Better Does Worse

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S1: Hello and welcome to the battered does Worse edition of Sleet Money. Your guide to the business and finance news of the week. I’m Felix Salmon Lev Axios. I’m joined by Emily Peck of Fundraise.

S2: Hello, Hello

S1: by Stacy-Marie Ishmael of Bloomberg. Hello. And in this here Shane and Roth produced show, we are going to talk about better, which is actually a mortgage company and atrocious way of laying people off. We’re going to have a whole conversation about, is there a good way of laying people off and firings and all of that kind of thing in a context, we have to say, of firings and layoffs being basically less common and virtually nonexistent these days? We are going to talk about 15 minute grocery delivery. It’s the thing now is a good thing. Is it a bad thing? We all work that one out. We are going to talk about voting and whether you need to be a citizen to be able to do it. We have a slate plus about inflation. It’s all coming up on slate money. So let’s start by talking about better dot com, the place that does everything better Worse Stacy-Marie, what is better dot com and what did they do? Worse Well,

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S3: I consult with what they did. Worse, which is the reason that any of us are talking about better dot com is because their CEO, a person named Vishal Garg, laid off nine hundred employees by Zoom in, you know, being laid off by Zoom. I guess it’s 2021, but the way that he did it was remarkable. And it really has once again triggered a conversation, including from his own, you know, board around. Do we have to treat employees like the worst of humanity and not at all respect what it is that they are going through?

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S1: And his board seems to have basically fired him or like suspended or something.

S3: He’s on leave. And you know, and

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S1: it’s is this is this a bit like when those people like when those TV hosts take a long, scheduled holiday that they hadn’t told anyone about

S3: what possible TV host could we be thinking of? So this, you know, like better known companies like a mortgage company? Right? They’re not. They’re not saving the world. They’re they’re providing mortgage financing. And the idea that the way you can talk to employees is is like, this is something that I’m always baffled by it. Like, what is it about becoming a CEO that turns you into the type of person that thinks everybody else is not is not a human being?

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S1: The thing which really struck me about the clip was when he basically says, this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you. And then he says, you are all terminated, effective immediately. Which is never a good way to fire someone.

S2: Well, Shana can play the clip, he says. This is the second time in my career that I’m doing this. I do not want to do this. The last time I did it, I cried. This time I hope to be stronger. So in other words, let’s talk about my feelings as I lay, as as I fire 900 of you.

S4: I come to you where not great news. The market has changed, as you know, and we have to move with it in order to survive so that hopefully we can continue to thrive and deliver on a mission. This is a news that you are going to want to hear, but ultimately it was my decision and I wanted you to hear from me. It’s been a really, really challenging decision to make, and this is the second time in my career I’m doing this and I do not do not want to do this. The last time I did it, I cried. This time I hope to be stronger, but we are laying off about 15 percent of the company.

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S2: My friend Mark Glass at Bloomberg wrote it was very much like Gavin Belson laying off a bunch of employees fictionally on Silicon Valley, saying It’s it’s so hard to say goodbye. Everyone thinks Gavin Belson is stepping down, but no, he’s just firing an entire division. It’s very similar kind of energy. It’s like for some CEOs, they’re only thinking in terms of themselves and not in terms of their not having empathy for their employees and Zoom fired. Who else did they like? When people say Zoom firing, there’s a sense that the Zoom is like a back and forth like where you experience Zoom’s like, we’re sort of experiencing our video chat right now, but it’s not. It’s just a broadcast usually where someone is just broadcasting via video like you’re all fired. There’s no opportunity for employees to sort of talk back to ask questions to process in any way. It’s it’s it’s quite inhumane. And even before Zoom companies have have used technology to do this in other bad ways, like someone posted, RadioShack sent an email, a mass email laying off people. I think in the 90s, the same kind of thing like, you have no you. You’re like, effectively muted and silenced while you’re being fired, which is like, not the best way to do it.

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S1: I have been fired more than once, I have to say, but in every time, and definitely I’m not going to say that any of them were particularly pleasant, but some were worse than others. But at least it was a conversation with some kind of boss person who would be like, Felix go fired. And I’m like, Oh dear, and then we would have. We had conversate for as long as like seemed sensible, and then the conversation would end, and least at least it was one on one, right? Like this kind of one. Too many mass firing is bad, and it was compounded in this particular case by the CEO then coming out and basically telling everyone who wasn’t fired that the people who weren’t pulling their way like were terrible. They were doing like, what was he saying? Like two hours work and charging 40 hours a week to do it or whatever he was, he really started badmouthing them. And yeah, that’s a bad look.

