Debt On It  | Crooked Media
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January 17, 2023
What A Day
Debt On It 

In This Episode

  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the U.S. is on track to hit its debt ceiling by Thursday. The federal government has never defaulted on its debt, but House Republicans say they won’t lift the ceiling without spending cuts or other concessions.
  • House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reinstated coveted committee assignments to far-right members of his party – including Reps Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar. Both lawmakers were booted off their respective panels in the last Congress over controversial posts they made on social media.
  • And in headlines: a jury was seated in a case brought by Tesla shareholders against Elon Musk, China’s population dropped for the first time in decades, and climate activist Greta Thunberg was briefly detained during a protest in Germany.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, January 18th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What A Day where we’re assuming our invitations to the World Economic Forum’s Davos retreat got lost in the mail. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I spent weeks putting together some of the most heinous ski outfits that you have ever seen. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yikes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And now I have nowhere to wear them. 


Juanita Tolliver: I just hope some of your fluffy vests are returnable and that you kept the receipts friend. [music break] On today’s show, Tesla shareholders are taking Elon Musk to court over a four year old tweet. Plus, some urgent news for fans of Dolly Parton and baked goods. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, the U.S. is on track to hit the debt ceiling, a.k.a. the limit on how much money the federal government can borrow by tomorrow. So late last week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Congress that this was likely and said that after this Thursday, the Treasury would take, quote, “extraordinary measures” to make good on the country’s financial obligations, but only for the next few months. 


Juanita Tolliver: Translation, we’ve got some hard times ahead, y’all. But before we get into this, can you break down the basics? What is the debt ceiling and how has Congress dealt with it in the past? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. So the debt ceiling or the debt limit is the maximum amount of money that the federal government can borrow to fulfill its existing financial obligations. Think Social Security, Medicare, defense spending, the salaries of everybody who works for the government, all of those kinds of things. This is money the government has already spent, so it’s not anything new. And just so we’re all on the same page, the U.S. borrows tons and tons of money, trillions of dollars just to continue to function. So when we get into these kinds of situations, Congress pretty much always raises the debt ceiling to avoid default, which is what it’s called when someone fails to make the required interest payments or repayments on a debt. So if the U.S. ever did this and defaulted, it would be extremely difficult to get more money to keep the government running. I mean, nobody’s out there trying to lend money to someone who’s not paying them back. So the U.S. would become known as unreliable and if it was able to still borrow at all, the interest rates on that money would be crazy high and those rates would certainly get passed along to consumers. And of course, the stock market would tank. All of this would be very, very bad. And on top of all of that, because of how big of a player the U.S. is in the global economy, if we default, it would shake the financial stability of the entire rest of the world. So some economists have described this possibility as, quote, “financial Armageddon”, and they are uh very much not wrong. 


Juanita Tolliver: No exaggeration there. And it feels like the GOP is trying to take us to an uncharted territory because this has never happened before. Right?


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. So the U.S. has never actually defaulted on its debt, but we have come dangerously close to hitting our debt ceiling several times before. This is actually the second time it’s happened in the past two years. So usually when this happens, Congress just raises the debt ceiling. It’s kind of one of those things that makes you think money isn’t entirely real, but the consequences of reaching the limit are very real. So back in 2011, congressional Republicans squared off with then President Obama about whether or not they would raise the limit. We ultimately didn’t default, but in the lead up to this stocks took a dive. Borrowing rates skyrocketed. America’s credit rating was downgraded for the first time ever, and it took a while for the economy to recover. And today, House Republicans are still playing the same game. They like to say that they will not support raising the debt ceiling unless they get spending cuts or other kinds of concessions. Once again this isn’t money to pay for anything new. This is to make good on the financial commitments that the government has already made. So basically, House Republicans play chicken with the stability of the entire global financial system. Every single time this issue comes up. 


Juanita Tolliver: I mean, every single time, except for when Donald Trump asked them to raise it, which they did– 


Priyanka Aribindi: –Sure. 


