Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Peter Schiff, The Daily Show, and the disemployment effects of the minimum wage

A lot of people are rightly chuckling at Peter Schiff after his performance on the Daily Show:

Most of it is boilerplate arguments against the minimum wage. The worst thing with Schiff is how disconnected and unsympathetic he is.

Minimum wage workers aren't starving, after all!

They're just goofy rich teenagers, after all!

Socialism is bad, after all! (how the conversation went from the minimum wage to public ownership of the means of production is a complete mystery to me)

We're not all created equal, after all!

It was that last one that I think hit people the hardest, particularly because it was with reference to people with mental disabilities (he said maybe they should only get paid $2 and hour). But the funny thing is people with disabilities already can qualify for "special minimum wages".

This seems relevant to stronger claims about the disemployment effects of the minimum wage. If the minimum wage has no disemployment effects at all, what is the point of special minimum wages for disabled workers? Aren't you just denying those workers money? The reason we have special minimum wages (and why we don't have minimum wages of $20 an hour) is that everyone believes that at some point disemployment effects kick in.

I don't think this is a surprise to anyone. This is precisely why economists talk about "modest" minimum wage increases. But it is an interesting wrinkle to the law that is relevant to Schiff's interview.


  1. I've asked you this before, but I don't remember your answer: Is a 39% hike "modest"?

    1. Raising the minimum wage may be 39% hike in pay for workers, but it is most certainly not a 39% hike in expenses for most employers.

  2. I'm sick of people thinking that Schiff is an economist.

  3. And here I thought everyone knew that The Daily Show was a comedy show featuring humorous interviews that are heavily edited to maximize comedic value.

    Don't get me wrong - if you want to poke holes in Peter Schiff's statements, go right ahead. But just maybe stick to the hours of real media footage and written articles we have, rather than you know... The Daily Show.

    Kind of bizarre to me how people have started to treat that show like real news.

    1. I'm quite sure everyone does know that, Ryan. Who do you think is misinformed?

    2. I don't know. You're the one responding to Schiff's Daily Show appearance as opposed to any other source of Schiff's views.

    3. That's true....

      I feel like I'm missing some crucial step in your logic here.

    4. That would be paragraph #2 of my original comment.

    5. I still feel like I'm missing some crucial step. I've read all your comments.

      I am talking about Schiff's performance on the show. I know the show is a comedy show and that it's heavily edited. I don't see how anything in your second paragraph demonstrates that these two things can't both be true.

      Let me make sure I understand your argument. You are saying that IF I knew that it was a comedy show that was heavily edited THEN I would have written a post based on other Schiff material?

      That seems like an abysmally low quality argument to me. I can't even see how it's supposed to make sense. But once again, I do feel like I'm missing something and perhaps I am.

    6. You're being deliberately obtuse, and it's off-putting. My point is simple: If you really wanted to rebut Schiff, you'd rebut his best arguments, not his appearance on a comedy show. This is so obvious that any objection you raise to this point accomplishes nothing other than to diminish your credibility.

      Here's my final attempt: Can you imagine publishing an article in The Journal Of Political Economy entitled, "Peter Schiff's Appearance On 'The Daily Show': A Critical Response"? No, right? Then you see what I mean.

      P.S. - This is especially rich coming from someone who regularly defends the popular-press-arguments of Paul Krugman by appealing to scholarly literature. You, of all people, should recognize that you accomplish nothing by poking holes in someone's Daily Show appearance. I don't know what else to tell you. It's silly.

    7. If I'm being obtuse, it's not deliberate.

      Look, if you come around informing people the Daily Show is a comedy show that edits its footage, I think you're the one being deliberately obtuse.

    8. And no, I can't imagine publishing that in the JPE. But I also couldn't imagine publishing:

      1. Anything about Peter Schiff in the JPE
      2. Much of anything from this blog in the JPE (although maybe a few ideas have the potential to be developed - but I probably don't have the talent to develop them into a JPE article.

      Unfortunately, I still don't see what you mean. Are you saying I should only write stuff on here that I would publish in the JPE? If it's possible you're being even less intelligible than you were earlier today.

      I'm not sure I follow your P.S.. I'm not sure I follow any of this now. I don't know why you have such a chip on your shoulder every time you come to comment on here, but I've gone about as far as I can go with this.

    9. Look, Daniel, I could press this issue but instead I'm going to let you off the hook. I think I successfully made my point in my original comment: Being charitable suggests that you should rebut someone's best arguments, not their worst arguments; but instead of going for a hole in one, you went with a clear shot to the middle of the fairway. Fine. Nobody has a chip on their shoulder and I wish you had a better sense of... let's say HUMOR... about this. Anyway, we both defended our positions and even if we don't see WTF the other person is going on about, we had our say and we can leave it at that.