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S3: I mean, as as a person who has managed people for a long time and who has been one of the bosses that had to call people into rooms and be like, Hey, this is what’s going on? It sucks, but it is never, ever, ever worse for the person doing the firing than it is for the person on the other side. It’s just not true. Like, I don’t care how uncomfortable it might feel. I don’t care that you might feel guilty or whatever those things are. You still have a job. And you know, I think that whenever someone is like, Oh, it’s so much harder for me than it is for you, I’m like, You have no understanding of what it means to be precariously employed. And if that is something that you truly believe?

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S1: Yeah. I mean, I remember one time one of the times that I was fired, I was in. I was in the United States on an age visa, which is an employer specific work visa. And I was like, You do realize that if you follow me, that basically immediately puts me out of status and I become an illegal,

S3: illegal, you know, resident.

S1: Yes, I’m living. I’m an illegal person suddenly. And they’re like, they’re like, Well, well, we have been in this room talking. One of our colleagues has literally unplugged your computer. You have 10 minutes to leave the to vacate the premises. I was like, Wow,

S2: what are the so OK? So I mean, sometimes companies do have to let people go. They can’t afford you anymore, whatever. What is the right way to do it? Stacey.

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S3: I think from the perspective of anybody who’s ever been laid off and there’s there’s no right way for them to be to be laid off, they would very much appreciate continuing to have their job. But I think one of there are lots of things that make it worse, right? Like group firings. That’s awful where you’re like, if you are in this room, you’re OK. If you’re in this other room, you’re not OK firing by calendar invites. If you if you get invited to a certain meeting, you’re fine. If you didn’t, you’re doomed. Having, you know the passwords to things be like a pleasing, uplifting note before you go into the zoom where you or you’re going to be fired. Not great. And also any indication whatsoever to people who remain employed at the company that your performance was somehow in question. That’s one of the most inappropriate things that you can do as a manager in any sort of position where you are having to lay people off. It doesn’t matter if it’s true, right? It doesn’t matter if the person you’re firing is because you found out they’re like, currently a serial killer. It’s like you. The the the the best practice, both professionally from a risk mitigation perspective, but also just personally as a human is to say, you know, we’re not going to comment on why this happened. You know, we hear here’s the realities that we’re facing as a company, but we’re not going to make any disparaging remarks disparaging or otherwise about the people that we’re letting go. And I do think to your point, Felix, one of the one of the things I’ve increasingly heard with people who are doing mass layoffs is, well, there’s no way for us to talk to anyone, to everyone individually. Mick, well, that’s a decision, right? It’s like there’s always a way to do that. It might require time. It might be expensive. It might not be totally convenient. But that’s that’s a choice. And so I think it’s more a question of what are you choosing to prioritize in the way that you are treating people as they are exiting your company as opposed to acting as if there are no other options?

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S1: Better still, had thousands of employees, right, and lots of in the whole management org chart like it didn’t need to come directly from the CEO in the video. You know, he could have just told all of the managers who were in charge of hired employees to say, you know, to let them go gently or whatever.

S2: Yeah, I asked on Twitter this morning because I was sort of curious, like, has anyone ever been laid off in a way that they were like, You know what? That was fair, that that was fine. And the common themes from people who said their layoff was, you know, tough but fair was first. It was a personal firing. It wasn’t a mass one where they had like a back and forth. And second money is this is their severance. Are you being cut off completely or is the severance like fairly decent and the health benefits? Are they there too? And better XCOM, actually, if they had done a better job firing everyone, like if you listen to the whole call he gave, I think it was like a month severance and three months health insurance, which is like fine. But yeah, it’s money and keeping it, keeping it personal and not making it about yourself, like never

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S3: make it about yourself. I’m so sorry. I feel so bad if there was anything else that I could do. No, it’s not about you. It is about the person on the other end.

S1: One other thing which I would say is like if you possibly have any choice in the matter. Don’t be firing people en masse in like mid-December. It is kind of the worst time to do it.

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S2: Yes. Yes. Wait till January. What’s so hard about that? Just a couple more weeks, right?

S3: Well, I’m sure

S2: they’re how many times Felix been fired, I’m now like one.

S1: It’s been a lot. Yeah, I’ve lost. I’ve lost count, but I was trying. I was trying to think about that earlier. Actually, I think, well, there was there was that time that I was meant to get it. You know, the actual firings, I think, were probably just to. How about you, Emily?

