California lawmakers have a screw loose

There’s no shortage of reasons to avoid living in the People’s Republic of California.

Gas prices are approaching $6.50 a gallon — well above the national average. Crime is running rampant — eating away at standards of living. Income taxes are among the highest in the country. And in a real display of cognitive dissonance, state officials are warning residents of rolling blackouts this summer while in the same breath demonizing traditional and reliable energy sources.

Golden State labor policies are yet another experiment in insanity. In 2016, California became the first state to commit to a mandated $15 minimum wage statewide — a proposal the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly warned would cost jobs if implemented federally.

And going forward, it will automatically rise with inflation — locking the job suppressing mandate. Because consumer prices have been rising at the quickest pace in over 40 years, state businesses will likely be subject to yet another wage floor hike next year.

Inexperienced and unskilled job applicants are the hardest hit from mandated wage levels rising too much, too quickly. Entry-level job opportunities that act as a step ladder to a larger career are the first to meet the buzzsaw. Automating job functions as well as providing self-service options — such as bagging your own groceries — combines technology with do-it-yourself opportunities to work for your local grocer.

The state’s hospitality industry — which employs many entry-level workers — illustrates the inverse relationship between minimum wage hikes and job opportunity. An examination of pre-pandemic government data shows that as wage floors have crept up in California, employment growth at full-service restaurants has slowed to a crawl — dropping from about 3% in 2016 to 0.18% in 2019. And that was before the coronavirus turned the economy upside down.

But some lawmakers still aren’t satisfied with the degree of economic sabotage being leveled at California workers. Cue the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act.

Initially introduced in 2021, the bill empowers an 11-member council of unelected officials to dictate wages and working conditions for most fast-food chains. If passed into law, unelected and undereducated activists will be empowered to dictate labor cost structures for private businesses. The legislation has already passed the state assembly and needs approval from the Senate and governor to get it over the finish line. Four spots on the council are reserved for workers and “employee advocates,” which opens the door for unions to infiltrate the standards-setting process.

If passed, these unions would likely leverage the rule-making body to make it more challenging for businesses to make staffing decisions based on merit. Expect scheduling regulations that limit the availability of part-time work, and an effort to raise the staff minimum wage beyond what even the state government can stomach. The council would have the power to override even the state legislature, with little recourse options available for affected parties.

California lawmakers clearly have a screw loose. The state is characterized by policies that discourage business, empower unions at the expense of workers and saddle residents with absurd living costs. Aside from water shortages, blackouts, fires and looming earthquakes, the far left is determined to find yet another path to the tipping point where thousands of productive people look for an exit.

With apologies to Horace Greeley, today he might advise “Go East young man.” Or “he/him.”

• Richard Berman is president of Berman and Co. in Washington.

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