Involving: a papal scuppering of the Italian general elections, Obama’s grand new plan to raise the minimum wage, and Japan being saved by winter.

Good morning

The headlines:

  1. Obama’s State of the Union Address.

    Link: oy vey minimum wage oy gevalt.

    If anyone feels like reading Obama’s SOTU address, here’s the full transcript: “the full transcript”. But it can largely be summarised as: rhetoric, tips of the hat to John McCain, “what we need is bipartisan support”, some named-individual stories meant to pluck at America’s heartstring, and “let’s increase the minimum wage”.

    “Let’s increase the minimum wage”.

    Oh. Em. Gee.

    Nothing like making workers more expensive to encourage the job hiring situation. And restore the middle class.

    People already throw around the statistic that middle-class workers in the US are paid 10 times the equivalent of their developing world counterparts. Just, like, without 10 times the productivity. And while that’s explainable for some good reasons (mostly immigration law, as I wrote about here), it also explains why American companies are so quick to outsource. And now there is a call to increase that wage level*? At the same time as incentivising industry? I’m not sure that’s possible.

    Just stick with the taxing the rich argument, sunshine. And how about introducing VAT? And property tax? Empirically easier methods for the population to stomach – and then you can redistribute the collection to the lower classes. If that’s really where you’re going with this.

    *because there’s always a ripple upward effect – as your pay is generally relative to what your peers and subordinates are earning. At least – that’s my argument in wage negotiations.

  2. The solution to the Japanese GDP recession…

    Link: was the weather. 

    I love this kind of story. Japan “emerged from its third recession in five years last quarter”…”as cold weather boosted consumption”.

    It makes sense: you’re cold, you realise that you should buy some more jerseys, and then you buy a coffee, and soup, and you’re in a shopping centre, so why the hell not browse – it’s cold outside!

    The point is this: the solutions to economic problems are not always within our control. Sometimes, it’s the weather. Perhaps it’s time to bring a little faith back to the proverbial party. And/or hope.

  3. The upside of the Papal resignation.

    Link: found it!

    Something I didn’t realise: within 2 weeks of an Italian election, there is a media black-out on polls for fear of unduly influencing voters. Silvio has been closing the lead on his rival by doing a lot of talking the Italians into in on every radio/TV/newspaper he could access.

    Only now, all the Italians can talk about is the Pope. And his successor. And all the forthcoming Conclave drama.

    Which shuts Berlusconi up rather effectively. So thank the Pope for that.

    And maybe, just maybe, it means that Berlusconi will lose.

That’s all for now.

Have a good day.