Seattle Wage Hike Forces Pizza Shop to Close

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Seattle was one of several cities last November to vote for a dramatic increase in the minimum wage. Spurred on by activist group 15 Now Seattle, voters opted for a $15 an hour minimum, to be phased in gradually over the next several years. The first hike went into effect in April, moving the minimum wage up to $11 an hour. But even this hike was enough to convince Z Pizza owner Ritu Shah Burnham that there was no way to keep her doors open.

Small businesses of the type Burnham owns supposedly have seven years to raise their rates to the new standards. But because her franchise is part of the larger Z Pizza chain, she is encumbered by the rules for large businesses. That means she must raise rates within the next two years, leading to a financial reality that will put her and her 12 employees out of a job.

“I’ve let one person go since April 1,” she told a local news station. “I’ve cut hours since April 1, I’ve taken them myself because I don’t pay myself. I’ve also raised my prices a little bit, there’s no other way to do it.”

Even with those concessions, however, Burnham is faced with no other option but to shut down in August. “The discrimination I’m feeling right now against my small business makes me not want to stay and do anything in Seattle.”

Burnham is the first to send up the white flag of surrender, but she most likely won’t be the last. The fate that has befallen Z Pizza is the result of government meddling in private industry and a campaign for higher wages that ignores economic realities. It’s easy to go into a voting booth and pull the lever for low-wage workers. It’s a lot harder to run a business when the government is telling you that you have to pay your employees more money than they’re worth.

Because that’s what it comes down to when you cut away the propaganda and the emotion. We have this disconnect in our society where we look at highly-paid CEOs and athletes and Wall Street stockbrokers as though they’re getting one over on the American people. They aren’t. There are crooks and schemers, just like there are in any other facet of life, but for the most part people wind up being paid what they are worth. That’s the beauty of the capitalist system, and it is ruined whenever government determines that it knows better than the market.

This isn’t a matter of opinion, as liberals would like to imagine. It’s a matter of fact, and it’s high time that we started getting serious about the damage government interference is doing to our country’s economic underpinnings. It’s about freedom, it’s about individualism, it’s about patriotism, but mostly it’s about cold, hard reality. And far too often we abandon reality in politics because it’s easier to pretend that we’re being held down by an oppressive system than it is to recognize that we can rise up by increasing our worth.