The $15 an Hour Minimum Wage: A Bad Idea with a Union Label

$15 an hour minimum wage rallyIt began at the fringes.  And almost at warp speed, the campaign for a $15 an hour federal minimum wage has taken center stage.  The Democratic Party has made it part of its platform.  Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton all but supports it.  Her intraparty rival, Bernie Sanders, is sponsoring a bill to achieve it.  Cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, D.C., plus the states of California and New York, have passed laws to phase it in.  Heavily driven by organized labor, supporters insist a $15 an hour minimum is way overdue.  The current $7.25 an hour, they say, has not kept pace with the cost of living, driving many Americans into poverty.  This claim is off-base.  And their legislation, if fully realized, would leave a trail of unemployment and shuttered businesses.  In some places, this has begun to happen.

National Legal and Policy Center described at length the logic, motives and strategy of the $15 an hour minimum wage campaign in September 2013 and again in September 2014.  Back then, the idea was in its germination stage.  The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) gave vocal support, but other unions, much as they sought an increase, seemed reluctant to go so high all at once.  The subsequent burst of support is a testament to the capacity of an artificially-created “bandwagon” to shape public opinion.  And much of the public does view the idea favorably.  According to a poll last year conducted by the National Employment Law Project, admittedly a less than unbiased source, about 60 percent of respondents supported a $15 an hour minimum wage.  Street activists, with their raised-fist, phonetically-catchy slogan, “Fight for Fifteen” (#FightforFifteen), have gone all out to convince the American public that anything less than that would be an affront to moral justice.  Rarely, if ever, do these enthusiasts weigh the consequences of such actions.  And the consequences of doubling the current federally-mandated level would not be good for employers.  Nor would they be good even for most of their intended beneficiaries, entry-level employees.    

The Fight for Fifteen campaign is driven foremost by organized labor.  Whether directly or indirectly, unions have been involved in every campaign to create a $15 an hour minimum wage.  On the federal level, the AFL-CIO, whose 56 member unions represent 12.5 million workers, is calling upon Congress to pass legislation to that effect.  The federation notes on its website that the inflation-adjusted minimum wage now would be $18.67 an hour, taking productivity gains in the U.S. economy since 1968 into account.  In New Jersey, the state AFL-CIO chapter this year testified on behalf of a New Jersey Senate Labor Committee bill to phase in a $15 an hour minimum by 2021, an 80 percent increase over the current $8.38 an hour.  The Senate passed the measure on June 23, setting up a showdown with Republican Governor Chris Christie.  And on a local level, Raise Up Cleveland, an ad hoc group representing dozens of unions with roughly 100,000 unionized workers in the Cleveland metro area, passed a resolution this June to raise the minimum hourly wage for the city to $15.  “The fight for the $15 an hour movement is happening in the streets and on picket lines, and it is happening in Congress, statehouses and city halls,” said Raise Up Cleveland Executive Secretary Harriet Applegate.  On that, she is right.  This is an all-out national campaign.     

The greatest impact of the unions is being felt in its alliances with “worker centers.”  These nonprofit storefront operations, though formally not unions, perform key functions of unions, including organizing and picketing, but without having to comply with the National Labor Relations Act.  Many came about to serve the needs and interests of first-generation immigrants.  Not only do unions work with worker centers, they often use them as fronts.  There is a mutual advantage to such an arrangement.  Worker centers get expertise in how to organize entry-level workers.  Unions can realize boosts in membership, dues and bargaining power, especially in the fast food, home care, building maintenance and other service industries in which many immigrants of limited English-speaking ability work.  The SEIU, for example, is the driving force behind a New York City-based coalition, Fast Food Forward, that launched the Fight for Fifteen movement on August 29, 2013 by leading walkouts and demonstrations at various restaurants.  Fast Food Forward, as Union Corruption Update noted at the time, is virtually identical to New York Communities for Change, the reconstituted New York City chapter of the now-disbanded Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN.  Meanwhile, the “HERE” (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees) portion of UNITE HERE is sponsoring its own worker center, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, which in addition to lobbying lawmakers to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, helps federal and state agencies enforce minimum wage laws, files lawsuits to win wage settlements, and publishes an annual “ethical eating” guide.  And the United Food and Commercial Workers is the prime backer of OUR Walmart, an employee-sponsored worker center which has organized strikes, pickets and customer disruptions at selected Walmart retail outlets across the nation.          

In short order, the Democratic Party, with its hardcore union base, has climbed aboard the Fight for Fifteen express.  The party platform at this year’s party convention in Philadelphia included an endorsement of a $15 an hour national minimum wage.  Around that time, President Obama expressed support for the Washington, D.C. local government’s passage of a bill to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour:  “I commend the District of Columbia, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Council of the District of Columbia for raising the District’s minimum wage.”  This was a quantum leap from his earlier appeals in 2013 and 2014 to raise the federal minimum wage, respectively, to $9 and $10 an hour, and his executive order in January 2015 that raised the rate to $10.10 an hour for employees covered by federal contract.  Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, though previously having spoken in support of a $12 an hour minimum wage, said during a New York primary debate with Bernie Sanders in Brooklyn that she would sign $15 an hour legislation.  “Of course, I would,” she remarked.  In her convention acceptance speech, she declared:  “If you believe the minimum wage should be a living wage – and no one working full time should have to raise their children in poverty – join us.”  Even Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, though not endorsing a $15 an hour minimum wage, has backed away from his earlier opposition to a hike of any kind.  This May, Trump said that he is open to raising the current $7.25 an hour minimum.  “I’m looking at that,” he said.  “I’m very different from ost Republicans.”  

If there is one political figure who shifted this juggernaut into high gear, it is Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.  Sanders gave a Mrs. Clinton a good scare during primary season, in the process coaxing her ever further leftward.  He already had established himself as the movement leader last year.  On July 22, 2015, Sanders introduced legislation, the Pay Workers a Living Wage Act (S.1832), that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over a four-year period.  He defended his bill with evangelical fervor during a rally outside the U.S. Capitol:  “It is a national disgrace that millions of full-time workers are living in poverty and millions more are forced to work two or three jobs just to pay their bills,” he bellowed.  “In the year 2015, a job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it.  The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage and must be raised to a living wage.”  In addition to more than doubling the general minimum wage, the measure also would raise the standard rate for restaurant and other tipped employees from the current $2.13 an hour to $3.15 an hour.  A group of House members, including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Tex.), introduced companion legislation that same day.      

