In This Episode
- Republican governors in West Virginia and Alabama have continued to advise wearing masks, bucking the trend of governors in Mississippi and Texas who want to rush things back to normal. California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that his state will start sending 40 percent of doses to its most vulnerable neighborhoods.
- New data out this week from a Basic Income experiment in Stockton, California show that giving people monthly government stipends increase their quality of life and ability to get a full time job.
- And in headlines: Italy blocked a quarter million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from being exported to Australia, a series of major earthquakes and tsunami warnings near New Zealand, and great apes get vaccinated in San Diego.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Friday, March 5th, I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day where we are reporting that liberals have canceled the horny version of Space Jam’s Lola Bunny.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, first they came for racist Dr. Seuss books, and now I guess, because somebody decided that they didn’t want Lola Bunny to have titties, that’s on us too. So fine.
Gideon Resnick: What’s next, Flubber?
Akilah Hughes: [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: On today’s show: new data on universal basic income, then some headlines.
Akilah Hughes: But first, the latest:
[clip of Governor Jim Justice] Now I am very hopeful that we can get rid of these crazy masks because, you know, we all know we don’t want to wear the mask. I mean, that’s just all there is to it. And as we continue to vaccinate more and more and more, we’ll get rid of the mask. But I don’t know really what the big rush to get rid of the mask is, because these mask have saved a lot a lot of lives.
Akilah Hughes: I mean, in facts. So that was Republican—yes, Republican—Governor Jim Justice of West Virginia on CNN yesterday, making a pretty obvious point that some other Republican governors just haven’t seem to get: masks are still the easiest and best tool we have against COVID even as vaccinations continue across the country. Earlier this week, we talked about the Biden’s administration’s new ambitious goal of having enough vaccines for all adults by the end of May. But ultimately, as it has been for the whole pandemic, most of what affects our day to day lives comes from the leaders of our states. So let’s talk a little bit about what states are and aren’t doing right now.
Gideon Resnick: Yes. So last time we talked about this, it was the decision by Texas and Mississippi to basically open up, in defiance of what public health officials have been advising. Both of those states are run by Republican governors. But yesterday, we did have a couple other Republican governors go the other direction. Jim Justice for one, who we just heard, in a state which had early success with the vaccination program. But also Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey. She extended the state’s mask mandate until April 9th, which is decidedly not radical, but seems so in comparison to what those other states are doing. By the way, in Texas, major companies like Target, Starbucks and CVS are still requiring masks in stores—they would probably prefer to not have liability issues. And overall, across the country, if you look at this map The New York Times has put together their over 30 states that still have some mandatory masking requirement, which again, makes all the sense in the world.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and just to go back to the federal guidance on this, when Biden took office, he started with an ask that people wear masks for at least the first 100 days as presidency, which would be April.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, not a huge ask at all. And the thinking now is that that is a pretty optimistic estimate. A lot of health experts recommend masking post vaccination, for example, so people need to kind of get used to this reality. And to give a sense of how much of a grab bag it is across the country right now in terms of reopenings, Connecticut had its own reopening announcement yesterday—their strategy is to lift capacity limits on places like gyms, libraries and restaurants, while also keeping a massive mandate in place. My personal guess is that we’ll see more of this kind of testing of the waters by Republican and Democratic governors. But this feels like a sort of uncertain moment and a lot of ways and a continuation of this patchwork way that we’ve been handling the pandemic all along.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. All right. So let’s turn to vaccines for a second. We’ve begun to average about two million shots a day. That’s what’s up. So what started as a supply problem could start turning into a “what to do with the supply” problem. And again, that’s very much up to the states.
