Numlock News: December 17, 2019 • College Students, Bananas, Tweets
By Walt Hickey
All I Want For Christmas Is Residuals
“All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey has accomplished the rare feat of reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time over 25 years after its initial release in 1994. It’s also the first Christmas track to do so since “The Chipmunk Song” pulled it off 60 years ago, when music was much worse and the Hot 100 was presumably deeply sad. Last week the song was streamed 45 million times, up from 35 million streams the week prior. As streaming has become ascendant, so too has Carey: the song was streamed 12.6 million times in the holiday season in 2014, then 61 million times in 2016, then 185 million times in 2018 when it only hit No. 3 on the charts. Based on my limited, Love, Actually-fueled understanding of how long-delayed No. 1 holiday hits work, this would be the part where Mariah’s victory performance enables a child to thwart post-9/11 security precautions in a major international airport to tell a classmate he loves her.
According to numbers released Monday, the number of students enrolled in college has continued to slide. In 2011, 20.56 million students were enrolled in college. Today 18.24 million are, 2.3 million fewer college students in less than a decade. Schools of all stripes — public, private, community, you name it — have felt the pinch. Part of it is the grotesque cost of a degree amid states slashing their allocation to public schools, part of it is relatively low unemployment prompting people to delay, defer or skip higher ed, and some of it may just be the post-Millennial population bump winding its way out of academia and enrollment returning to business as usual. The good news is that the newest figures on graduation rates show 60 percent of students make it past the finish line, the highest level in almost a decade.
Pew Research Center analyzed the texts of 49,719 sermons shared by 6,431 churches delivered from April 7 to June 1 of this year. The median sermon was 37 minutes long, but not all denominations were the median. Historically black Protestant churches had a median 54 minute sermon, Evangelical Christians had a 39 minute sermon, and mainline Protestants had a median 25 minute sermon. Having grown up Catholic I now have access to math that shows they happen to know what’s up, with a median 14 minute sermon. Also, this imbalance plus growing up on the east coast explains why I never understood all those Simpsons jokes about missing NFL games because of church.
According to ShipMatrix, FedEx deliveries were on time 90.4 percent of the time the week after Black Friday, losing out to UPS (92.7 percent on time) and deliveries made by Amazon itself (93.7 percent of the time). Amazon announced it will stop allowing third-party sellers to use FedEx Ground for Prime shipments, citing a drop in performance. The ban starts this week and will continue until Amazon decides to stop. The companies have had a conscious uncoupling of late, with Amazon itself dropping FedEx and the shipping company moving its focus to Walmart, Target and other Amazon competitors.
Sometimes, a major brand will step in it, doing some action that alienates a large portion of the American population. Sometimes this is a big deal, sometimes it’s a small situation, but invariably the company will eat some crap on the Internet and be the subject of a call for a boycott. A new survey indicates that only one of those things actually tends to happen, and it’s not exactly the one that hurts sales. For instance, following a Nike advertising campaign that raised the ire of Colin Kaepernick’s detractors, 14 percent said they’d buy Nike a bit less, and 11 percent said they’d boycott it, and 17 percent of respondents said they planned to complain about it on social media. A subsequent survey checked back in, and found that in reality 12 percent did complain about it on social media, but merely 3 percent actually bought it a bit less and only 4 percent boycotted Nike for a bit. Same deal with Starbucks when a Philadelphia barista called the police on two black men: while 18 percent said they’d boycott it, 2 percent did, and while 17 percent said they’d go less, 2 percent did, but while 23 percent said they’d complain about it on social media, 18 percent, in fact, did. This, I now realize, is why the New York Subway actually has a Twitter account.
The inevitable is coming for the Cavendish banana, the breed that accounts for 99 percent of all banana exports. Tropical Race Four, a fungus that originated in Taiwan and has been winding its way through the global banana production chain, landed in the Americas back in August, affecting at minimum 175 hectares of banana plantation. Still, it’s probably more than that, and the long-running process to try to minimize the impact is about to likely give in to the inexorable advance of a vicious fungus against a vulnerable, genetically identical population. Latin America grows 90 percent of the bananas eaten by Americans and Europeans. In Ecuador, 2.5 million people — that’s a third of the total workforce of the country — are employed by banana plantations. Should Tropical Race Four expand, it’s going to be an incomparable threat to the industry and the livelihoods of the millions who work in it.
A new study from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy found that in 2018 the effective federal income tax rate of the 379 profitable companies in the Fortune 500 was just 11.3 percent of income, which was just over half the 21 percent in law. That was the first year that the companies were covered under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act tax law passed in 2017. Fully 91 companies didn’t pay federal income taxes on their U.S. income in 2019 despite being profitable: all told, those 91 companies earned $101 billion in profits.
Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.
Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at email@example.com.
The very best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends.