MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
The Supreme Court considers the scope of the Voting Rights Act as applied to Arizona. Do the rules of that state discriminate?
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Legal Docket.
Also today the Monday Moneybeat. As Covid recedes, vaccines increase, and the economy begins to reopen, jobs are coming back. We’ll talk with economist and financial analyst David Bahnsen.
Plus the WORLD History Book. Today, the 85th birthday of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
REICHARD: It’s Monday, March 8th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
REICHARD: Time now for the news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Senate passes $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill » Senate Democrats over the weekend approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
AUDIO: The yeas are 50. The nays are 49, and the amendment is agreed to.
That was a straight party line vote.
Among the measures in the bill, billions in funding for testing and vaccine development, relief for state and local governments, housing aid and child care and $1,400 stimulus payments for most Americans.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill will deliver badly needed relief.
SCHUMER: It’s the most robust relief package to help working families and getting people out of poverty that we’ve seen probably since the New Deal.
But Republicans had a very different way of describing it. They say it’s not really a COVID-19 relief bill at all. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso…
BARRASSO: This was not really about coronavirus in terms of the spending. This was a liberal wish list of liberal spending, just basically filled with pork.
Democrats used a process called budget reconciliation to pass the bill with a simple majority to avoid a GOP filibuster.
Bluedog Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin said while no Republicans voted in favor of the bill, he made sure their voices were heard.
MANCHIN: A lot of the things I was able to get into that bill and target the bill the way we had talked about came because of negotiations and talks with my Republican and Democratic colleagues.
Manchin held up passage of the bill for hours to hammer out a last-minute compromise on federal unemployment benefits. Under the compromise, the Senate bill will renew $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits instead of the $400 per week in the House version of the bill.
Saturday’s vote sets up final approval by the House next week. Lawmakers will then rush it to President Biden’s desk.
Biden admin. continues to urge caution in reopening » As numerous states begin to ease coronavirus restrictions, the Biden administration is once again urging state and local governments to slow down.
The president’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CBS’s Face the Nation…
FAUCI: It really would be risky to have yet again another surge, which we do not want to happen because we’re plateauing at quite a high level, 60-to-70,000 new infections per day is quite high.
New infections peaked in early January at 300,000 per day, then fell off sharply for five weeks straight, but in the middle of last month, that progress ground to a halt. Over the past 3 or 4 weeks, the rate of new daily infections is virtually unchanged.
And epidemiologist Dr. Michel Olsterholm warned on Sunday…
OLSTERHOLM: We are in the eye of the hurricane right now. It appears that things are going very well. We even see blue skies. But what we know is about to come upon us is this situation with this B117 variant, the virus that originated in the United Kingdom, which today is wreaking havoc in parts of Europe.
Dozens of countries have renewed lockdowns to try to control spread of the variant.
But even as the decline of new daily cases in the United States has leveled off since mid-February, new hospitalizations have continued to drop. So some governors say now that most high risk Americans have access to vaccines, it’s time to reopen.
Biden voting executive order » President Biden signed an executive order on Sunday he says is aimed at expanding voting access.
He announced the plan on the 56th commemoration of the “Bloody Sunday” incident in Selma, Alabama, in which state troopers attacked voting rights activists.
BIDEN: On the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I’m signing an executive order to make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote and improve access to voting.
The order directs federal agencies to expand access to voter registration and election information, and pushes an overhaul of the government’s Vote.gov website.
It also calls on the heads of agencies to come up with plans to give federal employees time off to vote or volunteer as nonpartisan poll workers.
The move comes just days after House Democrats passed a sweeping voting and elections bill. But the legislation is likely to die in the Senate/ Republicans complain the bill is highly partisan and goes far beyond improving voting access.
Myanmar plunges deeper into crisis » Myanmar plunged deeper into crisis Sunday, as the military continues its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
AUDIO: [Sound of protest]
Police again clashed with demonstrators in the streets of Mandalay and other cities reportedly arresting hundreds of protesters.
Police also occupied universities and hospitals. Taking over hospitals would allow the authorities to easily arrest wounded people presumed to be protesters.
Also on Sunday, a coalition of labor unions called for a nationwide strike to begin today in protest of the military coup. Workers in several industries have joined the protest movement, most notably from the state railway and the banking sector.
I’m Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: a Supreme Court dispute over voting rights.
