In This Episode
- A new report by the Labor Department shows that inflation continued to spike last month. Consumer prices jumped 6.2 percent between October of this year and last year. That’s the fastest pace since 1990. We also dive into the supply chain issues and labor shortage felt in everyday life.
- And in headlines: Kyle Rittenhouse took the stand yesterday, victims of the lead water crisis in the Flint, MI, get a $626 million settlement, and 2021 is now the deadliest year on record for transgender and non-binary people in the U.S.
- Wall Street Journal: “Is Santa Claus Coming to Town? Maybe Not. Blame the Labor Shortage.” – https://on.wsj.com/3n3QQEn
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Thursday, November 11th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, where we’re honoring Paul Rudd’s publicist for getting him People’s Sexiest Man Alive.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m not saying that Paul doesn’t deserve that. I’m just saying someone was putting in the work.
Priyanka Aribindi: Someone was putting in the work and it wasn’t Paul. On today’s show, we update you on the homicide trial against Kyle Rittenhouse. Plus, the U.S. and China team up to announce a joint pledge on climate change.
Tre’vell Anderson: But first, a few weeks ago, we discussed some of the supply chain shortages that were causing all of our packages to be delayed, gas prices to rise, and my oxtail order to be the most expensive it’s ever been. Well, a new report yesterday by the Labor Department shows that inflation continued to spike last month. Consumer prices jumped 6.2% between October of this year and last year. That’s the fastest pace since 1990, so it’s looking like all of these issues might be ongoing for some time, and will definitely negatively impact the holiday season.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, things are not looking good for the fate of my Dyson Airwrap. But let’s spend some time revisiting what all of this means for the economy and for the president. And also, I mean, we could start by just talking about how this is impacting regular people.
Tre’vell Anderson: Definitely. Well, it means that we can all expect to continue paying more money for products than we did pre-pandemic and even just a few months ago. If you’ve been in the market for a new or used car, shortages have sent prices skyrocketing. Just moved and looking to buy a new couch, perhaps? Well, in addition to having to wait six months to get it, it’s also going to cost more. As well gas. Here in L.A., we’re already knocking on the door of $5 a gallon.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it is obscene out there driving past these gas stations. Really horrific to see. Let’s talk about food, though. What’s happening with, you know, everyone trying to feed themselves?
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. Well, when you go to the grocery store, especially as you start shopping for Thanksgiving or Kwanzaa or other winter holidays, you might see more empty shelves than normal. There’s a shortage on chicken, beef, eggs, diapers, fish, Sour Patch kids, certain Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors.
Priyanka Aribindi: That’s like every think.
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s literally everything. The situation is so bad that food banks nationwide are also struggling to assist those in need. For example, a jar of peanut butter is costing some food banks nearly double what it did two years ago. And I know that might sound like nothing, but when you have to buy hundreds and thousands of jars of peanut butter to ensure families have something to put in their stomachs, it starts to add up. Americans are spending 15% more on goods today than we did before the pandemic.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, so it’s not just in your head if you are looking at your receipt and like me are like, hey—
Tre’vell Anderson: You’ve got questions.
Priyanka Aribindi: —where’s this coming from? It’s not just you. So what’s bad for the White House in all of this is that sometimes people connect the prices that they’re seeing to what the people in power. But since we last spoke about this, the Biden administration announced a new arrangement with the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where 40% of the imports come in before heading out to the rest of the country. The ports under this agreement would operate 24-7 in hopes of speeding up the many delays that have been caused because of the pandemic. Has that helped alleviate what it was supposed to?
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, yes and no. By operating those ports 24-7, it allows various companies to ship and move their items during what’s considered off-peak hours. So shippers like FedEx and UPS made such a commitment, as well as retailers including Walmart, Target, Home Depot and Samsung. So that is happening and cargo jams are reportedly loosening now. But as we cautioned before, there are so many other issues at different points of the supply chain that it alone does not solve all of our issues. In fact, a newish concern the ports are currently navigating is a growing pile of shipping containers that are left at the import terminals for days on end, taking up space that should go to new containers that are being unloaded offshore to meet the holiday demand.
Priyanka Aribindi: What!? Hello! Need to keep it moving. What are we doing to figure that out?
