In This Episode
- New GDP numbers released by the Commerce Department show that the size of the economy has risen above pre-pandemic levels, but an increased spread of coronavirus could slow that growth. Relatedly, the federal government announced several plans and ideas to address the vaccination slowdown, including cash incentives and reimbursement for federal employees who get the shot.
- Congressional Democrats might include a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers and undocumented essential workers in their party’s $3.5 trillion spending bill. The matter is extremely pressing since a federal judge ruled this month that DACA was illegal, and that Biden promised to create a more humane immigration policy while on the campaign trail. We spoke with DACA recipients to get their thoughts on the current situation.
- And in headlines: Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney, Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” hit 1 billion views on YouTube, and Sunisa Lee took gold in gymnastics for Team USA.
- Plus, it’s hard to believe, but it’s our last episode with Akilah as a full-time host. We send her off in style.
Akilah Hughes It’s Friday, July 30th. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, featuring podcasting’s answer to Sonny & Cher, Hall & Oates, Daft Punk, et cetera, et cetera.
Akilah Hughes Yeah, Simon & Garfunkel, Teagan & Sarah, all the musical duos were out here.
Gideon Resnick: This is something someone else said about us, by the way.
Akilah Hughes Yeah, well, they have good taste and we are musicians, as you know.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, they nailed it. On today’s show, Suni Lee becomes the fifth American woman in a row to win the gymnastics all-around at the Olympics. Plus, we’re never going to give you up, times a billion. Rick-rolling hits a milestone on YouTube.
Akilah Hughes Yeah, but first, the latest on the economy and a throwback to last year:
[clip of President Trump] When this is defeated, this hidden scourge is defeated, I think we’re going to go up very rapidly, our economy, and get back to where it was and beyond.
Gideon Resnick: Scouurge? I just want to—scouurge?
Akilah Hughes [laughs] Not scourge, scouuurge. Ok, so that was the guy who lost his reelection bid this past November, speaking on March 19th, 2020. And he’s talking about how the economy was going to just bounce back the moment the pandemic ends. So two things. One, so glad we don’t have to hear from him anymore. Like, thank God. And two, it appears the economy is back and better than ever, even before the end of the pandemic. So let’s start today by talking about that.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And this is based on new statistics that were released by the government yesterday. So Akilah, can you give us a rundown of those actual numbers that we’re seeing that are suggesting that the economy is now bigger than before the pandemic?
Akilah Hughes Sure. But to be clear, all of this should be taken with a grain of salt, seeing as the continuing spread of COVID-19 can and will impact how long these numbers even matter. So at the moment, the U.S.’s GDP accelerated at a rate of 6.5% between April and June. The GDP, by the way, is the measure of how many goods and services the country makes. In pure dollars, that meant that the country’s GDP jumped to $19.4 trillion, and right before the shit hit the fan, America’s GDP in the last quarter of 2019 was $19.2 trillion.
Gideon Resnick: OK, so the economists in the room are saying that is great, but with an asterisk.
Akilah Hughes Yes. So that growth is actually smaller than what they expected for that time period. And that also has to do with the fact that a bunch of people who can get vaccinated and haven’t, are prolonging the pandemic even now. Economists assumed very stupidly that most people would actually try to do their part and help out.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, always assume the worst, in my opinion. But let’s talk about that for a second, because the increased spread of the Delta variant, or any future mutations of the virus, could throttle all this growth. And just yesterday, the government announced different plans and ideas to address the vaccination slowdown that we’ve seen in the country overall. So what’s the news there, so we can stay on the up and up?
Akilah Hughes Well, President Biden called on state and local officials to offer cash incentives. Here he is”
[clip of President Biden] I’m calling on all states and local governments to use funding they have received, including from the American Rescue Plan, to give $100 to anyone who gets fully vaccinated. I know that paying people to get vaccinated might sound unfair to folks who’ve gotten vaccinated already, but here’s the deal, if incentives help us beat this virus, I believe we should use them.
Akilah Hughes Boo. OK, Mr. President, my personal opinion on that is that that’s horseshit. I don’t know who raised y’all, but reinforcing negative behavior, in this case spreading an infectious disease when a vaccine is free and widely-available in our country, is a bum move. Like why not give everyone who is vaccinated already a $1,000? Then once the newbies hit the two week post-vax mark, send them a check, too.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I will accept the $1,000. I’ll just put that out there for the record.
Akilah Hughes Same. I’m ready. Pocket is open.
