In This Episode
- The British pound hit a record low against the U.S. dollar on Monday. We discuss the economic plan by new U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss that sent the currency tumbling, and how international markets are responding.
- Nearly complete results from Italy’s election showed a clear victory for a right-wing coalition – making it almost certain that the coalition’s leader, Giorgia Meloni, will be prime minister. Her party has its roots in a post-World War II neo-fascist movement in Italy.
- And in headlines: Putin granted Edward Snowden Russian citizenship, Cuba voted to legalize same-sex marriage, and the CIA launched its own podcast.
- Vote Save America: Every Last Vote – https://votesaveamerica.com/every-last-vote/
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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Tuesday, September 27th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Abdul El-Sayed: And I’m Abdul El-Sayed. And this is What A Day where we extend our big ups to NASA’s DART team, which last night smashed a spacecraft into a distant asteroid at 14,000 miles per hour all on camera.
Priyanka Aribindi: You know, God forbid this happened off camera. Of course, we needed to record it and make it a spectacle for people to watch.
Abdul El-Sayed: Selfie or it didn’t happen. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, Russia granted citizenship to whistleblower Edward Snowden. Plus, President Biden isn’t going to let you be fooled by suspiciously low basic economy ticket prices any longer.
Abdul El-Sayed: Because that’s so basic. But first, just when you thought it couldn’t get worse for the United Kingdom, you know, with the queen’s passing and Boris Johnson getting sacked for essentially partying during COVID lockdowns, it got worse. The British pound hit a record low against the US dollar yesterday and that pain was felt all over the world, with U.S. stocks hitting their lowest level in two years in what is officially a bear market. None of this is good. And if you want to point fingers, well, you can start with the UK’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss. She seems to be governing as a bootleg version of Margaret Thatcher and she apparently built her political career on some very strong opinions about the economics of apples and cheese. This is her back in 2014.
[clip of UK Prime Minister Liz Truss] At the moment we import two thirds of all of our apples. We import 9/10ths of all of our pears. We import two thirds of our cheese. That is a disgrace. [sound of applause]
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Okay. I don’t know what that was supposed to be. It sounds like a math problem to me and not a fun one to solve.
Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah, you’re about to be asked about the uh overall fraction of the UK’s entire foodstuffs that are imported.
Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely.
Abdul El-Sayed: Truss’s more recent troubles began on Friday with the unveiling of her very first proposed budget, which ironically, could leave most Britons struggling to import anything.
Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, so let me get this straight. Is Liz Truss the reason that my 401K just tanked today?
Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah, probably. Last Friday, she and her key financial cabinet member, who Britons call the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced the most Thatcher esque budget since well, Thatcher. In a big bet on the debunked theory of trickle down economics. They announced a plan for massive tax cuts funded by massive government debt. That in a time when the UK is facing a serious energy crisis as a result of the war in Ukraine. The move will require tens of billions of pounds in government borrowing, which to many economists and hosts of What A Day makes absolutely zero sense given that the UK is battling historic levels of inflation just like we are here. To understand why it’s so wrongheaded. Remember that inflation is what happens when there’s too much money chasing too few goods and services. Borrowing a bunch of money to give rich people tax cuts basically amounts to putting yet more money into an already overheated economy. It’s like pouring gas on a fire. Right on cue, last Friday, U.K. stocks and bonds plummeted and the price of the British pound began a freefall. When the market opened today, it just kept falling. 1 GBP is worth about $0.03 more than a dollar. A level that would have been unheard of just a few months ago. In fact, in August, it was worth $0.20 more.
Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. So Truss is tanking the UK economy, but why is that affecting stocks here in America?
Abdul El-Sayed: Well, there’s a couple of reasons here. Remember when one major currency tanks, people started dumping it for the alternative and that tends to be U.S. dollars. And while that may be good for the dollar in the long term, it does create instability in the short term. The UK is also a major trading partner and such a risky gamble by the U.K. government is forcing Wall Street to ask what it could mean for U.S. companies, and their conclusion is basically not great. Besides, a lot of the stock market reacts to well, vibes and the vibes, they’re way off.
Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. So is Truss’s government doing anything to remedy these bad vibes?
Abdul El-Sayed: No, she’s leaning in. In fact, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, said today that there was, quote, “more to come”. I really hope that by more to come, he doesn’t mean global financial turmoil and poor folks in the UK struggling to afford their apples, pears or cheese while the rich cash out all the way to the bank.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, definitely. Well, moving on to another story out of Europe, which is also unfortunate. Italy has picked its new government and we think they picked wrong. Nearly complete election results yesterday showed a clear victory for a right wing coalition, making it almost certain that their leader, Giorgia Meloni, will become the first woman to be Italy’s prime minister. This is historic news, but it’s not exactly good news. Meloni’s party was born out of fascism, and this will be Italy’s farthest right government since the fall of Benito Mussolini during World War Two.
Abdul El-Sayed: First woman, second fascist. How much better can you do it? Was this expected? I mean, how did this happen?