Gideon Resnick: It is. And it is a better problem to have, of course. But yeah, it is a challenge in its own way. So New York recently announced that three mass vaccination sites, including Yankee Stadium and the Javits Center—shout out Javitz for giving my mom her first dose—are going to be administering doses overnight. Officially, New York’s hottest clubs, according to Stephan, from now on. Good old reference for the [laughs] crowd. Additionally, New York City wants to try and set aside some of the single dose J&J vaccines for a new program that is dedicated to older, homebound individuals who might find it tougher to get out for an appointment. And then also as for J&J, in Oklahoma the governor there recently told the Tulsa World that the J&J shot could be prioritized for unhoused people, saying that it could be useful for populations that might be harder to track.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and on that point, there are also ongoing questions about equity when it comes to who’s actually getting the shots. California made a really big announcement about that this week. So let’s explain it.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So Governor Newsome said that the state is going to begin sending 40% of doses to the most vulnerable neighborhoods within the state. Those areas have been defined by health care access, education level, household income. And according to the AP, that covers 400 zip codes and about eight million eligible people, with a lot of the focus in L.A. County and the Central Valley. The reasoning here seems to be twofold: one is Newsom saying it is the right thing to do—which I agree with—and also that he thinks it would facilitate reopening. Notable that this is happening as he faces a recall effort. Reportedly, the standards for who gets vaccinated will remain the same for now: individuals 65 and older, grocery workers, farm workers, educators and more. The plan is to go through tiers of easing restrictions in those areas based on how many doses are allocated. So that is a quick look at our lovely US of A. Meanwhile, the Senate has begun its debate on the COVID relief bill. We will have more of an update on that in the days ahead. But we have an interesting story that might have gone under the radar this week about what happens when the government sends checks to people.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so there’s some really big news on the universal basic income or UBI front. Beyond Andrew Yang’s failed presidential run there have been a few endeavors in UBI as a way to bolster economies and promote more equality. One is an experiment in Stockton, California. Back in 2019, former Mayor Michael Tubbs randomly selected 125 people living at or below Stockton’s median income of $46K to get a basic income of $500 a month for two years straight, no strings attached, no repayment necessary. There’s a great doc on HBO about it called Stockton On My Mind. But the news, is this week we got some data on the impacts of the first year of the program and they’re pretty impressive.
Gideon Resnick: I’m going to go ahead, take a shot in the dark and guess that it worked.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, pretty much. So, the obvious findings were that UBI helped reduce income volatility, helped people pay down their debts or emergency bills, and increased quality of life regarding anxiety, depression—all the things that money can, you know, just enact in your life.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So in this case, mo money, fewer problems. And then there were maybe some less obvious findings here as well.
Akilah Hughes: That’s right. So one of the biggest critiques of programs like these are that if people are given money, they’ll be lazy and unmotivated to work, which is a horribly reductive argument that completely misunderstands poverty’s causes and effects on people. So if you’ve whined about UBI in that way, pooh-pooh to you, because they found that this monthly stipend increased full time employment by 12%, which is more than double the increase for people who didn’t get the stipend. There’s already a large body of evidence that supports just giving people money to get them out of poverty. And in a time when so many conservatives and Joe Manchin-s are whining about potentially giving Americans $2,000—after they prolonged the economic volatility of the pandemic—because they consider helping Americans in a crisis a handout, it’s important to note that the labor force won’t shrink because of a paltry one-time payment. In fact, it won’t shrink if you make payments regularly.
Gideon Resnick: Mm hmm. I hope people heard the last part. And as part of the study, the researchers talked to the participants to figure out why they were seeing these impacts. So what do we know about why the stipends increased employment?
Akilah Hughes: The researchers said that the money actually created capacity for goal setting, risk taking and personal investment for people. You know, that top chunk of the hierarchy of needs like, yeah, you can start to approach it when the bottom chunk is met. So whether it’s called UBI, or stimulus checks, or expanded unemployment insurance, or child tax credits, I don’t think we’re likely to stop talking about the government giving people money in this country. Especially since, as the Atlantic points out, Millennials—who are the only generation to end up poorer than their parents due to two once-in-a-generation recessions, atrophying wages, and bloated housing costs—have become the largest voting block finally.
