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    In the weeks leading up to the New York Wage Board’s recommendation on Wednesday to raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 across the state, 35-year Burger King franchisee David Sutz had an unfamiliar feeling: Helplessness.“We were the enemy,” says Sutz, remembering the board’s hearing in Buffalo, where he owns four restaurants. “There was no control in the meeting. Every time one of the franchisees got up to speak, they were booed and hissed, and the board did nothing. So how do you fight that?”Some franchisees who showed up to testify ended up not testifying at all, intimidated by the boisterous crowd. After a three-year campaign by unions and activists to raise his employees’ wages, Sutz figures their perspective wasn’t welcome.“Nobody wanted to hear our stories. Nobody called us before this,” he says, frustrated. “Now that it’s sort of a done deal, all of a sudden people are saying ‘Wait a minute, what’s happening?’ ”That’s a feeling common among businesses nationwide, as minimum wage increases steamroller their way through cities and states. Emboldened by their victories, minimum wage backers are planning a slew of new bills and ballot initiatives in the coming election cycle. The private sector is used to being a powerful force in politics. So how has it been so impotent on the issue of the minimum wage?First of all, business groups say, it’s important to point out that the activists — and in particular the Service Employees International Union, which has pumped tens of millions of dollars into the “Fight for $15” campaign — have so far picked the low-hanging fruit. In liberal cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, where the issue of economic inequality is front and center, much of the civic establishment supports boosting the wage floor. That’s created a swift drumbeat of victories that might not carry on through across the rest of the country.“The SEIU is picking its targets very deliberately, in places where they know [a minimum wage hike] can pretty easily pass, or bypass the legislature,” says Michael Saltsman, director of the Employment Policy Institute, which is funded in part by the restaurant industry. “The fact that it’s passed in some of these places does create a sense of momentum, but it’s not necessarily more broadly based.”And in fact, business interests have managed to tamp down threats in a few places. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, for example, recently signed a law prohibiting local jurisdictions from raising wages on their own. A bill that would raise the minimum wage in Delaware to $10.25 hasn’t gone anywhere. An effort in St. Louis, where activists have been pushing strongly for $15, has stalled.But those victories are rare and perhaps fleeting, at a time when 71 percent of Americans favor raising the minimum wage nationwide to $10.10. With wages stagnant even as corporate profits soar, the idea that businesses won’t raise pay on their own as their earnings recover — and that minimum wage hikes, rather than killing jobs, actually help the economy by putting money in the pockets of those who are most likely to spend it — has proven compelling."The reason that business has not been able to stop these minimum wage hikes is that they have completely lost the public argument about how the economy works and where growth comes from,” says Nick Hanauer, a venture capitalist who has campaigned for minimum wage hikes around the country. As an example, he points to his hometown of Seattle, where business has boomed under the highest minimum wage in the country.“The key to winning this was to create a new kind of argument about how capitalism works that’s both true and beneficial to 99 percent of the people who participate in the economy,” he says. "So literally, when we took [the issue of] growth away from the business community, they went dark, they were silent.”Well, not quite. Business-backed groups still protest that while the economic research suggests that minimum wage hikes haven’t historically led to job loss, there aren’t any studies yet on what happens when the floor goes all the way up to $15. As that happens, they predict that businesses in the fast food industry especially will find ways to cut jobs through automation."I think it’s complex,” says Carrie Sheffield, who covers the issue for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank. "It’s very easy to demagogue something when you don’t have a good grasp of the underlying economic theory. That’s why the minimum wage polls very well.”In an attempt to change the narrative, CEI has supported Opportunity Lives, a media project that emphasizes personal initiative as the path to prosperity, rather than social programs and government mandates. And in the shorter term, Saltsman’s group is working to surface the stories of businesses that are impacted by the first wave of $15 wage hikes as soon as possible, while there’s still time to stop the momentum.“No one knows how bad it’s going to be," Saltsman says. “What the SEIU is trying to do is before that unflattering evidence starts to come in, get it passed in as many places as possible.”Still, the industries that care about minimum wage hikes face a more fundamental problem than public perception: The private sector itself is far from united against raising the minimum wage. Some corporate leaders — especially at tech companies in liberal Silicon Valley, whose business models don’t depend on low-cost labor — have have actually come out in favor of raising it.That’s made it difficult for the largest business groups, which have to balance the interests of all their members, to put much effort into opposing minimum wage hikes. Glenn Spencer, who leads the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Freedom initiative, says the national Chamber has not been active in local fights on the issue. The California Chamber of Commerce, which has watched Los Angeles and San Francisco vote to raise wages to $15, declined to comment on the record about the issue.Solidarity is even hard to find among small businesses. While some could be mortally wounded, like the San Francisco bookstore that made headlines for announcing it would shut down as wage hikes take effect, many already pay well above the minimum wage.“You can’t get a united front of the business community, because small businesses say it’s not their issue,” says Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California. At the same time, few businesses wants to stick their necks out and oppose something that has so much support among their potential customers. “Businesses that are impacted are nervous about getting out there and saying 'we can’t afford it,' because of the PR.”Unions and community groups have effectively exploited those divisions. Often, before campaigning for across-the-board minimum wage hikes, they’ve pushed the raises for specific industries — like in Los Angeles, where the City Council first passed an increase for hotels, and in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo targeted fast food. Each industry that gets saddled with higher wages often turns around and supports a minimum wage increase for everyone to help even the playing field.That’s why the franchisors have tried to build alliances, arguing that an injury to one is an injury to all.“Part of our message from the coalition has been, who’s next?” says Matt Haller, senior vice president for public affairs with the International Franchise Association, which represents franchisors like McDonald’s. "Businesses in other sectors can continue to keep their head in the sand, but at a certain point, SEIU is coming after the entire service sector, and business needs to get involved.”The IFA, which has historically focused on federal policy, is now shifting attention towards states and cities. The trade group has hired lobbyists, run ad campaigns, and mobilized franchisees to make their case to lawmakers in person. In some places, the organization has won small victories, like persuading Kansas City not to target franchises specifically.But sometimes it’s still hard to get everybody engaged. Even with the arguments that the IFA has made about the SEIU pushing a higher minimum wage as part of an overall strategy to unionize the industry, that threat strikes some as remote. And in the meantime, not all franchisees seem terribly concerned about the rising minimum wage itself.Take Dennis Kessler, who last year sold off his interest in 21 Burger King franchises and 48 Friendly’s. He doesn’t like the way Cuomo singled out the fast food industry, but ultimately doesn’t think many franchisees will go out of business because of it."This $15 thing is being phased in over quite a few years, so I don’t think it’s going to have much of an impact,” says Kessler, who teaches at the University of Rochester. “People are going to have to pay a little more. It really isn’t too much more complicated than that.”Read more: Why labor groups genuinely believe they can unionize McDonald's (MCD) somedayFranchises fear a "devastating" change to their business modelWith victory in L.A., the $15 minimum wage fight goes national






