business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: August 21, 2012

    by Michael Sansolo

    In 2008, after US Olympic swimmer Dara Torres lost a race by 0.01 of a second, she joked on television that she shouldn’t have trimmed her fingernails. In that moment, I argued later, Torres provided the perfect business lesson of the games: the importance of giving every bit of effort. Her story was one that managers and leaders needed to share and discuss, because it was about why the last full measure of effort always matters.

    So when Kevin challenged me to find a similar lesson from the recently concluded London games, I figured nothing would measure up. Sure the games provided athletes like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, who showed the skill and dedication necessary to stay on top. It showed us the spirit of Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas who stepped up to seize unexpected moments. It gave us the incredible story of Oscar Pistorius, the South African runner who is a double amputee and fast as lightening.

    But I’m thinking we might want to skip over the obvious stories and consider Daniel Talbot and Adam Gemili when it comes to giving our teams a lesson in the slim difference between success and failure. Their story may offer the best lesson of all.

    Odds are, you don’t know who Talbot and Gemili are. Even if you remember their race, it won’t be for them. Talbot and Gemili are two excellent sprinters who made up half of the British relay team in the 4 by 100 meter semi-final. Truth be told, the British never stood a chance to win gold or silver because they had no chance to beat the teams from the US or Jamaica.

    The British did have a good shot at the third-place bronze. Except they never got that shot. They were disqualified after the semi-finals, thanks to a tiny mistake by Gemili and Talbot. That mistake provides our lesson.

    Relay races are incredible events, combining incredible speed with a precise hand-off of a baton from one runner to the next within a designated 20-meter area. Prior to each race the runners perform a strange ritual on the track that is never shown on television. Each runner carefully counts off steps and marks a spot on the track outside that 20-meter zone. When the previous runner on their team hits the mark, the runner in the zone starts moving. The goal is for both runners to be at the same speed when they pass the baton.

    When it works, it’s beautiful and almost too fast to see. When it fails, batons and runners go flying. This was a race I actually ran in high school and believe me, I know all about dropped batons.

    Talbot and Gemili made a flawless handoff. Sadly, it took place just slightly outside the zone. That foul disqualified them from the race and removed the British team from the final.

    So why does that matter to you? Actually, it’s pretty simple. So much of business success relies on doing the big things right. It relies on powerful execution of well thought out strategies. It relies on proper use of technology, logistics, personnel and capital. It relies on proper understanding of competition, the target market and doing everything in a timely fashion. In track terms, it means you’ve trained hard and run really fast because you cannot succeed if you can’t do that.

    Yet it also relies on the small things. Think of how many times you’ve had a wonderful consumer experience undermined by a single, silly oversight. A perfect flight ruined by late baggage. A wonderful meal marred by a missing item. A great article in MNB ruined by a typo. (Yes, it’s the bane of our existence here.)

    And that’s why we need to have a discussion about Talbot and Gemili, two wonderfully fast runners who had the heartbreaking experience of being disqualified for the smallest of missteps. Those two wonderful runners remind us that every step always matters.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 21, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    Stop the presses. Hell, apparently, has frozen over.

    Augusta National Golf Club, host of the annual Masters tournament, announced yesterday that it will for the first time in its history admit women members - two of them.

    Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore, the club said, have been invited to be the first female members of the club.

    Augusta National was founded in 1932, and did not invite a black person to join the club until 1990.

    Now, I was going to say, "Welcome to the 21st century, Augusta National."

    But in fact, the more appropriate comment would be, "Welcome to the 20th century, Augusta National."

    Now, I'm sure this will spur some folks to point out to me that Augusta National is a private club, and is allowed to invite anyone - and not invite anyone - it wants. Which is true. Can't argue with that. And I'm sure there is a perfectly reasonable argument for why not allowing blacks into a club until 1990 was not racism, and why not allowing women into a club until 2012 was not a form of sexism.

    If nothing else, however, the move by the club reflects an acknowledgement that the world has changed, and that the doors of the broader "club" are more open than ever.

