We know not to trust brands by now, don't we? After all, brands are not your friends.
But while the country has been mobilized by renewed Black Lives Matter protests after the murder of George Floyd, it seems every brand from Ben & Jerry's to LEGO and Nickelodeon have been sharing #BLM messages of support on social media. But isn't it basic marketing to echo popular opinion in order to ingratiate your company with consumers? Of course it is–so the interesting question more consumers are pondering lately is how (un)ethical basic marketing is.
The New York Times writer Tejal Rao questioned all of this performative allyship in her article, "Food Brands Tweet #BlackLivesMatter, but What's Behind the Words?" Rao recounts, "Popeye's Chicken stated that the company would use its 'platform' to 'support this movement.' Wendy's claimed that its 'voice would be nothing without Black culture' and promised to 'amplify Black voices' on Twitter. And Burger King adapted its slogan in a tweet that read, 'when it comes to people's lives, there's only one way to have it. without discrimination.'"
The cringey virtue-signaling of fast food brands is akin to the tone deaf Pepsi commercial that introduced Kendall Jenner to the real world of racial politics. Remember that gem from 2017? Jenner, playing the part of a famous "woke" ally, is gracious enough to step down from her high fashion photoshoot and join a protest which was presumably on the brink of exploding into violent chaos–but then the (white cis) model hands a stern-looking police officer a Pepsi, and everyone dances in the street for...social justice? World peace?
As Rao noted, "It also brushed over the fact, viciously reinforced last week, that protests against police brutality are often met with more police brutality. That regardless of which soda they might be drinking, peaceful protesters in the United States may be subject to tear gas, rubber bullets, batons and worse."
People Are Outraged By This Pepsi Ad Starring Kendall Jenner youtu.be
While Pepsi quickly pulled the ad and Jenner apologized, Rao's point is disturbingly clear: Brands performing allyship with platitudes about "amplifying Black voices" isn't just tone deaf; it's insulting.
McDonalds, renowned for abusing its (often underage) employees and violating a wide array of labor laws, tweeted its support of the Black Lives Matter by naming widely publicized Black victims of police brutality and writing, "They were one of us."
They were one of us: Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Alton Sterling. Botham Jean. Atatiana Jefferson. Ahmaud Arber… https://t.co/BM4bpG4Z9H— McDonald's (@McDonald's)1591189147.0
Before giving brands clout, praise, your money, or even recognition for their ability to (under)pay an intern to write a nice tweet, examine the structures and power dynamics at work in that company. McDonalds, for instance, is known to pay their employees unjustly low wages, refuses to recognize their employees' right to form a union, and has failed to address numerous complaints of sexual harassment and even violence against McDonald's employees.
While some companies do tout Black Lives Matter slogans and messages of support as a sign of their internal leadership and commitment to creating safer and fairer spaces for people of color, it's 2020 and a quick Internet search reveals a company's true values.
But considering the numerous indignant replies to McDonald's tweet, most people already know that:
@McDonalds You haven’t even responded to our letter demanding paid sick and family leave for all employees, the maj… https://t.co/yYPP28N96f— ACLU (@ACLU)1591218361.0
@McDonalds McDonald's workers have marched against the company demanding justice for over half a decade. McD's has… https://t.co/BZ5qgDRuMU— People for Bernie (@People for Bernie)1591192495.0
@McDonalds Hundreds of thousands of Black people and non-Black people of color run your restaurants, and you’ve ref… https://t.co/HSqfvapZqN— SumOfUs (@SumOfUs)1591276699.0
When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.