☕️ Out of whack

Biden proposes a gas tax holiday...
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June 23, 2022 View Online | Sign Up | Shop

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Good morning. Would you consider yourself a "social" person? No, not like the kind who chats up strangers on planes—someone who works in social media marketing.

If so, we've got a new newsletter for you. Future Social, which comes out weekly, provides best-in-class insights from social media expert Jack Appleby. You'll learn how creators make killer content, why brands are winning (and losing) on social, what tips and tricks will help your business, and more.

Catch the next issue.

Jamie Wilde, Matty Merritt, Neal Freyman, Joe Abrams

MARKETS

Nasdaq

11,053.08

S&P

3,759.89

Dow

30,483.13

10-Year

3.163%

Bitcoin

$19,987.36

Altria

$41.50

*Stock data as of market close, cryptocurrency data as of 12:00am ET. Here's what these numbers mean.

  • Markets: Wall Street had one of those midweek "Wait, did I get anything done at work?" kind of days. One of the few exciting moments was Altria's big tumble—the tobacco company owns a 35% stake in Juul, and a WSJ report suggested that the FDA could order Juul to yank its products off the market imminently.
  • Economy: Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged that vanquishing inflation might tip the economy into a recession (to our knowledge, the first time he's done so). "It's not our intended outcome at all, but it's certainly a possibility," he said at a congressional hearing, emphasizing that the Fed's No. 1 priority is stabilizing prices.

POLITICS

Gas prices: They're a 5 but a 4.8 with the tax holiday

Joe Biden drives past a discount gas station Photo Illustration: Dianna "Mick" McDougall, Photos: Getty Images, Joe Biden

President Biden asked Congress yesterday to approve a three-month suspension of federal gas taxes at a time when you might as well hit Nobu if you're already filling up on PCH. It's the president's latest effort to lower soaring prices at the pump ahead of midterm elections in the fall.

How it would work: The proposed tax holiday would skim 18 cents off the top of every gallon of gas and 24 cents off diesel fuel. If companies pass the full savings along to consumers (and that's a big "if"), drivers would save about 3.6%.

Past measures Biden's taken to tamp down gas prices include releasing oil from the nation's strategic reserve and waiving a ban on higher ethanol gas blends this spring. But those policies were like butterfly bandages on a shark bite, and a gas tax holiday could be the same: Gas prices are up 41% since late February, when Russia started its war in Ukraine and throttled global oil supply.

Plus, other dynamics have thrown supply–demand for gas way out of whack. US oil refineries are nearly at capacity, limiting the amount they can bring to market. But drivers are still flooring it toward summer travel plans, even in the face of ~$5 a gallon average prices.

Critics are flashing their brights

Besides its limited impact on Americans' wallets, a gas tax holiday doesn't jibe with two key policy focuses of Biden's:

  • Infrastructure: The federal gas tax fills the coffers of the road- and transit-building Highway Trust Fund, which would lose out on $10 billion from the suspension.
  • Climate: Cheaper gas means it's more likely you'll fuel up your muscle car and Thelma & Louise it this summer with your bestie.

Biden laid out his POV on Capitol Hill yesterday: "​​I fully understand that a gas tax holiday alone is not going to fix the problem, but it will provide families some immediate relief." He claimed that the tax holiday, combined with other relief measures, could reduce gas prices by up to $1 per gallon…but first, the tax suspension will have to be approved by a reluctant Congress.

Looking back…in 2008 (another time it hurt to look at gas prices), former President Barack Obama called gas tax holidays a "gimmick" that politicians use to curry political favor. 321 economists signed a statement opposing them at the time.—JW

        

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WORLD

Tour de headlines

People help for the search and rescue operations on debris of a building after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake shook Afghanistan Sardar Shafaq/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A devastating earthquake hit Afghanistan. At least 1,000 people were killed and more than 1,500 were injured when an earthquake struck a rural part of eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday. The country has already been suffering through a humanitarian crisis since the Taliban took power almost 10 months ago, which prompted international organizations to withdraw financial support for Afghanistan.

SBF bails out struggling crypto firms. Sam Bankman-Fried, the billionaire CEO of FTX, is the disappointed parent who caves when his children make puppy faces. In the last two weeks, he's provided a $250 million revolving line of credit to lending platform BlockFi and a $200 million credit line of cash and stablecoins (plus other goodies) to Voyager, an exchange whose stock has plunged ~90% this year. SBF is drawing comparisons to Warren Buffett for his rescue mission: Berkshire Hathaway injected $5 billion into Goldman Sachs during the financial crisis of 2008.

Washington Commanders scandal comes to Capitol Hill. Ahead of a congressional hearing yesterday, a House committee accused owner Dan Snyder of orchestrating a "shadow investigation" intended to disrupt an NFL probe into reports of widespread misconduct at the team, including sexual harassment of women employees by execs. Snyder skipped the hearing yesterday, but lawmakers said they'll subpoena him next week to force him to testify.

ENTERTAINMENT

Top execs at Pornhub's parent company clear their history

Gif of someone deleting their search history. Bad Internet/YouTube

Two top execs at MindGeek, Pornhub's parent company, said Tuesday they were leaving their posts in an announcement more abrupt than slamming your laptop shut at the first sound of footsteps in the hallway. CEO Feras Antoon and COO David Tassillo have both been with the adult industry giant for 10+ years, but a wave of setbacks had created tension between the C-suite and investors.

MindGeek said the departure had been planned, but the exits came shortly after a New Yorker investigation found Pornhub was letting nonconsensual content slip through its vetting process.

Some background: MindGeek owns a number of haphazardly named porn sites, but its biggest platforms include Pornhub, YouPorn, and Brazzers. In 2018, MindGeek's revenue peaked at $460 million. Then reports of child abuse and nonconsensual content started to surface.

