Hey smarties! We’re on a break for the holidays and revisiting some favorite episodes from 2021. We want to say a big thank-you for being part of the “Make Me Smart” family this year — every voicemail, question and donation made a huge difference. None of us is as smart as all of us, and we couldn’t do this show without you. There’s still time to help Marketplace reach its end-of-year fundraising goal. If you can, please donate here. Thanks, happy holidays and we’ll see you in the new year.
It’s been just over 40 years since newly elected President Ronald Reagan declared, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem.”
We’re about 39 years and four months away from the legislative manifestation of that idea, the Economic Recovery Tax Act, which codified “Reaganomics,” supply-side economics, trickle-down economics, whatever you want to call it.
All these decades later, we’re still talking a lot about this policy because Reagan was so good at promoting it. People could understand the metaphor of government spending as a household budget in need of a cutback, said Brown University political economist Mark Blyth.
“That rather ignores the fact that I don’t get to issue my own currency, there’s no such thing as a Kai Ryssdal bond market,” Blyth said. “But because all that stuff accords with common sense, it’s an easy sell.”
Now we’re in a new financial crisis, with plenty of data on the “trickle-up” consequences of trickle-down and a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill. Reagan had “Morning in America,” Joe Biden has “Infrastructure Week.” On today’s show, we’ll talk with Blyth about how Reaganomics was supposed to work, its ripple effects on Democrats and whether the era of “The era of big government is over” is … over.
Later in the show, we’ll track more big firms getting rid of their offices, wade into crypto just a bit and learn about code breaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman. Plus, a correction from a 2-year-old listener.
Here are links to everything we talked about on the show today:
- “Bidenomics beats Reaganomics and I should know – I saw Clintonomics fail” from previous Marketplace contributor Robert Reich in the Guardian
- “2020 Was the Year Reaganism Died” by Paul Krugman in The New York Times
- “Biden is planning for a Great Society 2.0” by James Hohmann in The Washington Post
- “JPMorgan, Salesforce Join Growing List of Firms Dumping Office Space” from The Wall Street Journal
- “US 10-year Treasury yield hits highest level since January last year” from Financial Times
- “PayPal launches crypto checkout service” from Reuters
- “Visa moves to allow payment settlements using cryptocurrency” also from Reuters
- “How America’s ‘First Female Cryptanalyst’ Cracked the Code of Nazi Spies in World War II—and Never Lived to See the Credit” from Time magazine
- Finally, listen to Molly’s interview with Make Me Smart Question answerer Aniyia Williams.
Make Me Smart December 14, 2021 transcript
Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.
Kai Ryssdal: Hey everyone, it’s Kai. All of us at Make Me Smart are taking a little holiday break for the next couple of weeks, but we couldn’t leave you high and dry, so we’re revisiting some of our best episodes from 2021. And if you’ve enjoyed listening to our show this past year, consider making a year-end gift to Marketplace and Make Me Smart. Your financial support is a critical part of our budget and we’ve got thank you gifts at every donation level. You can give at Marketplace.org/GIVESMART or click the link in the show notes. And thanks.
Kai Ryssdal: It’s really funny, he’s like, I’m not ready, man. I’m not ready.
Molly Wood: I know. He’s like, come on, you tricked me.
Kai Ryssdal: There we go.
Molly Wood: Beautiful. Hey, everyone, it’s Molly Wood. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, the show where, especially on Tuesdays, none of us is as smart as all of us.
Kai Ryssdal: Especially on Tuesdays. So this is the day, as regular listeners will know, when we say–and if you’re not a regular listener, first of all, why not–deep dive into a single topic. And today, we’re gonna do a little history, we’re gonna do economics, we’re gonna do a little social policy, I think probably, we’re gonna get there. We’re gonna talk about Reaganomics and trickle-down economics and supply side economics, what it all meant and, more importantly, we’re all means right now in the era of the Biden presidency.
Molly Wood: Yes, as I mentioned yesterday, on the show, we find ourselves in this remarkable position where folks of a certain age have essentially lived a little chunk of history. And they’re see, we seem to be at a pivot point. So we’re going to go back, first for the historical perspective, this idea of trickle-down economics supply side, small government that would lead to more investment, and then everybody would win, was championed, of course, by President Ronald Reagan, who said the following in his 1981 inaugural address.
Ronald Reagan: In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.
