Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 9, 2010

EMMER MIGHT NEED A FEW TIPS.... With so many really conservative candidates seeking statewide office this year, it can be challenging keeping up with all of them and their antics. Kentucky's Rand Paul, Nevada's Sharron Angle, Colorado's Ken Buck, Wisconsin's Ron Johnson -- in a normal year, candidates like these would struggle badly to even generate mainstream attention. This year, with an angry electorate and a GOP that's shifted to the hard-right, all of these candidates have a credible shot at success.

But let's not overlook Minnesota's Tom Emmer, a state representative who's the presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee this year. Emmer hasn't garnered quite as much national scrutiny as the Sharron Angles of the world, but there's ample reason to throw his name in the mix when discussing 2010's most extreme candidates.

Emmer's newest flap has to do with economic ideas. About a week ago, the Minnesota Republican said he had a great idea to improve the state economy: lower the minimum wage for waiters and waitresses, and force them to rely more heavily on tips. As Emmer argued, "some" servers are "earning over $100,000 a year," so lowering their minimum wage wouldn't be a problem if the state credited their tips towards Minnesota's wage requirement.

With no evidence of in-state wait-staff taking home six figures, Emmer became the subject of some mockery. He's now starting to walk back his idea.

Emmer tried to backtrack by posting a statement on his website, declaring that his proposal would not actually affect workers' wages at all: "I want the wait staff at a restaurant to be successful and make as much as they can, and a recent study published in Applied Economics Letters shows that tip credits have essentially no negative impact on wages for tipped employees. So contrary to what some people are saying, I have no interest in 'cutting wages.'"

The Star Tribune published an editorial with the fitting title, "Tip to Emmer: Drop gratuity idea." Of his insistence that economic forces would result in workers' pay remaining the same, they said: "The result is a contradictory message with a cynical aftertaste. Emmer appears to be telling business owners that he wants to do them a favor at their workers' expense. Then he tells those same workers: Don't worry. Your employers will discover they can't really lower your pay, no matter what state law says."

While this is clearly amusing, and the kind of thing that can really resonate in a campaign (see "chicken for checkups"), it's worth keeping in mind that the limits of Emmer's ideology go well beyond bizarre ideas about servers and tips.

Indeed, by some measures, Emmer has the most radical ideas about constitutional law of any gubernatorial challenger running this year.

Emmer, who's also a lawyer, believes in a 19th-century-era concept called "nullification." It's kind of like secession-lite -- states can overrule federal law whenever they choose to do so. The concept has been rejected as nonsense since the Civil War, but Emmer has not only endorsed it, he co-sponsored a measure that would presumptively nullify all federal laws in the state of Minnesota.

Under Emmer's proposal, no federal mandate upon the state would be honored by Minnesota unless the governor, Speaker of the state House and state Senate Majority Leader were to issue determinations that the federal government has the power to legislate in that area. If any of those three officials were to determine that the federal government does not have the relevant power, the mandate could not take effect unless the legislature passed a law specifically applying it.

MinnPost pointed out to Emmer that this idea runs afoul of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which established that federal laws are the "supreme Law of the Land" to which states are bound. It was only noted that Emmer's method skips the traditionally accepted manner for states to challenge a federal law, to file a lawsuit and adjudicate the matter in the courts. Emmer responded that this is the "preferred mechanism by some. That is usually federal-leaning constitutionalists." But he said the states shouldn't wait for courts to determine the scope of the federal government's authority.

Emmer even wrote an op-ed a few weeks ago insisting, "As governor, I will push back against this federal encroachment into our local affairs. I believe that our Legislature should have a voice in whether federal laws should be made to apply to Minnesotans."

This isn't just a garden-variety bad idea; this is truly crazy. It's the kind of sentiment one might expect from John C. Calhoun in 1833, not a 21st-century major-party gubernatorial candidate.

Steve Benen 3:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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Comments

The reason: Labor market forces and interstate competition compel restaurants to pay comparable wages in all states, regardless of disparate minimum-wage laws.

If this statement about the study is accurate - and I find it doubtful because labor isn't so tight that restaurants need to be worrying about wage competition with other states - then it is highly dependent on the fact that some states have higher minimum wages than others. Eliminating states that have the higher minimum wages would only depress the wages of the surrounding states, not keep the wages in Minnesota the same.

In short, anyone who works in a restaurant who doesn't actually own a piece of the place and votes for Emmer is nuts. He's telling them right here that he's going to allow their bosses to cut their pay in a labor market where they can find 10 people to take your job if you protest too much.

