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The Week in Business: A $900 Million Mistake

  • February 21, 2021

Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, said that it would raise wages for 425,000 of its employees. That means about half of its 1.5 million workers in the United States will make at least $15 an hour. But many of its workers will still earn less. Walmart’s minimum wage remains at $11 an hour, unlike those of its biggest rivals like Target and Amazon, whose wages both start at $15 an hour. The company’s announcement came about a week after its chief executive, Doug McMillon, met with President Biden and discussed the administration’s interest in raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour from its current rate of $7.25 an hour.

Texas is recovering from a freakish cold snap that left millions without power and running water for days, but its economy remains stricken. Its agriculture industry has been literally frozen, and livestock are dying. Several semiconductor companies had to idle production, compounding a global shortage of computer chips that has already slowed car manufacturing at plants worldwide. But devastating incidents like this one may become the new normal. Economists — including one top Federal Reserve official — are warning that banks need to be better prepared for more climate-change-related disruptions to manufacturing, power, and other industries.

The House of Representatives plans to hold its first floor vote on the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue package this coming Friday. Democrats hope to pass the measure before March 14, when additional federal unemployment benefits ($300 a week, provided on top of existing state unemployment benefits) are set to expire. Through a legislative loophole, the stimulus bill could be approved with a simple Congressional majority and no Republican support.

The Australian government has proposed a law to make tech companies pay news outlets for the content that is shared on their platforms (and, in turn, helps them rake in advertising dollars). This poses obvious problems for giants like Facebook and Google, which are taking opposite approaches to the proposal. Facebook adopted a fighting stance by indefinitely blocking all news links from its platforms. Google, on the other hand, announced a three-year deal to compensate Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for its content, and said that similar partnerships are in the works. Other countries may follow in Australia’s footsteps if the law succeeds.

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