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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Facing stubborn company resistance to higher wages in the tightest U.S. labor market in a half-century, increasing numbers of cities and states are forcing employers to push up their pay.
The backdrop: Labor's share of national income has plunged since 2000, according to the St. Louis Fed, and wages have been largely flat since. The rise in corporate profit is far outrunning labor income, the Fed branch said. (h/t Heather Long).
The tipping point for the pushback was the 2016 elections, in which Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders made a $15 minimum his central plank — double the $7.25 federal minimum. At the time, his demand was widely seen as outlandish, but now it's been mainstreamed.
But, but, but: Leading economists are not convinced that the hikes — in both red and blue states — amount to a nascent pro-labor public groundswell.
The bottom line: David Autor, an MIT professor and one of the world's most respected labor economists, said low unemployment would have to continue for many years to reverse the decades of flat wages. "And even if that were to come to pass (which it has rarely done)," Autor tells Axios, "it's far from certain that this would restore the sizable fall in labor's share of national income since 2000."
Scientists at Central South University in Hunan, China. Photo: Guang Niu/Getty
The escalating U.S. fear of Beijing's spies chipping away at the American tech edge has a new focus: Chinese scientists who are recruited to return to their homeland.
Axios' Erica Pandey reports: China is making its Thousand Talents Plan — a widely publicized government program that has lured an estimated 7,000 Chinese scientists back home to date — disappear, reports the journal Nature. The program has been wiped from government sites, and interviewers have reportedly been instructed to no longer mention the initiative by name when speaking with prospective recruits.
The big picture: Scientific cooperation between the U.S. and China is splintering amid the full-blown trade war and intensifying Washington rhetoric around Beijing's economic espionage. It threatens to slow scientific advances across the world.
Thought bubble, from Axios science editor Andrew Freedman: China is making great strides in multiple fields, including supercomputing, AI, gene editing (biology), medicine, atmospheric sciences and space exploration, to name a few. Their goals are ambitious, and it's not so much that luring scientists back home will set scientific progress back, but more that it'll probably benefit China versus other nations, like the U.S."
The bottom line: Xi Xiaoxing, a physicist at Temple University, told Nature: “Every scientist should be concerned — not just scientists of Chinese origin." Xi was arrested by the FBI for sharing sensitive information with China, but his case was later dropped.
Jeff Bezos. Photo: David Ryder/Getty
Yesterday, we reported that concern about antitrust action from Washington may be influencing how Amazon selects its much-sought new headquarters — specifically pushing it to favor the D.C. area.
What they're saying:
A leading thinker on the Amazon breakup is Lina Khan, author of seminal paper "Amazon's Antitrust Paradox." Khan argues that antitrust laws focusing on prices miss Amazon's market power.
That's precisely what European Union regulators are probing: whether Amazon's consumer data give it an inherent — and unfair — advantage over rivals.
"If the [U.S.] agencies investigate, they will focus on the questions raised by specific conduct; for example, the use of leverage to exclude rivals, keep them at bay, and entrench market power by doing so."— Eleanor Fox, antitrust law expert and professor at NYU
But some legal experts tell Axios that Amazon is in the clear:
"The two most common antitrust complaints about Amazon concern low prices and acquisitions. As to the former, the fact that Amazon grew for many years while not running company-wide profits most likely reflects consumer-friendly but lawful prices and aggressive investment in product improvements and new lines of business. The public criticisms fall far short of demonstrating a pattern of unlawfully low prices. As to acquisitions, I am not aware of any instance in which Amazon has obtained market power by merger or acquisition."— Doug Melamed, antitrust law professor at Stanford
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
The world's new economic powerhouses (Joel Weber — Bloomberg)
Llama power and a universal flu vaccine (Eileen Drage O'Reilly — Axios)
China runs from the FBI (Smriti Mallapaty — Nature)
Flashback to 2007: Buybacks exceed capital investment for two straight quarters (Lisa Abramowicz — Bloomberg) (tweet)
Doctors hate their computers (Atul Gawande — The New Yorker)
Hibiscadelphus wilderianus. Photo: L. Radlkoffer and J.F. Rock, Botanical Bulletin, September 1911. The flower is thought to have become extinct the following year.
As far as anyone knows, the Hibiscadelphus wilderianus, a hibiscus flower native to the forests of Maui, vanished in the early 1910s. Since then, no one has smelled its fragrance — until now.
Background: The reconstitution project was led by Ginkgo's Christina Agapakis, who found a dried-and-pressed sample of the hibiscus at the Harvard Herbaria. Her team was permitted to take small bits of the hibiscus kept there.
Ginkgo will sell a scaled-up version of the perfume as part of an art exhibit to open in February in Paris. Next, it will go to New York.