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Neoliberalism’s sleight of hand
May 21, 2024
Episode 1165

Neoliberalism’s sleight of hand

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Is the free market actually free?

Over the last 50 years, an ideology known as neoliberalism has transformed the American economy — for better or worse. The concept is often associated with Ronald Reagan, free markets and deregulation. But legal scholar Mehrsa Baradaran says we get a lot wrong about the origins of neoliberalism and its true impact on society.

“What neoliberalism does is it gets into the bones of the infrastructure of government and lawmaking and makes it much more complex. … The bigger firms and the industries that have the most lobbyists and most lawyers can really get in there and make their own laws,” said Baradaran, author of the new book “The Quiet Coup: Neoliberalism and the Looting of America.”

On the show today, Baradaran explains what neoliberal ideology promised to do for the American economy, what it actually did and why she believes that looking to the free market might, ironically, be the only way forward.

Then, we’ll dig into another economist’s take on what should replace neoliberalism. Plus, why actress Scarlett Johansson isn’t cool with OpenAI’s new chatbot.

Later, we’ll listen to some St. Louis cicadas. And, a law professor discovered that menopause isn’t just a health issue — it’s a legal one too.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

We love to hear from you. Send your questions and comments to makemesmart@marketplace.org or leave us a voicemail at 508-U-B-SMART.

Make Me Smart May 21, 2024 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 

Hello everyone, I’m Kimberly Adams. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, where none of us is as smart as all of us.

Samantha Fields 

And I’m Samantha Fields in for Kai Ryssal. It is Tuesday, which means it’s time to dive deep into a single topic. Today, we’re talking about neoliberalism and ideology that has shaped our economy, our laws, and our politics for better or worse.

Kimberly Adams 

It gets associated, neoliberalism, with free market capitalism, deregulation, Reagan, and on and on and on. But our guest today says there’s quite a bit that people get wrong about neoliberalism. So, here to make us smart is legal scholar Mehrsa Baradaran, law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and author of the new book, “The Quiet Coup: Neoliberalism and the Looting of America.” Welcome back to the show.

Mehrsa Baradaran 

Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to talk to you again.

Kimberly Adams 

So, I want to get to the definition of terms first. What is neoliberalism? And also, why the looting of America?

Mehrsa Baradaran 

Okay, so neoliberalism, it was an ideology that emerged, sort of in the 1940s from Austrian economists. And really, you know, the typical timeline is that from that era, it was kind of expanded. And by the Reagan era, it became like the policy worldwide. Neoliberalism is the political order that the world economy basically runs on. It’s this sort of pseudo free market ideology that applies to, you know, lower regulation and things like that. I challenge some of that story and talk about neoliberalism as first and foremost an illegal project, and not sort of economic ideology. And secondly, that it was a response to the racial uprisings of the 1960s. So, neoliberalism is a very amorphous fungible thing, but I tried to give some color to it. And the looting actually, you know, my introduction, I quote an Onion article during the nationwide protests that just like, oh, it was perfect, and I couldn’t not, you know, put it in the introduction. It was basically, you know, protesters are accused of looting without forming a private equity first. And that sort of got to what I was trying to say in the book is that while, you know, things like looting or rioting, these are charged words, right? When you take, you know, break a window and take something, that’s looting and it’s a crime. But when you, you know, leveraged buyout, a whole company bankrupted, fire everybody, and take the earnings offshore to not pay taxes, that’s just, you know, a Tuesday on Wall Street, and so that’s unfair. And that’s sort of what neoliberalism allows, and that ideology is worth really probing into, I know that there have been other books about neoliberalism, but this one, really, I try to go in and figure out why, why, why? Basically, why?

Samantha Fields 

Before we get to more into the why, which we will, I want to know if you can give us a couple of examples of what you’d consider a neoliberal policy here in the US. Just so people can sort of have some specific context.

