Betting On Bidenomics | Crooked Media
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June 28, 2023
What A Day
Betting On Bidenomics

In This Episode

  • President Joe Biden delivered an economic speech in Chicago on Wednesday outlining his vision for what he calls “Bidenomics.” The goal is to create more jobs, lower inflation, increase broadband internet access, and more. We’re joined by Jared Bernstein, President Biden’s top economic advisor, to discuss the details of Bidenomics.


  • And in headlines: Yusef Salaam is on track to win a Democratic primary for a City Council seat in Harlem, millions of Americans are under air quality alerts due to smoke from Canada’s wildfires, and seven-time Olympic medalist Simone Biles is back.


  • Plus, we’re joined by Alisha Humphrey, a Starbucks barista and union organizer, to talk about the ongoing workers strike over the banning of Pride decorations at the coffee chain.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, June 29th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What A Day. Where we are only semi joking when we say we need a WAD retreat at the Barbie dream house in Malibu. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, there is a pool. There are floaties. It’s neon pink. What more could we even ask for? It’s perfect. 


Juanita Tolliver: As a Barbie Dreamhouse connoisseur and a former Barbie dream boat owner. This is right up my alley. We need to book this now. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah seriously 


Juanita Tolliver: Immediately. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Get us in there. [music break] On today’s show, Yusef Salaam is on track to win a Democratic primary for a city council seat in Harlem. Plus, we’ll hear from a Starbucks barista and union organizer about the ongoing strike over the banning of pride decorations at the coffee chain. 


Juanita Tolliver: But first, it’s Bidenomics time. [laughter] Like every time I say it, it’s giving Power Rangers. It’s Morphin time. You know, like for us– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. 


Juanita Tolliver: –Geriatric millennials. [laugh] In all seriousness, though, President Biden has an economic plan that he hopes will make people feel the historic economic gains his administration has achieved and improve folks’ outlook on the economy writ large. The goal for Bidenomics is to create more jobs, lower inflation, increase broadband Internet access, increase wages and more through key investments from Biden’s greatest hits. You know the ones, the ones from Congress, the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS Act, and the bipartisan infrastructure deal. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Bangers, all of them. 


Juanita Tolliver: Essentially, Bidenomics is the direct opposite of Reaganomics as investments go directly to the people first. Take a listen to how President Biden described Bidenomics during his Chicago visit yesterday. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] Today the U.S. has the highest economic growth rate, leading the world economies since the pandemic, the highest in the world. [applause] As Dick said, with his help we created 13.4 million new jobs, more jobs in two years than any president has ever made in four. [applause] In two. And folks. It’s no accident. That’s Bidenomics in action. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Whoa. I mean, at first I wasn’t sure about the name, but he said it there. [laughter] And I’m like, I kind of feel it. I’m kind of into it. 


Juanita Tolliver: On top of the name, he’s got a CVS length receipt full of facts and action to back it up. So that’s going to be really ridiculously difficult for Republicans to refute. I mean, that is unless they’re flip flopping, like Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville and trying to take credit for investments after they voted against all of it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Hmm. 


Juanita Tolliver: Honestly, I love that President Biden took time in his speech to call him out. And I want more of that petty like right now, because that’s my vibe. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, please. 


Juanita Tolliver: But petty aside, we wanted to get into the nitty gritty of Bidenomics. So we sat down with Jared Bernstein, President Biden’s top economic adviser. Jared, thanks for joining What A Day. 


Jared Bernstein: Thanks for inviting me. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So the word of the day today is Bidenomics, which we understand to be the direct opposite of Reaganomics. So can you walk us through the White House’s vision of Bidenomics and what it is? 


Jared Bernstein: It would be my great pleasure to do so. Uh Bidenomics means growing the economy from the middle out and the bottom up, which, as you say, is a very distinctly different proposition than top down trickle down economics, which argues that if you give big fat tax cuts to the wealthiest, that will somehow trickle down and uplift the economic prospects of the middle class, despite decades of evidence to the contrary, which President Biden is acutely aware of the terrible empirical track record of trickle down. At the same time, Bidenomics rests on three very empirically sound pillars. Pillar one, investment in smart public goods throughout this country. Whether we’re talking about affordable broadband access in rural areas, whether we’re talking about water systems, our ports, our airports, our bridges, our roads. Public investment doesn’t only [computer sound in background] reverse decades of disinvestment that devastated our infrastructure in the years of trickle down. It pulls in private investment in ways that are very important to us, particularly in areas uh that are represented in the CHIPS Act and in the Inflation Reduction Act. Pillar two, empowering and educating workers. The tight labor market over uh Biden’s presidency has been, I think, essential in that element of Bidenomics, and pillar three promoting competition to both lower costs, it’s very important in this environment to lower costs as well as to give small businesses a fair shake at getting ahead. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So what would you say the key economic issues are that the White House is trying to address with this plan? 


