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Felix Salmon: Hello. Welcome to the Wax Back Sit Back episode of Slate Money, Your Guide to the Business and Finance News of the Week. It’s been a busy week this week and so I Felix Salmon of vaccines will help talk you through it along with Emily Peck also of Axios.
Emily Peck: Hello, hello.
Felix Salmon: And Elizabeth Spiers.
Emily Peck: Hello.
Felix Salmon: And we yeah, we’re going to talk about this set back. The Dwac had all credit to Emily Peck for that title. We are going to talk about the wing which shut down. We are going to talk about in Slate. Plus, we’re can talk about Citibank versus Revlon and reversibility of payments. It’s a fun day, little sleepless. But I have to say we have to lead with the UK because there was news out of the UK this week. So obviously we’re going to talk about the big news out of the UK this week, which is. The cap on gas prices and other stuff. It’s all coming up on Slate Money.
Felix Salmon: Okay. So we’re going to start with Liz Truss and Liz Windsor, one of whom is still alive. Emily, you were saying earlier to me that you have to be careful, you have to watch your words on this here podcast because people get very upset. And by people you mean the Americans. You don’t mean the Brits who do this weird thing where they have like weird national mourning when royals die. We kind of understand that as part of what it is to be British. But even the Americans are upset about this.
Emily Peck: Even the Americans, a child that I am familiar with, was like, this is very sad. All my friends are very sad. I mean.
Felix Salmon: The zoom is a sad.
Emily Peck: Yeah. Wow. I’m getting text messages from journalist friends who are like, oh, so sad.
Felix Salmon: One of our colleagues sent me a damn thing. I’m so sad.
Emily Peck: I don’t want to be insensitive to anyone’s feelings. So it’s been hard for me and my family.
Felix Salmon: I mean, to us.
Speaker 3: Totally different social circle, you guys. I’m not getting any of these DMS about.
Felix Salmon: So so, you know, no one is telling you that. That’s sad.
Speaker 3: No one.
Felix Salmon: And presumably I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say you’re not particularly sad.
Speaker 3: I’m not that sad.
Felix Salmon: Okay. So I’m not going to ask you. But Emily, can you explain this to me? I mean, there was a certain corner of like black Twitter and Irish Twitter and that kind of stuff who was definitely not sad. But in general, I think you’re right. My mother in law was sad. Lots of Americans were sad. The White House flags flew at half staff and this is the one that really got me. They had a moment of silence for the queen at the NFL game. What the apple dot com homepage. Even as we recording this on Friday, which is the big day of the first day for pre-orders for the new iPhone, it’s one of the biggest days in Apple’s e-commerce year. The entire home page, it’s just a picture of the queen. So explain that to me. I need you to.
Emily Peck: Explain to me an American person. Oh, that makes sense. An American woman explaining to Felix British guy about why people are sad in America over the queen. I mean, I don’t she’s super famous.
Felix Salmon: Because you have that like you have that colonial history with the book, right? Like you, you theoretically you weren’t very happy when you were a colony of Britain.
Emily Peck: Right. But I think people have forgotten about that. And, you know, Britain and the US have this long standing friendship and special relationship. All has been forgiven since the war of 1812 when they burned down the White House or whatever. And Queen Elizabeth, you know, she’s beloved. I’m upset. You’re asking me to explain this because I don’t feel those emotions. But she is. I mean, no question, she was the most famous person, famous woman definitely in the world.
Felix Salmon: I think the most famous person in the world.
Emily Peck: Americans love famous people and they love rich people.
Felix Salmon: She was rich and famous. I will give her that.
Emily Peck: Yes, we love that.
Speaker 3: It she is a celebrity more than a head of state or.
Emily Peck: Yes.
Speaker 3: She’s a figurehead.
Felix Salmon: She’s an ultra celebrity because she’s a celebrity who never needs to guest, edit, Vogue or do any press conferences. There was this wonderful factoid about her that she never gave an interview. She never answered the question. She basically went through her entire life without ever answering a single question in public.
Speaker 3: Well, then that allows her to be a kind of Rorschach test for people they can project on to her whatever they want.
Felix Salmon: Exactly. And there’s no one else in the world who’s like that. There’s no one else in the world who has no public opinions on anything, who just sits there as a figurehead on banknotes and stamps and everywhere else, and just is kind of ubiquitous. And one of the things that I was writing about and actually I thought that the whole thing didn’t quite make it into print because we have to be careful about sensitivities. But basically I was saying that the UK has had lots of trying times. It’s going through a very trying time. Right now it looks like inflation is going to be 13% this year. They’re going into recession this quarter. The Bank of England reckons they’re going to stay in recession through all of next year. And the trying times thing Britain has seen before, the dreadful Prime Minister thing and we can talk about Liz Truss, Britain has seen before, God knows we’ve had enough dreadful prime ministers in the past few years.
