First off, this post is not here to join the “What Lena Dunham did to her little sister” pile on. There’s nothing I can possibly add that hasn’t already been written, and if you’re new to this story you can read Kevin Williamson’s piece that opened the floodgates. Equally entertaining is how she reacted to Truth Revolt having the audacity to… quote her. OK, maybe I do have one point to make1 on this element. But that’s not why I’m writing this post. The idea came to me the other week when I found an interesting article in The Nation, What Lena Dunham Taught Us About Unpaid Labor—and What We Taught Ourselves
Yesterday, Lena Dunham—whose character on the HBO show Girls is one of the most recognizable millennial narratives in pop culture—was called out by Gawker for “hiring” unpaid opening acts on her book tour. Only a few hours later, under pressure from fans and other media outlets, Dunham has come forward via Twitter and agreed to adequately pay all of her acts for their talent and labor out of the $304,000 in revenue from her tour. (Right on, Lena. We hope you learned something.)
We want to take this opportunity to reframe the conversation from Dunham as an individual to the realities of precarious, unpaid work and what would happen if every unpaid worker got the attention that those opening for Dunham received on Monday.
Actually, let’s reframe the conversation a different way. Lena Dunham is a wealthy child of privilege. And to be honest, I don’t begrudge her any of her money. What bothers me is that for somebody who has campaigned in favor of raising the minimum wage, it never even seemed to cross her mind to pay her opening acts accompanying her to help promote her book. At least, not until she was publicly exposed for her selfishness. This type of behavior from the left is hardly a revelation. As Caroline Lee Smith reported in The Free Beacon,
Seattle-based group The Freedom Socialist Party, which owns socialism.com and regularly campaigns for a $15/hour minimum wage, advertised a job on Wednesday that offers just $13 an hour…They also accused big businesses of showing ‘phony concern’ for small businesses.
I’ve written before about leftist minimum wage Chickenhawks who love to blast businesses that don’t behave as they like but never consider starting a business themselves. Nobody is railing Michael Bloomberg to open a string of “McBloomberg’s” fast food shops that declare themselves to be gun free zones while only selling small portions of healthy food that the mayor won’t eat himself while paying fry cooks $15 per hour. The George Soros funded Center for Economic Policy is calling for a $21 minimum wage, but we don’t see any Soros-Marts paying their employees this wage to show that they are the better alternative to Wal-Mart, or Tom Steyer using his billions to launch a restaurant chain that pays its waiters, waitresses, and bartenders whatever dollar amount has been determined to be a living wage this week. For that matter, if you’re a leftist who supports higher wages but are not a billionaire you don’t have to launch a multi-store corporation. You can tip the Wal-Mart greeter $10 the next time you shop there. Hand the cashier at McDonald’s an extra $20 for your family’s value meals, and maybe throw in an extra $10 for the cook who did a great job with those fries.
I’ve been unsuccessful in my efforts to explain to leftists that things cost money, and businesses factor all of their costs into their pricing, whether it be for higher salary or health insurance plans that include birth control pills. We’ve seen this happen in Seattle with their raising the minimum wage. Unfortunately, explaining the reality of how businesses function turns you into the subject of the latest Two Minute Hate, as the CEO of Papa Johns discovered. Of all places, Huffington Posts’s Matt Walsh, in blasting people who tip poorly or don’t at all, raises interesting points on the philosophy of tipping and how eateries set their pricing:
I often hear that the owners of the restaurants should pay a decent wage and then nobody would have to tip. Why should YOU have to pay the server’s wage, you insist.
Good point. Let’s require all restaurant owners to pay their wait staff, what, like 12-15 dollars an hour? Yes, now we don’t have to tip and everyone is ha-
Oh. Wait. What’s this? All of prices on the menu just doubled? No more 2 for 20 deals? No more free refills? No more 9 dollar burgers and 12 dollar steaks? No more obscenely humungous portion sizes?
What’s going on here? You’re telling me that the financial resources of the restaurant’s owners are finite, and a massive increase in operating costs must be logically offset by a hike in prices and a reduction in services?
Oh no! Now my favorite joints are closing earlier! Hold on — no more happy hour?!
This has gone too far.
Now there is a major hole in one of the points I made earlier if anyone caught it. I suggested that leftist billionaires like Bloomberg, Soros, and Steyer should be investing their own money in businesses that pay living wages in this blog post which accuses leftists of being minimum wage Chickehawks. The problems is that unlike Lena Dunham, none of those three have been openly advocating for raising the minimum wage, and Bloomberg is actually strongly opposed to it. But that doesn’t matter. The only argument leftists will give on any kind of company’s compensation is “They can afford it”. So why should these guys get off the hook for not spreading their wealth to working Americans? And what leftist wouldn’t willingly buy a $15 McBloomberg burger, or an extra 20% for everyday goods that they buy at Soros-Mart, or better still, buy stock and invest in these companies that will be less profitable than their competitors? Why are none of them buying their own food truck or Subway franchise that pays its cashiers $15 per hour. They can afford it.
But they don’t. And that’s always been my problem with the left – their ideas are always great as long as somebody else is picking up the tab.
1 What kind of lazy, selfish parenting allowed this kind of behavior to go on? Did they not pay any attention to the unhealthy way that their daughter was interacting with her younger sister? And more disturbing, since abusers are generally initially abused themselves, what happened to Lena and didn’t her parents notice that something was wrong?