The Illusion of Free Speech and Inflation: Debunking Conservative Narratives

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‘Be quiet or I will have you removed’: Findlay council considering new public comment rules after heated meeting

California’s $20 minimum wage law has workers, franchisees and politicians divided
You Are Being Lied to About Inflation | Robert Reich (2022)
Pizza Hut is LYING: They’re NOT Firing Their Drivers Because of a Minimum Wage Hike

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[00:01] Do you have the absolute free speech right to say anything you want, anytime, anywhere? I don’t think you do.

[00:11] And then we talk about the inflation myths promoted by low-wage conservatives looking to keep their high profits.

[00:21] I’m Doug Berger, and this is Secular Left.

[00:35] Now, I am somebody who supports free speech. You know, I don’t think that the government should curtail what people say. You know, and I think everybody should, you know, everybody’s entitled to opinion. They should be able to express that opinion. Now, where I differentiate from some of these free speech absolutists, like the person that runs the formerly known as Twitter and some other people, Charlie Kirk being one of them, is that I don’t believe free speech is absolute. You don’t have an absolute right to say anything you want, anywhere, anytime. Like many of our civil rights, they can be regulated by time, manner, and place. As long as you have an opportunity to exercise that right, the government can decide time, manner, and place.

[1:49] And one of the flashpoints that involves free speech has been school board and city council meetings. We saw this during the pandemic when a lot of conservatives came into school boards demanding that schools either be open or that they get rid of the mask mandates when little kids were required to wear masks. Uh, we’ve seen it with the book bannings where, uh, one or two parents will dominate an entire school board meeting and read passages from explicit books that they claim little kids are reading in elementary libraries, which isn’t always the case, but you know, and so a lot of these, uh, boards, these school boards and city councils have to put up with this stuff. And I’m familiar with this, sort of, in that I’ve attended some conferences, some free thought conferences, like the Freedom from Religion Foundation Convention and the American Humanist Association Convention.

[3:06] And they would have a segment involving speakers speakers or workshops where people could ask questions, like a Q&A, a standard Q&A session. And so a lot of times you would get people who wanted to evangelize freedom, free thought, or freedom of religion to the choir, as it were. And so they would take these microphones and they They would tell their whole life story about how they came to freedom of religion and how religion is dumb and all this stuff. They would just check off these boxes.

[3:52] And the thing is, you know, everybody in that room had pretty much the same experience that these people at the microphone would do. But that didn’t deter them. And usually, in a lot of cases, these people were older people who aren’t social media savvy, as it were. Most of the time, you would say, write a blog or something like that. And so they would take up time during these question and answer sessions with tangentially related information. Thank you.

[4:34] So, you know, so I’m familiar with this and this is one of my pet peeves with going to these conventions when there’s Q&A sessions that, you know, there’s going to be somebody who probably doesn’t talk to a lot of people outside their house. And they’re going to take the opportunity for this forum with all these people to to give testimony. And I just it’s just one of my pet peeves anyway. Anyway, so here in northwest Ohio in Finley, which is a relatively conservative town, it’s more red than purple. Ohio itself is pretty much purplish. Finley is not. About 45,000 people.

[5:21] They have a city council and a mayor and all that stuff. Well, the city council meetings, they have public comment sessions at the beginning. I’m guessing at the beginning. I haven’t been to a city council meeting in a long time, but supposedly they have a public comment section. And they’ve had, last good number of city council meetings, they’ve had this woman, Haley Stadler, I think is her name. She ran for mayor last year. And she is a flaming Christian nationalist. Evangelist evangelical uh crouched all her uh campaign stuff in in religious terms and and you know all that stuff just way out there well fortunately the the people of finley decided not to elect the extremist and they stuck with the regular republican christina muir.

[6:28] Or I think it was the primary when she won and then nobody ran against her. So she got reelected. So this had Haley Stadler and Christina Muir go to the same church. I don’t know if they go to the same church now after all this happened, but they went to the same church. They were friends. And now they’re not. They’re not friends. And so Haley or Hadley, I forget what her first name is, has been coming to city council meetings and they had the public comment section. You get four minutes. So she’d have four minutes where she would talk about something and then she would take a crack at the mayor. The most recent one I saw, she said that the mayor was a communist and that she needed to resign. Because of these deceptions, misrepresentations, and her socialist communist agenda, today I am asking for Mary Mirren’s resignation.

