This Mnuchin-Powell beef comes at the worst time

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Today's Agenda

Who's got two thumbs and wants to take back money from the Fed?

Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

Why Are the Helpers Fighting?

The late Fred Rogers famously recommended telling children to "look for the helpers" whenever there was terrible news. No matter the disaster, it's always encouraging to see grownups rushing to repair the damage. Unfortunately, Mr. Rogers had no advice for what to do when the helpers start brawling before the emergency is over.

For several months this year, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was one of our best, most heroic helpers, pumping billions of dollars into the economy to limit the pandemic's pain. Now he wants to claw many of those billions back from his co-helper, the Federal Reserve. Chairman Jay Powell is resisting. As Brian Chappatta notes, such a public feud is not normal and definitely not helpful, especially not with the economic recovery teetering as coronavirus cases soar. 

Mnuchin says the money he takes from the Fed could help in other ways. Maybe, but it feels an awful lot like another way for President Donald Trump to sabotage President-elect Joe Biden, writes Bloomberg's editorial board. The economy still needs the lending facilities Mnuchin is trying to shut down, and the Fed should resist him until Biden comes to the rescue.

But the Mnuchin-Powell spat is just part of a global trend, writes Mohamed El-Erian, of initial heroic efforts giving way to caution and division. Markets are taking it more or less in stride, but the risks keep piling up, with stocks near all-time highs, notes John Authers.

Of course, a hamstrung Fed will just mean even more quantitative easing forever, writes Dan Moss, which tends to boost markets, along with emerging economies via a weaker dollar. But it's not healthy. We need all the helpers we can get. 

How to Thanksgiving

New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo sparked a bit of a firestorm today with an essay in which he discovered his Covid-19 "pod" wasn't quite as isolated as he thought but decided to travel for Thanksgiving anyway. As it will no doubt shock you to learn, not everyone on the internet agreed with his choice. You may be making similar agonizing decisions yourself and won't find travel-shaming convincing. Bloomberg Opinion is here to help: Max Nisen, Sarah Green Carmichael, Justin Fox and Faye Flam share their advice on whether and how one can safely gorge oneself in the company of friends and/or relatives.  

As anybody who frequents bodegas knows, many small shopping trips often end up costing a lot more than giant ones. That's one reason the smaller gatherings of this pandemic Thanksgiving are great news for grocers, write Andrea Felsted and Sarah Halzack. Lonely people are stuffing their feelings by splurging on more expensive food. The smaller turkey portions we're all buying cost more than the giant, loss-leading whole turkeys we usually make for bigger feasts. Your bodega is thankful.

The FDA Has an Itchy Approval Finger

When Trump got sick with Covid-19 last month, his cocktail of experimental "miracle" treatments included the Gilead drug remdesivir. The president was already so jazzed about this drug that he had cornered the global market for the stuff months earlier. And shortly after his illness, the FDA gave the drug full approval to treat Covid patients. But it turns out all of this — the market-cornering, the president-touting, the quick-approving — was premature. Yesterday the World Health Organization recommended against using remdesivir to treat Covid, citing further studies showing limited benefits. The whole episode, Tim O'Brien writes, raises serious questions about the FDA approval process on Trump's watch. Such concerns could affect uptake of a quickly approved vaccine. 

Telltale Charts

As if the pandemic and political upheaval weren't bad enough, now we've got a zombie problem — corporate zombies, that is, or companies whose cash flow doesn't even cover their interest expenses. These are suddenly swarming like it's World War Z. But as Brian Chappatta, Tara Lachapelle, Brooke Sutherland and Sarah Halzack point out, not all of them are really scary.

Maybe you've never heard of the video game Roblox, but my preteen daughter would cut somebody's throat to play an extra hour of it. Tae Kim writes this company, which just filed to go public, has a very huge, very fanatical, very young user base.

Further Reading

America is getting left out of Asian trade deals and losing influence, another argument for Biden rejoining the TPP. — Bloomberg's editorial board 

China keeps raging at other countries over slights, which helps explain why its own influence isn't so hot. — Mihir Sharma 

The City of London wants to anchor a global carbon market. Too bad there isn't any. — Elisa Martinuzzi and Marcus Ashworth 

Trump has wrecked government's inner workings, inviting incompetence and corruption. — Max Stier 

It's a good moment to stop and be thankful for what actually works in our democracy. — Jonathan Bernstein 

How to make a budget in 25 minutes. — Teresa Ghilarducci 

ICYMI

Georgia is about to certify Biden's victory there.

Republican senators are starting to break with Trump.

China is ignoring Elon Musk and pursuing hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Kickers

Doctors revived a man 45 minutes after his heart stopped. (h/t Uffe Galsgaard)

A book returned to an Ontario library may be 100 years overdue. (h/t Mike Smedley)

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy could reverse aging.

What you learn from reading 100 books in two years.

Note: Please send library books and complaints to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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