The love letter becomes a chain letter

The public’s view of almost every industry has improved since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Axios/Harris poll. Industries with a prominent role in life under quarantine have seen especially big jumps.

Why it matters: Businesses in America were already undergoing a transformation from being solely focused on profits to being focused on values as well. The coronavirus pandemic has expedited that shift, and consumers are responding favorably to it.

Details: The poll ranks the top 100 companies, based on consumers’ scores across 7 qualities: Affinity (trust), citizenship, ethics, culture, vision, growth and products and services. Affinity is weighted higher than all other categories.

Leading the index are companies that have focused on solving problems related to the coronavirus.

By the numbers: According to the poll, 75% of consumers agree that generally speaking, during the Covid-19 pandemic and related shutdowns, “companies were more reliable than the federal government in keeping America running.”

81% of consumers agree that large companies, with resources, expensive infrastructure, and advanced logistics “are even more vital now to America’s future than before the pandemic.”

Here is the full Axios article.  Social media, telecom companies, and the airlines (?) are those sectors that have declined in reputation.

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A lot of companies have shown support for black lives matter. Is this responsible for the up tick?

Not sure which is most accurate:

1) many corporations and people, such as myself, support (the moral notion that) black lives matter. But...

2) some corporations and people, like myself, have — as a result of learning more about BLM qua organization — strong reservations about the elements of BLM’s platform.

So I think there’s a lot of posturing, gesturing, and signalling.

Agreed. Lots of easily manipulated people out there, I suppose.

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'Shown support'? How? By tweeting about it? That's it. Slackivism at the corporate level.

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I personally find sanctimony and hypocrisy very irksome, but I guess Tyler and most of my fellow citizens lap it up.

Fellow citizens? It depends.

They love "We care about your safety from a virus."

They despise "We fully support police-hating organizations that are burning down American cities with impunity."

There is no reason to think Tyler can distinguish between the two.

tsk, tsk.

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I call BS on this. Companies are simply marketing their image like they always did. The only difference is that people now value virtue signaling more than before, so companies follow along. Do they actually live up to these ideals? Of course not (most people who yell about it don't do it either...)

I dunno... I think it is pretty clear that some of those groups collectively made great efforts - and many individuals paid a price - to serve the public. Especially there is no doubt about the medical profession and, yes, I think grocers belong in the admired group, too.

Well, to be clear the article makes no distinction between companies and employees. Also, there is clearly a utilitarian aspect in all of this where people value products that basically kept them alive. Overall though, this idea that people love companies because companies are somehow "showing love" is completely bogus in my opinion. It is all about business, as it should be.

We'll know it's not bogus when a company issues a stock dividend of karma points.

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Corporations should focus only on profits!

It's government's job to put enough money in ever consumer pocket to make them highly profitable customers spending ideally thousands per day.

And it's government's job to keep customers and workers healthy and constantly spending, and never being afraid to go out and spend the thousands per day government gives them to spend at businesses.

Government is failing because many have too little money to be profitable customers, and for those with money, government hasn't kept them healthy so they refuse to go out and spend money for fear of getting sick and dying, and that is bankrupting businesses worse than government making consumers poor, homeless and hungry.

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The fake academics and the worthless consulting class are so far up their own you-know-whats that they actually believe this drivel.

Book I'm reading now: "The Golden Passport" by Duff McDonald. (With The Firm, financial journalist Duff McDonald pulled back the curtain on consulting giant McKinsey & Company. In The Golden Passport, he reveals the inner workings of a singular nexus of power, ambition, and influence: Harvard Business School. )

Doing good by doing well? God's work...

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"75% of consumers agree that generally speaking, during the Covid-19 pandemic and related shutdowns, “companies were more reliable than the federal government in keeping America running.”

Maybe this poll is measuring another shift instead?

Trump has set the bar pretty low re federal gov't response.....i'm already dreading what this yr's Super Bowl commercials will look like

Well, good thing those States stepped up and provided the leadership and effectiveness we were lacking!

