01/31/2024 - The Taylor Swift Marshall Plan

Mark Blyth, political economist at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, and Carrie Nordlund, political scientist and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs at Brown University, share their take on the news.

On this episode:

  • Trump’s domination of the GOP primary, and what the MAGA-ficaiton of the GOP means for 2024
  • The politics of Trump's legal troubles
  • Making sense of America’s “vibe-cession” and disinflation
  • Claudine Gay’s resignation as Harvard’s president, and the Right’s strange relationship to the Ivy League
  • Where does China’s economy go next?
  • Unpacking the calls to ban Germany’s right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party
  • Why is the UK trying to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda?
  • The Super Bowl meets the Taylor Swift-Industrial Complex

Learn more about the Watson Institute's other podcasts


[MUSIC PLAYING] CARRIE NORDLUND: From the Watson Institute at Brown University, it's the Mark and Carrie Podcast Twenty Twenty-Four, first edition. Hello, Blyth.

MARK BLYTH: Hello there. We're back.


MARK BLYTH: It's good. I was in Chile.

CARRIE NORDLUND: How was that? I went to a conference. It was really-- it was a really good conference and really interesting place.


MARK BLYTH: And so I'd been in Argentina the year before, and all of these, as they call them Southern Cone countries, in the Nineteen Seventies, you had like military Juntas taking over. Thousands of people disappeared, hundreds of thousands of people going into exile, right?

And it's really interesting when you compare and contrast the response in Argentina and Brazil. So the Argentinians prosecuted the military more and really put it-- you guys aren't getting a budget anymore. It's been pushed back, et cetera. But the memorializing and public consciousness of it just didn't feel the same way. In Chile, they're much, much more upfront about it.

There's a really amazing, really powerful museum of the disappeared and all this sort of stuff. And it just seems to be much more palpable that they're aware of, and they want to stay aware of the fact that this all went horribly wrong once. Let's make sure it doesn't go horribly wrong again. That was the feeling that I got from it. It was really interesting.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Did you save the Chilean economy?


CARRIE NORDLUND: You were there.

MARK BLYTH: No, they don't need saving. They're fine. They have all this lithium and copper, so as long as the green transition concern, they're totally fine.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. And it was summertime there, so it must have been--

MARK BLYTH: It was great. It was 90 degrees. I've got sunburn.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Holy cow. I believe you. Oh, yeah. Yeah.

MARK BLYTH: You can't see that on radio, folks, but there we go. I've got sunburn.


MARK BLYTH: Exactly. So anyway, apart from me and my travels, it's Twenty Twenty-Four. I suppose we have to start with our good friend Donald and Iowa, New Hampshire, and all that. Essentially, it's on, right? So you're in busy mode, Carrie, right?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. From Chile to the frozen tundra of Iowa and New Hampshire. I mean, it wasn't any surprise of what happened in that Trump won Iowa, pretty handedly, definitely over DeSantis, and Nikki Haley comes in third. And then New Hampshire, he wins as well.

The thing that I thought was most interesting-- and this goes to one of the key plays that the Obama campaign did against Hillary Clinton was the delegate count, right? It's not just about winning and racking votes. Although, there's the actual delegate count. So he's certainly up in delegates, when it comes to that. I mean, he's at, right now, 32 delegates. She has 17. So it's not-- I mean, he's ahead.

He's not that far ahead, but next, it goes to Nevada, which is this weird thing about-- the Nevada State party said they have a primary, but you can't be in the primary and the caucus. So then, they fixed it. So, blah, blah, all this stuff. So essentially, Donald Trump will win the caucus, where all the delegates are awarded, very--

MARK BLYTH: Put that in the Donald column.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Very Trumpian in a way to fix things in favor for him. And then it moves on to South Carolina, which Haley's really putting all her eggs in that basket as a former governor. But I mean, polls are not showing that it's a particularly great. The landscape looks good for her.

I mean, he's up almost by double digits, like 60% to 30% or triple digits. So it's hard to know. And I know there's a lot of people in the Republican Party. The head of the Republican Party says that she should step down. But it is-- I mean, I like that she's sticking with it, and this call for next time Nikki in four years.

She's not necessarily heeding it. And it doesn't seem like she's on the play for the vice president like the other candidates are. So I do hope she sticks in it long enough for South Carolina, which isn't until-- it's like a month from now, February 24 or something.

