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Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

| March 5, 2021 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

A Kenyan materials engineer has developed bricks made from waste plastic, which are up to seven times stronger than concrete bricks. Reuters reported that her factory in Kenya produces 1,500 bricks daily. The plastics are mixed with sand, heated, and then compressed.

Close to four million U.S. jobs are gone forever due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CNN reported.

The Senate Parliamentarian, an appointed advisor to the upper chamber, has said the $15 minimum wage proposal cannot be part of the American Rescue Plan. It should instead be considered as a stand-alone bill or as part of other legislation. A spokeswoman for the White House said the president will not give up on the $15 minimum, commenting that “no one in this country should work full time and live in poverty.” A Morning Consult poll shows 76 percent of the public like the plan, including 60 percent of Republicans.

The Congressional Budget Office says raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would boost pay for 27 million Americans and lift nearly a million out of poverty. But it would also result in the loss of close to 1.4 million jobs and be costly for the federal government. Many economists criticized the report as faulty, arguing it used different standards than the last CBO analysis. Business Insider cited a 2019 survey of 138 state-level minimum wage changes over four decades, which found the job and wage levels stayed “mostly level.” UC-Berkeley economists said the CBO prediction, done correctly, would show a $65.4 billion annual budget gain, much of that due to increased payroll taxes and savings from the decline in safety net programs.

Business Insider also looked at a 2019 study of the Seattle minimum wage increase and found no impact on grocery store prices.

If wages for some people double, will prices double? That is “absurd” an Oregon bar owner told Business Insider. A former bartender, she adopted a policy of listening to employees and paying them to reflect her appreciation. She reported rarely struggling to find new employees. Her prices go up when other costs rise. Employees’ pay is only 25 percent of that equation.

And the co-CEO of a New Hampshire business told USA Today that paying “no less than $15” has resulted in no funds spent on recruiting new employees for the last 25 years. It also led to “less waste and fewer errors” due to attracting an experienced staff.

U.S. Senate Budget Hearing snippet: “Why do large, profitable corporations pay such low wages that their employees are eligible for and must rely on federal anti-poverty programs just to make ends meet?” asked Economic Policy Institute president Thea Lee. A member of the budget panel invited offending CEOs to explain why they can’t afford to pay a $15 minimum wage.

The House passed the American Rescue Plan over the weekend. Every Republican voted against it. Next up: a vote by the Senate, where Republicans prefer a plan that is two-thirds smaller. They have presented their proposal to President Joe Biden, but he called it inadequate for addressing the pandemic and economy. The New York Times said Dems want the plan passed before unemployment benefits end March 14. Given that any changes to the minimum wage are unlikely, an amendment is under consideration that would penalize corporations that pay less than $15 an hour by imposing an escalating tax on those large corporations’ payrolls.

The proposed Child Tax Credit, part of the American Rescue Plan, could cut child poverty by 51 percent, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Senators Tom Cotton and Mitt Romney have proposed a $10 an hour minimum wage as an alternative. The Economic Policy Institute said that proposal will fail to increase the minimum wage to the level it was at in the 1960s. Adopting the $10 figure would result in 600,000 fewer children and 700,000 fewer adults emerging from poverty.

The House followed the Senate last week with an investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. According to Talking Points Memo, the acting Capitol Police chief stated “we know that members of the militia groups” wanted to “blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible…”

The chief gave no further details.

NBC reported that the nation’s lifespan decreased by one year due to COVID-19 in the first half of 2020. Minority populations were hit hardest. A Johns Hopkins University health professor said the U.S. has 4 percent of the world’s population, but 20 percent of its COVID-19 deaths.

A study from the Chicago Project on Security and Threats found 40 percent of the Capitol rioters were business owners or white collar workers, while 9 percent were unemployed. “It was not antifa and it was not BLM. It was Trump supporters that did that yesterday [Jan. 6]. I’m the first to admit it, being one myself,” stated Anthony Aguero, a “close friend” of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), in a video posted after the riot. Green also is a fan of the QAnon conspiracy. CNN shared information from the video last week.

Blast from the (recent) past: “When one is accustomed to privilege, equality looks like oppression,” wrote Michele Goldberg in a 2019 New York Times opinion piece.