Tuesday Links: One-Source FT, Soaring APRs, Severance

The Financial Times runs one of those no-context, let’s-quote-one-source-with-obvious-bias stories it likes to do, this one on global food corporations saying it’s foolish for countries to try to be self-sufficient in their food supply, even in the wake of the massive disruptions of last year. Unsurprisingly, the multinational corporations tout free trade as the answer. This from Cargill:

“Promoting a free and open trading system whereby countries can produce what they are best able … and surpluses can be traded across international boundaries is the right way to go.

Thanks for that.

The New York Times and Frontline partnership continues to pay off, today with a good look at what the credit-card business is up to: raising rates and fees and cutting credit lines. “The higher rates and fees reflect the grim new realities of the credit card industry — the percentage of uncollectible balances has hit a record even as a new law may further limit the cards’ profitability.” Oh, and:

A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts, released late last month, concluded that the 12 largest banks, issuing more than 80 percent of the credit cards, were continuing to use practices that the Fed concluded were “unfair or deceptive” and that in many instances had been outlawed by Congress.

— Meantime, the Times’s Ron Lieber points readers to credit union cards, which “are nonprofit entities and are controlled by their members, which gives them a big advantage on pricing.” Good advice. I’m going to take it myself.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting story on the severance economy and the perils facing those whose layoff pay is running out in a dismal job environment. The lede anecdote is a a former small-bank CEO who made $200,000 a year and who got a $200,000 severance. I guess you could make the case that this is a less-than-perfect anecdote, but life’s messy, layoffs are complicated, and it’s surprisingly affecting.

Mr. Joegriner doesn’t use the word “unemployed” in front of his children, ages 9 and 6, preferring to say that he’s a consultant and that income is patchy. Rough times have even moved him to contemplate seasonal employment this winter, “a stopgap job,” while he continues his executive job search. “Maybe something at night stocking shelves,” he says. “That way people wouldn’t have to see me.”

Reporter Mary Pilon wraps it up with a good kicker.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.