Let's Fix This Country

Andy Puzder for Labor Secretary

If you want a cabinet position, write op-eds for The Wall Street Journal. How else could Trump have come upon Andy Puzder, the CEO of a restaurant chain whom Trump has appointed to be labor secretary. He's not new to us, though. It has filled us with wonder to watch the Journal give Puzder extraordinary free access to its op-ed page — at one point we counted four submissions in one six month period — to advance the parochial interests of his company, which is always his context. His most recent essay complains that rising health-care premium costs are leaving consumers with less money to dine out, causing a restaurant recession. Eating out should have priority.

We've taken on his thinking in these pages more than once, most fully in "Minimum Wage Deniers Still Fighting Reality". We have several times made the opposite argument for the minimum wage and have derided Puzder's avarice at the expense of people. In his view, workers need to sacrifice so his restaurants can profit. No matter that those paid the federal minimum wage — it comes to $15,000 a year — must go on food stamps, Medicaid and other government programs to survive. No matter that we taxpayers pay for that and therefore are made to subsidize his restaurants.

As the media has now discovered by unearthing those op-eds, Puzder is against raising the minimum wage, against the healthcare act, against paid sick leave, and against paying for overtime. The Obama administration wants to make a long overdue inflation adjustment to $913 a week as the income level above which employees are considered managers, and below which level people must be paid for overtime. Puzder says workers prefer keeping at $455 a week the threshold above which they are considered managers. He thinks they'd rather forego overtime pay because they value the "prestige" of the "manager" more than the money.

He counters President Obama's arguing for a $10.10 an hour wage with “Does it really matter if Sally makes $3 more an hour if Suzie has no job?”, a statement false for there being far more Sallys who would benefit from a minimum wage increase than there would be Suzies who lose their job, according to every study of the after-effects of minimum wage increases. The percentage of job loss is very low; the percentage whose lives are improved is great. (By the way, the federal minimum hourly wage had $7.25 of buying power when set in 2009, but that is now $6.43 owing to inflation, and with interest rates poised to rise, buying power will decline more rapidly).

For Puzder, even the minimum wage is apparently too much. The labor department found violations in 60% of his company's restaurants (Carl's Jr. and Hardee's), usually for failure to pay even the minimum and for short payment of overtime. He seems to be of a mind with Donald Trump, who said early in the campaign that wages are “too high” in the United States, and is notorious for short-paying his building suppliers.

He may clash with Mr. Trump over his advocacy of mass immigration. We will guess what he has in mind is a cheap pool of labor for his restaurants.

For that matter, the new labor secretary would prefer to get rid of people altogether. In an interview with Business Insider, he rhapsodized over robots: “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case… We could have a restaurant...where you order on a kiosk, you pay with a credit or debit card, your order pops up, and you never see a person". So much for labor's concerns at the Labor Department.

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