Kai Ryssdal: So here we have another crisis, right? We’re coming out of a pandemic, we’ve got a president, whose name is Joe Biden, who wants to spend $3 trillion on infrastructure and human capital. He’s going to be raising taxes, if he has his way, on corporations and the wealthiest part of the income spectrum in this economy. So the question is, is Reagan, is the end of, is the era of big government being over, over, right? That’s what I want to know.
Molly Wood: Exactly. So, we have someone to make us smart because it’s Tuesday and we need some help. Mark Blythe is a political economist at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. Welcome.
Mark Blyth: It’s great to be with you.
Kai Ryssdal: So let’s go with the most obvious first question. Sorry, go ahead. Alright.
Molly Wood: Well, I suspect it’s the same question, right?
Kai Ryssdal: Well, I think we need to define terms, right, because these terms get batted around a lot. So Reaganomics, trickle down, supply side economics. In a nutshell, what are we talking about?
Mark Blyth: In a nutshell, you’re talking about the 1981 Economic Recovery Act. If there’s a singular statement of Reaganomics that set, so it had a whole bunch of stuff that was meant to fit together and kind of did, but in a really peculiar way. So the first one was tax cuts for business. They’ve been a big campaign in the 70s because of the effect of inflation, saying the investment was lagging, that America needed more capital formation, so big tax cuts for business. Then there was the whole influence of art Laffer and the Laffer curve, and that was equivalent for individual income. So cut the top, the top end of the tax distribution, so that it will trickle down to everybody else. Then there was a whole bunch of other stuff that was going on in there as well we forget about. Compensating for this, but also blowing out the deficit and Reagan’s period was a huge defense buildup, this is the second Cold War. This is the second showdown with the Soviet Union. There was also a lot of action on deregulating business while reregulating labor and particularly the PATCO strike of 1981 with the air traffic controllers, right. So there’s a lot of stuff going on there. And then finally, what was going on was Volker running the Federal Reserve because he jacked up interest rates to, in nominal terms, 20% in order to crush inflation. And that caused a big recession at the same time that Reagan’s doing all this stuff, which blows out the debts and the deficit. So you wouldn’t think that this would go down well, right? You’d think this would be a footnote in history, but it ended up having real staying power.
Molly Wood: Why was that, do you think? I mean, it sounds like we are right to identify this as a pivot point for a lot of things that have happened since. Why did it work?
Mark Blyth: It worked because he got lucky. I mean, that’s the thing about the Gipper, or whatever he was known as. I’m just about old enough to remember. But he really got lucky. And he got lucky in two ways. The first one was that the disinflation of the economy, getting rid of all that inflation, it was really brutal but it was actually done very, very quickly. So inflation dropped and at the same time they deregulated financial markets. Suddenly, there was a tsunami of credit that was available in the economy that really hadn’t been available before. And then the third way they got lucky was America’s running big budget deficits and also big trade deficits, but they get lucky because when you deregulate finance, interest rates still stay quite high in America vis-a-vis the rest of the world. So Japanese corporates, remember all the big Japanese corporations that were buying Pebble Beach Golf Course and all this nonsense, right? They’re getting 2% holding their money at home. They’re getting 5% just dumping it in the United States. They’re the ones that start to buy the bonds that finance the debt and the deficit. So that’s how Reaganomics gets lucky in the kind of, mid, the middle part of the 1980s. Morning in America was definitely helped.
Kai Ryssdal: Well, right. No, exactly. And so Reagan goes to the polls in 84. Morning in America, how does what’s happening at that really macro level trickle down, pun intentional, to the average person? What, why even today do you hear people saying, oh, yeah, Reaganomics was great, man. I loved it.
Mark Blyth: It is. It’s a peculiar thing because, I mean, we know that it didn’t work. I mean, there’s been study after study now that–there’s one that you can go just type in the following: “trends and income 1979 to 2020,” done by the RAND Corporation, not exactly a left wing think tank, right? And these guys estimate that $43 trillion trickled up from the bottom 90 to the top 10%. And pretty much none of it came back down. So when you’ve got that big disconnect, what explains such a disconnect, I think part of what made Reaganomics work and what made the whole kind of neoliberal revolution, if you want to call it, work, is that it accords with every day’s common sense. So a good example of this is the whole sort of notion that like, well, when you run the government, it’s like running like, a household budget. And if you spend too much you need to cut spending. Well, you know, that rather ignores the fact that I don’t get to issue my own currency. There’s no such thing as Kai Ryssdal bond market. Right? Nobody, nobody in the Wood family is importing emigrants and taxing them for five generations. But because all that stuff accords with common sense, it’s an easy sell. And it’s particularly credible when the party of business is the one who’s selling it. So I think it’s the way that–it’s not about the facts in the world, it’s about the kind of models we have in our head about the way the economy works that made it really work for Reaganomics.