The roster of governments adopting the $15 an hour standard, meanwhile, has grown since the City of Seattle, preceded by nearby SeaTac, adopted it a couple of years ago.  Greensboro, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Rochester, San Francisco, Syracuse and Washington, D.C., plus the smaller cities of Emeryville and Mountain View (both in California), Milwaukie (Oregon), Missoula (Montana) and San Marcos (Texas), each have enacted ordinances phasing in that rate.  In some cases, such as Pittsburgh and Syracuse, the hike applies only to municipal employees; in others, like Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, D.C., it applies to all employees.  Los Angeles County also has approved a $15 an hour minimum wage.  On a state level, New York and California, early this April, within hours of each other, passed $15 an hour minimum wage legislation set to take full effect, respectively, in 2021 and 2022.  The rates for these states before passage were $9 and $10 an hour.  Thus, roughly 60 million Americans, close to a fifth of the nation’s population, currently live in jurisdictions where a $15 an hour minimum wage is being phased in.  Throwing in pending legislative and ballot proposals, that total is likely to rise a good deal further.  If instituted nationally, about one-third of all current U.S. wage and salary workers would benefit.     

Supporters couldn’t be happier.  And success has made them more determined than ever.  “The Fight for $15 is more than a number,” Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez recently declared.  “This is a movement for fairness and voice.”  Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry is delighted to have him on her side:  “The idea that the labor secretary thinks their fight is moral and just is a huge affirmation to them [movement leaders and low-wage workers].”  At the April 4 signing ceremony of New York’s $15 an hour law, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced:  “This new economy is not a fair economy for the middle class and working families of this country.  They feel that the American dream is slipping away.”  In California, Governor Jerry Brown announced at his signing ceremony in Los Angeles:  “This is about economic justice.  This is an important day.  It’s not the end of the struggle, but it’s a very important step forward.”

Gov. Brown’s comment underscored the widespread conviction among supporters that a $15 an hour minimum wage is a first step.  Those supporters include economists.  Writing in the current (Summer 2016) issue of the progressive quarterly, The American Prospect, David Howell, professor of economics and public policy at the New School of Social Research, argued

While a target like $15 can be a good political strategy, the process of raising the statutory wage floor to the highest level possible without causing intolerably large employment effects is to establish an annual rate of increase, either in percentage or absolute dollar terms.  A commission, much like the UK’s Low Pay Commission, would closely monitor the wage hikes for effects on the standard of living of working families (given prevailing means-tested benefits, which will need to be adjusted), business closures, and job opportunities. 

From the perspective of supporters, then, a hike in the minimum wage to a “living” level is a perpetual work in progress.  Howell is confident that any unemployment resulting from a $15 an hour minimum wage would be more than offset by improved employee morale and resulting improved job performance and less turnover.  He is likewise confident that such a wage would result in less reliance upon anti-poverty programs, in the process saving taxpayers money. 

Howell is not alone in his profession.  Several weeks ago, a group of 208 economists put their names on an online petition indicating their support for phasing in a $15 per hour minimum wage by 2020.  The petition read in part: 

We, the undersigned professional economists, favor an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour as of 2020.  The federal minimum wage is presently $7.25, and was most recently increased in 2009.  We also support intermediate increases over the current federal minimum between now and 2020, such as a first-step raise to $10.50 an hour as of 2016…

We recognize that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour as of 2020 would entail an increase that is significantly above the typical pattern with federal minimum wage increases.  Nevertheless, through a well-designed four-year phase-in process, businesses will be able to absorb the cost increases through modest increases in prices and productivity as well as enabling low-wage workers to receive a slightly larger share of businesses’ total revenues.  On average, even fast-food restaurants, which employ a disproportionate share of minimum wage workers, are likely to see their overall business costs increase by only about 2.8 percent per year through a four-year phase-in to a $15 federal minimum wage by 2020.  That means, for example, that McDonalds could cover fully half of the cost increase by raising the price of a Big Mac, on average, by 7 cents per year for four years – i.e., from $4.80 to $5.08.  The remaining half of the adjustment could come through small productivity gains or a modestly more equal distribution of the increase in revenues generated by the U.S. economy’s overall rate of economic growth.

The economy overall will benefit from the gains in equality tied to the minimum wage increase and related policy initiatives.  Greater equality means working people have more spending power, which in turn supports greater overall demand in the economy.  Greater equality also means less money is available to flow into the types of hyper-speculative financial practices that led to the 2008-09 Wall Street crash and subsequent Great Recession.

Fight for Fifteen advocates in Seattle, where the city council unanimously approved a bill in June 2014 to phase in a $15 minimum wage, provide the same facile assurances.  “The sky is not falling,” said Jacob Vigdor, a professor of public policy at the University of Washington, “If it was really bad, a lot of people would have lost their jobs and every opening would get tons of applicants.  That is not happening.”  Vigdor and fellow researchers, analyzing state employment data during when the Seattle minimum wage stood at $11 an hour (compared to $9.32 an hour for the rest of the state) found that a higher wage did not have a significant effect on unemployment rates, employee hours worked or business failures.  They also concluded that Seattle retail and gasoline prices were unaffected. 

The authors should have waited a while.  For one thing, the $15 per hour rate has yet to take effect even for large businesses (at least 500 employees), let alone small ones, which have an extra four-year reprieve.  And for another, the Seattle experience already has provided evidence of a rough ride ahead for a $15 an hour minimum wage, especially for restaurants.  Here’s how a blogger for Forbes, Tim Worstall, explained things in March 2015:

Since the legislation was announced last summer, The Seattle Times and Eater have reported extensively on restaurant owners’ many concerns about how to compensate for the extra funds that will now be required for labor:  They may need to raise menu prices, source poorer ingredients, reduce operating hours, reduce their labor and/or more.

The Washington Restaurant Association’s [Anthony] Anton puts it this way:  “It’s not a political problem; it’s a math problem.

A first-hand account expressed extreme dismay:

As the implementation date for Seattle’s strict $15 per hour minimum wage law approaches, the city is experiencing a rising trend in restaurant closures.  The tough new law goes into effect April 1st.  The closings have occurred across the city, from Grub in the upscale Queen Anne neighborhood, to Little Uncle in gritty Pioneer Square, to the Boat Street Café on Western Avenue near the waterfront.

The shut-downs have idled dozens of low-wage workers, the very people advocates say the wage law is supposed to help.  Instead of delivering the promised “living wage” of $15 an hour, economic realities created by the new law have dropped the hourly wage for these workers to zero. 

Advocates of a high minimum wage said businesses would simply pay the mandated wage out of profits, raising earnings for workers.  Restaurants operate on thin margins, though, with average profits of 4% or less, and the business is highly competitive.

