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New year, new supply chain?
Jan 26, 2022
Episode 587

New year, new supply chain?

Don't get your hopes up about the Chinese New Year untangling our supply chain.

The Lunar New Year is next week, and one listener wonders whether the traditional break that Chinese workers take might help our supply chain struggles. Then, we’ll answer some of your questions about the Free Filing program from the IRS and explore the growing anti-work movement. And Marielle finally shares that cauliflower smoothie recipe!

Here’s everything we talked about on the show today:

Have a question we didn’t answer? Send us a voice memo. Or call us at 508-82-SMART (508-827-6278).

Make Me Smart January 26, 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.

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, so sorry about – oh, there we go. Sorry about your sneezing fits. Hi, I’m Marielle Segarra. Welcome back to Make Me Smart where we make today make sense. Thank you for joining us.

Meghan McCarty Carino: Hey, I am Meghan McCarty Carino. It’s fun to be here with Marielle. We haven’t gotten to hang out in a long time.

Marielle Segarra: I know, I miss you.

Meghan McCarty Carino: So it’s fun to hang out on the show. It’s Wednesday, which of course means it is What Do You Want to kKnow Wednesday? It’s the day that we answer your questions, the questions of listeners, thank you so much for for sending those in. And please keep them coming. You can always email them to us at makemesmart@marketplace.org. Or you can leave us a voicemail at 508-UB-SMART.

Marielle Segarra: Alright, our first question is related to the Lunar New Year, which is coming up on February 1, in China, folks will have a week to two weeks off. So here comes a supply chain question from Matt in San Diego.

Matt: Will the ports of LA and Long Beach be able to use this pause in the flow of traffic to catch up on some of the backlog of ships waiting to be unloaded? Could this be an opportunity to clean up some of the supply chain mess? Or will the extra rush of people trying to get things shipped just prior to the holiday shutdown cancel this out? Thanks for making us all a little bit smarter.

Meghan McCarty Carino: Alright, so short answer. No, sorry, Matt. It’s almost like things are just too far gone. At this point. Everything is, you know, so snarled that this is like a drop in, in the ocean filled with backed up container ships. You know, normally yeah, so normally in a normal time, there is some sort of lull on this particular route, because obviously manufacturing shuts down during the Lunar New Year in China and much of you know, Asia where they celebrate Lunar New Year. And so there’s kind of a front loading of things, you know, there’s kind of a rush beforehand to send things to ship things. And then there’s, there’s a little bit of a lull when manufacturing and when when things aren’t shipping, but some big reasons this year for why that is not happening. So demand is still super high. Usually, you know, in retail, as you report, you know, there is kind of a lull in retail after the holidays, everyone has kind of, you know, gone crazy around the holidays. And then there’s a little bit of a lull but this year, partially, you know, probably because things were crazy around the holidays as well. There’s still a lot of demand happening, consumers are continuing to buy at an increased rate. The spokesperson for the Port of Long Beach said this year, there’s just so much demand for imports to the US that we are not likely to see any lull whatsoever. Predictions now are that the surge of cargo will continue, at least until mid-2022. Yeah, and so I mean,  it really is just that the the the supply chain is just so snarled to start that, you know, this little this little lull in kind of manufacturing is really not enough to, to do much.

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, I think it goes back to that. Like, especially with Omicron, if people are staying home a bit more, they still want to spend money. We talked about this, like early in the pandemic, it was spending money, it was a bit of retail therapy for people really trying to make themselves feel a little better. They buy that I don’t know, new pair of sweat pants or something. I’m not saying whether that’s good or bad, but you know, people are they’re looking to buy a little bit of happiness, I guess. And yeah, I mean, it’s bad for the environment. I can say that.

Meghan McCarty Carino: 100%. I mean, I remember, in the early weeks of December, we had an inversion layer in LA that lasted quite a while and it was right at you know, it was like in the holiday shopping mania when there were so many ships were idled. And there was just all this increase in you know, traffic from the ports and the air was disgusting. It was, you know, it was like the  face on my little app that tells me about the air was like deeply, deeply frowning. It was terrible. But…

Marielle Segarra: Did you say an inversion layer? Can you just like explain what that is?