Felix Salmon: But through it all, for the past seven decades, Britain has had this woman who’s just kind of stoically been there for like in some weird way for everyone. And honestly, I blame her for the bad timing here. She shouldn’t be up and dying just when Britain needs her most. Because if you think about the weekly audience between the head of state and the Prime Minister, you would think Liz Truss has no idea what she’s doing, but she’s going in to have a week. The audience with the Queen and the Queen has known 15 prime ministers and she’s seen it all before. And now Liz Truss is going to have her weekly audience. You know, this bumbling adulterer, Prince Charles, who? Yeah, no one’s going to be reassured by that.
Emily Peck: So she’s more an institution than a she was more an institution than a person. She was a symbol. And people really clung on to that in a way that I think might be hard for Americans to understand. I don’t think we have a symbol like that. We certainly don’t have a person like that.
Felix Salmon: Well, it’s funny, you used to have a person like that. Not quite as big as that. I remember very vividly I was reporting an article in Texas once about art stuff, and that was the home of a big art collector. And I had finished up the interview and I’d seen the collection and I called an Uber to come pick me up and take me to wherever I was going next. And the Uber driver drove up the driveway at exactly the same time as Laura Bush was walking up the driveway to sort of pop in and say hi. Because that’s what they do in the swanky suburbs.
Felix Salmon: And the Uber driver, who was an immigrant, I think, from Senegal, was absolutely floored. And he was like, he got a selfie and he was so impressed. And there was this kind of just aura of presidency around her. This is after she had left the White House. He just couldn’t stop talking about it for the entire Ruby ride afterwards. Oh, my God. I met Laura Bush, and it was amazing. And it wasn’t obviously because of anything that she had done or not done, it was just because she held that symbolic role. And now I really doubt that anyone would ever feel that way around Melania Trump. But there was a time.
Speaker 3: We think Trump definitively ruined that.
Emily Peck: I don’t think so. I mean, Trump supporters would feel like that, right? The MAGA peeps would be excited to meet Melania, I would assume, and have that same feeling. It’s just not universally held by the rest of America.
Felix Salmon: I’m not even sure that the MAGA people saw that.
Speaker 3: I don’t think they trusted Melania office. I think they have a little bit of a cult of personality around Trump, but I think they view that as distinct from the presidency.
Emily Peck: Mm hmm. But wasn’t there a cult of personality around Queen Elizabeth or she was? Hadn’t she.
Felix Salmon: Had the kind.
Emily Peck: Of nobility.
Felix Salmon: Which is, I guess, a form of personality? But yeah, we should talk about the other Liz, though, because Liz Truss has inherited this absolutely nightmarish economic situation and it seems pretty obvious that she’s incapable of really getting a grip on it. She has hired Kwasi Kwarteng as her new chancellor, finance minister, and he seems vaguely competent, but he the first thing he did was fire the permanent secretary to the Treasury, basically saying, okay, I know better than the civil service. I am really in charge here.
Felix Salmon: And that’s bold because he’s inherited a clusterfuck and it was about to be announced. She was Liz Truss was about to announce a massive subsidy of electricity and energy bills which could easily reach $200 billion, which is a lot of money for a relatively small country, which will help on the inflation front because it’ll stop energy prices from going up, but it will definitely not help on the energy. Britain needs to reduce its energy consumption and if you are subsidizing energy consumption to the tune of $200 billion, then that’s not going to help in terms of reducing the amount of energy that people use.
Speaker 3: What is energy costing people annually right now?
Felix Salmon: I think I don’t have the numbers off the top of my head, but I think it’s three and a half thousand pounds a year is the energy cap. Basically, the energy companies are allowed to charge whatever they like up to a cap. And then obviously right now.
Emily Peck: The cap is 20 £500.
Felix Salmon: So yeah, so the new cap is two and a half thousand pounds a year, which is a big chunk of disposable income, especially for the bottom one or two deciles of the UK population in terms of income. Martin Wolf had a great chart showing that for the bottom decile. Energy prices can reach 50% of disposable income. So people care about this. And the energy price cap at two and a half thousand pounds is going to be very welcome. So that’s a nice little bit of popularity. She’s buying herself for £200 billion. But yeah, that doesn’t really solve anything structural.
Emily Peck: Right.
Emily Peck: It is interesting, though, I was thinking this morning because I don’t know if either of you will remember this, but back in December, The Guardian printed this column by an economist from UMass Amherst, Isabella Webber, and in it she argued that price controls are necessary to tame inflation. And it seemed like every economist in the world, definitely everyone on Twitter came out and was like, That is dumb.
Felix Salmon: Krugman was very rude about this.
Emily Peck: Paul Krugman was super, super rude about it.
Felix Salmon: But you know who wasn’t worried about it? Janet Yellen, because she is the closest thing we have to the queen. She just sits there in a sort of wise way. But yeah, Janet Yellen then came out and basically. She announced price controls. She created this buyers cartel for oil. And if you guys everyone who’s buying Russian oil just refused to pay more than X and it’s it seems to have got traction yet.
Emily Peck: And so Yellen’s doing that. Liz Truss just announced price controls for energy essentially in England and Paul Krugman wrote a column Friday morning talking about how in wartime we need to do what price controls.
Felix Salmon: Wait, wait. Paul Krugman, I know the Modern Warfare that.
