News & Commentary

October 29, 2013

The Washington Post reports that House Republicans and President Obama have both proposed some form of higher contributions by federal employees toward their retirement benefits for upcoming budget talks. Democrats in both chambers of Congress have opposed such efforts, and unions argue these  proposed retirement changes are unfair in light of the savings the federal government has already achieved at the expense of federal workers in the form of the sequester and pay freezes.

In international news, the Wall Street Journal reports that Indian agriculture is belatedly engaged in a mechanical revolution, boosting productivity in a sector that has long relied on cheap, surplus labor to tend crops in the world’s second most populous country. The Journal notes that job opportunities in factories and services, plus the government’s rural job-creation program guaranteeing 100 days of employment a year on public-works projects, have drained the pool of workers in villages.

Yet, the Wall Street Journal also reports that the federal government is preparing to levy the largest immigration fine ever, $35 million, against India-based outsourcing company Infosys for using inexpensive, easy-to-obtain B-1 visas meant to cover short business visits—instead of harder-to-get H-1B work visas—for individuals engaging in long-term work for big corporations across the United States.  The investigation has spurred the U.S. government to say it intends to tighten visa regulations.

Domestically, the New York Times reports on the vocal defense of poverty programs and the social safety net by Ohio’s Republican Governor, John Kasich, including his action last week to circumvent the Republican legislature in his state by using a little-known state board to expand Medicaid to 275,000 poor Ohioans under the Affordable Care Act.

Michael Saltsman argues in the Wall Street Journal that advocates of a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers and the supporters of a referendum to create a $15 minimum wage in SeaTac, WA do not realize that roughly half the minimum-wage workforce is employed at businesses with fewer than 100 employees, rather than at  the large corporations currently experiencing record profits (Saltsman categorizes fast food franchises as small businesses). As Salon has reported, if the the SeaTac referendum passes, $15  would the country’s highest minimum wage.

The state of Washington also factors into another big labor story, as the Wall Street Journal reports that Boeing is considering giving its nonunionized South Carolina facility a bigger role in building the planned new version of its 777 long-range jet rather than its unionized, longtime manufacturing base in Washington. Assembly of the aircraft and the fabrication of its wings is one of the biggest aerospace industrial prizes in the U.S. since 2009, and Washington is offering Boeing a suite of incentives to keep as much of the work in the Pacific Northwest as possible.

Finally, Francis X. Clines writes in the New York Times about the major economic impact of the surge in television shows actually filming in the city of New York–up from seven a decade ago to 26 today.  Television shows filming in the city employ more than 130,000 people and account for an estimated $7.1 billion in direct spending each year.

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