Meghan McCarty Carino: Yeah, I am. I can’t really get too deeply into it because sort of like the blood brain barrier you were talking about earlier. I’ve Googled it or I’ve heard it whatever. But I don’t actually totally know what it is. It’s something about hot air pushing, you know, like not letting the air that is underneath it kind of move very much. So it just keeps all of the pollution down right on top of the city of Los Angeles. And it’s really it’s really nice.

Marielle Segarra: Oh my God, I just Googled it while you were talking and that does not help at all.

Meghan McCarty Carino: It’s so gross. But you know, there’s also – so back back to Matt’s question. There’s also stuff happening in China that has kind of further snarled things. You know, they’ve been sort of pursuing this really aggressive containment strategies still, with Omicron as we know, you know, running rampant and it’s been it’s really hard to contain so there have been some shutdowns of major ports and hubs in China already. You know, there’s some concern that you know, manufacturing and, and all kinds of things are subject to lock downs and shutdowns, and that’s only going to make things worse and kind of gum up the the, you know, shipping and gum up the supply chain even more so. Yeah. Apparently Eytan Buchman at Freightos, freight forwarding company, said that the holiday break might help a little bit, but there’s just so much backlog that even tripling the length of the new year would only have a marginal impact.

Marielle Segarra: Yikes. Alright, well, on that note, do you want to read our next question?

Meghan McCarty Carino: Yeah Let’s go to our next question.

Allison: Hi, this is Allison from Portland, Oregon, and I have a question about filing taxes online. For the last couple of years, I’ve been filing online using TurboTax through the Federal Free File program, but this year TurboTax has notified me that they will no longer be participating in that program. And looking at the IRS Free File page, I see that H&R Block, the other large, recognizable online tax preparer that used to be available through the program has also discontinued their participation. Can you Make Me Smart as to why these companies which I imagine have only been growing in use of popularity over time with suddenly decide to stop supporting the Federal Free File program, especially this year? Thanks so much.

Marielle Segarra: Yeah. Okay, so I used to cover taxes for Marketplace, actually, and this is bringing me back, because these questions are always a little more complicated than they seem and I’m gonna try to just streamline this, but basically, the Federal Free File program, if you want to file your taxes for free using some sort of software like H&R Block, or like TurboTax, you can do that because of an agreement that the IRS had with tax preparation companies, as long as you make under $73,000 a year. That has changed, the companies that participate in that have changed. H&R block, yes, left the program Intuit, TurboTax left the program. But there are others that are still part of it, you just might not have heard of them, like TaxSlayer, or OnLine Taxes or FreeTaxUSA. Now, if you make less than 73,000 a year, you can use one of these but the particular one that you could use, it depends on – there are all these different eligibility requirements, like some of them have age cut offs or state only in certain states. So you’d have to look on the IRS website, and we’ll put the link in the show notes. But the context here is that this whole agreement between tax preparation companies and the government goes back to many years ago, basically, the tax preparation companies lobbied to the government so that it wouldn’t create its own tax prep software. Because that would kind of put them out of business, right? Or it would take away a lot of their business. And so that agreement was that they would offer it for free to lower income tax payers, as long as the IRS pledged not to create its own government-run tax prep software. But after some reporting by ProPublica about that and how it was being put into effect, or basically like how it was going and how the tax prep companies were often steering people towards the paid stuff, even though they came in as free filers. It was supposed to be enshrined into law, and it wasn’t. So now, the IRS actually could make its own software, but it hasn’t. If you make more than $73,000 a year, you can file your taxes for free on the IRS website. But you’ll have to fill out the forms like you allowed the 1040 and the Schedule C and whatever else and then you can just submit them online and that is what I do.

Meghan McCarty Carino: Right? I think I did that. I have I have done that before. I remember having to print them out and then having to…

Marielle Segarra: Oh, yeah.