S2: I’ve been laid off twice, and neither was that bad. The first one, we were all in a room together, but I was at a magazine that folded, so it was like our editor in chief gave us the news altogether and it felt it felt right. You know, it would have been weird because

S1: because yes, he was losing her job as well.

S2: Yeah, exactly. She we were all losing. It was like her magazine. It was like her baby. So it felt, I don’t know. I felt fine and empathetic, and they let us hang around the office for a weirdly long time and use the company fax machine because it was that time away.

S1: You know what? I forgot. I forgot about the third one. There was a third time I got fired from Roubini Global Economics and then they they were like, You’re fired, and would you like to come to the Christmas party?

S3: What did you go?

S1: And then weirdly, I did. I didn’t know that I ever asked why I won’t be seeing you again.

S2: Wow, that’s so and and quite so, I also wonder if layoffs, if layoffs are undertaken to hastily like we saw Airbnb at the beginning of the pandemic did a huge layoff. And then, like a few months later, Airbnb was fine, went public and made a lot. A lot, a lot, a lot of money. And you kind of wonder, does that move a little hasty?

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S1: I mean, with hindsight. Well, there were two different things going on. One was the like we all remember what it was like in March, April 2020, like the entire planet was imploding from underneath our feet. Everything came to a halt. All travel came to a halt. It was entirely rational for Airbnb to think, Oh shit, like we losing an insane amount of money every minute and we need to rationalize and get back onto a sustainable footing now in, you know, if they had had the foresight to be able to say, Well, we can see that this pandemic is actually going to be great for us, then that would have been amazing foresight. But it they didn’t, you know, not not being able to see the future is is a forgivable sin. But the other thing that happens and like I, you know, I read some of like Reed Hastings Latest book about when he fired a bunch of people at Netflix. I’ve definitely heard the Airbnb talk. Guys talk about this. I’ve even heard like the WeWork, people talk about this, which is that when you are running a fast growing company, you wind up often hiring a bunch of people to do a bunch of things, or you buy a bunch of companies that aren’t very core and you wind up like just not really being in control of what’s going on. And the net and when there was a period of layoffs, it does kind of focus the company, and I honestly do believe in the kind of fucked up capitalist way that Airbnb is a better company now and a more valuable company now for having had those layoffs.

S3: That is certainly the argument of CFOs and CEOs and CEOs and other people whose job it is to talk about efficiency and knowledgeable ways. One of the interesting things about layoffs and this is particularly from a media context, is when they come with the opportunity to opt in, right? So it’s like we’re going to offer a severance package. We’re going or we’re going to offer a number of buyouts or, you know, we’re essentially going to like let people put their hands up to be selected. And you introduce this fascinating a cemetery where the people who opt into those packages are often ones who know that because of tenure or negotiation or whatever things like, they’re going to exit with a pretty sizable guaranteed amount of money, you know, and the company is like, OK, great. We no longer have x number of very large liabilities in the form of salaries or for one case or pensions or whatever those things might be. But you often end up in a situation where the associated exits of institutional knowledge is very large because you might be losing people who have been in very senior positions or have been around for a long time and are like good repositories of information and those those I always think to your point, Emily about haziness that it’s useful to look at metrics beyond like the pure amount of money being saved and to think about what is effectively like the replacement cost, not just in terms of the jobs, but like the expertise. And you know, some people likes to talk about the culture when you have these kinds of upheavals.

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S1: And it’s certainly true that buyouts basically a way of getting the most hire of all people, of paying the most hirable people to leave like the the more certain you are that you can find another job very easily, the more liable you are to take the buyout. And so you wind up basically retaining the least employable people, which is never a smart tactic. I never thought

S2: about that before. I always thought buyouts got rid of, like the people that were very close to retirement. And so you’re getting rid of like the older workers. But of course, of course, Felix is right.

S3: I think it’s absolutely correct. What often happens is it’s the people who know that they still have good, higher ability in the markets and they, you know, they do the math of I’m going to get a guaranteed three months, which means coasting time. I can take time off between jobs. I can go on gardening, leave or whatever, and then they’re entering into the marketplace from a very comfortable position.

S1: I do know one person in media and you know, one of the reasons we’ve all been fired so much is because we work in media. But I do know one person in media who. Talk to me once he was a successful executive and he told me that one of the reasons he kept on getting hired for bigger and bigger, more important jobs is just because, like he was good at the firing thing, he did so good decisions and implement them and like, no one wants to do that job. And if you’re the one person who’s willing to do that job, then everyone will hire you to do that job.