Jared Bernstein: Uh. Reversing the pretty negatively devastating effects of decades of trickle down. Those effects show up as high levels of inequality, of decades of disinvestment in America in deep and persistent budget deficits. Bidenomics through each one of those pillars actively reinvesting in the American economy, empowering the workforce and promoting competition. Those will push in the opposite direction. So I would say those are the three key economic strategies by which Bidenomics does what it does. 


Juanita Tolliver: So, Jared, you mentioned that this is all about reversing course and there’s no denying it. The Biden administration has made historic gains in terms of job creation, in terms of low unemployment rates. But those numbers don’t always match up with how people are feeling, as polling shows a 34% approval rating for Biden’s handling of the economy. So what’s the president’s plan to address the public’s concern and restore people’s confidence? 


Jared Bernstein: I think there are two parts to that Juanita. First of all is that uh we have to keep making progress against inflation. When the president says that’s his number one priority, he means it. And it’s actually embedded in Bidenomics, as you may recall, pillar three is um promoting more competition. And one of the reasons you promote more competition is to reduce costs. You’ve seen some of that in the Inflation Reduction Act, reducing the cost of prescription drugs by letting Medicare bargain for lower drug costs, reducing the cost of insulin, reducing the cost of clean energy, [computer sound] and continuing to push on this trend where year over year inflation has fallen for 11 months in a row. Now, that’s a great trend, but it’s not great enough. Our work is not done. We’re not back to where we need to be. 4% inflation is still elevated, but it’s certainly better then 9%. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Jared Bernstein: So moving in the right direction. But we need to keep getting there. So that’s point one. Point two. You mentioned the polls. I think one of the things that happens when you poll people and there is real discomfort out there, we’ve gone through this pandemic. There’s been the war in Ukraine. It’s been elevated inflation. Yes, it’s coming down, but it needs to come down further. So that’s out there. And that certainly colors people’s perspective. But it’s also the case and you folks know this as well as anybody. We live in very highly partisan times. And if you asked some of these 30,000 feet up questions, you’re going to generate partisan responses. People are going to get into their tribal positions. 


Juanita Tolliver: Mm hmm. 


Jared Bernstein: If you ask people specifically about the granular aspect of Bidenomics, if you ask them how they feel about investment in broadband, about repairing our infrastructure, if you go to Flint and you ask people how they feel about clean water. 


Juanita Tolliver: Ooh, name it. 


Jared Bernstein: [laugh] You know, replacing the lead pipes with new piping there, if you ask people how they feel about their job quality right now, we have a 36 year high in people saying they’re happy with the quality of their jobs. If you get down to some of the specific things that we’re trying to do with Bidenomics, you get poll results that are north of 70% or higher. 


Juanita Tolliver: Surprise, surprise. 


Jared Bernstein: Yeah. No, I think it’s important. I’m not discounting the discomfort with a lot of the things that have gone on. No question. But remember, Bidenomics is about delivering to the broad middle class, building the economy from the bottom up and the middle out. Through these kinds of projects that are underway, 35,000 projects underway in 4500 communities across the country. I think that’s a really important area to drill down on. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I’m glad you you mentioned all of these people who will be impacted by this. I wanted to get a little more concrete and specific about, you know, what this plan means for working class people, low income Americans, who are all, you know, feeling the effects of inflation, struggling to make ends meet right now. How will this plan help these people? And what are some concrete examples that, you know, we should be using when we’re talking about it? 


