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March 31, 2021
What A Day
OK Ladies, Now Let's Get Infrastructure

In This Episode

  • President Biden is in Pittsburgh, today, to unveil a new infrastructure plan that would invest trillions in the country’s roads, bridges, affordable housing, broadband, and manufacturing industry. We explain how Biden might fund the bill and how earmarks might come into play.
  • Today is the Trans Day of Visibility, and it comes at a moment when the human rights of trans kids and adults are under attack in states across the country. On Monday, Republican state lawmakers in Arkansas passed a bill to ban gender-affirming health care for trans youth.
  • And in headlines: Biden aims to diversify the federal bench, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz responds to sex trafficking investigation, and Major Biden bites again.




Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, March 31st, I’m Akilah Hughes.


Erin Ryan: And I’m Erin Ryan, filling in for Gideon Resnick.


Akilah Hughes: And this is What A Day, where we’re comforting Major Biden by saying that if we were at the White House, we would also be biting everyone.


Erin Ryan: Yeah, it’s a tense environment. And if you’re not biting, you’re being bitten.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I also would like to run around in that grass, like, make sense to me.


Akilah Hughes: On today’s show, the Republican strategy around the country to get between trans children and their doctors. Plus we talk about a guy who stormed the Capitol on January 6th, allegedly. Working against his defense, when he was arrested by officials, he wore a T-shirt saying: I was there to do it.


[clip of Sec. Pete Buttigieg] You know what, amateur mistake. He should have made a shirt that said “allegedly.” And worn an allegedly shirt.


Akilah Hughes: Or I wasn’t there, you know.


[clip of Sec. Pete Buttigieg] May have been there. May or may not have been there. That’s coming up. And then some headlines. But first, the latest:


[clip of Sec. Pete Buttigieg] We have at this moment, the best chance in any of our lifetimes to make a generational investment in infrastructure.


Akilah Hughes: So that was Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaking last week to Congress, paving the way for his boss. Because today President Biden is on the road in a place with hella blue collars: Pittsburgh. Sure, Andy Warhol is from there, but it’s also a big steel city and a union town, and he’s mentioned on several occasions his support for workers unions and infrastructure in particular. Also Andy Warhol’s dad worked in a coal mine—it was just the first person I could think of, so, you know, please, no fact checking. But Biden is there today to stump for a big proposal on infrastructure spending, which is a cornerstone of his economic plan. And it comes with a price tag that could reach four trillion dollars over a span of eight years.


Erin Ryan: OK, real quick, Akilah, guess who else is from Pittsburgh besides Mr. Warhol?


Akilah Hughes: Who?


Erin Ryan: Christina Aguilera and Benicio Del Toro: two Pittsburgh’s finest. Yeah. So four trillion dollars over the span of eight years: that’s about the price of a four-year college education these days, right? Not bad.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, not too bad.


Erin Ryan: But in all seriousness, where is that money coming from and where is it going to go?


Akilah Hughes: All right, so according to reports, the money is coming from tax hikes on the ultra-wealthy, which we love to hear. And to be clear, that’s not small business owners or even medium business owners, it’s the people who haven’t had to pay taxes on their enormous businesses for decades. It would reverse the tax breaks for the richest Americans that Donald Trump signed into law, and it would pay for itself in about 15 years. And the plan is to finally have infrastructure week to the tune of 650 billion dollars, which is the largest piece of the plan.


Erin Ryan: Honestly, this is supposed to pay for itself in 15 years. That is about as long as it took for me to actually pay off my student loans. So, it actually—


Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Yeah, honestly, solid plan.


Erin Ryan: Pretty solid plan. It’s no less solid than most college graduates financial plans. And since you mentioned that this proposal could clock in at several trillion dollars, where else could that money go to that isn’t tar and orange cones?


Akilah Hughes: Well, there’s more money to spread around. There’s money for health care, affordable housing, U.S. manufacturing, clean drinking water, high-speed Internet, research and a lot more. There is literally something there for everybody. But again, Republicans see tax increases on people with way more money than them and way more money than they can ever spend and their whole lives, and they lose their minds.


Erin Ryan: OK, Akilah, as somebody with several pictures of various Scrooge McDuck-style money bins on my vision board, as a future mega wealthy person, no, this disturbs me—no, it doesn’t disturb me because I don’t think I’m ever going to be mega wealthy. But all this brings us to earmarks, a term we can expect to hear more about is this proposal is pushed out. So, Akilah, let’s do a primer on what they are, why they were gone, and how this may be good for Biden and company.


Akilah Hughes: Word. So earmarks are special budget items that allow Congress members to funnel money directly to projects in their district. And a decade ago, Congress banned them after years of outcry about wasteful spending and corruption—you know, good reasons to outlaw it. But now they’re back for the sake of getting Republicans to actually negotiate and compromise about where the money is spent. Republicans like this idea because it pushes the feds aside and allows them to give out money directly to state-based agencies. So if you’re in an inner city neighborhood, in a state with a Republican legislature, they may still distribute that money unequally. So my own enthusiasm and applause is now being reassessed. Uh, Kind of sucks.


Erin Ryan: Good idea. Bad idea. Well, today is just one day of the campaign which is going to take weeks and months to hammer out. What kind of timeline are we looking at here?


Akilah Hughes: So talks around the infrastructure bill are ongoing and they could last through the summer. There are already signs that Republicans are going to Republican, and try to overthrow the government—that was a joke—I mean, they’re just going to probably try to block it. So Dems are once again trying to figure out how to pass this with a simple majority vote in the Senate. We can talk more and more about the filibuster for the rest of our lives, but we will be following those twists, turns, U-turns, roundabouts, and other road metaphors in the coming months. But right now, let’s look at another story that’s a big danger sign for LGBTQ rights.


Erin Ryan: Well, actually, I wish I had a more uplifting story to go along with Trans Day Visibility, which is today. But unfortunately, Republicans. As Democrats focus on cleaning up the once-in-a-century mess the Trump administration created by criminally mismanaging the pandemic, Republicans have focused on what matters to them: taking trans kids down a few notches.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it’s wild that they are creating a war on children, but why am I not surprised? What are they up to now?


Erin Ryan: So on Monday, Arkansas lawmakers passed a state bill that would ban doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care to transgender children. Supporters of the bill equivocate gender-affirming treatment for trans kids to mutilation, and claim they’re, quote “protecting children.” But you know who disagrees with his argument? Actual doctors. Actual doctors disagree with his argument. Here’s Lee Beers, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, speaking out against the bill:


[clip of Dr. Lee Beers] This bill is harmful in two ways. One, it threatens the health and well-being of transgender youth. And two, it puts politicians rather than pediatricians in charge of a child’s medical care.


Erin Ryan: So zealots love it, doctors hate it. But nevertheless, the bill now awaits signing on the governor’s desk.


Akilah Hughes: Oh, well, that is horrific. It is hard to believe that the “COVID is a liberal hoax and so is global warming” party would be so keen to ignore doctors and scientists, but here we are. Every day, there have been more and more anti-trans youth bills coming out. So is this just like a historic year for this kind of discrimination or something?


Erin Ryan: Yeah, it’s a historic year for this kind of discrimination. You’re absolutely right. It’s been a record-setting year for state level bills that specifically target trans kids. I guess Republicans need a punching bag, and they’ve chosen some of the most vulnerable people in all of American society. Great job, guys. Lawmakers in 20 states introduced bills this year that aim to ban gender-affirming treatment for trans youth, according to the LGBTQ rights group Freedom for All Americans. Some states have introduced multiple bills, like South Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Kentucky. And Alabama’s bill is one of the most draconian, it would make it a felony to provide any gender-affirming medical care to minors. And let’s not lose sight of the human beings this bill affects: trans kids and their families and communities. Here’s 17-year old Syrus Hall from Alabama talking to NPR:.


[clip of Syrus Hall] I’ve been told that before. Like, people are like: oh, it’s just a phase, you’re going to grow out of it, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And it makes me mad because, like it hurts people. Like, when people who know who they are can’t access the things they need to make themselves feel better, it’s awful.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I can’t see any reason why this sort of bill should even exist. And it’s not just in health care, you know. What’s the latest on all the bills designed to keep trans kids from competing in sports?


Erin Ryan: Oh, you mean Republicans are trying to solve another problem that they made up?


Akilah Hughes: Yeah.


Erin Ryan: They’re on it. They’re on it everywhere. In South Dakota, Governor Kristi Noem signed a pair of executive orders on Monday that mandated that the only people allowed to play girls’ and women’s school sports, were people who were assigned female at birth.


Akilah Hughes: Wow. I just don’t know why she cares so much. But won’t this run afoul of some sport’s governing bodies?


Erin Ryan: Yeah, it absolutely will. The NCAA, for example—for all the bad things it does, has done this one good thing—it has a rule on the books since 2011 that allows trans people to play sports. So colleges and universities in South Dakota are now in a weird position. In addition, this could endanger the state’s chances of hosting athletic competitions. When Georgia passed a law discriminating against trans people back in 2016, the state lost billions. That’s with a B billions of dollars.


Akilah Hughes: They just, you know, fumbling the bag for what? Not really sure. But I do actually have to wonder how many trans kids are actually even in these states. Like, who are they legislating against?


