The Week in Business: Biden Gets Down to Business
All eyes are now on President Biden. Here’s how his new guidelines will affect businesses and households struggling to survive the pandemic economy – as well as other major business and tech news of the week. Stay safe, everyone. – Charlotte Cowles
How are you? (January 17-23)
Not a moment to lose
President Joseph R. Biden Jr. began his first days in office by signing a series of executive orders to bolster the ailing economy and help those worst hit. He directed his government to expedite the delivery of stimulus checks to millions of eligible Americans who have not yet received them, increase the weekly value of grocery stamps by up to 20 percent, and raise the minimum wage for federal employees to $ 15 each Increase hour. A day earlier, he had decided not to extend the existing federal eviction ban until the end of March at the earliest (it should expire earlier this month), along with the moratorium on foreclosures on state-guaranteed mortgages. It also extends the federal student loan payments freeze through September.
The social networking app Parler, which had become a hub for right-wing conspiracy theorists, will be gone shortly. A federal judge ruled against Parler’s lawsuit forcing Amazon to restore the app’s platform last week, stating it was not in the public interest. Amazon previously supplied Parler’s cloud computing services (as it does for many companies) but revoked them after Parler coordinated the pro-Trump riots at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Parler accused Amazon of partnering with Twitter to take them offline. but could not provide sufficient evidence. The judge also stated that the court will not force Amazon to host it until Parler has put in place a better system for moderating “abusive, violent content”.
Netflix sees green
Regardless of your thoughts on Bridgerton, we can all agree that Netflix was a pandemic. And the company’s results finally reflect its success. Netflix has relied on borrowed money for years to cover the huge operating costs involved in producing huge amounts of content to feed our couch-bound brains. But not anymore: the company announced last week that it no longer needs to borrow money to support itself. It’s a big change for Netflix, and a thumbs in mind for its skeptics who predicted the company will never break even.
What’s next? (January 24-30)
Tidying up the workplace
Another item on Mr Biden’s agenda: creating new coronavirus protective measures in the workplace. The president has ordered the labor protection agency to develop new, stricter guidelines for employers to protect their workers from the interception or spread of the virus while at work. Mr. Biden’s order will establish national standards and give OSHA the power to enforce them. This is a big change from the stance of the Trump administration, which has chosen to leave virus precautions to employers. In addition, Mr Biden plans to allow workers to receive unemployment benefits if they quit jobs that do not comply with pandemic protocols. He explains that workers have a state guaranteed right to refuse employment that threatens their health.
So much for this deal
Surprise surprise. China failed to keep its promise to buy hundreds of billions of dollars in American products under an initial trade deal with the Trump administration a year ago, before the pandemic decimated both countries’ economies. Now it is up to Mr Biden to decide what to do about it. He will say the previous government’s punitive tariffs on Chinese goods, which also raise prices for American businesses and consumers? Or will he find another way to force Beijing to end its business troubles? It is an early test of the new administration, which has announced it will take a tough stance on China but has also urged it to win the support of United States allies rather than take unilateral action.
It’s still a mess. Mr Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act to expedite coronavirus vaccine production, but the only way manufacturers can move forward is that fast. The process of getting vaccines into people’s arms is also disorganized. Some big employers like Amazon have offered to help with the rollout by monitoring their workers’ vaccinations rather than leaving everything on the congested shoulders of the healthcare system. Large corporate initiatives could help large swathes of the population get vaccinated faster, but they would also give these companies a competitive advantage in getting their employees on the line to be vaccinated.
Several industries had hoped to get back to normal in 2021, but planning large (and costly) events is still difficult. Art Basel, the world’s largest fair for contemporary art, which takes place annually in Switzerland, has been postponed from June to September due to the pandemic. The Glastonbury Music Festival in England, also planned for June, has been canceled for the second time in a row. Still holding on despite reports to the contrary: the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The organizers insist that they host the games from July.