    I'm taking my 18-year-old daughter to college on Friday, and we've been talking about a lot of issues in recent days because she's doing things like registering to vote, thinking about internships and career ... you know, life stuff.

    And as we talk about these things, it amazes me the kind of women's issues that continue to come up even in 2012.

    It can be an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 21, 2012

    Crain's Chicago Business reports that Klaff Realty, a Chicago-based buyout firm, "is considering a bid for the Jewel-Osco grocery chain or other pieces of its embattled parent, SuperValu."

    At the same time, in Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports on how limited assortment/discount chain Save-A-Lot is a "jewel" for Supervalu, but with the company looking to divest assets, "Save-A-Lot is perhaps its most marketable. Conversely, the chain will be critical for Supervalu's future if the firm isn't sold outright or in pieces."

    Wile Save-A-Lot has been an important asset for Supervalu, and was declared by recently deposed CEO Craig Herkert to be central to the company's recovery, the story notes that "Save-A-Lot is facing its own challenges. The bulk of the stores are run by independent licensees, and some say the wholesale prices they're paying Supervalu are rising too steeply. And the chain - like the rest of Supervalu - is facing increasingly intense competitive pressure."

    It has been estimated that Save-A-Lot at one point could have fetched $2 billion from someone who wanted to acquire it. But the Star Tribune suggests that this is no longer the case.
    KC's View:
    It should not be a surprise to anyone that at this moment, pretty much everything is on the table - Supervalu has pretty much said that it is considering all its strategic options, which really was just an acknowledgement that everybody else was talking about its options, and so it might as well be part of the conversation.

    The company will talk to anyone about anything. The negotiations have begun.

    Published on: August 21, 2012

    Reuters reports that McDonald's is working on a test of a mobile payments system with PayPal, using 30 restaurants in France to pilot a program that could be rolled out within the next two years.

    At the same time, the Boston Globe reports that Dunkin' Donuts "has launched its first mobile pay application, allowing customers to forgo cash or plastic and just flash a smartphone," allowing customers to download a virtual version of its Dunkin' Donuts card to their smartphones and then use that application to pay for their doughnuts and coffee at the cashier.

    In both cases, the retailers are following in the footsteps of Starbucks, which has been extremely successful with its smartphone-based mobile payments application, and recently announced a deal with Square Inc., making that start-up its mobile payments vendor of choice.
    KC's View:
    It seems entirely reasonable to suggest at this point that it won't be long before we all can get rid of many of the cards in our wallets and simply use our smartphone apps to pay for stuff. In fact, it seems like a pretty good bet that it will happen faster that most people expect.

    I would even anticipate that we'll even start using our smartphones instead of all credit cards, debit cards and even checks. It'll be great, and for many young people, it'll be absolutely natural. (Only old folks will resist. And resistance is futile.)

    Published on: August 21, 2012

    The Los Angeles Times tells the tale of the ironically named Steve Cooksey, a North Carolina blogger who has an online advice column and dispenses "life coaching" - much of it about losing weight - for a fee.

    It seems that North Carolina, like many states, "does not allow anyone to dispense nutritional advice - free or for pay - without a license."

    According to the story, "Cooksey's case will be decided under North Carolina law, and won't have many ramifications outside the state. The issues surrounding it, however, may offer lawmakers some guidance. Smart oversight in this area requires balancing free speech and consumer protection. And resolving that tension means recognizing that there is a difference between casual and commercial advice, and that those who offer themselves as advisors may subject themselves to greater regulation than those who merely describe their own experiences."
    KC's View:
    Just for the record, I want to be clear that MNB offers no life coaching, no nutritional advice, and no guidance for how to live your life. I don't want anyone coming after me suggesting that I'm doing something illegal.

    (The good news is that none of the mantras submitted for our contest go there. Whew!)

    Published on: August 21, 2012

    • The Washington Post reports that "after seeing high customer demand for layaway during last year’s winter holiday season, Wal-Mart is expanding the interest-free pay-over-time program for Christmas.

    "The new program will last a month longer than last year’s and will include more items than the toys and electronics featured last year."

    According to the story, "Wal-Mart is still requiring that each item is priced at $15 or more, and the total layaway purchase must be at least $50. A down payment of 10 percent or $10, whichever is greater, is required and will be applied to the purchase, the same terms as last year. There’s also a $15 fee to open an account. If the order is cancelled or not paid in full, the $15 is not refunded, but no additional cancellation fee will be charged. Shoppers who make their final layaway payment get a full refund of the $15 fee in a form of a Wal-Mart gift card."
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 21, 2012

    New Jersey-based Kings Food Markets announced that it is expanding into Connecticut with the acquisition of a Porricelli’s Market location in Old Greenwich.

    The 24-store chain, which currently serves markets in New Jersey and New York, has been engaged in revitalizing the brand with two major remodels and a new website.
    KC's View:
    I'm really happy to see Kings expanding, and to see CEO Judy Spires helping to drive a revitalization of a brand that a lot of people had left for dead a few years ago.

    Looking forward to see what they do with Porricelli’s, which is just a few miles down the road from me. Competing here won't be easy, since they will be going head-to-head with Stew Leonard's, Fairway, Stop & Shop, Grade A Shop Rite, and others.

    Published on: August 21, 2012

    Minnesota Public Radio had a story the other day saying something that may seem counter-intuitive to some - that genetically modified corn is not as resistant to rootworm as expected, since the bug seems to have developed an immunity to a protein engineered into the GM corn that was supposed to kill it.

    Which is creating problems for corn farmers, who are dealing with the rootworm issue on top of the drought that has been punishing their crops.

    According to MPR, "U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials looked at some problem fields in the Midwest last week and hope to hear some research results soon from Monsanto, which distributes genetically modified seeds.

    "There's no official confirmation of rootworm resistance, and Monsanto so far contends there is none ... Monsanto is studying the problem, but so far the company has found no definitive proof that the rootworm has built up resistance to its corn. Company officials say what's being seen in many fields may just be abnormally high rootworm populations that overwhelm even the deadly genetic weapon implanted in their modified corn."
    KC's View:
    It is always my suspicion with companies like Monsanto that they are resistant to any suggestions that genetic modifications of food products are not the answer to every problem, so it is hardly a surprise that the company is saying it has no proof of rootworm immunity.

    I don't believe in being reflexively anti-science, but there is something about what appears to arrogance on the part of GMO companies that makes them hard for me to trust.

    Published on: August 21, 2012

    ...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary...

    USA Today reports this morning that Boston Market is making two moves designed to improve its image - cutting sodium levels in its products by 20 percent over the next six months, and announcing that salt shakers are being moved from tables, with salt only available at beverage stations.

    Whenever I see stories about Boston Market, I'm a little surprised, since I keep forgetting that Boston Market actually is still in business...
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 21, 2012

    • Supervalu announced that Robert Bly, most recently a vice president of K-Mart and Sears divisions for the Sears Holdings Co., is joining the company as president of Shoppers, the 56-store chain serving the Washington/Baltimore market.

    He succeeds Tim Lowe, who has moved over to Supervalu's merchandising organization.

    The announcement says that Bly "has significant experience in his career turning around underperforming retail operations and helping companies streamline operational costs while ensuring that team members are engaged in the business. During his recent experience at K-Mart and Sears, he worked on efforts to improve sales and profits while increasing productivity and efficiency. Prior to Sears, Bly held positions with Road Ranger, a convenience store chain, and spent 22 years with Meijer Inc., a grocery and general merchandise store where he held executive and store level positions and implemented strategic plans to improve sales, inventory management and operational execution."

    • Embattled Best Buy has named a new CEO - Hubert Joly, former CEO of Carlson, parent company to Radisson and TGI Friday.

    Joly takes the job held by Brian Dunn, who left the company because of questions surrounding his relationship with a female employee. He also has to deal with efforts by co-founder Richard Schulze to take it private, not to mentioned competition from online retailers such as Amazon that has had a dramatic impact on sales and profits.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 21, 2012

    • Phyllis Diller, who began entertaining audiences in 1952 and generally is considered to be a trailblazer for the female comedians who came after her, died yesterday. She was 95.
    KC's View:
    She had several TV series, worked often with Bob Hope, acted on "Boston Legal" and even voiced a character on "Family Guy." When reading her obits, I was reminded that she also appeared briefly in 2005's The Aristocrats, which is one of the funniest, dirtiest movies I've ever seen. (I went back to look at it, and teared up laughing just at the first few minutes....)

