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Budgets show our priorities
May 23, 2022
Episode 678

Budgets show our priorities

Plus, employers that help workers get abortions may face backlash from Texas politicians.

It’s Monday, and we’ve got a lot of news on our minds. We’ll talk about President Joe Biden’s comments about Taiwan and what Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, has to say about crypto. Then we’re diving into some recent writing about the scale at which the United States funds its military, even as we’ve withdrawn from active conflict in Afghanistan. How that money is spent, and isn’t spent, says a lot. Plus, Texas lawmakers may target business that help employees get abortions. Finally, we’ll consider some pointedly phrased communications for our make me smiles.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

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Make Me Smart May 23, 2022 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: America. It’s our podcast we can do what we want. Hey everybody I’m Kai Ryssdal. Welcome back to Make Me Smart making today make sense is our thing.

Kimberly Adams: And I’m Kimberly Adams, thank you for joining us this Monday we’re gonna do the news. And then share a couple of Make Me Smiles. So let’s start with the news fix. You only have one and I have two so why don’t you go first.

Kai Ryssdal: Alright, I’ve got two. I’ve got two I think I snuck one in.

Kimberly Adams: You do have two, nevermind.

Kai Ryssdal: One is substantive. And one is just oh, this is pretty amusing, isn’t it? And I’ll do the amusing one first. So Christine Lagarde, the, used to be the head of the IMF. Now the head of the European Central Bank was asked in an interview with a Dutch television show this weekend about cryptocurrency. And she said, almost literally, cryptocurrency is worth nothing. It’s worthless, it has nothing to back it up and stay far away from it. The stay far away from the thing is my addition to what she actually said. But then she said, “I do follow it very closely, though, because my son invests in it. He’s a grown man, he can do what he wants. But he invested against my advice.” And I thought that was just priceless. I thought that was absolutely priceless. And I kind of love that. Kind of love that.

Kimberly Adams: It really captures the dynamic of where we are.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So that’s. So that’s my that my sort of fun-ish one. Here’s the substantive one. And I’m sure you all have heard the news already today about President Biden saying the quiet part out loud about Taiwan, when he was in a press conference in Tokyo today. And what the president said was, heck, yes, we’re going to defend Taiwan, if China attacks, and and much has been made of this, because of the very, very strict policy of strategic ambiguity that the United States has maintained, since 1979, when we established relations with Beijing and broke off relations with the Republic of China and Taiwan, and then passed the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979. And, look, it’s a delicate dance, right? Because we do officially recognize the One China policy, but we also want Taiwan to feel a part of the community of nations, and we have relations with them and all of those things. But Biden said today, “heck yes, we’re going to defend them if they are attacked, like Ukraine.” And and I need to inject a note of reality here. Okay. There is actually a law on the books in the United States. Okay. It’s Public Law 98 … Public Law 96-8 , excuse me, passed in 1979 on the 10th of April. And it says in relevant part, two things. Number one, the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a ship sufficient self defense capabilities. That’s number one. And that’s what Biden said today. Yes, we’re going to help them out. The other thing that Biden said today, it was it would wreck stability in the entire region. And the Taiwan Relations Act, which is the law, the United States says that, sorry, scrolling down here, it would be a grave threat. If China were if Taiwan were to be threatened by non peaceful means. So he’s just saying what the law is. And and I just, it’s a big deal. Yes. But it’s not a gaffe. It’s not Biden being an 80 year old man or 79 year old man and not know, he’s what he’s talking about. It’s literally the law of the United States. And I just, I really need people to know that. That’s it.

Kimberly Adams: I mean, but the reason that this stuff makes such a big splash when it comes up, is because everyone is so terrified of the U.S. actually locking horns with China. And if it happens, it’s probably going to happen over Taiwan. And or at least that’s you know, what smarter people than me on this seem to think and, you know, Biden talking about it just sort of reminds people of that, I think, who might not want to think about it otherwise.

Kai Ryssdal: Totally. But anyway, that’s the context in the news.

Kimberly Adams: Well, that kind of feeds nicely into mine, which is all about – well I have two also. The first one is about military spending, which, you know, I think I brought up to you and I and I also when I was filling in for you one time on on the PM show, I brought this up that when we passed the, you know, the Defense Authorization Act, or appropriations, yeah, appropriations. $773 billion, right, for the year or something like that. We spent a lot of money on the military. And we just on a bipartisan basis, Congress approved the additional, you know, $40 billion for Ukraine, needed money agreed to, by, you know, all the parties that be gotta keep Russia in check. And there’s a big risk for global stability. Fine. So there’s an interesting piece on a Substack, I guess, what do we call those Substacks just by themselves … Substacks. Anyway…

Kai Ryssdal:  A Substack.

