S1: This episode of The Gabfest contains explicit language. This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership.
S2: Hello and welcome to Slate Political Gabfest, May 7th, 2020. The vote by mail addition. I am David Plotz of Business Insider and My Attic, My Closet in Washington, D.C.. Joining me from his perch in Manhattan, New York City, is John Dickerson of CBS 60 Minutes. Hello, John. Hello, David.
S3: That’s the first time you’ve identified yourself by that moniker.
S4: I know. I know. I did Monarch. I did monicker myself as Business Insider because I am as we talked about last week, I’m writing a newsletter with Henry Blodget for Business Insider read Dot B.I Slash Plotts to subscribe. It’s pretty fun. And then also joining from her home in New Haven, Connecticut, from the New York Times Magazine and Yale University Law School, Emily Bazelon. Hello, Emily.
S5: Hello. I am indeed enjoying your newsletter.
S4: How are you guys doing? Are you are you guys OK?
S1: It’s so nice out today. Yes, I’m fine.
S3: Yeah. Yeah. Wow. Really? I don’t know. You never know. You never know. Yeah.
S5: On anything changes. And yet you never know.
S4: On today’s gabfest. Is there even a hint of a plan for quashing this pandemic in the United States? Then will the 2020 election be a fiasco? Emily has just written an alarming story about how a vote by mail and other pandemic voting remedies could be problematic, could fail, could be disastrous. And then we’ll be joined by Gene Sperling, a former top economic official in the Clinton and Obama White Houses, is a new book, Economic Dignity. He’s going to talk about pandemic economics and how he can create an economy that is more fair and more dignified for all of us. Plus, of course, we’re gonna have cocktail chatter. The United States response to the pandemic is a mess. It’s overseen by a federal government that is proving itself incompetent, corrupt, confused and delusional. There’s been a week of chaos, a refusal to participate in an international vaccine conference. The pandemic task force was going to be disbanded. Then it was not going to be disbanded. Then it was barred from testifying before Congress. There were various death estimates that came from the administration that were wildly diverse and none particularly trustworthy, including one which, if you took it to its logical conclusion, would conclude that the deaths from the pandemic would go below zero in June. Meanwhile, the White House is urging governors to reopen states faster, even though case loads are growing and no state has met the standard laid out by Johns Hopkins for what it would take to start reopening. Plus, we have story after story coming out about federal incompetence with FEMA confiscating PPE ordered by states, a mind blowing Lee incompetent team of millennial pals of Jared Kushner botching up supply chain for PPE. And then you have the secretary of state spewing conspiracy theories about China manufacturing the virus. It’s been a bad week.
S1: I mean, there’s something to add. Oh, yeah. New Jersey, an AP story this morning that a set of detailed documents and I quote, created by the nation’s top disease investigators meant to give Step-By-Step advice to local leaders deciding when and how to reopen mass transit, daycare centers and restaurant and other such features of life has been shelved by the Trump administration. It was a 17 page report by the CDC called Guidance for implementing the Opening Up America Again framework. In other words, guidance for what we have to do next. Shelved. And maybe it will now be off the shelf. Maybe now that that news is broken.
S3: And just to piggyback on that, the White House has its own little document for helping states. But the White House document is that this echoes the entire challenge that they faced from the end of December when this first started. Fibrillating on the globe, which is the political response inside the White House response or the expert response? The White House has its own little pamphlet, much more vague, much less expert based. The CDC is usually the one that takes the lead on these things, is expert based, is based in in science. And that’s the one that’s been shelved.
S4: So there’s a lot of different things that happened this week, some relating to the actual epidemiology of the virus, the spread of it, some relating to the push to reopen, some relating to various details coming out around corruption that I talked about or incompetence. So, John, as best you can tell, what is the Trump administration trying to accomplish?
S3: Well, yeah, it’s a great question because they’re also. What are they? Well, let’s just start some things out on the table and then you guys can order them. I mean, one of the things they’re trying to accomplish is find some way to get the economy to begin its period of convalescence. I don’t even think we’re in a period of convalescence yet. We’re in we’re still in the basically on ice. But the problem with that is, of course, that you have The New York Times reporting today that more than half of the states that are starting their easing opening measures have their numbers on new cases and the percentage of new cases relative to the total number of tests going in the exact wrong direction, not just the wrong direction based on like what some epidemiologists says, but actually based on the wrong direction, based on the White House guidance that we were just noting was the less conservative guidance relative to the CDC. So even relative to the White House guidance, these states are moving in a dangerous direction. So if so, there’s this weird political thing about continuing to try to step away from the responsibility as a way to kind of put it all on governors. The White House is also trying to still be a somehow kind of cois I help in backing up some of these states, although it’s really withdrawing from that posture as a part of the third thing it’s trying to do, which is basically clean up the past and end the failures of the White House in the past and also distance itself from perhaps the coming awfulness, which is both the current spike, but then also what we’re likely to have in the fall and winter, which is either another boom or just lots of outbreaks anyway in something that the experts are now saying could be with us for the next 18 months.
S6: Emily, same question to you.
S4: What what do you see the Trump administration trying to do here?
S5: Deflect responsibility and somehow obscure the reality of what’s happened and what is continuing to happen so that Trump gets re-elected. I don’t really know how else to interpret it. I guess there’s also this part of me that is so confounded by this. Like in some ways, of course, this is a huge challenge and a heavy lift in other ways. It’s straightforward. The nation needed needs to mobilize around testing, tracing, figuring out how to responsibly take these baby steps toward reopening in precisely the way that countries that have contained or the new term is boxed in. The epidemic have succeeded in doing. We have models from South Korea. We could be walking next to Germany instead of like longingly, maybe trying to follow them later, although probably not because we will have botched it. And Trump could have been the roll up your sleeves. Corporate America knows how to get things done. President that he kind of positioned himself at when he got elected and his approval ratings would be through the roof. He would have made up for where he would have actually made up for all the previous errors. And since that’s a different question. But in the public eye, I think he could have really changed his whole image. I mean, can you imagine, like the whole media, all of us, we would be saying, well, you know, he really did when when he needed to. He came through. And instead, we’ve had this just wildly chaotic, narcissistic, completely ineffective response that continues to dog us. And so what it looks to me like we’re left with is this patchwork of authority from the governors. And these regional compacts are, you know, a good idea. But they’re going to divide the country up into all these little pieces. We’re kind of running these uncontrolled experiments in these states instead of having a deep, politicized conversation about what is safe to try to do right now. It’s so frustrating. We’re going to just be stuck in this long mired sludge, potentially, of rising infections and death rates and a lot of blaming ourselves and each other divisively instead of having some orderly, much less death ridden process. And it seems so unnecessary.
S6: I think that’s a great way to put it. Emily, I would I would say there actually might be an even more alarming scenario, which is not rising death rates, but rather just a kind of plateau, which is that, in fact, I think with rising death rates, with something where it’s obvious that the disease is not out of control. Excuse me. Where it’s obvious the disease is out of control.
