Sep 22, 2019

Axios AM

🥞 Good Sunday morning from San Francisco! Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,142 words ... 4 minutes.

1 big thing: How CEOs trump politicians

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Walmart, which first banned assault weapon sales and now vaping products, is providing a template of how CEOs can move beyond a monomaniacal focus on profits, Axios CEO Jim VandeHei writes.

  • Why it matters: It’s one thing to sign an unenforceable pledge to think more about employees and society, like most members of the Business Roundtable did. It’s another to take specific action while politicians dither.

In conversations with a half-dozen CEOs this week, we were stunned by how much pressure business leaders are feeling to take social action. If so, here’s what they can do:

  • JPMorgan Chase, Starbucks, Walmart, Amazon and many others increased their minimum wage to $15. Every CEO has the power to do this.
  • Delta Airlines returns billions in profits to employees — this year, a bonus equal to 14% of their annual pay — and has grown since making this change. Every company can do this. 
  • Amazon this week became the first to sign The Climate Pledge to be net-zero carbon across its businesses by 2040 — a decade ahead of the Paris Agreement's goal of 2050. An individual company can’t put a dent in overall pollution — but a bunch might.
  • Stripe, the online payments platform, announced last month that it plans to spend at least $1 million a year to pay for direct removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Stripe said in its emissions announcement: "For other companies: Please reach out to Stripe to join our commitment."
  • Bank of America last year stopped lending money to makers of military-style assault weapons.
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods paid a price in its earnings after it initially made it harder to buy firearms in its store, but then went even further this year.

What else can be done:

  • They could also limit CEO pay if they wanted to narrow the gap in their own shop. 
  • All retailers control what’s on their shelves, so if they want to eliminate AR-15s, or vaping, or whatever — free enterprise permits it.
  • All companies control child care, family leave and health policies and can be as generous as they choose. 

The big picture: The new public assertiveness by corporations follows an earlier wave, after President Trump took office, of CEOs taking stands on immigration, climate, gender equality and other issues that their predecessors avoided.

  • Apple's Tim Cook, who has become increasingly vocal, said at a Fortune conference last year: "Apple is about changing the world. It became clear to me some number of years ago that you don’t do that by staying quiet on things that matter."

The bottom line: The pressure on CEOs from employees, customers and communities seems to only be intensifying.

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2. Trump's Ukraine call juices impeachment push
Screenshot: CNN

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" that President Trump may have "crossed the Rubicon" on impeachment.

  • Schiff was referring to the July 25 call in which Trump is reported to have pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig for dirt on Joe Biden.

"The president is pushing us down this road," Schiff said.

  • "He may force us to go down this road. I have spoken with a number of my colleagues over the last week and this seems different in kind. And we may very well have crossed the Rubicon here."
  • Schiff said he wants to make "sure that the country understands that this was a last resort ... that we did this reluctantly." (See the clip.)

Why it matters, from today's WashPost lead story, "Trump’s Ukraine call reveals a president convinced of his own invincibility":

  • "The effort — which came as the Trump administration was withholding financial and military support from Ukraine to help the small democracy protect itself against Russian aggression — illustrates Trump’s expansive view of executive power and what appears to be a cavalier attitude about legal limits on his conduct."

In Iowa yesterday, Biden angrily told reporters that Trump knows "I'll beat him like a drum":

Depending on what the House finds, it could be impeachment. I'm not making that judgment now. ...
This appears to be an overwhelming abuse of power. To get on the phone with a foreign leader who is looking for help from the United States, and ask about me and imply things — if that's what happened. That appears to be what happened. ... This is outrageous. You have never seen anything like this ...
I know what I'm up against — a serial abuser. That's what this guy is. ... But this crosses the line.

What Trump says:

3. Warren surges in Iowa
Today's Des Moines Sunday Register front page. (via Newseum)

Elizabeth Warren has surged in Iowa to a statistical tie with Joe Biden among likely Democratic caucus-goers, passing fellow progressive Bernie Sanders, according to a new Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

  • Biden led each of the Register’s three previous 2020 polls.
  • "This is the first major shakeup" in what had been a fairly steady race, J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll, told the paper.
  • Despite the 4-point margin of error, the Des Moines Sunday Register went with a "Warren edges Biden" headline.

17 presidential candidates were in Iowa yesterday for the Polk County Steak Fry, which drew 12,000 excited Democrats — a record for the storied event. (Des Moines Register)

  • Who's having fun here?
Corry Booker photo by Nati Harnik/AP. Other three: Charlie Neibergall/AP
Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

At 96, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and his wife, Nancy Kissinger, 85, attended Friday's State Dinner for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

4. Dynasty watch
Photo: Josh Reynolds/AP

James Kennedy, 1, tries to climb up with his dad, U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.), 38, as he announces his candidacy for Senate in Boston yesterday.

  • That means a Democratic primary against Sen. Edward J. Markey, 73 — "a high-stakes generational challenge." (Boston Globe)
5. The boss as personal greeter
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Above, Apple CEO Tim Cook waves to customers before the grand reopening of Apple's flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York on Friday, as the iPhone 11 went on sale around the world.

  • The iconic glass cube, under renovation for almost three years, reopened with "20-foot trees, plant walls and skylights that bring daylight into the subterranean space" — and two entrances, Bloomberg reports.
  • Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, told investors that demand for the iPhone 11 "looks strong out of the gates."

Below, photographers are reflected on a wall as Apple employees wait for customers to rush into the Fifth Avenue store.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
6. 1 bat thing: Holy anniversary!
Bat signal in New York City. Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images

To mark the 80th anniversary of the appearance of crimefighter Bruce Wayne and his masked identity, DC Comics last night staged bat-signal illuminations in Melbourne, Tokyo, Berlin, Rome, Paris, London, Montreal, São Paulo, Johannesburg, New York (Domino Sugar Refinery) and L.A. (AP)

Bat signal in Montreal. Photo: Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP

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