MELVYN WEISS FOR THE PLAINTIFFS
Your report on the Prudential Insurance settlement ("What does Prudential really owe?" Finance, Feb. 2) contained several misleading statements, at least some of which, as plaintiffs' lead counsel, I must correct. First, you characterized Michael Malakoff, a Pittsburgh attorney for 21 clients, as "leading the charge" to overturn the deal. In fact, Mr. Malakoff and his clients are not leading anyone: They are the only appellants out of 8 million policyholders.
In addition, your statement that the fee was "paid to the class's law firm, Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach," is wrong. The fee (which includes almost $5 million in advanced out-of-pocket expenses) will be shared by more than 24 law firms, which have already expended more than $35 million in billable time on a contingency basis.
Melvyn I. Weiss
Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach
New YorkReturn to top
A MINIMUM WAGE GIVES FAMILIES MINIMAL HELP
In "The case for another minimum-wage hike" (News: Analysis & Commentary, Feb. 2), Aaron Bernstein misses the real problem. Although I suspect few economists think the minimum wage produces no job loss, the question of how many jobs are lost is a secondary concern in an economy performing as spectacularly as ours. The real question is whether the minimum wage does much good, or whether it does what President Clinton argued in his State of the Union Address: help workers provide for their families.
Most minimum-wage workers are not working to provide for a family. More than half are under 25, and many are individuals living alone. Thus, it's not surprising that less than 20% are heads of families. Nor are most minimum-wage workers living in poverty. In fact, more than half live in families whose annual income is more than $25,000. In short, the minimum wage is inferior to policy tools such as the Earned Income Tax Credit in assisting poor or near-poor families.
WashingtonReturn to top
BUILDING SELF-ESTEEM IS A TEACHABLE SKILL
"The vital role of self-esteem" (Economic Trends, Feb. 2) was reassuring to those of us who have long argued the point now confirmed by research. The link between self-esteem and productivity presents a win-win opportunity for the organization willing to support and promote it.
While it is true that "much of self-esteem is acquired in childhood," enhancing self-esteem and using it to achieve goals are teachable skills. Building self-esteem is a subject that belongs in every curriculum for improving productivity and organizational effectiveness.
Silver Spring, Md.Return to top
HOW AMERICA CAN COMPETE WITH A REVITALIZED ASIA
Although Gary Becker's "Asia may be shaken, but it's no house of cards" (Economic Viewpoint, Feb. 2) contains reasonable analysis, its argument that some see Asian capitalism as a house of cards is nonsense. China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan remain powerful today and will be even stronger in the future.
What Asia needs is less cronyism in commerce. Cronyism makes it difficult for U.S. companies to compete in Asia.
Then we need to focus on the fundamental U.S. problem: Too many Americans are functionally illiterate. This holds back the economy from its full potential. Having so many people with limited skills means less output and higher tax to support them. More crime and family violence also arise among frustrated Americans who cannot compete with the mainstream of workers.
If we hope to compete as Asia comes out of its financial slump, we need to achieve three goals in the coming five years: (1) Every American student must graduate from high school; (2) every American student must become competent in English, math, and the sciences; and (3) all American adults of working age must become functionally literate.
These changes will benefit everyone by promoting fair competition.
San FranciscoReturn to top