Jared Bernstein: I think one of the reasons why you get very significant majorities, well over 70% saying they support the bipartisan infrastructure law, saying they support standing up a domestic semiconductor industry, saying they support building electric vehicle batteries here is because they know that means good jobs for the future. So we have a very solid labor market that’s really important. The unemployment rate has been below 4% for a year and a half, and that’s delivering the goods for people who depend on low unemployment to have a little bit of bargaining clout. Remember, that’s pillar two of uh Bidenomics, empowering workers through tight labor markets. That helps us today. And, you know, look, it’s very important for an investment agenda to have a near-term component like that. But any investment agenda that’s worth its salt also has a longer term component. So if we commit to on shoring jobs to domestic production to buy American, as you heard the president talk about today, that has a positive lasting impact to draw on these labor market benefits while we continue to work to bring inflation down. And that’s very much the goal. Now, look, I think there’s a fair question as to what kind of indicator would suggest that we’re getting there. And one very powerful one in that space is real wage gains, because one of the things we want to see is a tight labor market generating wage growth while inflation eases. And in fact, since June, real wages are up. Uh. They’re up for low wage workers, they’re up for middle wage workers. In fact, they’ve been growing faster for lower wage workers. So we have to build on that, keep the labor market tight, keep the job market progressing while we continue to do all we can, including promoting more competition to bring prices down. 


Juanita Tolliver: That was our conversation with Jared Bernstein, President Biden’s top economic adviser. And you heard him, be on the lookout for more action and impact from these investments. Already, inflation is down 50% compared to last summer. Gas prices are down a $1.30 compared to last summer. And, you know, that means a lot for me on my road trips. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: As well as insulin prices being capped at $35 now 


Priyanka Aribindi: Huge. 


Juanita Tolliver: And more is on the way. Of course, we will keep you all updated on all of this in the weeks and months ahead. But that’s the latest for now. [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yusef Salaam, a member of the exonerated Central Park Five, is on track to win a Democratic primary for a city council seat in Harlem. As of Wednesday, Salaam had 50.1% of the vote, with about 95% of all votes counted. He is running up against New York Assembly members Al Taylor and Inez Dickens, who are both trailing behind on Wednesday. Dickens, who’s in second place, had just 25% of the vote. Because New York City uses a ranked choice voting system. A candidate is declared a winner only once they have received more than 50% of the first choice votes. Though the official results have yet to be finalized. Salaam is taking the lead in the primary and declared victory on Tuesday night. Take a listen to what he had to say. 


[clip of Yusef Salaam] This campaign has been about those who have been counted out. This campaign has been about those who have been forgotten. 


[clip of person listening to Yusef Salaam speak] Right. 


[clip of Yusef Salaam] This campaign has been about our Harlem community who has been pushed into the margins of life. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly 


Juanita Tolliver: No lies detected at all. Speak on it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s an inspiring and remarkable story to see what he is doing. Salaam’s run for office comes decades after he and four other teenagers were wrongly accused, convicted and imprisoned for the rape of a woman in Central Park in 1989. He and the four others were exonerated by DNA evidence in 2002. 


Juanita Tolliver: Millions of Americans are under air quality alerts as smoke from Canada’s wildfires continues to sweep across the country. The Midwest is being hit particularly hard this week, and multiple Midwestern cities, including Chicago, experienced some of the worst air quality in the world Tuesday night. Meanwhile, the air quality in Detroit, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh was very unhealthy for residents Wednesday morning. Even for folks without preexisting conditions. This comes as Canada is experiencing its worst fire season ever recorded, with nearly 500 active fires which have burned over 29,000 square miles. But we’re not the only ones feeling the effects of these fires. Earlier this week, some of the smoke even reached parts of Western Europe. The National Weather Service has said that the poor air quality in the Midwest could last for a couple more days. And until the air quality improves, experts are urging people to stay inside as much as possible. I mean, I think we all need to brace for impact. We got some of that burnt air down here today. So be safe out there. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Everybody stay inside. If you are in one of these areas, it’ll pass. And this is just like another reminder of what a dire situation our planet is in and how badly we have needed to act. More than 300 actors, including Jennifer Lawrence, Quinta Brunson and Meryl Streep, signed on to a letter this week urging SAG-AFTRA leadership to not back down in negotiating talks with the big studios. As you’ll recall, earlier this month, the Screen Actors Guild voted to authorize a strike if a new contract isn’t reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers by June 30th. An excerpt from the letter reads, quote, “We feel that our wages, our craft, our creative freedom and the power of our union have all been undermined in the last decade. We need to reverse those trajectories.” Included in the actors demands are improved compensation and benefits regulated use of artificial intelligence in the industry, which is same for the writers and residuals that reflect the value of their contributions as streaming services continue to expand. That one is huge. SAG-AFTRA’s potential work stoppage comes amid the writers strike, which is nearing its two month mark. Solidarity with the writers and with the actors if they end up heading to the picket lines as well. Solidarity with everyone here on WAD. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. Strike everybody right now. Seven time Olympic medalist Queen Simone Biles is back at it, y’all. She’s planning to compete at the U.S. Classic in Illinois come early August. Biles has been on a hiatus from the competitive gymnastics world since she pulled out of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental health, which was a brave and worthy move as she was expected to dominate that year. At the time, Biles was dealing with both the pressure of being the highly promoted star of her events. Plus, she was still processing the very public trial and condemnation of her sexual abuser and former gymnastics team doctor Larry G. Nassar. As of late, Simone has been living her best life, y’all. She got married, she’s building a house and she’s running her gymnastics gym. Truly, I’m just excited for her to get back out on the mat and thrive. And anyone who talks shit about her mental health break. Let me see you do her floor and bar routine, and then we can talk. But you can’t touch it. You can’t match it. She’s the fucking goat. Period. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously, I was so excited when I saw this news. This is exciting for anybody who who just likes watching people be really fucking good at their craft because that is exactly what Simone Biles is. 


