Opinion

The Great Debate

Thousands lose jobs due to higher federal minimum wage

 Diana Furchtgott-Roth– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The views expressed are her own. —

As President Obama considers whether to fulfill his campaign promise to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour by 2011, there’s no better illustration of the consequences of well-intentioned policy-making than recent events in American Samoa, a United States territory in the South Pacific that falls within the purview of Congress.

Chicken of the Sea, the tuna company, announced this month that it will close its canning plant in American Samoa in September. The culprit is 2007 legislation in Washington that gradually increased the islands’ minimum wage until it reaches $7.25 an hour in July 2009, almost double the 2007 levels.

In 2007, the hourly minimum wage in American Samoa for fish canning and processing was $3.76 and the minimum wage for government employees was $3.41. Shipping had the highest minimum wage, at $4.59. Garment manufacturers got the lowest, at $3.18 an hour. A $7.25 wage is a substantial increase for most residents.

Chicken of the Sea will lay off 2,041 employees—12 percent of total employment, almost half of all cannery workers. And the 2,700 workers at StarKist, the other American Samoa tuna canning company and Chicken of the Sea’s rival, are probably concerned that their jobs are the next to go.

Renewables roll-out needs price guarantees

John Kemp Great Debate– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Power generation from renewable sources such as wind turbines, solar cells and biomass plays a small but important part in satisfying total electricity demand around the world, and is growing at an exponential rate thanks to generous public subsidies and government support.

Renewable sources have increased their share of worldwide generation from just 0.4 percent in 1980 and 1.1 percent to 2.3 percent in 2006. In its “World Energy Outlook 2008″, The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects their share will double to 4.9 percent by 2015, and then almost double again to 8.7 percent by 2030. Click here for PDF.

Pension funds should ditch alpha and cut fees

James Saft Great Debate – James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

If anyone has reason to pray that the current equity rally holds, it is the world’s active fund managers who need investors to return to the folly of betting on outperforming the markets rather than the uninspiring but reliable business of cutting costs.

Pension funds, particularly those where the employer bears most of the risk of making good on promised payouts, are hurting after more than a decade of poor market returns.

Pay a small toll to read this news story

ericauchard1– Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

There is nothing like the threat of a hanging to concentrate the mind.

The newspaper industry is in a collective panic over its future. The debate centers on the thorny issue of how publishers might find some way, any way, to make online readers to pay for what they read.

The fear is that the newspaper business model has suffered a mortal wound from the collapse of advertising that once funded it, and which has only accelerated in the current economic environment. Or perhaps it’s the realization that younger generations reared on digital media will never settle down to buy print.

Slicing and dicing to gain support for cap-and-trade

John Kemp Great Debate– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman will this week publish a full text of proposed climate change legislation, including details of a cap-and-trade scheme for regulating and pricing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Press reports suggest the Waxman bill will give away as many as 75 percent of the permits free to power utilities, coal-producers and other industrial users in the first stage of the plan to defuse opposition and buy support from congressional Democrats representing industrial and coal-producing states.

Time for China’s banks to think local

wei_gu_debate– Wei Gu is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own –

When foreign strategic investors were invited to take stakes in Chinese banks, the word “strategic” had a clear meaning for their hosts.

The banks were supposed to stay in for the long term, and that’s why they had the chance to buy big stakes at bargain prices. Yet many have behaved like “foreign speculative investors”, as they are now called in China — they took the cheap deal and then flipped the shares for a fast profit.

After Sun, expect new Oracle hardware deals

ericauchard1– Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Larry Ellison, Oracle Corp’s chief executive, is famous for making outrageous predictions about the future of the computer industry and being mocked by rivals and pundits.

But don’t underestimate the software maker’s latest moves into the hardware business.

Stress tests: The results are in, now what?

Mark_Williams_Debate– Mark T. Williams, who teaches finance at Boston University’s School of Management, is a former Federal Reserve bank examiner. The views expressed are his own. –

The market has anxiously waited over two months.  With the stress test results in, we now have our work cut out for us.  Not that these findings were surprising, as the 10 banks which made the government’s “need to raise additional capital now” list are the usual suspects, such as Bank of America (BofA), Citigroup, Wells Fargo, SunTrust, Fifth Third, KeyCorp, and Capital One.  They were problem banks before the tests and they continue to be.  But this painfully drawn-out process has spawned four tangible benefits worth discussing.

First, the stress test results raise an important policy question:  Should our largest banks, those central to our economy, be allowed to take such large risks? These results paint a clearer picture of the level of risky lending practices that many of our 19 largest banks engaged in over the last decade. The government’s assessment provides added support to the need for re-regulation in this vital industry.  In the worst-case scenario, the Fed reported that these banks, which control the majority of our country’s deposits and loans, could need to raise approximately $600 billion in additional capital just to cover increased loan defaults.

Bond markets give stress test thumbs down

James Saft Great Debate – James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

The most revealing verdict on the results of the U.S. banking stress test was delivered not by shareholders but by the vigilantes of the bond market, who shunned an auction of 30-year government debt.

This makes sense: if the U.S. is letting banks off too lightly it will be taxpayers and the people who lend the U.S. money who will have to pick up the bill.

3i in distress, please give generously

REUTERS– Neil Collins is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Were 3i a normal investment company, its directors would be laughed off the board if they proposed raising new equity at a whacking great discount to net asset value.

Upbeat noises about a strengthened balance sheet, future access to the debt markets (sic) or the glittering new investment prospects ahead wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference. The board would have to go.

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