Regular readers of this blog know that on any given day they might get a post on minimum wage or they might read a review of Dan Slott’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man. Today is a special occasion for yours truly because our friends in San Francisco have provided me with a chance to touch on the comic book industry and minimum wage laws at the same time!
National Review somehow managed to get the owners of Comix Experience to agree to an interview for its piece “When Minimum-Wage Hikes Hit a San Francisco Comic-Book Store.” Nothing says it better about progressive public policies than the first sentence:
I’m hearing from a lot of customers, ‘I voted for that, and I didn’t realize it would affect you.’”
So says Brian Hibbs, owner and operator of Comix Experience, an iconic comic-book and graphic-novel shop on San Francisco’s Divisadero Street, of the city’s new minimum-wage law. San Francisco’s Proposition J, which 77 percent of voters approved in November, will raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 by 2018.
As of today, May 1, Hibbs is required by law to pay his employees at Comix Experience, and its sister store, Comix Experience Outpost on Ocean Avenue, $12.25 per hour. That’s just the first of four incremental raises that threaten to put hundreds of such shops out of business. …
Hibbs says that the $15-an-hour minimum wage will require a staggering $80,000 in extra revenue annually. “I was appalled!” he says. “My jaw dropped. Eighty-thousand a year! I didn’t know that. I thought we were talking a small amount of money, something I could absorb.” …
“Despite being a progressive living in San Francisco, I do believe in capitalism. I’d like to have the market solve this problem.” That applies not just to his plight, but to the question of the minimum wage: “We’re for a living wage, for a minimum wage, in principle. . . . But I think any law that doesn’t look at whether people can pay may not be the best way to go,” [Mr. Hibbs added].
“I didn’t realize it would affect you.’” That sentence should be tattooed on the forehead of every person who walks into Comix Experience and realizes that the minimum wage law he or she voted for doesn’t just hit “the rich” because the vast majority of job-creators in the United States are small business owners. Wages and prices aren’t just arbitrary numbers — they convey important information about the cost of business — and that often doesn’t sit well with people with little to no understanding of basic economics.
Perhaps the strangest thing about places like San Francisco is that no matter how much evidence piles up that playing Puppet Master with the economy is a horrible idea, citizens continue to vote for wannabe puppeteers. The unintended consequences of trying to control an infinite amount of transactions between free people rarely causes a left-leaning population to reevaluate its political disposition.
It will be incredibly sad if Comix Experience can’t figure out how to raise an extra $80,000 per year and is forced to let some of its employees go. If that does happen, then perhaps those involved will realize that good intentions mean little if the end result is pink slip or a “Going out of Business” sale.