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July 12, 2021
What A Day
Biden Vs. Big Business

In This Episode

  • President Biden signed an executive order last week aimed at boosting competition between businesses and discouraging monopolies. The order includes 72 initiatives, which will encourage the FTC to reinstate net neutrality rules, require airlines to disclose hidden fees, allow cheaper medications to be imported from Canada, and more.
  • The CDC issued guidelines for school districts to reopen this fall, while allowing local officials to tighten or loosen restrictions given factors like regional vaccination rates. There is a bump in cases of coronavirus in the U.S. right now, however, driven by pockets with lower vaccination rates.
  • And in headlines: turmoil in Haiti following the President’s assassination, record-high temperatures in the West, and Sir Richard Branson goes to space.




Akilah Hughes: It’s Monday, July 12th. I’m Akilah Hughes.


Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, congratulating the Italian national team for their win in the sport that we call soccer, but they call ‘soccer ball playing.’


Akilah Hughes: Right. I think the correct term in Europe is actually ‘soccer ball kicking into the goal contest.’


Gideon Resnick: [laughs] That is correct. And Italy is officially the best at it.


Akilah Hughes: You know, they deserve. Good for them. On today’s show, the CDC outlines how schools can reopen their classrooms this fall. Plus, we’ll have headlines.


Gideon Resnick: But first, the latest:


[clip of President Biden] We are now 40 years into the experiment of letting giant corporations accumulate more and more power. And what have we gotten from it? Less growth, weakened investment, fewer small businesses.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that was President Biden last Friday after signing an executive order with the aim to boost competition for businesses. The order has 72 initiatives spanning more than a dozen federal agencies. But let’s just focus on a few. So Akilah, what all is in here?


Akilah Hughes: All right. It’s a lot of good stuff. In a broad sense, the intent of the order is to get federal agencies to stop slacking on their duty to oversee big corporations and practices. And the ultimate goal is to encourage competition and discourage monopolies. The first and biggest thing that I noted in the order has to do with the Internet, which, as we all know, takes up too much of our time, but also is often slow to connect and spotty—we’ve all been there. Plus, when it comes to actually finding a provider, we unfortunately don’t get many options if we get options at all.


Gideon Resnick: Oh, yeah.


Akilah Hughes: The executive order encourages the Federal Trade Commission to reinstate net neutrality rules and find ways to stop or limit broadband providers’ ability to cut exclusive deals with landlords and neighborhoods. Anecdotally, so I used to live in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, and we had no fiber optic options. We just had Spectrum and it was very expensive and super shoddy. So I’m just relishing in the fact that these companies might actually have to offer great service at competitive prices because we won’t just be forced to use them anymore. But also, in the tech of it all, the administration is ordering agencies to actually scrutinize tech companies acquiring each other before everything on the planet just becomes Facebook.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I certainly do not want that. So this is a great start. What other industries are actually being targeted by the executive order?


Akilah Hughes: OK, so Biden also has his sights set on airline companies. Really just playing the hits of industries that have long screwed over their customers. Essentially, airlines will now have to disclose add-on fees for seats and baggage, and actually allow refunds on flights regardless of people paying hundreds for flight insurance, which I think makes sense. I mean, I’ve been booted from flights because they were oversold with no compensation. But if I want to bail, I have to pay? Screw that. Make it make sense.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. We are not for that here at WAD. I hope you’re listening. Another part of this executive order also takes a look at health care as well. What is that about?


Akilah Hughes: All right. So we all know that it’s too expensive. And though Medicare for All didn’t land in this order, there are some solid updates to our broken system. For example, the order will allow the import of cheaper drugs from Canada and more scrutiny of hospital mergers. So while it’s not everything we could dream of, for someone living with diabetes and expensive insulin options, this could really mean the difference between having to ration insulin and being able to actually manage their condition. Further on the health care front, the order makes it so that those with hearing loss can purchase hearing aids over the counter, which could end up saving them thousands of dollars.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so there’s health care, there’s tech industries—we mentioned another thing earlier, banking as well. What’s that about?


