National Review San Fran ComicRegular 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.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

18 comments

  1. $80,000 of revenue.

    the standard comic has a cover price of $2.99 to $3.99. For arguments sake let’s call it $3.50.

    in order to pay his current employees he new minimum wage his stores will need to sell 22,857 extra comics per year.

    There’s only one answer for this problem!

    “Hey! Dan! We need to bring back Spock! “

    1. I think this comic shop will need more than Spock, Andrew. This calls for something with even more Slottian genius: The American Skull. 😉

    2. Andrew the first line of your resume should be F-you followed by you are not the market, that should get you the job.

  2. “…with people with little to no understanding of basic economics.”

    I think that sums it up. Labor has a supply and demand curve also, and by setting wage that far above that intersection, businesses can’t just absorb the cost as the shop owner says, driving down demand and causing layoffs which make things worse. The comic shop is a good example for this problem because it isn’t a multimillion/billion dollar corporation giving executives insane salaries. This is a basic business that buys its inventory, pays rent, utilities, wages and has little profit margin; like most small businesses that supply so many jobs. They can’t sustain the artificially high minimum wage as a cost. Raising the wage is a policy that sounds good but winds up hurting many of those it’s supposed to help; the equivalent of shooting oneself in the foot.

    I’m sure most, if not all, of the comic shop employees work there knowing they wouldn’t be raking in huge paydays, they probably work there because they love comics; and now that may be taken from them. Be careful what you vote for!

    1. I suppose another way some of the masterminds see themselves is Marvel’s Tinkerer. They see the economy as this machine that they can just open up and fool around with and get it to do what they want. Well, it’s not really like that. To the extent it’s a machine, it’s also a living machine. On top of that, it’s like countless living machines that make up one giant entity. That is something that can not be controlled without massive losses to freedom and liberty, and even then … the living machine still often finds a way to thwart those playing Tinkerer.

  3. How dare you be against the raising of minimum wage you will reduce the amount of money the government collects in income tax….wait that was the goal all along…
    It is sad that government uses peoples ignorance to build false narratives in order to benefit themselves.
    We need to build more jobs that will create more need for skills and that will generate better pay due to competition for labor.

    1. Wouldn’t it be nice if, right next to a Constitutional Literacy course, the other requirement in running for office was an understanding of basic economics?
      But of course, we can’t have that– it would mean that the underprivileged, and probably minorities as well, wouldn’t be able to run for office, because they don’t have access to that sort of thing. Never mind the fact that it’s already skewed that you can’t very well run for office without being at least middle-class, because of all the money you need to run for office in the first place. We can’t change that with laws. Oh what a tender world that would be.

    2. Were you being serious about minorities not having access to books or online material that teaches basic economics? You can buy used economics books for probably a couple books online. Every community I’ve ever lived in had a public library. Every city has a place with free wi-fi. Schools, even inner city schools, have teachers who should have an understanding of basic economics.

      The world has more information available to it than at any other time in human history. If parents don’t take advantage of all the educational materials that are literally available with a few strokes of the cell phone or computer keyboard, then the only person they have to blame is looking at them in the bathroom mirror each morning.

    3. No, I was just being sarcastic and stating a misconception. 😉 As the father noted in Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wind in the Door,” we live in an irrational world. (And my response to an irrational world is to be a bit sarcastic about it, I guess.) I think that there are a lot of non-traditionally educated people out there who are actually more knowledgeable–and who know how to apply that knowledge!–than people who’ve been through high school and college. Sadly, it’s those same intelligent, knowledgeable, non-traditionally educated people who get a lot of grief because they didn’t go through the system. I think that it’s really the exceptional people who maybe grew up poor or discriminated against who end up making the biggest effort to change both their own situation and “the situation” in general, since they’re passionate and motivated. Some people would be surprised just how far energy will take you. It’s really sad that while we live in a society where you can go anywhere and do anything, some people just don’t apply themselves to rising.

    4. Yeah. There’s an instance where it’s hard to tell someone’s tone online. I totally agree. I know quite a few people who didn’t hold a piece of paper that said they were qualified for [insert job x here], but they were in fact highly intelligent. I think more businesses should just have a test that an applicant can pass to prove they’re qualified for the job. In a world where places like MIT offer free courses online, it seems to me that forcing someone to have a degree is silly.

    5. Yes! At one point, I felt like I had insulted the pastor of the parish I attended over email, and it turns out that he actually had caught my silly comment and replied in the same vein, and I had just mis-read it. (Our pastor is so awesome. The thing I miss most about Youth Group is when Father comes to speak to the group–one time, at the Youth Group Christmas Party, we were playing a game where you can say any variant of the word “no” but not the word itself, and he would get this funny, calculating look, put his head on the side, and say “I have not.” It was so much fun when Father was there. Also, later that same game, my best friend nearly tripped-and-fell on top of him while trying to grab one of the seminarian’s clothespins–the penalty for saying “no.” I still tease her about that, sometimes.)
      Yes. I think that part of the reason why I can’t find a job that pays better is partly because I don’t have a degree yet, and partly because the hours I can work are limited, due to the fact that I’m attending college. It’s really sad because I’m working through college. I’d say that I was swearing off financial aid, but the embarrassing truth is that I keep forgetting to file my FAFSA. I really don’t care, though. At my current job, I should be able to attend full-time most of the time and part-time other semesters. (Besides, I’ll never get any sort of substantial financial aid that’s not a loan, because my dad makes too much money. Never mind that I have three siblings, one of whom is only five, meaning that she won’t be through school and out of college for about seventeen years. Ay ay ay… financial aid is trying to slap a tent patch on the bottom of a leaky barge. I’m so glad I’m not in their math trust whatever–I can manage math, but I wouldn’t like to try on that scale. There’s probably someone out there who can fix the budget, but I’m almost certainly not that person.)

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