Molly Wood: So is it fair to say–as you were talking, I wrote this list, right–so it sounds like you are describing an economic recovery act. Hold on, I have a quick question because I wasn’t that old then. What was the economy recovering from?
Mark Blyth: Oh, great question. It was recovering from the 1970s. Yeah, the 1970s had two things going on. One was a huge amount of labor militancy across the world, strikes everywhere, right? And this is the high, the point at which labor share of national income had its all-time high. Conversely, the way that business was dealing with this was pushing on in prices, how do you keep paying for higher wages, you push on prices and that was generating the inflation that we saw in the period. Now, if you’re a businessman, and you expect to get 5% real rate of return and inflation goes to 10%, you might as well take the money round the back of the house and burn it. And that’s what basically brought a huge mobilization of business groups together in the late 70s to push these ideas, the idea of capital formation crisis, the idea that we need tax cuts to stimulate the economy. This didn’t just spring out of nowhere, it came out of a concerted business campaign and reaction to both labor militancy and inflation’s effects on profits.
Molly Wood: Okay, well, that seems super relevant to the moment, but can I, can I do a two-for? Because it seems like, okay, so, as a result of this recovery act, it seems like we have set the stage for the declining power of labor, which we’ve seen since, in stagnant wages, for the increase in household debt. Right? A rising income inequality. Few, fewer rules and more profits for banks. A smaller social safety net and the rise of the military industrial complex.
Mark Blyth: I think you just explained the whole thing. That’s exactly where it came from. If you’re going to set up a talk structure that siphons 90% of it up to the top and doesn’t really trickle it down, the only way you’re going to have any semblance of maintaining consumption for most people is a massive expansion of credit. And the greatest trick that’s ever been played by finances to tell everybody what they call an asset is actually a liability. Right? So when you model from finance, right, you think that that’s a lie about,8 an asset for them? No, that’s a liability, right? So they want the income stream from your payment, that’s their asset. So when banks get big, what it means is they’re lending an enormous amount of money to the economy. And we saw what happened with that when it finally became on stock in 2008. So that’s just one part of the story. But yeah, that’s exactly right. It all comes out of this period.
Kai Ryssdal: Alright. So let’s, let’s keep going chronologically here and, and, and talk about how the mindset shifted, right. So Reagan, 1980, 81, 84, goes Morning in America, Clinton gets elected in 92. And then in 96, Clinton says the era of big government is over. Reagan has, almost from the grave at that point, I mean, he was still around, but he has co opted, maybe the most liberal president since like, FDR.
Mark Blyth: Absolutely. And exactly the same thing happens in Britain five years later when Mrs. Thatcher declares that Tony Blair is her best pupil. Right? So what is it about these center left parties that they got trapped in this kind of right wing economic box? Well, part of it was because there were real benefits. If you think about Walmart’s slogan from a few years ago, “the prices keep falling,” why? Because it’s all made in China. So if you think about your real wages, what you can effectively buy if the prices of stuff is falling, and essential wages are going up even though no one’s giving you a pay rise. So there were certain benefits from integration, globalization, etc., that kind of masked the inequality that was there. But Clinton himself got stuck, because when he came in, you’ll remember he wanted to do two things. First one was a stimulus, just like Biden much smaller. The second one was a BTU tax, an actual thermal tax on basically energy use, the first green tax. And what happened was, Alan Greenspan essentially sat him down and said, don’t even think about it. Because if you do, you’ll jack up interest rates, you’ll have a recession, and you’re done. And that’s explicitly what was, what was said to Clinton 92, 93. And he walked away from that, very quickly had no other ideas, was regarded as a lame duck president, and then mounted the campaign in 96, which got him back into power. But in a sense, he had no agenda and his instinct was to cooperate. So what did he cooperate on? Welfare reform. So you end up with the irony that this two term Democratic president is the one who not only in the era of big government is over in the same speech as we are ending welfare as we know it.