Plus, a seminal book on economics makes its debut.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Monday morning and it’s so good to be back at it for a new week of The World and Everything in It. It’s March 8th, 2021. Good morning to you! I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. The U.S. Supreme Court handed down an opinion last week we didn’t have for on Friday, so we’ll recap it first.
This ruling may have an impact on transparency in government. A majority seven justices found that federal agencies do not have to hand over draft documents sought under a Freedom of Information Act request.
The FOIA law exempts records that are part of the so-called “deliberative process” of agencies. As a result, those documents are considered privileged and are thus protected from disclosure.
The case grew out of a FOIA request by the environmental group Sierra Club. It had sought documents related to an Environmental Protection Agency proposal for power plants. Over time the proposal changed and the group sought internal documents that would explain the changes.
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, the case returns to the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. There, the parties will face further proceedings that will determine whether some parts of the documents can be sifted out from the privileged portions and then disclosed under FOIA.
REICHARD: Our argument analysis for today comes from two cases related to election law.
In 2020—in response to the COVID pandemic—several states loosened their election rules to make it easier to vote remotely. One state in particular, the battleground state Pennsylvania, made substantial changes. Three justices wanted to take up a review of those controversial accommodations, but a majority did not, so the high court sat that one out.
The justices did agree, though, to hear two Arizona cases consolidated into one and today I’ll tell you about the oral argument in that case. Now, this is not related to Covid loosening, but the result may offer states some legal options to prevent fraud in the future.
In 2016, the DNC—the Democratic National Committee—sued Arizona over two state election laws. One in use for 25 years rejects ballots cast in the wrong precinct. Around 20 other states use some form of the same rule.
The other makes it a crime for someone outside the voter’s immediate circle to collect or deliver early ballots—someone other than, say, a family member or caregiver. When party activists collect up ballots, that practice is called ballot harvesting and Arizona doesn’t allow it.
The DNC argues these are illegal and discriminatory rules that hurt minorities. The state attorney general and the state Republican party says these are about election integrity.
Lawyer Michael Carvin for the Arizona Republican Party put it this way:
CARVIN: I think the key conceptual point here to understand is that Arizona has not denied anyone any voting opportunity of any kind. There’s not like a literacy test which denies you the right to vote. It’s not like vote dilution, where white bloc voting denies minorities an equal opportunity to elect. Everyone here is eligible and registered to vote. All they have to do is utilize the myriad opportunities that Arizona has offered them.
Carvin referenced the literacy test. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 put an end to practices designed to disenfranchise minority voters, like literacy tests or poll taxes. States could no longer enact voting practices that resulted in abridgement of the right to vote “on account of race or color.”
In 1982, Congress clarified that these prohibitions applied to both intentional discrimination and to discriminatory effect.
Justice Elena Kagan lobbed a series of hypotheticals at Carvin, again, lawyer for the Arizona Republican Party. Note I’ve edited audio clips for flow.
KAGAN: So the first one is that the state decides that each county can have one polling place, and because of who lives in larger counties, that creates a disparate impact that black voters have to wait in line for 10 times the amount that white voters do, two-and-a-half hours instead of 15 minutes. Is that system equally open in the language of the statute?
CARVIN: I would think not. Equally open means, takes into account demographic realities. If you have one polling place for five people and one polling place for five million people, obviously, in the latter situation, those people do not have an equal opportunity to vote.
KAGAN: Thank you, Mr. Carvin. Can we go — just go on to another one? The state says we’re placing all our polling places at country clubs. And that decision means that black voters have to drive 10 times as long to the polls and have to go into places which, you know, are traditionally hostile to them.
CARVIN: Yeah, I would think that would provide them with less opportunity than non-minorities. Or else they’d –
KAGAN: And why is that?
CARVIN: Well, because they have to travel further into hostile territory where non-minorities can — can travel one block to very sympathetic. Under any definition of —
KAGAN: Okay. That’s helpful.
Later, Chief Justice John Roberts brought up a bipartisan report from 2004. Former President Jimmy Carter and James Baker, a top official under two Republican presidents, headed up a commission that found absentee votes are the biggest source of potential voter fraud. And people in nursing homes and workplaces are more susceptible to intimidation when political party workers go to collect ballots.
When Chief Justice Roberts worked for the Department of Justice under President Ronald Reagan, he wrote that it shouldn’t be too easy to prove violations under this part of the Voting Rights Act. That, he wrote, would be “the most intrusive interference imaginable by federal courts into state and local processes.”