Meghan McCarty Carino: It was the whole thing. At this point, even though I don’t have very complicated taxes at all, I just, I pay an accountant like 150 bucks to just like, just to basically just to bother me to do it. So that I don’t forget.

Marielle Segarra: Totally. I mean, I like doing it. I don’t know why I just feel like it’s pretty straightforward for me. And I also like just not paying anybody to do it. But well, yeah, everybody has –

Meghan McCarty Carino: Because my husband has, he has, you know, like he does freelance work, we always have to file Schedule C expenses, and we have been audited before. So since then, I guess there’s, you know, some guarantee when you use a certified public accountant, that they sort of vouch for you that you’re on the up and up, and I think you’re less likely to be audited. So well worth the money.

Marielle Segarra: Well, now we’re gonna swing from my area of expertise to yours. This question is for you as our workplace reporter.

Ian: Hi, this is Ian from Fremont, California. So I’ve been seeing mentions of a subreddit called “anti-work” in various financial media. And I was curious, can you make me smart about it? Thank you very much. Bye.

Meghan McCarty Carino: I love this question. This is so fascinating. Were you aware of this Marielle? Had you heard of anti work? Or anti-work?

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, I have, I think it’s really interesting. But you go on.

Meghan McCarty Carino: Yeah, I hadn’t really heard of it. And then I did a tweet thread, I don’t know, like, six months ago, or something just about, you know, “I’m not really sure, I’m getting what I need from working from home and stuff,” just sort of musing about that stuff. And somehow it made its way to some anti-work corner of Twitter, and I got a lot of responses with that hashtag. And people, you know, expressing these, you know, sort of critiques of, you know, why are we, why do I even care about what I’m getting out of work, you know, we shouldn’t be putting so much energy and so much of our identity into it. And yeah, so it grew out of this popular Reddit thread, which has now been made private, started in 2013. But it kind of exploded during this period of, you know, the Great Resignation. And I mean, in October 2020, I think it had 175,000 subscribers, and now it’s up to 1.6 million this month. So it’s really exploding, it’s kind of a place where people go to, you know, talk about wanting to quit their jobs, or, you know, telling the story of how they quit their jobs, or, you know, commenting on just this kind of – criticizing this whole ethos that has sort of built up over over decades, in, you know, the West and in capitalism, of just sort of, you know, people giving their whole selves to work. It’s moderated by a former retail worker named Doreen Ford, who turned dog walker. And, of course, you know, folks on on the thread are anonymous on Reddit, but a recent survey showed that the thread is majority male living in North America, and more than half still have full time jobs, which is kind of an interesting thing. So it’s not necessarily like, oh, everyone who’s into this movement is not working. But it’s sort of a critique of the the culture of work and kind of how we celebrate it to the benefit of, you know, those who hold capital generally.

Marielle Segarra: It sounds like the idea also is like, you can still have a job, but should resist the pressure to go above and beyond what you’re being paid for, you know, if we’re not being compensated for it, then don’t do it. And that your job isn’t your whole identity.

Meghan McCarty Carino: Yeah, yeah. And, I mean, it kind of feels like a reaction to what has been happening, you know, over the previous decade, I think, particularly in the wake of the Great Recession, where workers were really, you know, felt really tenuous for a long time. That was a really long period of recovery. And workers in some ways never really recovered the kind of power that they had before the recession, particularly younger workers, millennials, there was a really great essay that Anne Helen Peterson wrote for Buzzfeed several years ago called “How millennials became the burnout generation” that really discusses a lot of this. And, you know, yeah, just this idea that somehow our work became our identities and will do anything for work. And that’s really maybe not a healthy place to be. But the anti-work movement is really taking it far. In fact, Goldman Sachs actually cited the subreddit, in a recent research note on how the broader anti-work movement could lead to decreased labor force participation in the long term. I mean, I would question that that is really what’s driving it, you know, as we’ve talked about, on this show, before the Great Resignation really seems to be about people leaving their jobs for maybe better jobs or higher wages and things like that. But it definitely feels like a little bit of a, just like a spiritual expression of the moment that this is happening. That this movement has kind of been born or has been, you know, become popularized.