Posted by: NonyNony on July 9, 2010 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

To the brain-dead ideologues like Emmer, needing evidence to back up one's beliefs is simply evidence that one lacks faith in one's beliefs.

An interesting side-note: Emmer has, apparently never had to sign Norquist's "no tax increase" pledge, and yet is beloved of the teabaggers, because he's so far to the right that he makes Norquist look like a socialist.

If he manages to get more than about 45 percent of the vote in November, it'll be a bellwether symptom of the decay of this democracy.

Posted by: Charles on July 9, 2010 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think I'd want to go for a meal with him. My food would probably get spit in, too.

Posted by: gus on July 9, 2010 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Tom Emmer is a dick.

Sadly, despite the perception that Minnesota is a 'blue' or 'purple' state, we haven't had a Democrat in the governor's mansion in 20 years. 8 years ago, Tim Pawlenty won the election with 41% of the vote, with the rest split three ways among a Democrat, a Green, and an Independence party candidate.

Hopefully a state which can elect Al Franken to the Senate will realize what a dick Emmer is, but at this point I'm not particularly optimistic.

Posted by: David Bailey on July 9, 2010 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

@ NonyNony

Edited for you:
In short, anyone who... votes for Emmer is nuts.

One hopes the Dem candidate is smart enough to run pictures of collapsed I-35 with the voice-over: THIS is what happens when you stop state spending.

Posted by: efgoldman on July 9, 2010 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

One wonders if Emmers has any idea that servers already have one of the lowest minimum wages around - $2.83/hr in most states. Not sure cutting that would really do much to spur the economy...

Posted by: Jesse on July 9, 2010 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK
Emmer responded that this is the "preferred mechanism by some. That is usually federal-leaning constitutionalists." But he said the states shouldn't wait for courts to determine the scope of the federal government's authority.

Yeah, that's about as close to "shape of the Earth: opinions differ" as anyone has gotten in the political arena. A lawsuit has been the sole means of challenging federal law since the Civil War just because some people "preferred" that, not because of the massive body of law and precedent behind it.

Of course, when you have a Supreme Court that has no problem with blithely overturning a century of precedent, with justices who cite unsuccessful challenges as evidence that a precedent isn't strong, who knows...

Posted by: Redshift on July 9, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

So, I'd like to see Emmer's tipping practices and a survey of current tipping practices, given the economic challenges most of us face. Are people eating out more or less than before? Do they tip more or less? I am sure there are tipped employees who do earn 6 figures; I don't imagine they are a large percentage of tipped employees. I wonder how this would effect tipped employees in the Gulf states, where tourism is plunging. Do we lower their minimum wages to save their employees from catastrophic consequences of the free market forces at work there?
I have so many questions. Would that media would learn to follow-up with a list of questions that focus on the ignorance and heartlessness of these politicians that project their evil designs on others.

I am committed to Oneness through Justice and Transformation
peace,
st john

Posted by: st john on July 9, 2010 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Get a white republican as President..or just a Republican, and all this will disappear.

This is our politics now. The GOP had nowhere to go but further right after guys like Clinton and Obama started sounding further to the Right than an Eisenhower Republican..this is what you get when you let corporate power run everything, and if you think that's not happening, read this:

http://www.thenation.com/print/article/37165/kabuki-democracy

This process goes on much longer, formal GOP policy will make Alfred Rosenberg's Volkischer Beobachter sound like a sober, reasonable publication. Pace Godwin.

Posted by: LL on July 9, 2010 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

A server would have to work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year and average almost $50 PER HOUR in wages and salary in order to earn $100,000 per year. I'm not sure what planet this guy lives on, but it is an extremely rare server that makes that kind of money.

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Posted by: gurenlaizhe on July 9, 2010 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

I'm also pessimistic about the MN-GOV race, since the DFL candidate will either be yet another uninspiring hack from the legislature or Mark Dayton, whose single term in the senate was an embarrassing waste of six years.

Posted by: Chris G. on July 9, 2010 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

He's telling them right here that he's going to allow their bosses to cut their pay in a labor market where they can find 10 people to take your job if you protest too much.

That's basically what they say, in one form or another, to all of their supporters who aren't in the top 1%, but somehow they keep getting elected anyway.

Posted by: qwerty on July 9, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Wicked post, Gus. Someone should tell Emmer. Poor bastard would never be able to enjoy dining out again.

St.John, I don't eat out often. Never have. But when I do, I now tip the waiter/waitress more than before. I've had the same hair stylist for a decade. Single mom raising a special needs kid. Always tip her 40%. Plus special Christmas shopping bonus money for her and her kid. I keep pop-top cans of food behind my car seat to hand to those who carry cardboard signs at stop lights.

