There’s one huge problem the Fed can’t solve

1 month ago 11
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Today's Agenda

It's the Fed's world; we just live in it. The Fed's Achilles' heel is its inability to fix inequality. We must keep up with Covid mutations. Immigration won't be easy for Biden.

The Fed's Fatal Flaw

A critical element of any tragedy is the fatal flaw, a character trait that dooms the hero. Sometimes it's the character's greatest strength turned against them. In the classic tragedy "Home Alone," for example, the admirable persistence of the Wet Bandits leads to their downfall at the hands of the violent psychopath Kevin. 

In the long-running drama of the U.S. economy, the Federal Reserve is the hero. Its greatest strength is its magical ability to make the money printer go brrr. This superpower lifted global asset prices to absurd heights this year despite a pandemic and recession. Mohamed El-Erian tries to tally up the big themes of the markets in 2020 and finds it's all just really one big theme: The Fed is omnipresent and omnipotent. 

But there will be payback, Mohamed warns. And you can already see the seeds of the Fed's downfall being sown. The central bank's ability to levitate markets is also fostering horrific inequality, warns Brian Chappatta. The only thing that can offset this is progressive fiscal policy, such as the Cares Act. Without more such help in the near future, the Fed is doomed to be hit by an economic and social backlash more painful than a swinging paint can to the face. 

Further Monetary Policy Downside Reading: Central bankers' successes put their independence at risk. — Daniel Moss  

Covid Delivers One More Nasty Surprise in 2020

This has been a nightmare year for the history books:

One of the worst things about that Covid death toll, which is definitely an undercount, is how avoidable it was. Our leadership failed to contain the virus. And now it's courting even more unnecessary death by botching the rollout of vaccines: Just 3 million Americans have gotten shots so far, a fraction of the government's goal of 20 million this year.

Meanwhile, the virus is mutating, as viruses do, and a variant that apparently spreads more easily is already here. It may not yet have mutated beyond the reach of the vaccines we're slowly dribbling out. But Sam Fazeli warns health officials must keep sprinting to keep up with this and other mutations. We've got to make 2021 at least slightly less horrible.

Biden's Immigration Challenge

President-elect Joe Biden — who takes office in 19 days and 20 hours no matter what Josh Hawley does — rode to victory this year on the promise to be nothing like President Donald Trump. You might think putting that promise into action would start with undoing every single thing Trump did about immigration, which was the focus of some of his very Trumpiest policies. And yet. Some of Trump's immigration policies were just extensions or perversions of President Barack Obama's own policies, notes Bloomberg's editorial board. Throwing open the borders won't work, but neither will simply turning the clock back to the Obama era

Further Biden-Era Reading: The GOP should help workers, but ditch the Trump/Hawley populism. — Michael R. Strain 

Telltale Charts

Cathie Wood far outpaced other money managers this year by betting big on innovation, writes Matthew Winkler, including the genetic wizardry that has produced some of the most successful Covid vaccines. 

Further Reading

The U.K. is now Boris Johnson's problem to solve alone, and the voters are watching and judging. — Therese Raphael 

Here are the five worst PR disasters of the year. — Kara Alaimo 

Classic liberalism had a bad decade. It's time to push back against both fascism and socialism. — Andreas Kluth 

The pandemic exposes  just how critical football has become to many colleges, to the detriment of many. — Conor Sen 

2020 was at least a big year for math geeks. — Scott Duke Kominers 

ICYMI

The very rich got very richer this year.

Russians apparently hacked Microsoft.

Housing affordability is the worst in 12 years.

Kickers

From murder hornets to glowing platypuses (platypi? platypodes?), it was a big year for weird animal news. (h/t Alistair Lowe)

So it begins: Bees have learned to use tools. Specifically, poop. (h/t Sarah Green Carmichael)

Mitsubishi Heavy is building the world's biggest zero-carbon steel plant.

How a nuclear sub officer learned to live in tight quarters.

These New Year's resolutions might actually make you happy.

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

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