Best columns: Business
The shift to a cashless world
The Wall Street Journal
An increasing number of U.S. businesses are saying goodbye to cash, said Christopher Mims. Some small businesses, like Baltimore coffee shop Park Cafe, have stopped accepting cash after issues with robberies; others, like salad chain Sweetgreen, which has 66 locations nationwide, have gone cashless to speed up transaction times. Expect plenty of other companies to follow suit in the near future. The U.S. has been moving toward becoming a cashless society ever since the introduction of credit cards in the 1950s, but “it’s only now possible to ditch” cash altogether. Smartphone-connected card readers like Square now allow virtually any business to accept credit- and debit-card payments, and payment apps like Venmo make it easy to order takeout or pay back a friend without ever touching a twenty. As a result, the global value of card-payment transactions exceeded that of cash transactions for the first time ever last year; “in the U.S., we crossed that milestone in 2004.” And there’s little reason to mourn paper money’s passing. Criminologists have found that “reducing the amount of cash in any given area significantly reduces not just theft but also violent crime.” Cash will probably always be around in some form or another. But there’s no doubt “we are losing our cultural attachment” to it.
Presidents don’t move markets
The stock market doesn’t much care who occupies the Oval Office, said Ben Carlson. “Plenty of ink has been spilled” analyzing how President Trump’s every tweet and policy could ultimately affect investors. But history shows this speculation is beside the point. Going back to Herbert Hoover, every president has experienced “severe corrections or bear markets on their watch.” Likewise, both Republican and Democratic presidents have enjoyed spectacular gains. Since 1853, the stock market in total has returned 1,340 percent under Democrats and 1,270 percent under Republicans. The truth is, “presidents have far less control over the markets than most people would have you believe.” The economy and stock market rarely operate “in lockstep,” and the full economic impact of most policy decisions isn’t felt for years. A president’s stock market record also depends on conditions when he takes office, including interest rates, market valuations, inflation, and unemployment. Presidents can, of course, affect the stock market around the margins. Sentiment plays a role in investor decisions, for instance, so anything a president can do to get investors excited about the future helps. But the market’s performance under any given president “has more to do with the luck of the draw than anything else.”