Listen to this exchange between the Chief Justice and lawyer Jessica Amunson who argued in support of the DNC. Note I’ve edited the audio for flow in this report.
ROBERTS: So, the law, you would strike down because there’s not racial proportionality in enforcing the law, and that means that your pursuit of racial proportionality would require you to keep in place…the intimidation that caused President Carter and Secretary Baker to recommend that that harvesting practice be eliminated?
AMUNSON: Your Honor, it has nothing to do with racial proportionality. What it has to do with are the burdens that the law actually imposes on voters here…What I’m saying is that here what we have is a record that shows that Native Americans and Latinos in Arizona rely disproportionately on ballot collection and white voters do not. So that is why this is before you.
Carvin, on the other side for the Republican party, pointed out that nobody thinks it’s too much to ask job applicants to send in an application. That’s so no matter if some people don’t have good mail access or transportation. It’s just part of the process, applied equally to everyone.
But Justice Sonia Sotomayor had qualms with that.
SOTOMAYOR: If you can’t vote because you are a Native American or a non-Hispanic in areas where car ownership rates are very small, where you don’t have mail pickup or mail delivery, where your post office is at the edge of town and so that you require either a relative to pick up your vote, or you happen to vote in a wrong precinct because your particular area has a confusion of precinct assignments, if you just can’t vote for those reasons and…your vote is not being counted, you’ve been denied the right to vote, haven’t you?”
CARVIN: Well, again, the only way they could remedy it is to engage in the counterintuitive policies allowing everybody to vote in any precinct they want or to have partisan operatives collect their ballots in a real threat —
SOTOMAYOR: I thought that — but I’m sorry —
CARVIN: — to fraud. And that’s not —
SOTOMAYOR: — if you —
CARVIN: — that’s a Hobson’s Choice…
Justice Sotomayor was referencing Native Americans who live in distinct communities within reservations. Those boundaries don’t line up with the state’s precincts. So it may confuse those who don’t keep the two different jurisdictions straight. And a vote in the wrong precinct means that vote is thrown out.
Justice Clarence Thomas wanted to know numbers. What percentage of minorities who cast ballots in the state were affected by these policies?
Amunson answered less than 1 percent, but this isn’t about numbers, she argued. The law says this is about the right of any voter being abridged.
Justice Thomas also pressed another lawyer for the DNC, Bruce Spiva:
THOMAS: I’m wondering how you would analyze that if, in addition to what was said that was somewhat of a pejorative nature about minorities, if someone said the opposite, or something similar or countervailing about whites, and you had both sets of pejoratives in the legislative history. How would you analyze that and how would it change the way you would analyze this case?
SPIVA: I’m not sure that it would make a difference, Your Honor…
Spiva pointed out that sometimes all you have is circumstantial evidence about whether race is a motivating factor behind a rule. Other Supreme Court decisions lay out how to determine motivation in such a case.
Justice Samuel Alito picked up on a common thread the conservative justices mentioned a few times Here he addresses Spiva for the DNC.
ALITO: What concerns me is that your position is going to make every voting rule vulnerable to attack because people who are poor and less well educated on balance probably will find it more difficult to comply with just about every voting rule than do people who are more affluent and have had the benefit of more education. Explain to me why that is not so.
Spiva answered that kind of litigation hasn’t happened yet. And even if it does, safeguards are in place. He cited as an example that Virginia’s voter ID requirements were upheld by the Supreme Court because the state gave out IDs for free to anyone who asked. So no disparate impact on any racial group. No problem.
It didn’t sound to me that the conservative justices saw Arizona’s voting rules as racial discrimination. It seemed they saw them as reasonable safeguards against fraud.
Millions of Americans distrust the integrity of their elections. Some reasons for that: many jurisdictions related voting rules to accommodate Covid fears, and mass mailing of unsolicited ballots without chain of custody security fueled concerns.
This case is a chance to at least put forth a clear standard of how to interpret the Voting Rights Act in light of states’ attempts to right the ship.
And that’s this week’s Legal Docket.
NICK EICHER: You just never know what you might find when you’re renovating an old house.
A contractor in Scotland named Craig Harrigan was removing a counter while renovating a kitchen. That’s when he found a hidden message and a gift left by previous owners, named Jack and May.
HARRIGAN: Jack and May lived here, three kids and a dog.
The message, scribbled on the floor, said the bottle was a gift—and you know what it was a bottle of—we’re talking about Scotland, so the local drink.
