Science has determined that people need to know 7.5 things per day, on average, about the world of business. You can't argue with science. Lucky for you, the Huffington Post has an email newsletter, delivered first thing every weekday morning, boiling down the day's biggest business news into the 7.5 things you absolutely need to know. And we're giving it away free, because we love you, and also science. Here you go:
Thing One: The Liberal Reagan: President Obama has still got four more years (minus one day) in office, but it is already time to start thinking about his legacy.
This is a business-oriented newsletter, so we should limit these thoughts to business-related things. But Obama's second inauguration speech yesterday, though light on details and heavy on broad-stroke rhetoric, had major implications for business-y stuff, including the size and scope of the welfare state. It also contained a pretty surprisingly prominent shout-out to climate change, a business story if ever there was one. Obama's speech was aggressively liberal, by the standards of Barack H. Obama, the New York Times writes, but not nearly as liberal as it could have been. For example, Obama did not announce that he was confiscating all of the guns and rounding everybody up into UN-operated FEMA camps. He's saving that for 2014, maybe, once he's lulled us into a false sense of security.
Despite the disappointing absence of the camps, Obama is still fast becoming conservatives' worst nightmare, much as Ronald Reagan was liberals' worst nightmare -- and in a more profound way than the liberal nightmare of the overreaching, incompetent George W. Bush. In fact, Obama is well on track, barring some sort of Lewinsky eruption, to becoming the liberal Reagan, notes BuzzFeed's Ben Smith. This is not because Obama has been unusually liberal or anything. Time and again he has disappointed the liberal wing of his party, from dropping the public option on health-care reform to dropping the ball on financial reform.
Obama has governed like a liberal Republican, just like Reagan. But in one way the two presidents could well be opposite sides of the same coin, standard-bearers for competing strains in American politics. Reagan's actions weren't always aggressively conservative, but his presidency made it OK to be a conservative again after decades in the wilderness. Reagan heralded the rise of the conservative strain and the marginalization of liberals. It wasn't too long ago that "liberal" was a dirty word -- even during the presidency of Bill Clinton, who had to mask his own progressivism.
To the extent the word "liberal" is losing its power to wound, we can thank Obama. Though his policies have not been wildly progressive, he has tonally started to make it OK to be a liberal again. Conservatives, meanwhile, risk being driven to the sidelines, as evidenced by their frustrated (short-term) retreat on Monday from their threat to hold the debt-ceiling hostage in exchange for spending cuts. Obama's liberalism will be constrained by economic circumstances and by his own innate conservatism. But in the many debates to come -- over the tax code, the size of government, climate change and more -- the framework may well be shifting, from Reagan-era conservatism to Obama-era liberalism.
Thing Two: Bank Of Japan Fires Up Money Helicopter: The Bank of Japan this morning announced aggressive new stimulus measures, including an inflation target and a Fed-like promise to buy bonds forever, or until Japan's economy improves, whichever comes first (we'll take the over). The move comes after heavy pressure from newly elected Japanese president Shinzo Abe on the BOJ to act, the sort of political interference frowned upon by economists, the Wall Street Journal notes.
Thing Three: Europe Is Totes Fine, You Guys! Well, what do you know, everything is fine in Europe. European finance ministers rubber-stamped the latest round of Greek assistance yesterday, avoiding an immediate Grexit from the euro zone, Bloomberg writes. Maybe more importantly, the loan suggests Greece's paymasters think it's slightly more able to pay its debts, Bloomberg writes. Meanwhile, German investor confidence has risen to its highest level in two-and-a-half years, according to the ZEW Center, Bloomberg writes. But spoilsport Reuters reminds us that Europe still has big, big problems, including an awful economy.
Thing Four: Walmart Rattles The Supply Chain: Walmart's public-relations makeover continues apace. Just a week after promising to increase the amount of America-made stuff it buys, the omnipresent retailer has adopted a "zero-tolerance" policy for violations of its supply-chain standards, the Wall Street Journal reports. This shift follows the ghastly fire in a Bangladesh factory that was making Walmart clothes without Walmart's OK.
Thing Five: One Child Left Behind: America may have a demographic problem with all of its aging Baby Boomers, but there's a similarly ticking demographic time bomb in China. The country's decades-long one-child policy has left it without enough workers to support its own aging population, Reuters writes. That may be about to change: There are subtle hints that China's government might soon "adjust" the policy, Reuters writes.
Thing Six: Vaccine Nightmare: Don't let Jenny McCarthy hear about this one: About 800 people in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe developed narcolepsy after taking a swine-flu vaccine made by GlaxoSmithKline, Reuters writes. The connection between the two is still not totally clear, and the company and health experts note that 30 million people got the vaccine without developing narcolepsy.
Thing Seven: Go Ahead And Post Those Selfies On Instagram: Not long ago, employees lived in a constant state of fear that their drunken topless Instagram selfies or racist Twitter rants would be discovered by their employers and lead to termination. Increasingly, though, ill-advised behavior on social networks is being protected by regulators, the New York Times writes.
Thing Seven And One Half: Unhappy Birthday: Three years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its infamous ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, because corporations are people. Except when they are banks.
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Calendar Du Jour:
10:00 a.m. ET: Existing Home Sales for December
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