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Hate to rush you, Congress, but the economy’s on fire again

Bloomberg Opinion Today
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Today's Agenda

Stimulus Need Level Remains at Defcon 1

In normal times, 245,000 jobs is a perfectly healthy number of jobs to add to the U.S. economy, as happened in November. But these are not normal times. The economy is like a failing student who has racked up a bunch of Fs and needs A+ grades for the rest of the term if they hope to pass. This was a C, at best.

On the bright side, the numbers were just bad enough to make the case for more stimulus, writes Brian Chappatta. And it just so happens Republicans and Democrats in Congress are closer than they've been to a deal for more relief since they passed the Cares Act, back in like 1847 or whenever that was. They need to hurry up and strike one nowBloomberg's editorial board writes, as the pandemic hits awful new highs and hammers the economy again.  

Democrats have cut their demands in half, but some Republicans are still balking. Karl Smith argues there's a political case that helping the economy will help the GOP in the long run. For one thing, it's, you know, the right thing to do. Some may cynically calculate hurting the economy will hurt President-elect Joe Biden and the Democrats. But lingering economic pain could also make the public warm to even more liberal policies.

And anybody worried about deficits should recognize government finances will snap right back if growth resumes quickly, writes Mervyn King. That won't happen if we can't support businesses and incomes until the pandemic is over. Without such help, temporary economic damage becomes permanent. And you can't collect tax revenue from a dead business.

That's why it's also wrong to think governments should run their finances the way households do, writes Noah Smith. Governments benefit when economies thrive, even if it sends them into debt. And with borrowing costs so ridiculously low, being in debt is actually a pretty good deal these days. Even a C student like me can see that. 

'Stop Trading' Act Does Not Stop Trading. Otherwise, Great Act

The problem of American congresspeople trying to make money on all the juicy inside information they constantly get is a very old one. Congresspeople congratulated themselves a bunch in 2012 when they passed the "Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act," or "Stock Act," using a naming convention borrowed from Van Halen. But Joe Nocera points out the Stop Trading Act didn't actually stop lawmakers from trading stocks, even when they have relationships with or oversight of the companies involved. So you still get sketchy behavior, such as Georgia Senator David Perdue churning problematic stocks like a Robinhood trader hopped up on trucker speed. You could argue this all just helps price discovery in markets, but it's a grift-y look for lawmakers. Tougher rules are needed.

RIP, Movie Theaters; Hello, Dogs

Most people have deeply fond memories of movie theaters. Most people also find watching movies at home to be much more convenient. We're all going to have to work through such mixed feelings in a hurry, because the theater business is on its last legs, writes Tara Lachapelle. Warner Bros.' decision to release all of its 2021 movies straight to streaming is a crushing blow to the industry, and studios may not be able to cram this toothpaste back into the tube. 

Of course, many of us have to stay home these days because we've procured a pandemic pet. Dog prices are rising as fast as Bitcoin, points out Andrea Felsted:

Note these are purebreds. Rescue animals are cheaper and love you just as much. Anyway, all pets are expensive in the long run, though they are also usually worth it. You just have to figure out what Andrea calls your Return on Invested Cat. 

Telltale Charts

Big Oil is best positioned to have the infrastructure and cash to build out the green hydrogen the world needs, writes David Fickling

The good news, writes John Authers: Robert Shiller sees U.S. stocks as expensive, but not irrationally so. The bad news: They're still wildly expensive relative to foreign ones, and the risks are rising.

Further Reading

Forget Pfizer's slight delay; businesses have done a remarkable job of maintaining the vaccine supply chain under duress. — Brooke Sutherland  

BlackRock's Brian Deese is a good pick to advise Biden on climate; government and business must work together on such a huge problem. — Nir Kaissar 

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have very different approaches to prepping for peak oil demand. The UAE's is smarter. — Liam Denning 

Brexit has clearly hurt London's standing as a capital-raising hub. — Lionel Laurent 

Trump's cruelty to immigrants could result in a kinder, saner enforcement system. — Frank Wilkinson 

Airbnb has launched a bold experiment to help its partners perform better. — Scott Duke Kominers 

ICYMI

The CDC finally told everybody to wear masks indoors when not at home.

Mystery surrounds a $7 billion outflow from a Vanguard ETF.

Snowflake's CEO collects $95 million every month.

Kickers

Used shipping pallets are a public health hazard. (h/t Mike Smedley)

Self-described Christians destroyed the California monolith.

Why great athletes are more likely to be younger siblings.

The New Yorker's best books of 2020.

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

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