business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story the other day about the potential impact of border tariffs on a number of US companies, which led MNB reader Philip Bradley to write:

All this Republican posturing about a tax bill with sharply higher tariffs for imported goods solving all our trade problems is just blowing smoke.  Just go back to the 1930's and the infamous Hawley-Smoot bill, which raised import duties in just this way.  It made the Depression last longer and become more severe--every foreign government affected by this short-sighted law simply retaliated and raised tariffs on American goods.  As a result, costs were driven up worldwide, which sharply reduced the level of global trade, and the Depression went on for years.  I can't believe that the Republicans really believe that this strategy will be successful.

On another subject - the closing of retail stores and companies - one MNB reader wrote:

I wonder if anyone is keeping score on how many retailers, acquired and managed by investors and capital firms, go bankrupt, get sold into oblivion or obviously struggle in the market compared to retailers run by retailers (founders, families, privately held independents, ESOPs,  and traditional self-managed public companies)
In essence, I wonder how many bankers and capital investment firms are really good at retailing and have track records to prove it?

Got the following email from MNB reader Vincent R. Alvarado about changes at the top of Sam's Club:

After 5 years at the helm, there was zero impact on the Sam's organization.  Wal-Mart has little ability to go head to head with Costco, after years of new leadership and low ideals. Costco strategic placement of units by income demographics and Sam's units placement to the Wal-Mart customer make them not even in the same ball game.  Merchandise quality at Costco compared to the Wal-Mart quality at Sam's, can't be changed due to a few grocery selections trying to get upper income to shop.

Costco has been constant at what they do since the merger of Price Club, while Sam's is still trying to influence customers with the color of paint on the outside of the building. The old Sam's Club lead by Sam Walton, David Glass and Tom Coughlin understood what they had trying to develop Sam's Club.  Under the current situation I don't think anyone at Wal-Mart understands or knows what they want Sam's to grow up to be.  Sam's is a big company,  run by little ideals,  nothing will change.  Jim Sinegal once told me as we walk a Costco in Dallas Texas, Costco is the innovators and Wal-Mart was the imitators. I had taken offense to that but in the end.... he was pretty smart.

On another subject, from MNB reader Shelley des Islets:

Regarding the story of the USDA plan to "give families participating in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) the ability to order groceries online and have them delivered to their doorstep," I give a wholehearted thumbs up.

A major obstacle for low income families is transportation--they are often faced with managing a buying trip on foot, organizing trips with someone who has a car, or making use of mass transit or even Uber/taxis, taking another bite out of their funds.  Even if the mass transit trip is subsidized, it's still a pain; and with children in tow, that gets additionally complex.

What would make it even more helpful would be to make sure each of these homes has a way to actually place an online order--a SNAP Tablet or smartphone, perhaps.  Or, better yet, a Social Services notebook on loan that would allow families aligned with social services to place online grocery orders AND apply for jobs, receive online training, access Social Services departments, online help & forms, get connected to their children's school and teacher, and basically be plugged in during the time they're receiving services.  That way, they can take advantage of opportunities that may pull them out of the safety net and on their feet. This would effectively reduce or even remove the additional marginalization that lack of transportation causes for people more obstacles than opportunities trying to make their way.

I'd vote to pay more taxes for that.  I'd even volunteer to help families learn to use the systems and services.

And, more emails on the subject of sexual abuse. MNB reader Mark Boyer wrote:

My son and I had a conversation when he was about 25 years old where he said, “Thanks for never abusing me. Or letting anyone else abuse me.”
Once I was able to catch my breath and process his comment I asked him what triggered him to say such a thing. He replied, “I cannot tell you how many of my friends have been abused somewhere in their childhood.” He went on to say it was both male and female friends.
I still shake my head when I think about that conversation.

From MNB reader Joe Gilman:

I am sorry for coming to late to this discussion, but the comment by the woman who was molested as a young woman bothered me to no end, I just hope she is doing as well as possible now.

What bothered me when reading this was your introduction, when you mentioned that the pervert who was bothering the young girl complained of "ageism".

What a sick society we live in, to keep it brief,  I believe it is a total failure of our institutions and a narrative that seems to feel there is no objective truths any longer, just whatever anybody thinks to be true.

Well, we reap what we sow, A baseball bat works for me.

And from MNB reader Rich Barle:

I’ll hold ’em and you hit ’em.  When you get tired of swinging that bat, we can switch roles.  I have 3 daughters and they will ALWAYS know I am there for them.

I do want to be clear about one thing. When I said that I'd respond to some 37 year old creep hitting on my 16-year-old daughter with the help of a baseball bat designed for such things, I was not encouraging violence. I am encouraging being a caring adult. And I am anti-creep.

And, another email:
Meg Meeker has written two books – “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters”, and “Strong Mothers, Strong Sons”, that ought to be required reading for every parent.  I frequently recommend them to friends and family members, and suspect that many in the MNB family could benefit.

I should also mention that I have been in touch with the MNB reader who wrote in about her experiences as a victim of sexual abuse - "the girl who was not defended." And she assures me that she is fine:

"I've a successful career," she writes, "a loving partnership, and I think I am reasonably well adjusted. We are all nuanced by our experiences, hopefully to become stronger, wiser and more compassionate. We cannot change our circumstances, but we can choose how we react to them."

Again, I am honored and touched that she would share her experiences on MNB.
KC's View: