Monday Tabs

What I'm reading but don't have time to write about at length.

WaPo’s Matt Viser, “When Joe Biden lost his purpose.” A longish discourse into the period between Beau Biden’s death and his father’s re-entry into politics. It sheds some light on financial temptations that the elder Biden passed up and the struggles of his remaining living son, Hunter.

WSJ, “Dartmouth Reinstates SAT Requirement in First for Ivy Leaguetl;dr: The tests do what they’re designed to do. Also, eliminating the tests radically increases applications and thus the workload of admissions officers.

WaPo, “Inflation has fallen. Why are groceries still so expensive?tl;dr: a combination of continuing supply chain issues, labor shortages, and industry consolidation

NYT, “Why Are Americans Wary While the Economy Is Healthy? Look at Nevada. tl;dr: a combination of boom and bust cycles eroding a sense of stability, higher interest rates, and higher grocery prices (which—see above—aren’t coming down anytime soon)

WaPo, “The IRS has all our tax data. Why doesn’t its new website use it? tl;dr: A combination of petty politics and regulatory capture. And the fact that the first part of the headline isn’t really true for many filers.

WaPo, “Want safer streets? Paint them.A novel argument for using street art to engage drivers to pay attention.

NYT, “Running vs. Walking: Which Is Better for Lasting Health?tl;dr: Running. Duh.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    The Biden article provided me with sensible background on the dynamics, thanks.

    Although, duh! The man was shattered by his boy’s death. We’re not supposed to outlive our children. He’s human.

    On running vs walking, a Vietnam era Marine sniper I knew used to snark, “don’t run, you’ll only die tired.”

    But still, your side bar comments are worth it!

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  2. steve says:

    Reinstituting the SAT/ACT was predictable. Many schools offer ways for students to improve their GPA while not necessarily indicating they are a stronger student. However, I mostly didnt see how they could administratively handle this. They had a huge increase in applications. How do you sort those? It’s not really the kind of work regular staff like and you can only hire so many admin people. While the tests may be flawed as a tool, when used in context they are better than most other options.

    Steve

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  3. DK says:

    WaPo, “Inflation has fallen. Why are groceries still so expensive?” tl;dr: a combination of continuing supply chain issues, labor shortages, and industry consolidation

    WaPo, you were so close!

    Record corporate profits have entered the chat:

    On Tuesday, Conagra Brands—one of the largest consumer packaged goods companies in the U.S.—announced that it had posted a nearly 60% year-over-year profit increase between December 2022 and February 2023…

    Sean Connolly, Conagra chief executive, said on the earnings call with shareholders that the company’s sales growth was “primarily driven by inflation justified price increases” and a willingness by consumers to pay the higher prices…

    …Connolly added that “while these inflation cycles are painful for manufacturers to go through to a degree, sometimes they’re actually quite good for you because they become a catalyst for getting your pricing right.”

    …At Kraft-Heinz, the multinational food company that makes Oscar Mayer, Jell-O, and Kool Aid, profits for the quarter ending at the end of 2022 were up nearly 450%, compared to the prior year, at $887 million. Tyson Foods, the largest meat company in the U.S., more than doubled its profits between the first quarters of 2021 and 2022. And General Mills, which owns Kix, Trix, and Chex among other recognizable cereal labels, saw its fourth quarter profits last year rise 97% compared to the previous quarter.

    Establishmentarian resistence to admitting corporations are raising prices well above offset from rising supply chain and labor costs is entering farce territory. CEOs are literally on shareholder calls stating “inflation” is a cover to raise prices as high as possible, yet much of the legacy press is somehow *still* blaming everything except basic math.

    Is there a media style guide that outlaws use of the word “greed” when discussing economic planning and corporate decision-making? It’s just bizarre at this point.

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  4. Franklin says:

    In before the “running wears out your knees” argument, which studies have consistently indicated is simply not true.

    Still, walking is way, way better than doing nothing, and it’s the best many can manage for all sorts of reasons. So kudos to whoever does whatever they can for their health.

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  5. MarkedMan says:

    @Franklin: While I agree with you that running has never been shown to ruin your knees, I can vouch for the fact that knees can degrade to the point where running is not much fun at all, if not during the run, then for the 2-3 days after.

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  6. MarkedMan says:

    @DK: I don’t really blame greed as I’m not sure why a manufacturer should sell product for less than people are willing to pay. What will change prices is when people switch over to lower priced goods and ConAgra et al find themselves with a whole lot of product sitting on the shelves. Then they will lower their prices. Bottom line, if I raise the price of my eggs to $2.50 a dozen and my sales don’t go down, why should I sell them at $2.00 a dozen?