What the Rethugs have done to this economy is criminal. In honor of Joe Barton (R, Texas), I sincerely apologize to the nation for the crimes of my party.

Posted by: Chopin on July 9, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

If Emmer is elected and attempts to nullify federal laws, Obama should emulate what Andrew Jackson said he'd do. Have Emmer arrested and tried for sedition, and hung upon conviction.

Posted by: JMG on July 9, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

It's official. Our leading Republicans and candidates for office have slept through their entire American History class. It's as though they never found out how the whole 'nullification' argument got resolved (hint: Andrew Jackson swore to hang nullifiers from the tallest tree, getting the likes of that jackass Calhoun to back down. Second hint: the Civil War WHICH THE UNION WON BY THE BY made it clear that federal authority was supreme over states).

How the hell is this guy Emmer allowed to keep a law degree if he can't even remember or understand the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution?

Posted by: PaulW on July 9, 2010 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Jesse, actually Minnesota is one of only seven states that doesn't have the "tip credit exemption" that federal law allows, according the linked editorial. So servers get standard min. wage.

Posted by: kc on July 9, 2010 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Emmer tried to backtrack by posting a statement on his website, declaring that his proposal would not actually affect workers' wages at all [...]

Pure, unadulterated BS. Soon after I came to US, I worked as a waitress in the student hang-out. Got minimum wage, and withdrawals to match. Tips were about 50 cents a day, students being students. Then came the summer and the hang-out was closed, so I took a waitressing job in a nearby truck stop. The guy paid me a third of the minimum wage because, he said, I should be able to make the difference up in tips.

Well... I couldn't. For one thing, my English wasn't good enough to understand the Southern Redneck, never mind flirtatiously banter in it. For another, my decolletage wasn't deep enough and I tended to avoid slaps on the butt, when I saw them coming. So my tips amounted to maybe $5 a day -- nowhere near making up the difference in the wages. *But* -- and that's what really drove me nuts -- the guy *reported* my pay as being full minimum wage. Which meant that taxes were assessed on that amount. I was really, really glad when September rolled around and the student place re-opened.

Posted by: exlibra on July 9, 2010 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

I have no idea under what circumstances Emmer grew up--i.e., in what class, economically speaking, but I would guess that he never had to worry about having money to do what he wanted.

It is crystal clear, though, that he never waited tables in a restaurant of any type. Waitstaff in very high end restaurants can earn a very decent living, but in your average greasy spoon or Denny's? (I realize that I'm repeating myself.) $100K? Where does this guy get such ideas?

I get really tired of Republican pols (and some Democratic pols as well) who have NO IDEA of how many people live. No empathy. No attempt to have any understanding.

The Republicans are no longer sane, but unfortunately I don't think enough Americans are getting this message, and then you have the cadre of folks who actually agree with the Bepublicans' thankless screeds. I just hope to hell that the Democrats are planning to churn out TV spots with actual footage of the Bepublicans barfing their honest-to-God opinions.

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on July 9, 2010 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

You guys are MUCH too hard on Emmer!

I'm sure that he has direct experience to back up his "$100,000/year in tips" claim.

Why, just last week he tipped a pole-dancer over $200, and he wasn't the only one stuffing those twenties in the g-string, either!

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on July 9, 2010 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

My fave part of Emmer's initial statement:
"With the tips that they get to take home, there are some people earning over $100,000 a year. More than the very people providing the jobs..." (TPM)

How DARE wait staff make more than their boss? That goes against the ordained social order. These people should know their place. Those who are on top should be clearly superior to their inferiors in every way.

Posted by: stinger on July 10, 2010 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Emmer is indeed a nutball whose teatard supporters managed to kneecap the moderate GOP favorite at the convention, and who has plenty of bumper sticker-deep slogans but nothing in the way of specifics. The tipped position minimum wage exemption os therefore a useful example of the smallness and ineffectualness of this firebrand's actual ideas.

But at the same time, the whole issue is a red herring. Most tipped staff in the country have a reduced minimum wage, for reasons that make sense, and studies show there is no difference in the long term earnings of servers based on the law. Minimum wage is a floor, and the intention behind it is moot if the total income mostly consists of other income I.e. tips. Also it does hurt most restaurants' ability to staff properly. For the most part, these are not large corporate enterprises you're talking about.

Posted by: anselm on July 10, 2010 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

Emmer should not get more than 12 per cent of the vote.

Posted by: D. Lowell on July 11, 2010 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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