S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership.
S2: Hello and welcome to the Who’s Exercising edition of Sleep Money, your guide to the Business and Finance News of the Week.
S3: I am Felix Salmon of Axios. I am here with Emily Peck of Huff Po. Hello. I am here with Anna Shamansky of Breakingviews. Hello. We are going to talk about our exercise regimens. Honestly, it’s not quite as boring as there is a lot of interest in at home exercise and a lot of money in Axum at home exercise. And this whole idea of exercise is a service which you buy a subscription for. It’s become this massive industry. Look at the market capitalization on the stock market. We are going to talk about all of that. We are going to talk about the effects of having covid on your personal finances, which are enormous. And we are going to have even more covid content in Slate, plus about norms around my squaring and the philosophy thereof. But we are going to start with the big news of the week, which was this massive investigation by BuzzFeed News and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, all about money laundering and suspicious activity reports from banks. All of that coming up on slate money. So two years, four hundred plus journalists, 88 countries, 106 news organizations, the biggest investigative investigation at least since the Panama Papers. Emily Peck, what or who is a thin and file?
S4: It’s the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. It’s part of the Treasury Department, and their job is to fight money laundering. And the bottom line of this investigation is they don’t do that great of a job.
S3: This is my favorite statistic. They have two hundred and seventy employees. And as I say, the journalists doing this investigation for two years had over four hundred people working on it basically full time. The two hundred and seventy employees did not have two thousand reports to try and investigate like the journalist did. They had 12 million reports to investigate over the amount of time that the, you know, at the same time period. So it’s basically inconceivable that they would be able to do anything like the job that the journalists did. But the message of the journalists of the journalism in the journalism project was, look what we found after spending two years looking at all of this stuff. Shouldn’t you have found this and done something about it much more quickly? And the answer to that is yes, right?
S5: Yes. Although much of it to be fair is old news. It’s things that, in fact, have already been discovered, some of which have already been adjudicated so well. Yes, I think it’s great that they did this and show this very little of this is new, right?
S3: It’s not. It’s one of those pieces of investigation. It’s one of those pieces of investigative journalism where, like, there’s no great big smoking gun if look what we’ve discovered and you wouldn’t, frankly, expect there to be because these are reports that were sent to. Law enforcement years ago, so it’s not like, you know, the banks are going to try and hide that because by definition they weren’t hiding it, they were sending it to the authorities. But the fact is, the banks on some level knew that the authorities weren’t likely to do anything with this information. And because they had sent these reports to law enforcement, they could continue to do business with these suspicious actors. And apparently and this is the bit which I don’t entirely understand, if you have filed a suspicious activity report, then that basically gives you would get out of jail free card for like a betting money laundering.
S1: I don’t think it’s that simple. I think that. After I think 2012, there were some money laundering fines, I think Standard Chartered and another bank or some fairly large fines, and as a result of that, you can very clearly see that was when the number of these stars went from around sixty thousand a year to about two million a year. And it makes sense because if I’m a bank and I’m nervous that I could potentially get fined, what am I going to do? Anything that is the tiniest bit suspicious. I’m going to send in a star to be like I’ve covered myself. The problem with that is then that means you’ve massively increased the number that these people have to deal with. So it actually makes it harder to find the ones that are legitimate because the vast, vast, vast majority actually aren’t really bad activity.
S3: It’s only a small problem. The problem isn’t the numbers so much as it’s the fact that sending in this covers yourself, like if if you had to send in the suspicious activity report. But that didn’t give you a get out of jail free card, you know, if you had to send in a suspicious activity report. But if you continue to do business with someone you thought was money laundering, you could still get prosecuted and fined, then maybe they would that would be more effective. The problem is that they seem to be using this as a way of avoiding prosecution more than a way of actually helping crack down on money laundering.
S6: I want to step back a little bit because we know that banks, they have too much power to regulate themselves and then things like they get away with a lot of bad stuff. And that’s part of what this investigation shows. But I do think this investigation also shows how money laundering is, this widespread multitrillion dollar activity taking place all over the world, much of it going through the United States. That doesn’t get stopped. And last week we talked about how Facebook undermines democracy. But what really struck me here is how banks undermine democracy by abetting dictators and drug runners and oligarchs. Money laundering. It’s it’s actually pretty. I guess it’s kind of like you read it and you’re like, oh, I knew this. I knew HSBC had like special deposit windows made up for drug dealers so they could drop off their cash faster. Oh, you know, I knew that JP Morgan did some stuff for money laundering for Iran or, you know, there was a bus explosion in Jerusalem tied back to a bank that tied back to money laundering that took the bank over a decade to report in a SARS. And like you kind of know all this, but like seeing it all together, you really start to realize how very little I think. I spoke to my friend Benjamin, who works at ICG, which helped spearhead this investigation, and he was saying, like, less than one percent of all money laundering is stopped, which is really crazy. Like if you think about other crimes, if we said, like, less than one percent of murders are are, you know, prosecuted or people would be up in arms. But because this is so boring, kind of even though there are these shocking moments like the deposit window, people like mostly just like let it go, you know, so it’s more than like banks kind of like getting like a cover your ass for submitting these reports. It’s kind of, I think, underresourced in part because it’s like a little bit boring, but it’s like this really big deal.