Mehrsa Baradaran 

Yeah. So, neoliberalism, probably one would be a, you know, going from, let’s say, pensions to 401(k)s, you know. You get to decide your risks, you know, going from a real sort of state where poverty, you know, let’s say before the 1960s, you know, and we’re talking about white, not Black, white, and some of this stuff just never extended to everybody. But before the 1960s, we had sort of a mixed state economy where you would go to work, you would get, you know, a paycheck that was not too far below the, you know, CEOs paycheck. You’d get your mortgage from the FHA. You’d have your union that would protect your wages and a real sort of stable middle class, and the many policies of neoliberalism took part-by-part demolish that and really made the economy for finance and money. And so, there’s just many, many policies that go into this, but emblematic of all of them are that pension to 401(k) split, where the risks of the future, the risks of loss are placed on the individual, and sort of subsidized by debt. So, now you’re not getting a pension. You’re not getting higher wages. You’re taking on debt. You’re responsible for your future. And this was all under the guise of, you know, its better, free market, you know, lift all, you know, rising tide lifts all boats, tax cuts for the rich, all of that Reagan era stuff is neoliberalism.

Kimberly Adams 

And you write in the book that there’s just so much research at this point showing that a rising tide doesn’t lift all boats, especially when we have these legal frameworks that effectively socialize the costs and privatize the gains. As you refer to it, the US economy is now a big, dumb self-cannibalizing machine. Like, how has neoliberalism worked out in practice?

 

Mehrsa Baradaran 

Yeah, right. So, there’s what neoliberalism says it is, and then there’s what it does. And you know, what it says it is, is it lowers regulation. It frees the market, so that we can have competition and, you know, small businesses and just a thriving economy of competition profits. That is not what happened because what neoliberalism said it was going to do, which is, you know, get the government out of your life was not what it did because the government laws make the market. We don’t have this choice of free market versus, you know, totalitarian state. The market and the state are very much connected where it matters as far as lawmaking. And the creation of markets is very tied into what kinds of laws enable what kinds of assets and what kinds of markets to exist and to flourish. And so, that’s where I go into neoliberalism. I mean, I gave you the policies, you know, that’s the surface level, but really, what neoliberalism does is it gets into the bones of the infrastructure of government and lawmaking, and makes it much more complex, much more esoteric, such that, you know, the bigger firm, and the industries that have the most lobbyists, and most lawyers can really get in there and make their own laws, right? This is the looting, you know, without forming a private equity firm, and those of us who aren’t, you know, are accused of looting if we happen to do something that it takes away from a person, you know. So, that legal closeness is what neoliberalism actually did. And so, it is when you say a thing is one thing, and then you do another thing. It creates this hypocrisy, and I think that’s really the problem. And, you know, I think a lot of us don’t really see the market, you know, we see these either bad or good and just need to be more free. Or we see the free market as this, you know, thing that we have to fight whether you’re on the right or left. And I’m not taking either position. I’m saying we’ve just never had a free market. This is not that.

Samantha Fields 

Obviously, the economy, laws, politics, it’s all very intertwined. But I know you really wanted to look at liberalism, you did look at neoliberalism through this legal lens here in the book, not just economics. Why did you want to do that? And what’s your main takeaway there that you want people to come away with?

 