Gideon Resnick: Biden also announced that the federal government will reimburse employers who give their workers time off to get vaccinated. Plus government employees themselves are actually going to face a mandate.
Akilah Hughes That’s right. So Biden spelled out his plan for every federal employee and onsite contractor to be required to receive a vaccine or be forced to wear a mask and be tested regularly to prove that they’re not ill. Here he is again:
[clip of President Biden] We all want our lives to get back to normal, and fully-vaccinated workplaces will, will make that happen more quickly and more successfully.
Akilah Hughes So some federal unions, however, are pushing back, saying that the president should negotiate with them first before implementing a rule, blah, blah, personal liberties, or some shit.
Gideon Resnick: OK, so that’s the federal plan. But if the unvaccinated among us are not swayed by these cash or these mandates, let them know what you’re thinking, on your last day of WAD?
Akilah Hughes OK. Absolutely. And for people that need something to say to the hesitant people in your life, go ahead and record this to play back for them. Here we go. The people who have done the right thing this whole time are tired of carrying you on our backs. There are children out there right now who cannot get vaccinated, and their parents are now being forced back into offices and jobs to work with you, a person who has no reason not to get vaxxed except for research you found on Facebook from the dumbest person in your family. I’m sick of it. Grow up. All right. The vaccine has been proven safe and effective for most people, and your resistance is just making your own miserable life less bearable and making this country worse off. Get vaccinated, and then get a life, in that order.
Gideon Resnick: Mmm.
Akilah Hughes Mmm. All right. Well, Gideon, let’s turn to something else the federal government is still trying to fix: the country’s immigration system. It is still a hot mess. So you’ve been following some new movement on this over the past few days. Where do things stand now?
Gideon Resnick: OK, so for one thing, there was this agreement on the bipartisan infrastructure package. A favorite topic of everyone here, I’m well aware.
Akilah Hughes Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: If you’re wondering where I’m going with this on immigration, stay with me for a second. So, that infrastructure bill excluded a lot of important stuff. So Democrats in the Senate have been focused on this other spending proposal that’s worth $3.5 trillion. This plan is likely going to include major priorities that were cut from the infrastructure bill, things that target: climate change, child care, health care—small things that we need to sustain our lives. And this package could be passed via the reconciliation process and not need Republican support. But then there’s one other major addition that could make its way into this: immigration reform. We’re talking about a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, people with temporary protected status, perhaps even undocumented essential workers. And just yesterday, Biden himself met with nearly a dozen congressional Democrats to discuss the next steps here. He reportedly came out of that meeting saying he wanted the immigration proposal in there.
Akilah Hughes Good. That seems like the only rational thing to feel. And this has taken on even more urgency given that federal judge ruling from a few weeks ago. So what’s the latest on that?
Gideon Resnick: Yes, a quick refresher here. On July 16th, a federal judge in Texas ruled that DACA was illegal and blocked new applicants. Current DACA recipients could still keep their status and renew. But the ruling locked out the new applications of an estimated 300,000 or so teens and young adults who could potentially qualify. Plus, CBS News reports that there were already tens of thousands of first-time applicants by the end of June. But after that ruling, they can’t be approved. And almost immediately after the ruling came down, President Biden said that the administration would appeal it, but didn’t give an immediate timetable.
Akilah Hughes Yeah, but activists have started to beat the drum for lawmakers to do more. So what’s happened in there?
Gideon Resnick: Well, a lot of finger pointing, also a lot of it at Democrats specifically. Politico published this recent memo from immigration advocacy groups to Democrats in Congress. It started with this, quote, “Citizenship for undocumented immigrants in America can no longer remain an unfulfilled campaign promise for the Democratic Party.”
Akilah Hughes That’s right. That’s true. And we’ve heard from some DACA recipients ourselves who share that same sentiment because this is not just some political decision for them. Like this is people’s lives hanging in the balance. So what do they have to say?
Gideon Resnick: Well, first, here’s Denea Joseph. She is a DACA recipient who came to the U.S. from Belize when she was seven years old. She said that she, too, wants Biden and Democrats to make immigration a priority while they’re in power.
[clip of Denea Joseph] It was still extremely disappointing that we managed to survive DOCA under the Trump administration to now have it be almost eviscerated under this new administration.
Gideon Resnick: Joseph also said that it was disheartening to still have to fight for this”
[clip of Denea Joseph] DACA was meant to be a temporary solution until Congress could act and provide access to opportunities and pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth and for the other 11.5 million people. So the fact that we’re now fighting for the bare minimum nine years later speaks to the fact that there is a lack of willingness to really provide something more permanent.