S3: The thing and the big picture as well is that the banks are making money from this. They wouldn’t open these deposit windows. They wouldn’t drag their feet. They wouldn’t, you know, just continue doing business while covering their ass by sending in these two million reports a year. If it wasn’t for the fact that they were finding this business incredibly profitable and this is what I wrote in the newsletter this week, is the only way to really crack down on money laundering is to change the incentives of banks so that it stops being money laundering, stops being a profit center for them, and starts being something which really costs the money on a regular basis in the form of fines and other sanctions. Unless and until that happens, it’s going to continue to be a major global industry.
S1: To me. I think part of the issue does come down to the fact that you have trillions of dollars of transactions going every single day. It is very, very hard for any financial institution and any regulator to deal with that. And to me moving forward, I think this is an instance where technology is going to have to play a role. You are simply never going to be able to hire enough people or change incentives enough to be able to regulate that. To me, this has to be a technological fix or nothing will ever fix it. There’s just too much.
S3: Well, I mean, I think I mean, I think that’s actually one thing where the ICJ project is very useful, like they had this huge pile of suspicious activity reports and they realized that none of them were really possible in the same format. And so they had to write a whole bunch of custom software in order to. Be able to link them together across banks and across clients and be able to see what money was flowing from where to where and. It’s pretty obvious that software doesn’t exist on the law enforcement side, that if you look at all of the different countries that are trying to deal with this independently and trying to coordinate with each other, they don’t have a software platform that allows them to do this. And they don’t have a kind of seamless coordination between each other and also with the banks and the compliance departments and the banks so that they can all work together and pull in the same direction. And this is what my former colleague Elizabeth Nuzzi wrote for Bloomberg. It’s like the only way, realistically, that this can be solved. I mean, obviously, you need the stick of sanctions being able to sanction banks even if they have filed these reports. But you also need, as Anna, you said, you need a lot more coordination. You need a lot more technology, and you need to really take this very seriously on a coordinated basis. But, hey, Pellant is about to go public, so maybe you can create that right yare.
S6: I also think there was one story in particular that I really liked and the ICJ investigation that I wanted to flag. And it was this look at how this Ukrainian oligarch looted all this money from the bank he ran in Ukraine. He just stole a bunch of money and then he laundered it through by buying a bunch of buildings in the United States, including like factories in Ohio, steelwork where people are working and then ran them into the ground. And as a result, someone even even died in a factory accident. Like, it just kind of brought home how this money laundering and looting, it’s not these are not victimless crimes at all. And I think part of inspiring people to write these algorithms to stop the laundering would involve, like surfacing more stories like that, which would kind of I don’t know how to say this, but I feel like you have to make money laundering and this bank malfeasance, like a little sexier to get people interested in it in the media. Right.
S5: Although to be fair to say, the Kominsky I mean, like Prabhat Bank was nationalized, like, this isn’t something that people didn’t know about and nothing happened. Like the bank was nationalized wrap.
S4: Just someone in Ohio died in a factory accident because.
S5: So no. And I agree and I agree. The oligarch in Ukraine. Yeah. Yeah.
S3: And I think you’re reacting to something different here. We’re not we’re not saying that he wasn’t caught and nothing happened. Yeah. What we’re saying is that this was a claim with victims and often think of money laundering as a victimless crime. And I do think that the massive CIJ sprawling website situation does make it quite hard to find those stories like it. It really felt like an eat your greens kind of piece of journalism rather than something that anyone would actually want to read.
S6: Yeah, that’s what is frustrating. I think it’s like there’s this massive fraud and money laundering and these oligarchs running rampant and like some poor guy dying in Ohio and oh, and oh. And there was this tidbit in the story about the state giving tax breaks to the money launderers for starting businesses in the Midwest. And it was sort of just a harp, another heartbreaking example of states like giving away so much to these awful people anyway, side note. But the fact is people aren’t interested enough in this, given the seriousness and its widespread effects.
S3: One thing I will say is that anecdotally, the outcome that I really fear here is that the big billionaire Ukrainian oligarch types and drug lords will continue to launder their money without much difficulty. And if there is some concerted crackdown on fraud and money laundering, it’s going to really hit like a bunch of small business owners who will be the first people caught up in these nets. And often they will be completely innocent and doing no money laundering at all. I’ve just anecdotally heard like three different examples of this just in the past couple of weeks of banks sort of freezing accounts with no discernible reason and giving no explanation of when that account might be unfrozen. And I think trying to get the banks to really concentrate on the big fish rather than a little fish, I don’t know how you do that.
S1: Yeah, and that’s the I agree. And I think that’s that’s the issue. So I don’t disagree with you that we need to make the fines, the penalties, you know, stronger. The problem, of course, with that is that that just means that then anything that it could potentially be even the tiniest bit suspicious, you just cut them off from their financial system. And that is almost certainly going to take in a ton of companies that aren’t. Actually doing anything wrong.