Emily Peck: Yeah, the column came out Friday morning. My colleague Matt Phillips just sent it to me when.
Felix Salmon: Was moving Paul Krugman around the price controls page like yeah this is this is definitely price controls are the new black.
Emily Peck: Price controls are the new black and it’s you know, I guess the war not so much inflation you can quibble about which is doing it has sort of made change a lot of thinking on the capabilities of the free markets, you know, to solve problems. This is a case where the free market cannot solve this problem. Like you don’t want the price of everyone’s electricity in the UK to go up so high that they have to, I don’t know, freeze to death in the winter like that would be what the free market would do and you can have that.
Felix Salmon: Well, exactly. So I would make two points here. One is that when people are talking about price controls in all of these cases, we are literally just talking about one thing, which is energy. No one’s, you know, talking about, you know, the good old fashioned Mexican price controls on tortillas, which are a thing, by the way. And when I remember like covering riots in Mexico when the government lifted the price of tortillas. But so yeah. So the first thing we need to say is that all of these price controls are just on energy, right? It’s not on anything else. It’s not on tortillas. But the bigger issue here is that the energy markets are a terrible way to allocate energy to individuals.
Felix Salmon: Right. Especially in Europe. What you wind up with if you use the price mechanism as a rationing mechanism. Right. If you have not enough supply and too much demand, then the standard market solution to that problem is raise the price. And then the people who who don’t want to pay very much just stop buying it. And the people who are willing to pay more will continue to buy it. And that’s fine for Lamborghinis, right?
Felix Salmon: It is not fine for energy because the last thing you want in a cold country like the UK is for the poor people to just simply not be able to afford to heat their homes while the blind rich heat the castles in Scotland without any care because it’s such a small amount of their disposable income. Right. It’s just a terrible allocation mechanism. The prices work to allocate scarce commodities most of the time, but in this case they really don’t, and especially not in the case of natural gas in Europe, where we’ve seen the markets just be all over the place in a way that there’s just no real price discovery even.
Emily Peck: What do you mean?
Felix Salmon: No one really trusts the I mean, alcoholic. Matt Phillips has been running the chart of European gas prices more or less daily for the past month. You know, they’ve been just going up and oh my God, they’re so high. But that really tells you more about the sort of narrow fact of what is what a gas futures trading for on European exchanges. Then it tells you about, you know, the price of heating a home, which is not the same thing. You buy your gas from utilities, you don’t buy your gas on the open market. And those two prices have never been further apart.
Emily Peck: Right. I think about that when I get my oil bill and then I look at oil futures prices dropping and I’m like, well, what about my bill?
Speaker 3: Are there any comparable commodities.
Felix Salmon: Water.
Speaker 3: The same way.
Felix Salmon: Like water is always subsidized? YORK There are very few like profitable water companies. They always have implicit or explicit subsidies. And again, you don’t want to sort of when you have a water shortage, you don’t want to just say, well, if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Just let the rich people pay with no for it. And that will solve the problem. There are certain things where you want to make sure that everyone has access.
Emily Peck: That’s interesting that we’ve decided.
Felix Salmon: I mean, education is really good. Yeah, right. We talked last week about education.
Emily Peck: And we’ve decided like at energy we will take out of the free market or monkey with it, price control it, water education a little bit, but not really in the US anyway.
Felix Salmon: Health care in the US, education is free for everyone and in most developed countries and nearly all developed countries. Education.
Speaker 3: Political empowerment here.
Emily Peck: Not really.
Speaker 3: And public schools. So it’s not.
Felix Salmon: No, but it is for to a first approximation, nearly everyone in America has the ability to send their kids to school for free for now.
Emily Peck: Sort of. I mean, we don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of it, but to get the best public education you have to spend on property taxes in the US, blah blah blah.
Felix Salmon: Yeah. And then absolutely there are always ways to spend more for better. Yes. Right. That’s that’s kind of okay. Like the public policy part of this is to make sure that everyone has access to energy, water education doesn’t necessarily. They have access to the most or the best. Right. But they have some kind of access.
Emily Peck: So the problem to go back to energy, the problem with the subsidy and the energy cap that Liz Truss has put in place is that it’s not going to do anything to tamp down demand and there isn’t enough supply of energy still. Right.
Felix Salmon: Exactly. Yeah, that’s the problem.
Emily Peck: So what? So what’s going to happen?
Felix Salmon: I mean, as Kwasi Kwarteng, I can guarantee you that Liz Truss isn’t going to tell you. I mean, there was a wonderful moment at PMQs, one of the first Prime Minister’s Question Time, where Keir Starmer, the Leader of the opposition, was just quoting Kwasi Kwarteng about all of these things, like from just a few months ago where he was like, you have said that you can’t reduce the price of the natural gas on global markets by pumping oil, by pumping more gas from the North Sea and all of this kind of stuff. And now he seems to be backtracking on that because he needs to align himself with the populist positions of Liz Truss, who has no economic intuition really in terms of how things work.
