Everything comes back to politics
Apr 4, 2022
Episode 634

Everything comes back to politics

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There's potential good news on COVID funding, but bad news for our ongoing climate struggle.

The Senate approved an agreement for a new round of COVID-related funding today. The $10 billion package includes money for testing and treatment as well as vaccine distribution, but without additional funds for foreign aid. We’ll see what happens when the House gets its turn to vote on the deal. There’s also a new report from the United Nations’ climate science agency suggesting that only drastic emissions cuts will save us from some of the worst effects of climate change, and most countries lack the political will to do anything about it. Finally, we’ll end on a Make Me Smile that might count as good public relations for pop singer Rick Astley.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Got a question for the hosts? Saw something interesting you want to share? Email us at makemesmart@marketplace.org or leave a message at 508-U-B-SMART(508-827-6278).

Make Me Smart April 4, 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.

Kimberly Adams: We are ready to do this. Game face is on.

Amy Scott: Ready to go. You can’t see mine, but it’s on. There it is.

Kimberly Adams: Hey, I’m Kimberly Adams, welcome back to make me smart where we make today make sense.

Amy Scott: And I’m Amy Scott, it is Monday. Thanks for joining us, we’ll do the news. And then end with some Make Me Smiles. Kimberly, what story caught your eye today?

Kimberly Adams: So the same one that caught your eye, but I’ll get to that later. But also, out of Washington where I am – I’m watching the fact that the Senate seems to have come to an agreement on a new round of COVID funding, it’s about $10 billion, but it leaves out about $5 billion in global pandemic aid. Now, this doesn’t seem to be new money as much as it’s like reprogramming unused money from other Coronavirus bills. And this round will kind of direct that money to target like therapeutics testing and vaccine distribution. Keeping in mind that like a lot of those insurance coverage for those things for the uninsured, in particular are rolling back or at some insurance companies are getting ready to, you know, stop waving the copays for things like this. So this is new money for lots of different elements of dealing with the ongoing pandemic, especially ahead of this new variant about to land if it isn’t here already.

Amy Scott: The sub variants of, of Omicron. Yeah.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, what is it, BA.2?

Amy Scott: Right.

Kimberly Adams: And, and so they’re trying to get this money in before this big wave. But the fact that, oh, right, and I’m looking at the Associated Press story, at least $750 million would be used to research new COVID-19 variants and expand vaccine production. Let’s see what else? So I’m thinking about this $5 billion dollars in global funding, which would be, which was money that was supposed to go towards like global vaccine distribution, and you know, helping out with the COVAX program. And it’s kind of shooting ourselves in the foot a little bit. Because if you think about where these other variants are coming from, often they are incubating in parts of the world that have had less access to vaccines. And so by not funding global vaccine distribution at the, you know, people are arguing that that’s potentially going to just lead to even more variants down the road. So it’ll be interesting see if – Yeah, go ahead, Amy.

Amy Scott: Well, I was just gonna say we’ve seen that COVID anywhere eventually comes here, right. So what’s the thinking behind taking this $5 billion off the table?

Kimberly Adams: It seems like politics, there was not enough –

Amy Scott:  Oh that.

Kimberly Adams: Not enough support, it seems for it was sort of the thing that was holding up this actually getting done, and I’m trying to look and see if I can come up with anything that I’ve seen.

Amy Scott: I mean, that’s yeah.

Kimberly Adams: It’s politics. I don’t – Oh, so here it is. And Politico is reporting that negotiators were unable to agree on how to pay for the international money. So that is the rest of the money, they were able to figure out where to take it from other programs and redistribute it, but it seems like that money they couldn’t really find a place to get it from or at least that’s that’s according to some of the negotiators. But like you said, there it is, but let’s see if this makes it through the House and actually gets done. Because the Senate is also trying to finish up the nomination and vote on Kentanji Brown – Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, for the Supreme Court, and there is of course, ongoing debate over President Biden’s plans to roll back Title 42, which we talked about last week. So there’s a lot going on in Washington this week. What do you have?

Amy Scott: Yeah. Well, I wish I could say it was cheerful news. But you know, I figured we should talk about this latest IPCC report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  I know you saw this as well. So this group, you know, of top, global scientists has been putting out a series of increasingly alarming reports looking at the causes and consequences of climate change. And this new report out today says at the current rate of emissions, meeting that target of no more warming than one and a half degrees Celsius will basically be impossible. And that threshold is, of course, what was sort of agreed as a goal by the Paris Climate Agreement, beyond which it will basically be too late to avoid the most devastating consequences of climate change. We’re currently by the way on track to reach 3.2 degrees above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. And to meet the one and a half degree goal, the globe would basically have to cut emissions by about half by the end of this decade. And UN Secretary General António Guterres said in a statement that current climate pledges would get us to a 14% increase in emissions, and most major emitters aren’t even fulfilling those promises. So I mean, it’s easy to hear these things and just feel despair. So I did want to point out, there is some good news in this report. Basically it goes through all the technology and the tools that that we have, or potentially could have with more investment to drastically cut back emissions. So it’s possible to do this. We just haven’t seen the political will.

Kimberly Adams:  Funny how everything comes back to politics, isn’t it?

