- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Nov. 4

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, on Singing River Health System:

Employees and retirees of the Singing River Health System must not become victims of a betrayal of trust by the system’s administrators.

The revelation that the system’s retirement plan is in jeopardy is a potentially life changing event for those dependent on Jackson County’s second largest employer.

Pension plans, whether they be public or private, have been under stress since the Great Recession began in 2008.

Employees have been asked, and most have accepted the fact, that they must take responsibility for their own retirement.

Defined pension plans, such as the one in place at SRHS, are being replaced with 401(k) plans by many employers.

But employees can only be responsible for their own retirement if the companies they work for provide complete and timely financial information.

SRHS officials have admitted they did neither, raising the following questions:

Were SRHS employees informed in 2009 that the system was stopping contributions to the pension plan?

Were employees made aware the pension plan was uninsured?

Were employees given annual updates on the status of the pension plan’s solvency?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then it would be unfair to expect employees to be able to respond to this situation.

While SRHS was apparently free from the regulations imposed on federally insured pensions, it is simply a matter of fairness to ensure employees are informed in a timely manner about management’s decisions, which can so dramatically impact their retirement planning.

There has been an egregious failure at SRHC to deal openly and honestly with employees - and with the taxpayers of Jackson County on whose behalf SRHC provides medical services.

Current administrators can find their way out of this mess. Other companies facing similar situations have been able to protect their pension funds by making some very difficult spending choices.

So can SRHC.

The administrators and trustees of SRHC and the Jackson County Board of Supervisors have an inescapable obligation to protect the pensions of employees at or near retirement age and provide a reasonable way forward for all others in the current plan.




Nov. 4

The Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth on socialism fails in Venezuela:

It hasn’t taken long for the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez’s policies in Venezuela to turn sour.

Chavez, who died in March 2013, was popular in his own country, as well as some others, when, as president, he implemented what were called social reforms, increasing government spending on health care, education and aid to the poor. Among other things, he seized control of the nation’s oil industry, taking over what were once joint ventures with major oil companies such as ExxonMobil and Conoco.

The revolutionary leader of the Fidel Castro type used the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, to fund graft-ridden social programs as well as campaign expenses.

The government-owned oil company couldn’t or didn’t invest enough capital in its own operations. As a result, for the first time in its 100-year history of oil production, USA Today reports, Venezuela is having to import oil, despite possessing the world’s largest petroleum reserves.

That’s not all that’s fouled up in the South American country. The appearance of milk, hand soap or shampoo creates long lines of shoppers. Not a great legacy for Chavez and his socialist successors.




Nov. 5

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo, Mississippi, on retail forecast:

The … passing of Halloween opens the way for a shift in the commercial emphasis of retailers nationwide toward the Christmas and other year-ending holidays, with an optimistic forecast of increasing retail sales from several quarters buoying expectations for a more prosperous year.

The National Retail Federation and other organizations note that holiday sales on average have grown 2.9 percent over the past 10 years, with 4.1 percent growth predicted this year.

This would mark the first time since 2011 that holiday sales would increase more than 4 percent.

“Retailers could see a welcome boost in holiday shopping, giving some companies the shot in the arm they need after a volatile first half of the year and an uneventful summer,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay in a trade publication. “While expectations for sales growth are upbeat, it goes without saying there still remains some uneasiness and anxiety among consumers when it comes to their purchase decisions.

“Income, wage and job growth are positive indicators heading into the holiday season,” said Daniel Bachman, Deloitte’s senior U.S. economist. “Debt levels remain at historical lows, and stock market gains coupled with increasing home prices have a wealth effect on consumers, which may encourage increased spending compared with prior years.”

Deloitte, a financial services giant in retail and distribution practice, expects total holiday sales to climb to between $981 and $986 billion, representing a 4 to 4.5 percent increase in November through January holiday sales over 2013.

Last year’s gain was about 2.8 percent.

Additionally, Deloitte forecasts a 13.5 to 14 percent increase in non-store sales.

DeLoitte also said while online sales continue to climb, digital customer interactions through both virtual and physical store channels present greater sales opportunities than online or mobile commerce alone.

Earlier retail sales, jobs and housing data all point to healthier gains.

NRF’s holiday sales forecast is based on an economic model using several indicators including consumer credit, disposable personal income, and previous monthly retail sales.

Retail generates more than $2.5 trillion for the nation’s economy, and any substantial increase is good for the whole economy.



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