Covid Science Doesn't Care About Rick Santelli’s Feelings

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Today’s Agenda

Shouting Is No Coronavirus Cure

So this is what national unity looks like:

Covid Science Doesn't Care About Rick Santelli’s Feelings

That chart, from covidexitstrategy.org, shows an America suffering an uncontrolled coronavirus pandemic from sea to shining sea. Hawaii is the only exception to this grim form of American exceptionalism. Figuring out how to stop it is our most pressing task, but we’re still bitterly divided on that one. Millions don’t even agree it’s a real problem.

A big part of the problem is a widespread refusal to accept science. President Donald Trump is the most famous example, but there are other influential figures, including CNBC screamespondent Rick Santelli, famous for a rant that inspired the Tea Party in 2009. He got into a shouting match the other day with Andrew Ross Sorkin, who tried to make a scientific point about how the virus spreads, to which Santelli simply yelled “I DISAGREE!” over and over. QED. The trouble is, Tim O’Brien writes, the coronavirus is ruled by science, whether we agree with it or not. Failure to grasp this is why that map is such a deep crimson.

To be fair, the science isn’t always crystal clear to everybody, Faye Flam writes. Early in the pandemic, for example, people were told not to wear masks, mainly to alleviate shortages for health-care workers. Now it’s the most widely accepted pandemic-fighting tool. Santelli is wrong to say it’s just as safe to eat in a restaurant as to shop in a Lowe’s. But that message may not be clear when we let restaurants stay open. As Faye writes, we need common-sense rules that are based on science and clearly explained.

It would also help both the restaurants and the workers risking their health to pay rent if we could simply pay people to stay home until the pandemic has passed. America took a decent stab at this with the Cares Act, but its generosity has lapsed. One big hangup is that Republicans want companies shielded from lawsuits if patrons or workers catch Covid-19 on their premises. But such protections often discourage businesses from taking adequate precautions, Stephen Carter writes. Again, it would be more effective to keep them afloat instead. Maybe that’s something we can all shout about together.

Facebook Can Do Better

Social media hasn’t exactly helped this mess, facilitating the spread of dangerous malarkey about the pandemic and other subjects. Facebook has tried to weed out coronavirus misinformation, but only recently extended that practice to content about vaccines. It has been much less aggressive about policing the QAnon-type fever-swamp gas that keeps the country so divided and mistrustful of science. The trouble for Facebook is that the fever swamp is good for clicks and business, at least in the short term, writes Alex Webb. But it’s a rotten foundation. Founder Mark Zuckerberg is uniquely positioned to do something about it by dint of his ultra-powerful ownership shares. Yet for some reason he keeps catering to the short-term demands of his shareholders instead of the long-term health of his company and the nation.

Like other social-media companies, Facebook uses algorithms to spread its poison. But those algos are designed by human data scientists. Cathy O’Neil suggests we could improve the robots by making their designers be licensed the way lawyers are. We could hold them to a professional standard not to harm customers or society, even when they’re employed by tech giants. 

How to Invest Like a Smart Person

You might think politics and markets have as much in common as vegetables and motorcycles, but they’re increasingly indistinguishable. There are betting markets for politics, stocks move on political trends, and politicians use markets to guide their policies. And political prognostication has a lot in common with investing, notes Barry Ritholtz, who points out that the three big errors election forecasters made this year are very similar to mistakes investors commonly make. 

One mistake you might be about to make is jumping into a trading app such as Robinhood without thinking it through. Erin Lowry writes you should consider the security, customer service and costs of these apps. All could be worse than what you’d get simply by using a traditional broker.

Further Investment Reading:  Multi-factor investing had a shaky year only because of a black swan event in value stocks. It’s still viable. — John Authers 

Bonus Politics Vs. Investment Reading: David Perdue’s trading is busy but not as bad as it seems. — Aaron Brown 

Telltale Charts

The Federal Reserve won’t spring into yield-curve control just because the 10-year Treasury yield rises a little bit, writes Brian Chappatta, especially if it’s a result of improving data.

Covid Science Doesn't Care About Rick Santelli’s Feelings

The pandemic has slammed sales of beauty products, but all is not lost for the industry, writes Sarah Halzack. People still do plenty of self-care at home. After all, you can still see hairdos on Zoom.

Covid Science Doesn't Care About Rick Santelli’s Feelings

Further Reading

U.S. allies should do whatever they can to help President-elect Joe Biden succeed. — Bloomberg’s editorial board 

Trump’s coup attempt is clearly impeachable behavior, but impeaching him now would be a mistake. — Jonathan Bernstein 

Bob Dylan’s back catalog is expensive but offers steady revenue for Universal Music Group ahead of its IPO. — Alex Webb 

OPEC+ needs to be nimble to react to market changes. A monthly meeting of all members is not nimble. — Julian Lee 

Iran takes hostages like me as policy. The world needs to make it finally stop. — Wang Xiyue 

Goldman Sachs’s asset management business may go to Florida, but core Goldman won’t. — Brian Chappatta 

The Constitution gives Biden broad leeway to pick his own cabinet members. — Cass Sunstein 

ICYMI

Now trading: water futures.

Kickers

Tired: farmhands. Wired: pig-feeding robots that play classical music. (h/t Mike Smedley)

Mastodon bone dust raises new questions about human settlement of the Americas.

Wayne Gretzky’s rookie card could fetch $1 million. (h/t Scott Kominers for the past two kickers)

On the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will nearly align in Earth’s sky for the first time since 1226. (h/t Ellen Kominers

Note: Please send rookie cards and complaints to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Mark Gongloff is an editor with Bloomberg Opinion. He previously was a managing editor of Fortune.com, ran the Huffington Post's business and technology coverage, and was a columnist, reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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