Akilah Hughes: All right. So I love this. The executive order makes it so that it’s easier to switch banks by requiring those institutions to allow their customers to take their transaction data with them, meaning it’s not going to be the end of the world to get your Netflix auto payment to shift over to the new bank. And it’s honestly kept me with bad banks for so long just because it’s been such a hassle.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, when I actually stop using other people’s accounts, this will be huge for me. And beyond just making businesses have to actually compete for our dollars, this also means better circumstances for workers as well.


Akilah Hughes: Yes. So that’s at least what the administration is betting on. In the White House press release, they make the point that without adequate competition for jobs in town, it’s harder for workers to negotiate for higher wages, and non-compete agreements make it really hard for contractors and retail workers to ever actually make more money. The Biden administration says that this lack of options cost the average family $5,000 per year. But beyond what I’ve mentioned, there’s a lot of affected industries in this order, and I don’t really have qualms with anything I’ve read. So to get you all more informed, we have a link to the White House statement in our show notes. And that’s the latest on this executive order. But Gideon, a few days ago, the federal government gave a big update on schools. Catch us up.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So late last week, the CDC issued guidelines to school districts for the fall— big topic, of course—to signal its strong desire to have those classrooms fully reopen. Now, the department acknowledged how insanely challenging remote learning has been for everyone involved, from students to teachers to parents. But while it recommended certain actions, the CDC is actually letting local officials decide what they actually do because of how vaccination rates vary widely in different areas.


Akilah Hughes: All right. So at a base level, what are those recommendations?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, it’s ones that we have come to expect. For one, they recommend masks indoors for everyone 2 and older who is not vaccinated. Also, they kept in place the distancing standard that kids are three feet away from each other inside a classroom—that’s as opposed to six feet. But they had a caveat where if all the kids in the class would not be able to fit into a room with three feet between them, then, schools could use other tactics, like more indoor masking, different ventilation, et cetera, and so forth. The CDC also said that schools themselves should be actively promoting vaccination. And of course, because it’s ultimately in the hands of localities, districts can tighten or loosen possible restrictions given factors like vaccination rates and the spread of the Delta variant. And already we’re seeing how some states are already going their own way. So California, for instance, just said that they want all students masked up regardless of vaccination status. And of course, there’s the opposite, where more than half a dozen states like Texas and Iowa have banned masks requirements outright.


Akilah Hughes: OK, well, may the odds be ever in the favor of those kids. [laughs] And one of the big, obvious, tricky aspects to all of this is that the government hasn’t yet declared that it’s OK for children under the age of 12 to get a vaccine until the studies are finished.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s right. Which is kind of why it’s going to be a bit of a choose your own adventure in regards to the other mitigation efforts, depending on where you are, distancing, masking, et cetera. And it sounds as though people are expecting some bumps along the road here. Randi Weingarten, the President of the American Federation of Teachers, told The New York Times that masking could be a challenge, for instance, in a class that might have students 12 and older with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated kids within it.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, that does seem complicated. But back to Delta for just a second. So there’s a bump in the country’s cases, driven by pockets with lower vaccination rates. And as of last Saturday, the U.S. reported the most cases in a day since mid-May. We’re not even at two weeks past the Fourth of July, so I’m expecting that to rise. And as we talk about returning to the classroom this fall, there’s been a recent discussion about possible booster shots. So where does that stand?


Gideon Resnick: Whew. It is all over the map. So as we mentioned last week, Pfizer is in the process of figuring out a vaccine that is more specifically tailored to Delta. And they also said that according to their own studies, a booster was helpful. But then the Department of Health and Human Services quickly put out this statement saying that fully-vaccinated Americans do not need a booster at the moment. And yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci took on the topic as well. Here is what he said on boosters during CNN’s State of the Union:


[clip of Dr. Fauci] There’s a lot of work going on to examine this in real time to see if we might need a boost. But right now, given the data that the CDC and the FDA has, they don’t feel that we need to tell people right now you need to be boosted.