It won’t be until 2021 when Seattle small businesses will have to pay a $15 an hour minimum wage.  Given the job losses already, one dreads to imagine what it will be a decade from now.  None of this should be shocking to anyone save for the activists who pushed for the law, most of all, Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant.  The economists who signed the above-quoted manifesto might want to rethink their assumptions.

Proponents of the Seattle law counter that unemployment actually has fallen since enactment.  A letter to Forbes, published in March of this year, went like this:  “Between January and December 2104, while Seatac’s business owners (and their customers) were absorbing the cost of paying minimum wage employees $15, unemployment decreased 17.46%, falling from 6.3% to 5.2%.  It turns out that you CAN increase the minimum wage (even in large increments) and increase overall employment at the same time.”  Such an assertion fails to isolate cause and effect.  There are any number of explanations for Seattle’s healthy economy that have nothing to do with a minimum wage hike.  For one thing, the Seattle employment situation, like that of anywhere else, is a reflection of regional and national employment.  A rising tide, as the expression goes, lifts all boats.  For another, Seattle has an educated, mobile and well-paid work force, many of whom make well in excess of $15 an hour or its salary equivalent.  Some of the nation’s largest, innovative and profitable employers – think Amazon, Boeing and Microsoft – are headquartered or have a major presence in the Seattle area.  Worstall explained the false causality:  

No one at all has ever doubted that it is possible to increase employment and the minimum wage at the same time.  The impact of the general economy is usually going to be larger than the impact of the minimum wage.  The impact of that general economy could mean that employment rises, stays the same or falls, whatever happens to the minimum wage.  But that’s not the interesting thing we’d like to know.  Which is, what is the effect of raising the minimum wage on unemployment?  Freed from the impacts of everything else happening in the economy?  And there the standard answer is that it will raise unemployment and no, no one has managed to come up with a convincing case against this standard wisdom. 

The University of Washington study has the same problem.  The authors, after comparing the situation of workers making less than $11 an hour in Seattle with that of workers elsewhere in Washington State (where the minimum wage is $9.32 an hour), concluded that the employment rate of low-wage workers in Seattle increased by 2.6 percentage points over the study period.  That was somewhat less than the 3.8 percentage points in a hypothetical, “synthetic” Seattle economy.  The finding prompted the authors to conclude:  “(T)he Minimum Wage Ordinance modestly held back Seattle’s employment of low-wage workers relative to the level we could have expected.”  Yet these are preliminary results in a state with a highly functional economy.  As a Cato Institute paper noted in July:  “Evaluations simply looking at the total number of low-wage jobs in Seattle before and after the increase took effect would have observed a substantial increase in the total number of jobs, and may have erroneously concluded that there were no adverse employment effects of the minimum wage increase.”        

The effects of planned minimum wage hikes are being in California as well.  Shortly after the City of Los Angeles raised its minimum wage last year to $15 an hour, American Apparel eliminated 500 jobs in the city and announced plans to relocate those jobs elsewhere in the state.  This June, following passage of the California state hike to that level, the company began examining the possibility of moving production outside the state altogether.  California Composites, a Santa Fe Springs (Los Angeles County)-based commercial airplane parts manufacturer, is planning to close shop and move to Fort Worth, Texas.  Company President Fred Donnelly sees no other way out.  “This is the last thing I want to do, but I don’t see that I have a choice,” he said, citing the statewide minimum wage hike, excessive regulation and a “dysfunctional” worker’s compensation system as primary reasons.  Other California manufacturers, he observes, may be heading elsewhere as well:  “I’ve talked to some of our suppliers and other people in the business – in particular, owners that are in small manufacturing – and they’re thinking about it.”  Tom Scott, head of the California state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, has been hearing a similar earful from members.  “There is no question that a $15 minimum wage would have devastating impacts on small businesses,” he remarked in April.           

The case against the $15 minimum wage is based on more than just anecdotal evidence.  Structured studies have concluded that a rapid hike in the minimum wage, even to levels well under $15 an hour, would trigger employment losses.  In February 2014, the Congressional Budget Office published its analysis of a proposal to hike the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour and a less dramatic alternative to raise it to $9 an hour.  In the instance of a $9 an hour minimum wage, the CBO estimated, about 100,000 jobs would be lost.  With a $10.10 an hour minimum wage, 500,000 jobs would be lost.  In a separate study employing the CBO methodology, William Even (Miami of Ohio) and David Macpherson (Trinity University in San Antonio) estimated that a $12 national minimum wage would lead to the loss of 770,000 jobs.  And these are consequences of rates set well under $15 an hour!  Common sense, if nothing else, ought to lead to a conclusion that the net job loss under a $15 an hour national minimum wage would run into the millions. 

The Heritage Foundation has released research this summer indicating just that.  Heritage labor policy analyst James Sherk published a paper concluding that if Congress passed Senator Bernie Sanders’ $15 an hour minimum wage legislation next year, the outcome would be a loss of seven million full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs four years later.  Working with a Current Population Survey/National Bureau of Economic Research data base, he projected:

(I)f Congress raised starting wages to $15, employers would reduce employment of affected workers by approximately 19 percent.  That represents about 6.9 million fewer FTE jobs in the U.S. by 2021.  These job losses come on top of jobs lost by state-level minimum-wage increases.  The Pay Workers a Living Wage Act would prevent seven million workers from getting paid anything.

In his analysis, Sherk noted that employers on average would have to hike affected workers’ wages by 27.4 percent, and more likely than not, would have to offer additional compensation to workers who make just above the newly-created minimum.  He also took into account the fact that employer expenses go beyond wages.  They include FICA payroll taxes (i.e., Social Security and Medicare Part A), unemployment taxes, workmen’s compensation contributions and a wide range of benefits.  In the case of health care, employers with 50 or more employees who decline to offer a health plan would be forced under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) to pay a per-employee penalty from after-tax revenues.  Currently, the figure is $2,160 per worker, a level set to rise to $2,886 by 2021.  From the employer’s standpoint, Sanders’ minimum wage proposal would cost on average $18.61 an hour per worker.  Sherk followed up this report with another one a few weeks later that provided a state-by-state breakdown of the proportion of the work force directly affected and the change in full-time equivalent jobs.   Texas, in particular, would fare poorly in each instance.           