Juanita Tolliver: Period. 


Priyanka Aribindi: She’s amazing, and she’s just so fun to watch so like, I I mean, I’m thrilled for her, but I’m also thrilled for me. [laughing] I’m also thrilled for me because I get to watch it. 


Juanita Tolliver: I deadass told my husband, if she’s going to Paris, then we’re going to Paris. So buckle up. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We’re going to Paris. 


Juanita Tolliver: Because here we go. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: Hell yeah, I’ll join. [laugh] It will be a great trip, the three of us. [laughter] And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads. 




Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, WAD squad. And today we want to end off with a check in on a story that we have been covering on this show for quite some time now. Starbucks Workers United, the Union which represents thousands of Starbucks baristas, managers and staffers nationwide is currently on strike after accusing the coffee chain of banning Pride decorations in some stores. Starbucks has repeatedly denied the accusation and even filed a National Labor Relations Board complaint against the union, accusing it of, quote unquote, “misrepresenting the company with these allegations.” But the union maintains that its members have been told to take down their rainbow displays or told not to decorate for pride at all this year, despite it being a widespread tradition at Starbucks locations across the country. 


Juanita Tolliver: Look, this action from Starbucks is giving retaliation for demanding better work environments, retaliation for demanding better wages, and it’s pretty fucked up that it’s targeted towards LGBTQ, like celebrations. Like what the fuck? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously. On yesterday’s show, we covered how workers at more than 150 locations have walked off the job to protest this. They have engaged in an unfair labor practice strike over this change in decorations policies demanding that Starbucks stop their well-documented union busting campaign that the union says has significantly impacted its LGBTQ+ workers. So many workers walked off the job that they ended up closing down 21 Starbucks cafes over the last weekend, including at the company’s flagship roastery in Seattle. And they are still going strong as strikes are expected to continue through the end of Pride month as workers demand that Starbucks really show up for their queer workers, especially as they work towards negotiating a fair labor contract. 


Juanita Tolliver: Look, I said it before, everybody strike immediately. And if you are one of those daily Starbucks drinkers, I’m going to urge you to not for the rest of the month, please. Thanks. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, let’s rethink that habit if you haven’t already. So to learn more about the strike and the latest from Starbucks Workers United, I spoke earlier with Alisha Humphrey. She is a Starbucks barista and a union organizer from Oklahoma City. I started by asking her what her reaction was to hearing that baristas in several states were banned from decorating for Pride Month. 


Alisha Humphrey: It was absolutely, honestly devastating. Like, yeah, people will say, oh, it’s just decorations. It’s not that big of a deal. But we’re in a really chaotic pride month where conservative right wing hate is at an all time high. I’ve seen it myself– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Alisha Humphrey: –on social media. Like once we started announcing these, like I saw hundreds of hate comments congratulating Starbucks and saying, good, like good for them, you know, like, don’t cave to the queers. And so it was just really, really sad to work for a company that is allowing that to happen and also enabling that kind of feedback. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Typically, in a year before this year, for example, decorations went up and there were no issues around it? Like it was just like perfectly typical. Is that kind of how it went? 


