Inside the Beltway: Hurray: Retail sales jump ‘unexpectedly’

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Well, here’s news we can all use, courtesy of the National Retail Federation.

“Retail sales during 2020’s November-December holiday season grew an unexpectedly high 8.3% over the same period in 2019 to $789.4 billion, exceeding the National Retail Federation‘s holiday forecast despite the economic challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. The numbers include online and other non-store sales, which were up 23.9% at $209 billion,” the industry group said.

“Despite unprecedented challenges, consumers and retailers demonstrated incredible resilience this holiday season,” noted Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the organization.

The 8.3% holiday season increase was more than double the 3.5% average holiday increase over the previous five years.

“Faced with rising transmission of the virus, state restrictions on retailers and heightened political and economic uncertainty, consumers chose to spend on gifts that lifted the spirits of their families and friends and provided a sense of normalcy given the challenging year,” Mr. Shay continued.

There is also a promising prediction as President-elect Joseph R. Biden prepares to take office.

“We believe President-elect Biden’s stimulus proposal, with direct payments to families and individuals, further aid for small businesses and tools to keep businesses open, will keep the economy growing,” Mr. Shay said.

PARTISAN DIVIDE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Lawmakers flocked to social media after the U.S. Capitol riots, according to a precise but somewhat disquieting new study from the Pew Research Center. The study combed through millions of tweets and Facebook posts made by hundreds of members of Congress over the past six years.

“More than 9-in-10 (93%) of Republican members with at least one Twitter account experienced a net loss in Twitter followers between Jan. 6 and Jan. 10, with the median Republican losing 4% of their followers across all their accounts on the platform. These losses were more pronounced among Republicans who voted against Electoral College certification: These members lost an average of 5% of their followers, compared with 3% among Republicans who voted for certification. By contrast, 98% of Democratic members saw a net increase in followers over the same period,” the study said.

“The vast majority of members of Congress in both parties weighed in on the events of Jan. 6 on Twitter or Facebook. All but six lawmakers posted during this period, and 97% of Democrats and 96% of Republicans who did so mentioned the term ‘Capitol’ in at least one post. Nearly as many (90% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans) used the words ‘violence’ or ‘violent.’ But beyond these basic similarities, lawmakers from the two parties discussed the events using different language,” the study said.

Among the findings: 73% of Democrats used the word “insurrection,” compared to 9% of Republicans. Another 95% of Democrats referred to “Trump,” versus 39% of Republicans. Then there were the words “terrorism” (57% among the Democrats, 11% for Republicans), “attack” (77% Democrats and 34% Republicans), “mob” (71% Democrats and 35% Republicans), and “riot” (70% Democrats and 48% Republicans).

The analysis was conducted by data scientist Patrick Van Kessel and computational social scientist Sono Shah. It was based on 1.7 million Facebook posts from 772 members of Congress, and 3.8 million tweets from 766 members of Congress.

AND ABOUT THOSE PRESS CREDENTIALS

Journalists in the nation’s capital typically display their press credentials without a thought. Not this week, though.

Tom Tradup, Salem Radio Network vice president of news and talk programming, says that for the first time ever, his news personnel have been cautioned not to make their media status obvious, according to a report from Talkers Magazine.

“Already the Capitol resembles an armed camp,” Mr. Tradup told the magazine.

Credentialed reporters like the network’s U.S. Senate correspondent Bob Agnew have been advised to avoid displaying their media lanyards — and to “be prepared for hazards such as pepper spray, tear gas, impact projectiles and water cannon that could be used by law enforcement responding to unruly crowds.”

Mr. Tradup says Salem’s White House correspondent Greg Clugston will anchor its live coverage from the network’s Washington bureau and will be joined by Mr. Agnew and U.S. House correspondent Bernie Bennett.

ON THEIR WAY

Of note: an immigrant caravan departed from Honduras on Jan. 15, and organizers hope to reach the U.S. border by Thursday, when President-elect Joseph R. Biden takes office. So says the Center for Immigration studies, an independent research organization.

“It seems unlikely that the newly forming caravan will be able to get past Guatemalan and Mexican pandemic-related border closures. But this will not be the last caravan to form. Organizers and participants have shown consistent resolve and determination over time. They keep forming and coming even after forceful breakups and removals,” says Todd Bensman, senior national security fellow for the group.

“When the first caravan finally succeeds in crossing the American border, many more will no doubt follow through the breach and quickly lead to another mass surge, overwhelming authorities, detention facilities, and normal asylum system processes, and ultimately leading to a humanitarian crisis,” he predicts.

POLL DU JOUR

60% of U.S. adults think social media companies have “too much” influence on elected officials and government in Washington, D.C.; 72% of Republicans, 59% of independents and 53% of Democrats agree.

51% overall think large tech companies have too much influence; 59% of Republicans, 55% of independents and 48% of Democrats agree.

50% overall think finance companies have too much influence; 43% of Republicans, 43% of independents and 60% of Democrats agree.

35% overall think manufacturing companies have too much influence; 29% of Republicans, 35% of independents and 41% of Democrats agree.

6% overall say small businesses have too much influence; 7% of Republicans, 8% of independents and 4% of Democrats agree.

Source: An Ipsos poll of 1,005 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 12-13.

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