- - Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Bernie Sanders is all about transparency. He’s for transparency in charter schools. He’s for transparency in campaign finance. He’s even for transparency when it comes to aliens from space — saying when he’s elected he’ll let us know if the government has any separated from their family and held in a detention center. (Note to self: Cancel trip to Area 51.)

But, when it comes to his own campaign — the model of the socialist state he imagines for all of us — the transparency ends. Confronted with what his very own mini-Marxist staffers were saying to the press about their low pay, he stated, “It does bother me that people are going outside of the process and going to the media. That is really not acceptable.”

And perhaps he does have a point. The recent public flap over his field staff being paid an annual salary of $36,000, but being required to work hours that equate to much less than the $15 dollars per hour he supports as a living wage, does expose a major flaw in his socialist model. Plus, it’s downright embarrassing to be found to be someone not paying your workers $15 per hour, when just a month earlier you were at the Walmart shareholder meeting shouting that Walmart should pay every employee at least $15 per hour because less than that is, “starvation wages.”

Let’s be clear about this. The Sanders employees in question are salaried at $36,000 per year, not paid hourly. Their beef was that they were required to work so many hours that mathematically their pay was less than $15 per hour. Naturally, that is an issue with all salaried positions — you work however many hours it takes to get the job done. There is no overtime pay.  It legally is called an “exempt” position, which means it is exempt from overtime pay and work hour regulations.  

However, there are a few requirements to be met before an employee can be classified exempt.  One is a federal regulation that says, among other things, an employee has to have a salary greater than $35,000 per year. Sen. Sanders cleverly skates by this one with a thousand bucks to spare.

But, many states — mostly bastions of socialist sentiment like California and New York — have higher minimum salary requirements to be exempt from paying overtime. For example, California sets the threshold at $49,920. Does Bernie write checks that big to folks in Fresno?  We don’t know because … well, transparency, right?

The good news? There’s no need to worry about his workers because they are unionized. That’s right, his campaign organization that is essentially a “pop-up,” and will only be in existence for a few years, is touted as having the United Food & Commercial Workers Union (so many questions with this one) represent its employees. As simply an observation, workers in socialist countries are predominately represented by unions, so this makes sense. And, with this in mind, Mr. Sanders sat down to resolve the $15 dollar per hour issue.

Commenting to the Des Moines Register, the senator said, “[This] is really not what labor negotiations are about, and it’s improper.” Well, of course it is. Arbitrarily raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, as Mr. Sanders proposes to require of all firms nationally, will result in one outcome — reduced work hours. And, what do you suppose the final result of the Sanders vs. United Food Workers negotiations was? Here’s Bernie’s solution in his own words — “limit the number of hours staffers work.” How did we not see that coming?

Agreed, his field staffers that earn $36,000 per year in salary, but now will work fewer weekly hours, mathematically will earn $15 per hour. But, the outcome is exactly as predicted: Raising the minimum wage reduces employment. And, while the workers did gain perhaps more free time away from work to study economics, they didn’t get a dime more in pay.  

This is socialism in action — everyone becomes equal — but it’s just that they become equally poor.

• Kevin Cochrane teaches business and economics at Colorado Mesa University, and is a visiting professor of economics at The University of International Relations in Beijing.

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