Priyanka Aribindi: I mean this was definitely a shock to the rest of Europe, under the last Italian prime minister, centrist Mario Draghi, Italy was fairly stable. Draghi gave Italy more of a presence on the international stage by strongly backing Ukraine against Russia at a time when other European leaders were more hesitant. He also led the country through COVID and economic recovery. He used to lead the European Central Bank. He was very well respected across Europe. But over the summer, three parties in his government refused to back him in a confidence vote. So he resigned, making way for this election. I think this result is a little bit less surprising to people who are in Italy. The right was expected to win mainly because their parties had formed a unified coalition, whereas the left leaning parties had not. The right wing coalition consisted of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which was started by Mussolini loyalists post-World War Two, as well as an anti-immigration party called the Northern League and the more moderate Forza Italy. As a group, those three parties secured 44% of the vote nationwide, and Meloni’s party came away with 26% themselves. Turnout was also at a record low. 64% of eligible voters cast ballots, which is 9% lower than in 2018. But for context, that is still higher than it has ever been in the United States.
Abdul El-Sayed: Hmm. Tell us more about Giorgia Meloni. Who is she and what do she and her party stand for?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I know you spoke with Tre’vell a little bit about this on the show yesterday. So Meloni has been the leader of the Brothers of Italy Party for a decade. In that position, she has advocated for dissolving the eurozone. She’s pushed conspiracy theories about immigrants. She’s vowed to defend so-called traditional social values. Nowadays, Meloni says that Italy still belongs in Europe and that the country won’t take an authoritarian turn under her leadership. But it remains to be seen what will actually happen once the right wing parties take power. She still opposes, quote, unquote, “wokeness and immigration”. So her victory could mean rollbacks of the rights of women, LGBTQ people, migrants, you name it. To give you a better idea, Steve Bannon is a fan of hers. So really not great. From an international perspective an Italy under Meloni could be more friendly to Russia amid that country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Meloni has consistently backed Ukraine, but other prominent members of her coalition have definitely been friendly to Vladimir Putin and open to his excuses for this invasion.
Abdul El-Sayed: So they’re just Putin curious.
Priyanka Aribindi: Just a bit.
Abdul El-Sayed: The sad thing here is that this isn’t exactly an isolated incident. Right. Conservative parties across Europe seem to be in the midst of some sort of weird revival.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, you’re totally right. Earlier this year, Marine Le Pen lost the French election, but she got 41% of the votes. And just earlier this month, a coalition of right wing parties won in Sweden after an anti-immigration party with roots in Nazism gained popularity. And it’s not one thing that’s fueling this. There are a number of crises in Europe, including the rising cost of living, the war in Ukraine and more, all of which have kind of created the perfect conditions for a rise in right wing populism. We’ll keep covering this, but that is the latest for now. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: A gunman killed at least 17 people, including 11 children, at a school in the Russian city of Izhevsk yesterday. Investigators said that the attacker was a former student at the school and was wearing a shirt with a swastika on it. Two dozen people were also wounded and the shooter reportedly turned the gun on himself. Also yesterday, another gunman opened fire at a military draft office in the Russian town of Ust-Ilimsk. No one was killed, but a recruitment officer was severely wounded. This marks the 17th attack on a Russian mobilization or recruitment center since Russian President Vladimir Putin said hundreds of thousands more Russian men would be called up to serve in the military last Wednesday.
Abdul El-Sayed: It’s just awful. And in other Russian news, Putin granted Edward Snowden Russian citizenship yesterday just in time for him to join the front in Ukraine. Snowden is a former National Security Agency contractor turned whistleblower and is still wanted on espionage charges in the United States. He’s been in Russia since 2013 and announced he and his family applied for Russian citizenship back in 2020. It just seemed like a COVID thing to do.
Priyanka Aribindi: President Biden announced a new initiative yesterday that would make airlines display the total cost of flights when customers book online, rather than surprising them with baggage fees and other hidden costs later on. Spirit Airlines is currently shaking in their boots. The idea here is to force companies to be more transparent about their prices up front so that consumers can make more informed decisions about what works best for their budgets. Ideally, encouraging more price competition between airlines. The proposed rule would apply to airline websites, as well as third party travel search sites like Expedia. And Biden’s announcement comes after the White House said that it was working on ways to make flights cheaper overall amid high rates of inflation.
Abdul El-Sayed: I feel like this is the kind of leadership we’ve all been waiting for. This is–
Priyanka Aribindi: Hell yeah.
Abdul El-Sayed: –Probably the single biggest bipartisan issue in American politics right now.
Priyanka Aribindi: Listen. Love this for Joe Biden.
Abdul El-Sayed: Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office tallied the bill for President Biden’s plan to cancel federal student debt for millions of borrowers and its big, $400 billion dollars big. The CBO also said Biden’s request to extend the current student loan repayment pause for another four months would cost the federal government $20 billion dollars. Republicans are definitely going to use the financial estimates to attack Biden’s decision to cancel so much debt. But it doesn’t really matter because the White House plans to move forward with its plans regardless. Furthermore, the money in question is ultimately ending up in the pockets of Americans who likely need it most. And as a wise man once said, no take backs.