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, finding balance in your life, not such a bad thing.

Meghan McCarty Carino: Definitely not such a bad thing. And actually, it’s their has been – you know, I said that most of the people on the Reddit thread or are from North America, but it’s sort of similar to this movement that’s happened in China, called the Lie Flat Movement, where millennials are sort of swearing off ambitious careers, you know, there’s been all this pressure for performing in school and working so hard and just sort of swearing all this off and going for simpler, less materialistic lives.

Marielle Segarra: Nice. I like it.

Meghan McCarty Carino: Yeah. Alright, so finally, here is one more question for you, Marielle.

Reid: Hi, this is Reid calling from Media, Pennsylvania. This one Wednesday,  I want to know, what is the recipe for the cauliflower smoothie? It sounds amazing. Thanks for Making Me Smart and increasing my intake of vegetables.

Marielle Segarra: You know, I love co-hosting with you Meghan. But I just wish Kai was here to hear this. Because –

Meghan McCarty Carino: 

Was he skeptical of your cauliflower smoother? I cannot imagine.

Marielle Segarra: He threw so much shade at me about this smoothie and has in the days since because this is not the only person who’s called in or who’s tweeted or whatever and asked for the recipe. So I’m feeling a little vindicated. Yeah, we’re gonna put it on the show page, but also here you go. You take a quarter cup of dates and soak them in hot water. I put them in boiling water for like, I don’t know, five minutes until they soften up enough to blend. Did I say that soften up enough to blend and then you add them together in a blender with a cup of almond milk or light coconut milk, three quarters of a cup of frozen cauliflower, yes. One tablespoon tahini, half a teaspoon vanilla extract, quarter teaspoon of cinnamon. And then I also add a tablespoon of cocoa powder and sometimes some flaxseed and you just blend it up. It tastes great. It tastes like a milkshake I think and I had one the other day after the show and now I’m wanting to do it again. I also I would love to hear like if anyone tries this let us know if you like it because maybe there’s something wrong with my taste buds like maybe I’m out of my mind but I think it tastes pretty good.

Meghan McCarty Carino: I am all for the drinking of vegetables. I do, I do. You know I put like spinach and sometimes cauliflower and you know kale in smoothies because I am –  it’s not because I’m like trying to be super healthy and I’m and I love the taste or something. It’s because I have lost the will to eat vegetables outside of that so I sorta – it’s like my trick to just sort of trick myself into eating it by camouflaging it enough with you know, fruits and things and it works.

Marielle Segarra: That is very valid. And that is what this smoothie does. So serves an important purpose. You should try it too.

Meghan McCarty Carino: I would love to try it. It sounds delicious.

Marielle Segarra: Tell me what you think.

Meghan McCarty Carino: I love dates. So good.

Marielle Segarra: Yes. All right. Well, on that note, nature’s candy. That is it for us today. Kai and I will be back tomorrow for Hollowed Out Shell Thursday. Keep sending your questions and comments we’re at makemesmart@marketplace.org Or leave us a voicemail our number is 508-827-6278 also known as 508-UB-SMART.

Meghan McCarty Carino: Oh, I made it through the show without a sneeze. I have coughed, but no sneezing fits. Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera and Marque Green, was engineered by Charlton Thorp and our intern is Tiffany Bui.

Marielle Segarra: Ben Tolliday and Daniel Ramirez composed our theme music and our senior producer is Bridget Bogdnar, who by the way says that you can pay her $145 to send you harassing emails about your taxes. But she makes no claims about keeping you from being audited.

Meghan McCarty Carino: Oh, yeah, it’s mostly about the harassing emails that I need.

Marielle Segarra: That sounds like a good side hustle, Bridget.

Meghan McCarty Carino: It does.

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