Why this debt ceiling fight is already different
Jan 30, 2023
Episode 850

Why this debt ceiling fight is already different

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Plus, the ripple effects of Citizens United 13 years later.

The U.S. has hit the debt limit 78 times since the 1960s, but for the first time in history, five women are responsible for shaping U.S. fiscal policy. Their experience and perspectives, could change how the country deals with the debt limit. And they might be able to do what other politicians cannot: get along. Plus, how did George Santos fund his campaign? Kimberly is back from vacation and joins Kai to talk all things Washington, and shares what made her smile while she was gone.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Have any thoughts, or questions that you want to share with us? You can write to makemesmart@marketplace.org or leave a voice message at 508-U-B-SMART.

Make Me Smart January 30, 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.

Kai Ryssdal 

All right, let’s go.

Kimberly Adams 

Let’s do the thing.

Kai Ryssdal 

Let us do the thing. Hey everybody I’m Kai Ryssdal. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, making today make sense is what we do on this pod.

Kimberly Adams 

Indeed. And I am Kimberly Adams, thank you for joining us on this Monday. First, we are going to dive into some stories of the day slash weekend, also known as our news fix. And then we’ll talk about a story or two that made us smile. And good to be back with you Kai, after my little time away.

Kai Ryssdal 

It’s good to have you back. I mean, Amy, and all the rest of them did great, but it is good to have you back where you belong. “Good to have you back,” it sounds like a song

Kimberly Adams 

Thank you I appreciate that. It does, I think it is a song

Kai Ryssdal 

Very 1970. Anyway, so you go with the news, you go ahead first, because mine are kind of…

Kimberly Adams 

Well, both of our first stories are effectively on the same thing, which is the thing that we talked about before I left for vacation, about how this fight over the debt limit was going to be different than other fights over the death limit… debt limit. And sure enough… Freudian slip death limit. Sure enough, it is, it’s getting more intense, obviously, extraordinary measures. But one thing that I noticed in a Washington Post story, and I know that we have another Washington Post story is that as we are dealing with this moment, we have the people who are doing the hard brass tacks of this negotiation, are pretty much all women. You have Janet Yellen over at the Treasury, right? And then as it laid out in the Washington Post story, you have the head of the Office of Management and Budget, which actually runs the day to day job of keeping the government running is a woman and in fact, the first black woman to lead the OMB, the top two members of Congress on both the House and Senate side are also women. That is the committee chairs on the Senate Appropriations Committee. And then the ranking chair, the ranking member, which is the Democrat, and then also on the House Appropriations Committee. The chair is, who’s the Republican, is a woman, as is the ranking member, the Democrat, and they seem to be women who pretty much get along. And they’ve got you know, the Washington Post story lays out the sort of relationship that these women have forged with each other over the years and how it’s making it in some ways. It’s greasing the wheels a little bit as we enter this very or exist in this very fraught moment. It’s a really interesting piece.

Kai Ryssdal 

And it’s a great piece because the two people getting all the press, the two old white dudes getting all the press are getting exactly nowhere, in moving this forward this really, really, really serious developing crisis and…

Kimberly Adams 

You are talking about House Majority Leader….

Kai Ryssdal 

I’m talking about the resident of the United States and speaker of the House. Yeah.

Kimberly Adams 

Oh, I thought you were talking about Chuck Schumer over in the Senate.

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh no Schumer is out of this one. And Schumer is gonna be smart enough to say “no, no, no, Kev you go.” It’s all gonna be McCarthy and Biden. And they’re barely speaking. I mean, they’re gonna sit down later this week, but who knows what they’re gonna say

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah.

Kai Ryssdal 

All right. So I’ll go to my my one of my items, just real quick to keep it consistent topic wise. For those of you who want to know what could possibly be done, Jeff Stein at The Washington Post this weekend, wrote a nice piece on seven things that can be done to avoid breaching the debt limit. Some of them are realistic. Some of them aren’t, you may call some gimmicks, some are not extra constitutional, perhaps not, take your pick. But you got to know because they’re gonna be coming up all over the place in these negotiations. So read that piece by Jeff Stein, we’ll have it on the show page for sure.