S4: There might be a possibility of galvanizing the public and actually getting real change in some of the really important things around testing and tracing that we need. But with a disease that sort of it’s just just chugging along Killens couple thousand people a day, several thousand people a day, gradually working its way through society. We may have the worst of all possible worlds, which is not enough enough kind of progress. And I use air quotes. I’m using air quotes vigorously there and progress for states to continue to believe that they can open their economy again open. That’s also in air quotes, but not enough to actually create the safety, to create the advance that we know we need to. To break this thing finally and. It’s a it’s an absolute tragedy. And I just don’t I mean, I think your point about distraction, Emily, is so important that it’s it is that what the Trump administration primarily is trying to do is to just make everybody not notice the fact that we have monumentally botch this whole situation and instead throw up things like China conspiracies to make it seem like, oh, it’s somebody else’s fault, it’s not our problem we’re doing and we’re reopening and hope that people don’t notice it. But I. I think that people are going to notice. I do think what people are going to notice when they don’t have a job and their stores aren’t open. Go ahead, John.
S3: Well, I think the I guess a few things. One, it can be true that China and it is true that China was awful repeatedly in the early days of this in January. So that can be true, that China was absolutely villainous. And yet the administration and maybe not and yet but also the administration messed up. I mean, imagine if Kennedy, upon hearing that missiles where were chugging along on a boat to their way to Cuba, said they’re being parents, very transparent. They’re no missiles going there. I mean, the notion that the administration and the president in particular, who could have in that January period where China was repeatedly snubbing the CDC when it saw it, information about the virus. The president could have gotten, you know, gone in front of the cameras and beat the Paiste out of China. Now, you can make a case that to do so would put China in a corner, make them feel like they’d lost face on the international stage, and therefore maybe made the situation worse. But regardless, there’s no indication from inside that they were at DEFCON, whatever you’re supposed to be at with respect to China and the information they were getting there. Second, there are three stages. It seems to me. There’s the did you pay attention to all those warnings that came before you’d ever heard the word Wu, Mr. President? Second, when you heard things were going terribly. Why didn’t you do more than just shut down travel from China? That’s the second stage. And then the third is what we’re seeing in the real time today from the president and his aides. And so when you see in statements from people like Mike Pence who said we can’t keep our country closed for the next five years, nobody’s proposing keeping it closed for five years. When you have to exaggerate the situation in order to make your case, you have a weak underlying case. And so in real time, those kinds of comments, the excessive effort to promote how much progress has been made and how wonderful the president has done are a distraction from the job at hand. And in an economy that’s based on confidence and consumers, I don’t see how you spin people into spending lots of money if the facts are as brutal as they keep appearing to be.
S5: Right. That point about consumer confidence is OK.
S4: I’m reminded that there was this meme has been this kind of conservative meme, the conservative notion over the past 10 or so years, like that liberal culture. It’s all give everyone a trophy affirmation culture. Everyone’s great. And it seems to me that we as a country and I think conservatives and I think the Trump administration has become. Completely enamored of this for ourselves that we are so good at congratulating ourselves and talking about American exceptionalism, and of course, yes, if we do it differently, it’s because we’re different in our different way is better. And this is just the lie that we tell ourselves. It’s just the lie that we’ve told herself is now coming back to literally kill us is literally killing us because we’re not the greatest country on Earth. We don’t have the greatest political system. We don’t have the greatest health care system. We don’t parent apparently have the greatest supply chain and the greatest economy. None of those things. It turns out, are true. And instead, you just need to do some fucking hard work on some things that are complicated and tricky and actually work hard on it. And we are showing ourselves unable or unwilling to do either of those things. And it’s very depressing.
S3: An interesting thing to watch is the Cuomo relative to New York. The New York Times had a piece on Thursday about how basically much of the spread in the United States came through New York. So in other words, even though Washington State is one of the first places it was hit, the real spread comes through New York. There will be a lot of questioning about how late and slow they were in New York. And yet Cuomo, who has some of those same problems that Trump has in terms of sluggish first response, has done all the things subsequent to the outbreak that gain leader’s popularity and all the things that the president has chosen not to do. Even though the checklist for the stuff you’re supposed to do comes with the office and is right there every day printed on the resolute desk.
S5: So here’s what I’ve been struggling with maybe for a long time, but certainly lately is worrying about how everything we’ve just described takes our attention away from, like, the difficult, real questions about what should happen where. So there are states, as John was describing, where the infection rates are rising and their positive testing rates are not down and there are deaths are maybe plateauing, but they’re not declining. And previously, there’d been the standard you have to have 14 days of decline in cases before you’re reopening there, blowing right through that. There are also places in the country where when you look at purely the death rate, you don’t see excess deaths during this period. They’ve been not really hit so far. And you can understand, if you lived in one of those states, especially a rural part of it, and you felt like covered was really remote. Why you might feel like you’d like to be able to go to some more stores or do some more things. And maybe that’s like an experiment that those states should be able to try. And maybe they could even lead the way for showing what small steps are safe. And maybe because we’ve all, or at least hopefully all have accustomed ourselves to wearing masks and to social distancing. You could have some opening up and do it pretty safely because people are going to take their own precautions. Right. So people who are really at risk are going to be super careful. The rest of us are going to wear our masks and constantly wash our hands and not get too near each other and try not to make spaces crowded, all the kind of metered access that could help. Like, you could imagine that. And Germany is going to do this, right, that we’re gonna watch them. And yet if we when we start opening the door to that, it seems like a totally irresponsible step set of steps to propose because the politics have gotten so polarized and messed up. So I I’m frustrated about that because I feel like, of course, we all want the economy to resume. We want people to have jobs and and not lose their livelihoods. But we’re sort of there is a way in which the political discourse can be so castigating when you’re instead of realistic about that. At the same time, I’m really struck that the federal government seems to be losing interest in this problem in the last few weeks as we figure out that it’s a disproportionate number of poor people and people of color are dying. That terrifies me and that makes it feel like it is irresponsible to talk about opening up because it’s, if worse, sacrificing groups of people who are marginalized. Those two competing forces have really been on my mind this week.
S3: I just want tack on one other point, David, you mentioned of reporting this week about the scattershot response to try to kind of make up for the original sluggishness. And there’s a quote in the Times piece about this. It’s from a former deputy administrator at FEMA that says there’s an old saying in emergency management I wrote that got out, too. There is an old slope there. There’s an old saying in emergency management, the disaster is the wrong time to exchange business cards. And it’s a it’s a great quote because I spent all this time in my book interviewing former FEMA people. And, you know, obviously there’s been a lot of issues covering disasters over the years and lots of fixes can be made. But nobody says make the fixes when the hurricane is smashing down your house. In other words, exchanging business cards when the disasters they’re.