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S3: That’s Dr. Well, you know, it’s funny because it immediately make me think of people who get hired into media organizations and two seconds later, so there’s a bunch of records and layoffs and restructurings because it does take a George Clooney in up in the air character of blood listeners, sometimes to be able to, you know, just sort of in a in a very ruthlessly operational way, separate to the reality of what’s going to happen to people on the other end from whatever the business imperative is.

S1: And I have to say the most heartening thing I think I saw, like I wish did rekindle a little bit of my faith in humanity was when there were layoffs at Univision and Miami, and there were there were a bunch of people we’d hired a bunch of specifically some Mexican, mostly Colombian people that we’d hired, who were amazing investigative journalists and were on the layoff list and had not managed to get any kind of green card or permanent residence in the United States. And a bunch of Univision employees actually came out and put their hands up and said, Listen, fire instead led. The US citizens were like, Fire me. Instead, I can find another job if you fire this person. He’s going to have to go back to Columbia and he could wind up getting killed if that happened.

S3: Wow, that is very human as you’re restoring faith. And I have to say like, yes.

S2: So laughs bad, but there are humane ways to do it.

S3: Layoffs hard. Not always bad, but always hard.

S1: Let’s talk about DoorDash because they started hiring people, which is something which they have been at pains to not do for most of their existence, they are notoriously one of the big gig economy workers where people just like sign into the app and get paid per hour or per gig. And DoorDash is moving into this very crowded field of 15 minute delivery where and there’s a bunch of companies with weird names like 15 20 or Joker or Gopuff. And I don’t know, like if you walk around Manhattan, all you see is ads for these companies. And and they all offer the same thing, which is basically as an app. And you can order whatever you like and it comes to you in 15 minutes. The economics of this we can debate. But what’s interesting is the way that DoorDash is doing it. And I think actually the way that most of the many of these other companies are doing it as well is they’ve realized that economics makes sense to actually get the delivery people on payroll as full time employees. They’ve opened up a dark store at, well, series Felix. What’s what’s a dark square? So a doctor is this thing that has you they have existed in Europe and Hong Kong, places like that for a while. It’s become they’re becoming more common in the United States. It’s basically a store front, which is easily accessible to people on electric bicycles. And in it is like lots and lots of shelves of groceries and other things that people want in 15 minutes or less. And the only people who are allowed in that store are delivery workers, human like normal human people who just want to go in and buy a apple or a pack of cigarettes or whatever like cannot do that. You need the the only people who are in there are delivery workers going in, collecting the package and delivering it. So there’s no actual payment going on in the drugstore. There’s no cash registers. There’s no way to take payment. It’s just a little local depot, basically, which can count as a mini hub from which to do that last mile delivery. And I’m very familiar with these drugstores because the New York headquarters of Axios dot com or at has been in history, which has just opened up a DoorDash drugstore. And so we, you know, every time I go to the office, we have people going in and out of this doctor. I was like, This is great. There’s the grocery store opening up in my building. I’m like, No, it’s not. It’s not for me. It’s just people ordering on an app. But yeah, tell me, Stacey, is this going to be bad for the urban fabric? That was a piece in Bloomberg this week, basically saying dog stores. Mean that the way that we all interact with each other on the street and go into the store and talk to the guy behind the counter and Peck that bodega Greg to that kind of stuff goes away and like, is this the death of the Bodega Cat or? And there’s a lot of kind of concern trolling about like, what does this mean for cities? Is that reasonable? Or is this just like another weird case of like too much money chasing silly ideas and no flash in the pan and

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S3: going over those things can be true at once because the economics of these things are interesting, which is to say, I’m not. I don’t fully understand how they work, right? It’s like they have these well-founded storehouses as you describe them, where there’s got to be a fairly significant investment in the logistics of the inventory and in how quickly somebody who receives an order can go in and find the the milk and the apple and the, you know, whatever else it is. But I do think there is a there is. I agree with strongly agree with the Bloomberg piece because I think that the more you render invisible how things work, the easier it is to have no understanding of the potentially exploitative ways in which you are being served. It’s like you, you are rendering invisible the people behind the thing. The process behind the thing, the reality of the thing, and always just optimizing for convenience and marketing. And I think that part of being an informed and aware consumer slash participant in capitalism is a little bit more of an understanding of like, if something is getting to you in 15 minutes, what does that mean, actually? And in the way that we’ve talked a lot about factory workers and how hard it is for people who work at the major shippers to rest or take breaks or even have any time off or even communicate with a human in their management chain. You know, those the speed at which we have become used to receiving things is directly related to the dehumanization of various processes, and I do think that this is another example of that.

