Up until recently, Andy Puzder has served only as Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s CEO and a fundraising bundler for the joint Donald Trump and Republican National Committee fund. But now he has a new official role: job creation adviser to Trump.
Puzder has held some controversial views over the years, especially when it comes to low-wage jobs and pay, some of the jobs experiencing the strongest growth since the recession.
In 2014, after his company’s home state of California raised its minimum wage to $9 an hour, Puzder called government-mandated increases in the minimum wage “artificial.” Instead, he argued that it should be left to the free market. “When there’s a demand for labor, the cost of labor goes up,” he said. “When there’s no demand for labor, it goes down and you can’t solve that problem by having the government artificially mandate a wage increase when there’s no economic growth to support that.”
He also claimed that higher minimum wages lead companies like his to cut lower-paid entry-level jobs, which hurts teenagers looking to get a foothold into the workforce. But there is not a lot of compelling evidence that higher minimum wages lead to job losses, even among teens.
Meanwhile, the typical minimum-wage employee is over 25, working full time, and bringing home the largest share of her family’s income.
Puzder’s workforce is mostly low-wage; the average restaurant-level employee makes $9.28 an hour. He sees this as a positive thing, because inexperienced workers can get jobs at his restaurants and then work their way up. “There’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing new and unskilled employees work their way up to managing a restaurant,” he told a Senate committee hearing. And he recently told Bloomberg, “Low-skill jobs are important because that’s what gives you access to the high-level jobs,” adding, “If you focus on redistributing income, you’re not going to create growth.”
But that’s not the story for most fast food employees. Nearly 90 percent hold jobs at the bottom of the ladder; less than 9 percent move up to supervisor roles.
He also doesn’t think these jobs should be paid $15 an hour, as has been demanded by a powerful movement of fast food workers over the last four years. “[T]here’s no way in the world that scooping ice cream is worth $15 an hour, and no one ever intended it would ever be something that a person could support a family on,” he told Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times. “Those jobs just don’t produce that kind of value like a construction job or a manufacturing job does.”
Those blue-collar construction and manufacturing jobs have long been on the decline, however. Instead, service jobs like scooping ice cream or serving burgers have risen rapidly.
How should the government help create jobs, then? Puzder says it “needs to get out of the way.” He said in 2014, “If government gets out of the way, businesses will create jobs” and that wages will rise. For him, that likely means repealing the Affordable Care Act, which he has frequently and loudly criticized as a job-killer even though job growth has remained strong ever since it went into effect.
Puzder is typical of Trump economic advisers, however, in both the fact that he was drawn directly from the pool of big donors and that he isn’t an economist. The first list of 13 advisers that Trump released was heavy on men named Steve as well as real estate and finance tycoons, and the follow up list that included some women had a number of big Republican donors and Wall Street players.