Standards needed against identity theft
It's unfortunate it took the identity theft of some 300,000 consumers to wake up Congress to companies that sell personal data, but better late than never.
In addition to the LexisNexis security breach that allowed the personal information to get into the hands of thieves, another company, ChoicePoint, last year was found to have unwittingly sold data on 145,000 Americans to criminals posing as legitimate companies.
It's troublesome enough that these data information brokers know more about us than we likely know about ourselves. But, with the exception of California, there are no federal or state laws on the books that even require these companies to notify consumers that their personal data is stolen.
These seem like good starting points.
Uniform federal standards are clearly needed.
Feds need to mend tax loophole woes
The Columbus (Ohio)
Unless Congress and the Bush administration change a certain tax law, increasing numbers of middle-class Americans over the next few years will be grappling with ever-steeper federal income taxes. And all that boasting from Washington about tax cuts will ring hollower and hollower.
A creature known as the alternative minimum tax was born in 1969 as a means to prevent the highest-income taxpayers from using deductions to avoid paying taxes altogether.
Fortunately, President Bush and many lawmakers have begun to feel the pressure to alter the alternative-minimum tax. Unfortunately, if they dump it entirely, the government would suffer such huge revenue losses that annual deficits would grow even larger, ballooning still further the national debt.
Taco Bell needs to strike up a new deal
For Taco Bell, it was - ay, !caramba! - a pretty awkward situation. Its main fast-food entree is a rendition of a Mexican dish and, for some time, its advertising spokesman was a bug-eyed, Spanish-speaking Chihuahua. Yet the company was accused of buying its tomatoes from suppliers that exploited undocumented migrant workers, most of them Mexican.
After three years of protests, Yum! Brands, which owns Taco Bell, along with KFC, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver's and A&W All-American Food Restaurants, agreed to pay suppliers an extra penny for every pound of tomatoes harvested by Florida farmworkers.
That hike will nearly double the annual salaries of workers to approximately $14,000. The added cost will be about $100,000 a year for Yum!, a firm with $9 billion in revenues worldwide in 2004.
Yum! also will set standards for working conditions.
The bad news is that only 1,000 of the 33,000 tomato pickers in Florida will be covered by the agreement. In Florida, an estimated 70 percent of the agricultural workforce is undocumented; in some parts of California it reaches 90 percent.
It's no wonder that farmworker unions and growers' associations - not your usual allies - support guest-worker proposals. Both sides would like an above-board system for recruiting migrant labor. That would benefit firms pressed by foreign competition and protect the rights of migrant and American workers.