Welcome to the Real World Mr. Bonior

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David Bonior spent 26 years, from 1976-2002, in the House of Representatives as an uber liberal Democrat Congressman from Michigan.  He left Congress after redistricting graced him with a district with a Republican majority, and he failed to win the Democrat primary to be the Democrat nominee for governor of Michigan in 2002.  Out of government for a dozen years he now runs two restaurants, and the world looks a wee bit different:


There are always going to be problems, and we’ve had our share.”

Bonior said if he had the power, he would lighten up on pesky regulations.

“It took us a ridiculous amount of time to get our permits. I understand regulations and . . . the necessity for it. But we lost six months of business because of that. It’s very frustrating.”

Bonior hasn’t forsaken his liberal heritage. He is a self-described labor guy who hails from a Ukrainian-Polish section in Detroit. His father ran a tiny printing business and had  bouts with unemployment, which left a lifelong identification with the working man.

He attended the University of Iowa on a football scholarship and served in the Air Force from 1968 to 1972. The service sent him to cooking school in Virginia, where he learned a few basics. He disclaims any passion for cooking — except the bread pudding — although he loves the “up” vibe of restaurants.

After leaving Congress, he bought a place near Capitol Hill because he wanted to be near a growing, urban neighborhood. He owns a second home near the Chesapeake Bay. 

When his family approached him more than four years ago about starting Zest, Bonior became a scrappy entrepreneur. He used his congressional access to knock on every one of 435 congressional offices, dropping off a flier for Zest. He worked the Metro stations, handing out coupons. He went door-to-door, as if he were campaigning.

“We kept thinking of ways to reach out.”

He knew it was risky. Most restaurants fail within two years. But his stepson and daughter-in-law were experienced in restaurant management. In the process, he gained an appreciation for the profit motive.

“The biggest surprise is how you have to hustle,” he said. “It was an eye-opener. I always heard this when I was in Congress. ‘You should try and own a business someday, Bonior.’ So I own two small businesses with my stepson and daughter-in-law. It’s tough to make it, in terms of profit margins. But somehow you get by and you figure it out.”

After Zest turned the corner, Bonior decided to open a second restaurant in the newly developing Navy Yard area, which has attractive demographics and strong growth potential.

He did his homework, talking extensively to the developer, Forest City. He researched the future development, talking to the Business Improvement District. He included in his equation the lunch crowds from the Department of Transportation headquarters and the residential area sprouting nearby. The restaurant adjoins a busy park and plaza where people congregate. Once the area is developed, it will be at a crossroads of 2.5 million feet of residential, retail and office activity.

“We saw the potential,” Bonior said. So he signed a 10-year lease.

Zest is profitable. Agua 301, which is modern Mexican cuisine, doesn’t lose money, he said.

To make the numbers work, he pays his 50 or so employees — who are not union members — what he calls “the tip wage,” which is $2.36 an hour. He said that when he was in Congress, he worked hard to increase the “tip wage,” but it was a casualty from the successful effort to increase the minimum wage.

Go here to The Washington Post to read the rest.


Can you imagine what Congressman Bonior would have said to Businessman Bonior?

What is this!?  You only pay your workers $2.36 an hour and they are non-Union?  What sort of sweatshop are you running Bud!  Complaining about too many regulations, huh?  I guess you would like to serve tainted food to your customers and have them die from fires in the ramshackle restaurant you would throw up quickly if you could?  Prepare for an informational Union picket line in front of your two little restaurants of horror my friend,  and I am making calls to make sure that all inspections on both of them are up to date!  Don’t like it?  Go tell a cold hearted Republican!

Of course this is unfair to Bonior.  First he would have hit the businessman up for a campaign contribution.