Gideon Resnick: Right, right, right. And also related, you know, getting people out of poverty is good for the government as well, if you need that argument. There was a recent article in The New York Times about how state tax revenues have actually been OK during the pandemic because of the government giving extra unemployment money out. Basically, it kept retail sales up, which was good for businesses and also for sales tax.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, if you want people to spend money, you probably should give them some money. Perhaps America can take a note from every other country that invests in its citizens, and cut the check. We’ll let you know if they do. But that’s the latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Friday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’ve got the latest in space vacations. A Japanese billionaire named Yusaku Maezawa has booked his own private lunar expedition and he’s inviting everyday people to sign up to join him on the trip. Maezawa’s trip won’t be until 2023 at the earliest and he’ll travel on a SpaceX ship. Initially, he had also posted ads online just trying to find a girlfriend on the trip, but he scrapped that plan and has now opened applications to everyone. There are eight available seats. Giddy, are you signing up. And what are your thoughts on this offer?
Gideon Resnick: Oh man. So initially, I thought that this was a terrible idea for what we were saying earlier, you know, the pressure of having to talk to people on the longest flight in recorded history.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, no way. I don’t want to make small talk on [laughs] a fuckin flight to the moon.
Gideon Resnick: I, we’re talking days, weeks here, at least months?
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Aren’t they going past the moon? So it’s pretty bad.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. This is yeah, it could be it could be a disaster. But then, but then my second thought was: what a story this would be, what a wild, wild story this would be.
Gideon Resnick: You think you need more stories in your life? You’re living in a pandemic! What else you gotta tell your grandkids? [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: Hey, we don’t know how 2023 is going to look. We might, you know, need something like a space trip to liven things up a little bit for the purposes of a story. I don’t know. I, I mean, this also does sound like a scenario where everybody on the ship would either be killed one by one by an alien or by the man who arranged the trip.
Akilah Hughes: Fully. Yeah, isn’t that like the plot of every movie where it’s randos getting to do something for free? It’s never free guys.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Yeah. So I, you know, I’m talking to myself in and out of this as we go.
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] You play both sides. Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: But I’m intrigued. How are you viewing this offer?
Akilah Hughes: I mean, I’m pretty sure I’ve said this in the temp check before, but going to space is my greatest fear. I have no desire to do it. I think that we’re on Earth for a reason. You know, everybody who’s ever been in my family has always been on Earth. So it just seems like a real good way to die for no reason. And, you know, I think I’ll just take my chances. I also I’m a little worried about space madness as a concept. I feel like, you know, if you’re just on a plane or I guess a ship going to a place you’ve never been, who’s to say you might not hear something, go a little wild? Then, then, you know, like, I don’t think you can defend yourself when you come back and it’s just you. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: Right. Right. Yeah, There’s, there’s a high potential not only of this person being the murderer, but me turning into the murderer.
Akilah Hughes: Right. You don’t want that.
Gideon Resnick: As a result, yeah, of losing it up there. Yeah. You’re making, you’re making great points. But still, what a crazy story.
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Like, yeah, when you went to the moon with a billionaire and you came back with all this money alone. It’s a good story. I think it ends in jail time. [laughs] Just like that, we’ve checked our temps. Stay safe. Hey, maybe enjoy the earth in the meantime, decide later if you’re going to go to the moon, and we’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Italy blocked a quarter million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from being exported to Australia yesterday. The country took advantage of new measures under the EU that allow member states to vet and restrict the export of COVID-19 vaccines in certain situations. Italy’s government justified its decision by citing AstraZeneca’s delays in providing its vaccine to Italy and other EU countries. Italy also noted that Australia isn’t considered a vulnerable country by EU standards. The new export control system was made back in January after EU leaders and AstraZeneca had a public dispute about the company falling short of its promised supply of doses. The World Health Organization criticized the new system, suggesting that it could jeopardize global supply chains for vaccines.