    Published on: August 21, 2012

    Fast Company had an interesting story the other day about the importance of a company "mantra," which is defined as "a Sanskrit term, meaning 'sacred utterance' or 'sacred thought,' depending on the dictionary. Traditionally concentration aids given by Hindu gurus to devotees, mantras are words or phrases repeated to facilitate transformation. In business, a mantra is akin to a motto, albeit more fundamental to a company's internal purpose than simply a marketing slogan. It's concise, repeatable, and core to a company's existence ... Unlike mission statements, mantras are pivot-proof. They transcend current target markets and quarterly quotas."

    Or, to put it another way: "Make it short, sweet, and swallowable," says author Guy Kawasaki.

    Examples cited in the story:

    "Think different." (Apple)

    "Don't be evil." (Google)

    "Make something you love." (Huge, a digital agency)

    "Style to the people." (Stylecaster, a fashion website)

    A mantra, the story suggests, is necessary because it is "the guiding star, not the operating manual." And every company needs a guiding star.

    This has me thinking. While MNB always has been built around the phrase, "news in context, analysis with attitude," it sounds like the folks at Fast Company would define that as a mission statement. Not a mantra.

    Which makes me think it is time for a contest...

    Come up with an original mantra for MNB, and if you create the winner, you get an MNB goodie box, which includes a t-shirt with that mantra printed on it, an autographed copy of "The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies," and an MNB canvas shopping bag and an MNB canvas wine bag.

    We already have more than 200 entries, but the contest will remain open at least until Labor Day. One suggestion ... remember that the mantra is for MNB, which is not a retailer. (Some of the suggestions received to this point would be wonderful retail mantras, but are not really about what MNB does.)

    Let the games continue...
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 21, 2012

    Yesterday, MNB took note of a New York Times story about how lawyers who were instrumental in winning major lawsuits against Big Tobacco companies have been searching for their next big payday, and apparently have decided that Big Food manufacturers are both vulnerable and wealthy enough to be targeted.

    I commented, in part:

    It seems to me that it is possible - maybe even necessary - to hold two seemingly opposite ideas in this scenario.

    Yes, it is fair to say that the lawyers looking to equate Big Food with Big Tobacco are motivated entirely by money and greed, and are willing to use whatever legal means are at their disposal to get that next big payday.

    But it also could be fair to say that Big Food companies are going to have to do a better job about being transparent and accurate in their claims and labels, and that a resistance to total accuracy and transparency has left them vulnerable. (For example, I believe that "frozen blueberry waffles" should actually have blueberries in them; this seems like a reasonable bar to me.)

    There are going to be cases where the vampire-like lawyers are actually going to have a legitimate point - not every case, not every instance, but sometimes. And there are going to be cases where the Big Food companies are actually going to be wrong. (Conversely, there will be cases where the lawyers will be wrong and Big Food will be right.)

    The hard part will be separating the wheat from the chaff, and not making generalizations. And, as much as it sometimes will hurt, it will be critical to accept the notion that Big Food can do better, should do better, and needs to be better about transparency and accuracy.

    MNB user Debra K.W. Topham wrote:

    Truly appreciated your story of the growing, bottom-feeding sharks of our business world. You are right on target with the need for each food AND supplement company to keep their doorsteps clean. Your blueberry waffles may start to have real berries in them, but if they are labeled “wild blueberries”, it may refer to the berry variety and not a collection method.  It is truthful by agricultural practices but will a consumer consider it misleading?