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    In a rare glimpse inside the Federal Reserve, the staff of the central bank told officials six weeks ago that they expect the key federal funds rate to reach 0.35% at the end of the year, signaling that officials will only raise rates once in 2015, according to documents released Friday. The disclosure came in staff forecasts inadvertently released on the central bank's website late last month. Usually, Fed staff projections for interest rates are kept confidential for five years.

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    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton proposed U.S. corporate tax reforms on Friday including a sliding scale for capital gains taxes and changes in executive compensation to encourage long-term growth to benefit American workers. Clinton, in a speech in New York, said institutional investors have an obligation to counter "hit and run" activist shareholders.

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    By Myra P. Saefong, MarketWatch, Biman Mukherji. Gold futures settled near a five-and-a-half week low on Friday, with expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will soon lift interest rates helping to send prices down for a fifth straight week.

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    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton proposed U.S. corporate tax reforms on Friday including a sliding scale for capital gains taxes and changes in executive compensation to encourage long-term growth to benefit American workers. Clinton, in a speech in New York, said institutional investors have an obligation to counter "hit and run" activist shareholders.

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    Prices are falling, and everyone is starting to freak out. "The high times are over." If you think Elvis met an undignified end by dying on a toilet, wait until you see what happens to the Hamptons.

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    RELATED: Gun-firing drone video sparks investigation. RELATED: SpaceX rocket explosion caused by faulty strut. RELATED: Images of Pluto show icy mountains 11,000 feet high.

