It’s been a year since our deep dive into the Joe Biden administration’s global corporate tax plan. That’s the plan that would set a tax minimum — 15% — to discourage companies from parking their money in tax havens overseas. Well, after the U.S. spent months getting other nations on board, it’s now in limbo. We’ll explain why. Plus, a new report on the government’s use of our data is giving us another reason to put our phones down. And, do-it-yourself coffins?
Here’s everything we talked about today:
- “How Joe Manchin Left a Global Tax Deal in Limbo” from The New York Times
- “Homeland Security records show ‘shocking’ use of phone data, ACLU says” from Politico
- ACLU v. Department of Homeland Security from the American Civil Liberties Union
- “Final DIY Project: Build Your Own Coffin” from The Wall Street Journal
- “How many Perseids will I see in 2021?” from NASA
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Make Me Smart July 18, 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: Yes, we’re ready now by God. Charlton Thorp. Good grief. Hi, everybody. I’m Kai Ryssdal. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we make today and the whole week, and if we’re really good, maybe the whole month makes sense. I don’t know. It kind of depends on how we’re doing.
Kimberly Adams: You know, let’s be optimistic. Let’s go for the month. I am Kimberly Adams, thank you for joining us this Monday. We are going to do the news, then we’re going to share some make me smiles. But let’s start with the news fix, which really makes us smile these days. But we do it anyway. Let’s go.
Kai Ryssdal: Alright, you go first, because I have not seen your beat, your item here. So make me smart as the saying goes.
Kimberly Adams: Yes. So this is reported in Politico and many other places. The ACLU sued the Department of Homeland Security, to figure out how much data they were getting from these companies that do location tracking services. So a lot of times, if you download an app that does something else, it might track your location. You might opt into it, you may not know that they’re doing it, maybe you’ll opt out or you’ll have like reset your advertising identifier. But for the most part, most of us have something on our phone that knows where we are at a given point in time, and there are private companies that collect this data and sell it to other people. Now, it’s been very controversial whether or not the government can buy and use this data, because the Supreme Court decided in the past that the government cannot just track your cell phone without a warrant. Because your cell phone includes way too much private information about where you’re going and who you’re seeing and whatever. So the government can’t on its own, track your cell phone without a warrant. But they can buy a set of data from a company that just so happens to have all of the data about where your cell phone has been. And so this has been a very controversial practice. And so the ACLU sued the federal government to find out how much of the state they were collecting, and how expansive it was. And man, it’s a lot. So specifically, they were looking at how immigration enforcement uses this mobile location data. And this data… it’s probably more expansive than this, but this is what we know. I’m reading from Politico here. The data harvested from apps on hundreds of millions of phones allowed the Department of Homeland Security to obtain data on more than 336,000 location data points across North America. Those data points may reference only a small portion of the information that CPB has obtained. And what’s interesting is, and I’m scrolling back down to try to find this, because at one point, someone in the Customs and Border Protection was talking about, say, the advertising IDs that are assigned to every single device. And they were talking about how, you know, this company can follow the advertising IDs and that’s a way to track people, but it’s not really a privacy violation for them to do it. But in the same presentation, they were telling CPB staff how to reset their advertising identifier. So really fascinating research. And just another reminder that your phone is tracking you. And you should be mindful of that. And there are lots of sort of things you can do to be more secure with your devices. But just have a look. It’s a lot.
Kai Ryssdal: You know, 23-ish years ago, now, Scott McNealy, who was then the CEO of Sun Microsystems, very famously said, you have zero privacy, get over it. And I wonder what would happen if a CEO said that now, because it’s just become so much more pervasive, invasive, and insidious. And yeah, and we don’t know what’s happened. That’s exactly right. insidious. And it’s… yeah, yeah, it’s not, it’s not great. Not great.
Kimberly Adams: An excuse.
Kai Ryssdal: Oh, go ahead.
Kimberly Adams: Go for a walk outside without your device and not be distracted and enjoy the sweltering heat or some other outdoor activity without your phone or device as a distraction. There you go.
Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So also not great is, besides Joe Manchin threatening Doom to the entire planet, as some observers have pointed out that he has done, by refusing to go along with the Biden administration’s Climate Change Program and the latest bill moving through Congress. The other thing, one of the other things that senator mentioned has blown up, is what Janet Yellen, the Secretary of the Treasury has been working on for basically her whole time in office so far, and that is a global minimum tax package. That would, in essence, prevent companies from tax haven shopping, from going overseas and establishing your domicile and paying zero taxes, or not paying taxes on foreign income. Or in the company’s defense, not knowing what taxes you have to pay, because the global tax code is so terrible. Anyway, one of the things that has happened as a result of Joe Manchin pulling out of that agreement with Senator Schumer, is that that global minimum tax deal, which would be a 15% minimum corporate tax globally, and Yellen has been trying to get something like 180-ish countries to sign on. That would go away. And of course, everybody said to Yellen when she was making the pitch, hey, is United States gonna go along with this? And Yellen saying that president is behind it and Senator Schumer is behind it, and Senate Democrats are behind it. Yes, we’re gonna get there. And now they’re not. And now they’re not. And that’s kind of a drag.
