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Will corporate America stand up?
Jun 17, 2022
Episode 696

Will corporate America stand up?

Plus, we play a round of Half Full / Half Empty.

Today we’re looking ahead to next week, when kids 6 months to 5 years old should finally get access to a COVID vaccine. It’s giving us spring 2021 flashbacks. Then we’ll touch on the latest in rising infla — HEY, PAY ATTENTION, THIS IS IMPORTANT! Plus, climate change and the significance of corporate America speaking out about the threats to our democracy. We’ll wrap up the week with a round of our favorite game, Half Full / Half Empty.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

We’ll be off Monday to observe Juneteenth. Join us Tuesday for a deep dive about inflation. In the meantime, keep sending your inflation- and non-inflation- related questions to makemesmart@marketplace.org and (508) 827-6278 or (508) U-B-SMART.

Make Me Smart June 17, 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.


Kimberly Adams: All right, time for me to shake my… Oh, that was good timing, wasn’t it?


Kai Ryssdal: Yes, we’re starting.


Kimberly Adams: Hello, everyone. I’m Kimberly Adams. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we try to make today make sense on Friday’s cocktails.


Kai Ryssdal: That sound you hear is our future. I’m Kai Ryssdal, thanks everybody for joining us on this Friday afternoon for Economics On Tap, whether you’re on YouTube livestream or listening to the podcast or on discord. We’re just glad you’re here. So now that you’re pouring Kimberly, what do you have in it?


Kimberly Adams: I’m trying something new today based on random stuff I had at home. This is lemon cello, and tequila, ginger ale, mint and bitters. What?


Kai Ryssdal: Wow, That’s so interesting to me. You’re one of those people who cocktails… Find stuff in the cabinet and throw it all together. I don’t have that creativity gene in me.


Kimberly Adams: Yes, you have to have the garnish. And the pretty glass. Yes, yes, yes.


Kai Ryssdal: I, you’ll be shocked to hear, is drinking a beer. It’s a Stone, enjoy by 0704 2022, tangerine and pineapple hazy IPA, ABV is 9.0. So it could be an interesting second half of the podcast. But it’s good. It’s yummy.


Kimberly Adams: I do not want to know what the alcoholic contents of my drink. Yeah. It’s got to be better than the Rusty Nail though. Cuz Good Lord, that was. I have to say I have not had another one of those since then.


Kai Ryssdal: We will do what we do on Fridays, which is we’ll do some news. And then we’ll do a game and then we will all be on our merry way. Right? Yes. Let’s do some news. You go first.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah, I got a couple of quick hits. First of all, today, the FDA went ahead and rolled out the fact that the approval for kids under five to get the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Tons and tons of parents have been waiting for this and very excited. And, you know, good on them. But I’ll point to a piece in The Washington Post by Jennifer Rubin I believe, my tab went away. Nope, sorry, Jennifer Reich, my bad. Jennifer Reich, who is a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado. And she has been a longtime researcher of why parents reject vaccines, and points out here that many, many parents are going to indeed choose not to vaccinate their young kids from COVID. And it’s easy to believe that lots of people are just like waiting on pins and needles for these vaccines. And a lot of parents really have reservations. And if we have learned anything in the last two years, I would hope it’s that shaming people, or attempting to shame people, for not getting vaccinated is not the way to do it. And she lays out some strategies here for how to have conversations with people who don’t want to vaccinate their kids, particularly from a public policy perspective, and how the government needs to be communicating these things and addressing the legitimate concerns that parents have, and she sort of highlights how, why is it… Let me find this particular comparison that really jumped out to me. It was a polio comparison, but basically – I’m not gonna be able to find it – but basically, she was saying, you know, how is it that the vast majority of parents are happy to vaccinate their children for polio, you know, disease that doesn’t really exist that much in the United States. And yet, they are unwilling, many of them, to get their kids vaccinated for a pandemic and a disease that’s actively spreading in the community. And so she basically says that policymakers and the rest of us need to be not condescending, and answer people’s questions. So that’s the point. You have thoughts. I can see it in your face.


Kai Ryssdal: Well, no, so look, I mean, we all remember back in the early days of being able to be vaccinated, and there was exactly what you said, the shaming and the naming and the calling out. And it clearly didn’t work. And I just wonder if we will have learned our lesson this time. On the flip side, it has been so long and coming and there have been so many parents who have been rightly screening for it. I wonder what – if any – effect that delay has had on parents’ inclination to vaccinate or not vaccinate, and that’s just a random uninformed, amusing.