Mehrsa Baradaran 

Right. So, you know, neoliberals like Milton Friedman and some of the intellectuals of the neoliberal movement really always couched the market as this force of nature. It’s out there. It has its own laws that must be obeyed. And if you tinker with them at all, bad things will happen. But it’s really just like this force of nature. Mind you, you know, forces of nature don’t need human laws to protect them. But that wasn’t true. The markets have always been manmade, right? Look at money, what is money, but a creation of, you know, some government with the trust and backing of that government. So, I’ve been in money. I’ve been setting money and banking, you know, since I graduated law school. I was on Wall Street during the financial crisis at a big Wall Street law firm. You’re representing these banks and the Federal Reserve and seeing how money was created and funneled into these different banks. Totally legally, totally, you know, in broad daylight. And when you see, like the center of that economy, you realize that well, no, the economy isn’t out there. It’s its policy choices all the way down. And who was in the room when those choices are made? And where does the funds that the money that is created go and for what purpose? All of these are decisions. All of these are decisions, and if we are in an democracy, then those decisions should be made by the people, or at least the people should know that those decisions are within the realm of democratic control. And I think. And I don’t think. I believe, or I wrote that neoliberalism, one of the main things that it does is take those really important policy decisions like monetary policy, credit policy, all of that, and stick it into this, you know, scientific temple of only PhDs and fonts and pretend as though it is not a policy decision. It’s a decision that affects all of us. And they pretend like oh, you know, if you get the numbers wrong, we’re going to have this inflation thing that we don’t understand what it is. Nobody understands inflation, not there, you know? But we still you know, and that’s the tragedy of these ideas is that they have been debunked not just by scholars, but by real life, you know? By everything, every single thing that the neoliberal economists and boosters said would happen didn’t. And in fact, the opposite happened. You’d had Alan Greenspan being like, oh, my model was wrong, and yet it recuperates. It somehow lives because it’s so deeply embedded, and that’s where I go to the law because I think, when a lot of my peers and a lot of people who care a lot about neoliberalism really look at it as like, oh, it’s economic theory. And so, if we just debunk that theory, and go at it, like, you know, Tomas PKT and all of these, like, give them new theories, and they’ll understand. And my intervention is to say, no, it was never economic theory. It’s always been in the law. It’s encoded in the way that judges and regulators make these decisions. And I track it through the politics and through the Nixon administration and go through the agencies and the courts and really show exactly how this ideology gets embedded and able to be self-replicated without new inputs.

Kimberly Adams 

So then, is the way to address some of these baked in inequities and ways that the system doesn’t work just to change the laws?

Mehrsa Baradaran 

Well, that’s why I go a little bit different than you might expect because I don’t have a lot of you know. I guess. I don’t. I’m a little bit not hopeful that laws can be changed. I think that you see the Senate, we tried to close that two and 20 loophole that was the very, most, lowest hanging fruit and, you know, a private equity firm. And I don’t want to say buyoff.

Kimberly Adams 

Wait, can you explain that a little bit more?

Mehrsa Baradaran 

Yeah. So, you know, both parties, you know, President Biden, I think, and President Trump promised to close the two and 20 private equity loopholes, which is that basically, the private equity firms or capital gains are only taxed at like 2%, which makes private equity essentially this like tax free subsidized industry, right? Mind you, we all pay 50% of our incomes, a lot of us, you know, and not only are there so many loopholes, but they can just structure around the laws to really just don’t pay taxes at all on their massive gains. And that’s contributing to all sorts of inequalities, and it’s also depriving the country of like, I think, like a trillion dollars in taxes, or some number that’s astounding. And the bill that was passed, I think it was early on one of the big Biden bills, had that closing up the loophole. And we were one vote short. It was Kyrsten Sinema. And it turned out, you know, in broad daylight, this is not a conspiracy that, you know, private equity firm donated, I think $400,000 to her campaign. It wasn’t much, you know, for that much, for how much we lost. And that’s the Senate. The Senate is a block for things like that. And it’s very easy to, you know, donate to a senator and get them to vote for your side. And that is fine. I just don’t think that is money well spent. And so, I think if money is making things happen, if money has all the rights and all the voice in democracy, then I think money is the best route toward justice. And you know, I would urge people who have, you know, the funds rather than pay $400,000 for Senators, let us put our money into vehicles that actually bring us the economy that we want, and use the loopholes and the laws that are perfectly legal and created, but actually to funnel capital where it can be fruitful. And I think that just requires a rethinking, and, and a scene of what we have right now. What we have right now is an economy that is binding all of us to a future that is the same as the past. And that is a future that is an economy run by, you know, guns, weapons, oil and gas, and, you know, just really deleterious products that were just legacy products are being subsidized by, you know, laws and finance. And we don’t have to have that economy, and we can invest in the economy that we want. And so, I think that is the fastest route, actually to justice.

Samantha Fields 

You actually mentioned in the book that you’re currently working on designing an investment vehicle, you call it to allow people to invest their savings and retirement accounts in people and communities, which is kind of what you were just alluding to, rather than in companies like we do with, you know, our 401(k)s currently and I’d love to hear more about this, and how that might work and how it might be profit.

Mehrsa Baradaran 

You know, the way it would work is that you would, you know, invest in the people and the communities that have been overlooked by the market the longest and this is where this work connects with my previous work and the color of money and how the other half banks. I think we have a system of finance and credit that gives credit to the people who have so much of it that they don’t know what to do with and doesn’t ever invest or take a risk on the people who could actually are, you know, who may be a risk, but are the most likely to have an upside. So, take Sam Bankman-Fried. You know, Wall Street in total gave him $30 billion. He was 28, 26-year-old kid playing video games apparently, as he’s talking to these, this is from the Michael Lewis book to these angel investors don’t ask him questions and give him $30 billion of credit for nothing, for no product. And that, I think it’s because we misunderstand the nature of genius. We misunderstand the nature of value. And what kind of thing we reward in this economy is the Sam Bankman-Fried’s before the fraud. I’m saying it was just not a thing. He found an arbitrage that was like a cute little trick of finance, you know. And then oh, he’s going to put all of his money into malaria nets in South Africa. Why not just give the money to a group in Africa who can fix the malaria problem with $30 million? Are you kidding me? Like, you know? And it’s that kind of investment that I believe in my heart. Like, I would put my money on it, and I don’t have a lot of money, so I’m not someone who’s going to do this without help. But like, I would put my money on, if you invest it. And I mean, actually invest, like an angel investor would invest in like a young Travis Kalanick. Right? Or Sam Bankman-Fried, you know, the Black and brown kids in the places that are over policed, underfunded, under resourced, and that we would get more as a society in returns, profits in 5-10 years than if we keep going down the road that we’re going. And I think, what I saw when I, you know, looked at what I was invested in my 401k, which is just like a diversified fund, right? Is that when I retire, I hope that the things that I’m invested in now are not profitable. And I didn’t choose them. But my diversified fund is invested in things like Exxon Mobil, Raytheon, Chase Manhattan. You know, that’s an economy that is old and dead. And I think, you know, if capitalism were real and free markets were real, those would not be the things that we would be tied to going forward. We would be adapting, and I think what neoliberalism does is solidified our investments. It didn’t allow for those changes that we need to make. And so, I do think that capitalism or free markets, let’s not say capitalism, because that has some connotations that I don’t like, but a true free market is attainable, and we just have to get to freedom first. And then, truly bring our best to the market and make it lively and free actually without the debt on our necks.

Samantha Fields 

One thing that really struck me in the book that I want to be sure we ask you about before we have to go is, you talk about how your family is Iranian, and how you were born in Iran in 1978 just before the revolution. And I’d love for you to talk a little about how your family’s experience in Iran informs how you’re thinking about what you’re seeing happen economically and politically here in the US now in this moment.

Mehrsa Baradaran 

I was born in Iran, like right before the revolution and the revolution in 1878 in Iran was a response to corruption. There was a Shah who was like, put in by outside forces to, you know, take siphon Iranian oil out to these foreign foreigners for his own benefit. And you know, had these like luxurious parties where he invites everyone while people were starving. And so really any, like, forced inequality and then repression of the press, all of that stuff. And many, many attempts were made to get him out. And finally, what got him out was this nationwide protests. But the but the people that came in were this very right wing. I mean, for many reasons. There’s, you know, a lot of history here, but the right wing, like nut jobs, the people who were always there, but never even close to a majority. These were just the most, you know, it’s fascism, right? That’s how it gets in. It’s like, we will fix it by punishing all of the people. You know, it’s like a very punitive, very restrictive system. And, you know, growing up under that was, I mean, obviously, just horrifying. You know, so many people died when I was kids, just bombs at night, war, and, you know, pictures of murderers, paying people hanging from the streets, lots of people were in prison. My mother was put in prison for just protesting a war, you know. And Iran went from day to night in a year. And that happened also in Nazi Germany. That has happened in places like Rwanda. That kind of thing, I am very intimate. I lived in it. That kind of thing happens, and I think we are not yet. There are many differences between America and those other countries but aren’t as many as people think. And what I see, and I start the book with this is, you know, the rise of conspiratorial thinking, the rise of like antisemitic conspiracy thinking, where Marjorie Taylor Greene is saying, oh, it’s the Rothschilds that started these forest fires. You know, I start with that story in the book, the Jewish space lasers to show look, she’s right, that something was fishy. It wasn’t the Rothschilds. Itt was just plain as day revolving door corruption. But this is the Nazi playbook also. It’s like, yes, there’s something wrong, Germany was being squeezed by these world powers, right? You know, for debts. And then, they found a scapegoat. And so, I just see as someone who’s deep into history, I see a lot of historical resonances. And I just want people to know that look there at the door, the Fascists are, like, they’re, you know, that not that far off, and our norms, and our laws aren’t as tight as people think. Because it all relies on trust. It’s all this very intangible thing in the ether that holds this whole thing together. And that thing, that trust, that rule of law disappears way faster than you would imagine. But you know, ideologies crumble. And, you know, I started my book with the Baldwin, quote. Time runs all doctrines and proves them to be untrue. And I believe that, and I think we’re at the cusp of another round, you know? The myths of the past have fallen, and we just haven’t quite figured out the new ones.