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, so starting on Monday, the ports will be assessing daily fines on containers that sit around for more than six days if intended for rail transport, or nine days if intended for trucks. $100 for the first day past the deadline, 200 on the next, and so on.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Those seem steep. So maybe you don’t want to stay there?
Tre’vell Anderson: Maybe you don’t. The goal with this fine is to get things moving even faster about this move, Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said he hoped the program would be quote, “resoundingly unsuccessful” at bringing in revenue because quote, “the less money we collect, the more cargo is moving.”
Priyanka Aribindi: Gene Seroka, simply like the best person I have ever heard of in this type of role. Does not want the money, just wants people to get their presents.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes.
Priyanka Aribindi: Gene, you’re my vote for People’s Sexiest Man Alive. So we have those supply chain issues that we’re talking about. What other factors are contributing to the rise in prices that we’re all experiencing?
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, as we know, there are some labor shortages going around. Folks are leaving their jobs for a number of different reasons. Well, in response to that, America’s employers have had to hand out raises to their workers. In doing so, however, many of them have also raised prices for their products to offset those higher labor costs. Kind of tied into this is a Wall Street Journal story that says working Santas are in high demand this year but also in short supply, partly because some say they’re worried about being around unvaccinated children and adults. So the Santas who are still out there are charging more for their services. We’ll link to that story in our show notes.
Priyanka Aribindi: You know, I know we have a large, burgeoning audience of children listening to this show. If you are listening, you need to get vaccinated or else you’re not going to see Santa. That is your incentive.
Tre’vell Anderson: There it is.
Priyanka Aribindi: Go, go get that shot. Since we first started reporting about all of this, we have focused mostly on consumer goods, things that you know, people can shop for. But how is this affecting things outside of that category?
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. So all of this inflation is spreading to what had been slow-moving categories like rent or medical services, rather than staying confined to just pandemic-disrupted sectors like imported electronics or flight tickets. And of course, all of this continues to disproportionately impact lower-earning households, which already spend a significant portion of their incomes on things like food, rent and gas. The rate of inflation spells even more difficulty for them almost two years into a pandemic that many of them have already been on the front lines of.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m also wondering how this is impacting people outside of the U.S., the international community. It can’t just be us experiencing this, right?
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s definitely not just a U.S. problem. Prices have been accelerating in Europe and elsewhere as well, with inflation in the 19 countries that use Euros exceeding 4% last month. That’s the most in 13 years. And their energy prices spiked 23%, In Brazil, inflation soared more than 10% in the last year through October—higher prices for electricity, cooking, gas, meat and other staples have forced many Brazilians further into financial instability. And in China, the cost of goods leaving their factories surged by another record rate last month, jumping 13.5% year over year. Which means, by the way, to bring it back to the U.S., that all of your items that say made in China on the label are costing more, too.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yikes. OK, so I imagine this isn’t what the Biden administration had in mind after that press conference last month where we’re talking about the deal with the ports of L.A. and Long Beach. What are they saying now?
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So yesterday, President Biden acknowledged the ongoing price hikes, saying in a statement that quote, “reversing this trend is a top priority for me.” In the meantime, however, Republicans are obviously pointing fingers, as they do, at Biden and the Democrats, laying the responsibility for the surges at their feet because of the stimulus checks that households received earlier in the pandemic, as well as other pandemic policies. They’ve been calling this moment “Bidenflation” which, kudos to whomever came up with that. I thought it was very clever. I can’t give them too much credit, so I thought I would give them some here.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s good. I don’t want to say it. It’s good. But it’s wrong. It’s wrong.
Tre’vell Anderson: Now, obviously, the White House is pushing back, making sure to emphasize that we are where we are because of a once-in-a-century pandemic and not politics. And that Biden’s policies, in fact, including the infrastructure bill that cleared Congress last week, will over time expand capacity and help to cool inflation. We’ll obviously keep an eye out on this story, and I’ll be monitoring the price of my oxtails.
Priyanka Aribindi: Thank you for your service. This is critical journalism for the people.