S4: Yes, that was a great story. It was a great quote. And that story about Jared Kushner pointing out that they were trying to do all these kind of deals with people who had no experience and were scammers and ignoring the people who did have experience that were not scammers. The VIP list now Slate plus members, you get bonus segments on the gabfest, other Slate podcasts. If you go to Slate dot com slash gab fest, plus you can become a member. Today, we’re going to talk about how to save the summer. We got some suggestions from you listeners and we’re going to figure out how to make summer not as much of a disaster as it seems like it will be for parents. There is a cover story in this coming weekend. New York Times Magazine by Emily Passell on Will Americans Lose Their Right to vote in the pandemic? We’re gonna talk about Emily’s fantastic and alarming story. So, Emily, take it away. What is the premise of this story? Will Americans, in fact, lose their right to vote independent?
S5: I really, really hope not. And while I do think it’s important to sound the alarm because my reporting shows that this is an urgent matter, we need to start transitioning to much more vote by mail for the fall and making sure that polling sites remain safe for people who are going to use them. It’s also true that we do have enough time left to do this. I don’t want to have the message be like this is hopeless. It is not hopeless. It is a roll up your sleeves kind of problem. As Nate personally from the Stanford Healthy Elections Project said to me, like the boring stuff matters. This is about logistics and getting new systems in place. And it’s also about the states having the money to do that. So one of the big looming questions in the piece is whether Congress is going to provide adequate funding. Right now, there’s 400 million dollars for election officials to respond to the pandemic. They, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which has done a lot of analysis. They need three point six billion more. Unfortunately, this has become a polarized issue in which Democrats are asking for money. And in Washington, Republican officials are resisting. What I found, though, when I started talking to people in the states, the secretaries of state who actually run the elections, there is considerable support for doing all of this properly. And it’s bipartisan because these are the people who know they’re going to be accountable. And we talked, I think, on the show about the Wisconsin primary, which was just a total fiasco in terms of people losing their right to vote because they didn’t prepare in advance, because vote by mail went just absolutely through the roof in terms of previous demand. And they ran out of envelopes and they couldn’t get all the absentee ballots out on time. And then lots of poll workers, many of them older, didn’t feel safe staffing the polls. And so in major cities like Milwaukee and smaller ones like Green Bay, there were just a tiny number of polling places open. And we know that there are more than 50 covered infections that seem to be connected to going to the polls that day in Wisconsin. Nobody wants to be that state or that city that has that kind of disaster, basically of voting. And so it’s time to start ramping up and figuring out how to make it possible to get all the supplies in order and all the folks trained to do a lot more vote by mail. At the same time, we can’t just have a total switch because they’re going to be a lot of people who don’t have stable mailing addresses in the fall. People who move around because of the downturn. People on Native American reservations sometimes don’t have easy mailing addresses, and they’re people with disabilities need to go to the polls. So it’s this dual challenge and we can do it just like we can fight the virus. But it is this big, like logistical challenge that the politics are complicating.
S4: So, Emily, you said there’s 400 million dollars in federal funding. You need four billion dollars to do this, right? What is that, three point six billion buy? Is that effectively four vote by mail? And one of the things that really struck me in the piece were were your descriptions of some of the obstacles to extending vote by mail too much in such a short time horizon?
S5: Yeah. So there are five states in the country that already have systems where they send every registered voter a mail in ballot. It’s Utah, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Colorado. Then there are some states that have done like 25 percent or so of the electorate. They know what to do this. They just haven’t done it to a huge volume. Then there are 27 states where the to date, fewer than 10 percent of voters have ever gotten absentee ballots in an election before. So in Connecticut, for example, you have to have an excuse. It’s a pain to do it. We’re about to change that. Our secretary of state said this time she was going to mail a ballot to everybody for the primary and for November. Well, that is a huge ramp up. Like we’ve never done it like that before. And so you need special envelopes, you need paper. You have to order them from a vendor. The vendor has time still to deliver all that. But if they’re going to have a huge ramp up in production, they need to buy expensive million dollar equipment. And they’re not going to make those investments unless they know the orders are coming in. If the states don’t have the money to know that they can pay those orders, they’re going to be reluctant to place them. Then there are like the scanners and tabulating machines that you need on Election Day to do the counting. You need to train your poll workers or not, your poll workers, your election officials to know how to verify signatures properly. That’s like a whole other challenge. And then meantime, they also need to figure out how to make the polls safe to vote in a time of coalbed. So social distancing, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, masks, PPE, all the things we know we need in public spaces. We need to get in place for the polling centers that remain open.
S3: On your first point, Emily, it’s such a great one. This is why we have collective action, even though the states handled the voting. When you’re faced with a crisis that the job of somebody in leadership, which in this case is the president, because even though each state deals with the voting, it’s a 50 state problem. See an urgent need, which is the voting issue is gonna be a problem, particularly if there’s a spike that Foushee and everybody else says is coming in the fall. Find a plan to address that need and then execute. So this is as you as you were saying, this is like finding the vaccine or finding therapeutics or finding testing or more masks or whatever. It’s another test in the moment that although in this case, as you said, it can’t. There are solutions and there’s a like a path to follow and people who’ve been thinking about this and mobilization that can take place. Do you sense, Emily, that anybody other than in the individual states is moving at the speed and pace required to deal with this?
S1: I mean, I think there are definitely hundreds of public interest groups who are really pushing Congress to act and pass the funding for this. And there’s this irony here. So vote by mail historically has not provided a partisan advantage to either party. Like when you look at 2016, the same number, the same percentage of Republicans and Democrats voted by mail. Studies have shown that there is no partisan benefit. It’s neutral in partisan terms. What vote by mail does is it has bumped up participation a couple of points in the states that have it. And unfortunately, President Trump has seized on that as a reason to oppose it. So he said on TV when the Democrats started floating these funding proposals that the proposals, quote, had things, levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again. Well, if that’s your premise that more people voting means Republicans lose. Then you have an interest in fewer people participating. You’ve, like, come out in favor of voter suppression. And then you are using stymying the state’s effort to properly prepare for the election and increase the volume of voting by mail as like one thing that’s going to help you get elected. The other fear about all of the way in which Trump has been talking about the election is you’re just kind of breeding mistrust by making it sound like the results are going to be illegitimate. There is going to be chaos. The states don’t know how to do this after the Wisconsin primary. A conservative interest group put out this ad about the election and it has this like weird mixed message in it. It talks about how absentee balloting rose a great deal in Wisconsin, as if that’s a bad thing. But then it ends on this picture of nice elderly white people in a sunny room getting help with their absentee ballots and saying we have to make it safe for people to be able to vote absentee. And so I just don’t know what exactly to make of all of this messaging, because it suggests that the goal is to kind of destabilise the election while still encouraging typical Republican voters to come out. And I just wish this was not a partisan issue and it doesn’t have to be.
S3: There is that political science over time that has shown we’ve talked about this a lot before, that that has suggested that people, when they feel their vote is threatened, will actually work harder to make sure they vote. And I might add the story’s amazing stories in Wisconsin of people waiting in lines at the risk of their health for hours and hours to vote. And then the outcome in Wisconsin would it would seem to suggest that I’m not. I’m not suggesting you should should allow that to take place. But in terms of a president and lots of other people who are trying to game out what the outcome will be, it can often backfire on people who think that by trying to constrict voting access, it’s going to help your team.