S1: And fast fashion is, of course, Exhibit A. There’s there’s a huge human cost and cost to the planet of fashion that is basically invisible to anyone who walks into an H&M whatsoever.

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S3: And you know, the idea one of the the analogies in the piece that I or the comparisons in the piece that I really appreciated is kind of the difference between 15 minute delivery and what’s called a 15 minute city and a 15 minute city is the idea that you can walk out of your door and within 15 minutes, you can find most, if not all, of the things that you need without having to rely on either public transit, transit or a car. And that’s a that’s a really different thing because it’s like you have a sense of community. You have you have an understanding of your neighborhood. You’re invested in the existence of the bodega cat or whatever else it might be. You have chance encounters. But when you are relying on 15 minute delivery, it makes a lot of assumptions about space and how to use it. It makes a lot of assumptions about who can afford to pay the premiums that these kinds of services tend to rely on. After you’ve burned through the free trial period or whatever that thing is and what the lives of the workers who provide those services should look like.

S1: One question I have is like how many places even dense enough to be able to support 15 minute delivery services? Like Is this again, like something that New York media types like to bellyache about because they live in New York, which is like the only city in America, like one of the only cities in America, which has the requisite density for something like this to work or. You know, in cheaper cities, can you open up more of these stores and it actually works in a lot of different places? I know the pizza there lesson of Reuters was on Twitter saying, Yeah, he lives in a London suburb with single family zoning almost in. And he has 20 minute delivery services cropping up where he is. And so I do I. It’s a genuine question like, is this something that could potentially take over all of America and much of the world it already has? I think in, you know, in places like Hong Kong and Beijing? Or is this something which really is always just going to be a big city phenomenon?

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S2: I think there’s a bigger change that happened and was accelerated in the pandemic, which is that people are now comfortable buying groceries online far more than they were before. And then, as far as well, 15 minute grocery delivery proliferate. I mean, I think Felix, you’re onto something, I think only in places that are dense enough to be able to support it. And in those places, it’s not like I understand the the argument that you have to worry about the fabric of the neighborhood in the community because of dark stores popping up. But I feel like sometimes those kinds of worries get a little overblown, like cities and neighborhoods change all the time. And right now, commercial real estate in cities specifically is undergoing big changes, and I feel like those changes haven’t fully been sorted out yet in terms of offices still being empty, retail shops going out of business like there is going to have to be some kind of change to a lot of the commercial spaces in cities. So this is going to be a part of that.

S1: Yeah, and I will say that in terms of the classic Jane Jacobs eyes on the street thing, that the reason why you want people to live above storefronts is because you have people coming in and out of those storefronts all the time. And so you can see what’s going on on the street and it doesn’t become this light deserted.

S3: Yeah, and nobody wants to live in an industrial zone or but.

S1: But the fact is, I can tell you, as someone who works above one of these dark souls, like they’re called Dark Souls, but they’re not dark, they’re very, very bustling hive of activity. There are people going in and out of them all the time. There are delivery people like hanging out outside on the street. Human beings with lots of eyes on that street. You actually have more eyes on the street than you would with, you know, say, a high end fashion store where they get like eight customers a day or something. So you know, there is humanity there, you know, just because the people buying the groceries aren’t, the people going in and out of the store doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of people going in and out of the store, and that’s actually a very efficient use of commercial space. And oh, and one other thing Emily. I will add to your thing about the pandemic making people buy groceries online for the first time. One of the most interesting statistics I saw was a piece by my colleague Erica Pandi about this, where she said that online grocery shopping went up by 80 percent in 2020, and we all know why that happened. But then this is the thing which really surprised me. It went up again by another 20 percent in 2021. I, for one, anticipated that you know this the 2020 spike would. There would be a mean reversion once everyone was vaccinated and was able to go back to shopping again without worrying about worrying about COVID doesn’t seem to have happened that way like people having tasted the convenience. Doing it even more now this year than they were last year.

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S2: I was at a suburban party recently and I was talking about grocery shopping because I like to talk about grocery shopping because I enjoy it. And there were like multiple mothers there that were like, I haven’t stepped foot in a supermarket since before the pandemic. I love online shopping. It’s so much better. Like, I’m done. I’m done with that. I’m never going back. And I was I was actually pretty surprised. People like it. I don’t understand why. There’s no room to impulse buy. I don’t. I don’t know. Maybe the 15 minute shopping gives you the chance to impulse buy in a way that the online delivery, you know the curbside pickup doesn’t.