Employment impacts aside, living wage enthusiasts justify an extreme minimum wage hike as an act of fiscal prudence.  By forcing employers to pay a “living wage,” millions of working Americans would be lifted out of poverty and hence no longer would need cash welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and other forms of public assistance.  Taxpayers in turn would realize a huge savings.  Researchers at the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a left-leaning think tank partially funded by organized labor, recently concluded, “Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would reduce government expenditures on current income-support programs by $7.6 billion per year – and possibly more, given the conservative nature of this estimate.”  Sen. Sanders cited this statistic in a tweet he sent to followers on May 4 following his victory in the Indiana Democratic primary.  EPI researchers subsequently ran their model for a $12 an hour minimum wage, concluding that an annual $17 billion savings would result.  What would the impact of raising the minimum to $15 an hour?  Lead investigator David Cooper put it this way:  “I don’t think we know definitively whether $15 would be different because it is larger than the increases that have been rigorously studied.  If you think $15 would have some sizable negative effect on employment or hours, it’s going to moderate those savings (on government assistance programs).  We have no way to know how much.”   

Such projections, however, rest on the assumption that hiking the minimum wage would not decrease employment, either by eliminating jobs outright or reducing the number of working hours per week.  The studies cited earlier suggest this assumption is naïve at best.  And a loss of employment-related income would increase usage of public assistance.  Tara Sinclair, an economist at George Washington University, noted:  “A larger hike is more likely to cause a decrease in employment opportunities, and that could result in an increase in the demand for government support rather than a decrease.”  Texas AM economist Jonathan Meer likewise has expressed skepticism.  “These estimates are predicated on the notion that the minimum wage is a simple transfer from employers to employees, with no negative effects on employment,” he said.  “The higher the minimum wage goes, the worse of an assumption that is.”

There is ample evidence that aggressively raising the minimum wage would have at best a small positive effect on the working poor and, more likely, a large negative effect.  In a 2007 peer-reviewed article, economists Richard Burkhauser (Cornell) and Joseph Sabia (San Diego State University), after examining Census data for the period 1979-2003, concluded that minimum wage increases produced no significant reductions in poverty.  The authors did a follow-up study on the consequences of instituting a $9.50 an hour federal minimum wage, once again finding a weak association between higher wages and less poverty.  In another study, Sabia and University of Georgia economist Robert Nielsen used an alternate data base for measuring poverty, the Survey of Income and Program Participation.  The authors found no evidence that raising the minimum wages alleviates material hardship.  And economists David Neumark (University of California-Irvine) and William Wascher (Federal Reserve Board), using Current Population Survey data, discovered that a minimum wage hike redistributed income among the poor rather than raised it.  Many low-income workers who kept their jobs did move out of poverty, as could have been expected.  But the overall net effect was minimal for two main reasons:  1) employees were laid off or had their work hours reduced; and 2) few of the beneficiaries lived in low-income households.

Supporters of a $15 an hour minimum wage often respond to such research by citing research by the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics, a project of the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE).  Led by Professor Michael Reich, the center has conducted studies of the effects of four such proposals in California cities (Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco) and one in New York State.  The New York study, released this March, concluded that a hike in the state minimum hourly wage from $9 to $15 would increase earnings for 3.16 million workers, or 36.6 percent of the work force.  Annual pay for those getting raises would rise by 23.4 percent.  By contrast, payroll cost increases will be a mere 3.2 percent for for-profit employers.  Even this modest rise, the authors say, will be mitigated by employee turnover reductions, automation and increases in productivity.  Prices would rise by a tiny 0.14 percent annually during the phase-in period, an increase well below the 2 percent rate of inflation.  And employment would gain by 3,200 jobs by mid-2021.  It looks almost too good to be true.  And it probably is.  

The conclusion that ramping up the minimum wage to $15 an hour will boost employment, as Forbes’ Worstall argues, rests on the shaky assumption that low-income people, given their higher propensity to spend than people with higher incomes, will do just that with their newfound income.  This, in turn, will trigger local and regional economic multiplier effects.  This, however, is not a sound assumption.  He writes:

(W)e’re not inventing new money to pay these higher wages…So what we need to know is what is the marginal propensity to spend/save, and then apply that to the total amount of money being moved before we can see what the effect on demand is.  They (the authors) do list that propensity for different income groups but they don’t seem to apply it to this increase in wages.  And that’s something which must be done.  A reasonable and rough estimate is that with a national savings rate of 5% or so, as the U.S. currently has, with poorer people saving nothing, the rather fewer richer people are going to be saving 15% or so of their incomes (and of course that gets greater up into the 0.1% and so on but 15% is a reasonable guesstimate for us to use).

Thus the impact on demand is not the $14 billion of extra wages they’ve assumed.  Instead it’s 15% of that:  the 15% that the rich would have saved, not spent, but which the poor will now spend.  That lowers that estimate of jobs created by the higher minimum wage caused increased demand to 12,000 or so.  Against that we’ve still got this paper’s estimates of job losses due to higher prices, automation and so on, leaving us with a net position of about 65,000 losses in total.

Defenders of the New York and other IRLE studies no doubt have answers to this.  But it is of more than passing importance that opposition to a $15 an hour “living” minimum wage isn’t limited to the Right.  A number of liberal economists prominent in the area of employment policy are having severe bouts of skepticism.  Brookings Institution economist Gary Burtless admits:  “It’s very hard to believe that a minimum wage hike to $15 would produce the same adverse impact on employment as a hike to just $10.10.”  Harry Holzer, chief economist for the Department of Labor under President Clinton and, like Burtless, now affiliated with Brookings, said of a $15 an hour minimum wage:  “(S)uch increases are extremely risky.  In job markets where young or less-educated workers already have difficulty finding jobs and gaining important work experience, such mandates will likely make it much harder.”  And Princeton economist Alan Krueger, who during November 2011-August 2013 chaired President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, also had some choice words.  “A $15 per hour national minimum wage would put us in uncharted waters, and risk undesirable and unintended consequences…[T]he push for a nationwide $15 national minimum wage strikes me as a risk not worth taking.”

Liberal or otherwise, a sizable portion of the economics profession also has misgivings about a $15 an hour minimum wage.  Early last fall, researchers at the University of New Hampshire conducted a nationwide survey of economists on behalf of the Washington, D.C.-based Employment Policies Institute.  Of the 166 respondents, 83 percent and 52 percent, respectively, believed that a $15 per hour minimum would adversely affect youth and adult employment.  Fully 76 percent believed it would diminish the number of available jobs.  And 67 percent said it would make it harder for small businesses to operate.  This survey should be seen as a counterweight to the online petition supported by 208 economists whose roster, upon inspection, is heavily weighted toward specific institutions.  Fully 23 of the signers are affiliated with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; five are with the University of Massachusetts-Boston; and six are with the University of Missouri-Kansas City.  Does the phrase “peer pressure” come to mind?   

