For decades, Americans have been debating the need for the minimum wage. In the latest Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, four economic experts face off over whether the government should intervene or leave things up to the market.
A philandering billionaire, a former communist and a stand-up comedian all ran for high office. It may sound the beginning of a bad joke, but in fact it’s what happened in Italy’s recent general election. And the Italian people are not laughing.
The country is trapped in an eternal triangle . The election left the Italian parliament in a three-way split between Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right party, Pier Luigi Bersani’s center-left party and the Five Star Movement run by the one-time comedian Beppe Grillo. The parties cannot agree to form a coalition. And so more than a month after the poll, Italy remains in limbo without an elected government.
All good democrats deplore this political paralysis, but financial markets are relaxed. The euro has not collapsed; Italian government borrowing costs have actually fallen. Investors seem to relish the stalemate.
And here’s why: While the elected politicians posture and bicker and fail to reach agreement, the unelected technocrats are still in charge in a caretaker government. These are the people who pulled Italy back from the brink at the end of 2011 and have been delivering the kind of public spending cuts and economic reforms that the markets demand. So the markets are becalmed.
“It’s very important to say to the financial community that the technocrats are still in place and we are still committed to respect all the budgetary limitsm,” says Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Policy, Michel Martone.
Paradoxically, financial markets might be more unsettled if the three warring political parties sank their differences and formed a government. All three parties have criticized the technocrats' program of austerity and reform.
This prompts the question: Is Italy better off without an elected government?
Needless to say, the voters’ answer is a resounding 'no!'
“I think the failure to form a government is a complete disgrace,” says lawyer Elisabetta Girardi. And waiter Alessandro Lepore says, “Grillo, Berlusconi and Bersani are politicians who are useless to Italy.”
The impasse could come to an end within a few weeks. Fresh elections are likely to be called and it is possible that one of the three parties may win enough votes to form a government. Ironically, that might move the financial crisis into a higher gear.
You hear about it all the time -- elected officials get it in their head that their whole city or state needs to lose weight, and they promptly challenge residents to go on a group diet. Trimming the fat helps the heart -- and re-election efforts I guess.
Last April, my town's mayor challenged Bostonians to lose a collective one million pounds in a year's time. So far -- 11 and a half months in -- we've lost 96,000 pounds. Only 904,000 to go... by April 23.
Fellow Bostonians, now would be a good time to start that juice fast.
The mayor got the idea for a citywide diet after he met a very overweight boy while giving out Thanksgiving turkeys and worried the child was doomed. He also thought we'd have an easier chance slimming down if we avoided Dunkin' Donuts together.
It's not over until the fat lady sings, of course, but maybe the goal was just too ambitious. Perhaps a call to gain one million pounds would have better tapped into our strengths. Or to rack up $1 million in parking tickets.
But let's take a step back and examine the weight-loss target. Why one million pounds? After all, Corpus Christi, Texas, officials challenged their citizens to lose only 50,000 pounds, and that town was branded "America's Fattest City."
Not to brag, but Boston recently made a list of the fittest cities. Even so, the Boston Public Health Commission figured that we have about 200,000 overweight or obese adults, and if each lost five pounds, we'd be set. But the commission wasn't going to be picky. Each of our 625,00 residents could lose 1.6 pounds. Or one person could lose ... a million pounds.
Actually, a dieter doesn't even need to live in Boston. The Public Health Commission says it will take a pound of flesh from anyone who "works, plays, or lives" here. So by all means, if you come into town for a Celtics game, and you've had the stomach flu, please log onto the Boston Moves for Health website and share your loss.
The city has worked hard to promote its program. It's offering free fitness classes and pedometers, deeply discounted memberships to Weight Watchers, coupons for healthy food, community walks, and other incentives. So what's going on? As a lifelong dieter, I see two possibilities: either we're retaining water, or, even more likely, the scale is wrong.
The person behind the elaborate online hoax in which a fake website proclaimed Pastor Joel Osteen's intent to renounce Christianity and shut down his influential ministry says that his goal wasn't to attack Osteen personally. And he adds that he has now received thousands of "heartfelt" messages.
Tell Me More host Michel Martin recaps the big stories in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. She's joined by Tell Me More editor Ammad Omar, who's a heartbroken Michigan fan, and sports columnist Kevin Blackistone.
President Obama will announce his annual budget proposal this Wednesday. He's expected to propose cuts to Social Security. Host Michel Martin talks with former Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue about how cuts might affect those Americans who rely on the program.
The Focus is the best-selling "nameplate" worldwide, followed by the Toyota Corolla, new data show.