Sep 3, 2018

Axios Future

By Bryan Walsh
Bryan Walsh

Happy Labor Day and welcome to the inaugural edition of the new 5X-week Future.

Numerous readers have emailed to express excitement and congratulations about our expansion — but also worry that, given busy schedules, they would have a hard time keeping up. So in response, on Fridays, we will provide links to all the week's 1 big things.

Consider inviting your friends and colleagues to sign up. And if you have any tips or thoughts on what we can do better, just hit reply to this email or shoot me a message at

1 big thing: 11 million Americans in Trump's trade war

With an escalation in President Trump's trade war possible as early as Thursday, retaliatory tariffs threaten U.S. companies employing some 11 million workers, according to an Axios analysis.

  • Axios Visuals Editor Lazaro Gamio reports: The map above tracks the geographical impact of both current and threatened retaliation. The darker a county, the higher the concentration of affected industries.
  • We found that affected industries are mostly concentrated in rural, deeply red, already-struggling parts of the country, with political consequences for Trump and Republicans in 2018 and beyond.

Driving the news: On Thursday, a public comment period ends on Trump's threat to quadruple tariffs on China, slapping them on $200 billion in Chinese goods, up from $50 billion in force today. If Trump proceeds this week or later, as experts expect him to, China has said it will retaliate with tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. exports.

That's on top of 25% and 10% tariffs enacted, respectively, on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, China, Mexico and the European Union, and by those countries against the U.S.

Against these impacts, the Trump administration has already provided a $4.7 billion bailout to soybean farmers, hit with retaliatory tariffs by China, their biggest customer, a move criticized by Republicans.

  • Employment in rural and low-population counties can be exceptionally vulnerable to gyrations in the global economy, said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
  • "In a small county, a single meat packing establishment can provide hundreds of jobs and make up a large share of that county's total employment," he told Axios. A prior report by Muro and others at Brookings inspired this analysis.
2. Labor and a strong economy

Labor thrives in some states. Photo: Bettmann/Getty

Amid gridlock in boardrooms and Congress on proposals to improve worker pay and employment conditions, state governments have taken the lead, forcing companies to raise minimums and add benefits.

What's going on: Most states have enacted minimum wages exceeding the federal $7.25-an-hour rate that's been in place for nine years. But there is a wide range of hourly rates and working conditions, and none of the state minimums provides a living wage for a family, says Oxfam in a new national study.

The big picture: Since the 1980s, the U.S, the U.K. and some other developed countries have largely stopped treating labor as an economic policy priority, focusing instead on corporate profit.

  • But states with labor organizing rights and accommodation for women before and after pregnancy had better GDP growth, lower poverty and infant mortality, and higher life expectancy and median income, the report said.
  • "We lost an understanding that when workers have protections, it helps families, the customers who rely on those services, and the larger economy," Minor Sinclair, director of Oxfam in the U.S., tells Axios.

The report found enormous disparities between some neighboring states, dramatized by the juxtaposition of Washington, DC (the best conditions) and Virginia (the worst).

  • Still, while most states have raised minimums to as high as $13.25 an hour (Washington, DC), in no state was the rate even half the living wage for a family of four, the report said.

According to Oxfam, the four best states to work, in rank after DC, were Washington state, California, Massachusetts and Vermont. The worst five, starting with No. 46, were North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia.

Go deeper: Six classic profiles of the lives of workers, from The New Yorker.

3. The deal at Disney

Disney World in Orlando. Photo: Mark Ashman/Disney/Getty

Tens of thousands of workers at Disney World in Orlando will vote this week whether to accept a 50% increase in their minimum wage with a catch — a creeping rise in the number of their fellow employees who are part-time.

The Disney staff will vote Wednesday and Thursday on the deal, which would allow the park to increase part-timers to 38% of the work force, up from 35% now, writes Axios' Erica Pandey.

The big picture: In a super-tight labor market in which Disney is competing with fast-food joints and all manner of lower-wage employment, the proposed raise to $15 an hour by 2021 is significant. It affects 38,000 workers, and could have broader repercussions, too, by possibly forcing other central Florida employers to raise their minimum wage, reports the Orlando Sentinal's Gabrielle Russon.

But it also aligns with national trends in which wages are rising while conventional, family-supporting jobs are becoming less permanent, says Mark Muro of Brookings.

  • By the numbers: 94% of the net increase in all U.S. jobs between 2005 to 2015 was in gig, contract, free-lance or temporary work, according to research by Harvard's Lawrence Katz and Princeton's Alan Krueger.
  • In such jobs, it’s harder to establish a career path and move up, says Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
  • As a result, "there is less mobility out of the low-wage sector than there should be," Bernstein tells Axios.
4. Worthy of your time

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Whither the lost Einsteins (John van Reenen - CentrePiece)

For Big Tech, each man for himself (David McCabe, Ina Fried, Sara Fischer, Scott Rosenberg - Axios)

A suspected microwave attack in Cuba (William Broad - NYT)

#Prisonstrike: Rebellion in profitable US prisons (Talia Levin - Village Voice)

In Chemnitz, the new strength of Germany's far right (Katrin Bennhold - NYT)

5. 1 body art thing: The tattooed generation

San Francisco 1972: Tattoo impressario Lyle Tuttle in his heyday. Photo: John Olsen/LIFE/Getty

Tattoos may hurt them in professional encounters, but more millennials are slapping on body art than any generation in modern memory.

By the numbers:

  • Nearly half (47%) of American millennials have at least one tattoo, reports WSJ's Jo Craven McGinty. More than a third of millennials (37%) have two; 15% have five or more.
  • This is a huge generational conflict. More millennials have five tattoos than boomers have any. (13% of boomers are tattooed).
  • And it's a conspicuous one. According to Pew, millennials are now 25% of the population and 30% of the work force.

Between the lines: This predilection may be hurting millennials in the job market.

  • According to a study published last month by professors at the University of Miami and the University of Western Australia, tattoos make no difference in terms of getting hired or earning what you are worth (h/t Jeff Haden). That aligns with a new policy announced last week by Indiana University Health, a 16-hospital group, allowing nurses to have tattoos.
  • But a July study by professors at Colorado State University and California State University found the opposite — both a hiring and a wage bias against people with almost any type of tattoo or body piercing.

That may explain a 2016 Harris poll, in which 23% of tattooed Americans regret it.

If that's you, it will be expensive to undo the mistake: removal of a 3-inch-by-5-inch tattoo costs a minimum of $5,000 (if it takes only eight sessions of laser surgery), the WSJ said, and as much as $36,000.

Bryan Walsh