Roper: Government is screwing up the labor market, and more

By Rob Roper

A story in the Mountain Times, “Woodstock struggles to solve restaurant shortage,” describes in detail the tourist town’s “impossible equation” with labor, regulatory, and supply issues that are hampering the overall ability to meet the needs of visitors. Many restaurants can’t open seven days a week because the federal government is paying workers not to work. It’s gotten so bad that when a tourist bus showed up in the popular Vermont tourist town and disembarked 44 hungry people, there was no place open for them to eat. Can you say “hangry”? The tour company subsequently canceled its future bus trips to Woodstock.

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

This is an issue across our state. There is great demand for dining out as folks emerge from Covid hiding and our tourist economy roars back to life, but government policy has made the workers necessary to meet that demand hard to find. Even restaurants that are open in many cases don’t have the staff on hand to serve all the tables in the building, which a frustrating optic for customers. It is leading to young, often high-school aged, hosts having to deal with belligerent adults demanding to be seated at an empty table for which there is no waitstaff.

Several pundits (official and self-appointed) suggested that it’s the restaurant owners’ fault for not paying employees more to show up. This is a faulty argument for a few very good reasons.

As a restaurant owner in Stowe recently told me, it’s not about more money. Bar tenders who regularly pull in $60 an hour with tips are refusing to return to work, opting instead for government handouts which pay less but allow for essentially full time paid vacation — a benefit businesses obviously can’t compete with.

Moreover, a fact that seems to elude the “just pay more” crowd is that employers ultimately don’t pay the salaries, the customers do. If the costs that go into delivering a hamburger  are more than the customer is ultimately willing to pay for that hamburger, nobody gets paid for making that hamburger. And it’s not just labor costs that factor in here. A story out of Maryland, The Coming Crab Cake Crisis, illustrates how inflation — exacerbated by government spending policies — and supply chains disrupted by Covid are making matters even worse: 

Purchasing both the food and normal cleaning materials required to operate is getting so expensive that many have been forced to raise their prices, leading to unhappy customers and poor reviews. The owner of Max’s Taphouse, during a recent meeting with elected officials, described how she recently had to remove crab cakes from her menu, despite that being one of their most popular items. The reason is that the cost of crab has risen so much that she would need to charge $50 per serving, and people simply won’t pay that much.

It’s not just restaurants dealing with these issues. Home builders, salons, etc. are finding that many workers are scamming the system, applying for jobs and then not showing up for the interviews so they can stay on unemployment, or refusing to work more than a certain number of hours so that they continue to qualify for government benefits.

In the short term, you can’t blame would-be employees for making these basic economic calculations. But the reality is that by buying into the system of government handouts — limiting one’s legitimate income and opportunities in exchange — one is in reality signing on to be a member of a permanent, dependent underclass for the rest of one’s life.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Public domain

8 thoughts on “Roper: Government is screwing up the labor market, and more

  1. It would be good if Republicans could be a little more consistent about this message. It seems that we have also created a dependent class of the rich who expect tax breaks and benefits as a part of their business models. Shameful that our most wealthy are taxed at a lower rate than those who work for them and that some of the most wealthy people and businesses pay no taxes at all.
    It would also be good if concerns over the deficit occurred when in power and not just when the Democrats are in charge.

    • Speaking of Republicans and consistent messaging, here’s today’s lesson on the Biden administration’s messaging skills from Chief of Staff Philippe Reines on the handling of Afghanistan debacle:

      “That’s not a shifting message. That’s the transition, that’s what’s happening on the ground. That’s a change of circumstances,” said Biden Chief of Staff Philippe Reines…….Remember, Reines was trained under Hillary Clinton, the gold standard of consistent messaging.

      Here’s more Biden and Democrat thinking on consistent messaging:

      https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/24/white-house-media-afghanistan-506849

      • I agree Mr. Yankowski, there is no question there is enough hypocracy to go around and the Democrats have more than their share.

        Besides serving as Facilities Manager for 33 years at the Newton Elementary School, I also for the 20 years I worked there while we had our own buses, drove a school bus. Invaritably, when a child did something wrong and I called them on it, they would say, but so and so was doing too.

        The hardest thing in life is to accept responsibility when we are at fault. This is especially true for politicians and those in power. My own experience, both in work and public leadership, is that people are appreciative and pretty forgiving when you admit an action you took went badly. Also the best way to correct a mistake is to confront it head on rather than seeking to shift blame or attempting to cover it up.

        We, as Americans, all need to do much better at addressing how government and public funds are too often used to advance selfish private ends.

    • John it’s all the wealthy people that are running the show, do you think they are going to tax themselves higher?
      How many poor people get elected into government in this day and age?

  2. Destruction of the free market and hefty taxation of businesses (as well as individuals) in this small dwindling State has nothing to do with the inability to operate a prosperous, successful business does it? Throw in a scamdemic that benefits China only over all other countries and it appears a no-brainer why we are in collapse. China was nearly bankrupt in 2019 – yet they are positioning their silk road plan to lock up all trade and control in the East and West….this State sold out to China and foreign investors. NWO – you will own nothing and you will like it!

  3. The time is over for handouts for votes by the biden administration. When asked by a restaurant owner with the same help problem the dunce in chief said to pay them more then the government is paying… what a totally ignorant thing to say…Restaurant
    workers get lower per/hr as they get tips you Mellon head idjit… everything will stay screwed up as long as the left is in control vote out the stupid and vote back in the prosperity… and Gary I’m surprised at your unusually sane post…

  4. A lot of us watched Donald Trump say “The Cure” cannot be worse than the virus”.
    And straight off the cliff we all went anyway.

    Apparently we are about like herding cats now.

  5. Mr.Roper, you are absolutely on point. The help government gave was needed for a bit, but as government is want to do, once in place feeding out of the trough became so well accepted, government wouldn’t stop it. Sadly, it will take quite a while before the economy will self-correct.

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