The message was dated May of 2001 a toast to whoever finds it. Craig Harrigan did comment he was using power tools, so probably not a good idea to drink while remodeling.
The bottle will stay in the family. The current owner is the daughter of Jack and May.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: The Monday Moneybeat.
NICK EICHER, HOST: New government report on jobs containing better-than-expected news. American employers added 379,000 net new jobs in February—the unemployment rate ticking down to 6.2 percent—that’s down from a record high 14.8 a little less than a year ago.
The February pickup represents the second-straight month of jobs growth and more than 90 percent of that increase comes in the job sector hardest hit by Covid lockdown orders—that’s leisure and hospitality.
Financial analyst and advisor David Bahnsen joins me now. And David, it’s interesting, this jobs report comes at a time when we hear about states lifting Covid restrictions. Blue states, too, not just red states, like Texas. Though Texas lifting its mask mandate earned the ire of the president last week, calling it neanderthal thinking.
DAVID BAHNSEN, GUEST: Yeah, I think that there is a disconnect on where the society is headed and desperately wants to be, which is at that place of normalcy, at a place of pre-COVID normalization. And I would even add, by the way, more so than the comments that the White House made a day or two before the jobs report was the stimulus bill that the Senate passed a few hours after the jobs report. I can’t think of another time that we would have outperformed our jobs report by a couple hundred thousand jobs and expectations and then later on that day signed a bill for $1.9 trillion of support.
I think that this economy is headed in the right direction. I think that the jobs numbers are going faster than people expected, including myself. And now to go do this direct payment stuff and all the other things that are part of the stimulus bill I think is really quite bizarre to be honest with you.
EICHER: So you weren’t impressed much with the efforts of moderate Democrats in the Senate dialing back some of the features in the House version of the Covid bill?
BAHNSEN: Yeah, I think there’s something really important that happened here and I hope listeners might have caught this. I am a little disappointed that it does appear that the sort of moderating forces in the Democratic Senate, which there are some and I’m grateful that they’re there and they do represent a kind of check and balance on a lot of what the progressive left would like to do. The progressive left does not have the political power to do some of the things they want to. We saw the minimum wage thing fail. So I’m grateful for the Joe Manchins in West Virginia and Testers and Sinemas and some of these other senators.
But I’ve got to say on this stimulus thing, it does appear that they were really content to use their leverage to get something very token, very cosmetic. They changed the weekly unemployment from $400 a week to $300 a week, but then extended it an additional four or five weeks longer. That’s hardly needle moving type stuff. If they felt $1.9 trillion was way too large for the moment, I think they had the political leverage to get it down to $1 trillion or $1.3 trillion. But they basically just kind of re- tweaked an I and T and called it a day. And I think that’s, unfortunately, possibly an omen of things to come.
EICHER: Hey, before I let you go, any stories you’re watching that may have slipped under the radar here? About two minutes and we’ve got to run.
BAHNSEN: Well, there were two stories this week that dominated the news cycle in the financial news cycle. One is the ISM services. So, you’re looking at manufacturing, you’re looking at industrial production. But then you have the ISM manufacturing and non-manufacturing and that services index had substantially better growth than had been expected and so that’s a positive. All of these different economic indicators that are not the consumer confidence and jobs numbers that most people focus on, the ones that I really believe are forward-looking and needle moving. All of those numbers are thus far coming in better than expected.
So that does two things. It both encourages me about my thesis of economic recovery and it mystifies me that there was no political will— and I’m saying leftist folks that are in power that know that this is true. There’s no disagreement. This is not controversial. This is not social justice. They know that the $1.9 trillion is way, way, way too big for the moment. And yet the fact that it didn’t do anything to kind of check them back is really quite telling.
I think the other piece is a continuation of the story about bond yields. They moved higher again this week and allegedly we had all this hand wringing over what the Fed would do about the possibility of yields moving higher. And I thought Chairman Powell stuck to his guns on Thursday and basically just said we’re watching it. We’re not worried about runaway inflation. Somewhere, somehow someone has got to understand that growth is not inflationary. That economic growth in and of itself is not inflationary. And the idea that people getting jobs back is a bad thing is offensive. It’s offensive morally. That we have to worry about there being inflation because we see people in the troubled hospitality sector getting their jobs back. It’s just silly. And I think that the sooner we understand that, the better off we’re going to be.
EICHER: Alright. David Bahnsen, financial analyst and advisor. Always great to talk with you, David. Thanks so much. Have a great week.