S1: I do want to keep on talking about the urban fabric because a big piece of news happened this week. The New York City Council, by an overwhelming majority, passed a bill allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections, and there have been a few very small cities in the U.S. where this has been allowed. But New York is orders of magnitude bigger than any of them. This is a major, major change. It is quite common in many other countries, like even even national federal elections. You can have non-citizens voting in places like Chile and New Zealand, even Ireland. But in the United States, there has been a lot of pushback against the idea and the fact that New York City, the city of eight million people, has now embraced it is a big deal because there’s 800000 new voters, something like that and now going to start voting in Merrill elections and local elections.

S3: While I think getting anybody to vote, whether they count or not, is a different question from being being allowed to vote. But as a person who has, for most of my life at this point, lived in places, paid taxes in places and was singularly shot out of both the electoral process as well as any of the benefits system. I cheer this development because again, what it does is it strengthens the connection real or perceived of people to a place right? Like when I lived in New York for 10 years the first time and would go to boards, you know, like I’m one of those people whose like bike lanes. And so I would go to these meetings and, you know, see my piece or pay attention to things knowing that I couldn’t vote right like I didn’t. I didn’t have any ability to exercise to exercise any action that would influence that process beyond sort of notional statement making or petitioning or whatever. And this this is a thing that’s going to affect about the I’ve seen different numbers, but fewer than a million people. There are about three million immigrants in three million undocumented immigrants in New York, people who are either green card holders or on some sort of work visa. And I do think that there are going to be people who, if the message gets to them and they are not, you know, terrorized by people who are like, no, they’ll throw you in jail, that this could have some potentially interesting effects because you have this new constituent group who has things to say.

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S1: One of the things that is just simply true, it’s not a controversial fact at all, it is it is 100 percent true is that politicians represent their areas. If you are a senator, you represent everyone in your state. If you’re a member of Congress, you represent everyone in your district and everyone means everyone. It doesn’t just mean the U.S. citizens, it means everyone. And. There is this very problematic disconnect when you have disenfranchised a very large proportion and certainly in many New York congressional districts, a very large proportion of your constituents aren’t even allowed to vote for you. It really skews the in the sense that the electoral incentives and how you campaign and and it also makes you less likely to really care about the people who aren’t even allowed to vote for you anyway. And so this is, you know, I kind of go back and forth on on whether you should be able to vote for your member of Congress or your senator or even your president as a non-citizen. But the. Way, the New York City Council, New York City is doing it for local elections makes all the sense in the world to me.

S3: Yeah, I agree.

S2: Just it’s so it’s just for it’s just for local elections. Then people can just vote.

S1: You can vote for me. And like City Council and things like that and I think Manhattan Deena as well, which you know, is in the news this week.

S3: But look at look, local elections matter, and I think that this is about to be Ishmael. I apologize. And that’s I think one of the things that’s been super interesting in the past couple of years is the recognition, mostly by a particular vision of of politicians and political actors, just how much local elections matter and how effectively you can start to set or influence policies that become statewide and then that become national if you can exert the appropriate level of influence or control on, you know, local, what’s happening in that local context?

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S2: This might be I defer to you guys on all matters of citizenship and immigration, but is it too hard to become a citizen so you have to do things like this? Like, is there something?

S3: Oh, whoa, yeah. Think about here. Well, yes.

S1: Yeah. Yeah. Stacey and I will happily talk to you for about eight hours about how ridiculously expensive it

S3: becomes, the amounts of paperwork and the risks.

S1: I mean, to be clear, what’s really hard is getting the green card. Once you have a green card, becoming a citizen is just mostly just a question of like hanging out for five years. But getting a green card is just ridiculously, insanely, stupidly difficult for absolutely no good reason at all.

S2: And that’s not handled locally like New York City is doing.

S1: That’s all done at the federal level. Yeah, yeah. So yes, in New York City does what it can. So we have this thing called the NYC I.D., which is an I.D. that anyone can have. And you know, we’re making sure that obviously non-citizens can have driver’s licenses and all of this kind of stuff. But when it comes to immigration questions, that’s all done at the federal level and localities have no control over that.

S2: You would think given the labor crunch that’s going on right now around the country, there would be there would be more movement to make acquiring green cards and make people make it easier for people to become citizens because we literally need bodies to work in this country like it would be to everyone’s benefit, except maybe workers who would who are in a good spot right now. You would think, yeah, you would think there would be more of a movement like a demand for immigrants, honestly, at this point.

