Thursday Edition

The truth about price gouging. Plus: Trump really does not like wind.

1. What’s to Blame for Inflation?

Corporate price gouging wasn’t really to blame for the 2021 to 2022 inflation spike, according to new research. (CNN)

An analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco: Markups (the difference between the cost to make a good and its sale price) increased in areas like gasoline and cars, but overall markups stayed flat, meaning price gouging wasn't the main issue.

  • Inflation hit a peak of 9% in June 2022 and has now dropped to around 3%.

President Biden has pointed the finger at “greedy corporations” for rising prices and shrinkflation.

  • And progressive lawmakers in Congress have introduced bills meant to crack down on price gouging by big companies.

Biden during his State of the Union address in February: “Too many corporations raise their prices to pad their profits, charging you more and more for less and less.”

Related: As Yahoo Finance senior columnist Rick Newman has pointed out, the cost of labor surged during the peak of the inflation crisis as companies increased pay to retain workers amid a tight labor market.

Chart: Yahoo Finance

Bubba’s Two Cents

This take from Newman is helpful: “Corporations surely filch every penny they can from unsuspecting shoppers. But one of the biggest sources of persistent inflation is something Biden really can’t complain about: rising wages for American workers. And the more Biden redirects production back to America — a key priority of his administration — the more American shoppers will have to absorb higher labor costs.”

2. Too Much Mental Health Awareness

The mental health awareness trend may be doing more harm than good in some cases. (NYT)

Recent studies have found that students who received therapy and mindfulness training didn't improve their mental health and some even had worse outcomes than those who didn't participate.

  • In the U.S., research has shown young people who self-identified as having depression or anxiety tended to have poorer coping skills.

  • The MYRIAD study, which looked at 28,000 teenagers over a period of eight years, found no significant benefits from mindfulness training, with some high-risk students actually doing worse.

  • An Australian study found that students who took a mental health course reported higher levels of depression and anxiety six months and 12 months later​

  • Two University of Oxford researchers have coined the term “prevalence inflation” to describe how awareness campaigns are causing mild or temporary symptoms to be reported as mental health disorders.

According to the Survey Center on American Life, more than 1 in 4 Gen Zers report talking to a therapist.

  • Compare that to the mere 4% of baby boomers who participated in therapy as teens.

Ink Stained Wretches podcast co-host Eliana Johnson: “The effect on children and young people to emphasize questions of mental health and to put things in therapeutic language and to use the language of mental health for ordinary things … The diagnostic nature of talking about the normal things of life is part of our big fragility problem that we have in America.”

There is a reason for the big emphasis on youth mental health: Around 60% of young Americans with severe depression do not receive any treatment​, per the non-profit Mental Health America.

Bubba’s Two Cents

These mental health initiatives aren’t inherently bad, but they do seem overprescribed. Adults know suffering and discomfort are a normal part of life. But young people who don’t have mental health issues are being encouraged to view everyday problems through the lens of therapy. That’s leading some of them to think there’s something really wrong when they may just be facing a little adversity.

3. Reader Mail

We wanted to flag an insightful reader comment on our recent piece about China's intense work culture potentially outpacing an increasingly disinterested U.S. workforce.

Alex Conant, founding partner of Firehouse Strategies, a public affairs firm in Washington, D.C.: “Worker productivity is certainly higher in the U.S. than China. And it's also worth pointing out that our workforce is growing (thanks to immigration), while China's facing a demographic time bomb. I'm sure there are skyscrapers in China filled with late-night workers, but that's also obviously true at countless startups large & small throughout the US. (The latter being a lot more beneficial to overall economic health).”

Recent surveys show a decline in the share of U.S. workers who say they're engaged with their jobs, but American productivity ranks near the top globally and is higher than China's.

China’s working age population is shrinking: People aged 16-59 made up 61.3% of China’s population in 2023, down from 62% in 2022, per the country’s National Bureau of Statistics.

  • The average age of China’s labor force increased by seven from 1985 (32.2 years) to 2021 (39.4).

  • China’s working population is expected to fall by 7.9 million annually from 2020 to 2030.

It’s a different story in the U.S.: With immigration as a major driver, America’s labor force is expected to grow by 5.2 million people from 2023 to 2034, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

4. Trump’s Not a Fan of Wind Power

At a rally in New Jersey over the weekend, Donald Trump didn’t hold back on his dislike for green energy policy.

Guardian reporter Oliver Milman: “The twice-impeached former president, currently facing four separate criminal indictments, said aquatic wind turbines ‘cause tremendous problems with the fish and the whales.’ He added that whales ‘come up all the time, dead,’ comparing a beached whale carcass to Chris Christie, a former New Jersey governor and rare Republican critic of Trump.”

The former president also took aim at electric cars, vowing to “immediately terminate Joe Biden’s insane electric vehicle mandate” if reelected.

  • If reelected, Trump would likely prioritize oil and gas leasing over a clean energy transition.

  • “I hate wind,” he reportedly said during a fundraising dinner in April.

  • In 2017, Trump announced he was withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

What’s the deal with wind? Wind power is the top renewable energy source in the U.S., generating 10% of the nation's electricity.

  • That figure’s even higher in states like Iowa, where wind provides more than 60% of power.

There are drawbacks: According to the MIT Climate Portal, “wind and solar are cheap and getting cheaper, but they do make the grid more complicated in ways that, today, would make electricity more expensive if we relied on them exclusively.”

Bubba’s Two Cents

President Biden’s climate and infrastructure plan has been hugely ambitious (and expensive). Whether you think it’s good or bad, the green energy transition has picked up a lot of momentum. It seems like a pretty big deal that Trump is intent on rolling it back.

5. Checking In on Drugs

There’s a lot happening in the world of American drugs.

Party drugs as treatment:

Drugs and the workplace:


  • The share of young Americans who use “magic” mushrooms nearly doubled from 2018 to 2021.

  • Over the past decade, the percentage of adults ages 19 to 30 who have used any psychedelic drug went from 3.4% to 8.1%.

Bubba’s Two Cents

America’s relationship to drugs is complicated. There’s a movement to normalize certain drugs as treatments or job performance enhancers. Support for legal marijuana has never been higher. But all this is happening in the shadow of an opioid overdose epidemic, and the share of U.S. adults who say illegal drugs are a big problem has spiked in recent years.

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