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Shrinkage, gold bars, & more
1. Target is closing nine stores due to theft. We mentioned shrinkage—when theft/misplacement/error/damage causes a retailer to have fewer items in stock than they thought—in Week in Review last month.
For what it’s worth, the NRF’s retail security survey shows the median shrink rate rose to 1.4% in FY22, up just barely from 1.3% in FY19. We might eventually get around to writing a longer post about shrinkage, if only for the puns. For now, my guess is that this is a problem in very specific (and high profile) areas, but most places aren’t seeing endemic shoplifting.
2. I usually dismiss critiques of youth culture as misguided nostalgia—was everything better when you were younger, or is being younger better?—but this chart (from this paper) is pretty shocking.
A few thoughts:
The abridged Y-axis makes this look a little more dramatic. The share of 12th graders with a drivers license is only down about 12 pp since the turn of the century. I assume a lot of those kids are taking Uber.
If teens are drinking less and driving less, that probably means teens are drinking and driving less too.
There are a lot of reasons why teens are working less, but a big factor is that colleges would rather see extracurriculars than work experience. That is, in my opinion, not good.
3. Average real net worth for the bottom 50% of households rose sharply during the second quarter of 2023 and is just off the all-time high set in the first half of 2022 (source). The takeaway is that the pandemic helped the bottom 50% accumulate wealth.
4. In the late 1800’s, the U.S. government established the Board of Tea Experts, a panel “responsible for making recommendations to the Secretary of the Treasury to fix and establish uniform standards of purity, quality, and fitness for consumption of all kinds of teas imported into the United States.”
In 1996, we passed the Federal Tea Tasters Repeal Act of 1996. Just 27 short years later, HHS has finally terminated the Board of Tea Experts.
Okay, apparently the Tea Board actually stopped operating in 1996 (it had four employees and a pretty small budget), the HHS action just formally abolished it. Still, I count this as a tiny but symbolic victory for small government.
5. This U.S. News Survey found that 82% of home buyers over the last year were assured they could “buy now and refinance later.” Except now it’s later, and rates are even higher.
Over half of recent buyers say they regret purchasing when they did, and 78% are stressed that rates are expected to stay high throughout 2023. First time buyers are particularly regretful.
6. The FTC is suing Amazon for illegally maintaining monopoly power and is now taking action against the four top global spenders on R&D (which are all American companies).
Based on this 2021 Harvard/Harris poll, Amazon is one of the country’s most favored institutions, trailing only the U.S. military. Which is to say, I’m probably not alone in wishing the FTC would leave Amazon alone.
7. From the WSJ opinion section: “In 2018, Mr. Trump imposed legally dubious ‘national security’ tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, including from Mexico and Canada. Mr. Lighthizer [trade representative under Trump] defends the tariffs as necessary to combat globally depressed steel prices that he claims threatened the survival of the steel industry and jobs. But according to estimates from Peterson Institute economists, for every steel-worker job saved by those tariffs—at a cost of $650,000 per job—more than eight were destroyed in the downstream industries that use steel and aluminum.”
8. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has once again been indicted, which would be more upsetting if the details weren’t so funny. For instance, some of the bribes were paid with literal gold bars.
If any U.S. senators are reading this, try to avoid accepting your bribes in the most cartoonish and newsworthy way possible. Also resist the urge to Google “how much is one kilo of gold worth?” right after meeting with the people bribing you with one kilo of gold.
9. Taylor Swift showed up to the Kansas City Chiefs game on Sunday to watch Travis Kelce play. His jersey sales spiked 400% as a result. At this point, she’s a living economic stimulus program. There’s even a Wikipedia page dedicated to the economic impact of her Eras Tour.
10. People have gone back to the office over the past year, just not on Fridays.
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