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The Week in Business: Biden Gets Down to Business

  • January 24, 2021

Regardless of your thoughts on “Bridgerton,” we can all agree that Netflix has been a pandemic staple. And the company’s bottom line is finally reflecting its success. For years, Netflix has relied on borrowed cash to cover the enormous operating costs of churning out huge volumes of content to feed our couch-bound brains. But no longer: The company announced this past week that it would not need to borrow any more money to sustain itself. It’s a major shift for Netflix, and a thumb in the eye to its skeptics who predicted that the company would never break even.

Another item on Mr. Biden’s agenda: creating new coronavirus protections in the workplace. The president has ordered the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to come up with new, stricter guidance for employers to protect their workers from catching or spreading the virus while on the job. Mr. Biden’s order will establish national standards and give OSHA the power to enforce them. This is a big change from the Trump administration’s stance, which chose to leave virus precautions up to employers. Additionally, Mr. Biden plans to allow workers to receive unemployment benefits if they quit jobs that do not follow pandemic protocols, stating “that workers have a federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that will jeopardize their health.”

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Surprise, surprise. China has fallen short on its pledge to buy hundreds of billions of dollars in American products as part of an initial trade deal it reached with the Trump administration one year ago, before the pandemic decimated both countries’ economies. Now, it’s up to Mr. Biden to decide what to do about it. Will he maintain the previous administration’s punitive tariffs on Chinese goods, which also raise prices for American companies and consumers? Or will he find another way to force Beijing to end its business high jinks? It’s an early test for the new administration, which has said it will take a tough stance on China, but has also pushed for enlisting the support of United States allies rather than taking unilateral action.

It’s still a mess. Mr. Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act to speed up production of coronavirus vaccines, but manufacturers can only go so fast. The process of getting vaccines into people’s arms has been disorganized, too. Some large employers, like Amazon, have offered to help with the rollout by overseeing the vaccinations of their workers rather than leaving it all on the overburdened shoulders of the health care system. Big-scale corporate initiatives could help get large chunks of the population vaccinated more quickly, but it would also give those companies a competitive advantage in bumping their employees up the line to be inoculated.

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