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    Welcome to Main Street Morning, The Washington Post’s daily collection of news affecting entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses with a special focus on policy and government.Here’s what’s affecting my small business my clients and other entrepreneurs today.WashingtonHouse Speaker John Boehner says that the House will likely have to pass a short-term budget extension “of some sort.”Small business owners swarm DC to oppose Obamacare fines.President Obama uses small business owners to argue for the export-import bank.The EconomyApplications for U,S. unemployment aid have plummeted to a 42-year low and weekly jobless claims dropped to its lowest level since 1973.A gauge of future U.S. economic activity increased more than expected in June, boosted by a strengthening housing market, suggesting growth will continue to gain momentum for the remainder of the yearManufacturing contraction in the Kansas City region continued in July 2015.The ElectionsHillary Clinton backs local taxes on Internet sales.Trump bashes Secretary Kerry for breaking his leg.Jeb Bush wants to “phase out” Medicare.ManagementFive myths that make being a CEO seem a better job than it is.Nine signs you are a bad manager.If you want to partner with other small businesses then send focused emails and don’t call them.EntrepreneursIf you want to start your own Dunkin’ Donuts franchise then here are the costs you can expect.What entrepreneurs can learn about PR from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.Comic book store owners explain how to start a comic books retail store.RestaurantsA chef creates a sustainable menu using food waste.Starbucks chooses Lyft over Uber for its new rewards program.Five funding questions to ask yourself before expanding your restaurant.FinanceFerrari officially files for an IPO.Why venture capitalists are spending like it’s 1999.VC funding rockets as the “unicorn” population booms.Start-upsThis start-up founder redesigned her app when she found out the majority of people were using it to smoke weed with their friends.Google is giving free patents to start-ups to fight patent trolls.A company that puts butter in coffee raises $9 million.This start-up wants you to connect with brand advertising using emojis.A start-up sells 75 sizes of men’s shirts.This start-up wants to rent its customers a tiny house in the middle of nowhere.TechnologyTwelve disruptive tech trends you need to know.The tech world pretty much thinks the death of Adobe Flash is timely.OnlineCommunications software Slack now integrates with Google Calendar to add events to channels and Twitter is making it easier to target ads around big events.How to optimize your site for every stage of the buying cycle.Why your Internet prices are bound to go up. Social MediaTwitter regrets throwing a frat-themed employee party.Why it may not be a bad idea to delete an offensive tweet.IdeasA new strain of rice could feed the world and fight climate change.Around the CountryA court thwarts New York City’s efforts to restrict sex shops.The University of California system sets a $15 minimum wage for its employees.New York also plans a minimum wage raise to $15-an-hour for its fast food workers.New York’s mayor ditches his plan to curb Uber’s expansion.Business owners in Central Texas react to new smoking ordinances.Why now may be a good time to buy a small business in Colorado. Around the WorldSpain’s unemployment is at its lowest level since 2011.Gene Marks owns the Marks Group,  a Bala Cynwyd  PA  consulting firm that helps clients with customer relationship management. Follow Gene Marks and On Small Business on Twitter.News we should know about? Email us here.






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    Staff at the Federal Reserve board see a single quarter-point U.S. rate hike by year's end, inflation stuck in low gear for five more years, and an economy growing more slowly than expected by U.S. policymakers. Those bearish projections were included in a set of staff forecasts presented to policymakers at their June 16-17 meeting and inadvertently posted on the Fed's website on June 29.