  • Its biggest blow came in 2020, when Mastercard and Visa blocked the use of their cards on Pornhub.
  • MindGeek has lost roughly a third of its monthly traffic since then, according to a Similarweb analysis via the Financial Times.

Looking ahead…like everyone else in the media industry, MindGeek said it's investing in a creator-led future.—MM

        

SPORTS

Title IX turns L years old

A women's soccer team practices MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images

50 years ago today, then-President Richard Nixon signed a civil rights bill into law that changed the landscape of gender equality in the US education system. That law, Title IX, bars public education programs in the US from discriminating on the basis of gender. It's best known for uplifting women athletes who, as a result of its passage, were granted access to a much wider range of facilities and financial benefits.

Then and now: Education experts and collegiate recruiters say that Title IX supercharged women's sports participation. Some stats:

  • Before Title IX became law, only 15% of college athletes were women. Now, women make up 44% of the NCAA.
  • Soccer seems to be a particular success story. In the 2018–2019 high school season, 394,105 women athletes played soccer, compared to just 700 in 1971. That's an increase of more than 56,000%.

Big picture: Title IX has undergone some changes during the past two presidential administrations. In 2020, former President Trump's Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tightened the definition of misconduct and raised the bar for what could spark a sexual assault investigation. President Biden repealed that a year later, and he's gone on to sign two executive orders protecting students from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity under Title IX.—JA

IP

The newest trademarked word is...

Trademark filing for the word "the" US Patent and Trademark Office

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has approved Ohio State's application to trademark the word "THE," which has become a popular rallying cry for sports fans of THE Ohio State University (shhh…no one tell them it's the most common word in the English language).

The process took years: As trademark attorney Josh Gerben explained on Twitter, Ohio State first filed the application in 2019. But that was held up for a couple of reasons, including a) a dispute with fashion label Marc Jacobs, which had tried to trademark the word a few months earlier and b) the USPTO's claim that the trademark was "merely ornamental." Both issues, apparently, have been resolved.

Good news is, we don't owe Ohio State $2 million for the 85 times we used "the" in this newsletter, and you won't owe them anything for using it in regular conversation. The trademark only applies to certain types of sports-related clothing.

While we're here…check out a list of the weirdest trademarks. A favorite has to be boxing announcer Michael Buffer trademarking the phrase, "Let's get ready to rumble!" He's reportedly earned more than $400 million from licensing it, including a $100 million deal with video game maker Midway.—NF

        

GRAB BAG

Key performance indicators

A house in a frozen block of ice Francis Scialabba

Stat: More than 40% of home sellers are cutting their prices in markets that boomed during Covid, including Salt Lake City, Sacramento, and Boise, according to Redfin. One Boise real estate agent said that the city grew so much during the pandemic that people who arrived there for peace and quiet are now leaving, because too many newcomers (like them) have ruined the rustic charm.

Quote: "Kraft Mac & Cheese"

Kraft is rebranding its iconic product from the buttoned-up "Kraft Macaroni and Cheese" to a chiller, shortened version in order to better "reflect the way fans organically talk about the brand." Frankly, for four days out of the week we just call it "breakfast."

Read: The most dangerous place on Earth. (Politico)

BREW'S BETS

Not hyperbole: This is one of the coolest videos you will ever watch (it's a musical instrument that uses 2,000 marbles).

AP History, with a twist: A visual guide to the Aztec Pantheon.

Spilling the beans: We want to hear your opinions on the grand ol' topic of salary transparency. Help by filling out this one-minute survey.

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Last call: Miso's robots are saving the $300b fast-food industry from the Great Resignation. White Castle, Jack in the Box, Buffalo Wild Wings, and more are already adding Miso bots to their kitchens. Today's the last day to invest—don't miss out.*

*This is sponsored advertising content.

WHAT ELSE IS BREWING

  • Food delivery company Daily Harvest is recalling its lentil and leek crumbles dish after customers complained on social media that it gave them stomach problems.
  • Google and NBCUniversal are the leading candidates to work with Netflix on developing an ad-supported tier, per the WSJ.
  • Elon Musk called Tesla's new factories in Germany and Texas "gigantic money furnaces" that are losing billions of dollars.
  • Americans gave $485 billion to charity in 2021, a new record (but not enough to keep pace with inflation).

GAMES

The puzzle section

Brew Mini: "Orange liqueur cocktail" (7 letters) is your sample clue for today's Mini crossword. Play it here.

Three headlines and a lie

Three of these headlines are real and one is faker than Matty's vet's confidence that she can successfully administer her cat's dewormer. Can you spot the fake?

  1. "Fluffy" crab that wears a sponge as a hat discovered in Western Australia
  2. Thief returns to steal family's second car while they're on the phone reporting first to police
  3. Snoop Dogg impersonator reportedly hired to walk around NFT.NYC conference and "drum up excitement"
  4. The Cake Boss is back and he's making beef jerky

If you love Three Headlines and a Lie, play along on The Refresh from Insider and dive deeper into these weird news stories.

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Can this mascot save a company's reputation?

Can this mascot save a company's reputation?

Trying to rehab your company's image? It might be time to introduce a cuddly corporate mascot! This is Good Work, where Morning Brew documents the modern American workplace. Watch now.

Don't miss out on more from the Brew:

💲 This week Money with Katie discusses the bear market, future returns, and the history of low-cost investing. Listen or watch here.

Nobu's Hollywood roots run deep, but did you know Robert De Niro is to thank for its national appeal? Watch this to find out more.

ANSWER

The Cake Boss is not making beef jerky. Sad.

         

Written by Neal Freyman, Matty Merritt, Jamie Wilde, and Joseph Abrams

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