Kimberly Adams: Well, I mean, people have had more time. I think their real-life experience informs that. Because at the beginning of the vaccine rollout, everybody wanted to get vaccinated. But people had such a hard time getting vaccinated that that gave time for the misinformation to spread. And for people to say it’s too much of a hassle, and I don’t know about it. And I think that really did harm the vaccination uptick. And so now it has been a long time. And all of this misinformation has spread. And so yeah, I do think it’s probably going to have an impact. My other story relates to – in a very tangential way – to why I chose this drink today, which is because it’s hot here in DC, like it is hot in many, many parts of the country. Yes, that’s why I have this refreshing drink. It’s hot, so hot, in many, many parts of the country. There’s a huge… Go ahead, get your last drink.


Kai Ryssdal: Well, I’m laughing because I saw a tweet today from Matt Fuller, who’s a Washington DC Capitol Hill journalist. And he said, Ah yes, I see DC’s weather is back to sucking the warm air from behind a bus. And I said that to my oldest son who lives in Washington, and he wrote me back and he said, Yes, that’s exactly right. 95 and humid. It’s really brutal. So the weather in DC is gross.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah. Right after the show today, I will be going down to my storage unit and bringing up my dehumidifier, because it’s that time here again. And I don’t have to probably tell this audience that a lot of the record heat waves that we’re seeing scientists attribute to our climate crisis, and our warming planet. And I saw on Twitter today, a bunch of people tweeted it, but the earliest one I was able to find was from the French history podcast. And here’s what it says. In 2014, a weather reporter speculated on what France could experience in August 2050 due to the ravages of climate change. Today’s weekly forecast is nearly identical due to an incoming heatwave, many places have experienced much higher temperatures. And in the show notes, I’m going to link to – well, I’m not going to, other people who are more tech savvy than me are going to – link to the actual video. It was like a mock forecast. It’s all in French, I don’t speak French, but you get the idea. Go ahead.


Kai Ryssdal: Well, I was just gonna say, you need to hit those dates again. In 2014, so eight years ago, this weather reporter in France gave a weather forecast for 2050. 2050 okay? And that weather forecast that she gave eight years ago for 2050 is happening this week, with temperatures in the 40 degrees Celsius, which is like 100 plus in our scale.


Kimberly Adams: And it’s so frustrating because in my building we’re on like, the central AC system. And so I can’t turn it on or off. But it also isn’t super efficient. And so I can only turn it up or down. And then also, just because the layout of my apartment, it gets really humid. And so not only is the AC running in my apartment, but I also have a fan. And I’m going to bring up a dehumidifier to balance out all these things. So even though I would love to be more environmentally friendly, and you know, conserve my electricity, it’s like, I’m gonna have mold growing in my closet if I don’t do these things. So, you know, California weather, enjoy it, enjoy it. But yeah, it’s really stunning and just highlights the crisis that we’re in. And, I saw another tweet, which I’m not going to remember where it came from, where someone was basically saying, how do we get to the place where we refer to the pandemic that’s happening in the past…


Kai Ryssdal: Yes, yes, yes. That’s right, yes.


Kimberly Adams: …and the climate crisis that is impending and honest and happening also as far off in the future? We have this amazing ability of cognitive dissonance of pushing things that are actively happening away from ourselves so that we don’t have to deal with them. Yes, cue the darkness music. My bad.


Kai Ryssdal: It’s been a while actually. But that’s exactly. I saw that tweet, I was like, Oh my God. Oh my god. Spot on. Spot on. Totally. 100%.


Kimberly Adams: What you’ve got?


Kai Ryssdal: So I will do a little news. The first is kind of light, and then we’ll get to the substance of stuff. I saw a thing in the Onion today, which made me feel “oh my god, this is me”. The headline in this article from the onion is Fed Raises Interest Rates In An Effort To – Hey, Pay Attention, This Is important! The body of the story says: with inflation at a 40-year high, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate this week in an effort to – hey, come on, pay attention, this is really important! And then it goes on like that in that vein. And I was just like, oh my god, this is me, this is my life. And here’s why. I just, I worry as a journalist whose beat is business in the economy, that I’m going to drone on and on about inflation and the threat it poses and what the Fed’s doing and people are gonna go, Oh, shut up! That’s it. That’s just my insecurities made real on this podcast.


Kimberly Adams: You know, it reminds me sort of. I had this thought process yesterday when we were talking about, you know, whether we’re doing too much on January 6 and politics and everything like that. And when I was living in Egypt, I was often filing stories on everything happening from Iraq all the way to Nigeria, because a lot of news organizations no longer have people anywhere else in the world. And the news coming out of Iraq, and Afghanistan was often bombings where many, many people died. And so the spots I was pitching at the time, it was Fox News Radio, were all about the bombings and the attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. And finally, one day, the editor says to me, “Look, this is very important. And I’m not trying to diminish this. But if you keep doing this every day, you’re going to desensitize people where they won’t care about it anymore.” And that lesson has really stayed with me. It’s like if you hit something again and again, it normalizes it. It’s sort of where we are with gun violence. It becomes the standard. And so it’s hard to elicit the necessary response anymore.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, I think that’s totally right. I think that’s totally right. On any story in the news, whether it’s inflation or trade or gun violence, or all that stuff, I try to be aware of that.


Kimberly Adams: Wait, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry I have to jump in. Because Tamra Haynes in the YouTube chat says, “Should Kimberly be drinking, if she’s driving to her storage unit?” No, I should not. But my storage unit is in the basement. Just I’d want to be clear. There’s no driving involved. I’m staying home.


Kai Ryssdal: Yes, totally fair. No, no, no. All good. That’s important. That’s important.


Kimberly Adams: That’s very important. Don’t drink and drive.


Kai Ryssdal: Alright, wait, sorry. As long as we’re in the YouTube chat, Sam Donaldson: “Sometimes Kai needs to shut up. Sometimes he does have the occasional bad take.” Well, there’s that. Anyway. So welcome to our podcast. Here’s my other thing that I wanted to touch on, following up on yesterday. The exchange you and I had about leaders in the Republican Party as opposed to people in the Republican leadership, and the January 6 committee and what is happening and the idea that Michael Luttig, conservative’s conservative and a George W. Bush shortlist nominee for the Supreme Court, had finally stepped up. And you said, “Well, who? Who?” And so I gave it some thought overnight, and I had a long trail run up a hill this morning, and I gave it some thought on the run. And here’s a list that I came up with. Okay. And we’ll start at the top and work our way down. George W. Bush. Trent Lott, former Senate Majority Leader in the Republican Party. Bill Frist, former Republican Senate Majority Leader. Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, Vice Presidential candidate and board member of Fox News. John Boehner, John Ashcroft, former Attorney General for George W. Bush. John Danforth, Republican Senator from Missouri. Elizabeth Dole, former Secretary of Transportation and also Labor I think, but maybe not, but also she was married to Bob Dole, World War Two veteran, presidential candidate in the 90s. Dan Quayle, former Vice President of the United States. They could all speak up and say what Luttig said yesterday, which is, Donald Trump is a clear and present danger, right. Also, just quickly, Corporate America, the Business Roundtable, the US Chamber of Commerce, can traditionally aligned with more Republican and conservative interests. I think some of those members in the leadership of those groups could think about stepping up. And also – this gets trickier, right? – CEOs and board chairs of big companies in this economy talking about Donald Trump and the threat that he represents. Anyway. I bring that up not to rehash but to close the loop on the question you posed, which was a really good one. Who? because Republican elected leaders clearly won’t. And I thought that was important.


Kimberly Adams: You should tweet at them and ask them.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, I’m not sure any of those people follow me or on Twitter for that matter.


Kimberly Adams: So I wasn’t going to mention this but it’s come up in the YouTube chat. So I am going to jump in with this. Adam says in the YouTube chat: Today is the 50th anniversary of a burglary in DC office building and the 38th anniversary of an LA slow motion, Police Chase. I’m gonna leave the latter one aside and talk about the first one, because today our Make Me Smart newsletter…


Kai Ryssdal: Wait, wait, is it the anniversary of the slow-motion car chase in LA with OJ? Seriously? Yes, yes, it is. Oh, my God. And I call myself a student of history. Anyway. Sorry, I interrupted. Go ahead.


Kimberly Adams: That’s okay. So today our Make Me Smart newsletter writer, Ellen Rolfes and I went to the Washington Post headquarters for an event with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein for an event to mark the 50th anniversary of their exceptional groundbreaking reporting. And they talked about how hard it was – sorry, the cat is doing things – how hard it was to do that reporting, how risky it was, how they went about the process, the documents they dug through, the way they navigated the sources. And they talked a ton about how similar it is to where we are right now, in terms of the risk to the democracy or the republic, depending on who’s talking about it at a given moment. But how different – yes, we’re talking about Watergate, I guess I should have said that out loud. We’re talking about Watergate. And how different the political environment is. Because at that time, as you mentioned the other day, the Republicans in the Senate were like, we’re not backing you on this, Nixon, and the Supreme Court was unanimous in like, yes, you do have to release these tapes. And that is a moment. And then something else really jumped out at me in this event, because they had a little piece of wood with a doorknob and a latch on it on the stage. And it was just sitting there the whole time. And at the very end, they said that this is the actual lock that started this whole process, because the security guard at the Watergate was on his rounds and noticed that there was tape on the lock. He took the tape off, came back around, saw the tape on the lock again, took the tape off, and that’s how you knew something was up. And that’s how the burglary, you know. And it just really struck me how this small moment of somebody doing what they were supposed to do, literally changed the course of American history. And I’ll go ahead and share the link in the show notes – or again, the other people will – of this event on Washington Post Live. And it was really interesting and powerful. And they talked about the risks of democracy. And you were talking about… is it LAH-ttig or LOU-ttig? How you say that?