Kimberly Adams: This kind of stuff is really diminishing to the ability of the United States to negotiate anything on the global scale. I mean, like they’re trying to do something about Iran, but Iran has zero incentive to go back to the table on a nuclear deal, because now everybody knows that as happened, the US could sign on to a deal, and then the next administration might step out of it. Janet Yellen goes trotting across the globe to work on a deal. And then, you know, no longer has the ability to actually take it across the finish line. Our political dysfunction lessens us on the global stage and our ability to negotiate anything. Even Trump ran into this when he was president trying to negotiate things and people were just like, well, just like you’re rolling stuff back, what’s to say that somebody won’t roll back what you’re doing?
Kai Ryssdal: Right. Right. Exactly. It’s kind of a mess, which we have done to ourselves, by the way, just for the damn record. Anyway, that’s my news. That’s your news. Charlton. What’s next. Okay so, the A-Head in Wall Street Journal today. Yeah, A-Head, which is to say, they’re sort of quirky story that runs on the front page and sometimes makes you go “Oh, that’s cute”, and then sometimes, like today, makes you go “Wait, what?”. Look, death, first of all comes to all of us. It has to be handled sensitively, and with great respect, because it’s a fundamental part of life, if that makes sense. But oh my goodness, this story just made me go “Wait, what?”. It’s a build-your-own-coffin DIY project thing. “For people who want to make their own final resting place merchants offer ready-to-assemble kits, we just had so much fun” is the pullquote on that. And, you know, give it a read and look, everybody goes their own way and wants to. We all go, but, you know, you go the way you want. And if this is what you want to do, go ahead. I will take a pass. Thank you very much.
Kimberly Adams: There’s such an industry around death, you know. And, like pandemic – massive amounts of death and suffering, like I’m being mindful of that. But pre pandemic, you know, you can, and I guess you can still do it now, but it was like a thing to sort of buy your burial plot and buy your tomb, your headstone. And you can pick out your coffin in advance and it’s like a whole thing. And I don’t know if you’ve heard about like, you can have your ashes turned into diamonds? And there are like installment plans where you can sign up in advance so that once you die, you know, your diamonds for your loved ones made out of your ashes are already paid for, and they can just divvy up your body diamonds. And like, after that, nothing much really surprises me about things people will do around the macabre, shall we say?
Kai Ryssdal: Yeah. Anyway.
Kimberly Adams: I don’t know if that made me smile. Well, I guess I’m chuckling at this.
Kai Ryssdal: Well I think we’ve talked about on this podcast, it doesn’t have to be a smile-smile, it could just be a uh-smile.
Kimberly Adams: Yes, let’s do that. Well, I’m, you know, still on my space kick, and still not over the James Webb Space Telescope and all the beautiful pictures. But today, I want to talk about the Perseid meteor shower, which has started and yes, it’s every year and it’s still magical, I think, that you can just sort of look up in the sky and see these things that have just been going across the galaxy and, you know, burn up and they come to the end of their existence here, or at least their particles turn into something new. Anywho, NASA has a really interesting blog about this, talking about how likely you are to see any of these meteors, and how many of them you will see. And so sometimes a number gets thrown around like, oh, you’ll see, you know, there’ll be up to 100 meteors per hour. And then people go outside, and they’re like, what? I didn’t see any. And so NASA breaks down how many meteors you can expect to see per hour during its peak, which is going to be around August 12, or 13th. But it’s broken down based on where you are. So like one category is if you – and all of these are based on if it’s a cloudless sky like 3:30, 4:30 in the morning, right? So one of them is very dark “country” skies, where maybe – I’m looking here, it looks like around DC, it’ll be like 45, 46 meteors per hour. Okay, the next one is suburb “I can see the Big Dipper” skies, which is like nine per hour. And then the last category is city “what is a star” sky. In that case, it’s like two. And you know what, that’s a really useful guide. I understand that. And so, you know, the larger point is, if you want to see the meteor showers, you have to get away from the lights, you got to go out to the countryside if you want to see them in any meaningful way. Because, like for people in the city, anywhere you look on this map, you’re gonna see – if you’re lucky – two meteors an hour.
Kai Ryssdal: Might I just say the Los Angeles basin, that’s basically what we’re talking about here. That’s all.
Kimberly Adams: Yeah. Sorry. All right. But useful map. Yes.
Kai Ryssdal: Useful map. Excellent map. There we go.
Kimberly Adams: Excellent map. All right. That is it for us today. Tomorrow, we are going to be doing a deep dive on gas prices. Why they are what they are and of course –
Kai Ryssdal: Why why why why, why, why, why?
Kimberly Adams: And, of course, all the economic and geopolitical forces driving prices today. Which reminds me we need to talk about the Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia… among other things.
Kai Ryssdal: In the meanwhile, send us your questions, your comments. We can take a voice memo or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can call us and leave us a voice message. 508-U-B-SMART.
Kimberly Adams: Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera. Today’s program was engineered by Charlton Thorp.
Kai Ryssdal: Our Senior Producer is Bridget Bodnar, the Director of On Demand is one Donna Tam.
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