S3: Right, and so one of the investigations that NBC News did was into a prepaid debit card offered by this company called Pannier, where they wound up holding the money in a bank in Belize. And this was a bunch of Americans who wound up holding their money in a bank in Belize. And then the bank went bust and they couldn’t access their money. And the reason why these Americans were having their money in the bank in Belize was because basically all of them were sex workers. They were like camgirl, they working on porn sites, that kind of thing. And the standard prepaid debit card companies just won’t allow those people to open legitimate accounts. And so they wind up being forced into sketchy places like Belize. And there’s got to be a suboptimal outcome.
S6: Yeah. Meanwhile, they’ll let Jeffrey Epstein move his money around all day, every day. They don’t care about that. It’s that’s the kind of hypocrisy that just makes you I don’t know. You just want to throw up your hands forever.
S3: Let’s talk about covid, Emily, you had a super interesting story this week about the economic effects not of covid on the economy, because we’ve talked about that many, many times on this show. But the very narrow, specific economic effects of if you get covid, what happens to you financially? And I guess it’s not going to come as any great surprise, but it’s definitely worth thinking about in a country like this one that doesn’t have a decent health care system, the economic effects of getting covid really bad, really bad.
S6: Felic So what happened was NPR and Harvard’s Public Health School and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, they sent out a survey and someone passed it to me and was like, this is going to be interesting. It says Almost half of Americans are seeing serious financial fallout from the covid pandemic, generally speaking. And I was like, oh, that’s kind of interesting. And this the survey also said and parents are really struggling during the pandemic with their kids. And I was like, yeah, OK, everyone knows that. So then I was reading the survey itself, and there was a section about households where someone gets covid and all those numbers were like so much worse. It like it really was, I thought, kind of striking. It was like sixty three percent of households where someone gets covid are reporting serious financial difficulties and then you think, well, OK, that makes sense because Americans have poor health insurance. But it’s even more than that because then I went out and I when starting to talk to people who have covid and the people I talked to actually had health insurance. But the problem was they weren’t able to work and had no money coming in. And these are people I spoke to one woman who, you know, she is a home health aide. She got covid. She gave it to everyone. She lives with her husband, her son, her father in law, her mother in law. They all got sick. None of them could work. And this is a household that lives paycheck to paycheck. And she had I should note, she did have sick leave. She had six hours of sick leave to cover her for the four weeks that she was out. So the fact is, it’s pretty fast that that they don’t have money to pay the bills. And then, you know, it’s not long before they’re on one of those food bank lines and deciding which bill are they going to pay the WI Wi-Fi for the son who needs it to go to school, you know, or like the cell phone bill or whatever, like the the financial fallout is is really fast. And the other thing I would note, and I swear I’ll stop rambling, is that the researchers at Harvard were the guy I spoke to and the public health school was actually like really surprised by how large these percentages are, because he had read about the Carers Act and read about the stimulus checks and that and their beefed up unemployment and all this. And the people I spoke to benefited from that. Like the reason, like the lady who can’t make her mortgage payment next month because she’s had covid for one hundred and seventy days is because, like all the Kahrizak money that she was benefiting from has run out. So, like, these numbers are probably going to get worse before they get better.
S3: So the thing which really jumps out at me here is the household nature of it. Normally, when you live with people, when you live in a household, there’s a kind of income diversification effect there that like if one person loses their job, then the other person can still go to work and maybe keep the household ticking over until the first person gets another job or something like that. But as you say, if an entire household gets sick and gets covid at the same time, then that’s one of those like highly correlated effects that you can’t diversify away from. And it just really does help explain why people with covid have had significantly worse economic outcomes on the household level. And I don’t know what the sort of public health solution to this is beyond just cracking down on covid and attacking the pandemic. But you’re absolutely right that the Kazaks has done amazing things in aggregate for poor Americans, that the amount of money that poor Americans claim to have, the amount of savings they have in their ability to make a four hundred dollar payment in cash, all of these things have gone up substantially after the pandemic. And you have to wonder, like if you say No one, how much is that going to fall back down now that the second the next round of stimulus looks like it’s not going to happen? Or how long are we going to have to wait? One of the things I reported a few weeks ago with Hans Nichols of. Axios is that the Biden campaign is putting together basically an emergency trillion dollar stimulus that they want to try and push through any sort of week one just to try and get like money out the door super, super quickly, long before they get there, like three trillion dollar green new deal and stuff, which would take months. But just like there’s so much urgency to get that next round of stimulus, which is increasingly unlikely to happen during this administration. And you just this looks like we make the best case scenario as it happens in like the last week of January.
S1: Yeah, I mean, I think this not to bring it back to the larger economy, but we do have this like shaped recovery where because you do have a part of the economy that’s done much better than anticipated, as we’ve said multiple times, that’s taken the pressure off to do something for this large part of the economy that tend to be the people that don’t get as much press. And yet they are really struggling and as we say, are likely to struggle quite a bit more because the chance that you’re going to get anything passed before the election is essentially zero at this stage.
S3: The one thing I’ll say is, is still existing, which I think people don’t realize is pandemic unemployment assistance. POWA Well, the six hundred dollars a week stimulus, unemployment assistance ran out in the end at the end of July. The pandemic unemployment assistance, which is the unemployment you get for sort of gig workers and people who didn’t have classic employers that continues until the end of the year. And people are very worried about what happens at the end of the year, but at least it is still going for the time being.
