Aug 7, 2019

Axios AM

Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,198 words ... ~ 5 minutes.

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1 big thing: Companies race to dump pensions
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Data: LIMRA. Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Among Fortune 500 companies, only 81 sponsored a pension plan in 2017, down from 288 in 1998, according to Prudential.

  • What's new: Employers are accelerating the trend toward replacing pensions with alternatives that make you shoulder more of the risk and responsibility, Axios managing editor Jennifer Kingson writes.
  • Why it matters: Millennials and Generation Z will face less prosperous golden years than their parentsunless they're diligent about allocating money, investing it wisely, and not blowing it when they gain full access.

What’s happening: A perfect storm, from lower interest rates to higher longevity rates, is prompting corporations to offload their pension plans — selling them to insurance companies and offering lump-sum payments to some workers.

  • If your pension is sold to an insurance company, there are "potentially terrible consequences," Norman Stein, a law professor at Drexel University and policy advisor to the Pension Rights Center, tells Axios.
  • "What happens if the insurance company gets into trouble?" he said. "What happens if you find out that your benefit was miscalculated and you’re entitled to more than the company sold your pension for?"
  • Silver lining: For younger people, who are less likely to stay at the same job for decades, a 401(k) or IRA can offer more flexibility.

The bottom line: If you have any retirement plan, you're lucky. A quarter of non-retired Americans have no retirement savings or pension, per the Fed.

2. After five fractured focus groups, unanimity on one question

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

After America's tragic weekend, a focus group of swing voters in Minnesota was asked Monday if there should be a federal ban on assault weapons.

  • Every single person raised their hand, Axios' Alexi McCammond writes.
  • Why it matters: There hasn't been unanimous agreement on any other question in any of the previous five focus groups in this Axios series.
  • The context: President Trump lost Minnesota by less than 2 points in 2016, and the state is one of his few hopes for a pickup in 2020.

The Engagious/FPG focus group included eight people who flipped from President Obama to Trump in 2016, and four who switched from Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton.

  • While not statistically significant like a poll, the responses show how some voters want the government to respond.

The swing voters maintained their position even when presented with the counterargument that if we start banning assault weapons, the government will try to ban other guns.

  • "Anyone who feels the need to have an assault rifle probably shouldn't [have one]," said Theresa Nieswaag, a 34-year-old Obama/Trump voter.

There was also unanimous support for a federal background check for the purchase of a weapon.

  • One woman said gun buyers' Facebook pages should be checked for hints of bad intentions.

Between the lines: Nobody thought it would be a good solution to have more armed Americans as a way to try to stop mass shooters.

  • Go deeper: Watch a YouTube of the focus group.
3. 2020 attention tracker: Guns surge to top of national conversation
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Data: NewsWhip. Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Gun violence has displaced immigration as the most-talked about news topic on social media for the first time since May, per NewsWhip data provided exclusively to Axios' Neal Rothschild.

  • Unlike other hot-button political topics, most of the stories with the most online traction were straightforward breaking news headlines.
  • Accounts of heroism were the genre of non-breaking news that generated the most interactions.

Video games were the topic related to the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton that generated the most interactions (retweets, likes, comments, shares) on Facebook and Twitter (2 million) from Saturday through Monday.

  • These pieces were largely blowback against President Trump and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy for comments that video games were to blame.
  • Reality check: Other countries with similar or higher rates of video game playing have lower rates of shootings.
4. Mourning in America
Courtesy PEOPLE

The attack on the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California by a 19-year-old gunman two weekends ago, which killed three, is being treated as an act of domestic terrorism, the FBI announced.

  • The agency has found that the shooter "left behind a target list of religious organizations, political groups and government buildings and appeared to be 'exploring violent ideologies,'" per the San Jose Mercury News.
Courtesy N.Y. Post
5. ⚡Biden today: Trump "fanned the flames of white supremacy"

Gloria Garces kneels in front of crosses at a makeshift memorial near the mass shooting in El Paso. Photo: John Locher/AP

Sneak peek ... Joe Biden remarks, prepared for delivery in Burlington, Iowa, at 2:30 p.m. ET:

  • "How far is it from Trump's saying this 'is an invasion' to the shooter in El Paso declaring 'his attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas?' Not far at all."
  • "How far is it from the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville — Trump’s 'very fine people,' chanting 'You will not replace us' — to the shooter at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh saying Jews 'were committing genocide to his people?' Not far at all."
  • "In both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation."

"We have a president who has aligned himself with the darkest forces in this nation," Biden continues:

  • "We’re living through a rare moment in this nation’s history. Where our president isn’t up to the moment. Where our president lacks the moral authority to lead. Where our president has more in common with George Wallace than George Washington."
6. Political milestone

Orange County, Calif., turns blue:

  • "The county that nurtured Ronald Reagan’s conservatism and is the resting place of Richard Nixon is now home to 547,458 registered Democrats, compared with 547,369 Republicans," the L.A. Times reports.
7. Lyft loses trust of #DeleteUber women

Lyft, which gained prominence in the wake of news about Uber's toxic corporate culture, "is increasingly under fire from women who say the company often falls short when faced with allegations of sexual harassment by drivers," writes the Washington Post's Faiz Siddiqui.

  • "Activists also say key aspects of Lyft’s service, including the design of its app, offer fewer safety features than Uber’s, including a labyrinthine series of clicks to file a complaint, compared with Uber’s single click."
8. Two figures
  • "A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises ... Worldwide, 17 countries are currently at risk of running out of water. Climate change is making the problem worse." (See a New York Times map.)
  • "President Trump is slated to appear at a pair of fundraising events in the Hamptons on Friday, including one [in Southampton] that charges up to $250,000 for lunch, a photo and a private roundtable." (WashPost)
9. Toni Morrison, 88, "towering novelist of the black experience"
Visitors pay their respects to Toni Morrison at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington yesterday. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

"[N]o one was more adept at cracking open the unknown tombs that dotted our psychic landscape than Toni Morrison," who died Monday in the Bronx, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman writes.

  • "With each novel, she revealed America to be a vast, haunted house of racial and domestic terrors."
  • "That’s how Ms. Morrison became our foremost literary ghostbuster and teller of hard truths at a time when it was difficult for much of the country to admit its sublimated racial past still existed in the shadows of contemporary prejudices."

P.S. N.Y. Times: "Ms. Morrison was one of the rare American authors whose books were both critical and commercial successes."

  • "Her novels appeared regularly on the New York Times best-seller list [and] were featured multiple times on Oprah Winfrey’s television book club."
The marquee of the Apollo Theater in New York honors Toni Morrison yesterday. Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP
10. 1 🏈 thing

The Washington Redskins will become the first NFL team to have a gambling-focused telecast of their games, offering cash prizes to viewers who correctly predict in-game outcomes during the preseason, AP's Ben Nuckols writes.

  • The network will continue to offer a traditional telecast on its main channel, while the gambling-focused telecast will air simultaneously on its secondary channel, NBC Sports Washington Plus.
  • The D.C. Council legalized sports betting in Washington this year.

What's next: The network in theory could accept real-time wagers on proposition bets offered during the telecast if it partnered with a sportsbook.

  • For now, the games are free to play and the network will give away $1,000 in cash to one winner per quarter of each game.

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