Felix Salmon: Kwarteng is an economic historian. He understands these things, but trust is not. And so she’s more Trumpian that way. She just kind of says whatever she thinks the people want to believe and has this kind of magical thinking that if she says she will make it so and it isn’t going to work like that, I will mention one last thing, which is the Bank of England was meant to raise rates this week and didn’t because the queen died.
Emily Peck: Okay.
Felix Salmon: They’ve pushed off the next rate hike decision for a week because they’re too busy. Morning.
Emily Peck: Respectfully, people are very upset and we are respectful of this decision. Right, Felix?
Speaker 3: I can accept it.
Felix Salmon: I suppose I’m too much of a Republican, I have to say.
Felix Salmon: All right, Elizabeth, we have the headline. You have to fill in the blanks.
Emily Peck: Yes.
Felix Salmon: Dwac spac attack.
Speaker 3: Dwac SPAC setback.
Felix Salmon: Oh. Dwac SPAC setback value.
Speaker 3: Credit to Emily. We did not come up with us. So Digital World Acquisition Corp., the company that was supposed to merge with Donald Trump’s social network to social, has decided that they’re going to adjourn their shareholder meeting for over a month because they’re afraid that if they can’t delay this merger for a year, they’re going to have to liquidate the company, which has a lot of cash right now. And unfortunately, in truth, social does not have a lot of users. So it supposedly has around 513,000 active users. Somehow, Donald Trump has 3.9 million followers. But this is, I mean, tiny compared to every other social network that we all use.
Felix Salmon: But this is really I mean, the story of this week, I have to say, it has basically nothing to do with truth social. It really has just to do with Dwac, the SPAC that was meant to be truth social. And the FCC has been looking at Dwac and looking at truth social and going like, you guys are just a shit show and you don’t have your shit together and there’s all manner of weird things that you’re violating. And so to no one’s great surprise, they didn’t approve the merger. They have not yet approved the merger. Dwac is hoping that if they just delay this for years, somehow they can wave a magic wand and get the FCC to approve the merger.
Felix Salmon: I am extremely skeptical about this, especially the idea that Gary Gensler will allow dwac the by truth social and take it make it into a public company just seems highly unlikely to me. But this is the one hope that they have been clinging to is that like maybe if we just go back to the FCC with the revisions and talk to them nicely and blah, blah, blah, we can get them to approve it.
Felix Salmon: The problem is that under the bylaws of the SPAC. Dwac had to liquidate itself like yesterday, basically, because it had a certain amount of time to finish the merger and it ran out the clock on that time. And so they then went to their shareholders and said, Please, can you give us another year? Can you just basically vote to change the bylaws to extend this for another year? And they needed 65% approval? And as far as I can tell from the reporting, they are nowhere near that.
Speaker 3: Yeah. And they haven’t really articulated to shareholders what their plan is if they get the time.
Felix Salmon: Well they have they’ve told shareholders well in that kind of unique dwac kind of way, they’ve said we are going to use that time to try and get FCC approval to complete the merger. Right. What that means in practice, no one knows. So what they’ve done now is they have spent the sponsors have spent $2.8 million of their own money, which you’re allowed to do to push it off for three months. And they’ve extended the vote until October the 10th in the hope that somehow they I think they have about 40% of the shareholders voting in favor of extending this, that somehow they will get another 25% and get up to that 65% level, and then they will be able to extend it for a full year, which maybe is enough time in their minds to get the FCC approval. I’m just going to come out and say there is no way that between now and October ten they’re going to be able to get from 40% to 65%. And we can talk about why? Because it’s kind of interesting.
Emily Peck: Yeah. So that’s the interesting part.
Emily Peck: And I think we talked about this on another episode. But basically the problem here isn’t that shareholders are against this. It’s that shareholders don’t vote, especially the kind of shareholders who own the Dwac going to call it the Dwac. These are you can call that a name retail.
Felix Salmon: We’ve we’ve already done the inflation. So now we’re just going to do the DWAC.
Emily Peck: These are retail investors who are enthusiastic about being a part of the special free speech movement. That is truth, social and dwac. They love it, I guess. But yeah.
Felix Salmon: You wouldn’t own that stock if you went right into that. Right.
Emily Peck: But the problem is, despite their love and enthusiasm, they don’t vote. It’s a very, very US kind of problem in its own way. Right. People always complain non-votes.
Felix Salmon: I think it’s kind of universal. I don’t think there’s a stock market in the world where individual investors vote their shares.
Emily Peck: But this is now like.
Felix Salmon: Write in to slate. Money is slate. They’ll go if you know of one that where it does but I was looking at the statistics and institutional investors vote that shares roughly 83% of the time individual investors that shares roughly 30% of the time. And so if you have a shareholder base that’s overwhelmingly individual investors, you can expect only 30% to vote. And even if literally 100% of the votes come in favor, 30% is never going to be enough.
Emily Peck: And can you talk about Felix or Elizabeth? Like how do companies like reach out to retail investors to get them to vote? Is there like a communications problem here? Like how do they drum up the enthusiasm?