Molly Wood: Which is where we should probably acknowledge the, the baked in racism in these policies, right, that at, that at, that in, in all of the rhetoric and even welfare reform ultimately targets people of color, and in Reagan’s case, pretty explicitly.
Mark Blyth: Well, there was the famous metaphor that Reagan bounded around of the welfare queen, who was living off of benefits by having excess children and driving around in a Cadillac. And there was no doubt that the, let’s say, the cosmetic on that one was not a white person. Right? That was absolutely true. And you see this with criminal justice in the period all the way through to the Willie Horton saga, the whole thing. So yeah, I mean, there’s always been a racial undercurrent to these reforms. And why do you push on that one? Because it’s an easy target. You push on that one because essentially, that community is captured by the Democrats. And if you push on that one, you’ll get, you’ll get support for it in many quarters. But it’s very hard for that community pushback.
Kai Ryssdal: Okay, so, so let’s skip over a decade or two, right? So we get through Obama and he’s dealing with the crisis and does some stuff on health care. And here we are now with Joe Biden, with $1.9 trillion in, in a COVID relief package, some of which is not related, actually, to pandemic relief, but also now a $3 trillion Infrastructure Program, which is going to be partly roads and bridges and green and digital, but also partly human capital. Are we going too far if we say the era of big government is over is over?
Mark Blyth: I don’t think you are. I think it depends on the legacies, which bit of Reaganomics sticks around. And the way that you see that now is the kind of the shadowboxing behind the Biden stimulus and Biden proposals between people like Larry Summers on the one side and younger Democrats on the other, this fight over whether this will cause inflation, right? The model that’s there is essentially one that’s from the 1980s and 1990s, that when government spends money, there’s only so much employment and so much wages can be generated before it becomes an inflationary problem. And what we’ve seen over the past 20 years is that we can have seemingly any level of unemployment we want in the economy with a very low rate of inflation. And that seems to be true everywhere. So there’s been a bit of learning here in the policy community that hang on, maybe that just isn’t as true as it used to be. And in a sense, the fight over that is also a generational fight. And the younger economists are the one who are willing to say no, the Fed should run the economy hot. This is Claudia Sahm’s line, has been consistently so, right. And we can afford to do this. And more importantly, what they’re also saying is, if you don’t do this, we’ve had stagnant wages in real terms the same level since the 1970s for the bottom 60% of the United States. Half the country earns 20 bucks an hour or less. How do you do the American Dream on 20 bucks an hour? We need to get wages up. And if you see that as kind of the fulcrum, right, that’s where this gets sorted out. If they keep pushing and it doesn’t cause inflation, then it’s done, then we’ve definitely turned the corner. If it does produce inflation, then it stops dead in its tracks.
Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, sorry. Let me, let me just climb in here to get really wonky for a second, right. On this whole inflation and unemployment and all of that, first of all, the Phillips Curve, Jay Powell himself has said the Phillips Curve is dead, right, that relationship between unemployment going down and inflation going up. That’s, that’s, that is no more. And yet, we are still living with the specter of Paul Volcker and 1970s inflation. I asked Neel Kashkari, who’s now the president of Minneapolis Fed, I asked him what the hell are you guys so scared of? And he basically said, Paul Volcker and the 1970s, still. 30, 40 years later.
Mark Blyth: And much of this as a generational change, and it’s really instructive if you go back to the 1930s, 1940s,and you think about what made the New Deal possible, what made this change towards Keynesian economics a bigger role for the state in the economy. A lot of it was generational. I mean, essentially, you know, 70-year-old economists had run the shop for a long time, their ideas didn’t seem to work anymore. And then their students came along and said, no, we need to do more or less the opposite. And that’s really kind of fueled the mechanism of the pendulum swinging. And I think that you see a lot of that these days as well. There’s a big generational shift behind this as well as a shift in ideas.
Molly Wood: Well, one thing we should probably point out, too, is that there’s a generational shift, there is ideas, there’s philosophy, but there are also winners, I mean, income inequality, we tend to talk about those who have been on the lower end, right, who have not received, who have not been trickled down to. But there are a lot of winners in this economy who probably don’t want to give up that status. Right? And is it fair to say that over all of these years, those people have also become, for example, big political donors?