Samantha Fields 

Well, Mehrsa, there are eight million more questions that I know both of us could ask you, but I think we’re going to have to leave it there. Thanks so much for joining us.

Mehrsa Baradaran 

Thank you so much for having me. This is lovely. Thank you.

Samantha Fields 

That’s Mehrsa Baradaran. She is a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and her newest book is called “The Quiet Coup: Neoliberalism and the Looting of America.”

Kimberly Adams 

Man, I’m very impressed at her ability to get through that book, and still, like, go outside. And I often feel like the more I learn about how the economy works, the more I’m like, this is rigged.

Samantha Fields

100% same.

Kimberly Adams

And it can feel hopeless. It can feel really discouraging when you see the scale of the systems that are set up to benefit and insulate certain groups and institutions.

Samantha Fields

And how entrenched it all is.

Kimberly Adams

How entrenched it all is, and how they’ve insulated themselves from overside. How they’ve insulated themselves from reform. How there’s so many barriers that once people do find out about it, it becomes so challenging to overturn those systems. And a lot of people just check out and get disheartened. And they’re like, it’s too big of a problem. It’s not my problem.

Samantha Fields

Right, it feels insurmountable.

Kimberly Adams

It feels insurmountable, which is why I think it’s really interesting that Dr. Baradaran is like, well, then use the system as it exists. My favorite example of this is when I was growing up in St. Louis, we had this “Adopt a Highway” program where people could adopt a section of a highway and you would agree that your organization would keep it cleaned up and tidy. You know, outsourcing the potential role of government, but whatever. It was a big thing. So, the Ku Klux Klan local chapter decided that they wanted to adopt this stretch of highway in the city. And they wanted their sign that said, this section of highway adopted by the KKK. They wanted the same sign that everybody else got. And they made a very compelling, free speech argument that if you issue this right to every other group, and you don’t have limits on what kinds of social groups can participate, you can’t stop us from doing it. And it went to court, and they went back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth. And they ended up winning. And so, they put the sign up, and then they renamed the highway, the Rosa Parks Expressway.

Samantha Fields 

Wow, that’s a twist I did not see coming.

Kimberly Adams 

And then the problem went away.

Samantha Fields

Wow, that’s so interesting.

Kimberly Adams

Yeah, and I’m forgetting what state it’s in, but there’s some state that wants to allow sort of religious counselors and public schools to allow, like, members of clergy of different faith to provide like, you know, the student counselor role in in public schools. And so, like, the local Satanists are like bet. Go ahead and pass it, we’ll be right there lined up. And, you know, it’s sort of those sorts of things that, you know, working sometimes within the system to kind of prove why the system you know, may need some changes is an interesting way to go about it.

Samantha Fields 

Right. If you can’t beat him join him, right?

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah. But I’m super curious to hear what everybody else thinks about the conversation we just had on neoliberalism. What you think of ways to solve some of these entrenched problems. How you think about, you know, how you maybe deal with your own emotions and feelings about the economy when it does feel a little unbalanced. All the Marketplace reporters want to know. Our number is 508-827-6278, also known as 508-U-B-SMART. We will be right back.

