Environmental two-fer

How's this for fair and balanced?  Credit to the Bush administration over two recent environmental stories.

1) Apparently Japan is doing its best to overturn the International Whaling Commission's long-standing ban on commercial whaling, but the U.S. is standing up to their efforts

2) President Bush, an a display of executive power that I approve of (for once) designated a massive marine sanctuary around the northwestern Hawaiian islands as a national monument.  These islands are almost completely lacking in human habitation and therefore an amazing nature preserve. 

Credit given where credit is due.

Also, hearing about this sanctuary reminded me of a really good book I read about a year ago, Eye of the Albatross by Carl Safina.  The book traces the tale of a single albatross to enlighten us about a variety of animals and ecosystems all over the Pacific.  This new national monument contains some albatross breeding grounds that are quite amazing– so thick with breeding albatrosses you can hardly walk.  Safina is also the author of what is probably my all time favorite book about the natural environment: Song for the Blue Ocean

Raise the Minimum Wage

So, I've been meaning to post about the minimum wage for about a week now.  My favorite blogger, Kevin Drum, has finally beaten me to it with a tour-de-force posting.  To summarize: in real spending terms, the minimum wage has fallen to an all-time low and has not been increased in ten years.  Opponents of the increase always decry how it will cost jobs and ruin small business, but the best economic research on the topic suggests otherwise.  In fact, the decline in real-dollar terms of the wage has gotten so bad that a number of states have raised their own minimum wage higher than the federal level.  Somehow California, New York, Florida, and others still seem to have successful small businesses and good economies.  A great example of “the laboratory of federalism” in action. 

I am pleased to say that North Carolina will soon be joining this trend, as both our state House and Senate have improved a minimum wage increase. 

On an interesting political science note to the matter, the issue also nicely demonstrates how the rules of the game matter.  In the House, the Speaker has the power to schedule, or not schedule, legislation for debate and vote as he sees fit.  Even though a minimum wage bill made it out of committee, Hastert is unwilling to schedule a vote, because he knows it would win despite opposition from a majority of Republicans.  On Wednesday, the increase lost in the Senate despite the support of 52 Senators.  In this case, the Senate had agreed to procedural requirements for the larger bill requiring 60 votes.  The Senate is not big on majority rule. 

The Carpetbagger has a little more on the politics of all this. 

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