Juanita Tolliver: –repeatedly while he was president. But uh how worried should we be about this threat now? 


Priyanka Aribindi: So according to Yellen, if Congress doesn’t act fast, the quote unquote, “extraordinary measures” that the Treasury Department could take to keep the U.S. afloat would work until about June. So we don’t have to immediately freak out. But after that point, if Congress still hasn’t raise the debt ceiling, the U.S. could default on its debt, which would perhaps be the most unprecedented thing of all of the unprecedented things we have ever talked about on the show. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I really hope it never comes to that. It would be a catastrophe in the truest sense of the word. On one hand, it would be hard to imagine this ever happening, but on the other hand, we’re dealing with House Republicans, this is not the brightest bunch. They don’t particularly care about anything except owning the libs and watching the world burn. They are increasingly willing to take us to the brink like this. And that should be an incredibly alarming prospect to all of us. It’s a really scary situation. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: To be here with them having all this power. Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: And remember, this is why McConnell wanted to handle government funding at the end of last year. He knew the extremist Republicans in the House were going to show their asses like this. So here we go again. And speaking of House Republicans, yesterday, Representative Kevin McCarthy made good on yet another promise he made to GOP extremists. In his haze of desperation to become speaker of the House as he doled out coveted committee assignments to the likes of Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene. Representative Gosar is set to get a seat on the Natural Resources Committee, and Representative Greene will sit on the Homeland Security Committee and the Oversight Committee. Get that.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I’m sorry, What? Like those are some– 


Juanita Tolliver: Girl. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –big name committees for some truly out of their mind people. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So that seems very not good. What’s going on here? [laughing]


Juanita Tolliver: Look, these are top spots for white nationalists, insurrectionists who were removed from their committee positions last Congress as Democrats held them accountable for their violent anti-Semitic rhetoric and online posts. And it only shows exactly who’s in charge of the GOP conference. It’s these extremists. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously, it is very, very alarming. 


Juanita Tolliver: I think we all need to just brace ourselves for the hot mess that will come out of these committees, especially since we know Greene is a conspiracy theorist who denies that September 11 even happened. Representative Ritchie Torres put it best tweeting, quote, “As the former vice chair of the House Homeland Security Committee. I’m horrified that it was just announced that Marjorie Taylor Greene will serve on the committee. A QAnon conspiracy theorist and January 6th insurrectionist doesn’t belong on a committee that exists to fight extremism.” I mean, no lies detected on my side, right? 


Priyanka Aribindi: None. 


Juanita Tolliver: So I think we all should be concerned about the implications here at a moment in time when domestic extremism is spiking off the charts with no end in sight. I mean, also consider the intelligence and information that Greene will have access to as part of that committee, as well as the inhumane immigration legislation that she will undoubtedly try to advance. Keep in mind that that committee also oversees critical materials and policies related to the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard, TSA, Customs and Trade. So this isn’t just some throwaway committee assignment. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No, it’s certainly not. It is a very high position to elevate this person to. And while we’re at it here, I got to ask about our resident fraud uh where did George Santos end up? What’s he doing? 


Juanita Tolliver: The homie. The homie made it out fine girl. 


Priyanka Aribindi: [spitting laugh] Great. 


Juanita Tolliver: McCarthy made it abundantly clear that Santos would get on a committee, even though McCarthy himself admitted he had questions about Santos’ campaign. And he knew that someone on Santos’ staff conducted fundraising calls pretending to be McCarthy’s previous chief of staff during the 2020 and 2022 election cycles. So McCarthy knows this man’s lies, and he’s still awarding him with not one but two committee assignments. I guess it plays to lie about everything in your life and your campaign. It’s like Joanne the scammer hit the jackpot in Congress and is free to scam at an entirely different level now. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously. 


Juanita Tolliver: Santos has been tapped to join the Small Business Committee and the Science Space and Technology Committee. And that’s nothing to scoff at either. Remember, the Small Business Committee is charged with monitoring the PPP loan program, and as Representative Torres pointed out, can a fraud like George Santos be trusted to root out rampant fraud in the PPP program? I mean, no. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely not. 


