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Has corporate America stepped back from the culture wars?
Feb 27, 2023
Episode 869

Has corporate America stepped back from the culture wars?

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The business implications of drag show bills.

Drag show performances have become the new front in America’s culture wars. Lawmakers in more than a dozen states are considering legislation that would limit or ban drag shows. But after major corporations came out against anti-LGBTQ laws last year, we’re wondering: Where is corporate America now? Plus, big news on the ban on British sausages.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

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Make Me Smart February 27, 2023 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 

And here we go. Fan is off it’s 45 degrees here in the shed. Hey everybody I’m Kai Ryssdal welcome back to make me smart, where we make the day make sense. And I’m Kimberly Adams, thank you for joining us today on this Monday. I hope everybody had a good weekend. First, we are going to dive into some stories of the day, also known as our news fixes. And then we’re going to talk about a story or two that made us smile. So time to get going. Kai, how about you first?

Kai Ryssdal 

Okay. I’ve got two. One from the pages of the New York Times today an announcement that’s going to be coming from the White House tomorrow in relation to the, in relation rather only one relation to the CHIPS Act, which was the $52 billion semiconductor infrastructure package that passed. I guess it was couple of months ago now. Commerce Secretary Raimondo has been pushing really hard. The President obviously as well. It’s all about semiconductor infrastructure in this country and getting it back. Anyway, what the White House is going to announce tomorrow is that in order to get a slice of that money, semiconductor makers, the people who are building the factories that the government is putting money into. In order to get some of that money, those companies are going to have to offer affordable, high quality childcare for the people building the factories and the people who eventually work in them. And I think that’s just amazing. Because it is, in my experience, there is nothing harder about raising a child, than finding good childcare. And it is obviously a labor force issue. Because if you can’t work to find a place to have your child be safe and cared for, you cannot work. Obviously this accrues more to women than it does to men. But generally speaking, everybody’s going to benefit out of this, which is awesome. I think.

Kimberly Adams 

Is this something they can actually enforce.

Kai Ryssdal 

So the what the Commerce Department is going to do is going to put out broad guidelines. It’s not going to be regulatory thing, it’s not going to be a need for public comment. It’s going to be guidelines that the Commerce Department wants. Now as to whether or not Raimondo is going to be able to enforce this, I don’t know. I’m going to talk to her probably at the Milken Conference in like April or May, and I will certainly ask her about this. But yeah, the the enforcement mechanism is obviously the challenging part.

Kimberly Adams 

Well, I can imagine them putting sort of like the terms for like, putting it in, you know, the the terms of like the loan being conditional, but I could also imagine that being challenged as you know, an unfair, unreasonable or illegal by somebody who doesn’t like it, you know? Or saying that their disadvantages one company over another. And I, I mean, like, it’s great. I hope it works. I am just thinking about, you know, how politics works.

Kai Ryssdal 

Totally. No, that’s a very good point. That’s a very good point. My other one is from The Wall Street Journal today, which had it before the actual announcement came from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. But that office is out with a report today on, in essence, what the hell happened? Why did the Afghan forces collapse so quickly upon U.S. withdrawal and it puts some blame on the Biden administration for the uncoordinated and unnotified to allies, including the Afghans, speed of that withdrawal, right? It’s no secret that Biden was going to withdraw. He’s been saying that for years and years and years. But the speed of it and the uncoordinated nature of it. But also the Trump administration and the very foundational document of that pull out, which is something called the Doha Accords. It goes in, the report goes deeply into criticize those, the secrecy, how the Afghans were not informed of the deal that the United States was making with the Taliban which was the Doha Accord. And also the the rampant rampant corruption within President Ghani’s government and what that did to facilitate the downfall of the Afghan forces. There’s a line in here, that something like 80% of the Afghan soldiers on the books didn’t exist. Imaginary.

Kimberly Adams 

Wow.

Kai Ryssdal 

It’s amazing. It’s amazing. And when you think about how much blood and treasure, as it were, that the United States and many other countries spent there, it’s kind of wild.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, the Afghanistan Papers, the book, is also a series in The Washington Post. But that book is just such a powerful read. I assign it to my students in the class that I teach as an example, because of, you know, we talk about the intersection of government and media, but of how media and sort of the decline of foreign reporting and the lack of just manpower to fact check things, not to mention rampant lying across multiple administrations, and just all of the ways we fell down in that in those decades. Not just the media, but the media, the government, everybody. Yeah, yeah, I highly recommend.

Kai Ryssdal 

Anyway, those are my two.

Kimberly Adams 

Okay, mine, two are quite domestic. First of all, in Tennessee, as many folks have probably heard, at this point, they have passed a law that is on its way to the governor for signing that would basically ban drag shows in public. And this is… It passed in the state house last Thursday and it’s expected to be signed by Governor Bill Lee. And it is definitely obviously causing a huge backlash amongst the queer community and trans folks as well. And we’ll identify that not everybody who does drag is queer, or is trans or any of these things. And there is, in addition to sort of the obvious human rights implication, there are a couple of stories that are already coming up about the business implications for this. About how, you know, there is a quote here from one drag performer that was talking about performing in Dollywood. And now they won’t be able to perform there under this rule, under this law. And there’s another restaurant or a bar that does like drag shows, and now in order to do their drag shows, they would have to get a special like license as if they were a strip club. But you can’t be I guess, have a strip club and a liquor license at the same time at the location where they are, and so they’re just sort of out of luck. And there are so many of these laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community coming down the pipeline that are getting passed. And it’s at the state level, in a way that, you know, I wonder… Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen businesses kind of step up and say that, you know, they won’t work in these places, or put some pressure on various state governments in moments like this. Very famously, Disney did not leading up to the “don’t say gay bill”, and then all of the fallout from that, which I’ll get to in a moment. But I have not heard corporate America stepping up on this one. And it’s interesting. And I wonder if they’ve just sort of decided to step back from I guess, as some people like to call it “the culture wars?” Or you know, or what? I don’t know.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, yeah, I think you should go to your next item. Because because this that sort of is a lesson in what happens when you step up however reluctantly Bob Chapek stepped up. But anyway, over to you.

Kimberly Adams 

Right, number two, which is that today, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, signed the bill that takes control of that special tax district that let Disney do whatever it wanted to do, basically, in the Disney World area. It takes that special control away, meaning that for the last half a century or so, that was sort of like an autonomous island within Florida, where Disney could kind of do whatever. And Florida left it alone because of all the revenue that Disney was bringing in. And DeSantis just just signed it away after Disney did start stepping up and speaking out publicly against the “don’t say gay bill.” And this is something that is significantly significantly going to cost this corporation because they did take a side against the people in power.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, yeah. And they took it reluctantly, it has to be said. Bob Chapek did not make himself out a hero on this one. But the company nonetheless, it has gotten whacked. It really has. Anyway.

Kimberly Adams 

It’s, it’s scary to be honest. And I really worry for the folks that will be in additional danger because of these laws. So.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, I agree. Alright Jay. Alright, who’s going?

Kimberly Adams 

All right, I will go. I don’t really watch award shows, but I do enjoy sort of following up the next day with sort of what was on the red carpet and what the best, you know, speeches were and things like that. And I was so pleased to hear that, I always get this title wrong, Everything Everywhere, All At Once, that that movie did very well at the awards last night. And it was the SAG-AFTRA awards. And there have been several lovely profiles of Ke Huy Quan, who was a child actor who you might recall from Indiana Jones, and also the Goonies who, because of you know, racism in Hollywood, and a variety of other factors, ended up really not getting that much work after these two big roles when he was a child star. And he tried and he tried, and he tried, and he couldn’t. And so he had to kind of leave acting for a while. He eventually got back into working with movies, sort of behind the scenes. But this is like his first movie in 20 years. And he wanted it so badly. And it was his first time getting back to it. And he’s been speaking in a lot of interviews just so powerfully about how hard it was for him to not be able to have a career, how much he loved acting, how painful it was to not see any space for him in Hollywood at the time, and what it’s like to now see more nuanced roles for Asian and Asian American characters in Hollywood. And how he wanted this role so badly, that before auditioning, he was hiring like voice coaches and body movement coaches, and people to work with him just so he could get ready for these rounds of auditions. And you know, now they’ve, they’ve won so much. And he did a great job in that film. If you haven’t seen it, he plays the husband of the main character, and it’s such a good movie. And it’s just really heartwarming. As a big fan of The Goonies and all those things, and to see it not be so stereotypical, is also lovely.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, that is quite lovely. And the movie is great too. The movie is great. Great. Yeah. Okay, so the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, had a meeting today with Rishi Sunak had a meeting today with Ursula von der Leyen, who’s the head of the European Commission. And they were trying to find some solution to what has become known as the Northern Ireland problem, which is to say, the land border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, which is no longer in the European Union, and Ireland, which is, of course in the European Union. Separate country, right? So they had a meeting today to hash things out. It’s the last sticking point in Brexit, if you remember that the 1996, 2016 vote wow, that took the UK out of the European Union. Last thing on the table was the Northern Ireland land border and what was going to happen with customs duties and goods transit and all kinds of different things. They had a meeting today they came to an agreement. And Rishi Sunak on his official Twitter feed posted sort of a placard that says, we’ve done it now time to move forward. And it says “the agreement achieves” and then there’s a bunch of bullet items: free flowing trade in the UK, great; a green lane for goods, great, you get to go back and forth faster; no owners customs bureaucracy, good; no border on the Irish Sea, fine; and then middle of the pack here, the ban on British sausages, gone. And I’m like, “wait, there was a ban on British sausages.” Yeah, so apparently, the European Union only lets frozen meats in, which I was not aware of. And now that agreement has been lifted in the case of British sausages. So if you’re in Ireland, and you want British sausage to come over the land border from Northern Ireland, you can do that. And that made me laugh. That made me laugh, which maybe says more about me than anything else. I don’t know. Anyway, the ban on British sausage is gone. Little Bangers and Mash.

Kimberly Adams 

If that’s your thing in the morning,

Kai Ryssdal 

That there you go. Nothing like a good British breakfast sausage. Anyway, that’s it. That’s it for us today. We’re going out on a breakfast meal here at the end of the day. Back tomorrow with our weekly deep dive. We’re doing clean energy economy and nimbyism and climate change and green energy and how that’s all going to work because it’s everybody’s problem people. Everybody’s

Kimberly Adams 

Everybody is everywhere all at once. Until then keep sending us your emails and your voice messages you can reach us at 508-U-B-SMART or at makemesmart@marketplace.org

Kai Ryssdal 

You can tell Jay is engineering because the way he fades up that music. Make Me Smart is produced by Courtney Bergsieker. Today’s program was engineered by Jay Siebold. Ellen Rolfes writes our newsletter. Our intern is Antonio Barreras.

Kimberly Adams 

Marissa Cabrera is our acting senior producer. Bridget Bodnar is the director of podcasts. And Francesca Levy is the executive director of Digital.

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