S6: Yeah, and I would say, in addition to what you were talking about, how covid hits a whole household and so multiple people can’t work all at the same time. So for those two things I wanted to say, first, it’s covid hitting households and it’s school closures heading households because there are parents I’m speaking to and maybe one got sick and maybe one was lucky and didn’t get sick or recovered quickly. But like, they need someone to be home with the kids because they’re doing like virtual school or hybrid school. Like our school has been technically open now for a while. My kids have been in person to school four times for a total of like, I don’t know, like 16 hours maybe. So it’s like the double it’s like a double triple whammy. There’s getting covid not being able to work. There is the school closures, not being able to work. And then there’s like reduced hours, layoffs and furloughs, not being able to work, all kind of like swirling around at the same time. And the Kahrizak really kept those people a little bit afloat. I mean, even my reporting that people in distress are like, well, at first we had the money from the stimulus and at first we had it up. But now it’s like, I don’t know what’s going to happen. And I think that’s that’s a part of it. The school thing is big.
S3: Yes. When we were in the early days of the pandemic, you were very big on running around Prospect Park or wherever it is you go in Brooklyn with a mask on your face. And we were like, you would come into the studio at 10, 30 in the morning and say, I’ve just run a half marathon with a mask on my face and we look at you like you are insane. Have you ever.
S5: I have indeed. Like I will say, I tend to run very early, so I don’t have to always have the mask on because like literally no one else is out. I can have it around my neck. And if someone comes, I could put it up. But yes, I have continued running quite a bit.
S3: It’s it’s the thing that I have a bunch of people who, like, really decided to take the exercise regimen and personal fitness seriously in the early days of the pandemic and have kept to it. Now I am much more normal. I thought that would be a good idea. I should start doing exercises and I did like four and then stopped on a bunch of weight. And so I’m like a normal American now. But it looks like if you dress the stock market, the everyone is at least spending money in the expectation of doing lots of exercising, even if they’re not doing the exercising.
S5: So we’ve seen this enormous trend of at home fitness, which is best characterized by pelletised, which shows these extremely expensive bikes and treadmills that’s seen its share price increase by like two hundred and thirty five percent or something this year, just really, really nuts.
S1: And at the same time, you’ve had massive funding rounds for exercise subscriptions. You had Lululemon bought out Mirah for, I think five hundred million. There is just this glut of interest in at home fitness. And obviously it’s partly related to the fact that everybody is stuck at home and whether or not they will actually exercise.
S5: They want to think that they are the type of person who would exercise. So if they have that extra two thousand dollars lying around, it looks like they are buying a Pilton and it’s become a big enough business that Apple has got into.
S3: Apple doesn’t get into businesses unless they are gazillion dollar businesses because as we know, Apple is a two trillion dollar company. And if it got into a business line that made like one hundred billion dollars, that wouldn’t move the needle. But they have got into fitness subscriptions now. So they are seeing a big thing here. But like Emily, what do you make of all this?
S4: I think this is it’s not just people like you, Felix, who are quote unquote normal and don’t exercise. First of all, a lot of people exercise, including myself.
S6: And gym closures really did force a lot of people to to find other options. And a lot of people really did go online. Like, I I don’t have a peloton, but I use the peloton app, which is actually pretty great. It’s like fourteen dollars a month and it’s all different classes you can take and pre pandemic I would take like a yoga class and peloton. There would be like and they tell you if there’s other people there, pre pandemic, there’d be like three people in the class or maybe no people in the class taking it when I did. And now every time I log in to whatever I login to, there’s always at least like 20 people. Like it’s clear to me that by my own anecdotal experience alone, plus all the numbers and I just said that this is a real a real trend. I guess the question is when life returns to normal, if it ever does, who’s going to stay with the apps and who’s going to stay with the at home first fitness when it’s so much I mean, nicer to, like, go to a class in person and all this that. I guess that’s the question, right? Yeah, I agree.
S3: I think that on some level they they might start. Converging, I can definitely see that one of the things that will get people to go back to a gym or like one of the amenities that gyms can offer is playtime’s right. If you go to the gym at the TWA Hotel, they have like 18 Peladon there. And people like, oh, that’s a great gym, has Pelton’s. And I don’t think that it’s entirely in conflict with each other. I think on some level, if you have a gym with Merrison Pelton’s and things like that where all of your data is in there and you can customize things a bit better and you can get that kind of musical curation, which is so important and all the rest of it in the gym, that’s almost the best of both worlds.
S1: So I agree that I think that I don’t think Peloton is going to go away. I think perhaps some of these services will continue. But I think the valuations are nuts because they’re anticipating that this lockdown behavior is going to continue. And then on top of that, just look how many companies we’ve just mentioned in like five minutes. And you also have Equinox has now come out with their own kind of digital service at home. There is so much competition here. And the reality is actually not that many people exercise. Like when you really dive into the numbers, it’s it’s very, very small. And now you could argue that people might again like to think that they will exercise, that they will sign up for something and forget to turn off the subscription and continue paying for it for 15 years, which would be in the interest of a lot of these companies. But I just think there is there are too many. And I think the vast, vast, vast majority of them are not going to be around in three years.