Felix Salmon: This is an amazing question. And part of the answer is the CEO of Dwac will go on weird like podcasts and radio shows hosted by Canadian evangelicals and be like, Can you please vote your shares? And they’re trying to reach the Trumpy community because they reckon that’s where the Dwac shareholders are. I don’t know if that’s true or not. There is also a company called, say, Aui Technologies, which was bought last year by Robinhood for $140 million.
Felix Salmon: And this is the problem that, say technologies was designed to solve, right? Saying let’s just say we are going to bring shareholder communications kicking and screaming into the 21st century. No more of this like you will get pieces of paper in the mail and have to open them up and tick boxes and reply in envelopes and understand proxy gods and all of that kind of stuff. We’re going to make it all Google and digital and seamless and easy and it sounds good, but I did some actual reporting on this and I asked, say technology is like, tell me if you look at the Robinhood customers who own Dwac, how many of them voted and say replied with a very loud no comment?
Speaker 3: Yeah, I think this is just a financial literacy problem. You know, people can know just enough to know about the dwac and buy the shares and then just not really understand what that gets them on some level.
Felix Salmon: I mean, it’s also just a pain in the ass. And no one, I mean, quite rightly, no one thinks that voting matters. If you have ten shares of Dwac, your ten shares are not going to matter that much, so you don’t bother voting them. But the problem is, if everyone thinks that way, which is basically how it works, then no one winds up voting at all. I think it’s rational to not vote as an individual investor because your vote never really matters. It’s rational to vote if you’re BlackRock, which is why most people end up in some way or another outsourcing their voting to BlackRock. There is no voting, but it’s normal. I’d done by email, but I think increasingly there are digital ways of doing it. So it’s normally done by mail, like literally postal mail. But there are increasingly digital ways of doing it too. And those are used more and more so that you can vote digitally as well. But like the fact the asking the question, right, I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say that, Emily, you have never once voted a stock in your life.
Emily Peck: No. I throw out like 95% of an email that would look like it was a voting.
Felix Salmon: I certainly haven’t Elizabeth again.
Speaker 3: I have twice.
Felix Salmon: You have twice. Wow.
Emily Peck: Tell us.
Speaker 3: Every time ago it was when I was an equity analyst, so I sort of knew to do that. This was during the snail mail era where you really did fill out a bunch of paperwork and then mail it back.
Felix Salmon: Did you feel virtuous in the same way that I feel virtuous when I vote in an actual election, you do.
Speaker 3: Kind of what happens is you feel a little bit more invested in the company. It’s performance and it’s completely nonsense.
Felix Salmon: Did you follow management’s recommendations on how to vote?
Speaker 3: I don’t remember.
Felix Salmon: The other reason why I’m entirely convinced that Dwac is not going to get is 65% quorum. Is that if you bought your DWAC shares any time between August the 12th and now, you can’t vote, you’re not eligible to vote. The only people who are eligible to vote are the people who held shares on August the 12th, and Dwac is a very highly traded company. The total volume since August the 12th, that’s been like pretty much the entire free flow of the company. So the people who held the shares on August the 12th who are eligible to vote might no longer be the people who own the shares right now, which means that even if they want to vote, they can. And then the people who do hold the shares and want a vote, it’s really hard. You want to vote to happen as close to the days as possible, and the longer you get away from it, the harder it becomes.
Emily Peck: It’s kind of crazy to me that Truth Social is trying to go public so soon. I mean, they only just launched in February. Like, what’s the hurry? It took Facebook a decade, right?
Felix Salmon: Well, I mean, it’s lots of money.
Speaker 3: Yes. They’re not serious.
Felix Salmon: Well, they well, they are serious. Like it’s a $3 billion company is cronies. Right. They get all of the money in the pipe and all of the money in the SPAC. And so long as the share price is above $10, which it is, all of that money will go into truth social. And it’s basically free money. It’s a crazy high valuation. So it’s not clear how Donald Trump can get that much money that easily any other way. So that makes sense to me. We are now in the SPAC when to no one’s really speaking anymore and so it’s much harder to do it. But back at the time when this deal was signed, everyone was packing and it made perfect sense.
Speaker 3: So what happens if they liquidate? What happens to true social?
Felix Salmon: So if Dwac liquidates at $10 a share, then everyone who has bought Dwac shares basically loses money. That’s why Schatz is still trading at 25, which is batshit to me like I do not understand that at all because it seems obvious to me that this company is going to liquidated ten. But if Dwac liquidates ten, then true social just keeps on being through social. And Donald Trump has already put out a truth saying I don’t even need the dwac dwac I’m rich, we can just do this is a private company, which is true. If he’s willing to subsidize the company and subsidize its losses, then yeah, it can continue. But he needs to find some. He needs to find someone who is willing to do that.
Speaker 3: Yeah. He doesn’t even pay his contractors. I’m not you know, I think if this falls apart three social does to.
Felix Salmon: Maybe truth social’s continued existence is entirely contingent upon being acquired by Digital World Acquisition Corp.
Speaker 3: Meme stock turned to success.
Felix Salmon: I really don’t think that’s going to happen and I really don’t think they can go public any other way either. It’s not like they can IPO. Talking about private companies in trouble.