Akilah Hughes: I mean, I can’t wait till they tell me I need to be boosted, [laughs] but uh, when can we expect more info on all of this?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, apparently soon. So Pfizer is going to be briefing some top U.S. health officials on this as soon as today. And apparently one of the primary focuses is whether a booster could be needed specifically for elderly and vulnerable populations. And we are already seeing places here and abroad try to contend with this very question in the face of these increasing infections from Delta. Israel, for example, announced yesterday that it will reportedly offer a third Pfizer dose to adults with weakened immune systems.


Akilah Hughes: Right. So, unfortunately, we will have to keep tabs about this as time goes on. But on schools reopening while the threat of the Delta variant is still out there, we’ll have a special guest to talk about it later this week.


Gideon Resnick: We’ll have Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona joining us on Thursday to answer some of these simple questions—I am kidding—like what reopened classrooms might look like and much, much more. And if you have specific questions you want answered, you can tweet at us. You can find my email. I’m sure you’re capable of that, DM me whatever. But that is the latest for now.


Akilah Hughes: It’s Monday, WAD squad, and today’s temp check, we are talking about sausage math. So a new petition from Heinz Ketchup is trying to solve an age-old summertime food problem by calling for hot dogs and buns to be sold in the same quantities. In their, quote, “Heinz Hot Dog Pact,” the company points out that hot dogs usually come in packs of 10, while buns come in packs of 8. They want, quote, “big bun and big wiener” to find a number that works for both of them, so we can stop eating our last two hot dogs on sandwich bread, hamburger buns, or, as I like to say, ‘straight, no chaser.’ Heinz claims they don’t make hot dogs so they can’t solve this problem alone. We’ll pretend for a second that Heinz and Oscar Mayer don’t have the same parent company so we don’t ruin their ad campaign. By last night, about 24,000 people had signed the petition. So Gideon, do you support this movement, and has this problem personally affected you in the past?


Gideon Resnick: I definitely support this movement. I can’t recall a time where I’ve been at an event where I’ve had to resort to the bread, but I’ve definitely had a hot dog wrapped in a slice of bread at home. And there’s just no reason for that. You know?


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it’s pretty embarrassing.


Gideon Resnick: It’s, it’s super embarrassing. The personal trauma that I went through, you know, individually during that experience has really haunted me in a number of ways. And in fact, this is one of the first times that I’ve shared it. So in essence, I, despite the, you know, ad campaign here that we can see with our third eyes, I do support this, in fact. What about you?


Akilah Hughes: I mean, I’m here for it. You know, I’m not opposed to just eating a hot dog, dipping in it in mustard and being like a real pig that I am. But if they want, you know, me to be socially acceptable and they want to provide the right amount of buns, I’m here for it. I also think that, like, I’m the kind of person who will just buy as much of however many to even out the numbers. And then you just have way too many hot dogs and buns at a party because you’re like, well, now we’ve hit it. I can’t do the quick math to figure that out. I’m sure someone will tell me on Twitter. But yes, I think that that’s right. You know, you just got there. You got to get 80 of each [laughs] and then you’re good. Maybe, yeah, I think it must be 80. It might be 40. We don’t know for sure, but it’s a lot. It’s too many hot dogs for one party. I don’t have that many friends. But just like that we checked our temps. Stay safe, if you’re a hot dog, just like, you know, meet some more buns, and we’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: Haiti is still in a state of political turmoil after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last week. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph and Senate President Joseph Lambert are both vying for Moise’s Spot. Lambert has the overwhelming support of lawmakers who are calling for a completely new government and leading efforts to oust Joseph. Back in the U.S., a team of FBI and Homeland Security officials are working to help with the investigation into Moise’s assassination. The White House and Pentagon are still reviewing the Haitian government’s request to send American troops to help secure the country. But so far, Biden administration officials have expressed resistance to the idea.