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  7. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Franklin: I do aquatic fitness classes and swimming because running and tennis that sort of stuff absolutely wrecks my body. I can walk for six miles without stopping and feel fine the next day, or run for 30 minutes and wake up barely able to walk without putting on my left knee brace and icing my feet.

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  8. gVOR10 says:

    @MarkedMan: True. And there seems to be a widespread belief that if inflation has stopped, price should go down. Not the way it works. Not to go all mathy, but inflation is the rate of change in prices. If the rate of change goes to zero, prices stay as they are.

    For prices to go down we need negative inflation, disinflation. Disinflation is a bad thing. Because their money will buy more if they wait, no one buys anything they can put off.

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  9. wr says:

    @MarkedMan: “Bottom line, if I raise the price of my eggs to $2.50 a dozen and my sales don’t go down, why should I sell them at $2.00 a dozen?”

    And then you can use that extra 50 cents per dozen to buy out your competitors, and then you can raise your price to three dollars. You can then use that extra fifty cents to purchase several local politicians who can use zoning and other powers to keep any new competition from moving in, and then you can start charging four dollars. Then you use half of that increase to keep your politicians bought to pass laws slashing your taxes, then use the other half for stock buybacks and executive salary.

    But who said anything about greed?

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  10. Matt says:

    @MarkedMan: The problem is that a lot of these companies are so big that there’s no meaningful competition. For example all those brands you see at your local grocery store are owned by maybe a dozen companies. How are you going to get competition when whole sections of the market are owned by the same parent company?

    EDIT : Oh WR covered the same issue in better detail. I guess I should of hit reload before responding.

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  11. MarkedMan says:

    @wr: I get your point, but state actors have had little success mandating prices in the 10,000 or so years it’s been tried. Now, if you are arguing for aggressive anti-trust enforcement, and an overturning of the Supreme Courts pro-public corruption decisions, I’m 100% with you.

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  12. DK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Why should I sell them at $2.00 a dozen?

    I’m not saying you should. My question is, what is the aversion to calling your greed what it is?

    It reminds me of the years of refusal to call Trump’s lies, lies. For what? Niceties?

    You may argue you have a right to be greedy, that consumer behavior justifies you being greedy, etc etc. Cool. But just fess up and call the spade a spade, so we can stop pretending inflation is magic and start blaming consumers and corporations instead of politicians.

    ‘Yes, we could still turn a hefty profit with much lower pricing. However, we’ve decided to keep raising prices as high as possible because a) we can and b) we want to make as much money as possible.’ Fine, then just say that and so WaPo can cut the “supply issues and labor shortage” crap. Geez.

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  13. MarkedMan says:

    @DK:

    You may argue you have a right to be greedy, that consumer behavior justifies you being greedy, etc etc.

    But I don’t see it as greed. People are willing to pay $2.50 a dozen for eggs. I sell them to them at that price. If they aren’t willing to pay, I lower my price or get out of that business if I can’t make a living at it any more. I don’t see charging what the market is willing to pay as being greedy. I do see all the things mentioned above about monopolies and bribery as being greedy, or if people for some other reason had to buy my eggs and I made them pay. But they have a choice. They can eat something else. And if enough of them do, the price will come down.

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  14. MarkedMan says:

    @DK:

    However, we’ve decided to keep raising prices as high as possible because a) we can and b) we want to make as much money as possible.’ Fine, then just say that and so WaPo can cut the “supply issues and labor shortage” crap. Geez.

    I should have added that I agree with this. The WaPo reporters do seem lazy and gullible. Well, I don’t know that gullible is the right word since the companies have stated outright why they raised prices.

    I also believe the companies comments about supply chain issues too. I know how hard it was to manage supply problems in my (non-farm) business. We raised prices substantially and still had trouble keeping a profit margin. And then demand went down on a particular product line and while we didn’t permanently lower prices we did give a big incentive for people to upgrade older products. Long term, we feel that will best preserve the business and allow us to continue to employ the people that make them. But if we can never bring up the prices again, the we will have to take a hard look at whether we want to be in the business. There is nothing greedy in saying that if you can make more money investing in ultra-safe t-bills than you probably shouldn’t be in the business any more. Too risky. Too volatile.

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  15. wr says:

    @Matt: “Oh WR covered the same issue in better detail.”

    Yes, but you did it responsibly and without snark!

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  16. Franklin says:

    @MarkedMan: Fully agreed. Many people simply cannot run for that and other reasons, and there’s no reason to push them to try.

    @Gromitt Gunn: So I get the impression that the studies gloss over the fact that you have to build up to it. Someone who doesn’t typically run much and then goes out and does 30 minutes? Yeah, that’s gonna hurt later, and it can probably even cause permanent damage to do it that way. A young person can usually get away with this, but don’t just decide you’re a runner one day at age 50 and sign up for a 5k. The older you are, the slower you have to build up to it.

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