By Bill Taylor
It seems to me that every once in a while we encounter a news item that causes us to do what we used to call a “double take,” that is, to either mentally or verbally respond with, “Hey, wait a minute.” The reason for this reaction is the feeling that the information must be incorrect or somehow distorted in some way. So we go back and take a second or third look to make sure. That’s what happened recently when I encountered several such news items.
Most everyone has been aware of the ever-increasing clamor to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour and in some places this is already been enacted as a local or state law. The reasoning behind this move is that the current minimum wage level is considered insufficient to support a reasonable lifestyle. One of the arguments against this blanket increase is that it applies to entry level positions such as those young people flipping burgers and the additional cost will be greater than the value provided by these workers. In addition, those employees who have experience and hold higher positions would necessarily have an increase as well.
So what? Well, I came across a news item about minimum wage for entry level workers that caused me to have a “double take.” According to the Wall Street Journal a major New York law firm is raising its base salary for entry level lawyers to $180,000 a year. Yep, that’s right, first year law school graduates will be pulling down $180K a year. This move will also bump fourth-year lawyers’ minimum pay to $235K and eighth-year lawyers to $315K. Furthermore, other law firms are expected to match this minimum wage level. How about them apples? Kinda makes a body reflect a bit on where our society’s values lie, doesn’t it?
Let’s move on to another “Hey, wait a minute” example, but first a quick tutorial. Folks with money to invest for their future often have chosen a mixture of stocks and bonds. Stocks, generally speaking, are an investment in some kind of business enterprise with the expectation the value of the stock will increase, the stock will pay dividends as a return on the investment, or both.
Bonds, on the other hand, are kinda IOU’s issued by both commercial enterprises and government agencies. These are generally of two types. One is sold at face value with the interest periodically paid to the bond holder. The second is sold at less than face value to be redeemed at full face value after a specified period of time. In either case, the bond holder anticipates making money – with the highest return from the bonds coming from those with the highest probability of default while the most secure bonds pay less. Sounds straight forward, right?
You can imagine my “Hey, wait a minute” response to the news that the yields on the 10-year bonds issued by the German government went below zero. Yep, that’s right, investors will now have to pay Germany for the privilege of the German government holding their money for 10 years. But that’s not all. The yield on Japanese government-issued 10-year bonds has an even lower negative yield and bonds issued by some commercial enterprises also have negative yields. Short term US treasury bonds have dipped below zero interest only occasionally, but who knows? Got room under your mattress for any spare cash? It might be safer there.
OK, moving on to another “Hey, wait a minute” moment. Most everybody knows about the effort by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community to institute an “open door – everybody’s welcome” policy for public restrooms, locker rooms, and such. Well, the most recent demand involves those forms we have to fill out for job applications, credit, medical treatment, and other stuff. One section usually requires checking either the “female” or “male” box. Well, the LGBT people are calling for a third box to be included – now get this – a box marked “other.” That’s right – male, female, or other.
Yep, this new campaign touts the idea that the designation of “male” or “female” is “arbitrarily assigned” at birth and such an entry on a baby’s birth certificate should not be considered definitive or absolute. Kinda presents a problem in definition, doesn’t it? Just what does “other” mean? Do you figure we will see a new designator added to Miss, Mrs, Ms, and Mr options on forms?
Well, this world is full of surprises and change and we should be prepared for more of these “Hey, wait a minute” incidents. You know, the lyrics of an old song included the line “now heaven knows, anything goes” and it sure does look as if that’s the case today. At least that’s how it seems to me.