Akilah Hughes: A series of major earthquake struck near New Zealand yesterday, prompting tsunami warnings for the island and for a large portion of the Pacific. All three quakes shook above a 7.3 Magnitude, but the highest at 8.1. That was the strongest earthquake to hit the globe since an 8.0 magnitude quake in Peru in 2019. Coastal New Zealanders were told to rush to higher ground twice within six hours yesterday—yikes—with official advisories to even ditch their cars and go by foot to avoid traffic. No. There were reports of water leaving the coastline, which is often a signal that a tsunami is approaching. At some point in the day, Hawaii, American Samoa and countries in South America were also given tsunami warnings, but they were downgraded later. Experts say it is extremely unusual for three earthquakes to occur within a 300 mile radius of a common point in less than eight hours.
Gideon Resnick: Don’t like the ‘extremely unusual’ phrase when it’s ascribed to disasters.
Akilah Hughes: Sure don’t.
Gideon Resnick: We’re still wrapping up the last of the scandals from the Trump administration. On Wednesday, a report was released showing that Trump’s transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, used her office to help family members who run an international shipping business. Chao’s dad founded Foremost Group, which works extensively with the Chinese government. In her role as transportation secretary, Chao repeatedly asked her staff to do work for her father, including marketing his memoir—interesting—and keeping a list of his awards. She also made plans for a State Department visit to China, where she’d travel with her dad and sister and visit several of their business partners. That trip was later canceled amid ethics concerns. All this prompted an investigation from the Department of Transportation’s inspector general back in December 2020, but Trump’s Justice Department declined to follow up. Also relevant, Senator Mitch McConnell, who is Chao’s husband, used his role in the Senate to push for appointing a new DOT inspector general the day after the acting IG reported his wife’s behavior to the DOJ.
Akilah Hughes: I mean, there is just no bottom. If you’ve noticed monkeys posting more on mass group shots lately, there’s actually a reason for that. Some of them are getting vaccinated. Six great apes at the San Diego Zoo got two shots each of a COVID-19 vaccine back in February, according to National Geographic. They didn’t even have to put on old lady costumes to trick people into thinking they were eligible. They just got a special drug that was developed just for animals. The apes are now being tested for antibodies to see if the vaccine is working. San Diego Zoo is the same place where a troupe of eight gorillas tested positive for COVID back in January but they’ve all since recovered, thankfully. As one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, it’s only fair that they should get to experience our sickness.
Gideon Resnick: It’s true, and maybe, I hope the vaccine does not lead them to take over the world, which it could.
Akilah Hughes: You know, I mean, hey, maybe we need something to take over the world. And those are the headlines.
Gideon Resnick: One last thing before we go. Exciting news we have for you—I’m talking like Yoda—Crooked has a brand new sports podcast: Takeline is a weekly show hosted by writer Jason Concepcion and former NBA All-Star Renee Montgomery that is all about sports, culture, politics, the New York Knicks, I’m sure, and the ways they intersect and impact each other.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it’s a fun, fast paced, thoughtful show. And whether you’re hardcore into sports or just dabble, it’s a really great lesson. The trailer is out now. Subscribe today so you won’t miss the series premiere on March 16th. You can find Takeline on Apple Pod[casts], Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you’d like to show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, join us on a trip to space—
Akilah Hughes: No.
Gideon Resnick: —and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just angry comments on posts from maskless monkeys 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 stay safe over for the weekend!
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. You know, just chill out, relax. Kick back.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. We don’t tell you that as often as we should, but we, we still believe that you should stay safe. Just want to make clear.
Akilah Hughes: We want that.
Gideon Resnick: I don’t think you should be unsafe. [laughs]
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.
Akilah Hughes: Hey, What A Day, listeners, we’ve got a podcast recommendation for you: Good Words with Kirk Franklin welcomes people from every cross-section of life seeking inspiration and empowerment. Through intimate conversations, exploring faith, redemption and the realities of today’s world, Kirk invites us to see ourselves in the shared moments between him and his guests. The show provides a fun and energetic outlet to lift people up and share trials and tribulations that guests have overcome along the way. Guests include Chance the Rapper Pharrell, H.E.R., Kelly Rowland, Glennon Doyle, and more. New episodes every Tuesday. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.