The potentially-devastating impact of a $15 minimum wage was evident moments after it was unanimously passed by the Montgomery County Council yesterday. A Bethesda restaurant owner observing the proceedings, who had been planning two additional ventures in the county, declared he would never open another restaurant in the jurisdiction. He said his existing downtown Bethesda restaurant might even have to close in the coming years, as a result of the new financial burden in a razor-thin-profit-margin industry.
Just consider the impact of two full restaurant operations, with all of the employees those would entail, now never existing. All of those jobs just vanished, and the economic impact of that unemployment far outweighs the slight cash boost to workers in existing restaurants - assuming they don't lose their jobs, or get replaced by touchscreen kiosks. Now multiply that among other entrepreneurs deciding to take their dreams - and jobs - elsewhere. Montgomery County's outlay of services, required by those unemployed folks, will increase, not decrease. Taxpayers will pick up that bill, along with the increased prices of food and merchandise. Heckuva job, Brownie!
Of course, this is exactly what the Council wants. The more unemployed people, the more people who have to crawl on their knees to the Council for "services." Dependency on government is the aim, and that involves keeping those at the bottom of the ladder from climbing the rungs.
Councilmember Hans Riemer and his colleagues effectively terminated the middle-class business opportunity of Airbnb a few weeks ago. Up until that point, a modest real estate investor could have bought a few small homes and condo units, and generated a good cash flow from Airbnb rentals.
Without the same level of tenant damage concerns, or having to seek evictions of problem tenants, a middle-class County resident could have more-easily generated money for larger investments and ventures than with traditional renting. Now, you can only rent out your own current place of residence - just one unit - and you have to be on the property during the rental. Nothing makes an Airbnb more appealing than a hotel room than a landlord sitting on your couch, right? Thanks, Hans!
Imagine, initiative and some work allowing County residents to attain upper class status - status the County Council enjoys now, as they work a few hours a week for $137,000 a year. Notice they don't consider you deserving that amount, too. $15 isn't even close to a living wage in Montgomery County, and they know it.
Increasingly moribund Montgomery County has suffered a net loss of over 2000 retail jobs since 2000, according to the Maryland Retailers Association. We've had a net loss in jobs since 2005, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows. Montgomery County's restaurant sector has "slowed since 2012, and remains flat," according to Melvin Thompson of the Restaurant Association of Maryland.
Surprisingly, Councilmember Craig Rice also voted for the bill, despite his previous and correct concerns about the impact on African-American job-seekers, young workers in particular. According to a 2015 survey by The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, BETAH Associates, Inc. and Montgomery College, only 8.7% of black high school students surveyed in the County are employed, and only 30.7% of black high school dropouts have been able to obtain employment. Among Montgomery County's young black high school graduates, only 39.7% of those surveyed are currently employed.
The hits just keep on coming from the most anti-business elected officials in the region. A Council that has done literally nothing to improve traffic congestion, or to provide direct access to in-demand Dulles International Airport for international businesspeople, is spending most of its time criticizing Gov. Larry Hogan - - who is actually doing something in proposing Express Lanes for I-495 and I-270, and funding Metro. And that's when they're not telling us which snacks to buy from vending machines, or banning circuses.
Reaction to the $15 wage vote by local Chambers and business organizations was muted yesterday. In the next few days, we'll find out if those leaders are ready to "get dangerous" and challenge the MoCo cartel, as former Gov. Bob Ehrlich exhorted them to do in 2004. Or go quietly into the good night, in the most moribund private sector economy in the D.C. region.