Kai Ryssdal: I think it’s LOU-ttig.


Kimberly Adams: One of the things they pointed out was his statements in the hearing were powerful. But you should go back and read the written testimony that he submitted. It’s so powerful and compelling. And yeah, we’re going really really long here. Okay, I’m gonna stop. Let’s do the other part of the show.


Kai Ryssdal: That’s fine. Fair enough. Drew.


Kimberly Adams: So many tabs open. I don’t know where my script is or what I’m supposed to say now. Okay, it’s me!


Kai Ryssdal: Well, what you’re supposed to say now is… there you go.


Kimberly Adams: Now it’s time for half full, half empty. Don’t laugh at me. As I said who knows the alcohol volume in this. Okay, our wonderful show hosted by the amazing Drew Jostad. Hey, Drew.


Drew Jostad: Hey, Kimberly. Hey, Kai, are you half full or half empty on a sentient AI?


Kai Ryssdal: This was such an interesting story. Go ahead. Take a look at it.


Kimberly Adams: I am half empty, primarily because I read Timnit Gebru’s op-ed in The Washington Post today. And for those who don’t remember, Timnit Gebru is the AI ethicist who was fired from Google, although Google does not admit that they fired her. And so that’s, you know, controversial. But she said that when they were at Google, they warned pretty vociferously that AI was getting so good at mimicking human language that it was going to trick people into thinking that it was sentient, because when you develop a program that mimics our speech patterns, and our nuances and, you know, I guess we only have to refer to Apple Siri voice number two for this one. You know, it’s easy for humans to apply sentience and human intent to things that are really just very good programs. So I’m gonna go half empty.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, I’m with Kimberly. You know, there was a great human cry this week when some Google engineers said, Oh my god, the AI we created is sentient! I don’t think we’re there yet. We’ll get there eventually. But I don’t think it’s today.


Kimberly Adams: Do you think we will get there? Or do you think we’re going to have a new understanding of what sentient means?


Kai Ryssdal: Well, both of those things can be true, but I think we’re gonna get there, right?


Kimberly Adams: Okay. All right. What’s next?


Drew Jostad: The United Kingdom is maybe considering ditching the metric system, are you half full or half empty?


Kimberly Adams: So let me get this straight.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, so this was a Steven Beard story. So what happened was the UK joins the EU, and one of the conditions of joining the EU is that you have to be part of the metric system, which is of course, kilometers, and meters, and all that stuff. And the Brits being who they are, are all about, you know, pounds and ounces and gallons and all this jazz. Now, Boris Johnson, having successfully taken the Brits out of the European Union is like, oh, no, no, we’re going back to the imperial system. Honestly, metric makes more sense. We tried it in this country back in the 70s, and Jimmy Carter wasn’t able to do it. Metric makes more sense. It just does. So you know, I’m half empty on the Brits going back to the imperial system, just saying.


Kimberly Adams: I’m all the way empty, I would really prefer that we are all on the metric system. I cannot tell you how stupid Americans sound to everyone else in the world. When we travel…


Kai Ryssdal: You really feel, Kimberley.


Kimberly Adams: We don’t understand the temperature. When we don’t know how far away anything is. We can’t tell them the size of something. And, you know, it’s like, I eventually was able for a period of my life to estimate the degrees Celsius it was outside by sence, the way that you can kind of guess degrees Fahrenheit. It took me a bit. And okay, Maxwell is very upset. He says everybody uses pounds though. Kimberly, who says I weigh this many stones. Okay, fine.


Kai Ryssdal: Well, stones is different. Yeah, let’s not go to the stones thing, right?


Kimberly Adams: What entertains me the most about this is that the English system that we’ve been using was not used by the English for some time. And now, so Americans were using the English system while the English were not. And now the English are going to be back to using the English system, making us effectively still like a colony in that regard.


Kai Ryssdal: Oh my god I’m so confused. Oh my god,


Kimberly Adams: I’m all the way empty. Yeah.