[7:30] I brought this up to you before. This is a city council meeting. This isn’t a beat up on our mayor. I talked about the local government. You will be quiet or I’ll have you removed. That was her whole bit. So, I mean, this is enough of a problem where they actually had to form a subcommittee of council to review the public comment rules and possibly come up with new ones.

[7:58] And Sadler for her part she thinks that she should have more time to diss the mayor and get her grievances out, and so she was having people sign a petition asking the council to increase the comment time to 10 minutes per person, and the people on the council they want to not do that They want to actually reduce the amount of comment you could make. Now, I presently live in the city of Toledo, so I haven’t lived in Finley for a long time. I live in Toledo. And the Toledo City Council does not allow public comments during regular council sessions. Which makes sense. because technically regular council sessions are basically time for people for the council to present legislation make a motion to either pass it or whatever discuss it and then vote that’s all you’re supposed to be doing in a regular City Council session the fact that some councils City Council’s allow public comments.

[9:12] That’s a luxury. And I don’t disagree with that because for the exact same reason why I’m mentioning the story about this failed mayor candidate in Finley, is that she’s taking what is essentially a taxpayer-supported forum and using it for her own agenda. She’s not commenting on any current legislation. legislation, um, she’s just against the mayor for whatever reason. And so it’s like, whatever the mayor is for, uh, Sadler is against. And she also makes it out to be like that the mayor is some kind of evil communist person, which I don’t get that kind of argument anymore, but a socialist socialist communist, uh, uh, basically not a, not a conservative. So it’s caused, it just causes some issue because, you know, you’re doing your job, you’re the mayor, you’ve been elected by the people. You don’t want to get crapped on all the time for nothing. You know, you know, if Sadler had like a policy conflict, like, like they want to spend money on this and she thinks that should should be spent on this because of this. You know, that’s fine and dandy. But then to do a cheap shot, well, the mayor is a communist or the mayor is evil or Mark of the Devil, whatever.

[10:40] And so the council is now considering new rules. And somebody, I had talked about this in one of the Facebook groups I’m in, and somebody thought that the council was being unfair. fair. And I don’t think that the council is being unfair. You know, as I say, in a representative democracy, which is what we have, we, quote, hire people, unquote, to do the day-to-day tasks that we either don’t want to do or can’t because we have our own lives to live. Public comment periods, if allowed, is a chance for the public to sound off. But you can also email or even send postal letters and those things, you know, you can send those to council and those get actually read into the record. They either are added to the minutes or they actually have a clerk that reads letters, or at least Finley used to.

[11:36] But at the end of the day, the council makes the decisions as they were elected to do. And if people like Sadler are upset, then they need to run for council or mayor again. But dominating the public comment time doesn’t allow one to skip to the head of the election line. And so I said, to me, people who do that are simply showing off for the cameras for their own agenda, which she is doing. Because these council meetings are taped or filmed.

[12:06] And so a lot of times at least in the political arena it’s for people, failed political candidates to get airtime and it’s being subsidized by taxpayers and it shouldn’t be, so this is where I deviate with some of these free speech absolutists I don’t think that you should be given a platform to say whatever you want, You know, it’s if you want if you want that kind of platform of your own, then you need to provide it. You either need to pay for it yourself or find somebody who will pay for it for you. Kind of like the conservative talk radio. You know, they they they were upset that there wasn’t conservative voices on talk radio. So what they do is they put all their money into making their own radio networks. And then that begat Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and all those bozos.

[13:11] But that’s the point I’m trying to make is that, you know, you aren’t guaranteed, just because you’re the public, you aren’t guaranteed a voice at city council meetings. Because again, you used your vote to put those people on council. You need to let them do their job.

[13:32] All right. And that’s how, like I said, that’s how representative democracy works. This isn’t we don’t have direct democracy here, at least in Ohio, we don’t. And so so even if you are upset about something. And and you can write a letter, you can get a petition and put it on a ballot, you can run for council so you can you can do your own agenda, whatever. But don’t dominate public comment time with your own crazy talk or weird, salacious talk about it. And don’t publicly attack elected people, elected persons on the on the council, because that is just dumb, because that just makes people upset with you. And so that’s basically what I wanted to talk about on that. And that’s why I say I support free speech. But as we know, free speech is not absolute. And we just have to know when to use it and how to use it to make it as effective as we can.