Erin Ryan: Yeah, that’s the thing. The way that conservatives are freaking out about trans girls playing girls’ and women’s sports, you would think that cis girls were losing state championships left and right to teams full of trans girls whose hormone levels give them, quote “competitive advantage.” But they’re not, actually. They’re not. South Dakota has had a law on the books since 2013 dictating that any trans athlete who wishes to compete in school sports must have a doctor’s note and then be evaluated for whether or not they have a competitive advantage. Guess how many trans girls have competed in sports under that rule?


Akilah Hughes: I don’t even want to guess because this is also depressing.


Erin Ryan: It’s one. One girl. In eight years.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. So it sounds like all of this is just cynical posturing that is at once, both cruel and unnecessary.


Erin Ryan: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. When it comes to that Arkansas law on trans kids and their doctors, the ACLU says it plans on challenging it in court. And other laws will likely be challenged in a long, drawn out court battles at great expense to the taxpayers of their respective states, and all to score points with a base that doesn’t care that their political party has no principles.


Akilah Hughes: Great work, everybody. We really, really appreciate you doing nothing to help anyone. And that’s the latest for now.


Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re talking about a crime against fashion and also the country. Like we mentioned earlier, another guy was arrested in January for his role in storming the U.S. Capitol. And new reports say that when police caught up with him, he was wearing a T-shirt that said: I was there, Washington, D.C., January 6th, 2021. Writing the bad thing you did on your clothes is an amateur insurrectionist mistake. This person also brought tactical gear, ropes and possibly a gun to the Capitol, which are things people typically don’t usually bring if they’re just trying to enjoy a rally. So, Erin, what’s your reaction to this guy?


Erin Ryan: Oh, my gosh. What a dork. What a dork. Wearing the band shirt to the concert, wearing the Five K shirt in the Five K that you’re running? Like, come on, dude, don’t wear the swag of—look, I wear a swag of my show while I’m recording my show because I have it. And it’s there for me to wear, but like—


Akilah Hughes: And it’s also not a crime that you’re committing, making a podcast.


Erin Ryan: Yes, I’m not doing a crime, making a podcast. It’s so—like the thing that really strikes me about all of this is like, these people felt so fucking cool on January 6th, and we must never forget that they are enormous dorks. These people are enormous “band T-shirts to the concert”-level dorks. Same question for you, Akilah.


Akilah Hughes: I mean, you know, beyond being dorks, I think they’re just heinous criminals [laughs] should be prosecuted to the extent of the law as it exists currently in this country. But I agree with you. I think it’s bizarre. You know, when I was in college, unfortunately, there was a really cool girl that was nicknamed “beef curtains” by some mean people. I know.


Erin Ryan: That’s terrible.


Akilah Hughes: And then the boys’ dorm had a party and they put the words “beef curtains” on the marquee outside of the dorm. So public safety was called. They came to investigate and they’re like, who wrote this on the sign? And the R.A. for that building was wearing a sign that said “beef curtains”. And I just remember that no one had to say anything. We all just stood there until the public safety person was like: you got to come with me, like, obviously it’s you. So, you know, just don’t be that stupid or, you know, maybe don’t commit crimes or bully people to the point that you need to wear merch about it.


Erin Ryan: Right.


Akilah Hughes: It seems like a really, really dumb thing to be very amped about. Like, I don’t need to wear a T-shirt about the time I like, you know, illegally parked. [laugh] I think it okay to just let that one slide and maybe let the heat die down.


Erin Ryan: Maybe he was trying to save his friends and family from uncomfortable interrogations from authority figures. Like, look, now he’s wearing the shirt that’s like: I definitely did the crime. They don’t need to, like, go bother his mom and be like: where was your son, what was he like? You know, they’re just like: oh, we have all the evidence we need, we don’t need to bother any of your friends and family. So in a way, he was being polite, maybe.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I mean right? I wonder if he just thought that, like, you know, he could explain it away. Like: I was there on January 6th in D.C., but not for the insurrection – I was there for a pie-baking contest, we just didn’t have those characters on the shirt, it’s a different thing, it’s a coincidence. Who’s to say? You know, I don’t think that this is a guy who’s good at planning anything. Let’s just like that, we have checked our temps. Stay safe and we’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


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


[sung] Headlines.


Erin Ryan: New York City police released surveillance video of an unidentified man violently attacking a 65-year old Asian woman on Monday in midtown Manhattan. Video of the attack, which took place on a sidewalk in front of an apartment building in broad daylight, showed a man kicking a woman to the ground and then stomping on her body and head multiple times. The video also showed building staff members watching the attack, but not intervening, and even closing the door to the building as the woman’s attacker walked away. Those staff members have now been suspended, according to the building’s management company. NYPD said the attacker made racist anti-Asian remarks, and they’re investigating the assault as a hate crime. The attack is the latest in a surge of anti-Asian violence that has been recorded this past year, a surge that community members and advocates have been trying to raise alarm bells about for months, despite little attention in the mainstream media, until recently.


Akilah Hughes: President Biden took his first step yesterday to reshape the federal courts, and offset years of Mitch McConnell-Donald Trump, conservative-majority-white-male-judge fuckery. Biden named 11 new federal judicial nominees. The group included three African-American women, along with one Muslim nominee and one Asian-American nominee—who, if confirmed, will become the first ever of their backgrounds to hold their positions. Notably, the group also included public defenders, which advocacy groups like Demand Justice have called for as a way to diversify the federal bench on issues of criminal justice and civil rights. Biden’s top legal adviser, Dana Remus, said that she hopes the selections would bring, quote “greater trust and faith that judicial decisions reflect the full range of the country’s values.”


Erin Ryan: These people that have gotten nominated for these judgeships are awesome. And I advise you, if you have like a little extra time and you want a little pick me up, just go ahead and do some Googling because they’re pretty impressive people. Representative from Florida, scruple-free Trump proxy, and everyone’s favorite haircut Matt Gaetz is reportedly being investigated by the Justice Department over a possible sexual relationship he allegedly had with a 17 year old girl. Yuck. The New York Times broke the story yesterday afternoon and per their sources, the investigation began toward the end of Trump’s presidency. Gaetz may have paid for the girl in question to travel with him, which would put him in violation of federal statutes that make it illegal to transport someone under 18 across state lines to have sex in exchange for money. Ugh. This story has got everything gross. Everything gross. The DOJ started investigating Gaetz as part of a larger probe of one of his political allies who was indicted last summer for sex trafficking of a child—could be a good cellmate for Matt. Gaetz is already drawing on his extensive background in conspiracies to spin the investigation as a, quote “organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking 25 dollars.” Akilah, I almost blackout whenever I read statements from him because he lies so much, it makes me lightheaded.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah.


Erin Ryan: He also went on Tucker Carlson show last night and did what Carlson described as, quote “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”


Akilah Hughes: Saying a lot being Tucker.


Erin Ryan: Yeah. Wow. Gaetz achieved the impossible by making me feel very slightly bad for Tucker Carlson.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I still don’t.


[clip of Dr. Lee Beers] I know. This story broke on the same day as a report that Gaetz was considering leaving Congress to work at Newsmax . . . honestly, they’d probably still hire him.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I would not be surprised at all. Their standard seems to be in the basement. So the only app that lets you hire Dog the Bounty Hunter to tell your employees that their service is no longer needed, Cameo, is worth one billion dollars. That’s based on its latest funding round, which concluded yesterday after raising 100 million dollars from investors like Tony Hawk. Shouts to him for trying to put some more zeros after his famous 900. Cameo is a no-brainer for some late-career celebs, the most popular of whom can earn more than a million dollars annually by recording videos on the platform. Cameo surged in popularity during the pandemic, generating four times as many sales in 2020 as it did the year before—don’t know why they think that we would need it in 2021 or ’22, but fine. Personally, while other people were stocking up on cans of beans, I was using all my liquid assets to pay the Soup Nazi to tell me I was going to be OK.


Erin Ryan: You know what? That’s why Cameo taxes are going to pay for Biden’s infrastructure plan.


Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Exactly. We’ve come full circle.


Erin Ryan: Making a million dollars doing Cameos? You guys are going to build all the roads and I will be perfectly fine with that.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, happy to drive over them. And those are the headlines.


Erin Ryan: One last thing before we go. In the latest episode of Takeline, host Jason Concepcion and Renee Montgomery talk all things Elite Eight with Tate Frazier.


Erin Ryan: Then sports journalist Taylor Rooks stops by to give them the scoop on what it was like to cover the NBA inside the bubble.


Akilah Hughes: Give it a listen and subscribe to Takeline on Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.


Erin Ryan: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, support the Soup Nazi on Cameo, and tell your friends to listen.


Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just T-shirts that double as confessions like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out. Subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.


Erin Ryan: I’m Erin Ryan.


[together] And stay wild Major Biden!


Akilah Hughes: You deserve it, just go out there and bite whoever you want. Honestly, you didn’t ask for this. So your thing.


Erin Ryan: Just get the Secret Service like bite-proof sleeves, like they use in Schutzhund?


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 is our assistant producer.


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


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