CVS executives knew that some of their sales would go up in smoke when they decided last year to stop selling cigarettes. The press release announcing that all 7,600 CVS stores nationwide would stop selling all tobacco products acknowledged that sales would take a hit. Still, the company said, “This is the right thing to do.”
The costs of the decision are now becoming clear. CVS Health’s general merchandise sales slumped 7.8 percent last quarter on a same-store basis, the company said Tuesday. The company claims non-pharmacy sales would have stayed the same if tobacco sales — and the other products cigarette buyers added to their baskets — were removed from sales figures for the same quarter in 2014.
Same-store sales in the pharmacy category climbed 4.1 percent, boosting overall same-store sales growth to 0.5 percent compared with the second quarter of last year, down from a 1.2 percent year-over-year increase the previous quarter. Net revenue overall grew by 7.4 percent to $37.2 billion, helped by pharmacy services revenue that surged 11.9 percent ($2.6 billion) to $24.4 billion. The company has reportedly increased its market share in the health and beauty categories (it did, however, narrow its full-year earnings forecast).
So even as the move to drop cigarettes has cost the company, its bet on health as the source of future growth may be starting to pay off. CVS stock dropped in the wake of its earnings announcement, but shares are still up more than 15 percent on the year and 44 percent over the past 12 months.
Trump and the GOP still have work to do if they want to convince Americans that their tax plan won’t mostly help the rich. A CBS News Nation Tracker poll released Sunday finds that 58 percent say the tax reforms being discussed favor the wealthy, while 19 percent say it treats everyone equally and 18 percent say it favors the middle class.
The poll also found that 39 percent say that cutting the deficit should be a priority, even if it means taxes stay the same. About half as many people said cutting taxes should be prioritized even if the deficit rises.
The poll, conducted by YouGov, surveyed 2,371 U.S. adults between October 11 and 13. Its margin of error is 2.5 percent.
House tax writers (at least some of them) are worried that slashing the corporate tax rate found will push the deficit higher in a hurry – an analysis by the Tax Policy Center found that cutting the rate to the stated goal of 20 percent would cost $2 trillion over a decade. One way to soften the fiscal blow would be to phase in the reduction over three to five years. House Republicans say such an approach would reduce the size of the lost revenue by half.
Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers isn't happy with the Republican tax plan, and it's not just because he has a different set of ideas as a Democrat. More fundamentally, he says Republicans are making false claims: “When you have -- and I hate to be in a position of using this word about our government -- when you have senior economic officials making claims that are made-up ... it’s very hard to have a dialogue, and compromise, and get to a good place.”
Summers is also worried about the effects of a tax cut for the rich during a time of considerable social turmoil: “There’s a lot of unhappiness and anger out there … It’s really hard to see why focusing a corporate tax cut on those at the very high-end is going to do much to assuage that anger.”
Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to attend an NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers yesterday and then leave after some 49ers players kneeled during the national anthem was quickly criticized by some as a planned piece of political theater — and a somewhat expensive one at that. “After all the scandals involving unnecessarily expensive travel by cabinet secretaries, how much taxpayer money was wasted on this stunt?” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) tweeted Sunday afternoon.
The answer, CNN reports, is about $242,500: "According to the Air Force, flying a C-32, the model of plane used for Air Force 2, for one hour costs about $30,000. Pence's flight from Las Vegas to Indianapolis Saturday took about three hours and 20 minutes, so it cost about $100,000. Pence then flew from Indianapolis to Los Angeles on Sunday, which took about four hours and 45 minutes, costing about $142,500."
President Trump defended Pence’s trip, tweeting that it had been “long planned.” CNN also reports that some of the costs of Pence's flight from Indianapolis to Los Angeles will be paid back by the Republican National Committee because the vice president is attending a political event there.
One thing is standing in the way of a major ongoing effort to reset the U.S. Army, writes Carter Ham, a retired four-star general who’s now president and CEO of the Association of the U.S. Army, at Defense One. “The problem is the Washington, D.C., budget quagmire.”
The issue is more than just a matter of funding levels. “What hurts more is the erratic, unreliable and downright harmful federal budget process,” which has forced the Army to plan based on stopgap “continuing resolutions” instead of approved budgets for nine straight fiscal years. “A slowdown in combat-related training, production delays in new weapons, and a postponement of increases in Army troop levels are among the immediate impacts of operating under this ill-named continuing resolution. It’s not continuous and it certainly doesn’t display resolve.”