[14:46] Hello, this is your host, Doug. And did you know we have a Discord server? Have a question about an episode? Want to tell me how I don’t know crap? App. Meet up with me for some Q&A sessions. Join us on Discord. Visit our website,, and look for the Discord icon at the top of the page.

[15:08] Music.

[15:14] So the other day, you know, I’m looking to get something for supper. I didn’t want to cook anything. So I really was hungry for pizza. And I hadn’t gotten delivery in a while. I like the local places, but this time I decided to do Domino’s because they have here, at least in our area, it’s $6.99 specials. You know, you get a medium pizza for $6.99 and some bread for $6.99 or whatever. And it’s a little bit cheaper overall. And so I go on to the website to order the pizza, and on the Domino’s website, they have this banner that’s in red, it’s bold, it’s at the top, it’s large, and it says prices may be higher in California. And so that reminded me that on April April the 1st, California has a new minimum wage law that went into effect for fast food workers. It now requires fast food operators to pay their workers $20 an hour. Now, people are like blowing their minds. Like, oh my God, they’re making $20 an hour. Well, it’s up from $16.

[16:35] It was originally $16. now it’s going to be $20. So it’s only $4 more an hour. But of course, the big corporate people are talking about Armageddon. The apocalypse is upon them. They can’t afford it. And I’m going to tell you that that’s a lie. They can’t afford the pay raise. Trust me. Their CEOs, even if they’re a franchisee, they are making bucks. The corporations that they franchise with are making record profits. And for some reason, people have this mindset in this country that fast food workers should get paid crap. And they should be treated like crap because they’re fast food workers.

[17:28] And a lot of these people, and when I was in high school, when I worked fast food in high school, a lot of the people that I worked with were parents. They were adults. They had families to support. And they were supporting them on minimum wage. Right. And at the time when I was in high school, it was $3.35 an hour, $3.35 an hour back in the 80s. You know, the cost of living keeps going up.

[18:00] And people think that that’s a good thing about capitalism, but that’s a bug. It’s a feature that is not good for people, is the cost of living keeps going up. You know, and these people that own these companies, that invest in these companies, they expect a return on their investment every year. And they expect more of a return every year.

[18:24] And that’s just stupid. That’s just stupid. That’s a bad mindset. I mean, no, I don’t think that they should lose money, but I don’t think that they should expect more and more without also paying their workers more and more, you know, because the cost of living is going up. I saw an article the other day, I think it might be California, because they have high property values in California, that the average amount that you need to be making in order to afford a two-bedroom house was like six figures, like over $100,000 a year to just afford a house. You know, they have apartments in New York City, in Manhattan, and these aren’t deluxe apartments. These are like little holes that they carve out of these old buildings, and they charge anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000, some even $6,000 a month.

[19:32] You know, somebody flipping burgers at McDonald’s can’t afford that. But that’s where McDonald’s has franchises, is in some of these places that people can’t afford to live in.

[19:44] And so when these people complain about these pay increases, they’re full of crap. So I’m reading this Salon article about the pay raise. And they interviewed Scott Roderick. He owns 18 McDonald’s restaurants in Northern California. Now, it costs probably $100,000 to $200,000 at least to open up a McDonald’s restaurant. That’s the amount of money you have to put in just to open it up. And this guy owns 18 of them. And he says, despite the agreement, fast food franchisees say AB 1228 still comes with its fair share of financial consequences. Scott Roderick, the owner of 18 McDonald’s restaurants in Northern California, told CNN that he raised menu prices in response to the minimum wage hike. We have looked at price, although I can’t charge $20 for a Happy Meal, he said. My customers’ appetite to absorb menu board prices is not unlimited. That price is nearly three times more than the current cost of a hamburger happy meal at a McDonald’s in Sacramento, California.

[21:10] Additionally, Roderick said he plans to make diners pay for at least some of the wage increase and for the time being will hold off on costly renovations like updating dining rooms and buying new grills. I’ve got to look at every option for business survivability. I’ve got to be aggressive in seeking labor-efficient growth. I’m going to have to explore more digital and delivery avenues. news. I’m going to obviously have to make, like any smaller business owner, harder choices around big capital expenditures. Then they interviewed a person who owned 21 McDonald’s restaurants and called the minimum wage mandate totally unfair to businesses across the state. It says, if I was a one or two unit franchisee, I don’t know if I’d be able to make it.

