Amazon Dot Com Laughs at Your ‘Sales Taxes’

Today's Agenda

  • The Supreme Court’s sales-tax decision
  • The Space Force
  • Intel’s good/bad news day
  • The midterm elections
  • College admissions

Amazon.com Will Soldier On

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- It’s almost hard to remember now, but for a long time Amazon.com Inc.’s major edge on brick-and-mortal rivals was price. That advantage mostly went away a while back, and today the Supreme Court carved off more when it ruled states can collect taxes on online sales.

And yet Amazon will likely have no trouble continuing to vacuum up your shopping dollars, writes Sarah Halzack. That's because its advantage these days is less about price and more about convenience. The same goes for other online retailers, Sarah suggests; like furniture-seller Wayfair Inc., for instance, whose “outstanding user interface, huge assortment of merchandise and a supply chain designed for delivering bulky goods” probably outweighs any downside from suddenly having to collect a little more in taxes.

The Supreme Court has played a huge role in this saga. Today’s decision reversed decades-old rulings that first exempted online retailers from state taxes. The court’s moves seem almost perfectly designed to first help a fledgling industry and then take off the training wheels once it could cruise on its own, writes Justin Fox.

Of course, physical retailers (and President Donald Trump) would argue those training wheels came off way too late. It might have happened sooner if Congress had passed some similar measures it’s kicked around for years. But Congress, it may shock you to learn, is essentially useless. So the high court did its dirty work. That's not exactly healthy for our democracy, Justin suggests.

Trump has not yet tweeted about the Supreme Court decision, though you imagine he’s pleased, given his many complaints about Amazon’s competitive advantages. Of course, he's probably upset about more than just sales taxes.

No, Seriously, a Space Force

President Donald Trump’s announcement that he wanted to form a Space Force led to many Starship Troopers jokes. But the idea is not as loopy as it may sound at first, write Bloomberg’s editors. Today’s military needs control of space for all kinds of things, from communications to weather forecasting, but nobody’s really in charge of it all. Handled correctly, a Space Force is a good idea. And you never know when we might have to kill some space bugs.

Good News, Bad News for Intel

Intel Corp.’s ditching of CEO Brian Krzanich for having an affair with a subordinate is the biggest corporate #MeToo episode so far, writes Shira Ovide. Krzanich’s behavior wasn’t Weinsteinian and may have been excused in an earlier era. But having an affair with a subordinate is not smart in any era. So Intel did the right thing – though Krzanich’s departure also exposes how poorly Intel has planned for a future without him, Shira says.

138 Days to the Midterms

As hinted above, the U.S. House of Representatives has lately been continuing its proud tradition of not doing much, observes Jonathan Bernstein. That’s one reason Democrats are the favorites to take the House back in November's midterm elections. If they don’t, then, hoo boy – not only will that empower Trump (as Walter Mondale tells Al Hunt), it could also lead to some very angry Democrats forming their version of the Tea Party, writes Francis Wilkinson. “Soft civil war” is the term he uses, so that’s fun.

School Daze

The school year has ended for most American grade-school students. Some will go on to college in the fall. Many others will have such dreams frustrated by the many pitfalls in the college-admissions system. Even the solutions to these problems are loaded with unintended consequences.

For example, quotas that help black and Hispanic kids may hurt white and Asian-American kids, writes Ramesh Ponnuru. Some schools are doing away with advanced-placement classes, ending a standardized-testing-focused system that benefits rich kids who can better prepare for such tests. The downside of this shift is that those tests at least offered poor kids a way to compete with rich ones, suggests Conor Sen

The trouble is, there’s no surefire way to make any of the typical admissions filters – standardized tests, “personality ratings,” or whatever – perfectly fair. So we need some creative workarounds, writes Cathy O’Neil – such as the University of Texas at Austin’s policy of admitting the top students from every Texas district.

Chart Attack

Investors have high hopes General Electric Co. is about to announce a blockbuster plan to break itself up. It shouldn’t disappoint them, Brooke Sutherland warns.

Wells Fargo has a commercial real estate problem, warns Stephen Gandel.

Speed Round

It’s time to find human-friendlier economic models than just limitless growth forever. –  Mark Buchanan.

The trade war will hurt U.S. investors who like to keep their money close to home. – Nir Kaissar 

Trade-war fears are hammering China’s stocks, and the official response is just as ham-fisted as it was back in 2015. – Shuli Ren

Trump is not good at it, but there is something to be said for trade bilateralism. – Tyler Cowen

OPEC’s meeting this week could be a disaster, as not every cartel member is cool with Saudi Arabia's desire to pump more oil – but rival  Iran may have come up with a compromise. – Julian Lee

ICYMI

Stocks fell. The First Lady wore a strange jacket on the way to Texas to visit a child detention center. Trump ordered that immigrant children be reunited with their families. Trade talks with China might resume.

Kickers

“It has been brought to my attention that a majority of the public has voiced disapproval with my policy of luring children to my home in the woods, fattening them up to a respectable size, and then baking them in my oven for dinner.”

There’s evidence we may all just be split personalities of one universal consciousness.

Here are Scott Duke Kominers’s picks for books to read this summer.

See you in Hell, productivity: Here are the 100 best YouTube videos of all time. (h/t Barry Ritholtz’s newsletter)

Note: Please send Zara jackets, suggestions and kicker ideas to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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