S6: That is the core business model of like of these gyms. Right, Equinox and New York sports clubs. It’s like you’re going to sign up, you’re never going to go. And that’s that’s actually what we want you to do.
S5: It depends on the type of gym. So, yeah, you’re equinoxes and you’re like old school gyms of the world. Exactly. If everyone actually use the gyms, they would all go out of business. Now, granted, New York sports club owner actually has gone up declaring bankruptcy.
S6: OK, well, that’s the last time I went to New York sports clubs. That tells you a lot. But what I was going to say is taking from what Felix was saying, like in the future, if gyms have Pelton’s and other things that maybe sync up with your at home or team, that would be good for them. I wonder if this boom in at home fitness will lead to some kind of it is leading and will continue to lead in more innovation in the person fitness space and like maybe we’ll see like even higher amenities in the gyms in person. Like if I can do peloton at home, why would I pay another forty dollars to do it in person at a gym. But if the person gym had like amazing massage therapy or like you can get a facial or whatever fancy stuff, like, I wonder if this will lead to kind of like some interesting, like inequality of of in person versus at home gyms where the in-person stuff is just ultra fancy or something like this is also very Westchester way of looking at it.
S3: Right. Which is. Which is. Oh yeah. I can just keep my peloton in my spare room and so why would I need to go to the gym for it. Those of us who live in the city, we don’t have we don’t have the real cost of a peloton. It’s not the cost of a peloton. The real cost of a peloton is the square footage that’s you’re renting or paying mortgage on that room.
S5: That’s right. And also, I mean, already a lot of people have treadmills at home, and yet they would much rather do them at the gym because being around other people makes it slightly less awful to run on a treadmill. This is why I say I think that it’s interesting what’s happening now, and I do hope it spurs innovation and different types of fitness. But the thing is, if you look at the history of fitness trends, they’re called trends for a reason, which is that they tend not to last very long. That’s true. So when you’re talking about something like this, where with peloton, you’re buying this two thousand dollar bike, I think nineteen hundred dollars now they decrease the price. It’s not like people are going to keep buying them. Right. So then you have to say, OK, you need to be then growing the number of people, this market that you have, the people who will buy them and also have the subscription and continue paying for the subscription peloton doesn’t care how many people buy the bike.
S3: The only thing we know is how many subscribers they have, of course. And and so like, yeah. That if Peloton discovered early on that they could actually sell the bike at a profit, which kind of surprised them because they thought that they would have to subsidize the bike in order to get people to do it. But peloton is very clear that it’s a media company. It’s not a hardware company.
S5: I mean, to a certain extent, yes, that that is very much true. However, they’re not completely disconnected. And at a certain point, if you look at all of these resources right now, you have to get at home classes or training. There are so many of them and a lot of them are very inexpensive.
S3: So at a certain point, well, I mentioned the big one, which we have to really mention this, because it’s enormous is YouTube. There is literally like. A trillion hours of fitness content on YouTube and really good classes, and you can and it’s free and ultimately all of these fitness apps and products and subscriptions are competing with free and I suppose on some level the winner here is going to be free. The YouTube ones, I don’t understand how they’re not going to wind up winning this whole thing.
S4: Uh, I don’t know if I agree with you, but do we have to get into it? I mean, I think that the apps are just such a much nicer experience. Like, I don’t want to be like, OK, I’m going to work out now. Let me go on to YouTube and see if I can find something that works for me. Like I need something that’s like reliable every time, like I’ve used I said I use the peloton app, but I’ve used other fitness apps. You want to just like know that it’s going to be like a pretty decent class and it’s reliable. It’s a certain amount of time. I, I don’t know.
S3: OK, but what happens what happens when Netflix gets into this? Oh, what happens when Netflix decides they’re going to start doing fitness programming.
S4: Oh then yeah.
S3: What happens when Amazon Prime starts doing fitness programming like it’s inevitable, right.
S5: Yes, right. Exactly. That’s a really good point. And then the last thing that shows that there probably is a bit too much froth in the market and everybody’s trying to jump in. Is this story this week about this company, Echelon Fitness, that said they had come out with these so-called prime bike in collaboration with Amazon and then turns out there was no connection with Amazon. They had to essentially remove their press releases. They can’t even sell it on Amazon. And you just wonder, like, what was the game plan there?
S4: Yeah, I don’t understand that story at all. What were they thinking? It’s everyone.
S3: Everyone wants the ones that baby. Everyone wants that stock market.
S4: But just call it prime and then hope no one’s paying that much attention.
S3: Exactly. Let’s have a numbers round and let’s start with you this week. What’s your number?
S5: OK, you are not going to care about my number. My number is ninety nine point seven percent. So professional football teams that are leading by twenty five points with six minutes left in the game have a ninety nine point seven percent chance of winning that game. And yet the Atlanta Falcons still figured out a way how to lose, despite being up twenty five points. They had they scored thirty nine points with no turnovers. No team in the history of professional football has ever done that and lost the game. And yet the Atlanta Falcons figured out a way to how to deal with how many minutes left in the game. Six minutes. Wow. The end of the game was so weird. It was like there was an onside kick and onside kicks almost never work. And the Falcons players just like watched the ball, just like watch the ball go ten yards and so Dallas could jump. It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.