Felix Salmon: Emily, what happened to the wing? Do you remember the wing?
Emily Peck: Yes, I do.
Felix Salmon: Did you ever go to the wing?
Emily Peck: I haven’t, but I can tell you what’s going on.
Felix Salmon: Okay. First of all, what is the wing?
Emily Peck: The wing was an exclusive club for women that opened in 2016 at a peak Girlboss moment in time.
Felix Salmon: But can we buy it? By the way, just very quickly shout out Paris Hilton, whose tweet about the queen was absolutely awesome and the queen was the original Girlboss.
Emily Peck: I mean, Queen Elizabeth the first was the original Girlboss.
Felix Salmon: Yeah, yeah. I think yeah. The first Queen Elizabeth was a Girlboss, but yeah. So this is a club for Girlboss.
Emily Peck: Well, yes, yes, it was Felix. It was a club for Girlboss called The Wing, founded, as I said, at Peak Girlboss time in 2016 by Audrey Gelman, founded in New York. And now it has been grounded.
Felix Salmon: Founded to grounded York. Good unlike the rhymes this.
Emily Peck: Week it’s rhyme time for me. So yes. So it announced that it was closing late last month because basically it’s like the pandemic, No. One. Wanted to go to a female coworking space and be a girlboss in the pandemic. And when they reopened, there just wasn’t the interest that there had been before to sustain it. And the shine was off the wing, even before the pandemic. And in 2020 there was, you know, reporting of all kinds of drama and turmoil there. It was supposed to be like a like a feminine pitstop, a woman’s utopia. But it had a lot of the same problems you see anywhere was a lot of wealthier white women were joining and a lot of, you know, women of color working there for like $16 an hour complaining about being mistreated.
Emily Peck: And then ultimately during the summer of 2020, when there were a lot of protests. Audrey Gelman, who founded it and had got tons of attention, she stepped down as CEO. She this is my favorite part. I think she now owns a Cottagecore themed Antique and HomeGoods shop in, of course, Brooklyn Cottage.
Felix Salmon: We got to love this. Okay, so here’s my take on. The way in which. To be clear, I never stepped into Elizabeth. You visited the wing more than once?
Speaker 3: Yeah, I’ve been there a few times. The branch in Flatiron was their sort of original headquarter branch. And it was very pink. Pink?
Felix Salmon: Yes, pink. And was there like lots of millennial cursive?
Speaker 3: Yes. Yes. It was kind of a the atmosphere was very live, laugh, love, but high end. So they had an epic powder room stocked with Chanel cosmetics and stuff like that.
Felix Salmon: Chanel.
Felix Salmon: Well, because this news doesn’t entirely coincide with it comes pretty close to the news from a few months ago. The chief, which is the actual Girlboss Club, raised $100 million in a Series B at a $1.1 billion valuation. It’s not the Girlboss Club’s in principle out of favor. I feel like Girlboss clubs in favor if they’re serious in a way that the wing maybe wasn’t.
Emily Peck: Well, I think part of it so iwg, which is like an office space company and they own a owns own a majority stake in the wing. And one of the pieces I read, they basically said, look, people don’t want to go to downtown co-working spaces anymore. They do want to go to suburban co-working spaces. I think it is a pandemic remote work story.
Felix Salmon: So how do you explain that chief valuation.
Emily Peck: Board chief is virtual? I don’t think it it’s not about spaces, is it that spaces from space.
Felix Salmon: They have multiple spaces in multiple cities.
Emily Peck: And then I don’t know quite how to explain it.
Speaker 3: Yeah, some of it here is that the wing had this kind of cool girl aura and was always packed every time I went in there. Like, if you’re like, for me, that’s an impossible space to work. And when people are elbow to elbow in an open plan office, but it was people would go there for networking to take out. I don’t think very much work actually got done there.
Felix Salmon: Yeah, I felt it was just a kind of pink Soho house. Really? Yeah. Yeah. But I mean, Soho House is still going, which astonishes me every day.
Emily Peck: I mean, I just feel like it was a trendy space and it was a trend whose trendiness has wound down, like just just saying Girlboss. Now, you don’t say it in a serious way. You say it ironically or to be funny. And I mean, I guess after Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump, the wing was kind of a resurgent. I saw some quotes about it being like a refuge in a in a trying time or something, but I don’t know, like six years later, it just seems it seems like that kind of corporate feminism as marketing people have just moved on from it.
Felix Salmon: My take on this is that if you want to create a members club, you need to work harder on making it aspirational. And the wing frankly accepted too many members and didn’t turn enough of them away. And kind of the way that Soho House is still the thing is by still being weirdly hard to get into, like you can just do that by price. If you force people to pay $10,000 or $20,000, whatever, to join the club, then people feel like this is something exclusive and important and valuable just because it’s so bloody expensive, right?
Speaker 3: That that cut against their supposed philosophy, which is that they were, at least on the surface, pretending to be inclusive.
Felix Salmon: Right. Exactly. And then but yeah, that’s the thing. I just can’t I can’t think of an inclusive club that has ever remained trendy. Like anything cool is always expensive in some way.