S4: Emily, when you think about the various issues around ballot expansion and voter suppression, if you are to pick that, the two or three that were most important. So there’s purging the voter rolls, there’s voter I.D., there’s felon disenfranchisement, there’s closing polling stations, there’s vote by mail there, same day registration there. Probably a bunch that I’ve left out. Which do you think are the ones that really matter the most and that that we should obsess around the most?
S1: Yeah, it’s funny that you ask that. I looked for a study that tried to compare the effects of those various tactics and I couldn’t find one. What I think from the literature is that making it harder for people to register to vote and stay on the rolls is huge. And so there is a whole part of my piece about purging and we are seeing hundreds of thousands of voters being, quote, cleansed or cleaned. We see the rolls cleaned up to lose hundreds of thousands of voters. Some of them are in active. Some of them don’t have exact matches through this very troubled system called Cross. Check that Kris Kobach, the person who is a real disseminator of the myth of widespread voting fraud. This former secretary of state in Kansas, he created this system. OK, so you have all these people swept up the rolls. This has happened, for example, in Georgia. They don’t have same day registration in Georgia. Right. So these things go together. You show up. You think you can vote. You’re not on the rolls. You can’t just, like, reregister and cast a ballot. That seems like it could shave off the margins of turnout in a significant way. And I would say at this point that voter suppression is often about what happens at the margins. And that’s true about aspects of voting by mail as well. So big issue. Do you send applications for absentee ballots to every registered voter? Do you send the ballots themselves and just streamline it for people? That’s a choice that states make. Do pay the return postage or do you make people go out and find a stamp? A lot of people, especially young people like I don’t know how many times my kids have ever put a stamp on a letter that’s just like not a thing they do there. So those are actually burdens for people. And then this whole rabbit hole of signature verification. This is like really looks to me like the hanging chads of the 2020 election because there are states that know how to do it. So I’m interviewing the lovely secretary of state in Washington, Kim Whyman. She’s explaining to me like we have the police who investigate fraud, come in and trained our election workers about how to verify signatures. Well, that makes a lot of sense. Those are the people who know how to do it. And then she said this interesting thing that once you have the training, you actually are more competent in signatures that are not identical because you realize that there’s like a way in which people hold the pen and make marks and doesn’t have to look the same every time to actually be a signature match. So you have a lower rate of rejecting signatures if you don’t have that kind of training or you are being in other ways, like just sort of rejecting of signatures, two percent of rejecting absentee ballot signatures in an election where lots of people vote by mail. That’s thousands of voters, thousands of votes that you’re tossing out. And then the other point that Secretary of State Whyman made to me is you better have a canvassing board that’s doing that in public view, where everyone can see how these ballots are being treated, because otherwise people worry about some kind of partisan effect in which ballots are being tossed in, which aren’t, especially because there’s research showing that young people and sometimes people of color have their ballots rejected at a higher rate. They’re just all these questions of fairness that come up here. And it’s the cumulative effect at this point, a voter suppression. There’s an interesting lawsuit that verified action, this voting rights group that Stacey Abrams, the former candidate for governor in Georgia. She started this group and they brought a lawsuit in Georgia and they said, look at all these different tactics. It’s the ones I’ve already talked about. It’s also closing a lot of polls, especially in cities where black people vote. It’s all these little bite at the apple and the shift that we need for preparing. The pandemic just like augments various possibilities.
S4: Emily, one thing which I think you you nodded at, you could have sniffed at in your piece, but I would be interested to hear you talk about here is what art is there a possibility that if the pandemic is raging in November, that states could actually cancel the election and have their legislature declare winners, especially the presidential vote race?
S1: Yeah. This is the sort of nightmare for democracy scenario. I thought I think I first heard about from Mark Joseph Stern at Slate. He wrote a piece a while ago pointing out that the Constitution still gives the power to state legislators to choose the electors who actually make the votes in the Electoral College that choose the president. Now, the states turned that power over to the voters in the 19th century, and they haven’t talked about getting it back. That would be incredibly anti-democratic. But when you look at the Constitution, they return that power. And so the notion that you could use the pandemic as an excuse to try to effectively, like, cancel democracy on Election Day, it’s kind of hovering out there.
S6: But that’s for the presidential vote. There’s also votes for House, Senate, state legislature. Can they do it? State legislatures can’t simply trump every single one of these elections. They can’t say we’re going to we’re going to not count the presidential vote and just select electors. But we’re still going to have a vote for Congress.
S1: I think that’s right. I have some concern, like some question about the Senate. But didn’t there isn’t there an actual constitutional amendment about how we elect the senators? Like at first the Senate was also chosen through electors. But I think that we got rid of that. Right. So I think it’s right. And yes, we did. Thank you, John Dickerson, for actually knowing something about the Constitution. This wording, another kind of potential, really problematic development is what happens in cities that are Democratic strongholds that have been hit by it. And you have a lot of fear of it if you don’t really work hard to protect the vote in cities like Milwaukee, where we just saw what happened otherwise in Philadelphia, in Detroit, you could really have swing states affected by turnout because you have made it hard to vote. And those three states that I named have divided government. They have Democratic governors and Republican controlled legislatures. And that dynamic caused a lot of trouble in Wisconsin in April. Then also, you have the potential of throwing the election or some of these contests to the courts. And, you know, we also saw the courts divide along ideological lines in the Wisconsin cases in a way that is quite distressing in in gives me sort of chills of thinking back to Bush versus Gore.
S6: All right. Read Emily’s cover story in The New York Times magazine this Sunday. Will Americans lose their right to vote in the pandemic? Gene Sperling joins us from Santa Monica, California. Gene was the national economic adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. He has a new book out. Economic Dignity is extremely timely. Gene, welcome to the GAB Fest. It’s great to see you. I hope you’re healthy, healthy and safe. I’m so honored to be here. Start with your book. What is economic dignity? Why is it important to think about now in the moment of the greatest economic catastrophe of our lifetime?
S7: Yeah, I mean, for me, as someone who’s been doing policy for 20 or 30 years, I just felt it was incredibly important for us to remember that our ultimate goal is not a GDP number or a metric. It’s about, you know, what is our aspiration for, you know, our fellow American? And for me, I defined economic dignity as requiring three pillars the capacity to not only care for family, but to be there for the most precious moments of life with your loved ones, to be able to pursue your purpose and potential. And finally, to be able to contribute economically without domination or humiliation. And, you know, I wanted this to to define this as what should be the North Star for people in economic policy, that it was helpful to remember this when you’re lost in all the political and Metrick debates. But I think what really makes this our kind of moment of truth on economic dignity really goes to Martin Luther King’s speech that he gives in 1968, March 18th, at the Memphis sanitation workers strike, where he says his famous line that all labor has dignity. But the line that leads up to it, he says, we will come as a nation to learn that the sanitation worker and the physician are both essential to our well-being. And how do we justify that the people we are relying on who have this value? We actually treat quite terribly. They get very low pay. And it goes on beyond the pay. I mean, how is it right as a nation that less than one of the of 10 people who care for people’s children? Azle Lower living cannot take all we paid week off one week off with their own family. How can it be that half of the people who are home and nursing AIDS do not have a single day off sick leave? And so I do think what makes this the moment is, are we going to just respond with applause and pats on the back, or are we going to actually put forward the type of essential workers bill of Rights that I think Elizabeth Warren and Roe Kahana are talking about? And then, most importantly, will this be a moment of reflection where we say to ourselves, the people who care for our loved ones. They are essential. This is real. And is this going to affect our long term compact?