Juanita Tolliver: Hell no. [laughter] Like no. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No. 


Juanita Tolliver: And while Santos is busy being a fraud, guess who McCarthy is committed to removing from her committee, representative Ilhan Omar. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Great. Like I feel like I already know why, but uh please enlighten all of us. 


Juanita Tolliver: In his latest trick to show just how aligned he is with white nationalists and MAGA Republicans, McCarthy is targeting Representative Omar in the most harmful way while defending and promoting a fraud like Santos and domestic extremists like Greene and Gosar. McCarthy promised his supporters that he will remove Ilhan Omar last November, and he is looking to follow through on that promise now. Representative Omar has been consistent in naming that Republicans opposition to her is, quote, “It’s always been about Islamophobia.” And I’m glad she’s calling this out explicitly because it’s sickening to witness how she’s being treated and why she’s being targeted. And as Democrats await this action from McCarthy to remove Omar from her spot on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I hope we see them united in calling this out for what it is. We’ll definitely keep following this story as it unfolds. But that’s the latest for now. [music break] Let’s get into some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: New Mexico police have arrested a failed Republican candidate in connection to a series of shootings targeting six elected Democratic politicians in the state. Solomon Pena, who lost his bid for the state’s House of Representatives in November, was taken into custody on Monday. He is accused of hiring hitmen to shoot at the homes and offices of two county commissioners and two state legislators last month. Police also say that Pena allegedly confronted elected officials at their homes shortly before the shootings, falsely claiming that he won his race. Pena is the second suspect to be arrested in connection to the six shootings. Local and federal authorities say that he has been linked to four of them. 


Juanita Tolliver: Jury selections in a securities fraud trial involving Elon Musk and Tesla began yesterday. Long before Musk owned Twitter, he was still making terrible posts. But one in particular may have crossed the line of legality. Back in 2018, the Tesla CEO tweeted about taking Tesla private and that he had funding to do so. This caused company shares to spike and really pissed off shareholders who argued they lost money when the company was not bought out. Those shareholders are now seeing their day in federal court. They claim Musk lied in those tweets and never had the funding for the buyout. If the investors win, Musk and Tesla could be forced to pay billions of dollars in damages. Not ideal for the billionaire who recently broke the Guinness World Record for losing the largest amount of money by a single person ever. And this comes after Tesla’s stock drastically fell at the end of 2022, causing the price of its cars to drop as well. We’ll see if Musk ends up guilty as supercharged. [laughter] 


Priyanka Aribindi: The Chinese government said on Tuesday that the country’s population dropped for the first time in 60 years. Experts warned that this would happen since the Chinese birthrate began declining years ago. The waning population growth seems largely due to the country’s infamous one child policy. In recent years, officials have tried to reverse the trend by allowing families to have more children. Demographers say that a shrinking population could threaten the dominance of China’s workforce and in turn, the global economy. 


Juanita Tolliver: German police detained climate activist Greta Thunberg yesterday while she was protesting against the expansion of a coal mine. Thunberg, alongside thousands of other activists, recently protested the planned demolition of the village of Lützerath. This village has become a symbol of the climate movement in recent years, as scientists argue the mine’s expansion will unleash a significant volume of greenhouse gases. Videos from yesterday show Thunberg being peacefully carried out of the scene by three men as she smiles. I mean, what can we say? The girl stays unbothered. Drop the meditation app, Greta. This is the second time in three days Thunberg and others were physically removed from the area. Reuters reported she was released shortly after. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We got to stan an unbothered queen. We love Greta here. She’s just smiling away. They’re carrying her arresting her and she’s like, whatever it’s why I’m here. President Biden is set to visit California on Thursday to survey the damage caused by a series of winter storms that have devastated the state’s central coast. This visit comes after the ninth Atmospheric River hit California in the past three weeks, resulting in unprecedented precipitation for the drought state, according to White House officials, Biden will meet with first responders and state officials to see what recovery efforts are underway and to determine what federal aid is needed. Mother Nature made it rain and now it is Uncle Sam’s turn. 