Samantha Fields 

All right, we are back, and it is time for some news. You want to get us going?

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, because I apparently spotted the same article that our producers did in prepping for the show because everybody’s talking about neoliberalism. There was a piece in The Times, not The Times. The Washington Post last week by the very famous economist, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. And the headline is: “Time is up for neoliberals.” Democracy requires a new progressive capitalism, making very similar arguments about some of the problems of neoliberalism, but some few different solutions. And so, in some of the excerpts here, he says, “we’ve now had four decades of the neoliberal experiment beginning with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. The results are clear. Neoliberalism expanded the freedom of corporations and billionaires to do as they will and amass huge fortunes, but it also exacted a steep price, the wellbeing and freedom of the rest of society. Neoliberals’ political analysis was even worse than their economics with perhaps even graver consequences. Friedman and his acolytes failed to understand an essential feature of freedom, that there are two kinds, positive and negative. Freedom to do and freedom from harm. Free markets alone fail to provide economic stability or security against the economic vagaries they create, let alone allow large fractions of the population to live up to their potential government is needed to deliver both in doing so government expands freedom in multiple ways. The road to authoritarianism is not paved by government doing too much, but too little.” And so, he’s making the argument that the government needs to change this system. And we just heard from Mehrsa that she’s less than optimistic about the ability of the government to do that. And I don’t know. What do you think?

Samantha Fields 

Yeah, I think it’s been really interesting reading both her book and also this piece. You know, a part of it that stood out to me that is also a central argument in her book, but I’m going to quote here from that piece that you’re talking about, the Stiglitz piece. He writes, “discontent festers in places facing unaddressed economic stresses, where people feel a loss of control over their destinies, or too little is done to address unemployment, economic insecurity and inequality. This provides a fertile field for populist demagogues who are in ample supply everywhere.” And I feel like that was a central argument in her book too.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, in terms of after World War I, how Germany was so you know, crushed economically and that got Hitler’s start.

Samantha Fields 

And crushed economically by sort of the allies, right, who sort of wanted to exact reparations after the war, and that that really hurt the economy and then hurt the people and then sort of provided fertile ground for Hitler to rise up. And yeah, I think there’s a huge amount to mull over here. And it does still feel like everything is so entrenched, like the system is so entrenched, the inequality is just growing. It feels hard to see our way out. But it was really interesting to talk to her about sort of some of her thoughts about ways forward.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, all right. Well, what’s your news?

Samantha Fields 

I’m going to take us in a completely different direction. No more neoliberalism for today. Well, I don’t know about that. Maybe. I want to talk about AI. I read this really interesting study that’s out today that found that jobs that require AI skills pay a lot more than those that don’t. And this was looking across a bunch of different industries. And they found that in the US, AI related jobs pay about 25% more, and that’s, you know, an average across industries than comparable jobs that don’t require AI skills. And in certain fields, there’s an even bigger pay gap. In in law, for example, law jobs that require AI skills, pay almost 50% more than ones that don’t. And for financial analysts, that’s almost 33% more. And the other thing that they found was not only are these jobs paying more, they’re also increasingly just more opportunities for people who have AI skills. So, I guess my own personal takeaway from this is, I guess I should probably be spending more time learning AI.

Kimberly Adams 

I mean, I think we all would be well served to, you know, keep our skills fresh in this period of economic turmoil, especially in our industry.

Samantha Fields 

Exactly. And then one more thing related to AI even though it’s a completely different story. Have you heard about the Scarlett Johansson OpenAI controversy?

Kimberly Adams 

Oh, yes, but go ahead and explain it.