Priyanka Aribindi: Retweet on that one. Marriage equality is on island time this week in a historic referendum vote, the people of Cuba overwhelmingly voted to legalize same sex marriage on Monday. The approved legislation will also give gay couples in the island nation the right to adopt. This is a huge deal for Cuba, given the country’s long history of anti LGBTQ+ policies. And the legislation is among the most progressive to be adopted by a Latin American country.
Abdul El-Sayed: And from Cuba to the CIA. Notice how we did that? CIA agents. They’re just like us. They get up in the morning, put on their special agent pants one leg at a time, and head off to the podcast factory for a long day of honest work. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the US’s Intelligence Agency, and the normally secretive organization has been uncharacteristically welcoming of public attention to celebrate. Last week it launched an official CIA podcast, move over Pod Save America. It’s called The Langley Files, and this past weekend opened its recently renovated Langley, Virginia museum, normally barred to the public because, of course, a museum should be barred to the public. It opened it to a small number of journalists. The podcast, which has one episode out so far, aims to, quote, “demystify the organization to the extent that they’re allowed”, which isn’t really that much. Current CIA Director Bill Burns, the pod’s first guest does let slip that he drives a 2013 Subaru outback on air. So maybe he’s not a very good spy. [laugh] The two hosts identified by first name only sign off episode one with a vaguely threatening statement, from all of us here at the CIA, we’ll be seeing you.
Priyanka Aribindi: What.
Abdul El-Sayed: I’ve known you’ve been seeing me. Like I’m a muslim guy. I get that. And so here on What A Day, we’d like to say hello CIA agent. We knew you were there the entire time. Nothing to see here. Congrats on your podcast.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Listen, CIA agents. You came for my Webby. We get it. You wanted it. You could have it. At this point between you guys and Kim Kardashian. I’m never getting that Webby. So thank you for entering this space. We really appreciate it. And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads with some exciting news about the newest addition to our humble WAD squad.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday [correction: she says Wednesday, but today is Tuesday], WAD squad. And before we wrap up today, we wanted to make a very special announcement about the show. We searched long and hard and we are finally able to introduce you to our newest host. She is a veteran political strategist and an analyst who you might know from MSNBC, TheGrio, and SiriusXM Progress. Please welcome Juanita Tolliver.
Juanita Tolliver: Thanks so much and thanks for the warm welcome Priyanka. I’m so excited to join the What A Day team and bring everyone the kind of most fun, relaxed, chill, least depressing version of the news, right?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. That is exactly the name of the game here. So you’ll be joining me, Tre’vell and Josie, twice a week here on the show. And we thought we’d help get you started by asking you some very quick, totally not weird questions. So–
Juanita Tolliver: Ohhh.
Priyanka Aribindi: Are you ready for this?
Juanita Tolliver: All right, hold on. Let me brace myself, okay. I’m the queen of awkward, but I’m going to get through this. All right, let’s go.
Priyanka Aribindi: Here we go. Who is your childhood celebrity crush and where do you think they were on January 6th?
Juanita Tolliver: Um. So childhood celebrity crush. I’m thinking back to movies from, like, middle school, and one big movie was like The Best Man and the. Oh, I love, love, love Morris Chestnut in that movie. Like, he’s got the smile, the eyes, like, full on swoon. But the other character from that same movie I love, Nia Long. I will–
Priyanka Aribindi: Yup.
Juanita Tolliver: –forever stan Nia Long. She’s stunning, she’s beautiful. She’s amazing. And where were they on January 6th? Probably at home, like most other Black people in this country, minding their business, not ransacking the Capitol.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, that is 1,000% two people who uh [laughter] yeah, you can trust were not there. All right? You know, they want me to end it here, but I feel like we got to do one last question, so.
Juanita Tolliver: Okay, let’s do it.
Priyanka Aribindi: Who is your favorite WAD host?
Juanita Tolliver: Oh, come on. I’m not going to start off on the wrong foot, Priyanka. I love all of y’all.
Priyanka Aribindi: Alright. Alright.
Juanita Tolliver: You, Josie, Tre’vell. Rock stars, I can’t wait to be on with y’all.
Priyanka Aribindi: What a diplomatic answer. We love to hear it. Juanita, welcome to the WAD squad. We are looking forward to having you on the show.
Juanita Tolliver: Thanks so much. I can’t wait for my first episode soon. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, buy low and tell your friends to listen.
Abdul El-Sayed: And if you’re into reading and not just WAD’s declassified secrets like me. What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Abdul El-Sayed.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
[spoken together] And we’ll be seeing you.
Abdul El-Sayed: Because that’s just so creepy.
Priyanka Aribindi: Truly terrifying.
Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah. Wow.
Priyanka Aribindi: Nice for them that they’re leaning into it, but like, oh my god, I don’t like it. [laugh] [music break] What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.