fresh voices from the front lines of change







Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain became the surprise winner of the first Republican presidential primary debate, after a focus group organized by Fox News overwhelming embraced him.

What he did say that was so compelling to conservatives?

Cain received the highest marks from the conservative focus group when he said, “Government doesn’t create jobs. Businesses create jobs. We need to get government out of the way, including trying to tell a company where they can build a new plant.”

This is great candy for die-hard conservatives.

But most Americans would ask how well did “getting government out of the way” work in the previous decade, which ended with the biggest financial market meltdown since the Great Depression.

Cain’s answer was in response to a question about the GOP being perceived as the “union-busting” party. Cain rejected the charge, then attacked our federal government’s National Labor Relations Board for trying to hold Boeing accountable for union-busting.

Boeing literally announced it decided to move jobs away from a union-organized factory to an anti-union state for the explicit purpose of denying union workers their legal right to strike. But deep in the conservative fever swamp, the rights of workers are irrelevant to the argument that it’s “outrageous” for our government to “tell a company where they can build a new plant.”

Cain is a perfect representative for what our economy would look like if government simply “got out of the way,” since when he was CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, he wanted government to get out of his way so he did not have to pay his workers a minimum wage.

He was quoted by Mother Jones in 1996 saying bluntly, “I don’t want to pay minimum wage.”

You might take that as mere grousing from a CEO, except that in the previous year he had pleaded with Congress not raise the minimum wage from $4.25 an hour to $5.15 an hour.

He warned Congress in formal congressional testimony that a 90-cent increase in the minimum wage could “put me under.” He suggested that minimum wage laws weren’t even necessary because “the laws of supply and demand do a pretty good job of setting wages according to the specific conditions of specific markets.”

Since he made that statement, to Congress in 1995 the minimum wage has risen to $7.25 an hour. During the same period, Godfather’s Pizza has more than quadrupled from 150 units to over 500.

The success of Godfather’s Pizza, despite all that government meddling with what Herman Cain had to pay his workers, doesn’t seem to have prompted Cain to reassess his anti-government views.

Yet that doesn’t seem to be bothering conservatives one bit. Because Cain promotes a vision that conservatives heartily embrace: an economy where CEOs can do whatever they like, to whomever they like.

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