Akilah Hughes: Checking in on the live effects of climate change on our planet, the West Coast is currently experiencing record-shattering heat levels across the region. Over the weekend, Death Valley reached a whopping 130 degrees Fahrenheit, making it potentially one of the highest temperatures ever recorded on Earth. Yeah, it is untenable. More than 31 million people are under some kind of excessive heat advisory as they experienced the third heat wave to hit the coast this summer. Wildfires broke out in parts of northern California, Nevada, Oregon and Arizona, forcing the closures of national parks and evacuation orders for people nearby. The Southwest is experiencing a similar heat dome effect that the Pacific Northwest experienced late last month, where hot, dry ground makes temperatures dangerously hot.


Gideon Resnick: I am tired of hearing about records in all these categories.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I don’t want anymore. Well, look forward to more records every year.


Gideon Resnick: I don’t like it. Our nation’s most stylish party animals are still throwing ragers in spite of the pandemic. In Plains, Georgia, this weekend, former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary at an event attended by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Raphael Warnock, Garth Brooks—that man is truly everywhere—and more. Jimmy is 96 and Rosalynn is 93. They drew a crowd of 350 people to their celebration in Plains, which has about 700 residents and no traffic lights, kind of making it more of a ‘realistic train set’ than an actual town. Bill and Hillary Clinton were also there, despite the rocky history between the Carters and the Clintons. Jimmy didn’t endorse Bill during his 1992 presidential campaign, saying, quote, “People are looking for somebody who is honest.” Wow! Jimmy. And in 2008, he endorsed Obama over Hillary and encouraged her to, quote, “give it up.” At 75 years, the Carters’ marriage is now the longest of any presidential couple. Here is to 75 years more.


Akilah Hughes: Yes. Good for them. Happy for them. Yesterday, mankind crossed a new frontier in the quest to send rich people on more exclusive vacations as Sir Richard Branson became the first spaceship company owner to ride one of his own vehicles to space, Branson and his crew traveled about 53 miles above the Earth’s surface, allowing them to experience weightlessness. Obviously, the trip led to some deep thoughts about humankind’s place in the universe, which Branson summed up as he glided back to Earth. He said, quote, “I’ve done some ridiculous things in my lifetime, but that was truly, truly ridiculous.” That is a real quote. [laughs] Not exactly as eloquent as other space people, but fine.


Gideon Resnick: No.


Akilah Hughes: All this might make you send a care package and a kind note to Jeff Bezos, whose July 20th space flight was going to make him the first astronaut billionaire until Branson changed his own launch date. But don’t worry, Bezos’s company, Blue Origin, let everyone know that Branson’s trip didn’t really count by pointing out in a statement last week that it was, quote, “not flying above the Karman line, and it’s a very different experience.” The Karman Line is at 62 miles of altitude, so just nine more miles I guess. It’s the internationally-recognized boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. Bezos will cross it in two weeks, reminding the whole world and all the aliens that the best space barons are made right here in the USA.


Gideon Resnick: I honestly don’t care because Tyrese and Ludacris already passed the Karman line, so I’m good.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, honestly, I, I feel you. I think that that’s good news and good for Luda. And those are the headlines. [laughs]


Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, don’t forget the Karman line, and tell your friends to listen.


Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just the guest list at 75 anniversary parties like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Akilah Hughes.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And keep partying it up in Plains!


Akilah Hughes: That’s right. Don’t look too gigantic next to them. That’s scary. We want 75 more years


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. You cannot be large if you go to Plains.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it’s the first rule.


Gideon Resnick: First rule.


Akilah Hughes: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media.


Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.


Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers.


Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran, Akilah Hughes and me.


Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.