The $15 national minimum wage, only a few years ago considered beyond the pale of serious consideration, has captured the public imagination.  And as the roster of cities, counties and states adopting it continues to grow, the pressure for corresponding federal legislation likewise will grow.  Hillary Clinton might still hold a preference for a $12 minimum, but it is a virtual guarantee that, if elected president, she will push for $15.  Her base, especially organized labor, would demand nothing less.  The $15 an hour figure itself is arbitrary.  A leading Service Employees organizer, Kendall Fells, admits that his union invented the number during discussions with disaffected workers.  He explains the SEIU methodology this way:  “$10 was too low and $20 was too high, so we landed at $15.”  The SEIU reportedly spent $20 million on this campaign in 2015 and roughly $70 million since 2012.  

Supporters of more than doubling the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour typically invoke lofty principles such as “justice,” “decency” and “fairness” in framing their appeal.  In pursuing their mission, they rarely consider that good intentions can lead to counterproductive outcomes.  Instead, they assume that their opponents are possessed of malevolence.  They should check their resentments at the door.  Those who oppose a radical hike in the minimum wage are not saying that workers should be paid less than what they are worth.  What they are saying is that the definition of “worth” is subjective; i.e., it varies from person to person.  And employers who perceive their workers to be underpaid have a ready-made option to remedy the situation:  Given them a raise.  Unfortunately, labor unions and their allies prefer to narrow the range of options.  If not by intent, then by consequence, the result may be more than a few employers pushed to the brink of insolvency.       


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New policy governs UFV flying at Stanford | Stanford News

Unmanned flying vehicles (UFVs), such as drones, have become increasingly visible in parks and open spaces across America. Stanford faculty and students are among those working on the effective design and deployment of these aircraft.

But UFV flights can pose safety and privacy risks in a campus environment such as Stanford’s. As a result, the university has enacted a new policy governing the use of UFVs at Stanford.

Sign at the campus Oval declaring the area a 'No Flying Objects Zone'

Signs going up at various locations around the campus, including the Oval, publicize Stanford’s rules for unmanned flying vehicles.

The policy prohibits third parties from outside the Stanford community from flying UFVs above or from within Stanford lands, which are private property. The policy also requires Stanford faculty, students and staff to obtain advance approval for a UFV flight at Stanford through a new university committee that has been established to serve as a single, streamlined resource for reviewing proposed flights.

The new protocols come out of a deliberative process that brought together stakeholders from across the university in recent months to formulate UFV guidelines for the campus. They also come as the Federal Aviation Administration has adopted new rules regarding private drone flights.

“We want to support the safe use of UFVs for university research, education and business purposes,” said Larry Gibbs, associate vice president for environmental health and safety. “We also want to provide a reasonable process that actively addresses the safety, regulatory compliance, risk management and privacy considerations that arise from UFV flights over Stanford lands. The policy seeks to do both.”

Among the challenges of unregulated UFV flights, drone flying in several parts of the campus poses a risk to the helicopters that bring critically injured patients to Stanford’s two hospitals. Tourists and hobbyists have flown UFVs in places such as the Main Quad in recent months, despite the many pedestrians and bicyclists passing by underneath and the presence of classrooms nearby. The crash of a remote-controlled model airplane also started a brush fire in the Lagunita lakebed in July 2015.

The new policy is contained in Chapter 7.10 of the Research Policy Handbook (RPH) on the Stanford DoResearch website, at Instructions for requesting review of a proposed UFV flight and an application form to initiate such a review are provided on the web page.

“This policy provides Stanford faculty and students with a single, coordinated approach for obtaining approval for UFV flights,” said Mykel Kochenderfer, assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics. “Providing UFV airspace access will facilitate important research on campus involving a wide range of technologies important to infrastructure inspection, agricultural monitoring and various humanitarian applications.”

Under the policy, a proposed UFV flight submitted for approval must have a nexus to the university’s mission and must adhere to any limits prescribed by the review committee to ensure safety and compliance with applicable laws.

UFV flights generally will not be allowed in certain campus locations, such as the Oval, Main Quad, Memorial Court, Central Energy Facility, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and near roads, highways, hospitals or public venues. Signs about Stanford’s UFV flight restrictions have been posted at some campus locations, and more are expected in the future.

As the regulatory and safety requirements surrounding UFV flights are complex, the policy applies not only to UFV flights at Stanford, but also to flights undertaken on behalf of the university at any other location. A UFV accident as part of a university activity can have significant consequences, no matter where it occurs.

Representatives from several campus entities will review proposed UFV flights for approval. The representatives include faculty and staff from the School of Engineering and the School of Humanities and Sciences; Dean of Research Office; Student Affairs; Risk Management; General Counsel; Public Safety; Land, Buildings Real Estate; and Public Affairs.

Students who are members of a university-sanctioned hobbyist club will be able to fly model aircraft for recreational or hobby purposes in areas pre-approved for the hobbyist club, without going through the committee approval process for each individual flight.

Additional information and answers to questions about the policy may be found in RPH 7.10 in Section 7, “Submission and Contact Information.”

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Model plane pilots flying high after Rapid City event

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EXCLUSIVE: Meet Bell’s V-247, Armed Tiltrotor Drone For Marines

X-247 armed drone model

X-247 armed drone model

PENTAGON: A sleek little model sits on the desk of Lt. Gen. Jon “Dog” Davis, Marine deputy commandant for aviation. What is that, we asked? The next tiltrotor Bell Helicopter Textron hopes the Marine Corps will buy. But it’s not the V-280 Valor, the new manned tiltrotor Bell plans to fly next year. It’s an unmanned tiltrotor designed to give the Marines a drone that can do everything the Air Force’s armed MQ-9 Reaper does – and more. Especially taking off and landing from ships or from land where there’s no runway.

“I think there is a big need for a UAS that can go aboard the sea base,” Davis told me in an interview last week. “General Neller says he doesn’t need a Reaper, but he needs a Reaper-like capability that can go from the sea base.” Gen. Robert Neller is the Marine Corps commandant.

“This is what Bell is proposing,” Davis says, placing the model of Bell’s new concept on the table. “Single engine. It looks a lot like a V-280, doesn’t it?”

V-280 Army with tanksV-280 Army with tanks

V-280 Valor artist rendering

One reason the Marines want such an aircraft is to reduce their reliance on Air Force Reapers — always in short supply — to support operations launched from the sea, Davis said.