Kimberly Adams: A Substack. Okay. Chris Hedges, who used to be a foreign correspondent, foreign correspondent for The New York Times now has a Substack. And he has a piece out yesterday, that is titled “No way out but war.” And he talks about the sort of permanent state of war that we are in. And all the money that we spend on the military and what we do not spend money on. And as he puts it, “no infrastructure programs to repair decaying roads and bridges, which require $41.8 billion dollars to fix, no program to feed the 17 million children who go to bed each night hungry, no nat – no rational gun control or curbing of violence and mass shooting no help for the 100,000 Americans who die each year of drug overdoses, no minimum wage of $15 an hour. We spend more on the military than the next nine countries combined.” He also cites that and I went back and looked that where the you know, Biden budget for the coming year, you know, is is upwards of 700 creeping up on $800 billion. The proposed budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is $10.675 billion. The proposed budget for the EPA is $11.881 billion. And, you know, goes into all the people who who make this happen, but it just I’ve been struck ever since this last round of Ukraine funding was passed just how ready we are as a country to spend money on this kind of stuff. And without question, this is important, but how hesitant we are to spend money on, you know, our own population. And, you know, budgets, our priorities, and what Congress spends money on is a priority. And just quickly before I toss it off to you, the New York Times has a really good infographic looking at four ways to understand what the money that we’re spending on Ukraine. And a lot of it is not actually military, its economic support, its food assistance, Migration and Refugee Assistance, other kinds of foreign aid, but it’s a lot of weapons and military, and intelligence and things like that, which the Ukrainians desperately need. And finally, if you think you could spend the military budget better, just last week, the Congressional Budget Office put out this really interesting tool that shows where the military budget is going, and actually allows you to on a sort of interactive basis, navigate how you might spend that money differently, and what it would do to troop levels, what it would do to like, spending in different categories, what it would mean in terms of like, actual planes and aircraft carriers and cruisers and combat ships. And, you know, would you get rid of an attack submarine or an amphibious ship or things like that? It’s a fascinating tool. But, you know, totals up to hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars that we spend there. And then of course, there’s the other hundreds of billion dollars, we spend servicing the debt because of what we spend on the military. So just numbers, I’m paying attention to.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, for sure. Those are and those games are fun, but it’s all really hard. It’s all really hard.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah. And then the other story that I’ve, of course, paying on going attention to is the, you know, abortion debate in this country. And the Texas Tribune has a story out today about all of these GOP legislators in Texas, that are warning companies that if they pay for abortions, or help, you know, women travel to get abortion, that they will try to ban those companies from operating in Texas now, is that likely to happen? Doubtful, but I guess people said that about other legislation that has passed in Texas. But the they’re pledging to introduce bills that would bar corporations from doing business in Texas, if they pay for abortions in states where the procedure is legal, it would explicitly prevent firms from offering employees access to abortion related care, through health insurance benefits, and would expose executive to criminal prosecution. Under pre-Roe anti abortion laws, the legislature never repealed. Now, what companies are we talking about? We’re talking about lots of different companies, you’ve got anywhere from, you know, I’m looking at a gaming studio in Texas that was trying to that says that they’re committing to do that, you have places like Lyft. And then there’s a Bloomberg story about how Walmart and Lowe’s shareholders are trying to push those companies to vote on things related to abortion in their upcoming shareholders, shareholding meetings, and I don’t think companies are going to be able to sit quietly on this when they are going to be forced to make a call in on an issue. A lot of them I’m sure would really rather stay out of.

Kai Ryssdal: I think they would definitely rather stay out of it, for sure. And they’re being there, they’re gonna have to decide. And, you know, with all that political power that Supreme Court has given corporations, have a little bit of responsibility, you know, for sure. For sure.

Kimberly Adams: There’s so much fascinating reporting that’s happening on this issue all over the country. And it’s really revealing so much. And you know, on the Tech show, we’re digging into this idea of like viability, which is wrapped up in so much the abortion debate. And that’s one of two stories that we’re doing on that we got another one coming tomorrow, because it’s like, you’ve got science that has changed what those words mean, from the time that Roe vs. Wade became law. And somehow all the scientists and doctors are getting pulled into this debate. And they don’t want to be there either.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, yeah. Now the bit this morning was really interesting. Really interesting.

Kimberly Adams: Thanks. It was a fascinating conversation. Okay, smiles. Yours made me laugh out loud.