Speaker 3: What you’re touching on is that the real appeal for was that it was a social club, you know, nobody really thought of it as a serious co-working space, right?
Emily Peck: That’s true. You can’t be an exclusive club if you’re not an exclusive club and you go to exclude people.
Felix Salmon: You come into exclusive if you don’t exclude anyone, anyone, people, if your get your etymology, then let’s have a numbers round. Emily, given number.
Emily Peck: Seven, number, it’s 250,000. That is the number of dollars tourists paid to take a submersible down 2.4 miles to see the wreckage of the. Any guesses.
Felix Salmon: Titanic?
Emily Peck: Yes, we need a quarter of $1,000,000 to go down and see the Titanic. And to me, this is a sign of how boring it must be to be rich, that you spend a quarter million dollars to take an eight hour boat trip to see essentially a shipwreck. And that is my opinion. And I am sticking to it, though. I did.
Felix Salmon: I mean, we know you don’t like it. We know you don’t like yachts that float on the surface of the sea. So it’s hard to imagine why you would want why you’d like.
Speaker 3: To just sit down as a matter of.
Felix Salmon: Course, we’re like an anti Marine podcast right here.
Emily Peck: But I did feel like maybe this will interest you. The company that’s doing this ocean gate expeditions, they’re taking all this, like, fancy eight k video footage of the Titanic. And considering doing an immersive experience like how they did with them. Then go, go.
Felix Salmon: It’s going to be like the Van Gogh experience, but the Titanic.
Emily Peck: That might be on the horizon for us. So you say of your $250,000, I’m sure that.
Felix Salmon: Trying to work out how much money you would need to pay me to go through the Titanic immersive experience and it’s a lot.
Emily Peck: So we should record an episode of Money from the Titanic immersive experience if it ever occurs. That would be so fun.
Felix Salmon: I’m just going to ignore that and say that my number is 3284, which is a universal basic income number. Do you know what I’m talking about, Emily?
Emily Peck: No.
Felix Salmon: No, I’m talking about Elizabeth. No. 3284 is the number of dollars that every single resident of Alaska is being paid this year out of the permanent fund. Excellent. Alaska has, as we all know, its own little UBI thing going on every year. It pays oil dividends to its residents. And this year, thanks to healthy oil markets and lots of drilling, that number is the largest ever $3,284 for every Alaskan. They’re going to go out and spend it all this winter. And it’s good for the economy. And yeah, if you like universal basic income, then Alaska is one of the places that everyone points to as a place where it works very well.
Emily Peck: It’s not going to be bad for inflation in Alaska and and everywhere.
Felix Salmon: Yeah, yeah. That’s good. It’s going to hit. And the inflation we have to worry about the inflation.
Emily Peck: To think about the inflation.
Felix Salmon: I’m pretty sure that the governor of Alaska does not is not worrying about the inflationary consequences of the permanent fund dividend.
Felix Salmon: Elisabeth, what’s your number?
Speaker 3: My number is 59 and it’s a percentage. So I learned today that men eat 59% more meat in France than women do. I saw this came up because there was a green politician who suggested that if everyone reduced their meat consumption that this would help the environment because 14% of all greenhouse gases come from livestock. And this became a war of the sexes kind of thing, because it was implied that many more made because it’s a virility issue or they believe it makes them seem more virile.
Emily Peck: Yeah. The politician who said suggested people stop eating meat said something like, we have to stop tying masculinity to meat or something. Right? And then said, you know, there is a bell peppers, which yeah, there.
Speaker 3: Was a Communist Party official who said, here’s the quote, Meat consumption is a function of what you have in your wallet, not your underpants.
Felix Salmon: So I like that quote and I couldn’t agree more. And yeah, I mean, if you look at the carbon emissions in India and China, as those populations start eating raw meat as they get richer, that really hits carbon emissions. And you want to reduce your meat consumption for environmental reasons. And I yeah. And the fact that there’s such a big difference between men and women in France is amazing because like then people normally eat in sort of mix.
Speaker 3: I think the theory was that more women have become vegetarian and vegan for various reasons.
Felix Salmon: Maybe France is is really that country where, you know, you you go out for dinner and the man orders a chicken or something and then the woman just orders a salad because she’s French.
Speaker 3: Yeah, I do the opposite. My husband orders a cell in order to go to steak, and the waiters always give us the wrong plate initially.
Felix Salmon: Can someone do some homework on this and try and work out what the equivalent number is in the United States? If there’s a meat gender gap here and if and if you had to guess, I have no idea. But Elizabeth, if you had to guess, it’s 59% in France. What do you think it is in the US?
Speaker 3: I think the gap is smaller. It’s probably like 20, 25%.
Emily Peck: Emily I don’t know. I mean, we have the pay gap. Men have more money, meat costs more money. So it stands to reason. We have a similar situation here.
Felix Salmon: Where would you put it if you had to guess?
Emily Peck: Uh, I. I don’t know, maybe many 30% more meat than women. How about that? That’s my guess. Based on nothing. No, no.