“It’s actually pretty exciting,” Davis said. “It’s a tiltrotor, Group 5-size UAS that’s of great interest to the Marine Corps. Sea-baseable, Group 5 unmanned capability.” Davis added that “the unmanned platform could actually come faster than the manned,” an apparent reference to the V-280 Valor.

The 10,500-lbs. maximum take-off weight Reaper, an MQ-1 Predator derivative made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, is a Group 5 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), the military category for drones weighing more than 1,320 lbs. Besides daylight and infrared video cameras and other sensors, the Reaper typically carries four AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and two 500-lb. guided bombs. But, crucially, it needs a runway.

Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs), flotillas of three vessels with a couple of thousand marines and their own small air force aboard, currently rely on Air Force  Reapers and Predators launched from land bases to provide the capability the Marines want. The Marines would prefer to have their own, sea-based, armed Group 5 UAS.

Another officer said the Marines’ desire to get its own Reaper-sized vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) drone partly reflects pressure from ground commanders to keep the Corps’ relevant in an era where ground combat is primarily special operations. “The Marine Corps does not have a Special Operations Aviation Regiment like the Army does,” this officer said. “I sense a lot of desire from the traditional ground component of the Marine Corps to support special operations, much like the U.S. Army Rangers. Having a higher-tier UAS is part of that.”

For now, Bell is calling this previously unrevealed tiltrotor the V-247, the numbers standing for the duration the Marines want one or more to be able to stay on station – 24/7. Bell plans to officially reveal the new concept at a Washington news event next month. Larger models of the V-247 are likely to appear at the Sept. 27-30 Modern Day Marine exposition at Quantico Marine Base, Va., and at the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference that begins Oct. 3 in Washington.

SB1-Sikorsky-Boeing-JMR artist conceptionSB1-Sikorsky-Boeing-JMR artist conception

SB1 Defiant artist rendering

The manned, 38,000-lbs. V-280 is one of two technology demonstrator aircraft being built under the Army-led Joint Multirole Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) program. The other is the SB1 Defiant, a compound helicopter with coaxial rotors and a pusher propeller, being built by Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky in a team with Boeing Co. Both the Valor and Defiant are to make their first flights next year. No production is guaranteed, but the JMR TD program’s goal is to develop faster, more agile and more efficient vertical lift aircraft for all the military services.

The desire for a Marine Corps Group 5 UAS is outlined in the official Marine Aviation Plan 2016, which labels the concept the MUX, a tortured acronym standing for “MAGTF Unmanned Expedition Capabilities,” the acronym within an acronym MAGTF standing for Marine Air Ground Task Force.

“The Marine Corps requires a UAS that is network-enabled, digitally interoperable, and built to execute responsive, persistent, lethal, and adaptive full-spectrum operations,” the document says. “The concept of employment will be shipboard and expeditionary.”

The Aviation Plan says that the MUX would be “a multi-sensor, electronic warfare” aircraft with “strike capability at ranges complementary to MV-22 and F-35,” referring to the Marine Corps version of the Osprey and the new Joint Strike Fighter. Such a shipboard compatible armed drone, the plan adds, will give Marine commanders “flexible, persistent and lethal reach.”

“When I have V-22s in there, I have a 450-mile radius airplane, air refuelable,” Davis said. “I’ve got my F-35 that has a 450-mile radius and air refuelable. I have CH-53 (a heavy lift helicopter), which has about a 350-mile combat radius and air-refuelable.” Davis said. What the Marines need to go with those aircraft is an armed UAS with equal range and much greater endurance, he added..

“The normal sea base operates about a 12-hour day flight ops,”Davis said. “What I’d like to be able to do is, when I’m getting ready to secure flight ops, launch one of these beauties and it’s refuelable.” Such a drone, he said, could be “your picket. It could be out there protecting the ship, protecting the fleet, giving us the deep view out there of the battle space when I don’t have manned platforms up.”

The Aviation Plan notes that DARPA’s TERN (Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node) demonstrator, a VTOL flying wing being developed by Northrop Grumman, is to make its first flight in 2018 and could be among the candidate designs for the MUX, as could other “OEM (original equipment manufacturer) prototypes.” But with the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey now established as their medium-lift aircraft, Marine leaders now seem to have a bias in favor of tiltrotors generally. In any event, with two new tiltrotors on offer, that’s clearly what Bell’s banking on.

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Tuskegee pilot, 92, enthralls Hamilton audience

There was nothing but admiration for retired Lieutenant Colonel Harold Brown, 92, at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s exhibit Saturday on the famed Tuskegee airmen, the U.S. air force’s first black pilots and crews.

The airmen not only fought in the Second World War, but also fought prejudice to achieve their goals of becoming pilots.

Brown, one of the few remaining Tuskegee pilots, awed and charmed his audience of 150 to 200 people by regaling them with stories and comedic touches on how he and his comrades overcame deep and overt racism.

He did so during the first ever Canadian stop of the Tuskegee airmen travelling exhibit called Triumph over Adversity — Rise Above, a popular attraction at the museum last week. The exhibit included a trailer with a panoramic movie screen telling the story of the Tuskegee pilots — and a restored P-51 Mustang that the pilots flew while accompanying bombers in the war.

Brown got a standing ovation at the end of his talk before many of the audience lined up to receive his autograph.

“It’s an honour to meet you,” said Brian Musson of Paris, when he finally got his turn.

To the Spectator afterwards, Musson said men like Brown were “absolutely unique” to their time and have understated their important roles. “It wasn’t just about winning a war but about proving themselves — in a system that was less than supportive initially.”

Chrispin Ongadi, a Kenyan air force pilot in Canada for special training with the Canadian Armed Forces, was also excited to meet Brown.

“It’s a very inspirational story,” he said. “It’s a good experience for me to be in Canada and to meet a former pilot who fought with the Tuskegee …”

Hamilton resident Donna Vargyas — who visited the exhibit with her husband, and friends and relatives from Kitchener and Flamborough — was also thrilled to meet Brown.

“What a life he’s had … I thought he was fabulous,” she said.

Brown told the crowd earlier how his mother wanted him to play the piano when he was growing up in Minneapolis, but he gave it up in Grade 6 for model airplane building because his dream was to some day fly a an airplane.

His school friends teased him that being black, he wouldn’t even be allowed to wash any planes.

“I would say give it time, it’ll change and it did,” Brown said.

As an aviation cadet, he started pilot training with other blacks in 1941 in Tuskegee, Ala.

“There were some very sad stories,” he said, adding that the pilots in training were referred to as “dummies” by their trainers. “There were so many obstacles; you wonder how we got as far as we did.”