Akilah Hughes Yeah, I mean, as tired as I am of waiting for it, I can’t imagine what it must be like for them.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Akilah Hughes And we also heard from my friend and a former guest of the show, Justino Mora. He’s a 2012 DACA recipient, and co-founded the organization “Undocumedia,” which advocates for dreamers and undocumented groups. What did he have to say?
Gideon Resnick: Similar stuff. You know, Mora said that he was disappointed by this happening all under full Democratic control in Washington.
[clip of Justino Mora] Biden, even before when he was running for the office, he was very clear with his words. He said, I’m going to make immigration one of my top priorities. And he did end up signing some sort of executive order confirming his commitment to the DACA program on day one. But that didn’t mean much because of what we’re currently going through.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and Mora also said the very same political calculations that can often keep members of Congress from doing much of anything should actually push them to do something right now.
[clip of Justino Mora] Next year is a midterm elections. Politicians are going to go into campaign mode and they’re not going to want to take risky votes. This, a vote on immigration is going to be considered a risky vote. And if that happens, if they push it until next year, then honestly, I don’t feel confident that we’ll see some sort of immigration bill within the first four years of the Biden administration, because they’re just going to push it over to the next administration. It’s now or never.
Akilah Hughes That is really bleak. Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: So hopefully people are listening. We will keep you up to date on how immigration reform may finally get passed as part of that $3.5 trillion spending package. Plus, hear more from these DACA recipients and other immigration activists as well. But that is the latest for now. We will be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Team USA’s Sunisa Lee got gold and all-around individual gymnastics yesterday—whoo whoo—at the Tokyo Olympics, after initially being projected to take silver with Simone Biles as a lock for first place. Lee’s victory leaves the team’s 17-year winning streak in this event intact, meaning all the overnight professors of gymnastics who said Biles was letting down her country are going to have to find a different way to feel entitled to the hard work of young women of color.
Akilah Hughes Preach.
Gideon Resnick: Lee’s victory holds huge significance for the Asian-American community since she was the first Hmong American to compete in the Olympics and the first person of Asian descent to ever take home this prize.
Akilah Hughes Go off. The governor, who moonlights as a bodyguard for COVID, Florida’s Ron DeSantis, is being defied by local officials in his state who want to contain the pandemic. Florida is currently a coronavirus hotspot, with the state reporting on Tuesday the highest one-day total of new cases since mid-January, before the vaccine was widely available. The dire situation there led the mayor of Miami Dade County to announce a mask requirement at indoor county facilities, and the mayor of Orange County to announce a vaccine mandate for all nonunion county employees. These orders might seem rational and fair, and they are, which is why they fly in the face of a law signed by DeSantis that gives him the power to invalidate local COVID safety measures. DeSantis hinted this week his next move might be a bill to ban Florida schools from requiring masks. If you’re an epidemiologist who cheated on Ron DeSantis, please tell him that this is not the way to work through his feelings. It’s just not working, man.
Gideon Resnick: Please, please talk to him.
Akilah Hughes Do something else.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, this is not it, my friend. Sadly, Disney is forcing us to stick up for someone with $100 million. Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against the media giant yesterday claiming that it breached her contract when it released Black Widow on its streaming service. Johannsson stars in the film and her suit alleges that her salary was negotiated to be based largely on its box office performance. Disney released Black Widow on Disney+ the same day it dropped in theaters, which the suit claims lowered the number of people willing to pay to see it in person. Unsurprisingly, the film didn’t do as well as its Marvel predecessors, with ticket sales dropping by a staggering 68% on its second week out. Disney has responded to the suit with a spokesperson arguing that it showed a, quote, “callous disregard for the effects of the pandemic.” I will note that this is coming from a company that is still releasing movies in theaters and has opened up its theme parks.
Akilah Hughes You know, that’s a fact. Solidarity with anyone on the Internet who has unexpectedly found themselves being serenaded by a small, soulful man in a variety of huge jackets. The music video for Rick Astley’s “Never Going to Give You Up” hit one billion views on YouTube this Wednesday, symbolizing an entire generation of people getting Rick-rolled. If you’re not familiar with Rick-rolling because you got frozen during caveman times and just got thawed out this morning, it’s a prank that became widespread in 2007 where someone would click a link to a relevant piece of content and then be directed to the song. [Song plays] Wow.