S5: So one of the points you make that resonated with me is the idea that economic dignity has served as a mediating force in our nation’s historic tension between collective justice and untamed individualism. I’m quoting it now, just so we know, I’m not plagiarizing. And so when you write about that, you also go on to talk about some of the key decisions the Supreme Court has made in the past that have recognized that when a group has weak bargaining power, they need more protection from the government, that there there’s a way in which the government is always making economic choices and how it structures the market and how it treats workers and requires private employers to treat workers. Unions have historically been a bigger force, and part of that picture in American history in another country is than they are right now. Do you see labor as essential to economic dignity? And when you talk about a workers bill of rights, what place do you see for unions in that?
S7: I think it is absolutely essential. And, you know, as the country starts out our first hundred years or so, we kind of are we are based on this principle that the government, particularly in the criminal justice sense, cannot impinge on your dignity. You have certain rights, at least as long as you are a white male. None of this is obviously applied to African-Americans are women, but it stands as an ideal. And if you get into the Teddy Roosevelt area, people say, well, what is this value of individual dignity or sphere of dignity? What worth is it? If my employer can completely dominate me. Teddy Roosevelt is his whole view changes not by some philosophy, but because he does nighttime tours as the New York police commissioner, a state assemblyman, and he sees these horrible, degrading situations. And it is this sense of loss of dignity that makes him say we need more government regulation. And he becomes a. Very pro union president. And Justice Ginsburg says this in a dissent beautifully just in the last couple of years, that an individual worker will never have the power to demand their dignity if it’s they alone versus their company or their industry. They’ll be like the the Tiananmen Square man and that the capacity to bond together is really the only way that workers have the capacity not just to get more wages and benefits, but to be able to say, you cannot treat me like that. And I think we’re seeing that right now today, where the people we applaud are facing retaliation at insta cart at Amazon, at Trader Joe’s for standing up for PPE and a little extra hazard pay in the middle of a pandemic.
S3: Let’s imagine somebody believed with everything in the case you’re making. It took the Depression to get FDR to totally rewrite the social contract that existed beforehand. So you had a country that was on its knees. And so in 1936, he can change the way the country thinks of itself and says, you know, the measure is not giving much to those who already have much, but. But whether we provide enough for those who have too little. It’s kind of you have to change the source code of the country before they can then accept the various things that you’re suggesting. Where would you start in in this moment?
S8: Well, I think you would build a build off this essential workers moment, because I do feel this is a I mean, it’s sad that it takes this you know, it’s sad that, you know, for myself, many other Americans right now who may be dealing with a parent who’s near the end of life, you know, the caregivers, they’re there. They’re among the most important people in your lives.
S7: And I think that the case for universal health care and universal paid sick leave has been made stronger by this recession, by this jobs depression than anything we’ve ever seen. And by the way, not just on a moral basis, but really on a self-interest basis, because people going to work sick, going out sick is a threat to everyone. So in some sense, it’s made it more tangible from a self-interested basis and hopefully from a moral and spiritual basis.
S4: Actually, Jean, let me follow up on that, because you were a person who worked in politics, who worked on getting policy made real when you were in the White House at the moment. We’re probably going to need another addition of the Carers Act before the election. I think Republicans certainly do not want the economy to be in absolutely terrible shape before the election. They are eager to have some kind of change, whereas if a Democrat ends up winning the White House in November, you can imagine that there will be significant opposition, as we saw during the Obama years, to any big policy changes that a Democratic president might want to make. So it feels to me like this is a moment before the election when Democrats have a chance to lock in certain things that will last beyond this immediate crisis. Ed, you agree with that? B, If so, what should they try to lock in in the next few months before the election?
S7: Well, look, the fact that right now we have an unemployment benefit that goes to gig workers, part time workers, all the people who’ve normally been shut out, and that we’re recognizing that providing 40 percent of your wages really isn’t very helpful. That does lead to some of the battle lines. I do believe Democrats rightly want to move more towards 100 percent or 90 percent or 80 percent wage replacement in a deep recession. And yes, I think people want that to be long term structural reform. And I think you’re going to see a big fight right now about whether that kind of bonus, stronger unemployment is extended automatically as long as the unemployment numbers are high. I think once you do certain things, just like when you got rid of being able to discriminate on preexisting conditions, once you see a different world, it can be hard to turn back. And I think that that is the subtext of some of the battles that you are going to be seen in the next, you know, carers act.
S1: So the job numbers are the joblessness numbers are out this morning. There are another three point two million people on the unemployment rolls. And there are states that now have a 25 percent unemployment rate, which is just staggering. One of the things you write about is the idea of jobs that I think are in the public sector that would really help rebuild our country. And we’ve had huge needs along these lines before the pandemic. Now we have a crisis that really could employ a lot of people to help address it. But we also have state and local governments that are just having a terrible time. Covering their expenses right now and again, a polarized debate in Washington about what to do about that. I mean, is this another issue in which it’s all about what happens in November? Or do you see ways of addressing these issues in the short term?
S7: There’s no question a lot of it’s going to be about what happens in November, at least the possibility for major change. But what I want to say was when we have losses of jobs or declines in some areas, don’t say, oh, let’s just give out a UBI check or there’s nothing we can do. We can build a better society going forward. I’ll give you just one example. It is a scandal in our country that there are so many parents. I mean, real heroes. They are heroes in how they advocate for their child with a physical disability or autism. And we basically say you’re on your own. We could use hundreds of thousands of more direct service professionals and then pay them well. So they want to stay so they can get skills so they can have career mobility.
S8: And we’re coming we’re starting to come to grips with the fact that not all the jobs are going to come back. Some of that is because of the terribly slow response we’ve had on testing and treatment and tracing and then all the things that aggravate all of us. But some of it is, to be quite honest, that something like this accelerates job changes that might have been going to happen any ways. Some of it’s going to be that people are never going to go back to the level of international business travel. And I think we could use jobs that will be building a green, sustainable future, jobs that are dignified but are serving a national purpose.
S3: So, Jeanne, when you know, I want to ask you a slightly different question about the nature of the global finance economy. In the two administrations you worked in. And now with the way things are. Do you do you feel like this is the basically the big economy that hovers over all these people whose dignity you’re trying to elevate and protect as a response to international financial shocks of the kind we had in 2007 to 2009 that we’ve had because of Greece, Mexican peso bailout that you were a part of. Is the economy moving at a faster rate and therefore requires a different way to think about sort of firefighting that goes on inside an administration? Because what ends up happening is these shocks happen, emergency measures come in and the people who get taken care of are not often the kinds of people you’re talking about. You know, they’re the people whose whose interests are the biggest at stake. And I just wonder if you could talk a little bit about what the economic landscape looks at from international finance, from an international finance standpoint, as we think about those big moving pieces and how they crash against the people you’re talking about.
