California is home to both Silicon Valley and Hollywood, two of the world's greatest wealth-producing engines, and much of the state enjoys tremendous affluence. By some estimates, my own town of Palo Alto has the world's highest per capita concentration of billionaires. But California also has pockets of enormous poverty. The U.S. Census recently estimated... Read More
In my last column I had noted that the national debate over poverty and inequality had drawn a peculiar response from mainstream conservatives. Whereas liberals advocated making work pay by raising the minimum wage, their conservative counterparts proposed raising welfare payments instead. Sometimes this position was explicit, as when economist Martin Feldstein took to the... Read More
Although our school textbooks claim we live in a democracy or a representative republic, a more accurate formulation might label our polity a “mediocracy.” Our views and votes as well as those of our elected representatives are largely shaped by the ambient waves of media emanations that wash over us during so many of our... Read More
Millions of California immigrants work in low-wage service industries. They would be among the greatest beneficiaries of our ballot initiative to raise the state minimum wage to $12 per hour. Latinos, many of whom come from a relatively recent immigrant background, would gain the most. The data shows that around half of all Latino wage-earners... Read More
Simple ideas buoyed by a tidal wave of popular sentiment are difficult to oppose, and subterfuge is one of the favored methods. National support for raising the minimum wage runs between 70% and 75% in most polls, with close to 90% of Democrats backing the idea. Meanwhile, our initiative to raise the minimum wage in... Read More
Over the last couple of months the minimum wage has moved into the political headlines, but most of the arguments for raising it have come from liberals. That’s fine, but since I’m not a liberal, I’d rather focus on the conservative reasons for supporting a much higher minimum wage, which are just as compelling. Cutting... Read More
During the 1950s peak of America’s post-war prosperity, Detroit was our wealthiest city, General Motors our biggest employer, and GM CEO “Engine Charlie” Wilson delivered the famously misquoted claim that “what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice-versa.” Times have changed. These days retail giant Wal-Mart is our largest corporation,... Read More
The current debate raging over the role of the minimum wage is usually presented as being fought between two choices. On the one side are those who advocate a large wage hike and on the other are those who oppose any change. But in reality, there is a third alternative, namely cutting the minimum wage,... Read More
Our media naturally tends to cover stories that are surprising or unexpected far more than boringly routine ones, and this has certainly been a central aspect of my ongoing initiative campaign to raise the California minimum wage to $12 per hour, the highest rate in America. Labor unions and some prominent liberals have promoted minimum... Read More
An important story ran Saturday ran in the Los Angeles Times: Bid to hike L.A. minimum wage gets pair of powerful backers As the L.A. City Council examines the 'living wage' issue, philanthropist Eli Broad and developer Rick Caruso say they support a higher minimum wage. James Rainey, The Los Angeles Times, March 1, 2014... Read More
Three weeks ago the powerful political momentum favoring a large minimum wage hike received a major setback as the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its report indicating that the Democratic goal of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 might lead to the loss of 500,000 jobs. The CBO is widely respected as non-partisan in its... Read More
In all respects except one, the last week couldn't have been better for my California initiative to raise the state minimum wage to $12 per hour, the highest in the America. NPR broadcast a remarkably long 14 minute interview segment on my effort. Although the airing of the show had been delayed a couple of... Read More
House Speaker John Boehner, the highest ranking Republican in America, has famously declared that he’d rather commit suicide than pass a minimum wage increase. Meanwhile, California’s own Nancy Pelosi, his opposite number, is a strong supporter of hiking the minimum wage, and her close ally, the retiring Rep. George Miller, is the sponsor of the... Read More
Earlier this week unfortunate Americans were shown the advantages of a functioning political system as the German government announced it would establish a minimum wage of $8.50 Euros or almost $12 per hour. In the past Germany had had a minimum wage, but the extremely high level of labor unionization had ensured very high hourly... Read More
When I first began investigating the minimum wage a couple of years ago, one of my early surprises was its sharp decline across the decades, having fallen by roughly one-third in real value since its 1968 peak. This drop was greatly magnified when we considered the economic growth of American society given that our per... Read More
On Friday, several top national Republicans including Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Tim Pawlenty all publicly declared their support for raising the federal minimum wage. Such a dramatic political breakthrough---obviously coordinated at the highest levels---greatly increases the likelihood it will actually happen, and tens of millions of low-wage American workers will see a large rise... Read More
A theoretical physicist by training, Mr. Unz serves as founder and chairman of UNZ.org, a content-archiving website providing free access to many hundreds of thousands of articles from prominent periodicals of the last hundred and fifty years. From 2007 to 2013, he also served as publisher of The American Conservative, a small opinion magazine, and had previously served as chairman of Wall Street Analytics, Inc., a financial services software company which he founded in New York City in 1987. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University, Cambridge University, and Stanford University, and is a past first-place winner in the Intel/Westinghouse Science Talent Search. He was born in Los Angeles in 1961.
He has long been deeply interested in public policy issues, and his writings on issues of immigration, race, ethnicity, and social policy have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, The Nation, and numerous other publications.
In 1994, he launched a surprise Republican primary challenge to incumbent Gov. Pete Wilson of California, running on a conservative, pro-immigrant platform against the prevailing political sentiment, and received 34% of the vote. Later that year, he campaigned as a leading opponent of Prop. 187, the anti-immigration initiative, and was a top featured speaker at a 70,000 person pro-immigrant march in Los Angeles, the largest political rally in California history to that date.
In 1997, Mr. Unz began his “English for the Children” initiative campaign to dismantle bilingual education in California. He drafted Prop. 227 and led the campaign to qualify and pass the measure, culminating in a landslide 61% victory in June 1998, effectively eliminating over one-third of America’s bilingual programs. Within less than three years of the new English immersion curriculum, the mean percentile test scores of over a million immigrant students in California rose by an average of 70%. He later organized and led similar initiative campaigns in other states, winning with 63% in the 2000 Arizona vote and a remarkable 68% in the 2002 Massachusetts vote without spending a single dollar on advertising.
After spending most of the 2000s focused on software projects, he has recently become much more active in his public policy writings, most of which had appeared in his own magazine.