    I would say yes.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I agree with you that Big Food could do better and transparency is becoming more and more important. I also believe that value is very important to consumers and Big Food is important for a lot of jobs, both directly and indirectly, through manufacturing , sales, marketing and big pockets to support retailers.  No excuses, or a defenses, just observation.    My concern is the cost and distraction the ‘vampires’ will drive for personal gain, which again will get transferred to the end consumer.  Additionally, there are a million food items in the store that are not manufactured by Big Food, so how will that be addressed?  If the end game is transparency on all labels and it improves consumers ability to make good or bad choices knowingly, then this will add value.  My concern is that this is not the mission.

    From another reader:

    These are the same law firms that proudly run TV ads which show a victim (“Hi, my name is Doug and I have mesothelioma”) that suffers from some condition, hoping that large numbers of viewers will call their 1-800 number and join a class action lawsuit. These cases almost never make it to trial. They simply get settled, out of court, and victims get a small sum of money individually. The law firms get the larger piece of the settlement, which is usually in the millions of dollars.

    What is sad about mass tort strategy put forth by law firms across the country is that in the end, the consumer is going to pay more at the register for food products from suppliers that are sued.  Suppliers have margin requirements for the products/brands they sell. When the margin requirements go up because the company needs additional profit to pay for their settlement costs, suppliers will raise their prices to the retailer that distributes/sells their products/brands. And the retailer has margin requirements too, so the result is a higher price at the shelf. More appalling is that a large number of these upcoming, class action lawsuits against food companies will be without merit. This is where judges will push both sides into settling. And as the law firms know, once there are a number of substantial case studies to put in front of judges, momentum takes over.
    “Hi, my name is Doug and I have diabetes from eating Apple Jacks”…

    I absolutely agree that lawsuits do not create the optimum environment in which to make decisions about transparency and accuracy. And I know that there are lots of so-called extenuating circumstances that manufacturers can cite as reasons that things have been done one way or another.

    But I also believe that almost none of this matters at this point. Market and technological realities mean that companies have to be accurate and transparent about virtually everything - they simply have no choice.

    Arguing about it just delays the inevitable.

    Got a number of emails regarding our story about how Restoration Hardware Holdings has ousted Gary Friedman, the company's co-CEO, after the board learned that Friedman, 54, was having a romantic relationship with a 26-year-old female employee. The female in question reportedly had left the company before the relationship became public knowledge, and the romance is said to be both consensual and continuing.

    I commented:

    I'm not entirely sure that the Restoration Hardware board did the right thing here. As far as we know, the woman in question is single. Friedman reportedly has been divorced for years. The relationship is consensual. There have been no charges of sexual harassment, no allegations that Friedman did anything improper, immoral or illegal. Nobody was married, nobody was cheating.

    Certainly, if a senior executive is dating someone who works for his or her company, that executive has to be careful not to be involved in decisions about that person's compensation, and cannot have that person as a direct report. And I get that such relationships can have implications through an organization; in a previous life, I used to have a woman who was married to the company CEO reporting to me, and it certainly affected how one talked and acted in her presence. Not that she ever would have reported back to her husband, but it was better to be careful and not to put her in an awkward position. It would have been better, truth be told, if she had worked somewhere else.

    But I'm just not sure this rises to the level of being a firing offense.

    MNB user Mike Franklin wrote:

    With astounding amounts of relative truth on both sides of any issue…it is becoming very difficult to determine what is right or wrong anymore…this is of course, after you move outside of your core values; which tend to be very black and white.

    I personally read about his situation and couldn’t see the harm, but then I don’t have access to the morals clause or personal conduct requirements in his contract.

    Another MNB user chimed in:

    I agree with you that it does seem a bit harsh.  I am wondering if there is a code of ethics or company policy that was violated thus causing the BOD to make the decision they made.  If not, I believe that the BOD over reacted.

    From another reader:

    I understand what you are saying, but as CEO Mr. Friedman needs or needed in this case, to be very careful about appearances. It is too easy for underlings to believe that if Mr. Friedman can have a relationship with a subordinate employee, than it is okay for them also, which could lead to sexual harassment, etc. It could also be that he violated one of the company’s rules about workplace relationships. Many companies, in an effort to reduce the likelihood of sexual harassment allegations, have mandated that relationships between employees at different pay grades is grounds for firing, marital status and consent notwithstanding. Workplace relationships are a minefield and should be carefully considered before the first date ever takes place.

