1/13/21 Power Five

1. What’s Wrong With the Way We Work? – “Most jobs created between 2005 and 2015 were temporary jobs. Four in five hourly retail workers in the United States have no reliable schedule from one week to another…Americans have fewer paid holidays than workers in other countries, and the United States is all but alone in having no guaranteed maternity leave and no legal right to sick leave or vacation time. Meanwhile, we’re told to love work, and to find meaning in it, as if work were a family, or a religion, or a body of knowledge.”

2. The Wonder That is Netflix – In the ~50 remaining weeks of the year, Netflix will release 70 movies. Pretty incredible.

3. The Disaster That is Vaccine Rollout – “The United States had aimed to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of 2020; it missed its target by more than 17 million. Donald Trump, taking a victory lap on the vaccine success last month at a White House summit, promised shots would be “distributed very quickly,” that “every American who wants the vaccine will be able to get the vaccine” in short order; vaccines have instead sat on warehouse shelves amid a lack of direction from his government, some are likely to expire before they can be injected into Americans’ arms, and states—left on their own as the president ignores the crisis entirely—have been beset by confusion. Vaccines will soon help the country start returning to a pre-pandemic normalcy—but shoddy rollout could stretch the meaning of the word “soon,” and at great cost, with cases and deaths surging and hospital systems reaching their breaking point.

4. The Year the Fed Changed Forever“By mid-March, as markets were crashing, the Fed had cut interest rates to near zero to protect the economy. By March 23, to avert a full-blown financial crisis, the Fed had rolled out nearly its entire 2008 menu of emergency loan programs, while teaming up with the Treasury Department to announce programs that had never been tried — including plans to support lending to small and medium-size businesses and buy corporate debt. In early April, it tacked on a plan to get credit flowing to states. ‘We crossed a lot of red lines that had not been crossed before,’ Mr. Powell said at an event in May.”

5. What the Big Mac Index Tells You About Currency Wars“Of the currencies of the 20 trading partners studied by America’s Treasury, our measure suggests that all have gained relative to the greenback since July, but that all apart from the Swiss franc are still cheap. That gives the incoming Biden administration, which has promised to take “aggressive trade-enforcement actions” against currency manipulators, lots to chew on. Our burger-based index is based on the idea that prices should adjust over the long run, so that the same basket of tradable goods costs the same everywhere. Converting prices into dollars at prevailing exchange rates lets you judge whether a currency is too cheap or too dear. To avoid the problem that people buy different things in different places, we compare the price of just one good: the McDonald’s Big Mac. The burgers are not exactly the same across countries—India’s Maharaja Mac, for instance, does not contain beef—but they are consistent enough. A burger in Thailand costs 25% less than in America when its price is converted to dollars at prevailing exchange rates, for example, suggesting that the Thai baht is undervalued.

Chart of the Day