So I hope she stays in it, at least, for that. And then we'll see what happens in terms of the delegate count. But in terms of momentum and all that media stuff, it's hard to see her actually catching up to him.

MARK BLYTH: So two things spring to mind. First one was Donald's line, anybody who's given money to her isn't welcome in the MAGA coalition, right? And we're focusing on these primaries, as if they're indicative of the populace as a whole. And they're not.

I mean, the only people who vote in primaries are basically the fanatics from each party, frankly, right? So if that's the case, you're not looking at a representative sample. And it's really just within the party. So what you're getting is a real pulse of the MAGA coalition.


MARK BLYTH: Is that enough? I mean, even with Biden's frailties, and I mean that in both senses of the word, right? With the economy trending up a little bit and all this stuff, and you're going to get Donald in full effect going forward. Is it really a done deal, in the sense that-- I can imagine he's got a third of the population in his pocket.


MARK BLYTH: So it's a turnout race again. It becomes about winning crucial states. It's about getting more of your folks out. It's not yet a done deal, is it?

CARRIE NORDLUND: No. I mean, this is fundamental political science literature. And that all the stuff you just listed-- mobilization, getting out, I mean, it's a base, right? And then you have to pivot from being hard right or left to middle, and that's really hard.

I mean, the weaknesses-- and these are not particularly insightful thoughts-- are that Trump has problems in the suburbs. He has troubles with independence, and he has troubles with college grads. So what is that? That's the main line in Pennsylvania? That's the suburbs of Arizona. I mean, that's the suburbs of Michigan.

I mean, these are all the spots that he had trouble in last time, too. So how is he going to-- and he doesn't-- he doesn't worry about this. And according to the papers, his campaign team are geniuses, unless he has a bad day, and then they're not geniuses. But how are they going to pivot from hard, right, to somewhere in the middle. And he doesn't really do that.

MARK BLYTH: So let's do a historical comparison, right? Because you remember when Mitt Romney was running, and he had that famous moment where he said all the stuff that he needed to throw red meat to the base. And then his campaign guy comes out and says, OK, now we can just press the reset button.

It was like etch a sketch or something. We can just press the reset button, and no, talk to normal people. And Trump seems to have the opposite issue, which is, no, I really am like this. It's just that the rest of the country isn't. Now if he does win, does that mean the rest of the country is like this?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I think if he does win, it-- I mean, it just goes back to that, this is so lame. But he turned out more people to vote, and that Democrats stayed home or whatever 18- to 30-year-old stayed home for Biden because they're worried that he was going to fall, or he's not exciting or what have you.

I don't know that it is more-- I mean, to boil elections down to that, that your other guy got more out than the other candidate, I mean--

MARK BLYTH: But that's what-- it's trivial, but it's true.

CARRIE NORDLUND: The other thing I just wanted to say was that I thought the decision about E. Jean Carroll and the $83 million was really interesting. I mean, who knows whether he'll actually pay any money and the appeals process is actually strange. So even his Donald Trump playbook of appeal-- delay, delay, delay-- I think, actually, there's an end point to that. But it's just--

MARK BLYTH: Not if he gets president. He'll just pardon himself.

CARRIE NORDLUND: That's true, yeah. But that's got to drive him nuts. Just mentally, that just has to drive him crazy because he's never had to actually pay or have such a public decision made. So I do take that as-- I do wonder if this is the beginning.

I mean, of course, as someone who wants to read something and where there probably isn't anything, some signal, like this is the beginning of several different judicial decisions that might not go his way.

MARK BLYTH: I mean, essentially, I don't want to sound like a Trumpian on this, but the American state, in all of its branches, has decided to Al Capone this guy to death.


MARK BLYTH: And the Caroll suit is different. But essentially, I mean, this started with the Mueller investigation, if not before that. And from the point of view of his supporters-- and this is what I think it leaches out beyond the core support-- loads of people think that the state is Al Caponing this guy's death.

And every time he gets fined 80 million or 200 million or whatever, that, I think, actually makes him in a sense, not much more of a sympathetic character, but it feeds the narrative that there's a deep state out to deep-six him.