Alisha Humphrey: So yeah, last year we had a giant pride flag like right behind the bar and it was up, everything was fine. We had some fun rainbow decorations in our cafe. No issue on that. And then this year, about three or four days before June, we were told that our district manager said, we couldn’t put up any decorations. Um. We couldn’t put up our flag. It made no sense. I didn’t understand why suddenly this company that prides itself on its LGBTQIA support would suddenly disallow it in a month where not only we need to show our pride, but also show that we’re a safe space for other queer people. Because I’m in a southern state, I’m in Oklahoma, you know, you don’t know where is hostile or not. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, and I just want to hear from you and maybe speaking on behalf of the people who you represent as part of your union. You know, why is it important to all of you that, you know, Starbucks takes the stand and allows these decorations to be here? 


Alisha Humphrey: So for me, I personally am a queer worker. So it’s very important on a personal level, a majority, I want to say, of our union baristas are also a part of the queer community. So it’s not just that we make up a big portion of it, but we deeply believe that queer rights, trans rights are also labor rights. Starbucks has great trans benefits, but you have to meet a 20 hour a week threshold and they’re cutting hours on union organizers and they’re firing queer workers. They’re closing stores that have had queer workers like you can’t say you support these kinds of communities and then make these people unemployed and fight back against them. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, I also understand Starbucks has filed an NLRB complaint accusing you all of misrepresenting the company. It causing, quote, “workplace tension” over all of this. What do you have to say about that and the characterization that they’re using here? 


Alisha Humphrey: It’s like the boy who cried wolf, but there’s no wolf. Any time. Every single NLRB filing that they filed against us has been dismissed. And district managers, store managers, we have proof of all of this, of all of them saying prior declarations aren’t allowed. And so it’s just astounding the amount of gaslighting they’re going to whenever they first released their first statement after the backlash started and saying that there is no corporate change. Why couldn’t we decorate then? Like, why did it take extreme negative media backlash for things to change? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. It’s been reported that Starbucks issued a memo to employees saying that it plans to make clearer guidance for store décor, what’s allowed, what’s not by the end of the year, which is a long time, what does the union think about all of that? Are you happy with the results that have happened so far? Do you want to see more action? How are you feeling at this point? 


Alisha Humphrey: So I’m always happy to see the evidence that strikes makes companies change, but I am extremely disappointed that they’re issuing that statement June, what, 26th, 27th when it came out? There’s how many days left of pride and the clarifications aren’t going to be out till the end of the year. And so it just doesn’t make a lot of sense. [laugh]


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. And this is one very large issue that’s happening in the context of many large issues with Starbucks. I mean, earlier this year we spoke with Michelle Eisen, one of the baristas who helped unionize the first ever Starbucks location to form a collective bargaining unit in Buffalo, New York. She told us that Starbucks had yet to reach an agreement with any of the 300 plus unionized locations. Are there any updates as of now on that front? What’s kind of next for all of you who are fighting for that? 


Alisha Humphrey: I wish I could say we had some better updates. We have complaints that have been filed about Starbucks failure to engage in good faith bargaining with them whenever they walked out of our Zoom bargaining. But they’re still trying to push as long as they can. And it’s really, really disappointing because not only is caring about your queer and LGBT workers important in the fact of like letting us decorate for pride and put our pride flags up, it’s also letting those workers negotiate for better pay, better benefits, and having workplace democracy. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with Starbucks barista and union organizer Alisha Humphrey. We will, of course, link to Starbucks Workers United in our show notes. You can learn more about how to get involved and support them as they work towards a contract. And we’ll also link to op eds that Alisha has written about the union’s demands, as well as her experience as a barista. [music break]




Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Support your local coffee shop and tell your friends to listen. 


Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just how to book a night at the Barbie Dream house like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Juanita Tolliver. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


[spoken together] And keep living your best life Simone Biles. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Do your thing.


Juanita Tolliver: I love this for her. I love that she’s thriving. I love that it’s on her terms. I love that she said, Oh, I can wait till the last minute if I want to cause I’m that fucking great period. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. All I want to know is this competition going to be televised and where can I watch it? 


Juanita Tolliver: It is August 5th. Tune in. [laugh] 


Priyanka Aribindi: All right. Perfect. [music break] What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers. Our intern is Ryan Cochran, and our senior producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. [music break]