Archive for July 24th, 2010

Anybody with an IQ above room temperature understands that companies only hire workers when they expect to generate net revenue (i.e., the total receipts associated with a new worker are expected to be higher than the total costs). That’s why it was so reprehensible for Congress to approve a 40-percent hike in the minimum wage – a step that was guaranteed to kill jobs. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page reports on new research showing 100,000-plus jobs were wiped out. This awful legislation was approved in 2007, and all politicians associated with that choice should be ashamed of themselves.

Economic slowdowns are tough on many job-seekers, but they’re especially hard on the young and inexperienced, whose job prospects have suffered tremendously from Washington’s ill-advised attempts to put a floor under wages. In a new paper published by the Employment Policies Institute, labor economists William Even of Miami University in Ohio and David Macpherson of Trinity University in Texas find a significant drop in teen employment as a direct result of the minimum wage hikes. The wage hikes were implemented in three stages between 2007 and 2009, and not all states were affected because some already mandated a minimum wage above the federal requirement. But for the 19 states affected by all three stages of the federal wage increase, “there was a 6.9% decline in employment for teens aged 16 to 19,” write the authors. And for those who had not completed high school, “we estimated that the hikes reduced employment by 12.4%,” which translates to about 98,000 fewer teens in the work force. After isolating for other economic factors and broadening their analysis to include all 32 states affected by any stage of the federal wage increase, the authors conclude that “the federal minimum-wage hikes reduced teen employment by 2.5% translating to approximately 114,400 fewer employed teens.”

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The Wall Street Journal correctly pulls aside the veil and exposes the dubious gimmick that European politicians used to declare that banks are reasonably health. To put it bluntly, they assumed no government would ever default, which really means that the stress test was a fraud or German taxpayers are now on the chopping block to bail out every other nation.

Two months ago, credit markets in Europe nearly went off the rails over concern about what a sovereign debt default in Greece would do to the Continent’s banks. After last night’s release of the result of a Europe-wide stress test, we’re not much wiser. The EU’s committee of national bank regulators repeatedly says that its stress test includes a “sovereign shock” scenario. But crucially, “a sovereign default was not included in the exercise,” in the dry language of the committee’s summary report. This means the test only looked at government debt held in trading portfolios, while ignoring any government bonds listed as held to maturity. Earlier this month, regulators made it clear that they opposed testing the consequences of a sovereign debt default on European bank balance sheets. The German magazine Der Speigel reported that regulators felt including sovereign default in the tests might imply that the EU’s €750 billion ($960 billion) bailout fund wasn’t guaranteed to work. In other words, bank regulators in Europe think Greece, Spain, Portugal and the rest are too big to fail. Germany and France will always save them in the end, so the consequences of a default don’t even need to be considered.

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The Washington Examiner explains that America’s Founders would be aghast to see how modern politicians have accumulated $trillions of debt. That may be true, but the editorial is nonetheless unsatisfactory because it’s quite likely that the founders would be even more horrified by the amount of spending. After all, the Constitution permitted debt, but Article I, Section VIII, specified the allowable functions of the federal government – and much of the what the federal government does today would cause them to spin in their graves.

In the period spanning the final year of George W. Bush’s second term in the White House and President Obama’s tenure to date, the national debt has exploded from $9.1 trillion to nearly $13.2 trillion, reaching 90 percent of the gross domestic product. …There is no doubt that George Washington, our first president, Alexander Hamilton, our first secretary of the treasury, and Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the Declaration of Independence and our third president, would be horrified by the present financial condition of the federal government. Public debt was anathema for Washington, who in his Farewell Address admonished us to “cherish public credit,” noting that “one method of preserving it, is to use it sparingly … avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt.” …” …Jefferson was Hamilton’s great nemesis in the political world, but the two adversaries agreed on the evils of public debt. …President Obama has recently observed that the national debt and federal entitlement spending have reached levels that are “unsustainable.” It would be difficult today to find any politicians in either of the two major parties who would disagree with that assessment. But they’ve talked this talk for years without making the hard decisions that come with walking the walk. The time for talk is past.

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