BAHNSEN: Thanks so much, Nick.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: tackling social studies, civics, and science. Sounds like back to school! So let’s crack open our WORLD History Book with senior correspondent Katie Gaultney.
AUDIO: [COINS FALLING]
KATIE GAULTNEY, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: If you leave the market alone, will it do good, or will it do evil?
AUDIO: [OPENING BELL, NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE]
With GameStop and Bitcoin, Robinhood and Coinbase, Elon Musk, Peter Schiff, and Twitter, 2021 feels like a funny time to ponder that. But 245 years ago—at the height of revolutionary fervor—Scottish economist Adam Smith was asking that fundamental question. His book, The Wealth of Nations, was published on March 9, 1776.
Manufacturing was taking off. Multinational corporations, colonization, and stock trade were skyrocketing. That question—what makes economies good?—created a voracious audience for Smith’s book. And some of his ideas, like the division of labor, are essential in the workplace even now.
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett lauded Smith’s influence at Berkshire Hathaway’s 2015 annual meeting. He said Smith’s idea of specialization has influenced him in many spheres of his life, from business, to daily tasks, to charitable giving.
BUFFETT: I mean the idea that you let other people do what they’re best at and stick with what you’re best at, I’ve carried from mowing my lawn to philanthropy.
Writers have cited Smith’s opus more than 36,000 times. In the category of “books in the social sciences published before 1950,” The Wealth of Nations trails only Karl Marx’s Das Kapital in citations.
SONG: [“HAPPY BIRTHDAY,” CRAZYCELLO]
Moving from a giant in economics to a titan in the legal arena. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would have turned 85 this week. He was born March 11, 1936, in Trenton, New Jersey.
The constitutional scholar was known as much for his wit as his wisdom, and his expertise of “originalist” viewpoints. Here he is addressing a Senate Judiciary Committee in 2011.
SCALIA: You’re talking about the doctrine of unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority, which is a misnomer because there’s no such thing as constitutional delegation of legislative authority. You cannot delegate legislative authority!
Scalia came up in the Nixon and Ford administrations before becoming assistant attorney general. President Reagan nominated him to the Supreme Court, and his appointment made him the first Italian-American justice.
His brash and bold personality, and his conservative point of view, made his enduring friendship with liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg all the more surprising. They proved that even in the 21st century, people with different viewpoints can be cordial to each other.
GINSBURG: And I was listening to him and disagreeing with a good part of what he said, but the way he said it in an absolutely captivating way. (laughter)
Scalia died in his sleep at a ranch in Texas in 2016. A devout Roman Catholic, he left behind a wife of 46 years and nine children. Scalia’s place in the hallows of legal history is secure—as is his place in pop culture. His life inspired an opera, a play, and songs. American progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria actually put Scalia’s dissents to music in 2015.
SONG: [COHEED AND CAMBRIA SING SCALIA’S DISSENTING OPINIONS]
And for our last entry today, a reminder that nothing is new under the sun.
MUSIC: [“THEME FROM MARS ATTACKS!”]
Mars is in the news as NASA’s most sophisticated rover to date landed on the red planet last month. Its mission? To search for signs of “ancient life.” But, 15 years ago—on March 10, 2006—NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, or MRO, arrived in the planet’s orbit. Among other goals, its mission was to see if the planet’s minerals, climate, and terrain could have supported—you guessed it—ancient life.
ANNOUNCER: … Ignition and liftoff of the Atlas V rocket with MRO, surveying for the deepest insights into the mysterious evolution of Mars.
Scientists consider the spacecraft a critical part of planning for ground missions, offering high-speed data relay back to Earth. And there’s plenty more of the planet to observe and record. Jim Green, a NASA director of planetary science, put it in context at a C-SPAN event in 2016.
GREEN: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, with that instrument called High Rise, has been operating for 10 years. We’ve only observed about 3 percent of the surface at that high resolution.
MRO cost NASA nearly $420 million to develop, and more than $31 million a year to continue operating. It has already outlived projections; NASA designed it for a five-year mission. But, it keeps orbiting the planet, 15 years later, and NASA plans to continue the mission as long as possible.
That’s this week’s History Book. I’m Katie Gaultney.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: a special report on vaccines. We’ll tell you about how the distribution process is going.
And we’ll talk to WORLD’s medical correspondent about the side effects from the vaccine and the virus.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
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