S8: Right? No, I appreciate that. So let me say one thing that’s kind of interesting about this terrible period we’re going through. It is they’ll job loss, as Emily said, is is so deep and dramatic depression level. And yet it’s not quite as complex as what we’ve dealt with before. I mean, virtually everybody can understand what is happening now. People are having to freeze their economies cause of a pandemic. This is not, you know, understanding how a Lehman shock went through the system and what will prevent another one. So in some sense, as deep as it is, it’s something that we can see easier and direct. You know, we really do need to have stronger government services. Right now, we are relying on state unemployment offices that we’ve never invested in, that we’ve never thought were important, that we’ve never modernized. And we are relying on banks that are you know, we I do believe the president should have gotten defense production authority and ordered banks to give out loans fairly. So what we’ve seen is that even when some there’s a decent idea, the transmission, we’re so dependent either on someone in the private sector who’s either not able to do it or is going to do it unfairly or a government service that we’ve ignored up till we needed it. So I think that what I would hope this would say is let’s ask ourselves, you know, whether it’s a financial crisis or a pandemic, how do we keep people whole? How do we protect their dignity by keeping them in their homes, by giving them a paycheck that’s close to 100 percent. And how do we prepare ourselves? So we’d least have the capacity for these responses? Because what you’re seeing is a lot of things being screwed up, costing perhaps millions of small businesses their ability to survive. Millions of people, their job, just because we are not set up to execute during a crisis.
S4: Gene Sperling, his new book is Economic Dignity. Gene, thanks for joining us. And we’ll talk to you again soon, I hope.
S7: Thank you. David. Thank you, John. Thank you. Emily was really honored to be on.
S6: Let’s go to cocktail chatter.
S4: I had some very festive margaritas this week, so I would definitely be the cocktail. I would be chattering about for Cinco de Mayo. Now that we’re at Siento de Mayo or Otro de Mayo, whenever you’re listening, Emily, what are you gonna be drinking? Slash chattering about.
S1: I have a serious chatter and hopefully a lighter one. So we didn’t talk earlier about the post office and how important that is going to be in an election that relies on voting by mail. If that happens, the Postal Service really turns into our sort of de facto election administrator. There’s a big fight going on over funding the post office, which warns that it is poised to run out of money at the end of September.
S5: And President Trump has appointed to be the new postmaster general. A top donor to his own campaigns and the Republican National Committee. His name is Louis Dejoy. He’s a North Carolina businessman who’s currently in charge of fundraising for the RNC in Charlotte.
S1: Hopefully he’ll do a great job. But there is something a little disconcerting about appointing a political ally as opposed to a career professional to head this important agency right now. Trump, of course, has been railing for a long time about the rates that the post office charges to Amazon and other companies that send a lot of packages through the mail. The problem, of course, with jacking up those prices is that it would send companies like Amazon presumably to places like U.P.S., further decimating the business that the post office relies on. The post office already has lost a lot of that business to U.P.S. and FedEx and other services. So that’s one to watch. And on a lighter note, the Supreme Court had its first teleconferencing arguments this week. And I was on a great podcast that’s a SCOTUS watching a show called Strict Scrutiny with Melissa Murray and Kate Shaw, two of my favorite law professors, and one of them, I think, Melissa, this was before arguments said Mark my words. Some person on this call is going to forget to use the mute function and do something embarrassing. And lo and behold, on Wednesday afternoon, in the middle of argument, there is a brief moment where you can hear a toilet flush in the background. I feel so badly for the lawyer talking because his face and name have gone out with this audio on the Internet, which is, of course, being endlessly laughed over. But of course, he wasn’t the water to flush the toilet. He was talking. He was concentrating. It’s surely someone in the background, perhaps even one of the justices who did such a thing. I’m glad we will never know the person’s identity. That’s just too much humiliation for any one mortal. And I hope this serves as a warning for future use of the mute function during Supreme Court arguments.
S4: I just I just want to stand up for that, whoever it was like. All right. What does there’s a toilet flushing like. Like, do justices not take it? Don’t leave. Justices not piss. I mean, dude, lawyers.
S9: It’s ridiculous. I think it was a good shape. Do you think you would be embarrassing if it’s one of us using the toilet during this show?
S5: We would cut that footage. Like, we don’t want to know certain things.
S6: Yeah, but if if my child. If if someone who is using a bathroom in my house flushes the toilet behind me, I don’t.
S4: Who cares? Like, what’s the big deal?
S3: Well, look, I think you’re conceiving this. Oh, you’re totally mis conceiving this. I think that the application of creative and new ways to sneer lawyers argument is that the use of the flushing sound to undermine his case is perfectly fine. Who’s who is satisfied with a simple eye roll or a snort? I think getting to the chief perhaps a moment when he doesn’t like an argument he gets in Washington. Exactly. Yeah. The sad trombone would also be available. John, what’s another minus? Do a two. One is an episode of The Daily in which Caitlin Dickerson talks to a Sudanese refugees who worked at the Smithfield plant and her description of her travels to America. What she wants out of life in America. Why she indoors the hardships in her life. And then her experience with Koven 19 are basically one of the most compelling articulations of the American dream that I’ve heard in a long time. It’s beautifully put together. And so congratulations to Caitlin in The Daily. It’s really wonderful. You should go listen to it.
S4: Caitlin is as Caitlin.
S3: No relation, no relation, no relation. No, we’d gladly claim that. Super awesome. We’d gladly claim her as as a relation, though she might be embarrassed by the association with with our wing of the Dickason family. And then the second day, you’re all equal to each other. She’s very lovely. The second is that I’m sure everybody heard about the murder hornets, which have this devastating way that they decapitate bees. But this week, I was heartened to learn that bees have an evolutionary advantage that they deploy in order to thwart these murder hornets, which is to basically smother them. Bees can tolerate, according to one report on BBC, two degrees, higher temperature, body temperature before they collapse. And they use this basically they smother the hornets and flap their wings. I guess they really beat their wings. Flap suggests that they’re bigger than they are and they create basically a sauna that kills the Hornet and keeps the Hornet from ravaging their hive. So anyway, they’re fighting back. And I think that’s an important David, but only the Japanese.
S6: Only the Japanese bees have learned how to do that. American bees.
S3: Well, that’s true. They don’t know exactly how to do it yet. But apparently there have been a lot of red threads and I think they’re gonna be getting on it soon.
S6: The red the bees are reading and read it. They’re sharing, rather, have their own red dress buzzing.
S4: Both the bee red, the Brito’s as. Yes.
S3: If you just keep repeating those words, David, it’s kind of become like it’s going to take both to say bye.