Mark Blyth: Oh, I think that’s undoubtedly the case. In fact, there’s a brilliant study by a political scientist called Martin Gilens back from 2015. And what he did was he basically looked at the relationship between the preferences of different parts of the income distribution for policies. So what is the top 20%? What is the bottom 20%? And then looked at what Congress actually legislates for, top 20% all the way, even in the 1960s. Right? So essentially, they’re the people that contribute. They’re the people who turn out. They’re the ones that go to fundraisers locally and nationally. Yeah, they’re the ones that matter in that sense. But there’s also a feeling amongst that group that you know what, maybe the party is over, maybe we’ve taken all we can, maybe we’re kind of fragilizing the whole economy, maybe having millions of people on gig work isn’t actually the future for our country that we want. So I think there’s a moment of reflection even within that class about where we’ve been traveling and if it’s ultimately sustainable. And particularly when you bring into the conversation the climate crisis, that begins to really change it because there is literally no way of addressing that without bigger state action.
Kai Ryssdal: So in 40 years, do you think we’re talking Bidenomics? Are we still talking about Reaganomics?
Mark Blyth: We might be talking Bidenomics. I really think a lot of this comes down to this, like, let’s run this giant $2 trillion experiment on if we can generate inflation or not. And if we get real wage growth without any significant inflation, I think that Bidenomics will actually become a thing just as Reaganomics did. And if we think about, you know, when I described Reaganomics at the start, it was this whole contradictory bunch of measures that shouldn’t really work and shouldn’t fit together. But they went ahead and did it anyway. And with a little bit of luck in a turning of the business cycle, and the expansion of finance and the Japanese buying your debt, they got away with it. Maybe, maybe Biden’s basically riding that same train.
Kai Ryssdal: Mark Blyth, he’s a political economist at the Watson Institute for International Public Affairs at Brown. Mark, thanks a lot. I really appreciate your time.
Molly Wood: Thanks so much.
Kai Ryssdal: Good stuff. That was great. We could have gone 15 minutes.
Molly Wood: I mean, I definitely could have. Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know all the curves and everything. But I was, I was, I had many more questions, because actually, like, it seems to me that the follow on episode to this in some ways is globalization, which we sort of touched on briefly. But that’s the thing that enables the prices to be low enough that people get away with not making any more and in fact, where maybe to the point where the, where the price of things is lower than what it costs to actually produce them. Like, it’s a whole house of cards that has to keep up with our, you know, stagnant wages. I mean, it is awesome. Alright, so now we see, now we enter the new era and also a break. Send us your comments on today’s show. I’m really proud of that one. You can do that by sending us an email or, ideally, a voice memo, email@example.com. You just digest for a minute, everyone, think it through, we’ll be right back.
Kai Ryssdal: We’re back, time for some news, news, news, news. Okay, I got, I got two, or actually what I’ve got is like, I’ve got to halfsies, is what I’ve got, which equals one. So I’m gonna stay under my limit. You’re not buying it? Okay. Number one is a follow on to my item yesterday of how we’re not really ever going back to office work as we know it. And lo and behold, in the Wall Street Journal today, a story about JPMorgan and Salesforce. Here, I’ll just read that headline and we’re done. “JP Morgan and Salesforce joined growing list of firms dumping office space,” and those who were ginormous companies who were saying, you know what, we don’t need all those bajillions of square feet of office space. And it’s a problem, I know, in San Francisco, and it’s going to be a problem in New York. And I would just like to make sure everybody realizes that because it ain’t gonna be normal, it ain’t gonna be normal. And I’ll tell you what. Marketplace will be dumping several, you know, 100 square feet of office space, I would say. And, and just, just following on my, my, my earlier wonkiness about the Phillips Curve and all this, I just want to point out the yield on the 10-year treasury note, up to 1.74 again today, which, about which two things. Number one, it used to be a half percent, the government used to be able to borrow money back in March of last year at one half of 1% for 10 years. That rate has now tripled in the last 12 months, still incredibly low, but it is a movement of which we should take note for two reasons. Number one, that whole inflation thing that Mark was talking about, you’re going to hear all kinds of people now saying, oh, my God, inflation and Jay Powell is going to put his fingers in his ear and go nananananana, because I don’t want to talk about the bond market because I got it under control. That’s number one. Number two is the thing that also goes along with rising bond yields are expectations for economic growth, which is a good thing. We need economic growth for a whole lot of reasons. Not the least of which is we’re coming out of the pandemic and businesses just need the activity. But yield is up on the 10 -ear, pay attention. That’s all.