Brown was shot down over Germany during his 30th mission and before being captured and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp, he faced a citizens’ mob determined to hang him. But a Const. intervened and took him to the camp.

In a YouTube video where Brown also tells his story, he says the prisoner of war camp was the first place where he didn’t experience segregation from white people.

On Saturday Brown praised the Warplane Heritage Museum calling it a real treasure.

He also praised the exhibit visitors, saying “The accolades and remarks are very touching. In fact, I don’t think I’ve met a nicer group of people.”

Bill Shepherd, the Canadian pilot travelling across the U.S. — and now parts of Canada — with the exhibit to fly the restored Mustang, said “It’s been one excited person after another” at Hamilton’s exhibit, including 400 children whose visits were sponsored by local organizations.

The exhibit next travels to the Brantford air show on Wednesday before returning to the U.S.

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‘I’m not paranoid … But we’re prepared’: They’re ready if country sinks into chaos

Don and Jonna Bradway recently cashed out of the stock market and invested in gold and silver. They have stockpiled food and ammunition in the event of a total economic collapse or some other calamity commonly known around here as “The End of the World As We Know It” or “SHTF” – the day something hits the fan.

The Bradways fled California, a state they said is run by “leftists and non-Constitutionalists and anti-freedom people,” and settled on several wooded acres of north Idaho five years ago. They live among like-minded conservative neighbors, host Monday night Bible study around their fire pit, hike in the mountains and fish from their boat. They melt lead to make their own bullets for sport shooting and hunting – or to defend themselves against marauders in a world-ending cataclysm.

“I’m not paranoid, I’m really not,” said Bradway, 68, a cheerful Army veteran with a bushy handlebar mustache who favors Hawaiian shirts. “But we’re prepared. Anybody who knows us knows that Don and Jonna are prepared if and when it hits the fan.”

The Bradways are among the vanguard moving to an area of the Pacific Northwest known as the American Redoubt, a term coined in 2011 by survivalist author and blogger James Wesley, Rawles (the comma is deliberate) to describe a settlement of the God-fearing in a lightly populated territory that includes Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the eastern parts of Washington and Oregon.

Those migrating to the Redoubt are some of the most motivated members of what is known as the prepper movement, which advocates readiness and self-reliance in man-made or natural disasters that could create instability for years. It’s scenario-planning that is gaining adherents and becoming mainstream in what Redoubt preppers described as an era of fear and uncertainty.

They are anxious about recent terrorist attacks from Paris to San Bernardino, California, to Orlando, Florida; pandemics such as Ebola in West Africa; potential nuclear attacks from increasingly provocative countries such as North Korea or Iran; and the growing political, economic and racial polarization in the United States that has deepened during the 2016 presidential election.

Nationally, dozens of online prepper suppliers report an increase in sales of items from water purifiers to hand-cranked radios to solar-powered washing machines. Harvest Right, a Utah company that invented a $3,000 portable freeze dryer to preserve food, has seen sales grow from about 80 a month two years ago to more than 900 a month now, said spokesman Stephanie Barlow.

(Mobile users, click here to view the above video.)

Clyde Scott, owner of Rising S Bunkers, said pre-made, blast-proof underground steel bunkers are in big demand, including his most popular model, which sleeps six to eight people and sells for up to $150,000.

“Anybody with a peanut-sized brain,” he said, can see that the U.S. economy is in perilous shape because of the national debt, the decline of American manufacturing and the size of the welfare rolls.

Some people worry about hurricanes, earthquakes or forest fires. Others fear a nuclear attack or solar flare that creates an electromagnetic pulse that knocks out the nation’s electric grid and all computers, sending the country into darkness and chaos – perhaps forever.

“The list is long; the concerns are many,” said Glenn Martin, who lives in north Idaho and runs Prepper Broadcasting Network, an online radio station. “Imagine a societal collapse and trying to buy a loaf of bread in Los Angeles or New York and stores are closed down.”

Martin’s programming emphasizes gardening, farming and how-to shows about sustainable living more than “doom and gloom,” he said, and his audience has grown from 50,000 listeners a month two years ago to about 250,000 a month now.

Online interest in prepper and American Redoubt websites is increasing. Tools that measure online readership show that monthly search traffic to Rawles’s has doubled since 2011; an estimate from SimilarWeb, a Web analytics firm, shows that the site had about 862,000 total visits last month.

Rawles’s guidebook, “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It,” and his post-apocalyptic survival novel, “Patriots,” have sold about 350,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan. They are among hundreds of available survivalist books.

In response to all the uncertainty, more and more preppers are not simply stocking up at home. They are moving their homes – to the Redoubt, a seldom-used term for stronghold or fortress.

It is impossible to know exactly how many people have come over the past few years, but newcomers, real estate agents, local officials and others said it was in the hundreds, or perhaps even a few thousand, across all five states.

Here, they live in a pristine place of abundant water and fertile soil, far from urban crime, free from most natural disasters and populated predominantly by conservative, mostly Christian people with a live-and-let-live ethos and local governments with a light regulatory touch and friendly gun laws.

The hearty and adventurous, or those seeking an escape from modernity’s leading edge, have long made a new life for themselves in Idaho; Ernest Hemingway came here to live and to die.

The locals regard the newest transplants as benign if odd, several said in interviews.

“The mainstream folks kind of roll their eyes,” said state Sen. Shawn Keough, a 20-year veteran Republican legislator who represents north Idaho.

Many drawn to the Redoubt are former police, firefighters and military. Most said they would vote for Donald Trump as the “lesser of two evils,” and they said Hillary Clinton would make an already bloated and ineffective government even bigger.

“I don’t want to be one of the guys waiting for help,” said Patrick Devine, 54, a former paramedic in Los Angeles who moved two years ago at a friend’s urging.

Devine said he had firsthand knowledge of chaos and government failure, earned from working numerous shootings and earthquakes, particularly in Haiti in 2010.

“I can’t stop it. But I can prepare myself to the best of my ability for anything that does come and be helpful to other people,” said Devine, who works at a local gun range and wears a 9mm pistol on his hip.

“I love this place,” said Chris Walsh, as he buzzed low over sparkling Lake Coeur d’Alene in his mustard-colored Beechcraft Bonanza airplane.

A Detroit native, Walsh, 53, runs Revolutionary Realty, which specializes in selling real estate to those moving to the American Redoubt. He said he has sold hundreds of properties in the last five years.

He lives off the grid in a house high on a hill overlooking a lake, producing his own electricity from 100 solar panels. But he is also a few miles from restaurants and shopping in Coeur d’Alene, a popular tourist destination.