S6: OK. Yeah. Do. I said, you guys are doing two chapters. I’ll do two chapters because why not. So I wrote in my newsletter read that B.I flush plots. If you want to get that daily newsletter for me and Henry Blodget about this amazing thing that Washingtonian magazine here in DC excavated, which is that back in 1991, Sally Quinn, who’s a journalist from our Washington Post journalist and and Washington society leader, wrote a novel called Happy Endings.
S4: And it was a bestselling novel. It was sort of a soft core novel, wasn’t wasn’t exactly erotic at erotic qualities to it. And the hero of that novel was named Michael Landser with modeled on Tony Foushee because she hadn’t bet Foushee at a Washington dinner party, of course, and she had found him brilliant and compassionate and kind and decent and honest and sexy and said Mattick, which just seems like only in Washington.
S5: I’m sorry.
S4: I think Tony Folks is charismatic. What do you mean? He’s intellectually charismatic. And anyway, the Michael Landser character wins the heart of a former first lady, a beautiful former first lady, which does make you start to think, well, what if Tony Foushee and Michelle Obama had had a thing that would be great? Anyway, I love the idea that Tony Foushee was the hero of an erotic the erotic hero of a bestselling novel back in the 90s. That’s my first. The second chapter, which I wasn’t in a chapter about. But now I’m just so irate that I’m going to chatter about it. The school that is John’s alma mater. But I do not hold John responsible. John Dickerson went to Sidwell Friends, which was the rival school to me. Sidwell Friends is a one of the preeminent private schools here in Washington, D.C. It is famous. The Obama children went there. Chelsea Clinton went there. It is a extremely rich school that has a gold plated campus, has spent tens, none of which was true in Iowa hands or possibly hundreds of millions of dollars last year to make build new buildings. The gym there is the most radical. Euless High School gym you’ll ever see it is just absurd. How nice it is. Anyway, turns out Sidwell Friends just received five million dollars of taxpayer money as part of the peepee program. Now they have every right to apply for it. They there’s nothing in the program that said Sidwell Friends couldn’t get it. And they got a good banker and they got in line in front and they got their money and they are taking it. They’re not giving it back, even though a bunch of other institutions that have been called out are giving the money back. There are other institutions that got BPP money which are which are well, are well-off institutions. I just find it particularly disgusting that a school which is so rich, that has so many rich parents is unable to say, we’re gonna you know, we’re gonna reign it. We’re going to tighten our belts a little bit. The students aren’t going to get quite as good an education for the next few years. We’re not going to we’re not going to make our new building out of titanium the way we planned to. It’s just going to have to be made out of platinum really disgusts me. Like, that’s our federal money. That’s money that could be going to so many other better causes. And it’s really gone to basically what I think of as maybe being the worst cause. There is a private school for a very small number of kids that already has way more money than it should have. Bring it. Bring it all you said. Well, alarms like I want to hear why I’m wrong about that.
S3: Listen, I’m not sure that you’re going to get a lot of alarms rushing to their defense.
S6: Yeah, I haven’t looked to see whether my alma mater, St. Albans School, took money. It’s entirely possible.
S3: Say, what’s so amazing? Take it. So, I mean, the same thing would apply to them times to what we when we went to school, all of the things that you said about Sidwell applied to St. Ormond’s and everybody. Smolar. Yes, Joy. The fact that our GM was like had no bleachers, our track was too short, like it was totally stunted growth. And now it’s. And now the description that you say, you know, there’s nothing you said that that didn’t fit the outlines of this.
S4: If you look. Sorry, I’m going to get off this in one second. But if you look at D.C. private schools over the last 15 or 20 years, they’ve spent on the order of a billion dollars to upgrade their facilities. These are schools that serve handfuls of kids. School, you know, serve couple thousand kids a year, are served by these schools and the amount of of private money that has flown into them to make them opulent. And over the top and so cushioned and glorious is obscene. And I and tip to my alma mater, St. Albans, got a ton of it. Your school, Sidwell Friends and the plenty of other schools do. But it’s it’s a it’s really disturbing. It’s private opulence and public scholars, as John Kenneth Galbraith put it. Listeners, you sent us Great Chatter’s again this week. Please do keep them coming. Keep them coming. Keep them coming. Tweet them to us at at Slate Gabfest and our great listener chatter. It actually came from a couple of different listeners. One is Dave Campbell at Dave Campbell, one one six. And it’s a Twitter thread about how. Back in the Irish famine in the eighteen forties, the Choctaw and Navajo nations. I think in particular the Choctaw Nation raised some money to support victims of the Irish famine and sent it to Ireland. And it was one hundred and fifty dollars. In 1847, which is, you know, real money to go help people who lived at a world away from you. And it just came out that the Choctaw Nation, the Choctaw tribe, is suffering in the pandemic, as so many people are. But it particularly is hitting poor parts of the country and I think kitting Indian reservations very hard. And there’s been a huge outpouring of Irish donations to this Choctaw tribe. So one point eight million dollars has come from the Irish to the Choctaw tribe, which had given them support back in the 1840. So thanks to Dave Campbell for sending that to us. That is our show for today. Please subscribe to the gabfest. If you liked what you heard, you can get new episodes. The minute we publish them can subscribe and whatever app you’re listening to us on. Now, our producer is Jocelyn Frank. Are researchers Brigitte Dunlap.
S2: We engineered ourselves Gabriel Roth as editorial director at Jim Thomas, as managing producer of Slate podcasts for Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson. I’m David Plotz. Thank you so much for listening. We really look forward to talking to you next week.
S4: Hello, Slate, plus, how are you? So we asked a few weeks ago for you to help us try to figure out ways to save the summer so school and I’m using school loosely that the vig Similac Graham of school, that my children and probably your children, if you have children, have been going through, is coming to an end here in D.C. They wrapped up, they decided D.C. public schools decided we’re going to wrap up school three weeks early. So at the end of May, my my kid who’s in sixth grade is going to be done with his school. And so what these people who are running schools, who’ve done a very fine job under very difficult circumstances, keeping things going, didn’t talk about is that we now have a whole summer where all the usual tools, we would deploy friends, camps, jobs at the mall. They are unavailable to us.
S1: I don’t think we know that yet. You’re giving out OK.
S6: They may be unavailable to us. They’re certainly. It’s not. Yeah, certainly not going to be. It’s not going to be the same kind of summer that I don’t think public pools are going to be open. Emily. Let me put it that way.
S1: Yeah. No, I’m not saying it’s not going to be different. I am just not willing to give up on all of it yet. And I do. I think we could safely have separate. So I’m just stuck at about Tardigrade. I’ll defend it later.
S4: And and so this summer’s can be incredibly difficult, especially if some parents are starting to have to go back to work. And we already have a situation. There’s that. Absolutely. Rhim, a story in the paper yesterday that one fifth of American kids are not getting enough to eat. So you compound this lack of activities, lack of options with just the actual suffering that people are going through, physical suffering that people are enduring. And it’s a pretty terrible combination. So what how can we save the summer? We asked you for some ideas. You sent us some. But did John and Emily your ideas for saving the summer?