[22:03] And then there’s this other guy Alex Johnson who owns 10 Auntie Ann and Pretzel and Cinnabon Restaurants in San Francisco, Expressed similar sentiments Saying that he had to lay off His office staff And is now relying on his parents Now, What I say to that Like I said that’s hogwash Them complaining that this wage Increase of $4 an hour More more is, is the tipping point, the precipice that sends them over the edge and they go out of business. And the reason why I say that’s hogwash is because if that is where your business is, that you can’t afford a $4 an hour wage increase, then you shouldn’t be in business. Then you have no business sense at all, period.

[22:58] And so, you know, a lot of these fast food places and they’re talking about raising prices. There was in the news recently, people on social media, like Five Guys hamburgers, they’re saying $25 for a hamburger. Well, Five Guys, yeah, it’s kind of a gourmet hamburger stand. But other people are complaining about having to spend 13, 14, 15 bucks at McDonald’s for a Big Mac and fries.

[23:31] And it’s like, well, you know, that’s the cost. You know, I tend to go to some local diners and I can’t get a lunch for less than $15. I mean a lunch and that is homemade food. That’s not pre-prepared and frozen and sent on a truck as a commissary item. You know, and so that’s diner food. That’s the cost. You know, and why people think that fast food has to be cheap, cheap. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Now, I still go to the fast food places. Taco Bell is one of my favorites. And they recently redid their, they used to have a discount menu and they ended up getting rid of most of it and redoing it. And then now it’s just shortly after the pandemic. And now they’re back with another value menu that’s a little bit more reasonable. And I can get a double beef cheesy burrito for $2.78.

[24:43] You know, and so that, and that is a good enough for me. Um, I also use my point. If I’m going to McDonald’s, I have the app. I’m using my points. Uh, I use my points to get a hamburger one day. Um, you know, so there’s places you can use to save money and, and for people who think that they shouldn’t have to spend $15 at a fast food restaurant. Well, it’s not garbage food. Okay. OK, it’s not cheap, cheap. And it has nothing to do with wage increase. The inflation doesn’t have anything to do with the wage increase, because I’m telling you, McDonald’s has made billions in profits the last few years. OK, and the reason why they’re making billions of profits is because they raise their prices everywhere. They raise their prices everywhere, not just California, everywhere. And they claim it was because of wage increases. And they also said it was due to inflation. And they were told it was because of supply chain issues. Whatever mistake, whatever thing that’s going on in the economy, that they can justify it. And the reason being is because they don’t want to give up any part of their profit at all.

[26:08] So let’s say their profit is 21%.

[26:14] I have this audio from a video from Robert Reich I’m going to play, and he was talking about this one company had a profit margin of 25%. So instead of maybe slicing 5% off of that to plow back into the company to give wage increases, they’re instead going to raise prices 5% so that they can still have their 25% profit margin. And they think they’re doing good business. That’s not good business.

[26:47] You know, and that’s a feature of capitalism, is to screw over the customer as much as you can. Either you do it while you’re in business with price manipulation, or in some cases you poison your customers. You give them bad stuff and foul the rivers and all that stuff. You know, as long as you’re making buck, look, as long as you’re making your profit, you don’t give a crap. And that is capitalism for you, boys and girls. I wonder if they’re going to teach that in Ohio once that state law hits, where they have to teach about capitalism in the public schools. They won’t teach that part. They’ll teach about how Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, struggled hard to build McDonald’s into the force that it is today, you know, they won’t talk about him screwing over the McDonald brothers. They won’t, they won’t tell you how, how he, uh, controlled the, uh, real estate in order to gain control of the company. They won’t explain that in school.

[27:54] So the, the other thing too, uh, besides, uh, the inflation, you know, the wages is people are complaining about inflation And they’re trying to blame Democrats particularly because they’re in power right now and Joe Biden. And unfortunately, inflation is due to price gouging and corporate greed, just like we see going on in California right now, where they’re firing people unnecessarily because they want to keep their 25 percent profit margin. Now, don’t get me wrong, profit’s fine, but this is a question I always ask my conservative friends, is how much profit is enough?