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s all that I can do. I’m so proud of it. That’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot and killed two people last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin, took the stand in his highly-watched homicide trial yesterday. The now 18-year old traveled to Kenosha last year doing protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year old Black man. As part of his testimony, Rittenhouse claimed he went to protect businesses from property damage and to act as a medic. However, the prosecution questioned why he would need to bring an AR-15-style rifle with him and shoot three people. He currently faces seven total charges, but pleaded not guilty to all of them, saying he feared for his life at the time. During cross-examination, the judge paused the lead prosecutor twice over quote, “improper lines of questioning.” Because of that, Rittenhouse’s defense attorney requested a mistrial with prejudice. That would mean he wouldn’t face retrial if the judge granted that request, which he is considering.
Priyanka Aribindi: Big yikes. Do not like the sound of that. We are seeing some accountability in Flint, Michigan, with the news yesterday that a federal judge approved a $626 million settlement for victims of the lead water crisis in the city, to be paid mostly by the state. The Flint water crisis began in 2014, when the city overlooked risks and switched its water supply to Flint River from Lake Huron, and in doing so, exposed a city with mostly Black population to lead contamination. The crisis has been widely acknowledged as an example of environmental racism. Half of Flint’s 81,000 residents have signed up to receive part of the settlement, and the bulk of it will go to children who were under 18 when they were first exposed to the contaminated water. High lead levels in blood can and did cause developmental disorders for some of these children. After the judge’s order came through, one lawyer for the victim said quote, “although this is a significant victory for Flint, we have a ways to go in stopping Americans from being systematically poisoned in their own homes, schools and places of work.”
Tre’vell Anderson: 2021 is now the deadliest year on record for transgender and non-binary people in the United States. According to a study by the Human Rights Campaign, there have been 45 homicides of trans people this year, and most of the victims were Black or LatinX. In 2020, there were 44 recorded murders, but both of these numbers are likely to be undercounted because many crimes against trans people are either misreported or not reported at all. The study also said that trans women are four times more likely than cisgender women to be murdered. The head of the Human Rights Campaign, Joni Madison, said in a statement quote, “Each of these 45 names represents a whole person and a rich life torn from us by senseless violence driven by bigotry and transphobia.” Next week is Trans Awareness Week, and we’ll talk with Kate Sosin, the LGBTQ reporter for The 19th about that and the upcoming Trans Day of Remembrance.
Priyanka Aribindi: I am looking forward to that interview. There was a surprise at the COP26 climate summit yesterday when the U.S. and China announced a joint pledge to work together to slow global warming during this decade and ensure that this summit is a success. The U.S. and China are the world’s two biggest emitters of carbon dioxide, and obviously they’ve been incredibly competitive in other arenas, but this signal of cooperation was unexpected and heartening as the conference neared its end. Like other COP pledges, the agreement lacked concrete deadlines and commitments, and parts simply restated efforts that are already going on, but it was not at all expected that China would go beyond what they had already agreed to. This is reportedly the result of over 30 negotiation sessions. It’s still unclear whether or not China will now accept some of the conference’s other draft proposals, like ending domestic funding for coal. The country has been opposed to that in the past. But in this agreement, it did commit to reducing methane emissions and phasing down coal use quote, “as fast as is achievable.” Also, big news out of the COP, six major automakers and 30 national governments, not including our own, pledged yesterday to phase out sales of new gas and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040 worldwide and 2035 in bigger markets. The only downside to this news is that it ensures that Elon Musk will remain an unpleasant presence in our lives for many years to come.
Tre’vell Anderson: That’s a big downside. I’m just saying.
Priyanka Aribindi: [laughs] That’s a lot bigger than we giving credit for.
Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go: as you heard on WAD yesterday, the latest episode of Pod Save the World has Ben Rhodes calling in from the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, where he’s traveling with President Obama.
Priyanka Aribindi: Ben speaks to climate activist Hannah Martin and Luisa Neubauer, and former Secretary of State John Kerry about the intense climate negotiations in Scotland. New episodes of Pod Save the World drop every Wednesday. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
Tre’vell Anderson: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, salute service members for Veterans Day, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just People Magazine’s lists of the sexiest me alive like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
[together] And do your part and the salmon shortage!
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. What does that mean? Get vaccinated?
Priyanka Aribindi: I guess.
Tre’vell Anderson: That what that means.
Priyanka Aribindi: Or like pay Santas? I don’t know. I don’t know how we can do our part, but I’m trying.
Tre’vell Anderson: D, all of the above.
Priyanka Aribindi: Perfect.
Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine is our associate producer. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producers are Leo Duran and myself. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.