S1: So obviously, we need to continue to think about trying to contain the threat of the virus. It is also true that I think there are ways for kids to do a lot of outdoor activities that are safe. And my North Star and this at the moment is the economist Emily Oster. She is very upfront about how she is incredibly eager for camp to open and for kids to be able to resume as many of their activities as are safely possible. And so she did a really thorough. And it seemed to me even read of the research so far this week. We’ll make sure to post this blog post. I didn’t like clutching it to my heart, and it’s a lot better, I think, than a lot of the news coverage, which tends to be about like one scary study as opposed to looking at all the research. And what Emily Oster is concluding is that there is still a risk of contagion through the kids to adults. But the kids themselves, it’s becoming clearer and clearer, are at relatively low risk. And it even seems like the risk of infection through them, while it’s not zero, is not all that high. And so when you start thinking about how camps actually work and how much they could rely on other young people like people in their teens and 20s to be interacting with the kids, I actually feel like you can make an argument. This is the best thing we could do with kids this summer. And yes, we’re gonna have to think about how to protect the older adults that who transport the kids back and forth or who direct the camps. But it does seem to me like with some social distancing, we could figure this out. And, you know, camp is a tricky subject in America because not everybody gets to go to camp. We don’t have public camps the way we have public school. And so I don’t want to be exacerbating the inequalities that have been so horrifying with this virus. I do feel, though, that the more we have camp, the more we really should make it a priority for the kids who don’t have enough to eat to be able to get to places where they can get fed and nourishment and where they’re interacting. One of the things that has been tormenting me is that in New Haven, my city, and in a lot of cities here are 10 percent of kids just never checked in with their schools at all. After kov, it started like they’re just gone. They’re probably, like, really stuck inside. And we’re gonna be hearing sad stories about what happened to them and the ramifications for a long time. So figuring out how to make summer something where kids have access to outdoor activities because we know the outdoors is safer, I really feel like this should be a national priority.
S6: Yeah, I would just I read that Emily Alster stuff, too, and I was very excited by it, Emily.
S4: I just want to like we we have we don’t want to make them. Emily also is not an epidemiologist. She’s an economist. And yeah, I said then, too, there is a wish fulfillment quality of a lot about a lot of this stuff. And I just don’t I want us to not believe that because we want to believe it. I would like I would like the epidemiologists to come and tell me, oh, yes, this is this is safe. The evidence she cited is very persuasive. And I was glad that she did it. But but I don’t know that the case is closed there.
S3: Yeah, and you’d have to get the lawyers to work out the indemnification for the camps, which are barely, you know, which have very tight budgets anyway, to make sure that whatever decision they they make about opening up, they don’t get. Dang, at the back end, if something goes wrong.
S1: That is all true, but camp is opt in. So, you know, you can take care of that with waivers and contracts.
S3: Right. Right, right. But somebody’s got to get in there and write them. I also wonder, really. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’ve. I don’t have any. I mean, because you’ve got to get them there. Which is its own problem. And then the 10 percent of the kids you’re talking about. I mean, they’re not going to be going to camp. The ones who didn’t even check in with their schools. And that’s about reaching into homes that are that that are the kind of toughest to crack. Right.
S1: But we should be doing that. And I mean, there are cities like my city does have summer programs. Absolutely. For poor kids who are hard to reach and like even though summer programs are gonna operate or I mean, there is this.
S4: Sorry, General. I mean, I think there’s this way, Emily. And I think I feel like you are such a good advocate of this, which is it is always easier in a situation like this to say, oh, it’s only safe.
S6: It is safe. You know, we have to be very safe. And safety means, you know, precautionary airily, not opening schools, not opening camps, you know, closing this, closing that.
S4: And and because it is safer, it’s you know, you you people are not going to get the disease if they are not at the pool, they will not catch the disease at the pool because they can’t go the pool. But it is there’s a huge opportunity cost. I think what you’re rightly identifying here, Emily, is that with kids, the opportunity cost is enormous and the risks may be lower. And so, like, let’s try to find a way to to stretch, because I think if you think like the city, you can imagine a world where camps should be open in New Haven, but the city government buildings shouldn’t be like that’s that’s a. Yeah. Personally reasonable. And it be. And to me, it’s a lot more important that can’t be opened in city government will build or the restaurants, you know.
S1: Yes. I’m not sure what the proper tradeoffs are, but it’s really important to use the outdoors, especially as the weather gets warmer to figure out how to. And some of it’s going to involve metering access. Right. So that like some people can go to the beach, but not everybody at the same time. So it’s not super crowded. Right. That’s like going to be a huge thing. And I feel like we’re just starting to figure that out.
S3: I mean, I have the argument. David, you make about safety and there are opportunity. Opportunity cost is obviously the animating argument behind the people who are asking to open up, quote unquote, open up the economies in those states that are doing so, even though numbers are going in the opposite direction. The challenge, though, I mean, the metering idea seems to make great sense. You know, if you could open the New York parks and then just find some way to limit or maybe open them only to kids. The challenge is, you know, Cuomo said that 66 percent of the time, I can’t believe this is right. But it. They did a survey of new patients at 100 New York hospitals, and 66 percent of them were people who had been sheltering at home, which is, in other words, all the things you were doing that you thought would keep case loads down. Obviously, they have kept caseload down because New York has bent the curve. And yet. There are plenty of people who are sheltering and still getting it. And so I’ve just struck by how little we still know about the way this is transmitted. Including the original fears about going to the beach that seemed to be without evidence or without strong evidence, which is kind of the opposite side of this.
S1: And so it’s this way in which New York has its particular challenges. Right. Like, it’s a dense or crowded place. So much of it spread.
S3: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, certainly any place where you don’t have the physical limitations that you have in New York, getting outside would be great if you could. The problem is that at least in its first wave, it’s hit largely dense urban areas, which are also places where kids need the most to get outside.
S4: So, all right, I’m going to bring this home just by mentioning a few of the great ideas that listeners you sent us, so few that I’ll call out that I don’t have names attached to all of these, pointing out that public libraries seem to be stepping up their programming for the summer, knowing this is a gap. So checking with your local public library, see what they they have something going on. There’s an online Harry Potter camp that someone told us about. We’ll put a link to that up. There’s a online Corradi camp offering lessons and presumably some kinds of activity, exhausting activity for your children. There’s a great message from Adam Sherlock. I wrote your name down, Adam, about Spy Hop Productions and Spy Hop Productions is a Utah program that offers, I guess, arts programming and culture programming for kids. And they started Spy Hop Art Shop, which is a YouTube tutorial series for kids to learn filmmaking, audio, storytelling, animation, puppetry, electronic music making, video game design. And it’s all with materials that people will have at hand. So if you have good Internet access, that might be a thing to try to. And then there was one parent who said, I’m just going to let my kid decide what to do. Which seemed like that seemed like a terrible idea. That doesn’t seem like a good idea anyway. If you have other better ideas, please let us know. We will try to share them out in future episodes. And for now, goodbye, Slate. Plus, we’ll talk to you later.