[28:39] I just don’t think that profit should trump, oh, pardon the pun. I don’t think profit should trump people. But anyway, so the other thing, as I said, the other thing is people complain about inflation. And it’s really about corporate greed. And so I have an audio clip of this video from Robert Reich. He’s the former Labor Secretary under President Bill Clinton. And he’s going to explain how inflation, as we’re experiencing it currently, and people are bitching about it currently, is all the result of corporate greed. Inflation, inflation. Everybody’s talking about it, but ignoring one of its biggest causes, corporate concentration. Now, prices are undeniably rising. In response, the Fed is about to slow the economy, even though we’re still at least 4 million jobs short of where we were before the pandemic. And millions of American workers won’t get the raises they deserve. Republicans haven’t wasted any time hammering Biden and Democratic lawmakers about inflation. Skyrocketing inflation.

[29:44] Inflation. Inflation. But don’t fall for their fearmongering. Everybody’s ignoring the deeper structural reason for price increases. The concentration of the American economy into the hands of a very few corporate giants with the power to raise prices. If the market were actually competitive, corporations would keep their prices as low as possible as they competed for customers. Even if some of their costs increased, they would do everything they could to avoid passing passing those costs on to consumers in the form of higher prices for fear of losing business to competitors. But that’s the opposite of what we’re seeing. Corporations are raising prices even as they rake in record profits. Corporate profit margins hit record highs last year. You see, these corporations have so much market power, they can raise prices with impunity. So the underlying problem isn’t inflation per se, it’s lack of competition.

[30:44] Corporations are using the excuse of inflation to raise prices and make fatter profits. Take the energy sector. Only a few entities have access to the land and pipelines that control the oil and gas powering most of the world. They took a hit during the pandemic, as most people stayed home. But they are more than making up for it now, limiting supply and ratcheting up prices. Chevron, Exxon have doubled their profits. you.

[31:14] This isn’t about inflation. This is about price gouging. Or look at consumer goods. In April 2021, Procter & Gamble raised prices on staples like diapers and toilet paper, citing increased costs in raw materials and transportation. But P&G has been making huge profits. After some of its price increases went into effect, it reported an almost 25% profit margin. Looking to buy your diapers elsewhere? Well, good luck. The market is dominated by P&G and Kimberly-Clark, which not entirely coincidentally raised its prices at the same time. Another example. In April 2021, PepsiCo raised prices, blaming higher costs for ingredients, freight, and labor. It then recorded $3 billion in operating profits through September. How did it get away with this without losing customers? Pepsi has only one major competitor, Coca-Cola, which promptly raised its own prices. Coca-Cola recorded $10 billion in revenues in the third quarter of 2021, up 16% from the previous year. Food prices are soaring, but half of that is from meat, which costs 15% more than last year. There are only four major meat processing companies in America, which are all raising their prices and enjoying record profits.

[32:35] Get the picture? The underlying problem is not inflation. its corporate power. Since the 1980s, when the U.S. government all but abandoned antitrust enforcement, all American industries have become more concentrated. Most are now dominated by a handful of corporations that coordinate prices and production. This is true of banks, broadband, pharmaceutical companies, airlines, meatpackers, and, yes, soda. Corporations in all these industries and more could easily absorb higher costs, including long-overdue wage increases without passing them on to consumers in the form of higher prices. But they aren’t. Instead, they’re using their massive profits to line the pockets of major investors and executives while both consumers and workers get shafted. How can this structural problem be fixed? Fighting corporate concentration with more aggressive antitrust enforcement. Biden has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate oil companies, and he’s appointed experienced antitrust lawyers to both the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department.

[33:47] So don’t fall for Republicans’ fear-mongering about inflation. The real culprit here is corporate power. And again, that was Robert Reich, and I’ll have links up to his sub stack. He’s got some really good stuff to say about economics. Basically, that’s all I wanted to talk about today when people are complaining about wage hikes. I believe that fast food workers deserve $20 an hour, especially if the cost of living requires you to have $20 an hour just to survive. You shouldn’t have to work multiple jobs. They’re talking about this wage increase is going to cut some jobs. I think it shouldn’t, because a lot of these younger people that are working minimum wage, they’re working multiple jobs. So if they’re able to make a living wage, $20 an hour, they can probably quit one of their jobs. That will open up a job for somebody else. But, you know, these college graduates that think that they know everything about business, they don’t see it that way. And I think that that’s wrong.

[35:04] Thank you for listening to this episode. You can check out more information, including links to sources used, in our show notes on our website at Secular Left is hosted, written, and produced by Doug Berger, and he is solely responsible for the content.

[35:28] Send us your comments, either using the contact form on the website, or by sending us a note at comments at Our theme music is Dank and Nasty, composed using Amplify Studio.

[35:51] Music.

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