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  1. Excellent post on the stupidity of over-regulation. I am now going to rant on my favorite subject. Dr. James Hansen, a climatolgist, gave testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 13, 2014. Here is a link to that testimony:
    Here are the relevant excerpts.
    Frankly, a clean energy future in the United States requires that the Democratic Party recognize that its position on nuclear power, ranging from neglect to outright hostility, is in part responsible for that situation and is a major threat to the well-being of young people and other life on our planet. My criticism of your party is constructive, and I hope you will take it that way.
    The second major reason that the cost of nuclear power plant construction in the United States is high concerns the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. As noted in my previous written testimony to your Committee, reforms of the NRC are badly needed. The NRC does a good job of regulating. They have a capable technical staff, and their resident inspectors do a good job at nuclear plants, including reporting on incidents and keeping the nuclear plant operators on their toes.
    In contrast, the nuclear reactor permitting process has become a lengthy bureaucratic lawyer-laden paperwork process that causes delays of years and cost growth of billions of dollars. We must fix the permitting process. This probably requires removing the permitting function from NRC, and starting over with a new organization that is given guidelines and procedures the better serve the nation’s needs.
    A sensible energy policy for the United States would not have us blowing through new-found gas resources in a few decades and moving to increasingly polluting and destructive mining. Instead we would honestly treat gas as a transition fuel to a clean energy future. That future would include the improved safe nuclear power that is possible with today’s technology.
    30 thousand people die annually from coal fired power plant pollution in the United States. thousands more die from natural gas explosions, petroleum fires, etc. All that is caused by over-regulation of the only source of energy that could otherwise compete with fossil energy: nuclear power. But the moneyed interests of corporate executives and the power interests of politicians intersect in a lust and greed unparalleled in human history. Regulation to keep you safe is being abused to kill you so that corporate executives can have more money and politicians more power. This is NOT free enterprise. It is NOT capitalism. It s godless, iniquitous socialism. Everything that Pope Leo XIII said about socialism is 100% true:
    We will suffocate in our coal dust and drown in our petroleum mineral slime before we as a people will accept personal responsibility and accountability. God doesn’t have to punish us. we do it with our own regulations. Welcome to Nova Roma and Imperator Barack Hussein Obama.

  2. What’s left unsaid here is how did a guy with no real world experience, who went into Congress early in his professional life, end up buying two homes after his time in Congress. How was he able to afford this? It never ceases to amaze me how so many of our elected officials make their fortunes while in office. Congressman Bonior was, allegedly, a conscientious Catholic Congressman despite his liberal beliefs. I guess not.

  3. I call BS on this professor’s statistics. 30,000 people a year die from coal emissions? That’s 300,000 every decade and 3,000,000 every century. Pittsburgh, its suburbs and the entire state of West Virginia should have died out.

    Cigarette smoking is worse than burning coal.

    Half a century ago and farther back, coal was used for heating and cooking in homes. Almost all power plants were coal fired. Steelmaking uses coal and while today a lot of steel comes from melted scrap, not so long ago it was all made from raw materials, including coal.

    The Marcellus shale and Utica shale fields contain vast amounts of natural gas. Using natural gas for power generation when nuclear power is available is stupid, brought to us by enviro-whackos. Much of New England uses heating oil to heat their homes, which is also stupid.

    Nuclear, coal, natural gas and our own oil should make the USA energy independent. Thanx to extremist envoirnmental crap, we still import oil.

  4. Bonior pays his workers $2.36 an hour to work in the District of Columbia, one of the worst places in the Western Hemisphere to operate a business.

    Bonior owns two homes – one in DC and another in Maryland. on the Bay. A Congressional salary or pension should not be enough to own these two homes. I suspect a sweetheart deal somewhere. I lived there and I know how expensive it is to live there.

  5. I always rather liked the Law of 22 Prairial An II (still in force) that declares “the intriguers who purchase the consciences of the people’s agents; the traitors who sell them…” {les intrigans qui achètent les consciences des mandataires du peuple ; les traîtres qui les vendent] to be “enemies of the people.” Until 1981, they were liable the death penalty within 24 hours of conviction “without appeal or review” ; now, the penalty is forced labour for life [Travaille forcé à perpétuité]

    I would argue that this is one of the few cases where the speedy infliction of death is justified under Evangelium Vitae just as it is for forestalling or preventing a coup d’ état.

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