Walsh said most of the prepper properties he sells generally have key features: at least two sources of water, solar panels or another alternative energy source, ample secure storage space for a few years’ worth of supplies, and a defensible location away from main roads and city centers.

Such amenities don’t come cheap; the average property sells for between $250,000 and $550,000, he said, but some go for more than $2 million. Walsh said a basic solar array can cost around $15,000, while more elaborate systems can cost 10 times that.

Walsh said most of his clients regard moving to safer territory as a prudent step against a reasonable fear. But just as important, he said, they get to live a simpler life in a safe, beautiful place.

“What they are doing when they come here is relearning things that their great-great-great-grandfathers and mothers already knew,” Walsh said. “What’s going on here is a pioneering spirit.”

Much of the Redoubt migration is motivated by fears that President Barack Obama – and his potential successor, Hillary Clinton – want to scrap the Second Amendment, as part of what transplants see as a dangerous and anti-constitutionalist movement toward government that is too intrusive and hostile to personal liberties.

“This is a bastion of freedom,” said Todd Savage, 45, a retired Marine who moved to north Idaho from “the urban crime-scape” of San Francisco and opened American Redoubt Realty after meeting Rawles a few years ago.

“The bottom line is that our clients are tired of living around folks that have no moral values,” Savage said. “They choose to flee tyranny and leave behind all the attributes of the big city that have turned them away.”

Savage spoke as he drove his Chevrolet Suburban with an AR-15 rifle tucked next to the driver’s seat, a handgun between the front seats, and body armor and more than 200 rounds of extra ammunition in the back – along with a chain saw to move fallen trees and two medical kits, just in case.

“You have GEICO; I have an AR-15,” Savage said.

Trevor Treller, 44, who carries a small Smith Wesson pistol on his hip, moved to north Idaho last year from Long Beach, California, and recently paid a little less than $400,000 for a defensible three-bedroom house on five wooded acres.

Treller, a sommelier at a local resort, said Obama was a key factor in his decision. He said the president has inflamed racial tensions in America, presided over a dangerous expansion of the national debt, been “hostile” to Second Amendment rights and failed to curtail the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran.

Treller said any one of those factors could lead to crippling chaos, so he and his wife have laid in food, weapons and ammunition and are installing an iron gate across their long gravel driveway.

“I think there’s a very good chance that these things won’t happen in my lifetime, but I also think there’s a chance that they will,” Treller said. “It’s extreme collective hubris to think that we’re exempt from everything that happened to every single society before us throughout history.”

Treller said he settled on Coeur d’Alene after scouring, a website where he looked for his ideal mix: conservative election results, low crime rates, solid incomes, low population density, affordable house prices – and few illegal immigrants, because he said they erode “American culture.”

Utah is about 83 percent white, and its three northernmost counties are more than 90 percent white, according to Census Bureau data. Those interviewed in the American Redoubt insisted they are not trying to segregate themselves by race. And while the Aryan Nations white supremacist group was headquartered near Hayden Lake in the 1980s and 1990s, Rawles has described the Redoubt movement as “anti-racist” and said like-minded folks of all races are welcome.

Walsh, the real estate agent, said he saw far more racism in Detroit, where he was raised, than in north Idaho.

“Here, a black person, they’re a novelty,” Walsh said. “You’ll see people walk up to black people here sometimes and just talk to them because they’ve never spoken to a black person before. In terms of them walking around [saying racist things], you never see it.”

Treller’s wife, Christina Treller, 38, a critical care nurse at a local hospital, said she initially resisted her husband’s proposal to move to Idaho. Now she loves their new Victorian-style house in the woods, with its fresh well water and clean air, and fruit and nut trees that they recently planted.

Having lived through the 1992 riots after Los Angeles police were acquitted in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, she said she views society as more fragile than most people realize.

“I’m being wise,” she said.

In north Idaho, the narrow panhandle that stretches to the Canadian border, many people on the streets of pretty towns such as Coeur d’Alene, Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry have never heard of the American Redoubt.

That’s mainly because of the prepper ethos of privacy – most don’t even tell their neighbors they have years’ worth of food in a safe room.

Several locals did express unease about their new ammo-stockpiling neighbors.

“I don’t have a problem with preppers, but it’s the extremists people don’t want around – the fringe, the radicals. That’s the concern I hear from people,” said Mike Peterson, a real estate agent in Bonners Ferry and retired Los Angeles firefighter and EMT.

Keough, the state senator, recently fought off a tough GOP primary challenge in which she was labeled a “progressive traitor” by Alex Barron, a blogger who calls himself the Bard of the American Redoubt.

“We’re certainly not oblivious to the turmoil in the world and not oblivious to the huge challenges we have at the national level,” Keough said. “But those who subscribe to the ‘world is coming to an end’ theory, people tend to shake their heads at those folks. They come across as paranoid.”

State Rep. Heather Scott, a Republican who represents north Idaho, said the newcomers have adapted smoothly.

“I have met many people, especially recently, who have moved here after being inspired by the idea of the American Redoubt,” she said. “I haven’t heard any of them speak about the ‘end of the world’ but rather the appreciation for a simpler and safer life.”

Scott said preparing for a natural or man-made disaster was “simply prudent,” because, “Economic experts are consistently saying that global markets are at risk, and they are telling people to take precautions to weather through an economic crisis.”

Don Bradway dug into a plate of homemade enchiladas in the kitchen of the cozy house he and Jonna bought for $259,000in 2010.

What they have looks like an idyllic retirement experience: his and hers recliners in front of a big-screen TV, a “side-by-side” all-terrain vehicle in the barn, an art studio for retired nurse Jonna, a carpentry and machine shop for retired firefighter and EMT Don, and a sweet-natured dog named Moose.

Their 30-year-old son, who moved to Idaho with them, lives nearby.

Don, who’s a member of the GOP Central Committee of Kootenai County, won’t say exactly how much food and supplies they have on hand.

“There are some things you don’t talk about,” he said. “But the Bradway motto is that it’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.”

As Don sees it, you need look no further than the economic chaos in Venezuela, with its hungry people storming grocery stores, to see that a society-ending economic collapse could easily happen anywhere.

“We pray to God that it never happens,” he said, finishing his refried beans.

But if it does, he said his “fellow thinkers” in the American Redoubt are prepared.

“They know they can depend on the Bradways to help them,” he said.

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Pasadera, Southern Arizona provider of mental-health care, to close

Pasadera Behavioral Health, 2700 S. Eighth Ave., is closing. Cenpatico Integrated Care policies on subcontracting made it difficult for Pasadera to compete, says Clarke Romans, head of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Southern Arizona.

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