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Empty Office Buildings Squeeze City Budgets as Property Values Fall

WASHINGTON — At a meeting with Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen last month, Jeff Williams, the mayor of Arlington, Texas, laid out his grim economic predicament: Heavy spending on coronavirus testing and vaccine distribution had dwarfed dwindling tax revenue, forcing the city to consider painful cuts to services and jobs. While sluggish sales and tourism were partly to blame, the big worry, Mr. Williams said, is the empty buildings.Those dormant offices, malls and restaurants that have turned cities around the country into ghost towns foreshadow a fiscal time bomb for municipal budgets, which are heavily reliant on property taxes and …

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Your Monday Briefing

Europe’s ‘mental health pandemic’With coronavirus restrictions in European countries set to drag into the spring or perhaps longer, health professionals fear the deteriorating mental state of young people, who they say have been among the most badly affected by a world with a foreshortened sense of the future.Last in line for vaccines, young people have borne much of the burden of sacrifices made largely to protect more vulnerable older people. Hospitalizations of young Italians who harmed themselves or attempted suicide have increased 30 percent in the second wave of the virus, while a French survey of 30,000 people found …

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SEC issues statement on past week’s turbulent market activity prompted by Reddit-fueled GameStop run

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued an official statement on the tumult of the past week in the public stock market. It’s a relatively brief statement and doesn’t mention any of the key players by name (aka GameStop, Reddit, Robinhood and others), but it does acknowledge that “extreme stock price volatility has the potential to expose investors to rapid and severe losses” that could “undermine market confidence,” and basically says the commission is watching closely to ensure that it doesn’t.
The SEC statement does specify that it believes the “core market infrastructure” remains …

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‘We Need to Stabilize’: Big Business Breaks With Republicans

But last week seemed to be a breaking point. Big business could evidently tolerate working with Mr. Trump despite his chauvinism, his flirtations with white nationalism and his claims of impunity, but the president’s apparent willingness to undermine democracy itself appeared to be a step too far.“This thing was a little different. I mean, we had sedition and insurrection in D.C.,” said Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase. “No C.E.O. I know condones that in any way, shape or form. We shouldn’t have someone, you know, gassing up a mob.”The fallout …

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The Markets’ Strange Disregard for the Chaos in Washington

UBS continued, “The tax hike is also likely to be smaller than the potential overall spending.” On balance, the report said, “With vaccination programs underway, we retain a positive longer-term outlook for equities.”Such analyses help to justify the upward trend of the stock market but don’t explain why the rally withstood the assault on the Capitol.Much as I hate to say so, I’m not yet confident that the country is on a clear path to safety and stability. Given the grave damage already inflicted on the United States, the risk of greater destruction can’t be …

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Even With $900 Billion Stimulus, Biden Faces Fragile Economy

With his presidential inauguration just weeks away, Joseph R. Biden Jr. is confronting an economic crisis that is utterly unparalleled and yet eerily familiar.Millions of Americans are out of work, small businesses are struggling to survive, hunger is rampant, and people across the country fear getting kicked out of their homes. The moment was similarly perilous exactly 12 years ago, when Mr. Biden was the vice president-elect and preparing to take office.“I remember the utter terror,” said Cecilia Rouse, who was an economic adviser in the Obama White House and has been chosen to lead Mr. Biden’s Council …

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As Some Deficit Hawks Turn Dove, the New Politics of Debt Are on Display

And while running big deficits might have once stoked fears about inflation — as too many dollars chased too few goods — price gains have been too low for comfort for years. Add to that the emergency needs prompted by the pandemic, and even the Fed’s leader, who had long warned about the nation’s debt load, has said this is a reasonable time to spend money.“As a general rule, it is important to be on a sustainable fiscal path,” the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, a Republican, said at a news conference last month. “From my way of thinking …

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Section 230 is threatened in new bill tying liability shield repeal to $2,000 checks

Tech got dragged into yet another irrelevant Congressional scuffle this week after President Trump agreed to sign a bipartisan pandemic relief package but continued to press for additional $2,000 checks that his party opposed during negotiations.
In tweets and other comments, Trump tied a push for the boosted relief payments to his entirely unrelated demand to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a critical but previously obscure law that protects internet companies from legal liability for user-generated content.

Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP. $600 IS …

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As Bills Pile Up, Many Anxiously Keep Tabs on the Stimulus Bill

“It’s the worst thing I could possibly imagine,” she said. “If you told me a year ago that the entire country would be suffering the way it is now, with no help from the government, I would have told you that would never happen. We live in America.”More than 20 million Americans are collecting unemployment benefits and the unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent. A year ago, before the pandemic hit, the jobless rate touched 3.5 percent, tying a 50-year low.For those living on the edge, the recent political gamesmanship has been infuriating.“We don’t have time for them …

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Stimulus Deal Provides Economic Relief, for Now

The congressional agreement on Sunday on another dose of aid to fuel the slowing economic recovery has probably spared millions of Americans from a winter of poverty and kept the country from falling back into recession.For much of the economy — especially people and industries that have been insulated from the worst effects of the pandemic — it may provide a bridge to a vaccine-fueled rebound. That is especially likely if the vaccine is quickly and widely distributed, and the swelling number of coronavirus cases doesn’t force another round of widespread shutdowns.The injection of money comes months too late …

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