Molly Wood: Because if the yield is up on the 10-year, it means that people are more optimistic about the shorter term, like they’re buying shorter term bonds or they’re investing in the stock market instead.
Kai Ryssdal: It’s, it’s maturity nondenominational, right? Because the 10-year’s the benchmark on a whole bunch of things. I don’t know what the 30-year is doing today. And I don’t know what the one month is doing today. But the 10-year is the benchmark. And that’s the one that the bond market itself keeps an eye on.
Molly Wood: Okay. I’m going to put my fingers in my ears about inflation, too. Stop trying to make fetch happen.
Kai Ryssdal: That’s right.
Molly Wood: I have two pieces that I just think are pretty relevant because we have talked occasionally about cryptocurrency and whether it’s real and how nobody actually uses it to buy anything. They just use it to try to make like, a whole bunch of money and junk. And as it turns out, just basically on the same day today, Reuter is reporting that PayPal will start letting people in the United States use their cryptocurrency holdings to pay at online merchants, which is very significant if you can actually, you know, digitally do that. And Visa said it will allow the use of the crypto, a specific cryptocurrency called USD coin, to settle transactions on its payment network, which means that these things are slowly migrating into use as currencies, which has always been in the name, but so far they’ve mostly just been an asset class.
Kai Ryssdal: Do you, do you think–well, I’m, I’m conflicted about this in, in many, many ways, not, not the least of which is there are 42,000 cryptocurrencies out there. Don’t have to pick one?
Molly Wood: I mean, we don’t, but they do. So it is notable that Visa was like, USD coin. And I don’t know if it’s, if that’s ,what it like it’s, I don’t know that much about USD coin but maybe it’s a stable coin, as in backed by US currency, for example. I suspect that as these agencies, as these companies start to choose and payment network start to choose, especially if they like, lean into things like stable coin or say, you know, we think these ones are less volatile and we’re in on that, that will probably drive the direction of some of these currencies and, of course, consolidation like, yes, that’s going to have to happen, they’re not going to be able to support all of them and I don’t think they intend to. But as they choose winners, that will create winners, which will be interesting too. I mean, at this point with all digital transactions it actually makes perfect sense, like you don’t, no, you don’t have to have like, a Bitcoin ATM and turn it into real money and do this math all the time. Like, if you were just like, Visa, send some chunk of my USD coin. Great. It’s starting to work.
Kai Ryssdal: There’s a show to do about this stuff. That’s a very unformed thought. Anyway. Okay.
Molly Wood: It’s, we could just call it “it’s getting real,” maybe. Yeah. Anyway, that’s it for the news fix. And now your turn to talk. Let’s do the mailbag.
Molly Wood: Our first episode, nope, our first voice memo–I don’t know, man. I’m just limping toward the spring break. Our first voice memo is in response to last week’s episode on the tax gap.
Margaret: Hey, Kai, and Molly. This is Margaret from Long Beach, California. I just got finished listening to the episode where you two are just gobsmacked that car legislators have not managed to close all of these tax loopholes that could get slashed save us so much money. And I was nodding along with you. But then I got to wondering, could our esteemed Congress people have a personal incentive not to close those tax loopholes because they’re using them? Or, or could our esteemed Congress people have an incentive to not close those tax loopholes because they’re getting donations from all of these rich people who are definitely using them? Now I’m depressed myself. Anyway, thanks for making us smarter!
Kai Ryssdal: Or, or! Here we are now.
Molly Wood: I’ll do you one better! I’m gonna go with both.
Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, both of those can be true.
Molly Wood: Both of those are true.
Kai Ryssdal: You bet. Yes. Not a doubt. But we do appreciate the voicemail. That was great.
Molly Wood: Genius. Well done.
Kai Ryssdal: Judy in Massachusetts sent us this one. We were talking the other day about Alan Turing being honored on the UK’s new 50-pound note. Here you go.
Judy: I would like to also point out to you that another unsung hero or heroine, I should say, of World War II in breaking codes was Elizabeth Smith Friedman. She broke the Enigma cipher at about the same time as Alan Turing. However, she uses substantially different methodologies but got to the same end result. A book has been written and there has been a PBS series on her recently, and I think that she also needs to get her due along with all the other men who are broke codes during World War II.