Juanita Tolliver: Entertainer, patron saint of vaccination, and person to protect at all costs, Dolly Parton announced she’ll be expanding her collaboration with Duncan Hines to bring Cornbread Biscuit and brownie mixes inspired by the star’s family recipes to grocery store shelves beginning this month. Just to share some of the flavors in Dolly’s lineup, y’all. Get ready. Southern style coconut cake mix, banana cake mix, caramel turtle brownie mix, and creamy chocolate buttercream frosting. The country music star, who turns 77 years old tomorrow, has a multi-year partnership with the baking brand. And, you know, we will be following the new flavor [?]. Happy early birthday, Dolly. We will always love you. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: I cannot believe I did not know Dolly and Duncan Hines were doing a collab. 


Juanita Tolliver: These new flavors. Oh my gosh. 


Priyanka Aribindi: They sound so good. 


Juanita Tolliver: I was salivating reading these things. Like–


Priyanka Aribindi: I know. Seriously. And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]. 




Priyanka Aribindi: It is Wednesday WAD squad and today we are doing a segment called Bad Sound. 


Juanita Tolliver: Oh God. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Take a listen to today’s clip. 


[clip of Kyrsten Sinema] They go on my way or the highway did. Pelosi did it, McCarthy is doing it. This is not healthy for democracy. So I think that this is an opportunity for us as a country to look back and say, is this partisanship serving us? I would posit to you that it’s not. And so while some would say that there were reluctant folks working in Congress in the last two years, I would actually say that that was the basis for the productivity, for some incredible achievements that made a difference for the American people in the last two years. 


[clip of Joe Manchin] And we still don’t agree on getting rid of the filibuster. 


[clip of Kyrsten Sinema] That’s correct. 


Juanita Tolliver: I just have two middle fingers up to this woman every time she speaks and talks about some stupid shit like this. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Girl boss, you missed the mark on that. 


Juanita Tolliver: Not Girl boss. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, she definitely caught the girl boss there. Uh. Also, we missed the audio in there in that clip, she and Joe Manchin high five about the filibuster. There you don’t hear the like palm smacking, but they do it. That’s highly offensive to anybody who has wanted progress for however many years that we’ve been sitting here. Anyways, that was, of course, Kyrsten Sinema speaking on a panel next to Joe Manchin at the World Economic Forum’s annual Davos gathering, the elite weeklong event where world leaders and international billionaires gather in Switzerland to rub elbows and wear questionable outfits. Juanita, what are your thoughts on this clip? 


Juanita Tolliver: In addition to the middle fingers like Priyanka, literally two white Americans high fiving over the fact that they used the filibuster to block voting rights legislation, because that’s something to brag about with the billionaires of the world apparently. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: That’s what they’re doing. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s disgusting. They’re disgusting. Never liked them. Probably never will. 


Juanita Tolliver: 2024 is going to be a rough year for both of them. So we’ll just see how this pans out. 


Priyanka Aribindi: True. And that was bad sound. [music break]


Juanita Tolliver: One more thing before we go. We’re very excited to announce a new podcast that’s out today from our very own Josie Duffy Rice. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Woo! 


Juanita Tolliver: Unreformed is about a so-called juvenile reform school in Montgomery, Alabama, and what happened to the children who attended it back in the 1960s. It also tells the story of the five Black girls who escaped the institution and found someone willing to risk everything to help. We’ll be talking more about it next week. But for now, check it out and subscribe. You can find Unreformed wherever you get your podcasts. [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Banish Kyrsten Sinema from your short term memory and tell your friends to listen. 


Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just Dolly Parton cornbread recipes 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 stay cool Greta. 


Juanita Tolliver: That was pure serenity on her face. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously. 


Juanita Tolliver: Next level. 


Priyanka Aribindi: She’s always showing us up. She’s always shown us how to be. [music break] 


Juanita Tolliver: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lance. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jocey Coffman, and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.