Gideon Resnick: Oh yes.
Akilah Hughes [laughs] Let’s just let it run, let it run.
Gideon Resnick: The whole thing baby.
Akilah Hughes Right, I’m instantly transported to the carpeted room with my family computer, I feel more at peace than ever in my life. So Astley released the song in 1987 and was initially annoyed when it became a meme. He soon came to embrace his new role as Internet’s version of a pack of gum that electrocutes you and he responded to the news of the one billion view milestone with this very lovable quote:
[clip of Rick Astley] That is mind blowing. The world is a wonderful and beautiful place and I am very lucky.
Gideon Resnick: Aw.
Akilah Hughes Wow. We are lucky, too. I am playing the version of getting Rick-rolled when you find out for the first time that someone is British. .
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. He should have led with that. I feel betrayed.
Akilah Hughes Yeah. Both white British, and red-headed. He is out here just catfishing us. Those are the headlines.
Gideon Resnick: One more thing before we go, guys. Today is a truly insane and unbelievable day. It’s not even hitting me yet. After more than 400 episodes, dozens of interviews and thousands of mid-recording session sips of water, this is our last show with my amazing friend Akilah Hughes. Akilah helped launch the show as you know, and she put so much of herself into making it the best podcast it could possibly be. It’s truly scary to imagine what this show will be like without her joining us for each episode, so, you know, I’m choosing not to. But to send her off here, we got the WAD production crew together, plus some of our friends at Crooked to tell us what they are going to miss about spending five days a week with Akilah.
Speaker 1 One thing I’m going to miss about working with Akilah every day is how she would recommend a one hour prestige drama to our team.
Akilah Hughes [laughs] I do that.
Speaker 1 And then within a week, it would be an absolute sensation. So it was nice to get an early preview of all that.
Gideon Resnick: I’m going to miss the look I get when I launch into a take that is recognized as being bad and wrong.
Jon Lovett: Akilah I’m going to miss our walks after work around the neighborhood, which I guess we can still take even if you’re not doing the show. So I won’t miss it at all. Never mind.
Woman: I’m going to miss seeing Fauci’s face on screen and you having to attend to him while you record because he’s crying for treats.
Speaker 2 He is a little too cute though. That stuff needs to be regulated.
Woman 2 I’m going to miss the side Slacks that make the worst meetings the best meetings.
Speaker 3 So it will not surprise any regular listeners to the WAD squad that the thing I will miss desperately about Akilah is her laugh.
Speaker 4 Akilah could be laughing at a funny Gideon joke, a corny Gideon joke, or even the most terrible piece of news, and they would always make me smile.
Woman 3: I mean, everyone knows how funny you are, but there’s something about when you giggle that is super infectious.
Woman 4: I’m going to miss your infectious laugh when you or someone else says something really funny.
Erin: One thing I will miss about working with Akilah is that she has the best laugh of just about anybody I know. Secondly, I want to congratulate you Akilah on having the most intense pandemic blow up of, I think, anybody I’ve ever seen. So congratulations on that. Congratulations on what comes next and I will miss you.
Woman 5: Who can harmonize the word “headlines,” with themselves?! There’s only one. Akilah, we can keep that right? We’re keeping it. Can we keep it?
Speaker 5: There are so many things we’ll miss about working with you, Akilah. But thankfully, the wonders of technology will keep us together like they have through this past year and a half when we haven’t been in the same room at all. So this is actually not a major change in some ways.
Gideon Resnick: See you soon in the big, freakin Apple.
Woman: Later, love.
Akilah Hughes Wow. Oh my gosh.
Gideon Resnick: Surprise!
Akilah Hughes That’s so insanely sweet. Thank you, everyone. Shout out to Erin for thinking and mentioning how hot I got. That’s the personal best. Oh, my God. Well, I just, you know, you all know how I feel. I love you all so much. I can’t wait to see what you all do with the show. And I’ll be around. Can’t get rid of me that easy. Just thanks.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Well, we love you too, and we will see you soon. But that is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, click the link in our show notes for a behind the scenes look at how we made this episode, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes And if you’re into reading, and not just things that aren’t the news like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes,
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And we’ll see you soon. WAD squad!
Akilah Hughes Oh, my goodness.
Gideon Resnick: That’s it.
Akilah Hughes Wow. We did it. That’s all she wrote.
Gideon Resnick: Finito.
Akilah Hughes What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.
Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed 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.