Amy Scott Yeah, it really does. And, you know, Gutierrez, his statement was really scathing. He basically called the report a file of shame, blaming high emitting countries for, quote, choking our planet based on their vested interest and historic investments in fossil fuels. He really does take government’s to task for the political inaction that is put us on the track to what he calls “an unlivable world.” And, you know, of course, with the the Russian war in Ukraine and President Biden tapping the strategic oil reserve and asking oil producers to drill more, it seems like we’re going in the opposite of the direction we need to be going in.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, it’s – you’re right, it is hard to not feel despair. But it’s nice to know that there are the tools available. And that, like I was looking at this piece in Protocol, which basically said, like we have the technology that we need to fix this problem, and it is ready to go and it’s available. And so that is really encouraging that if we can just sort of get ourselves together, you know, it’s a doable thing. And, you know, last week, President Biden put out that executive order, not only calling for oil companies to produce more, but also talking about future investments in, you know, more mining for lithium, and other minerals that are necessary for creating more electric batteries and helping to you know, as our former colleague, Molly Wood said, electrify everything. And people are people are doing stuff. And maybe not enough, maybe not quickly enough, but it’s something and so, yeah,

Amy Scott I guess the hope is that reports like this, you know, the people who really need to read them, the policymakers because they, you know, they, they say again, individual action isn’t going to make a lot of difference. It’s gonna be collective, like a rethinking of our cities, a rethinking of how we powe everything. You know, that’s not something that you and I can just go out and do. So. I hope the right folks are reading this and we don’t just get overwhelmed with crisis fatigue.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, yeah. And speaking of crisis fatigue, this is probably a great time to have a little smile.

Amy Scott: I was thinking that.

Kimberly Adams: What’s making you smile, Amy?

Amy Scott: Okay, well this one I picked because I just still can’t believe Birkenstocks are fashionable. So, you know, those, those boxy German sandals with the cork sole and the wide leather straps?

Kimberly Adams: Yes, I know them. I’m just questioning, like, it’s this idea, like, I can’t believe Birkenstocks are fashionable. They’re not they never have been people just wear them anyway.

Amy Scott: Okay. So I was worried that maybe I was, you know, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, especially on the other end of this microphone.

Kimberly Adams: Fashion is in the eye of the beholder.

Amy Scott: That’s true. That is true. The Wall Street Journal had a story today about how the company that makes Birkenstocks is basically bullying retailers to stop selling competitors and I thought that was really, really interesting. Nordstrom and Zappos –Zappos have stopped selling similar styles, some of which have been around for decades. Although Birkenstock itself was founded in 1774. Apparently the footbeds themselves, you know, those like wide like things with a footprint in them for you to stand on, apparently very comfortable. That’s trademarked, but the basic style is not so that’s led to a lot of imitators and the company is really leaning on these retailers to not sell those. And when I say fashionable, I mean, in recent years, there have been collaborations with big designers like Manolo Blahnik and Givenchy. And, you know, the there’s some high end versions of these but they’re pretty popular and I’m kind of surprised by Birkenstocks and market power.

Kimberly Adams: That’s funny, they – the one that you mentioned one of these, I’m looking at this Journal piece was sold – is priced at $810. Wild

Amy Scott: Wow. Are those like the bejeweled ones?

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, yeah, with the crystal buckle. Wow. Okay, to each their own. To each their own.

Amy Scott: Okay, how about you, Kimberly? What made you smile?

Kimberly Adams: The thing that made me smile is a pure and undiluted PR stunt but I am still very entertained by it. So there is this drone company in Texas, that basically how shall I put this I want people to watch the video I don’t want to ruin it. But let’s just say – let me put it this way. So there’s this drone business that does these like drone light shows in Texas. And for April Fool’s Day, they put up a QR code in the sky so imagine you’re walking down the street at night –

Amy Scott: You can do that?

Kimberly Adams: And you look up – yes, you can. Remember when Biden was I’m trying to remember was it inauguration or was it when he was elected? But at one point they did like a big show of – with drones and lights? It’s a thing now.

Amy Scott: Yeah, yeah, okay.

Kimberly Adams: You can do all kinds of things. But so you’re walking down the street in Dallas at night you look up giant QR code. Oh QR code hold up your phone look at it to see what the QR code is gonna reveal, you click on the link and the entire city got Rick rolled.

Amy Scott: No oh my god, I love it. Never gonna give you up.

Kimberly Adams: Never gonna let you down. For people who don’t know this is like a long running internet joke where people you know go through all these get other people to jump through all these hoops thinking they’re gonna get to something like really crucial and important and it turns out to be a video of “Never Gonna Give You Up” which is hilarious.

Amy Scott: Rick Astley, deep voiced, boyish-looking wonder. Yeah, it’s one of my favorite all time memes. And that is brilliant. But I have to say, did– because I’ve already forgotten who did this. Right. Who was a good PR? Cuz it was a …

Kimberly Adams: I mean, we’re talking about it. It was written up in all these place and so look, I just think it’s fun.

Amy Scott: I don’t know. I have no idea who who? Who did it. So yeah, it’s good PR for Rick Astley. I’ll tell you that.

Kimberly Adams: I do not think he needs it. I imagine he’s that probably annoys him a little bit. But who knows. Okay, that is it for us today. If you come back tomorrow, which we certainly hope that you do. Amy and I are going to do a deep dive into something called citizen enforcement laws. We are going to try to understand some of the history behind these laws and what it means when you put the power of law enforcement into the hands of private citizens.

Amy Scott: And we always want to hear from you if you have a question you want us to answer in that conversation or otherwise send us a voice memo and an email or I’m sorry, yeah, a voice memo in an email to makemesmart@marketplace.org. Or you can call us and leave a voice message that number is 508-UB-SMART. You can just send an email.  Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera with help from Marque Greene. Our intern is Tiffany Bui.. Today’s program was engineered by Charlton Thorpe.

Kimberly Adams: Our senior producer’s Bridget Bodnar, and the director of on demand is Donna Tam. I – Can you even imagine you’re walking down the street and you’re like QR code in the sky. And like what if it was like a virus or something?

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The team

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