On Stimulus Money, CEO Pay, Theses, Coffee Snobs, Etc.

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Oct 08, 2009 12:01 AM
On Stimulus Money, CEO Pay, Theses, Coffee Snobs, Etc.

Wandering among issues currently in the news...

-- The unemployment rate hit 9.8 percent in September -- the 21st consecutive month of job losses. Since the beginning of the recession in December 2007, the United States has erased about 7.2 million jobs, including 4.1 million lost since the beginning of this year. Those jobs may have evaporated permanently. So it's difficult to imagine the U.S. knowing a robust economy anytime soon.

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-- And the prospects for unskilled young workers are especially grim. Congress raised the minimum wage 70 cents in July, to $7.25. Right on schedule -- with clockwork precision -- by September teen unemployment had risen to 25.9 percent (up 2 percentage points from July), the highest level since World War II. Why does Congress raise the minimum wage in the face of overwhelming data showing that it forces up unemployment among the young? Evidently the congressional view is that no job at $7.25 an hour is better for unskilled teen workers than a job -- any job -- at something less.

-- The beat goes on. The latest list of public figures with their zippers down includes: Roman Polanski, Eliot Spitzer, John Ensign, Mark Sanford, David Letterman, David Vitter, John Edwards, and.... What were these people thinking?

-- Is oversight of CEO pay a legitimate government function? If the company has taken federal money, then yes: Federal money means federal control. But the stratospheric compensation of too many private-sector executives does undermine public confidence in the companies paying them.

-- Oh, and here's one: Should government control the salaries of administrators and faculty at colleges and universities accepting state and federal money -- as all but fewer than half-a-dozen do?

-- Federal employees (including the president and members of Congress) enjoy health insurance coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). They can choose among more than 200 competing plans. Will they be forced into ObamaCare instead? Hardly. ObamaCare will not be good enough for federal employees in the gold-plated FEHBP, so rest assured that Congress will exempt itself and its colleagues in the federal class.

-- Remember how awful we were told "outsourcing" is -- the sending of jobs abroad? Well, sending federal money abroad apparently is not so bad. Nearly half the $2.4 billion in federal money awarded August 5 to stimulate the U.S. economy and promote the production of hybrid and electric cars went to six companies with strong ties to -- let's see -- China, Russia, South Korea and France.

-- Last spring, Social Security's trustees issued their annual report saying the system's outflow to recipients would begin exceeding inflow in 2016. The latest estimate -- from the Congressional Budget Office? Deficit payouts will put Social Security in the red beginning in the 2010 fiscal year just begun. This year. Maybe D.C.'s bevy of beautiful Democrats should set to cleaning Social Security's Augean Stable before messing with the nation's health care.

-- Global warming? Energy Secretary Steven Chu believes. Recently he scolded the public as though it were an insolent adolescent -- for failing to embrace the urgency of cutting emissions of carbon dioxide. "The American public," he said, "just like your teenage kids, aren't acting in a way that they should act. The American public has to really understand in their core how important this issue is." Right. And it doesn't matter if those lima beans taste like cardboard. Eat them.

-- Senate Democrats have a filibuster-proof 60 votes for ObamaCare -- now that the Massachusetts legislature, in a nod to the late great Teddy Kennedy, has changed state law so the governor could name a dutiful Democrat to Kennedy's seat. But now West Virginia's Senator Robert Byrd is ailing to the point he may not be able to vote, so the Dems are waltzing with Maine's ever-reliable liberal Republican Olympia Snowe. If she votes aye on ObamaCare, not only will the Democrats get their bill. They also will add (and you can put money on it) their coveted word, bipartisan.

-- Virginia has an off-year gubernatorial race that will be decided next month. The Democrats have tried to make a big deal of several regrettable things contained in a thesis written many years ago by the Republican nominee. The nominee released the thesis, and there was a12-minute hoo-ha. How interesting that many of the same Democrats who last year adamantly opposed release of collegiate ramblings from the collected works of Barack Obama -- deeming them insignificant -- term them crucial in Virginia's gubernatorial race now.

-- What's this -- Starbucks getting into instant coffee with its new product, Via? That's almost like, well, you know -- a rallying cry for coffee snobs everywhere to man the barricades.