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NEWSWIRE: 9/4/18

  • The U.S. firearms industry is hurting: National background checks are down YoY, and revenue is slumping for major manufacturers. Contrary to popular wisdom, this trend has little to do with #NeverAgain: In the words of industry insider Mark Eliason, with a friend in the White House, “Sales have normalized because you don’t have the fear-based market.” (The Wall Street Journal)
    • NH: Yes, gun stores are calling this "the Trump slump." And their owners are waxing nostalgic over the Obama years--back when they used to hang Obama photos bearing the tag, "Gun Salesman of the Year." In the immediate aftermath of Trump's election, we predicted that the outcome would be more bearish for the survivalism industry than if Clinton had won. And earlier this year, we suggested that the rising consensus among all age brackets that guns be better regulated would not reinvigorate gun sales until the enactment of such legislation is imminent. Right now, it's not, though an impressive "blue wave" in November that takes the House and narrows the GOP margin in the Senate could change the picture. While Trump has often pledged steadfast solidarity with the NRA, this city-slicker president has often hinted that he would be open to a wide range of comprehensive regulatory responses. Longer term, the popularity of survivalism as a lifestyle--this "Mad Max" fascination with end-of-the-world bushcraft and weapontech so common today among grown-up latchkey kids (Xers) and aging John Brown-type ideologues (Boomers)--will encounter a strong generational headwind as Millennials and Homelanders take their place.
  • Fully 38% of Millennials say their parents have assisted them in a job search, compared to around one-quarter of older consumers. On the hunt for the job of their dreams, Millennials are more willing to harness the experience of parents who have been through it all before. (CreditLoan.com)
    • NH: Once again, we see evidence that Millennials do just about everything more with their parents than their moms and dads ever did with their own parents. Other findings from this survey are that Millennials are getting started at a later age (parents are today pushing teens more toward school books, less toward time cards) and in different industries. Millennials are less likely than their Xer and Boomer parents to get started in factories, farms, construction, or cleaning, and much more likely to get started in retail--with the exception of food service. The change in type of work in part reflects obvious changes in our economy: With "trade" employment no longer growing much, most factories and shop floors get along fine with an aging cadre of blue-collar employees. It also reflects changes over time in relative wages and perceptions of success by sector. Cleaning, food service, and construction are less well paid, relative to other jobs, than when Boomers as teens were digging trenches and young Xers as teens were working at McDonald's. Such work is also no longer perceived by Millennials as a stepping stone for success (despite the nostalgic protestations of parents). It is rather associated with large numbers of immigrant Xers, who are themselves aging in these industries.

Trendspotting: The "Trump Slump" Continues for U.S. Gunmakers - Avg Age Starting First Job

Trendspotting: The "Trump Slump" Continues for U.S. Gunmakers - First Job by Type of Job