Samantha Fields 

It’s wild. So, OpenAI recently unveiled a bunch of new voices for ChatGPT, and people noticed that one of them that they called Sky sounded a lot like Scarlett Johansson. And you may remember she actually voiced a chatbot in the movie “Her,” which came out a number of years ago. Well, she’s now saying that OpenAI actually reached out to her last fall and asked her to be the voice of ChatGPT. And she declined. And then they came out with this new voice that sounds a lot like her. So, she’s saying she’s asking the company to detail the process they use to create the voice, which they have now pulled, at least temporarily. And also, one of the things that stood out to me in her statement was she wrote: “In a time when we are all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our own likeness, our own work, our own identities. I believe these are questions that deserve absolute clarity. I look forward to resolution in the form of transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected.” Now, this was obviously a huge point of contention and contract negotiations for actors in the most recent SAG negotiations, but it’s pretty interesting to see it coming up here too.

Kimberly Adams 

It’s been very fascinating watching so many entertainers moving forward and putting themselves out there to push for legislation around this. Singers and different performance artists and, you know, actors and things like that. And I wonder if their star power will actually move Congress to actually get something done. But that is it for the news. Let’s move on to the mailbag.

Mailbag

Hi Kai and Kimberly. This is Godfrey from San Francisco. Jessie from Charleston, South Carolina. And I have a follow up question. It has me thinking and feeling a lot of things.

Kimberly Adams 

Last week, I talked about how there were so many, so many, so many cicadas when I was visiting my mother in St. Louis recently, and we heard from a lot of you with your own cicada stories. Here’s one of those.

Jane

I’m Jane from St. Louis where the cicadas are everywhere, and they are loud. It sounds like maracas being shaken right next to your head. And another thing on the local Facebook pages the most common question I see this week is how many cicadas is okay for my dog to eat? Well, my Keyshawn will not leave them alone. So, walking the dog is an adventure. I will walk down the middle of the street with my arm stretched out holding the leash just so he could walk on the grass. I refuse to walk on the sidewalk next to him and possibly go under a tree branch that has recently molted cicada shells rain down on yet. Yuck!

Samantha Fields 

Yuck, indeed. No, thank you. Jane also sent us a recording of the cicadas. Let’s listen to that.

Kimberly Adams 

Oh man. I can’t imagine. No, they were just coming out, so they weren’t making noises yet. They were all just like emerging and so they were just everywhere and drying their wings. So, they hadn’t quite started their meeting calls, I guess or whatever that noise is. Well then. Before we go, we’re going to leave you with this week’s answer to the Make Me Smart question, which is what is something you thought you knew but later found out you were wrong about? This week’s answer comes from Bridget Crawford, another law professor, this one at Pace University. She’s the co-author of the book, “Hot Flash: How the Law Ignores Menopause and What We Can Do About It.”

Bridget Crawford

We used to think of menopause as a health issue. Even though my coauthors and I are law professors, we didn’t think that menopause was an issue that connected to the law. We were wrong. The law needs to do more to protect all people from discrimination on the basis of menopause. Given the millions of people experiencing menopausal symptoms, we believe that breaking the silence around menopause can challenge and dispel long standing stereotypes, stigma and shame. By talking more openly about menopause, especially in the workplace, everyone can receive the support they need to remain productive and valued members of society.

Kimberly Adams 

Amen. Yes to that.

Samantha Fields 

You know, it’s interesting. I feel like I’m suddenly in the last, I don’t know few months, maybe starting to see a lot more on social media and sort of in the media about perimenopause, about menopause, about how it does need more attention, and I’m very heartened to hear that.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, for sure. And also, I mean, we talked about this on the show the other week. They’re pushing for legislation around this as well. So, I definitely think the conversation is shifting, and I am here for it.

Samantha Fields 

Me too. Well, we want to hear your answer to the Make Me Smart question. Call us at 508-827-6278 or 508-U-B-SMART.

Kimberly Adams 

Make Me Smart is produced by Courtney Bergsieker. Ellen Rolfes writes our newsletter. Today’s program was engineered by Mingxin Qiguan with mixing by Jayk Cherry. Our intern is Thalia Menchaca.

Samantha Fields 

Ben Holliday and Daniel Ramirez composed our theme music. Our senior producer is Marissa Cabrera. Bridget Bodnar is the director of podcasts. Francesca Levy is the executive director of Digital. And Marketplace’s Vice President and General Manager is Neil Scarbrough.

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The team

Marissa Cabrera Senior Producer
Courtney Bergsieker Associate Producer