S4: Maybe they were so far ahead they couldn’t conceive of the fact that they had to keep playing.
S5: No, no. That was the onside kick. That was after Dallas had already gone on the run and they needed to do the onside kick to try to get the ball back.
S3: All right. I’m going I’m going to jump in here and tell you both to stop talking because I have no idea what you’re talking about.
S4: I do that when you two are talking about things I don’t understand.
S3: You see now I don’t know now. I don’t know if I should if because I asked them to go first, because I was sure that she was going to do the leveraged loans. No, because we just broke the record for junk bond issuance. But I’m not going to junk bonds. So I’m going to I’m going to do that next week. If she wants to do my number is going to be one hundred and fifty three dollars. That is the price of a lithium ion battery pack in dollars per kilowatt hour in twenty nineteen. Now, as we all know, we just had the big battery that Tesla batteries and battery technology is the thing that is driving a huge amount of the hope for any hope for climate change and for electric cars and for a million other things. Well, I don’t think people realize is how fast battery technology is improving that. One hundred and fifty three dollars per kilowatt hour in twenty nineteen compares to let me get this right, one thousand one hundred and sixty dollars in twenty ten. So it’s gone down by probably ninety percent in the space of nine years. And that is my little piece of optimism for the week because there’s no indication that that decline is stopping anytime soon. It’s been going down by like 30 percent a year steadily every year. And it if it continues doing this and kind of Moore’s Law kind of way, then suddenly a whole world of power without carbon emissions becomes possible.
S6: So that means to to dumb it down. For for me, it means like if the batteries are real cheap, we can have more battery powered stuff like cars and other junk.
S3: Yeah, you can have a battery powered house.
S4: Just a whole whole lot of amazing. We were just talking about how we use oil in our house and how it’s like not great. And anyway, I would love to just plug my house into a battery. That sounds really great. Emily, what’s your number? My number is 13 percent. That is the amount of increase from last year for the month ending of September for US sales of Halloween candy, which is a big story, I think, right now, Felix. And I don’t know if you’re following the Halloween candy or Halloween covid story, but here in Westchester, people are upset about the schools. Sure. But you know what they’re really upset about? They’re upset about Halloween. They post things on on Facebook, like having these kids suffered enough and they now they can’t have their Halloween this year. Crazy things like that. But I’m here to tell you, Candy, companies were worried people are not going to trick or treat this year and we’re not going to sell as much candy as usual. And candy companies depend on Halloween to, like, float their businesses and stuff all year. But I’m here to tell you, judging by my number, don’t worry, people are still buying Halloween candy. Also, judging by the local supermarkets, which are selling tons of it, even if you can’t trick or treat, Americans still are going to buy jumbo bags of candy. That is my conclusion for you. When it’s Halloween, that’s the end of. Oh, my God. Right. It is the end of October. It’s October. Thirty first every year. That’s always October.
S3: That’s what I thought. I thought that we’re not even in October. Why are people buying candy in like mid-September?
S4: Oh, Felix, they put out the Halloween candy in August up here. It’s crazy.
S5: And also because let’s be real. It’s twenty twenty that candy is not going to the kids like oh like this is parents eating their feelings.
S4: But absolutely. And you and I mean it’s traditionally you buy a big bag of candy like early in October and you pretend that you’re going to save it. Trick or treaters come, then you eat it all and have to buy more, but I think that started a lot earlier this year and there’s no trick or treating. So, I mean, it’s like all bets are off of what’s going on with this. And I bet all of you listeners will now be running out to buy Halloween candy, because now you probably.
S3: Do you have a prediction, Emily, for like trick or treating? Is it going to happen? Is it not going to happen?
S4: I mean, I think it’s really I think there will be still some trick or treating. I think some people here are still planning to do like modify things like maybe on your block you like we’re thinking about on our block, maybe doing something with the houses where we agree a little thing, but usually, like in in our town and the town next to us, like it’s a huge, massive thing, you know? So I don’t think it’ll be a huge, massive thing. And I’ll just be like location by location kind of decision.
S5: It is one of the few holidays where you normally wear masks. I know.
S4: That’s what I don’t understand why we can’t do it. It’s like you’re wearing masks and you’re outside. It seems like you could do some of it. You could maybe do it. Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe let us know your plans, readers, if you want to.
S3: And thank you to Quassey Youngson as well for writing in. I needed this with everything I needed to know about Travis Scott and McDonald’s. So this is the bit which I didn’t really understand about the McDonald’s. Travis got promotion, which now I understand, thanks to Quassey, which is the reason why the Travis Scott meal was so popular at McDonald’s was because it undercut. The price of all of the other meals at McDonald’s, it was the cheapest option at McDonald’s and McDonald’s customers were extremely price sensitive. And so everyone just went in and they completely sold out of Travis Scott meals because you could get like whatever it was, a quarter pounder and a Sprite or whatever for six dollars, which was significantly less than what it was normally. And so you get this cool factor for McDonald’s, which is never normally considered to be very cool because it’s Travis Scott and he’s super cool. But you also get amazing value and like those two things together just exploded and it became a massive thing. So thank you for explaining that to us over email. This is why we like getting your emails on sleep money at stake.