Felix Salmon: All right, we will look it up. If you know the answer. Lay in state money. If they don’t come and we will see who gets close to. I guess I ought to put my own gas in here. Right. Get skin in the game, as they call it. I’m just going to go on body weight. I’m just going to say I’m just going to say that if American men are like £180 in American women, maybe £110, then, yeah, I’m going to say I’m going to say it’s more like France. I’m going to go I’m just going to go with the French one, the 59% there. We’re not like actually any better than the French.
Emily Peck: I really don’t think American women are £110 on average or men are 180. That’s wild. That is wildly incorrect.
Felix Salmon: Yeah. No, I don’t know anything about, like, body weight. No, I’m just.
Emily Peck: Thinking in stone.
Felix Salmon: Janet Yellen is very short. I mean, how much can Janet Yellen weigh? She’s tiny.
Emily Peck: Whoever wins, I think, has to buy everyone else a steak dinner. I don’t know. Just. Just snap. Buying a salad.
Felix Salmon: A salad. We have a lovely new Lebanese place opening up in the ground floor of the Slate offices. So we’ll all go there for a vegetarian falafel lunch.
Emily Peck: Perfect.
Felix Salmon: On which note, I think that’s it for us this week. Unless you are a Slate Plus member, in which case we will nerd out about Revlon and Citibank because we love nothing else about Revlon. Citibank, otherwise. Thanks for listening. Thanks for your emails. Many thanks to Jessamine Molli for producing and see playing on Monday and we’ll be back next week with even more sleep money.
Felix Salmon: So Slate Plus, folks. I have amazing news that after everything we were talking about how Citibank had completely fucked up with its fat finger payment and its terrible user interface and computers not being designed well and had paid half a billion dollars to creditors of Revlon. Guess what? Those creditors now need to give it back. There was a three panel, three member panel which overruled the previous ruling. And now Citibank gets its money back in full. What do we make of this Emily?
Emily Peck: Here’s what I think. I think that the justice system in America only works for big companies. And this ruling is proof.
Felix Salmon: I mean, I feel like big companies on both sides. There was no big company was going to lose this one or.
Emily Peck: But this was like the empathetic ruling, right? It was like, okay, well, they made a mistake, but they shouldn’t have to suffer for it kind of ruling, which is like what you would hope for in the justice system for everybody. But I think only is the kind of benefit that accrues to deep pocketed businesses. So that is that is my only take.
Felix Salmon: So you’re saying that the American judicial system is good at finding cases with the equities, but only if the lawyers are very expensive?
Emily Peck: Yes, I only I truly think that in order to to obtain some kind of justice that is empathetic, understanding, all of that, like that’s for come that’s for companies to get. And it’s not typically for individuals unless they’re very wealthy.
Felix Salmon: What would you say the empathetic with the equities justice would be in Elon Musk versus Twitter case?
Emily Peck: I think that. It would be with Twitter because like the rationale, just if you step back, it’s just like Elon Musk was insane and like, this is crazy. And obviously he should if he wants to back out, he should have to pay. Or he should be forced to go through with it. Like, I think, like if you just think about it outside of legal argument, it’s just like obviously like this guy is bananas like this.
Speaker 3: The empathy argument kind of rests on the idea that everyone’s acting in good faith. And empathy is not really a word that I associate with.
Felix Salmon: You are always going back to see us as like these. Yeah, we have a bunch of red in tooth and claw hedge fund managers and Citibank is not exactly the most empathetic defendant here. Do you agree with Emily Elizabeth? Do you think that this overruling of the lower judge was a good thing?
Speaker 3: I think that’s a piece of it. I think it’s also the people are terrified to let big companies make really big mistakes. I think they’re afraid of ripple effects and precedents and things like that.
Felix Salmon: What would the ripple effect precedent be in this case?
Speaker 3: I think that if it happens to a smaller company, there’s some kind of baked in, not incentive to make mistakes, but not enough blowback. If you do.
Felix Salmon: So, that would imply that this was the wrong decision because you need Citibank to actually hurt if it makes a mistake.
Speaker 3: Yeah, I guess you’re right. I was thinking about Ellen.
Emily Peck: Or there was a lot of criticism of Zelle a while back because people were making mistakes with their Zelle accounts and paying the wrong people. And then after they made the mistake, they couldn’t get their money back, which like seems wrong. So. And now, Zelle, if you do make a mistake, I recently emailed the wrong email address with money and I got my money back. It was like, no problem. I feel like this is the big corporate version of that is that I’m out on a wild limb now.
Felix Salmon: No, I think that is definitely one of the features of Zell in contradistinction to all of the wild eyed, laser eyed tech brokers who want everyone to transact in crypto because crypto is not reversible. And generally, especially if you use bank owned products like Zelle are reversible.
Emily Peck: Yeah, I think reversible is good. So beyond the justice system, you know, favoring rich deep pocketed companies, I think this outcome is correct that we need to have a reversible system. Sometimes we need to allow for the fact that mistakes are going to happen, although companies shouldn’t make them.
Felix Salmon: Okay. I think we agree. Amazing. I say this.