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S1: Let’s have a numbers round. I’m going to start, I think, because I am going to say twelve point one million. Which is the. No of shipping containers that left U.S. ports empty so far this year, and there is there are moves afoot in Congress actually to change this. But there is this really bizarre part of her whole supply chain disruption thing. Is this really bizarre situation where American exporters are finding it very hard to export their goods to places like China, which you would think would be the easiest thing in the world? Because there’s so much there are so many containers coming in from China with lots of Chinese exports, and then they demand from China. For US imports is much lower. So those container, it’s just like empty, just fill them up with stuff and. But the fact is. The demand that the asymmetry is so great and the ports are so overwhelmed that it is easier and cheaper for them to just once the containers get unloaded to just like send them back empty than it is to go through the hassle of filling them up with U.S. exports and then sending them back because the amount of money they get for. Shipping charges for and sending stuff to China is so low, it’s not even worth it for them. So so it’s actually even though there’s a huge amount of capacity, theoretical capacity in terms of. Ships going from California to China. In reality, there’s a much, much lower amount of those exports and you would think and the number of empty containers is up 46 percent from where it was last year.

S3: That is a wild start.

S1: Stacey, do you have no.

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S3: Do 630. And that is the number of North American movie theaters that remain closed. Getting into the third year of the pandemic and it’s a number that represents, according to the Bloomberg story that I’m looking at, about 12 percent of the entire nationwide number of theaters that were operating before the pandemic.

S2: I don’t really want to go back to the movies I know a lot of people have, but I don’t really want to sit in a movie theater for two hours with a mask on.

S1: Honestly, I went I went to see the women metro graph that reopened in downtown New York, and it was glorious. I can tell you like it’s it can be great. And we just actually, I mean, there might be 630 closures, Stacey, but there are openings as well. We have a brand new multiplex just opened in Chase Manhattan Plaza, the new Alamo Drafthouse. Oh yeah.

S3: After they filed for bankruptcy for two minutes. And then, yeah, then and then came back. Emily I. The one thing I will say that I really miss about Trent Lott is the way that we experience going to movies because it’s a very social and participatory event. I remember a lot of, you know, like blockbusters like Lord of the Rings, where people would be there and there would be hype and there would be like exclamations and yelling at the screen. And it was like, Oh, it was almost like a sporting event where crowd participation was an expectation. Interestingly, this was not true of all cinemas, right? The fancy ones I did not did not tolerate that level

S1: of the fancy ones like this isn’t exactly exactly. And then the demotic ones like this is this is super interesting one. One of my backup numbers this week I couldn’t get like really put my finger on exactly how much people were paying for opening night Spider-Man tickets. But opening Spider-Man opening night Spider-Man tickets have been trading hands for definitely hundreds of dollars, and that’s exactly the reason why there’s no difference between watching Spider-Man on opening night versus a week later in terms of the movie. But people really want that like opening night slash opening weekend feeling of calm in the communal feeling of we are all for first time together and shouting at the screen and that kind of stuff.

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S2: No, it’s yeah, I do miss. I miss all of that. That is true, but I guess I am more pessimist. Like, I guess I have the impression that that’s not what’s happening in movie theaters right now in the US. If I went to a show.

S3: Now you just get rows and rows, you’re probably

S2: not kind of lonely.

S1: It’s probably not happening in Westchester.

S3: OK. The opera vibe.

S2: Well, my favorite movie theaters shut down.

S3: So you’re one of the 630? Mm hmm. Yeah.

S1: What’s your number? Emily What’s your no.

S2: My number is six point nine percent. That is the amount that cream cheese production fell in October from a year ago. Yes.

S1: The schmear shortage.

S2: We are in the midst of a cream cheese shortage crisis. It is a crisis smear today. Gone? Wow. The leader of the New York Post piece on this. A lot of bad things really happening all at once. The latest crisis. There are a few stories you should read about the cream cheese shortage if you’re interested, if this is important to you, and it should be. Juniors The Cheese, a famous famous cheesecake bakery, had to shut down production. There was a hack at a Midwest cream cheese production company that caused them to shut down production, and that’s on top of all the expected supply chain issues. A Bagel Shanker

S1: was that like a ransomware thing going on there? Like have we ransom as ransomware become Iranian hackers hack hacked into the Greg Lindsay supply chain?

S2: I will include the piece and we can include it in the show notes. But there was a hack. I’m not sure if they were from Ukraine or not. Felix to your question. Making matters worse for the cream cheese crisis.

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S1: Oh my god, the cream cheese cybercrime

S2: an apparently December is like the hot cream cheese, but that sounds gross cheese. But December is a really big month for cream cheese because of all the holiday baking that goes on cheesecakes and whatnot, you know, in addition to the fact

S1: that the cream cheese icing on the cake?