Kai Ryssdal: I’m with Kimberly. Oh my god. Wow.


Drew Jostad: Okay, at a TechCrunch conference this week, Bill Gates said NFTs are “100% based on greater fool theory”. Thoughts/comments on that claim?


Kai Ryssdal: I’m completely full on what Bill Gates said. Look, Bill Gates has a lot of issues. And let us not judge that part in this podcast. But look, the whole NFT crypto take your pick thing about blockchain right now, is that a lot of what is happening is being revealed as people piling into something not really knowing what is going on, losing a boatload of real money and not having understood what has happened. And I think that’s real challenge into the adoption of crypto – which I’ve said on the air and I will say again on this podcast – is the future. It will happen. Bitcoin will be real money, Ether will be real money, crypto will actually do good things. Right now it’s not. And so Bill Gates is right for now.


Kimberly Adams: I’m not completely sold on that Bitcoin is eventually the future and that all this stuff will eventually be real money. Because if a lot of these central banks adopt their own digital currencies, which they may do, a lot of the reason for having cryptocurrencies goes away. And that’s not to say that it’s not useful. And you know, I said the other day on the show that like oh, you know, cryptocurrency was helpful for Ukraine when people were sending money that way and someone in a very condescending way on Twitter pointed out that an article in Mashable that said that a lot of the people who sent cryptocurrencies Bitcoin to Ukraine did it because they thought they were gonna get like a reward. And then once that reward went away, the donations dropped off. So I’m just not convinced. And look, I’m not going to say that I’m an expert on any of these things. I’m a journalist, not a technologist and I learn and grow with everybody else and I’m willing to get information and change my mind but right now I’m not sold on it. So I am… what was the original half full half empty? Oh, it’s Bill Gates, right? I am gonna go half full on the comments of Bill Gates.


Kai Ryssdal: Fair enough.


Drew Jostad: Okay, Make Me Smart listener Brandon from Castle Rock, Washington is on the weird food beat for us. Are you half full or half empty on Grey Poupon ice cream with salted pretzels?


Kai Ryssdal: Oh my God, I don’t even know what that is. But look, salty and slightly spicy?


Kimberly Adams: Wait, you don’t know what Grey Poupon is?


Kai Ryssdal: I know what a Grey Poupon is but Grey Poupon ice cream with salted whatever. Do you know what that is?


Kimberly Adams: I think it’s just all of those things together.


Kai Ryssdal: Drew, Do you have any edifying information?


Kimberly Adams: It’s all those things!


Kai Ryssdal: This is like the spelling bee. Could I ask, could I have it in a sentence?


Drew Jostad: I mean, yeah, it’s a mustard ice cream with pretzels in it. I don’t know what else to say.


Kai Ryssdal: Look, I like mustard. I like pretzels. I’m gonna say yes, I’m half full, even though I don’t know what it is.


Kimberly Adams: I don’t like mustard and I’m lactose intolerant. So half empty. Okay, so for anyone who is tracking my cocktails and decides to try this one, like, just take it slow. So next week, there is not going to be a Monday episode as we observe Juneteenth. So happy Juneteenth everyone! But we will be back on Tuesday with a whole new show about inflation – again – and the Federal Reserve, and why suddenly everyone seems to be on alert to inflation whereas people noticed the prices were going up. Now there’s a lot of freakout about inflation.


Kai Ryssdal: It’s like that Onion article, Pay Attention and This Is Important! We know and we appreciate that you’ve been sending us your questions about inflation. That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to talk about it. So keep sending them to us, we’ll get them answered. The email is makemesmart@marketplace.org. Leave us a voice message if you like, 508-827-6278, 508-U-B-SMART.


Kimberly Adams: Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera. Today’s episode was engineered by Drew Jostad, and the senior producer is Bridget Bodnar.


Kai Ryssdal: The team behind our Friday game is Steven Byeon, Mel Rosenberg and Emily Macune, with the theme music written by Drew Jostad. The director of on demand – and the woman is in charge of all things – is Donna Tam.


Kimberly Adams: Wait! Sam Dotson in the chat just reminded me, Happy Father’s Day, Kai! Happy Father’s Day. Hope you have a good Father’s Day weekend.


Kai Ryssdal: Liv, my daughter’s like, what do you want for Father’s Day dad? And I’m like, I don’t know. I’m just. I don’t know. I don’t know.


Kimberly Adams: “I want your love and affection, daughter.” That’s what you’re supposed to say.


Kai Ryssdal: This is my 20… hang on a minute, it’s my 20… What is he? 23? It’s my 23rd Father’s Day so I don’t actually know what I want. I don’t necessarily want anything.

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