    To be fair, we don't know everything about this case. There well could be details that, if we knew them, would make us think that the board was absolutely justified in its decision.

    But I thought it was worth pointing out that maybe we're letting political correctness go too far in cases like these.

    On another subject, an MNB user wrote:

    I'd like to provide some personal feedback on the recent and ongoing transformations taking place @ JCP since Ron Johnson has taken the helm.

    My wife and I took our 4 kids to JCP yesterday for the free kids haircut promotion in August.  To be honest, we fully intended to go get the free cuts and quickly be on our way due to our impression of JCP being an 'old school' department store with nothing fresh and exciting to offer to anyone under the age of 65.  Surprisingly we received impressive service from the salon and decided to wonder through the store for some back to school perusing.  We were overwhelmingly surprised by a new format, merchandise presentation and pricing strategy.  Low and behold we ended up making a purchase in a store where we've bought nothing but window treatment for at least the past 10 years.   BTW...we only purchased window treatments when JCP would hold one of it's aggressive promotions once or twice a year.

    The layout was much less cluttered, there were fewer floor displays and confusing signage and the kids apparel actually appealed to our children...which in turn draws the $$'s out of the parents wallet.  The checkout process was friendly, speedy and left a great impression on the way out(2 hours after we arrived).  Heck, I might even go back sometime with an intention of buying something and that's proof that Ron Johnson's strategy is working.

    Keep up the good work's showing already!

    One customer down. Several million to go.

    MNB re-posted yesterday a piece from in which Cornell University student Daniel Green and Dr. Margaret Yufera-Leitch assessed the views held by Rep. Paul Ryan, the presumptive GOP vice presidential nominee, about various food issues:

    "Ryan, who has voted against every Affordable Care Act related bill, takes the stance that what you eat and what you weigh are both matters of personal responsibility," the report says. "In 2005, he voted for H.R. 554 'The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act' also known as the cheeseburger bill, which aimed to ‘prohibit weight gain-related or obesity-related lawsuits from being brought in federal or state courts against the food industry.’ The bill was passed by the House but failed to even go up for vote in the Senate."

    In addition, the story says that Ryan is pro-Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) legislation, against the Farm Bill, against the Food Safety Modernization Act, and for School Lunch reform.

    The authors conclude that while Ryan is a highly motivated exercise enthusiast who does not eat dessert or fried foods, his political decisions seem to put fiscal health over physical health:

    "One of the most important programs available to lower income Americans is the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as Food Stamps, which provides access to fresh foods for low-income families. Given that increased fruit and vegetable consumption are cornerstone habits of the Preventative Medicine conversation, why has Mr. Ryan argued to cut SNAP by $33 billion over the next ten years?

    "Paul Ryan’s choices to repeal $6.2 trillion dollars of support from the Affordable Care Act and obesity-related provisions, demonstrates a lesser degree of support for preventative care than his widely publicized exercise regime suggests.  Perhaps with unemployment still high and unsure economy, America has bigger fish to fry than fixing the food system and reversing obesity but at least for now, Paul Ryan will take his fish broiled."

    MNB user Mark Heckman wrote:

    Keep the "nanny state" out of our personal lives  Before the Feds embark on extending their abundance of  "wisdom", guidance and subsidies to control our eating habits, they should take 15 minutes and remind themselves they are out of money.  In fact, if they were a supermarket chain or any other business, they would have been closed years ago!  Ryan has it right.  If we as citizens do not posses enough common sense not to kill ourselves with consumption of sugary sodas and fried chicken, all the bureaucrats and money (that we don't have) will not matter.

    MNB user Ben Ball objected to the phrase “…his political decisions seem to put fiscal health over physical health:…”:

    Couldn’t that just as easily have read: his political decisions seem to put personal responsibility over government responsibility?


    MNB user Tom Geissler wrote:

    Do we really need the government telling us what to eat and how to cook it?  I’m a supporter of Paul Ryan. He has the same beliefs I do when it comes to government staying out of the decisions that should be made by parents and families.  So what if he doesn’t support the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare); he is with 60% of America on that matter. 