Kai Ryssdal: I was running this morning, up in the hills. I was up running this morning up in the hills, as I usually do super foggy this morning, I was the only person there. And when that happens, I started looking out for mountain lions and coyotes, because it just I don’t know. It’s spooky up there when it’s just you and fog, and there ain’t nobody else. So I had that on my mind as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed today. And I saw this from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation on Twitter. And here’s the quote, “Listen, bear spray it tweeted, does not work like bug spray, we would like to not have to say that again.” So think about that. Spray bear spray at a bear, you do not put bear spray on you.

Kimberly Adams: Like I wonder how many people had unfortunate accidents related to this before they actually got to the point of having to tweet it. And was it because like someone had a really bad skin reaction to bear spray and needed rescue? Or was it that someone ended up in an unfortunate incident with a bear because they thought their bear spray on them was going to protect them and it didn’t? Like there are a lot there are a lot of different ways that that could have gone down. Okay.

Kai Ryssdal: But it gave me a laugh.

Kimberly Adams: Me too. So mine made me smile, but probably not in the kindest of ways. So as you and I’ve talked about there, all of these defendants who are in the process of being charged and being prosecuted for their actions on January 6, and being involved in the attack on the Capitol, and you know, a lot of these people who decided to come to Washington DC for this purpose, you know, come from all walks of life, all income levels, many different backgrounds, and while they’re awaiting prosecutions, many of them are out on bond and, you know, just going about their lives to some extent while they await prosecution. So one of them basically won a competition at the company where he works for really great sales and won a trip to where was it to like Cabo or something? Hold on, let me get it exactly. Well, I – Yeah. Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. And so this, Jason Douglas Owens, applied to the court for an emergency motion to travel for this trip. And the judge just wrote this withering withering denial of this. And Zoe Tillman at the at BuzzFeed is the one who tweeted this out and she extracted the best part of it, which says, “While the court does not begrudge defendant’s apparent business success, while on pretrial release his international travel to harvest the bounties of such success will need to wait until he is no longer facing felony charges arising from ill-advised domestic travel.”

Kai Ryssdal: That’s amazing. It’s a paragraph. It’s great. It’s great.

Kimberly Adams: That made me smile.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, super, super great.

Kimberly Adams: Okay. There’s no good way to transition to this, but it is the final week of our May fundraiser. And you know, to continue bringing new make me smiles of political and non-political versions. We kind of need this to be a big fundraiser. So we are almost halfway to our goal of $200,000. And we would really appreciate your gift to help get us there this week at marketplace.org/gift smarts. Don’t forget we have all the cool swag.

Kai Ryssdal: So the swag is the Kai-PA glasses of course, the Jasper tumbler, there’s a summer playlist bonus gift. If you could hook us up, we would appreciate it. We need your help. We cannot literally do this without you. marketplace.org/give smart if you can help us out.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah. Okay, so that’s it for us today. Kyle and I will be back tomorrow for a deep dive about the FEC versus Ted Cruz, which is that court case that we’ve been talking about where the Supreme Court sided with Republican Senator Ted Cruz and struck down a law that involves the use of campaign funds. We’ll talk about what this means for the midterms and the future of campaign finance.

Kai Ryssdal: Always … the topic at campaign finance. Always, always, always. Tell us what you thought about today’s show or send us the questions you have about campaign finance and the FEC versus Ted Cruz If you got questions about that or regular Wednesday questions you can do that as well send us a voice memo or an email to makemesmart@marketplace that org or you can call and leave a voice message Bridget went over that Friday what the difference is I still don’t get it. But anyway 508-U-B-SMART. Here’s our phone number you can just call us. Call us please, please.

Kimberly Adams: By the way, I heard you telling Amy to drink all of my drinks.

Kai Ryssdal: Well, I mean, they were sitting there in the office fridge. I’m jus saying. They were she’s welcome to them.  I figured. Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera. Our intern is Tiffany Bui. Today’s program is engineered by Charlton Thorpe.

Kimberly Adams: Our senior producer’s Bridget Bodnar and the director of On Demand is Donna Tam. Alright, let’s see if I can actually get my flight this time.

Kai Ryssdal: Good luck! Bon voyage. It’s back. Our fundraising team made a new copy a glass to honor my love of good beer and your love for all things marketplace. Get yours when you donate $7 A month today. You can even pair it with the new make me smart wine tumbler featuring an illustration of Jasper who’s basically our new mascot, you know, head to marketplace.org/gifts mart to check them out. That’s marketplace.org/give Smart

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The team

Marissa Cabrera Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marque Greene Associate Producer