Five by 8 – 7/13/10: Should tips be tax free?

1) Every politicial controversy inevitably ends up at the same point: blaming the media. But gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer — and only gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer — put the Minnesota minimum wage issue front and center with his July 5th comments at a St. Paul restaurant. In a video supplied by his campaign, Emmer charged the reporters who covered the event “were not being forthright” by noting that he said he’s not trying to “cut anyone’s wages.” But WCCO’s Pat Kessler found that Emmer tried to cut the minimum wage in the Legislature, calling it “socialism.”

It hasn’t been a good 8 days for Emmer, who’s had to backtrack on the points he made about a “tip credit” for the people who make their living waiting tables at restaurants. But you have to give Emmer credit — call it a tip credit — for not trying to make the controversy disappear. He waited tables last Saturday.

Emmer opens a new front in the life of a waiter/waitress. He declares that “tips should not be taxed.” Is he right, servers?

2) Shoplifting is on the rise in Redwood Falls, and probably elsewhere, too, but nobody spills the goods like the Redwood Falls Gazette.”We saw a man stuffing a frozen pizza in his jacket, right in front of us,” one business owner said. “Another man had a pound of hamburger fall out of his shorts.” Fill in your own joke here, but it’s no laughing matter. The big items being ripped off are mouthwash and cough syrup, which kids try to mix together to get high.

Another merchant, a hardware store owner, says a man came in with an empty box and walked out with a drill press in it. A card shop says collectable plates are disappearing. Collectable plates?

People are also taking things into stores, putting stickers from objects in the store on them, then asking for their money back.

3) If Son of Sam can get an image makeover, anyone can. David Berkowitz, son of Sam, is getting an “image makeover,” according to the New York Times.

Infamous criminals have always had a knack for attracting followings — populated by conspiracy theorists, suitors and others. But experts in the field of prison ministry say Mr. Berkowitz’s work, through his own letter-writing ministry and the exposure he has received as a self-proclaimed redeemed serial killer, stands out as unique.

Mr. Berkowitz, a former postal employee, discussed his relationships in a recent prison interview and later in letters.

“These friendships, relationships, are a precious and priceless gift from God,” he said. “Here I am, a convicted felon, a murderer, a man undeserving of anything that is good and wholesome. Yet, there are people who have found it in their heart to love me and have concern for me.

4) Cabdriver Nicholas Berg got a call Sunday to drive a few guys 190 miles from Duluth to Thunder Bay. They stopped at a Dairy Queen for dinner and when they crossed the border, the guard asked for their names. Berg didn’t recognize the name, Taj Mahal. The fare was $350. No word on the tip.

5) In April, the government imposed new rules on airlines, limiting the amount of time planes can sit on tarmacs to three hours. How has that worked out? The Crankly Flier says not so well. More travelers have been “inconvenienced” than before the rules were added.

The blogger notes that instead of delaying flights, airlines are canceling them, instead:

Are we really making a fair comparison here? After all, there’s no way to directly attribute all the additional cancellations to this rule. There are differences in weather that could also cause large swings. But the increase in cancellations was spread out across airlines. Of the 18 reporting airlines, two-thirds reported an increase in the number of cancellations. Weather alone is not going to cause that to be spread across the country, though it can certainly count for some of it.

But that doesn’t really matter. There’s an even better way to look at this. If only 1.5 percent of those additional cancellations were due to the ground delay rule, then more people still would have been inconvenienced by higher cancellations than were saved from three hour delays. And that assumes that the reduction in long ground delays was entirely due to the new rule, something that’s highly unlikely.

That’s the law of unintended consequences at work. In a couple of weeks, I’m scheduled to interview Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at Oshkosh (this is what I do on vacation; interview people). I think I’ll be adding this to the list of questions.

Bonus: When you celebrate yourself on Twitter, Facebook or the like, are you a willing participant in a brave new social future, or are you just a brazen jerk? (Wired Magazine)


A lawsuit has challenged the construction of a cell phone tower that would be visible from within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Should there be places where you can’t be reached?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Traumatic brain injuries: wounds of a modern war. The military has taken heat recently for its handling of soldiers and veterans with blast-induced traumatic brain injuries. Three leading TBI specialists discuss the difficulties of diagnosing and treating the disorder.

Second hour: The recession brought years of overspending to a crashing halt, and economist Juliet Schor believes better times for the planet may lie ahead. She argues in her new book that Americans can find fulfillment by radically changing the way they think about consumer goods, value, and ways to live.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Congressman Keith Ellison on the financial reform bill and other key issues facing Congress after the July 4 recess.

Second hour: Sports analyst Howard Sinker..

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: A factual look at what we know, and what we believe. Plus, all about Hannibal, the famous Carthaginian general.

Second hour: One of the best ways to land that elusive first job is to work for free. Steven Greenhouse, labor and workplace correspondent for the New York Times, looks at the life of an intern.

This is the issue MPR’s Midmorning considered recently — is an internship a real chance to learn something, or just cheap help?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Tom Robertson heads back to Wadena. A disaster recovery center opened up this weekend in Wadena, almost a month after a tornado destroyed a section of town. Tom will check in on recovery efforts.

  • First, Emmer insults all servers by saying that they make too much money and should have their wages cut.

    Then, he shamelessly tries to pander to them by saying that tips should not be taxed. What kind of a coherent tax policy is that? Does he have any economic reason for not taxing tips, or is he just trying to undo the damage he’s already caused?

    In any case, both represent a problem with not thinking things through before he opens his mouth. Color me unimpressed.

  • Jim Shaarda

    Regarding 1), I think servers, bartenders, etc. deserve minimum wage, and agree tips shouldn’t be taxed. They have to put up with so much crap, plus are responsible for idiots who shortchange them. Sometimes that’s quite a hit on their income. Tips are rewards for good service.

    Regarding 5), when are governments going to realize that business owners are much better at running businesses than the government? The economy would recover a lot faster if the politicians would just get out of the way.

  • JackU

    Collectable plates?

    One word: eBay.

    @Jim Shaarda: Regarding 5), when are governments going to realize that business owners are much better at running businesses than the government? Probably around the time that business executives learn that just because you can run a business, doesn’t mean you can run a government.

  • From tip credit to no taxes on tips in just one short three-hour shift? How fast can we send Emmer off to Afghanistan and Iraq for some quick tours of duty?

  • BJ

    Jim and JackU – since #5 is showing what unregulated and regulated gets us I think that in this case business and government both failed 🙂

    Purhaps this happens to be a problem that neither business nor government can’t solve?