattle is not a city of millions of people.

7. They didn’t raise the minimum wage solely for workers in the fast food business. They raised it for everyone – in the city of Seattle, that is. With a population of 650,000. Not for the MSA with a population of 3,600,000.

8. No, Stuart, the AEI “report” doesn’t show what you think it shows.

The above literally took place in the span of 100 seconds. I kid you not. See for yourself. This is what passes for news.

I’m feeling dirty. Gotta go shower. BRB.

Okay, having gotten that out of my system, here’s a little nugget that I picked up during my various conversations with Seattle contacts over the past few days. A comprehensive, long-term study is being undertaken to determine the effects of Seattle’s minimum wage ordinance over time.

The link to the study is right here, and here’s a synopsis:

The Seattle Minimum Wage Study is a multi-faceted evaluation of the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance’s effects on workers, employers, and the local economy. The project is funded by a contract with the City of Seattle and by grants from multiple foundations concerned with low-wage work and public policy.

The Seattle Minimum Wage Study seeks to advance academic and policy debates regarding the Seattle minimum wage ordinance and related minimum wage policies by applying rigorous methods to fundamental questions:

  • What is the impact of a higher minimum wage on workers, their families, employers, and the community?

  • Does a higher minimum wage impact employment and earnings among low-wage workers?

  • Does the higher minimum wage affect overall employment, business longevity, or the mix of firms that do business in Seattle?

  • How do businesses adapt to higher labor costs?

  • How does the higher minimum wage affect consumer prices?

  • Does a higher minimum wage improve quality of life measures, including health, nutrition, and family daily life?

  • Does the minimum wage affect public assistance program eligibility and benefits received?

  • Do nonprofit service organizations respond to higher wage rates by cutting back on services to vulnerable families?

  • How do low-income families and employers experience the implementation of the policy and how do they perceive its benefits and costs?

This is a very exciting development that will hopeful shed a lot of light, and answer a lot of questions, about the effects of minimum wage, and increases to it. This is important stuff.


Category: Cognitive Foibles, Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Financial Press, Really, really bad calls, Wages & Income

10 Thursday AM Reads

Well, that was interesting! I am beginning to feel genuine empathy for equity Bears in this environment. No matter, our morning train reads will bring you up to speed: • Lessons From the Long Bull Market: What most of us missed. (Morningstar) • These Five BAML Maps Show the Major Global Trends Investors Need to Know: Robots, aging, food prices, political…Read More

Category: Financial Press

10 Wednesday AM Reads

More currency wars, more red on the screen. We have you covered with the finest morning train reads in the land: • Beware of the bubble in stock market bubble warnings (Marketwatch) • Why Did China Devalue Its Currency? Two Big Reasons (Upshot) see also Give China’s Devaluation a Chance (BV) •The Troubled Oil Business: Hitting peak oil will come…Read More

Category: Financial Press

10 Tuesday AM Reads

Here are our Two-fer Tuesday morning train reads: • The Big AlphaBet (Om Malik) see also Here’s the Hidden Joke in Google’s Letter Announcing Alphabet (Bloomberg) • The new Obama rule that’s making stockbrokers swear: Whose interest is a retirement adviser supposed to serve? (Politico) • Publicly traded money managers not seeing asset growth (Pensions & Investments) see also An outburst of outrage…Read More

Category: Financial Press

10 Monday AM Reads

Back from the wilds of Maine, happy to return to some actual bandwidth, forthwith: our morning train reads: • Income Hunters: Where to Invest When Rates Rise (Barron’s) • Cannabis: Silicon Valley’s hot new sector (FT) • Television rises while TV stocks sink (USAT) • Netscape changed the internet—and the world—when it went public 20 years ago today (Quartz) • No, It’s Not Your…Read More

Category: Financial Press

10 Sunday Reads

Its my easy-like-Sunday morning reads: • Barron’s Cover: Time to Buy Commodities (Barron’s) • Distressed Sales 10 Percent of Homes Sold in U.S., Lowest Levels Since 2007 (WPJ) • Nocera: When Jon Stewart Took Down CNBC’s Jim Cramer (NYT) • Why Putting a Number to C.E.O. Pay Might Bring Change (NYT) see also 9 CEOs paid 800 times more than their…Read More

Category: Financial Press

Jon Stewart’s Sickest Wall Street Burns

Category: Financial Press, Humor, Video

10 Weekend Reads

Good Saturday morn. Pour yourself a cup of strong black coffee, and settle in for a longer form, weekend reads: • Goldman in Ventureland: The inside story of how—and why—Goldman Sachs became a tech-investing powerhouse (Bloomberg) • Will Advances in Technology Create a Jobless Future? (MIT Technology Review) • Emerging markets: Redrawing the world map (FT) • Inside the…Read More

Category: Financial Press

10 Friday AM Reads

That was fun! Here are my morning, post GOP debate reads: • Are Pension Funds Getting What They Pay For or Not? (WOCS) • Where’s the Evidence?  (Evidence Investor) • Hedge Fund Losses From Commodity Slump Sparking Investor Exodus: Investors are demanding their money back as losses mount (Bloomberg) • Debt markets: After the binge (FT) • Taylor Swift Reveals How She Stood Up…Read More

Category: Financial Press

10 Thursday AM Reads

Ahh, its delightful out here. From the northern climes, my morning train canoe reads: • This Precious Metal Needs a Silver Bullet: In the past 12 months alone, the benchmark silver-futures contract has declined 27% (WSJ) • Advice From Antiquity Economic Lessons From Ancient Greece (Foreign Affairs) • The Five Best Ways to Waste Your Money (Scott…Read More

Category: Financial Press