S2: Yes, it’s a big deal. I have a recipe on deck downstairs right now where I’m I’m supposed to be making these sprinkle cookies that have cream cheese in them anyway. Just something to be aware of.

S1: It’s it’s a good piece of situational awareness that I might be smart. Thank you for these smiley smart people.

S2: Get your cream cheese.

S1: Get your cream to get you cream cheese where you can. And yeah, and thanks for listening and thanks for tuning in on Monday, because that’s going to be the grand succession finale. We’re going to be talking about whether Kendall is alive or dead and all manner of questions about how succession ends with the one and only Lizzie O’Leary that’s happening on Monday. As soon as we can get that thing in the can and then we’ll be back next week for another slate money. All right. Sleepless Emily Peck, there was more inflation this month, everyone expected it and it happened. Stocks were kind of impressed that it wasn’t as bad as they had feared. We’re definitely in a period of inflation right now. You have a theory that this is a bad thing.

S2: Well, Felix, you’ve oversimplified,

S3: oh, man, I love this.

S2: I think in like Eckhouse on Twitter and in a lot of pieces, there’s there’s two camps, right? There’s like the Larry Summers team that’s like inflation is really, really bad. We have to do everything we can to slow it down and everything’s a disaster. And there’s Republicans kind of talk like that to inflation. So bad gas prices are so high. This is so bad. The economy’s so bad. Then there’s a bunch of pushback that’s like, actually, the economy is quite good. It’s it’s it’s a hot time in the economy and it’s good to have this inflation and you should kind of relax the economy’s good. Why don’t people understand that things are good? Like Unemployment’s relatively low? Wages are rising, though they’re not keeping pace with inflation. But then there’s this third perspective, which I thought was interesting that David Leonhardt had an email this morning, which is kind of like neither of those. Those positions are quite right. What’s actually happening is, yeah, I mean, by some measures, the economy does seem like it should be good. Unemployment is low and all this. But at the same time, we’re still in this weird pandemic era where things are just obviously not right, like schools aren’t reliably open. Still, public schools in the United States and like to a person that feels shaky and bad. And that’s not that’s not going to make you feel economically optimistic. So it’s like, yeah, things are good and the economy is growing, but at the same time, things are not good. Does that make sense? Am I making any sense? Life is complicated. Offices are empty. Airlines are weird. You have to wait in line. I still can’t get the PlayStation

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S3: cream cheese crisis.

S2: It’s weird. There’s a cream cheese crisis. I can reliably schmear my Bagel. Like what? It’s not. It’s not good. So I mean, it’s not that inflation is is necessarily bad. It’s more like the economy. While flashing signs that things are OK actually is not OK. We are not OK.

S1: And one of the things I will say on the on the on the inflation is bad side and inflation is bad. You know, it reduces real wages. A lot of the. Sanguine take on inflation early on was like supply chain disruptions, COVID like this is just our way of getting back to normal. And, you know, once the supply chains for work themselves out, you know, we won’t see this kind of inflation anymore. One of the slightly more worrying things about this month’s inflation figure is that what we’re seeing is housing rising at like a five percent rate. And housing has nothing to do with well, very little to do with supply chains. This is like rents going up, house prices going up. You know, if that really core part of what it is to, you know, be able to live and put a roof over your head is rising at five percent a year. And you know you need to make five percent more a year just to be able to cover increases in housing costs. That’s not good.

S2: Yeah, that’s not good. I have a theory about about housing prices going up. That might be really nuts, but we can. I’m going to do it. Then it’s

S1: say for

S2: your home right now. Ever since March 2020, your home literally increased in value to you because you must spend more time in it. So, of course, prices for housing went up. Everyone spends more on housing.

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S1: I like your

S2: value has increased.

S1: It’s a it’s a good theory. I like this theory. That’s not bad.

S2: I think it’s it’s yeah. I mean, I might like

S1: I might steal that access

S3: for smart brevity.

S2: Be smart. Credit your co-host for that.

S1: I will. I will. I will credit the great Emily Peck for that one.

S3: I mean, it does. It does make sense in the context of, you know, people being willing to pay more for things like space or kitchens or extra bedrooms. So I’m just going to represent for the renters and be like, I’m sure my landlord is happy, but this is this perception is the thing.

S2: The rent increases are very worrying. You know, like milk can go up a few cents. I think we’re going to be OK, but rent that’s that’s bad sometimes.

S3: Good theory. Okay.

S2: All right. Bye. Sleepless, baby.