      At least, I will leave it at that.

    10. I don't know... someone things you're making a bad argument and you call them deliberately obtuse and off-putting?

      We can let this be, but let's drop the fiction that you don't have a chip on your shoulder. This happens EVERY TIME with you and it's never a problem with anyone else. At least it's not as bad as the recent issue with Bob Roddis.

      So we can leave it at that... until the next time, and I'm sure there will be a next time.

    11. Ya whatever. Deflect away.

      I await the next trolling/shocked-consternation-with-finger-wagging/let's-be-charitable-make-up-speech sequence with bated breath.

  4. "I'm sick of people thinking that Schiff is an economist."

    I'm sick of people treating the Daily Show seriously. Schiff was MADE to look insensitive by carefully cherry-picking moments of tape from hours of discussion, going over the same ground repeatedly.

  5. RPLong: "Kind of bizarre to me how people have started to treat that show like real news."
    Yup. Bob Murphy long has, but he's annoyed with me (again) for pointing out how funny that looks now after this hatchet job on his bud.

    1. I mean, I'll be the first to say The Daily Show is funny. It is. The whole bit is that they take people who are trying to sound really serious and important and make fun of them until what they say sounds absolutely preposterous. Thus exposing the flaws of our political class.

      It's a long and healthy American tradition. Or at least, it WAS, until people started taking it seriously.

      Oh, well. At least Ken B gets me. I should change my moniker to Ken RPL.

    2. So I don't know what Ryan's problem is with my blogging on Schiff, but let's put my blogging aside...

      I don't quite agree with you guys in how you're emphasizing that it's *just* a comedy show. He covers important issues. He makes a fair amount of reasonable points. He points out the banal and the ridiculous in other people in the conversation.

      OF COURSE first and foremost it's a comedy show, and it's heavily edited to be just that. If you don't laugh there's no point in doing it. As he said once, he comes after a show with puppets doing crank phone calls.

      But you guys seem to be acting like because it's a comedy show it doesn't cover important issues or make important points.

      That's absurd. One of the characteristics of good comedy is that something rings true and that it points out the comical in what occurs in real life.

      You two seem to think either it's a comedy show or it's a real news show, and if it's a comedy one cannot get anything of substance out of it. That has no grounding as far as I'm concerned.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. re: "I think you're missing my point. It's a deeply dishonest show. It always has been. It achieves its effect by making the viewers feel superior. "

      Look, everyone slips on interviews. And they edit to highlight that. But that was pure Schiff we saw. I'm familiar with Schiff in his own medium, on his own turf. There was nothing dishonest about it. It is not how Schiff himself would have edited it, and Schiff himself wouldn't have cut that other tape into it (the protesters, Barry Ritholtz) into it. Why? Because they do make him look bad. But making him look bad and being dishonest are two very different things. And the-interview-as-team-Schiff-would-have-done-it and the "honest Schiff interview" are also two very different things.

      I didn't follow your links. I think Stewart is a serious person. He's also a comedian. I don't see why you guys are so dead set on pretending these things are mutually exclusive.

      re: "You don't have to be as concerned about it as I am, but I do think you have to ignore which but the approach Stewart takes to his comedy is completely incompatible with a fair and dispassionate analysis of any issue."

      Well no, the approach he takes is to maximize the comedy. But you're acting like because the purpose isn't fair and dispassionate analysis that no good analysis goes on. I am not sure where he is being unfair here. I do see where he fails to be dispassionate. But frankly that's not quite as important to me.

  6. Daniel, it is a little known fact but I have a Samantha Bee emulator. I ran your response to RPLong through it. Here is what came out:

    "I still feel like ... Schiff ... You make sense.
    I'm missing something"

    Our contention is that as per usual the Schiff interviewed was sliced and diced to create an effect.

    1. Of course it was sliced and diced to create an effect.

      Pay attention and you'll find that nobody has disputed that.

      They are disputing further claims that you two are cantilevering out from that quite obvious and widely understood point.

    2. Channeling Ken B here...

      -3 points for your use of "banal," above, considering very little of what Stewart pans is actually banal.
      But +15 points for your use of "cantilevering" here because there is a subtlety to that metaphor that few would appreciate.

    3. What disappoints me about this isn't Schiff's views, which are perfectly reasonable. It's that he thought it was a good idea to go on the Daily Show, he's less intelligent than I thought.

  7. So five seconds four hrs exactly how long should you consider someone's position that they believe retarded people should make $2 an hr. He said it. Would the rest of the interview have put it in context?. Its Schiffs mess.


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