Kimberly Adams 

I should say like some of these I had heard of, but others I had not. And they’re all very interesting. Like, I’ve heard tons about minting the trillion dollar coin. But number two on this list is perhaps the most simple and obvious. And I was surprised I hadn’t like heard of it as much, which is this idea of just saying, you know, it’s incompatible with spending laws, because spending laws are just that, laws, which, you know, if you go back to your, you know, civics class, Congress passes laws about spending the government’s money and the executive branch, the President, is supposed to enact those laws passed by Congress. And if Congress passes laws saying you have to spend X amount of dollars on X, the President would then be breaking the law if, you know, up until this point, only “he”. He has not done that. And therefore, you can’t avoid breaking the debt limit, you know, blowing through the debt limit. It’s very interesting.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yes, it is a mess. Alright. You got another one?

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, we’re super Washington heavy today. This is actually about campaign finance, which I always find very interesting. One of the things that has come up quite a bit in my reporting over the years as I tried to do campaign finance stories, is it used to be that a lot of Washington reporters that did campaign finance stories, we sort of clustered around the FEC reporting deadlines, right? Because every quarter or whatever campaigns and candidates had to report their spending, how much money they raised in this, that and the other. And you might get a bit of that nowadays around like really high profile elections just as a top line number. But they matter less than less. Because the official on the books money is becoming a smaller and smaller portion of the actual money spent in campaigns, because so much of it is funneled through dark money campaigns. So the Brennan Center has this analysis piece titled “George Santos Sam Bankman-Fried, and Citizens United, looking at all of the ways that the Citizens United decision, which was, what 13 years ago? Yeah 13 years ago, has… It’s still having massive ripple effects in ways that either the Supreme Court didn’t anticipate, or even though people warn them about it, they were just like, “Eh, no biggie. It’s not going to happen.” But like we talked, was it a year ago with the Ted Cruz case?

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh, yeah, reimbursing himself or something like that.

Kimberly Adams 

Right. Yeah, making loans to your campaign, right. So the Supreme Court said, “Sure, you can make as many donations to your campaign as you want to no biggie.” However, if you look at what George Santos did, he made a $705,000 personal loan to his campaign, after reporting only $55,000 in income in 2020. So, congratulations, you can make an unlimited loan, personally, to your campaign. “No biggie”, the Supreme Court says, but you don’t necessarily have to explain where your money came from. And so, it’s just one of these additional ways that this stuff comes up. Similarly, one of the interesting things laid out in this article, but it’s also come up in the Sam Bankman-Fried hearings about the collapse of FTX. Is that, you know, Sam Bankman-Fried basically said the quiet thing out loud, which is that very publicly, he was being liberal and contributing to liberal causes. But privately he was funneling all this money through dark money groups, to fund conservative campaigns in, you know, to basically get the kind of cryptocurrency regulation that he wanted. Again, legacy of Citizens United. And it’s just fascinating that these cases…. that campaign finance is just harder and harder to track. And I know that campaign finance reform is on no one’s agenda right now, but it continues to have an impact on the way that our country operates.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, it’s interesting you point out that it’s not in nobody’s agenda right now. Because really, it’s the whole damn agenda in Washington. I mean, it’s all about raising money so you can run again. That’ the whole deal. That’s the whole deal. All right super quick, just in time for me already having bought an EV. EV prices are coming down. Tesla cut its prices not too long ago. Now, today from the Wall Street Journal… Ford is cutting the prices of its EV Mustang, the Mach-E by as much as 9%. I will say just entirely apart from me, it’s a really good thing. Right? EVs are really expensive. We need more people to get them. And the price cutting should go on. Thank you very much.

Kimberly Adams 

I wonder how close we are to almost a break even point because between the drop in price and the tax credit, like if these price cuts continued, like when are we going to hit you know that they are on par? And it feels like it’s getting closer and closer like at this point, you can get a nice car or sort of a basic level, EV for you know, which is still gonna be a nice car, for kind of the same. Yeah, right. Haven’t shopped for a car in a very long time. But you know…

Kai Ryssdal 

EVs, EVs are expensive, EVs are expensive, and they need to get less expensive so that more people can get them. They just, you know, and this is a good sign. This is a good sign.