    Imagine, a candidate who favors personal responsibility! What a controversy.

    MNB user Denis Zegar had a different perspective:

    The SNAP program has always been on the budget reducing "hit list". However, this is a classic example where ideology stands in the way of facts. Economists consider SNAP one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus.  Moody’s Analytics estimates that in a weak economy, every dollar increase in SNAP benefits generates $1.72 in economic activity.  Similarly, CBO rated an increase in SNAP benefits as one of the two most cost-effective of all spending and tax options it examined for boosting growth and jobs in a weak economy. According to the National Academy of Science poverty measures, which count SNAP as income, SNAP kept about 4 million people out of poverty in 2010 and lessened the severity of poverty for millions of others.  Just ask any grocer what impact the loss of food stamps would have on their business and communities.

    Now SNAP benefits to individual tax cuts that presumably stimulate economy activity and, therefore, pay for themselves.  Here is an epic example of facts getting in the way of ideology or what I like to call wishful thinking.  There isn't a credible economist today who believes tax cuts pay for themselves.  A 2005 Congressional Budget Office study during the time that Republican economist Doug Holtz-Eakin was director concluded that a 10 percent cut in federal income tax rates would recoup at most 28 percent of the static revenue loss over 10 years. Harvard economist Greg Mankiw, who chaired the CEA during President George Bush’s first term, further confirmed this in 2006. And for the record, the non-partisan CBO recently concluded that the Bush tax cuts reduced federal revenues $2.8 trillion between 2002 and 2011.  The non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded, the Bush tax cuts accounted for half of the deficits during his tenure, and if made permanent, over the next decade would cost the U.S. Treasury more than Iraq, Afghanistan, the recession, TARP and the stimulus - combined.

    Fighting obesity is another no-brainer.  Obesity costs according to Reuters is $190 billion annually and rising.  Lost productivity adds billions more.  It costs $5 billion more in jet fuel to fly heavier individuals and $4 billion more in gasoline.  Once again ideology trumps the cost-benefit of fighting obesity and encouraging a healthy lifestyle.  The grocery industry has taken a progressive stand in its fight to reduce obesity nationwide, but there must also be a national effort, if we want sustainable results.

    As an economist, my first reaction to anything that sounds too good to be true is that it probably isn’t.  The Romney-Ryan plan for America is nothing more than more than an updated version of feel good Voo-Doo economics.

    I was intrigued by the fact that Ryan was pro-Country of Origin labeling, and against the Farm Bill reauthorization ... which I think would put him at odds with a lot of folks in the food industry.

    Also got a number of emails about our mention of the passing of actor William Windom of congestive heart failure at age 88.

    One MNB user wrote:

    Thank you for sharing the passing of William Windom with the Morning Newsbeat community.  I'm not sure I would have heard about his death otherwise.  While a great character actor throughout the years, I remember him best when he starred in one of my all time favorite shows - the long forgotten "My World and Welcome to it" which brought to life the writings of James Thurber.  Though I was a very young child when the show aired (yes, that's my story and I'm sticking to it)   I found the wit and wisdom to be profound.  I was pleasantly surprised to IMDB his name and see his the long list of shows he was on from the 60's into the 2000's.

    He will be missed.

    MNB user Daniel McQuade wrote:

    Does anyone just die of "old age" anymore? 88 years, that was a good run I'd say.

    I would have just said old age, but the obits were specific, so I saw no reason not to be.

    As for 88 years, I used to say the same thing about it being a good run. But as I get older, I've changed my mind - 88 may seem like a good run to me at 57, but I suspect I'll feel differently when I'm 87...

    And MNB user Steve Sullivan wrote:

    How could your only role reference for William Windom be a Star Trek episode?  If it’s TV you want, look at "My World and Welcome To It," the James Thurber based series.  Or even "Murder, She Wrote." Also, I’m sure he has many movie credits, but the one that springs to mind for me was in To Kill A Mockingbird.

    Point taken. I meant to note To Kill A Mockingbird, but forgot.

    Mea culpa.
    KC's View: