In This Episode
- The Biden administration is trying to get corporations to pay their fair share of taxes in order to fund a new jobs and infrastructure package. Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called for a global minimum corporate tax rate. We explain.
- Clinical trials of a low-cost COVID vaccine are beginning in Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, and Vietnam. The vaccine is produced in a less expensive, more traditional way than the vaccines we have now, and it could be majorly important to ending the pandemic around the world.
- And in headlines: Arkansas governor vetoes anti-trans bill, SAG awards actors of color, and Vladimir Putin passes law to extend his power into the future.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, April 6th. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day where we are still grateful to Dolly Parton for single-handedly making the COVID vaccine.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, a lot of people don’t know this, but she actually wrote “I Will Always Love You”, “Jolene” and the COVID vaccine on the same day.
Akilah Hughes: On today’s show: a new potential way to vaccinate the world, then some headlines.
Akilah Hughes: But first, the latest, where it is all about taxes and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is making the case that big U.S. corporations should be paying up.
[clip of Sec. Janel Yellen] It’s about making sure that governments have stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenue to invest in essential public goods and respond to crises.
Gideon Resnick: That was Yellen talking to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs yesterday.
Akilah Hughes: That’s right. So U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said “you gonna pay what you owe” to corporations by proposing a minimum global corporate tax. That means if a company thinks it can leave America just to skip out on paying taxes while still doing business here, we gonna get ya. So she cited a, quote “30 year race to the bottom” where countries competed with one another to attract businesses. But that just resulted in an erosion of investment in public goods. In effect, those higher corporate taxes would be a strategy to fund Biden’s 2.3 trillion dollar infrastructure plan.
Gideon Resnick: Interesting. So what benefits the world doesn’t benefit businesses, and what benefits businesses doesn’t benefit the world. Historically, corporations have taken out all civic responsibility to pay their fair share on consumers in the form of price hikes and fewer benefits for employees. But is that necessary?
Akilah Hughes: Well, the short answer is no. But I’m going to run through some stats about how corporate taxes currently work in America. So the U.S. has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. It is true, pearl-clutching Republicans, but calm down. The actual reality is that most businesses pay much less if they pay AT ALL. Among those companies who paid nothing in corporate tax in 2020 are Nike, FedEx and Salesforce. And you can partly thank Trump in 2017 for that, he slashed the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. So it becomes clear how all these billionaires got richer in the pandemic, while we are all about to give a higher percentage of our own money to the country than they do. So where most other wealthy countries get at least 3% of their gross domestic product through corporate taxes, America now gets a paltry 1 %. It’s hard to imagine the progress we could see if corporations tripled their contribution to society. Just kidding. It’s not. You know those people who always talk about how great America was in the 1950s? Well, one reason that isn’t racism and oppression and simply fewer people, is that almost 6% of the country’s GDP used to come from corporate taxes. So, yeah, we’ve all been picking up their slack.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, you don’t have to look far to see that when you tax mega-corporations fairly, nothing bad happens. Maybe, I know it’s crazy, some good even.
Akilah Hughes: Totally. So that example I just gave you about the 1950s in America explains why infrastructure was newer and prioritized, and upward mobility was possible for most people. But when younger generations, who are saddled with insurmountable student loan debt and exorbitant cost of living are also carrying huge corporate tax burdens, it’s pretty obvious why people romanticize that earlier time period. But even more recently, experts note that the U.S. was more vulnerable to the pandemic because the biggest companies are paying the least. According to the Harvard Business Review, even though large corporations are raking in the cash, that hasn’t resulted in, you know, better business. They found that large corporations charge higher prices, pay lower wages, provide lower quality goods and services, and scale back innovation and investment. So that’s the outlook for what could happen if we tax corporations more, whether they’re at home or abroad.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, a lot to think about. Now, some pandemic news: there is a potentially big development in the race to vaccinate the world. It is one that is cheaper and easier to make.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and that’s going to be huge if we want all countries rich and poor to get shots. So what do we know about this potential new vaccine so far?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, extremely “pushes-up-glasses-voice” here —that we me attempting to be my nerdy self— this was genuinely exciting to read. There’s a report in the New York Times about clinical trials for this new vaccine, which has an extremely catchy name to remember: NVD-HXP-S!
Akilah Hughes: Wow.
Gideon Resnick: Just rolls off the tongue. Long story short, there is a modified spike protein with six alterations, hence the HEXA part. The trials are taking place in Mexico, Thailand, Brazil and Vietnam. Their first phase is set to wrap up in July. But there are at least two big reasons why this vaccine is potentially groundbreaking. The first: it’s built in a way that it could produce even stronger antibodies than the ones we currently have. Even stronger!
Akilah Hughes: So I really played myself getting this other vaccine? [laughs] Is that what you’re saying? I could be like a superhero with this one.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, potentially. No, I’m not saying that. Well, we’ll see. And two is that this could be far easier to make, in part using chicken eggs.
Akilah Hughes: Wait a minute. Can we explain that chicken egg thing really quick?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I admit I kind of forgot that that was a thing until I was reading this again. But so right now, the COVID-19 vaccines we have rely on these kind of hyper-specific ingredients and specialized factories to produce. But using chicken eggs is how some flu vaccines are made: viruses are injected, where they replicate, then are taken out before being put back into a vaccine. And it’s why the CDC actually has a page on flu vaccines and egg allergies. That is a cheaper, more familiar process. And researchers tried it out with this spike protein, and it worked. The resulting vaccine was successful in mice and hamsters. But while we do love our rodent friends, the final piece is figuring out if it actually works the same for humans. We’ll link to the story so you can learn more, but . . . what a world.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, honestly, what a world. And kind of weird that they didn’t start there, but you know, never too late.
Gideon Resnick: We’re here now.
Akilah Hughes: Right. So, as you mentioned, what’s super important to know about this effort: a big, big portion of the world does not have a bevy of vaccine options like we do. So this might create a good, reliable option for countries who need to vaccinate their populations more affordably.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, 1,000%. Now, the story cautions that given the timeline, it might not be a solve for the current waves that countries are experiencing, but it could be majorly important for long-term development and [gulp] possible future pandemic responses—.
Akilah Hughes: No!
Gideon Resnick: —where necessary. For now, though, we are painfully aware that COVID is a global problem. And yes, who is getting vaccines is another issue of capitalism. Middle to high-income countries, which is about 1/5th of the world’s population, have bought six billion doses or so. The rest of the world have only secured about 2.6 billion doses—that’s an estimate from the Duke Global Health Innovation Center. And that is why we’ve seen a push from countries like South Africa, India and many more to waive intellectual property rights that profit-making pharmaceutical companies have on vaccines. Biden is also getting pushed on this as well. Because ultimately we need to get to global herd immunity faster. Without a worldwide approach and more vaccines available to everyone, the virus could continue to spread and mutate, posing a risk everywhere, even if people think that they are out of the woods. Here’s Bill Gates talking about just that.
[clip of Bill Gates] Now we need to help the whole world and that’s where the Gates Foundation funding of these Indian factories, and getting huge capacity up, so that disease isn’t coming back to the U.S., so we have a world economy that’s going full speed, that creates jobs here. And just to save, to save lives.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Wow. We would love to save some lives. And we’re kind of on edge still, because even though a record four million people got vaccinated in the U.S. last Saturday—shout out to everybody doing that—the virus isn’t done with us, and it’s certainly not in other countries.
Gideon Resnick: No, it’s not. The variant spreading in Brazil has crossed borders and is affecting other parts of South America. It has been identified in the U.S., but not to a widespread degree yet that we know of. There is a variant-fueled surge in Canada as well at the moment. And India actually recorded its highest daily cases of the entire pandemic on Monday, topping 100,000. Only the United States has hit that number in a day. We’ll keep you updated on the COVID news here and abroad, but that is the latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: Hits Tuesday, WAD squad, and in place of today’s temp check, we’re discussing some pretty impactful news: Yahoo! Answers, the official home of confused children that got unsupervised access to the Internet, plus some very confused adults, is getting shut down. Yahoo said it’ll take the site down on May 4th due to a decline in popularity. Obviously, we at WAD are grieving, so we wanted to take some time to think back on some of the most powerful and thought-provoking questions we’ve seen on Yahoo! Answers before they’re lost forever, with this segment, “Yahoo Answers: Forever in Our Hearts.”
Gideon Resnick: “How is Babby formed? How a girl get pragnant”? The undisputed champion, you changed the world, and you will be missed.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, absolutely. “Can 38-year olds listen to Slipknot?” You know, we personally may never know, and maybe that’s for the best. Rest in peace.
Gideon Resnick: “Why does my arm shake and turn bright red when I’m eating dirt?” We’ve all wondered about this. Thank you to the author for giving us a voice. And now you may sleep.
Akilah Hughes: “Where can I buy a frog, not for sexual reasons?” First off, I just want to say I actually do believe you, and I do hope that you find peace.
Gideon Resnick: “Is rainbow trout a good name for a baby girl? I’m trying to think of names for my daughter.” Not sure which direction you went, but either way, our deepest sympathies to Miss Rainbow Trout.
