MINOT, N.D. — It is a deep irony in American politics that many of the very same people who will rant reliably about the evils of "big business" will simultaneously and unwittingly promote policy outcomes that entrench the very sort of large business enterprises they revile.
The debate over the pandemic era's expanded unemployment benefits has broken down into two camps. One holds, correctly, that the benefits have removed the impetus for many of the unemployed to find work, thus contributing to a labor shortage that is hindering our post-pandemic economic recovery. That was the reasoning deployed by Gov. Doug Burgum when he announced that North Dakota would end its participation in the federal expanded benefits program on June 19.
The other holds that these expanded benefits ought to be made permanent and that if employers want workers back, they should pay more.
Let's consider how this is playing out in the real world.
The Cajun Cafe is an independent restaurant that has operated in south Fargo for two decades. Recently the owner, Gary Gilbertson, announced that he's closing the doors.
It's not for lack of business. "Truthfully, we’re busier than ever," he told reporter Helmut Schmidt. The reason is "help not coming to work, and help that has the license to not listen to you."
“Being at my age, you know … that’s pretty tough on a guy. Food and beverage is a high-paced business. You go as fast as you can and as hard as you can for hours on end, and that gets to be a little much at my age," Gilbertson said.
This is great news for the giant corporations behind chain restaurants like Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse. They now have a little less competition for the dining-out dollar in the Fargo market. They're great establishments, don't get me wrong, but economic realities are what they are.
When we talk about topics like unemployment benefits and wages, some are quick to tout the alleged evils of corporate behemoths like Walmart and Amazon and McDonald's, but if you pay attention, you quickly find that those companies actually support many of the wage-inflating policies progress activists agitate for.
They can afford to. They're enormous. They can deploy the economies of scale and revenue jockeying necessary to accommodate higher labor costs. They're all the more willing to do it because it almost certainly means more market share.
Their smaller, more regional competitors can't so easily adapt.
Places like the Cajun Cafe.
Policymakers and activists can tout exemptions to their laws for smaller businesses and claim these independents aren't impacted, but the truth is that each new regulation, every new hurdle we put on the path to profitable enterprise, lends itself to a marketplace dominated by increasingly monolithic business entities.
Or, pretty much the exact opposite of what the activists say they want.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.