Kimberly Adams 

Okay

Kai Ryssdal 

Drew…. I got nothing smile wise, but you got two so you go.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, I mean, and ours is gonna make the both of us smile, because we both love space. And you know, I don’t want to talk about my space story without acknowledging sort of, we’re around the anniversary of the Challenger explosion. But, you know… That was such a tragic moment for for the country and for space exploration. And so I think it even is more of a testament to where we are now. And the fact that a lot of people did have to sacrifice to have all of the advancements in space exploration that we’ve been celebrating and talking about over you know, basically every single time you and I talk about space. But my particular space story is a bit more Earthbound, which is that there’s going to be a how do I say it? Moon-Mars eclipse? Is there a word for this?

Kai Ryssdal 

I’m sure there is. I’m sure there is. I don’t know what it is. But I’m sure there is.

Kimberly Adams 

Oh, here it is. It’s in the article that I linked to occ… occultation. It’s what okay…. This is from a Space.com. “On Monday night, January 30, the moon will eclipse Mars in what’s known as an occultation, during which the Moon will pass in front of Mars from the perspective of Earth.” Now, unfortunately, only a small chunk of the planet is actually going to be able to see this. But if you are in the southern United States, that is from Southern California, all the way to northern Florida. And according to Space.com, as far north as Oklahoma, and they cite back to inthesky.org, you might be able to see this either with binoculars or with your naked eye. Or of course, if you’re cool, and you have a nice telescope, you’ll get a really good view of it. Also, the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles is going to live stream it for free online. So that might be cool to look at if let’s see, it looks like the live stream is going to start at 11pm Eastern and last for two hours. So it’s not even like middle of the middle of the night. Like a lot of these things are.

Kai Ryssdal 

That’s really cool. Yeah. 8:35 Los Angeles time for those of you on the West Coast.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah.

Kai Ryssdal 

That’s cool.

Kimberly Adams 

All right. So my other make me smile actually came from my DMs. Kelly O’Reilly messaged me while I was on vacation, and here’s what she said. “Kimberly, I know you’re on vacation, and I hope you are resting in the best possible way.” Thank you. “But I had to share with you my word for mocktails.” Because you remember right before I left, I was talking about whether we call mocktails, zero proof spirits, whatever. Kelly says “I quit drinking in October and reached out to the Facebook group for the Lexicology podcast I listened to you for a better word than mocktail. Now, I don’t… I do not call them mocktails. I sit back with a refreshing cleverage these days and keeps me clever.” So a cleverage

Kai Ryssdal 

I’ll go with that. I’ll go with that. Right. Very nicely done.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah. What was it that I was calling it before “spirit proof cocktail”

Kai Ryssdal 

Did not roll trippingly on the tongue. Let’s just say that.

Kimberly Adams 

Yes. Whereas cleverage sounds much nicer. Beverages and cleverages. So I feel like it very much fits in the Make Me Smart theme. So thanks, Kelly for that. All right, that is it for us today. You can join us tomorrow for a deep dive on Chat-GPT and generative artificial intelligence. Obviously, there’s a ton of hype around it at the moment, lots of money going into the space, lots of teachers freaking out about what it’s going to mean for them. And so we’re going to try to cut through some of the noise around it and get into some of these moral and ethical implications of all this as well as how it’s gonna, you know, potentially impact our day to day.

Kai Ryssdal 

And if you’ve got a question or comment about artificial intelligence, or Chat-GPT or anything else you care to share with us? Let us know what are you 508-827-6278. 508-U-B-SMART or you can send us a note, regular old email makemesmart@marketplace.org. We’ll get those too and you know read them on the pod.

Kimberly Adams 

Make Me Smart is produced by Courtney Bergsieker. Today’s program was engineered by Drew Jostad. Ellen Rolfes writes our newsletter, and our intern is Antonio Barreras.

Kai Ryssdal 

Marissa Cabrera is our acting senior producer. Bridget Bodnar is the director of podcast. Francesca Levy is the executive director of Digital and On Demand.

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