Akilah Hughes: “Is Long John Silver’s generally a good fish experience?” You know, I can take this one: no, it absolutely isn’t. Rest in Peace.
Gideon Resnick: And lastly: “Did anyone else hated Alan Alda in MASH?” Thank you for teaching me it’s OK to be weird. I hope you’re rocking out in heaven.
Akilah Hughes: And just like that, we honored Yahoo Answers. We’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: The sixth day of the trial of Derek Chauvin wrapped up yesterday, and here are some of the takeaways. The court heard from six witnesses, including the chief of the Minneapolis Police Department and the doctor who tried to save George Floyd’s life. Chief Medaria Arradondo testified that Chauvin’s use of force violated the department’s policies on de-escalation and claimed that it was not a part of their training. His testimony went against the defense’s argument that Chauvin acted within his police training and use an appropriate amount of force. Dr. Bradford Langenfeld also testified that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen, denying the defense claimed an overdose could have been the cause of his death. We’ll have more updates during the week as the trial moves forward.
Akilah Hughes: The Republican governor of Arkansas vetoed an anti-trans health care bill yesterday. The bill would have banned doctors from providing essential health care for trans youth like gender- confirming surgery or hormone treatments. Before we give him more credit than he deserves, Governor Asa Hutchinson said his decision ultimately reflected concerns about government overreach in youth health care in general. In public remarks he even said that his state’s Republican legislature will probably override his veto, and essentially that he hopes lawmakers will find a different way to restrict trans rights. Quick reminder that just last month, Hutchinson approved a bill banning trans girls from participating in school sports teams under their gender identity. The ACLU said the decision yesterday was a victory for those fighting against the discriminatory bill.
Gideon Resnick: The Screen Actors Guild Awards were on Sunday and, in what critics are calling a “reverse friends on NBC,” all the top film acting awards went to people of color. Viola Davis and the late legend Chadwick Boseman won for their leading parts in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Daniel Kaluuya won best supporting actor for “Judas in the Black Messiah,” while Yuh-Jung Youn won best supporting female actor for Minari. Youn is the first Asian actor to win a best acting SAG Award.—that is nuts. I think this is also the first SAG Awards where no one was nominated for playing the Joker, but I might be wrong about that. SAG Awards are sometimes seen as predictors for the Oscars, so this lineup is a good sign that we’ll avoid another #OscarsSoWhite. Other SAG Award winners from Sunday included Netflix’s “The Trial of The Chicago 7,” which beat the odds to win best ensemble in a drama, despite Sacha-Baron Cohen’s deeply disturbing Boston accent.
Akilah Hughes: And not just his. You know, Eddie Redmayne left a lot to be desired. I think he was playing a Jamaican woman, but I’m not sure.
Gideon Resnick: Jeremy Strong, what were you doing to my guy?
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] They made a lot of choices. Well, President Vladimir “No Vacations” Putin signed a law yesterday that could allow him to be president until 2036. The law limits any future president to two six-year terms in office, but it resets Putin’s term count to zero. We can call it “The Men In Black Memory” eraser close. The constitutional change that makes the law possible was approved last year by a national vote, but it was packaged with other popular amendments and the vote was widely viewed as sketchy. Putin has already been in power for more than 20 years, but making it all the way to 36 would let him beat Stalin as the longest-serving Russian leader. Putin has tried to justify the new law by saying it will let his lieutenants stay focused on their work instead of, quote “darting their eyes in search for possible successors.” I, too, will choose to never let anyone fire me for the sake of productivity. Everyone at WAD will accomplish more knowing that if they want to get rid of me, they’re going to have to lock me up in jail.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, same goes for me. So that’s a rule.
Akilah Hughes: There you go. Boop boop. And those are the headlines.
Akilah Hughes: One more thing before we go, the Senate gets back from recess next week, and we want to make sure they’re hearing from every supporter about why passing the For the People Act needs to be their top priority.
Gideon Resnick: This week, activists are hosting a For the People week of action, including virtual advocacy visits with senators, and democracy teach-ins where you can learn more about issues like gerrymandering, voter suppression and how to get big money out of politics.
Akilah Hughes: To find ways you can take action today, head over to votesaveamerica.com/forthepeople.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today, if you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, post on Yahoo answers while you still can, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just Aaron Sorkin scripts in an outrageous accent 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 will never be fired!
Akilah Hughes: Never. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: I can’t wait until that exact recording is played on the day that I am fired. [laughs]
Akilah Hughes: Exactly.[laughs] Fox News is going to have a field day.
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.