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Gayleforce: Interview with strategist and Georgetown University professor Ron Christie

On Sidewire, Ron Christie and I talked about the minimum wage proposals in DC and at the national level.

Gayle Trotter, Right in DC
Welcome to the second Gayle Force chat! My guest today is the amazing Ron Christie. Ron, thanks for joining me.

Ron Christie, Political Strategist
A thrill to be with you on Gayle Force! So much to talk about today!

Gayle Trotter
A busy week indeed! I want to kick off our discussion with something we talked about when we first met a couple of weeks ago.

Ron Christie
Sure. Fire away!

Gayle Trotter
The voters in DC should be tired of the economic and educational system given to them by their representatives on the DC City Council. One of the issues playing out this week in local DC politics is one that has played nationally, the minimum wage. We have seen this debate over the existence and proper level of the minimum wage argued in the localities of LA, San Fran, and Seattle. It has also been part of the presidential race.

Ron Christie
Precisely. We can look at cities such as Seattle which pride themselves on raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and then find themselves shocked when employers either slash hours/positions or both. Education is the civil rights issue for kids.

Gayle Trotter
Ron, do you believe the minimum wage might be a roadblock to opportunity instead of the boon to employees that its advocates argue?

Ron Christie
Politicians too busy railing about the 1% should spend the same amount of energy stressing the power and value of education. Not just college but vocational training the will provide meaningful skills and higher paying wages. Wishful thinking! I absolutely think that raising the minimum wage to higher levels like $15 per hour presents a barrier to entry. Businesses are in business to make money, not to become social engineering experiments. Strong skills deserve strong wages.

Gayle Trotter
Ron, just out of curiosity, do you know the current high school graduation rate for DC students (which the DCPS system is bragging about?) Do you believe that raising the minimum wage to $15 means that many young and inexperienced DC workers will be locked out of the job market?

Ron Christie
Happy to report it is over 60% 1.usa.gov/1JAgbac That being said, that means that nearly 40% of DC students are literally isolated in which jobs/employment options they will have w/o at least a high school diploma. Let me put it to you this way: DC spends more per capita than just about any other State in the Union and primarily people of color are ill equipped to compete in the DC jobs market due to low skills/education. A trend politicians should fix!

Gayle Trotter
Most teachers would say 60% is a failure to master the material in their class. What do you think will happen to those almost 40% of DC students whose school system has failed to educate and graduate them? So instead of fixing the DC public school system, the City Council is trying to fix the wage problem. Won’t that just drive businesses to Virginia, Maryland, and to other options like automation and belt tightening?

Ron Christie
Sadly, nothing. I used to mentor in a program called HOST (Help One Student to Succeed) when I worked on the Hill. They had more than enough tutors but siphoned off a small amount of students with the rationale that most would never graduate. So sad. Precisely. I can tell you that the incentive for me to start my own small business led me to incorporate in VA rather than DC for the simple reason that DC makes it expensive for many to operate a small business. The hurdles drew me back to VA!

Gayle Trotter
That is terribly sad! With Republican control of Congress (and thereby significant control of DC), couldn’t DC become a model of forward looking policies to enhance educational choice and business growth generation?

Ron Christie
They certainly should be. I applaud Speaker Ryan for unveiling a plan in Congress on Monday to not only address the root issues of poverty but to strengthen educational opportunities for all. Let’s use DC as a positive incubator for moving forward!

Gayle Trotter
We also see this being discussed in the presidential debate. “Feel The Berners” want to see the federal minimum wage rate raised to $15. Hillary Clinton has waffled on whether to support this.

Ron Christie
I’m always leery of politicians who have never managed payroll or run a business telling other people how their money/hiring decisions should be made. The class warfare/envy by some on the left is insidious politics at its worst.

Gayle Trotter
Speaker Ryan spoke at a drug treatment center in southeast Washington and presented some proposals on overcoming poverty, as you mentioned. How do you think he was received by the community? How were his ideas received?

Ron Christie
I was actually with the Speaker when he made the announcement! We’ve known each other more than 20 years and I can tell you the community members in attendance were very impressed as was Pastor Shirley Holloway. We need more leadership like this!

Gayle Trotter
That must have been an exciting moment! Why do you think we see this type of leadership from Congress only sporadically?

Gayle Trotter
Ron, have you heard that the deaths of American businesses now outnumber the births of American businesses? If someone is thinking about starting or growing a new business in a locale with a $15 minimum wage, how will that affect their decision?

Ron Christie
Yes. That statistic is staggering. I think government should get out of the way of setting artificial ceilings for wages and should instead reduce the regulatory burdens/cost of doing business. Paperwork eats up a lot of my time, let me assure you!

Gayle Trotter
Time you could better spend helping Congress draft legislation to unleash American entrepreneurship? 😉

Ron Christie
Sadly because many politicians believe the best way to eradicate poverty is to throw money at it. Trillions of dollars and 50 years tells us there must be another way. Ryan has travelled to more than 20 cities to see what works/doesn’t with federal $

Ron Christie
Precisely! The Anacostia event was special in that you had the Chairs of Ways + Means, Education and the Workforce, Budget and the Speaker talking from the same page. I’m hopeful their package of reform can be a bipartisan accomplishment.

Gayle Trotter
Do you think presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump (who has also waffled a bit on the minimum wage issue) might be more persuadable than Clinton on the deleterious effects of the minimum wage on entry-level workers?

Ron Christie
I do. If it is one thing Trump knows how to do is run a business whatever one thinks of his politics! I’m sure he would be open to finding ways to innovate the small business community to become more productive – and hire more people!

Gayle Trotter
We have the lowest full-time work force participation since 1983. What do you see as the best way to increase opportunities for employers to hire more workers and for workers to increase their opportunities, skills and compensation?

Ron Christie
Staggering, isn’t it? The workforce participation story tells you that this has been a weak economy – in large measure to mandates contained in Dodd/Frank and Obamacare. So many business have cut hours to move around artificial barriers placed by gov

Gayle Trotter
Is it too late to recognize the ill effects of Dodd/Frank and the ACA (Obamacare) and replace them with friendlier legislation? Is there enough support for this in 2017 with a new administration and perhaps a Republican House and Senate?

Ron Christie
I do. But Rs need to have a better idea than “repeal/replace” Obamacare. Give us a bill. Let small businesses pool and buy insurance across state lines. Create incentives to hire workers rather than penalize them w/mandates for doing so.

Gayle Trotter
With that strong message to the Republicans (and Americans), I would like to thank you, Ron, for joining Gayle Force today! It is always a great pleasure to talk with you.

Ron Christie
The pleasure is all mine, Gayle. Looking forward to our next reunion. In the meantime, I’ll have to get you on Ronwire. All Sidewire, all the time! Thanks for hosting me today – great discussion!

Gayle Trotter
Looking forward to it! Thank you again.

About the author

Gayle Trotter

Gayle Trotter is a columnist, political analyst and attorney who regularly appears on TV, such as Fox News Channel, contributes to The Hill, The Daily Caller, Townhall and other well-known political websites, and is a frequent guest on radio shows across the country providing an insider’s view of Washington, DC. Read More

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