Minimum wage and trust issues

Updated: Thursday, June 5, 2014
Minimum wage and trust issues story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - There were congratulations all around last week when the Michigan Senate, in an astonishing display of speed and bi-partisanship, passed a new minimum wage law.

Under the law, the minimum wage in Michigan will rise from the $7.40 it is now to $9.25 over the next four years.

Tonight in Tom’s Corner, Tom Van Howe says--all the celebrating aside--as the old saying goes, there are two things you really don’t want to see being made: sausage and legislation.

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Excuse me for not joining the victory dance.

Its not so much that I don’t trust lawmakers--and I don’t.

It’s because I know this law is another example of how our lawmakers don’t trust you and me.

Most of you know what happened. But let me briefly explain anyway:

Our people in Washington were talking about a minimum wage hike--but with a million lobbyists saying it was better to keep people in poverty, that effort landed with a thud.

So, in Michigan, a grassroots petition drive began to amend the law to raise the minimum wage to $10.10.

There were some problems with it. Waiters and waitresses were included and that would have been a problem with our system of tipping for service.

But, nonetheless, it largely echoed what 70 percent of us thought anyway: it was time for a wage hike.

The petitions were signed by 320,000 people, and it seemed certain that the question would make it’s way to the November ballot where passage would be virtually assured.

But our Republican lawmakers were bothered by this. Not only would the law enrage some business owners and some wealthy backers, having an issue on the ballot that might rally Democratic voters just can’t be a good idea.

Its messy. Things might get out of hand.

So up jumps Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville--Republicans have a majority in both houses so it ought not be necessary to point out Richardville is a Republican--with an idea.

No sense in risking anything with another pesky voter-driven effort; let's repeal the minimum wage law and replace it with a new one that falls short of what the voters might approve of. That way the petition, which seeks to amend the wage law, would be irrelevant, null and void, as cold and tasteless as a week old cup of coffee. You can’t amend a law that has been repealed.

And you know how long it took to get all that done? And did I mention that Democrats joined in, to make the repeal and replacement a bipartisan effort?

It took one day. I mean, there had to have been some groundwork that took a few hours, but when push came to shove--one day!

Remarkable what can be accomplished when you don’t trust voters and have to move fast.

Now the petition people are upset and say they may take their case to court...and I hope they do.

We’ll have to wait and see.

Republicans, meantime, are claiming victory. So are Democrats. So is the Governor who signed it into law almost immediately.

And that’s all fine. The only people left out in the cold are the people who pushed the envelope with a petition drive in the first place.

They get part of what they wanted, but their victory is about as exciting as twin beds.

Politicians here, there, and everywhere urge us to trust them. And then spend millions, even billions of dollars to convince us to vote for them.

It can only mean they don’t trust us, left to our own devices, to do the right thing.

In this corner...I’m Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on February 27, 2015 08:28 GMT

THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Reports on the economy, pending home sales and foreign holdings of securities are due out today. The Commerce Department releases fourth-quarter gross domestic product at 8:30 a.m. The pending home sales index come out from the National Association of Realtors around 10 a.m. And the Treasury Department is to release its preliminary report on the June 2014 annual survey of foreign holdings of U.S. securities.

JAPAN-ECONOMY

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's core inflation rate edged lower in January as lower crude oil prices reduced energy costs, while weak retail sales and manufacturing underscored the fragility of its economic recovery.

Core inflation, excluding volatile food prices, was 2.2 percent, compared with 2.5 percent the month before and the lowest in 10 months. Excluding energy costs and food, the consumer price index was at 2.1 percent, level with the previous two months.

Unemployment rose to 3.6 percent from 3.4 percent the month before.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to spur growth by vanquishing the deflation that discouraged investment and spending over the past two decades. But the economy fell back into recession after a sales tax hike on April 1, 2014. Growth recovered to 2.2 percent in the October-December quarter.

GERMANY-GREECE

BERLIN (AP) -- Germany's Parliament is to vote today (FRIDAY) on the deal eurozone finance ministers hammered out to extend Greece's bailout for four months. The proposal should get wide, if unenthusiastic, support from lawmakers after a large majority in Chancellor Angela Merkel's (AHN'-geh-lah MEHR'-kuhlz) conservative bloc signaled their backing on Thursday.

In a test vote among the 311 conservative lawmakers, 22 opposed the bailout extension and five abstained. A minority of conservative lawmakers has consistently voted against bailouts over the five years of Europe's debt crisis.

SKOREA-NUCLEAR POWER

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- The South Korean nuclear regulator has renewed the operating license of the country's second-oldest nuclear power plant until 2022, overriding the objections of residents and anti-nuclear groups.

The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission said that seven of nine commissioners voted to restart the Wolsong No. 1 reactor located 170 miles south of Seoul.

It was the first such decision in South Korea since safety concerns about nuclear energy and older plants were raised following the meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi reactors in 2011. South Korea's 23 nuclear power plants, mostly located in the country's southeastern coast, provide about one-third of its electricity.

The nuclear regulator said in a statement that it reviewed the plant's ability to withstand natural disasters and its compliance with other legal standards. Two commissioners who asked for more time to review the reactor's safety abstained from the vote at the end of the 14-hour meeting that began Thursday morning and ended past midnight Friday.

South Koreans were sharply divided over the fate of the Wolsong No. 1 plant that had operated for 30 years until its license expired in 2012.

TOBACCO LAWSUIT-ARKANSAS

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- The Arkansas Supreme Court says a lawsuit against tobacco giant Philip Morris USA can proceed under class-action status.

The lawsuit seeks refunds on every pack of Marlboro Lights sold in Arkansas from 1971 to 2010. The plaintiffs claim Philip Morris, which is part of the Altria Group, deceived smokers about health risks.

The justices' 6-1 decision was released Thursday.

The company wants each case considered separately, saying some smokers bought the cigarettes for their taste, packaging or brand reputation -- not for claims they had lower tar and nicotine.

Philip Morris also said courts elsewhere have rejected class-action status for similar claims.

The size of the class isn't known, but Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox warned in 2013 that it could be in the millions.

IRS-LOST EMAILS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Investigators say they have recovered 32,000 emails related to a former IRS official at the heart of the agency's tea party scandal.

But they don't know if any of them are new.

The emails were to and from Lois Lerner, who used to head the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. Last June, the IRS told Congress it had lost an unknown number of Lerner's emails when her computer hard drive crashed in 2011.

IRS officials said the emails could not be recovered. But at a congressional hearing Thursday, IRS Deputy Inspector General Timothy Camus said investigators recovered thousands from old computer tapes.

However, the inspector general has not determined how many of the emails might be duplicates of the 78,000 Lerner emails already produced by the IRS.

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