Denny’s raises prices. Obamacare? No, class warfare

EMERYVILLE, CA - FEBRUARY 03:  Denny's waitress Fong Van Luben (R) delivers free Grand Slam breakfasts to customers February 3, 2009 in Emeryville, California.
EMERYVILLE, CA - FEBRUARY 03: Denny's waitress Fong Van Luben (R) delivers free Grand Slam breakfasts to customers February 3, 2009 in Emeryville, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Denny’s franchise owner John Metz is terribly sorry that President Obama made your Grand Slam more expensive. The Florida restaurateur has said he will need to cut employees’ hours and increase customers’ checks by 5% in order to offset the cost of Obamacare.

“If I leave the prices the same, but say on the menu that there is a 5% surcharge for Obamacare, customers have two choices. They can either pay it and tip 15 or 20 percent, or if they really feel so inclined, they can reduce the amount of tip they give to the server, who is the primary beneficiary of Obamacare,” he told The Huffington Post.

Metz’s franchise is only the latest of several businesses to announce it would be cutting costs in response to Obama’s policies. The umbrella company which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster has been experimenting with a greater reliance on part-time labor for months, and coal baron Robert Murray fired 156 workers the day after the election in response to what a company spokesman said were Obama’s draconian energy regulations. John Schnatter—the “papa” behind Papa John’s—has warned of similar moves within his own company.

To Republicans, this is proof that Obama’s policies kill jobs and may raise the cost of goods. To Democrats, it demonstrates that corporate fat cats  are “sore losers” who hate Obama with a lunatic passion, and who will hurt their employees’ well-being just to score political points.

But by framing this as a partisan issue, both parties get it wrong. This battle actually has very little do with the Affordable Care Act, and even less to do with Obama. This isn’t about partisan politics: it’s pure, unmitigated class warfare, being waged under the cover of political headlines.

The truth is, corporate bosses always have an incentive to exploit their employees, regardless of who happens to be president. Companies become more profitable in large part by extracting the maximum amount of labor from their employees in exchange for the minimum amount of wages and benefits. That’s simply how the system works, and neither Obama nor the Affordable Care Act has done anything to change that.

To put it another way: Barack Obama is not retroactively responsible for decades of increasing productivity and stagnant wages. Nor is the Affordable Care Act retroactively responsible for a several-year economic shift towards involuntary part-time work. And while it would be absurd to say that federal politicies have no effect on these trends, it is equally absurd to say they hinge entirely on who sits in the White House.

The real scandal here is not that many bosses are Republicans who happen to say Republican things while they dominate their employees. The real scandal is the domination itself; the fact that it is ongoing and virtually unimpeded. Electoral politics is, at best, a small part of the solution.

Denny's raises prices. Obamacare? No, class warfare