S4: Dotcom, I still don’t understand talking about, do you?
S3: This is what he’s talking about due to either of you guys not remember last week when I’m like someone explain the Travis Scott movie.
S4: I understand what you were even asking to have explained to you, and then I forgot to look it up. Emily, do you know who Travis Scott is? He’s a music artist.
S3: Maybe he’s a musical artist, correct? I don’t know. He had a big live concert in fortnight and it was a big hit. And now he’s got a collaboration with McDonald’s, which is a big hit. And it’s the evolution of collabs which used to be like, we’ll make these cool clothing chains even cooler by like getting pop stars in. But now it’s not cool clothing chains. It’s fast food joints.
S4: And the Travis Scott meal. Cactus Jack. Oh, I see. OK. All right. Looking it up on the Internet. I’m looking it up on the. Travis got me a six dollars, six dollars and then mixed use six dollars. Oh wow. OK, all right. All right.
S3: It was so popular that they actually started forcing people to use the app that you couldn’t just walk up to the counter and order any anymore. You can only get it if you order it in advance using the app. That’s really smart.
S4: The number of downloads of the McDonald’s app when, you know, 10 X or something, quarter pounder with cheese, Travis style, it’s lit. That’s what it says on the website. It’s lit. Wow. Thanks, Felix McDonald’s.
S3: There you go. Next week we can talk about the way that Burger King hacked EA Sports and soccer, which is another great story. If you have any insight into that, let me know, because that was another awesome little piece of culture hacking not by McDonald’s, but rather by Burger King. Oh, boy, we really have let this man get away from us. I think we should wrap up this show at this point. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you to Jasmine.
S2: Molly, not only for producing, but also for letting me use her amazing spyplane Omada Studios in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Thank you for emailing us about Cactus Jack and everything else. Sleep money at Sleep Dotcom. And we will talk to you next week on sleep.
S4: Emily, let’s talk about the philosophy of covid, so someone I think my editor at Huff Post said brought this up this week, essentially, if the pandemic had went down in the early 90s or any time before the Internet was as usable as it is now. So we couldn’t zoom, we couldn’t shop online, we just didn’t have that option. But we have actually had any kind of shutdown in the US, like if we couldn’t do these things, the fact that we were able to zoom and do things remotely enable us to stay inside.
S3: And if we couldn’t have done it, would like millions of Americans just died from covid or the opposite thing, which the opposite idea like there are two possible ideas here. One is that the shutdown was bigger than it would have been pre Internet because it is so easy for so many people to work from home or if not easier, at least possible. So the second idea is that the shutdown was smaller than it would have been pre Internet because we couldn’t otherwise have avoided it. Like you need to tackle the. Virus some way, and the way that we’re tackling the virus is by working from home and avoiding each other and social distancing and social distancing is easier now because of the Internet. Without the Internet, it becomes harder. And so what you basically need to do is a New Zealand style complete lockdown, just eradicate the disease as much as you can and do very hardcore testing and tracing because you have no alternative. We managed to sort of muddle through by using the Internet without ever having a real lockdown and free Internet. We would have had to have a real lockdown because it’s the only way we could have got a handle on the disease.
S5: I don’t think there’s any chance we would have had a total lockdown if we didn’t have the Internet. There is no way on Earth that they would have been like, guess what? The entire economy just stopped. Maybe they would have figured out earlier that, hey, if you put a mask over your face, it actually works. I, I don’t think I think there is essentially a zero percent chance that that would happen.
S4: Yeah, I think more people would have died. I think I think or less people like you’re saying, like we would have figured out the mass thing faster somehow. I don’t know.
S6: So I think on balance, you would say if there were no Internet, there would have been no lockdown and more people would have died versus if there were no Internet, we would have had a shorter, more intense lockdown and fewer people would have died like the US would never have tolerated that. Right. Or although without the Internet, there would be less annoying people talking about their freedom online during an intense lockdown, like they just wouldn’t do it.
S3: This is the other thing that is really fascinating to me right now, because I’m looking at the second wave in Europe. I’m looking at the way the cases are spiking in places like England and Spain and especially Madrid. And one of the things that you see, especially in the U.K., is a huge amount of people not wearing masks. If you walk around London right now, people are not wearing masks. And it’s not because they’re Trampas because there aren’t any trumpet’s in the U.K. So there does seem to be a real a very large part of the population being very reluctant to wear masks globally. And I honestly thought that the whole world was wearing masks except for like a bunch of trumpets. That’s not the case.
S5: It is. All Europeans are really not very good at wearing masks. And you would think. But no, turns out Latin Americans also not very good at wearing masks. Speaking of places where the outbreak has been really, really bad, what’s what’s going on?
S6: Why do we think this? I mean, in the US, I also see, like a lot of we obviously we know there’s anti maskers. Is that a phrase? I don’t know.
