When progressive small businessmen run into the $15 an hour minimum wage

Comix Experience is an iconic small business in San Francisco, owned by a self described progressive, Brian Hibbs. Last November, San Francisco's voters approved a measure that would raise the minimum wage in the city to $15  an hour in three increments.

Hibbs and his loyal customers - progressive and compassionate to a fault - have now woken up to the fact that Comix Experience and hundreds of other small businesses in the city are likely to go under over the next three years, unable to remain viable in a market where an unrealistic minimum wage with no connection to the reality of running a business is imposed.

NRO's Ian Tuttle:

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.”

Even a good businessman who has made a profit every year since 1989 could not fathom the disconnect between the value of labor and the value of the product. He can't raise the prices on his merchandise because it's printed right on the books. Nor can he afford to cut staff.

He runs a tight operation already, he says. Comix Experience is open ten hours a day, seven days a week, with usually just one employee at each store at a time. It’s not viable to cut hours, he says, because his slowest hours are in the middle of the day. And he can’t raise prices, because comic books and graphic novels have their retail prices printed on the cover. What is a small-businessman to do?

Even when reality walks up and smacks him upside the head with a two by four he still doesn't get it. 

Hibbs is not inclined to circumvent the market: “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.”

“Why,” he asks, “can’t two consenting people make arrangements for less than x dollars per hour?”

That's because the "living wage" movement is not about jobs, it's not about small businesses - it isn't even very much about giving workers a living wage. Workers have been snookered into supporting the destruction of their own jobs - all for unions who know that a higher minimum wage means their wealthier members will get a huge boost in wages come contract negotiations time.

Hibbs demonstrates the kind of wide-eyed innocence of progressives when it comes to economics that is destroying the tax base in big cities. He didn't think the massive increaes in the minimum wage would affect him very much - "I thought we were talking a small amount of money," he wails. Well, now he knows differently.

I will give him this. He is approaching the problem with great inventiveness:

He and his staff have launched a curated “Graphic Novel-of-the-Month Club.” Subscribers will receive a new graphic novel each month, handpicked by the staff, as well as an invitation to monthly book-club meetings, visits from and after-hours events with featured writers and artists, and various other goodies. For those not located in the Bay Area, the novels will be shipped and in-store events will be streamed, so that club members nationwide and internationally can participate.

It’s a solution that Hibbs and his staff think reflects their core values: It allows the market to solve the problem, it draws upon the staff’s comic-book and graphic-novel expertise, and it fosters community.

Good for Hibbs. I really hope he can overcome his own foolishness in supporting a $15 an hour minimum wage.



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