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    Anthem, the nation's second largest health insurer, will acquire Cigna (CI), the nation's fifth largest, the companies announced Friday, creating a health insurance behemoth that raises fresh questions about competition in the industry.The deal, which will create the largest private health insurer as measured by the number of members, values Cigna (CI) at $188 per share, a 38 percent premium from its closing price of $154 a share on Thursday. Cigna (CI) shareholders will receive a combination of stock and cash in the transaction.A merged company would serve 53 million people and is part of a dramatic, long-predicted reshaping of the health insurance landscape as a result of the Affordable Care Act. UnitedHealthcare has 45 million members, and Humana (HUM) and Aetna announced they would merge in July, creating a company serving 33 million people. The new company is projected to generate $115 billion in annual revenues.While the major trend of consolidation is the same in these deals, analysts said there are key differences between them. The merger between Aetna and Humana (HUM) was a major change for the Medicare Advantage marketplace, whereas the Cigna (CI) and Anthem merger will have the biggest ripple effects for the commercial insurance market."The consolidation of the largest insurers will certainly reduce competition, leaving employers with fewer options for finding a low-priced plan for employees," Paula Wade, analyst at Decision Resources Group wrote in an e-mail. For example, in Connecticut, Anthem already holds 35 percent of the commercial market share, and adding Cigna (CI) brings their market share to just over half."Where an employer might have had his choice of Anthem, Cigna (CI), UnitedHealth (UNH) and Aetna, after these mergers he’s only got three companies from which to choose," Wade said.The deal follows new challenges in the health insurance industry. Analysts say that because of caps on the profit that insurers can make on their plans, the companies have been looking to cut administrative costs by increasing their scale. The larger companies will also have increased clout in negotiating rates with hospitals and doctors groups.“We believe that this transaction will allow us to enhance our competitive position and be better positioned to apply the insights and access of a broad network and dedicated local presence to the health care challenges of the increasingly diverse markets, membership, and communities we serve,” said Joseph Swedish, president and chief executive officer of Anthem, in a statement. He will remain chief executive of the new firm."Going forward our new company will deliver an acceleration of innovative and affordable health and protection benefits solutions that help address our health system's challenges and provide supplemental insurance protection, and health care security to consumers, their families, and the communities we share with them," said David M. Cordani, president and chief executive officer of Cigna.Anthem is parent to the well-known Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 14 states and a Medicaid plan called Amerigroup in 19 states. Cigna (CI), meanwhile, has well-known insurance plans in the United States and globally. The combined firm will serve individuals, employees and governments. It will close in late 2016, pending regulatory approvals.Brian Quinn, a law professor at Boston College said in a statement that he did not think government regulators would be overly skeptical of the deal."In this case, I suspect the government understands exactly why players in the industry are seeking to consolidate," Quinn said. “It's a little ironic I suppose that - over time  - we may find ourselves moving towards a single payer healthcare system, but rather than it being government run, it may well be a small number of private, highly-regulated insurance companies.”While the deals might make business sense, it is far less clear what impact the mergers will have on customers and it could be awhile before it is clear since the business for the plan year starting in 2016 is mostly in place.Some analysts say that the growth of insurance premiums could slow because the industry is regulated and the new companies will be more efficient. However, a 2012 study of the 1999 merger between two large insurers, Aetna and Prudential, found that premiums rose by seven percentage points. Another study in the American Journal of Health Economics found that having more insurers in the marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act brought the cost of premiums down.The Cigna-Anthem deal has been rumored for months, and Cigna (CI) publicly spurned Anthem's first offer in June, rejecting an offer of $184 per share.






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    Sales of new single-family homes dropped in June to the slowest pace in seven months, according to data released Friday that signaled a hiccup for the market. The annual sales pace for new single-family homes in the U.S. fell 6.8% last month to 482,000, with drops in three of four regions, the U.S. Only the Northeast saw the sales pace rise.

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    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will propose nearly doubling the U.S. capital gains tax rate on short-term investments to 39.6 percent, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. A Clinton campaign official said the Clinton rate plan would affect investments held between one and two years, which are currently taxed at a 20 percent capital gains rate, the newspaper reported.

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    Sales of new single-family homes in the U.S. fell 6.8% in June to an annual rate of 482,000, the slowest pace in seven months, with drops in three of four regions, the government reported Friday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a sales rate of 550,000 in June, compared with an original estimate of 546,000 for May. Commerce Department revised May's rate to 517,000. Economists caution over reading too much into a single monthly report.

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    Homebuilder stocks turned broadly lower in morning trade Friday, after data showing sales of. Home Construction ETF dropped 1%, with nine of its 41 stock components trading lower. Just prior to the release of the data, the ETF was trading little changed.

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    Growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector edged up in July after slowing for three months in a row, according to an industry report released on Friday. Financial data firm Markit said its preliminary U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 53.8 in July from a final June reading of 53.6, which was the slowest pace since October 2013. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector.

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    The flash reading of the Markit manufacturing purchasing managers' index rose slightly to 53.8 in July from a 20- month low of 53.6 in June. The rebound was led by stronger output and order book growth. Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said forward looking indicators point to the manufacturing sector remaining "in a relatively slow- growth phase."

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    The dollar trimmed its gains against a basket of currencies on Friday as an unexpected fall in domestic new home sales in June raised doubts about the strength of the U.S. economy and whether the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates by year-end.

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    New U.S. single-family home sales fell in June to a seven-month low and May's sales were revised sharply down, but the data on Friday did little to change the belief that the housing market recovery was shifting into higher gear. Sales of new homes account for only 8.1 percent of the housing market and tend to be volatile on a month-to-month basis.

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    The dollar trimmed its decline against the yen on Friday as a private gauge on U.S. manufacturing activity in early July supported the view of steady U.S. growth which would enable the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates later this year.