S3: But there are definitely and I think I think that what you have is a societal norms thing going on. Right. If no one is wearing a mask, given that the main purpose of wearing a mask is to protect everyone around you, right. Is less to protect yourself and more to protect everyone around you. If everyone wears a mask and everyone protects everyone and it works really well, if a majority of people are not wearing masks, then the utility of one extra person wearing a mask becomes lower. And you’re like, well, what’s the point? If I’m not being protected by all of these people who are not wearing masks around me, then what’s the point in me worrying about I don’t want I’m not going to be protected from them. They don’t particularly want to be protected from me. So I’m not going to wear a mask either. They don’t want me to wear a mask. That’s clear. They don’t want me to wear a mask because they’re not wearing masks. And so you wind up with this sort of corner solution where no one with a mask, even if people would if everyone was people don’t. If no one is.
S5: I do think that there’s a cultural norm thing here, because I do feel like it was just kind of amazing to me in New York how quickly everybody started wearing masks to the point that, like, it seems odd to see somebody who’s not wearing a mask. And, you know, even also I was in northern Michigan not that long ago and everyone was wearing a mask.
S4: I was wondering how much, because you remember at the beginning the CDC came out and said, like, don’t wear masks. Remember, they said like either because there was a shortage of mass. So they didn’t want people to buy them. They were like, they it’s you don’t really need them. I wonder how much that kind of screwed screwed things up a little bit.
S3: I mean, delayed things. Yeah. And there was that big switch as well. Like the idea at the beginning, everyone was like, masks are what you need to protect yourself from covid. Right. And then it took a good month or two to mentally switch from that to masks or way of like preventing the spread of the disease rather than preventing the reception of the disease.
S4: So, I mean, I’ve just been thinking a lot about seatbelts lately because I’m old enough to remember when it wasn’t the law. Like, I remember that all of a sudden my parents were like, you got to wear your seatbelt because it’s the law now. And like, isn’t. And I remember thinking for a long time, like seatbelts, so annoying. And now, like with my kids, they’ve literally never not used a seatbelt like they if I pull into my driveway with my seatbelt. Just because of some reason or other like my children will be like, what are you doing? You’re going to die. Like the norm of wearing a seatbelt is so widespread and accepted. And I I think a lot about like how long that transition might have taken and what it took to get there. Right. I mean, there’s like a cop can pull you over for not using your seatbelt. They’re sickening. It’s like a whole thing.
S3: And I feel like my mother used to say in when I was a kid, my mother used to say, like, the car won’t start if you’re not wearing your seat. And that was like this. And because I was a kid, I believed her. And then I realized it was just something that she said. But now I have a car which genuinely won’t start if the driver isn’t wearing the seat. Well, my understanding is no justice and no, it will ding if the passenger isn’t wearing a seatbelt. But if the driver isn’t buckled in, then the car will not start.
S4: Wow. Yeah. I mean, we need more of those kinds of mechanisms, but for masks, I don’t know, like the instead of like relying on, like, poorly paid retail workers to enforce mask rules, you should like it should be like the shoplifting ding if you walk into a store without a mask like some butt off.
S5: But I would say that like the the seatbelt cultural norm like that didn’t change really, because technology changed. The technology was later. Honestly, everyone was ordering seatbelts because to me, it makes you think of like people always just assume, oh, right. Many people in Asian countries just wear masks. And it’s like it’s not like people, Asian countries are doing that forever. It just they started having a number of respiratory illnesses and people realized, it turns out if you have a respiratory illness and you put on a mask. And so it then became this just being that you are obviously expected to do so to me, it’s the horrible thing to say about it. It’s probably that we would probably have to have a few pandemics that we actually don’t want to have. You know, you would probably have to have a number of illnesses where people realize, oh, I have to wear a mask and then it becomes the norm.
S6: I wanted to tell you guys, I don’t know if you’ve read about this yet, but some scientists believe we might have to cut this. I don’t know. But I wanted to talk about it. Some science believe that the masks make a crude vaccine because there’s just enough virus lands on the mask and like, enters your body. Not enough to get you sick, but just enough to make you immune. So there’s like this new theory about that.
S3: Oh, so really cool. Yeah, I like that idea. The only other thing I’m going to mention is one of my favorite little pieces of research, which I’m not going to put in the show notes because I have no idea how I can find it on the Internet. But I remember reading it about a couple of years ago about the history of the campaign to get motorcycle riders to wear helmets in Vietnam. And this was a multi year campaign. It went on for, I think like 10 or 15 years. And everyone at the beginning was like, you are never going to do it. You know, it’s never going to work. Like, it’s just not part of the culture. Vietnamese people don’t wear helmets. They will never wear helmets. And there was talk about trying to get legislation, but like for various reasons, the legislation was not going to happen. And there was just this long sort of drumbeat campaign. And then suddenly it was really weird. It was a bit like gay marriage. Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing. And then suddenly, almost overnight, everyone started wearing helmets. And I’m really fascinated by this phenomenon of how public opinion changes and how it can change. Actually, surprisingly quickly. We’ve seen that in the United States with the number of people who believe that, like systemic racism is a thing they just kind of like didn’t change, didn’t change change. And then suddenly it spiked through the roof. There were way there were interesting dynamics at work here. And I’m absolutely sure the most wearing falls into that dynamic.