  • The title of a new book might raise eyebrows: Zero Hour for Gen X: How the Last Adult Generation Can Save America from Millennials. Author and Wall Street Journal op-ed writer Matthew Hennessey insists he doesn’t mean to provoke generational warfare, but to encourage Xers to take the lead in preventing Millennials from all joining the Borg. (City Journal)
    • NH: We've predicted that Gen Xers would eventually age into a generation of hard-knocks curmudgeons, dismissing their naive whiz-kid juniors by telling stories of how they once actually navigated busy cities without GPS or mobile phones. (You did? Tell us more, mister! Did you once actually "roll" down a window or "dial" a phone?) Here's a great early indicator of much more to come. Beneath all the jokes about gadget gaps between older and younger people, however, is a more substantial generational rift over issues of trust, individualism, and community. In effect, Hennessey is saying that it's up to Xers to prevent Millennials from eradicating privacy, giving full rein to collective technologies, and turning America into an Orwellian dystopia. "I'm baffled by the popularity of things like the Amazon Echo," he writes. "Why would you let one of the biggest companies in the world plant a bug in your living room? So you can get some toothpaste delivered without having to turn on the computer and click a button? What is going on with us?" What, indeed.
  • White-collar workers ages 25 to 34 spend 6.4 hours a day checking e-mails, much longer than the time spent by the 35+ (5 hours a day). Millennials’ round-the-clock devotion to their employers is a key contributor: Just 11% of 25- to 34-year-olds say they never check work e-mails outside of the office. (Adobe)
    • NH: MIllennials feel pushed to these compulsive e-mail check-ins by work shame, by risk aversion (they want to make sure they're not missing the boss's latest update), and by phase-of-life sociability (young adults care more about what others think of them than do older adults). Not coincidentally, surveys point to a rising rate of anxiety among young adults--which most Millennials attribute to their jobs. (See: "The Next Big Thing: The Young and the Anxious.") Boomers are much less likely to check their work e-mails in every non-work circumstance--with one interesting exception: vacations. 
  • Mass transit agencies nationwide have found an unlikely partner: ridesharing companies. Cities are subsidizing firms like Uber to fill service gaps and offer first- and last-mile rides, a creative tech solution intended to lessen the burden on America’s decaying public transportation infrastructure. (Newgeography.com)
    • NH: Here is a welcome counterexample to the bad things I wrote recently (see: "Trendspotting: 8/20/18") about NYC Mayor de Blasio's efforts to protect taxi companies by cracking down on Uber. Here we see how many local governments are successfully integrating networked ridesharing into their overall regional transportation plans. My favorite example is the town of Monrovia (a suburb of Los Angeles), which has found that subsidizing Lyft so that everyone can hail a driver at 50 cents a ride actually provides better transportation at lower cost than any form of publicly owned transportation. It is also deferring the need to build any new public parking structures.
  • P&G is attempting to trademark several Millennial phrases and abbreviations, including “LOL,” “NBD,” and “WTF.” This conspicuous effort to appear hip in order to win over Millennial shoppers may go down as a major “fail.” (Bloomberg Business)
    • NH: "WTF" is something I would like to say--but I fear P&G might sue me if I did. Here we have one more example of trademark and patent law gone haywire. Get lawyers in the room, and companies come to think this is how they can create valuable IP. Oh, and then there's the stupidity of the underlying premise: As if Millennials really want to buy a product that advertises how little serious effort went into its creation.
  • Following a recent FDA decision, EpiPen will receive generic competition for the first time ever. Health care industry analysts hope that the FDA’s ruling will combat soaring drug prices by opening up the market to “complex generics.” (Bloomberg Business)
    • NH: The good news is that FDA Chairman Scott Gotlieb--IMO Trump's best executive pick--is doing everything he can in this case to break open the iron triangle of regulation that protects companies, not consumers. Consider this: You can buy, off the shelf, an ampule of epinephrine good for three shots for less than $20. And you can buy disposable syringes from Walmart for less than $1. But for the past decade, only one lucky monopolist has been allowed to package these together into one "safe" product. That company is Mylan NV. It now sells these EpiPens, in sets of two, for $600 per. Even luckier for Mylan, a rising incidence of anaphylaxis among children has been driving a growing number of families to buy this product. (See: "Trendspotting: 7/2/18.")
  • A new anonymous chat app, TBH (short for “to be honest”), only allows users to say positive things about each other. The app, which is also heavily moderated to avoid harassment, is becoming a hit among high schoolers and young Homelanders who have been taught to play nice. (New York)
    • NH: TBH solves a problem that hindered the popularity of other recent anonymous-comment apps (like Formspring and Sarahah). On this app, commenters can only submit nice comments. And Homelanders love it. The last generation of youth to show a similar trend toward better impulse control and superior "social adjustment" was the Silent Generation, today mostly in their late 70s and 80s. In 1942, just after Pearl Harbor, the movie Bambi appeared. Therein Thumper was hushed by his rabbit mom with these memorable words: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." The remark must have made an impression on an entire generation of Silent children, age 0 through 17 at that time. Interestingly, Alice Roosevelt Longworth (Lost Generation, born in 1884), the rascally first daughter of TR, was known for a different version of this quote: "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me." Alice's line (not Thumper's) was re-used in "Steel Magnolias" (1989), a Boomer and Xer favorite.
  • Add “mayonnaise” to the long list of things Millennials have allegedly murdered. In an essay that went viral (and sparked a thousand debates over the merits of mayo), the author at least shows a sense of humor—but ultimately, all she’s lamenting is Millennials’ abundance of choice when it comes to condiments. (Philadelphia Magazine)
  • The average monthly cost of child care in the United States ($1,385) is now only slightly less than the median U.S. rent payment ($1,500). Exploding child care costs serve as yet another deterrent for would-be Millennial parents. (Bloomberg Business)

              DID YOU KNOW?

              Slow Dating Makes a Comeback. Online dating, once taboo, has become commonplace. But for all its advantages, app-based romance may be taking a toll on the human psyche. According to dating historian Moira Weigel, “[A]pps have created a fatigue that is qualitatively new because an app is never not there.” In an attempt to escape the never-ending cycle of swipes and clicks, Millennials are fueling a resurgence in so-called “slow dating” options. Offline dating services like Three Day Rule offer coaching and handpicked suitors for members. Once, an app that sends users just one potential match each day, hit 7 million downloads worldwide in May. Match (the owner of brands such as Match.com and Tinder) recently acquired Hinge, which incorporates icebreaker questions and detailed profiles that result in a more substantial experience. Millennials like Susan, a 34-year-old nonprofit director who only recently began asking out men in real life, are all aboard: “This is a more natural approach and it’s what we should have been doing all along.”