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It wasn't clear whether "federal" meant Trump, the Trump Administration, Congress, or all of them. And the operative term might be "running," because that is an operational kind of term. I'm not sure whether people should be giving more credit for the mismanaged feds to have doled out the $billions that enabled some of those highlighted categories to keep running.

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And what could the federal gov have done if Obama were running this? In 130 days, Obama delivered 1M tests for H1N1. In 130 days, Trump delivered 30M tests.

If Obama was hitting Trump's numbers for Covid, it'd be widely celebrated all the way around the media, and the agreement from the press would be that "No man could possibly kick more ass than Obama"

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There are lots of big companies I love, but that doesn't mean I don't think they should be (1) bound against monopoly practices, or (2) taxed, or (3) perhaps even taxed at a higher rate.

"Apple now has enough cash on hand to buy an Olive Garden Spaghetti dinner for every single person born since 1900" - @mims

That might actually be more wealth than is necessary, in any sense of the word.

Note strategic uses of the word "might." It's something to consider.

That doesn't strike me as a lot of money, nor do I think that stealing someone else's money is something to consider. But ethics vary.

Apple now has $193.817 billion cash on hand, for anyone interested.

But why do you say "ethics?"

Apple pays a lot of tax. Their effective tax rate has varied. Their "latest twelve months effective tax rate is 14.7%." And "Apple's effective tax rate decreased in 2016 (25.6%, -3.1%), 2017 (24.6%, -3.9%), 2018 (18.3%, -25.3%) and 2019 (15.9%, -13.1%) and increased in 2015 (26.4%, +0.9%)."

Can we reason from level that any of these are unethical? Or that 30% would be unethical?

Apple effective tax rate

I'm interested!

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Oh I see, every person in the world. Well still not too crazy.

Anyway, there's a difference between paying the same tax rates as everyone else, and having your wealth confiscated because someone decided you didn't need it. A really big and important difference.

It was never my claim that anyone should face arbitrary confiscation.

It is probably better to think of these amazing concentrations of wealth in terms of (1) whether they do support progress and innovation, (2) their ability to pay taxes.

Somebody has to pay tax, and the deeper pockets the better.

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It's even possible that more rules and a higher tax rate on monopolists, or near monopolists, would be pro-innovation.

Preventing the stagnation associated with one company extracting too much rent - in the general meaning of the word.

Are companies supposed to keep more cash reserves so that they are more robust when faced with economic downturns or do you want to expropriate that cash because you happen to think that doing so will be "pro-innovation"?

To remind how big $193.817 billion is, Apple's total outlay on their spaceship HQ was only $5 billion.

Cost to build a cutting edge chip fabrication plant is maybe $5–10 billion.

This cash hoard dwarfs even what are normally long term investments.

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Apple has a bit less than 1 year's worth of revenue sitting in liquid assets.

YMMV on whether a firm having <1 year's worth of revenue in liquid assets is a sign of anon's whole late stage capitalism ideology shtick, or something normal to the point of being incredbily boring.

That sounds dangerously like a tautology that Apple's concentration of wealth justifies Apple's concentration of wealth.

That sounds dangerously like a financial advisor telling you that you should have 6 months of expenses saved. So, for a company, maybe a year is a lot, maybe not. But normal, sound, and common financial advise isn't tautology.

I think we are warned about household metaphors for government, or corporate, accounting.

I think traditionally corporations are more concerned with credit?

Let's pick a stable old line company .. like 3M. Cash on hand, $4.477B, revenue $31.353B.

Are you going to scold 3M for not following family accounting advice?

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Any business not focused solely on profits will die.

+1

It might be popular with customers who don’t mind paying higher prices but why would investors want to watch their share values declining as onanistic managers preen about their personal brand value? Principal-agent problems will destroy capitalism. Stakeholder capitalism is the single most illiberal, dangerous, and regressive idea afoot today and Tyler is a clown for even countenancing it.

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Some that focus on market share rather than profits have done exceptionally well.

Same thing in a certain situation!. Death in another.

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Yes. As Milton Friedman said, the purpose of a public company, and its fiduciary obligation, is to make as much money as possible for shareholders.

Should Disney halt sales in mainland China, and sell its minority stake in Disney Shanghai, so as to stop enabling the Communist Party of China?

Should the No Balls Association (NBA) tell the CCP go to the netherworld?

Or kowtow to Xi Jinping?

Kowtow!

I expect public companies to maximize profits for shareholders. They use PR to that end, as they should. The pour money into media, think tanks, trade associations, lobby groups, academia, and even directly into political campaigns to color narrative and debate. They can do so while effectively acting as agents for the CCP.

Interesting times.

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Any company that does not produce profits will die. But what does focus on profits mean? Most companies do best when most of the company is focused on customer satisfaction, product quality and delivering better a better product than the competition. This includes the leadership team; leadership is more than simply accounting. Focusing solely on profits is likely to lead to short term gains at the expense of long term potential, and long term profitability. Every company needs bean counters and cost control, but should that be the only focus, or even the primary one? That shows a lack of vision.

It's all a question of HOW to make most profits. If bullshittinig about the environment, leadership, customer satisfaction, and natural love attracts customers willing to pay high prices, fine. If not, company dies. :-)

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"Any business not focused solely on profits will die."

It's government's job to put lots of money in everyone's pockets so businesses never need to, and thus make profits equal 100% of revenue.

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As for the rest: So what?

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By the numbers: According to the poll, 75% of consumers agree that generally speaking, during the Covid-19 pandemic and related shutdowns, “companies were more reliable than the federal government in keeping America running.”

A good paragraph, but it should be cross-read with:

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/07/how-jared-kushners-secret-testing-plan-went-poof-into-thin-air

Crisis, tragedy and even polarity can build enormous solidarity, momentum and social action.

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It will be interesting if, looking back, that Vanity Fair piece never merits a "our regulatory state is failing us" pointer.

Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.

A "national" plan for Covid would look like what? When you NYC burning, and nothing happening in Dallas, what does a national plan look like? Make the people in Dallas lock down? The govs overwhelmingly demanded regional control, and they got it.

To name one trivial example, a national plan could coordinate PPE production and distribution based on need. Rather than the bizarre situation we had of states bidding against each other, hospitals attempting to build stockpiles, and the federal government bidding against all those at the same time.

Same on testing.

And the federal government could have done something to insure/guarantee compensation so that special pop-up hospitals and hospital ships could be used in the context of US health insurance markets.

> coordinate PPE production and distribution based on need.

And so, what? Make it illegal for states to procure their own?

If the gov decided tomorrow they were going to allocate toilet paper based on need, and yet you could still buy it at Costco, do you think people would stop buying it at costco?

Hell no. They'd overbuy it.

That is precisely what happened here. The fed gov WAS doing their best to buy up all the PPE they could find at a massive premium. But that didn't preclude states from trying to do the same.

Every hospital knew a pandemic was coming. They all knew that meant that 500 of their doctors and nurses would need 20 sets of PPE per day. Nationwide, that is 100M sets of PPE per day.

The hospitals did nothing to prepare for this. Their plan was "We'll wait for PPE from the feds if the shit hits the fan. Let's instead build a new cancer-care wing because the existing one doesn't have a vegan chef"

Can you imagine the idiocy of the construction industry deciding to rely on the federal government for plywood and shingles after a massive hurricane? Why does our medical industry get to ignore the PPE requirements they know are coming, but we expect our construction industry to put a supply chain in place that can readily handle massive spikes in demand for shingles?

I don't think this is true at all:

The hospitals did nothing to prepare for this. Their plan was "We'll wait for PPE from the feds if the shit hits the fan. Let's instead build a new cancer-care wing because the existing one doesn't have a vegan chef"

And if you have not done so, you should probably read the Vanity Fair piece in full.

The hospitals were out of PPE in weeks. Remember all the doctors and nurses on TV in homemade PPE? They knew this was coming. They weren't ready.

I'll pass on the Vanity Fair article. It looks like the same journalistic masturbation where the journalist is really concerned Bush is using no-bid contracts in Iraq, but they weren't at all concerned that Clinton and Obama did the same.

Or they are really concerned that Trump is putting kids in cages, but they weren't at all concerned that Obama did the same.

Or they area really concerned about the number of deaths in Iraq under Bush, but they weren't at all concerned about Obama's equal number of deaths in Afghanistan.

In short, this is why journalism is failing. They have an endpoint they want to get to, and they are curious about things that manage to help them arrive at that end point.

To me, you must always compare to predecessors. If what the new guy is doing is unprecedented, then I'm worried. If it's more of the same, then I'm less so.

If you think the outcome of Covid under OBama would have been less severe, I'd love to hear how. I'd argue it would have been far worse. Biden's instincts were to NEVER shut down ANY travel. And I'm pretty certain Obama wouldn't have involved the private sector as fast as Trump did.

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People like to say "they deployed a hospital ship and only took 20 patients."

Of course. The hospital ship was "out of network" to insured patients. Someone needed to fix that.

> The hospital ship was "out of network" to insured patients. Someone needed to fix that.

The feds are covering all covid related treatments. Nobody is seeing a bill for anything.

I'm taking about complications like this:

"In interviews, doctors at overwhelmed private hospitals said they were told they could not transfer to Billie Jean King because it was only for patients from public hospitals.

Several doctors at public hospitals said they believed their bosses did not want to transfer because the hospitals in the public system each had their own budgets, and they did not receive revenue from patients they sent away. Some said they were told Billie Jean King could treat only people with extremely mild symptoms."

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/21/nyregion/coronavirus-hospital-usta-queens.html

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“ more reliable than the federal government ”

Talk about damning with faint praise.

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You put a (?) after airlines but that is the industry I hear people complain about the most. Specifically - that when demand had cratered and they couldn't fill up flights, they made a big show about leaving empty middle seats, etc. as a commitment to their customers' safety. And then as soon as demand picked up a notch and they adjusted their flight schedules to the new normal, they quickly resumed booking every available seat.

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Our need to adapt to the virus crisis and 4 years of the Trump administration have shown the value of competence, in particular by showing the cost of incompetence. Corporations can be heartless and cynical profit-making machines, but those that survive are pretty competent at what they do. Many companies have shown great competence in adapting to challenging conditions in 2020.

Corporations are more meritocratic and egalitarian than any public bureaucracy is ever likely to be. They have to be to survive. If black neighborhoods got to choose between rival privately run police forces, we'd have less crime and a very low tolerance for racist cops. I'm not suggesting that is an easy solution to the issues raised by Black Lives Matter, but in 2020, the institutions that are letting us down are public, not private. Corporations look good, if only in contrast to the public sphere.

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>"Why it matters: Businesses in America were already undergoing a transformation from being solely focused on profits to being focused on values as well. The coronavirus pandemic has expedited that shift, and consumers are responding favorably to it."

Wow. Just wow. Like, people actually think that what companies put out through their PR flacks has any bearing on what the company is doing, why its doing it, etc?

Wow.

The life of a PR flack is meaningful and fulfilling, days filled writing love letters to anti-heroes.

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Airlines make sense. All they did was lobby themselves a subsidy.

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Indeed, other than the easy Federal govt. sucks narrative, the State and Local govt. response to health and safety services were also dismal helping fuel the gun sales panic boom.

The federal and local governments have to rely on the military and national guard for every crisis response now I guess to get out of a crutch given that’s the federal funding priorities. Whatever happened to DHS?

So where do HMO American Exceptionalism and the dismal response of private medicine in the US fit on this love letter? Aren’t they using the more efficient price signaling mechanism to allocate scarce health resources? Why aren’t we hearing about the developed world socialist hospitals getting swamped and running out of PPE? Are their Sarah Palin “death panels” working overtime?

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