Kai Ryssdal: Amen. Yes, absolutely. Elizabeth Smith Friedman, for sure. Didn’t know about her but now I do and I’ll look her up. You betcha.
Molly Wood: We have been made smarter. This is why I love this show. And thank you because I hate it when that happens. And you’re absolutely right. And by that, I mean the, the historical trend of men getting credit. Okay, we have one more voice memo. Man, we got some good stuff today. One more voice memo on our favorite topic, the big boat.
Erin: Hi, Kai and Molly. This is Erin here with my son Noah and calling from Massachusetts. In all the photos and coverage we’ve seen of the ever given, the heavy equipment used the attempt to dislodge it has been described as a bulldozer. Obviously, it’s a wheel loader, also known as a front end loader or a bucket loader. My almost three-year-old is incensed at the universal inaccuracy of the description of this piece of equipment. I told him that Kai and Molly really value accuracy on their show, so you all would be a great place to start to try to correct this misinformation.
Molly Wood: This is incredible.
Kai Ryssdal: I would have paid money to hear that kid. Yes, yes, absolutely. Nomenclature matters. And I had it many, many years ago, I had a three-year-old who was exactly the same way with the heavy equipment thing. So thank you for that one, Erin and Noah, and I appreciate it.
Molly Wood: I appreciate it, wheel loader. I believe I saw it described as—Twitter, I have to, I’m trying to look up the photo real fast because I believe I saw it described on Twitter as a tract loader, which sounds different from a wheel loader. So I don’t want to contribute to the confusion. I will only say we are going to get to the bottom of this and make sure it is correct.
Kai Ryssdal: Yes. That is our promise to you our listeners.
Molly Wood: Alright. Now we leave you with the answer to the make me smart question, which is what is something you thought you knew and you later found out you were wrong about? Today’s answer comes from a great interview I did recently on Marketplace Tech with Nia Williams, a principal at the investment firm Omidyar Network.
Nia: One thing that I thought I knew. I thought that perfectionism, like that being perfect, like being perfect or getting things perfect would be kind of like a superpower that would help me get places and do things and be seen in a certain way. And I realized that that is not true. All that does is just make my life so much harder. Don is better than perfect, people.
Kai Ryssdal: Yes. Yes.
Molly Wood: Right? Done is better than perfect.
Kai Ryssdal: Especially now.
Molly Wood: I know. I felt almost attacked by that. I was like, what do you mean, this was the only thing I knew how to do. I spoke to, you can hear, by the way, she, I mean, just is fantastic. We had such a good conversation. And I love her. I spoke with her last month on marketplace tech about how Black users actually have driven the success of clubhouse, which is now being copied in a bajillion different ways across the internet.
Kai Ryssdal: Social audio is the next big thing.
Molly Wood: I mean, isn’t that what we do? Okay, not really because other people don’t get stock, but wait, some people do get stock. Anyway, don’t forget to send us your answer to the make me smart question in a voice memo, like we can all talk, like social audio or whatever. That question, of course, is what is something you thought you knew that you later found out you were wrong about? You can reach us one, more time, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kai Ryssdal: And there is still time, by the way, to get your questions and comments in for what do you want to know Wednesday, which is tomorrow. That’s it for us today. We’ll be back.
Molly Wood: Bye! I got to find the pictures of that thing again just make sure we get it right.
Kai Ryssdal: The problem 9s there were a couple of things, right, there was the, there was the, there was the, the backhoe thing and then there was a pusher thing, so there’s, there’s a couple of things we have to figure out.
Molly Wood: I know. We’ll get to the bottom of it. Make Me Smart is—we’ll do it for the children. Make Me Smart is produced and directed by Marissa Cabrera, who I think we can all agree found the perfect guest for today. Tony Wagner is our digital producer. Erica Phillips writes our newsletter and our smart, smart and our skill on Alexa.
Kai Ryssdal: Caroline engineered this stellar Peabody-winning podcast roll. Liana Squillace is gonna mix it later on. Ben Tolliday and Daniel Ramirez did our theme music. The senior producer is Donna Tam is shaking her head right now in deep, deep despair. The executive director of on demand is Sitara Nieves. Got out with the music, doesn’t happen much.
Molly Wood: Done is better than perfect, Donna. New life motto.
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