MARK BLYTH: And that's it. Now, at the same time, rock and hard place, right? Should you, because he is who he is, not apply the law? Absolutely not. But if, essentially, what you're doing is a fishing expedition to see what you can finally get him on to stop him running, that's actually profoundly anti-democratic.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes. No, but you're totally right. I mean, how many more-- how many more cases are there going to be against him? Throw the kitchen sink and just see what sticks. But what about Hunter Biden? Lots of question marks.

MARK BLYTH: Lots of question marks, in general, about young Hunter. But we'll put that to one side. What do you want to go now?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I do like this term, it's in our notes here, about the vibe session.

MARK BLYTH: Yes, the vibe session.

CARRIE NORDLUND: That maybe it was like your experience is that the economy was not particularly strong. So I can't say, listen, look at all these facts. Look at this-- I looked at the White House's website. There's 10 graphs to explain to you the American economy, which I thought, well, that's very handy. But you're experiencing something that's not that, and so it was a vibe session.

MARK BLYTH: Two nights ago, I finished a book, and it's called Inflation. A Guide for Users and Losers. So we all about this and went into it. And in fact, the vibe session is very real. Because, ultimately, what you do with inflation indexes, when you take as the Americans do 80,000 items and put them in different arrangement and weight them differently and come up with this number, is that no person lives on the average.

Everybody's experience differs according to what they consume and how rich they are, and whether they're predominantly income based, or they actually have wealth assets and all the rest of it. So nobody really experiences in the same way. If you're rich, and you don't drive a lot, you don't mind. You don't care.

You don't even notice it, right? To be very crude about it. If you drive-- you're drive-dependent and you're a lower income, you absolutely get slammed by this, right? So the vibe session is totally real. Even the positive numbers will say that the median income just got back to where it was in Twenty Nineteen, just about a month and a half ago.

So for a lot of people-- and other things, like different things go up at different rates, right? Groceries are up between-- depending on what you count in the grocery basket-- between 12% and 20%. And they're all controlled by corporations that are effectively duopolies and oligopolies with huge market power.

So once you get the inflation shock, they do shrinkflation on the boxes. And then they keep it up by an extra buck. I'll give you my favorite example, right? About every quarter, every three months, I buy a new squeezy bottle of Hellmann's Olive Oil Mayonnaise.


MARK BLYTH: And for as long as I can remember, that thing was $5.99. It's now $7.99. Why is it $7.99? Because they took advantage of it, and they made it $7.99. And in France, the Carrefour, which is one of the biggest grocery stores, told Pepsi to go stuff it, because they just weren't going to put up with the types of price increases that they were asking for.

Now is it because the price of all the inputs into Pepsi products are actually going up? Maybe because other firms are doing it, too, or maybe they're all just price gouging. So the vibe session, I think, was absolutely real. The other thing that's interesting is claiming that this immaculate disinflation, soft landing thing.

So we had to-- we planned this all along. No, right? I think we spoke about this before. The underlying idea of need to cause a recession to get rid of inflation is this idea of the Phillips curve, right? So you trade off a bit of unemployment for a little bit of disinflation, et cetera, right?

You cause a recession. Prices go down because people get sucked, businesses close down. They stop lending investment falls, whatever, right? And then you loosen up the policy, and you get out of it once all the prices have normalized. Now why do the prices normalize?

Because people are meant to have these things called inflation expectations, right? And they expect it to go up in a certain way. Well, during the research of the book, we looked into all the literature we could find to actually confirm that this is true. Most of it says no, we can't really find them.

So there's no actual coherent mechanism underneath this nice story about the Phillips curve that would explain why things happen. And the simplest explanation is we got hit with two big supply shocks, businesses jacked up prices a bit, eventually, you can't keep jacking them up.

You have to stop. Eventually, the supply side adjusts, and then prices go down. It's not really people's expectations at all. So to the extent that jacking up interest rates, most of which were still negative in real terms relative to inflation. To alter people's expectations, in a labor market, where nobody's in a union, so they can't really do anything about, right?

They can't walk in-- nobody walks into the boss's office and goes, inflation is now 10%. You better give me a 15% rise, right? It doesn't work this way, right? So they're claiming responsibility for this. But there's pretty good evidence that, no, we're just bystanders. It didn't really do it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So thinking about then the narrative of how did the Fed control inflation without causing a recession. I mean, that, to you, is just-- that's not a legitimate--

MARK BLYTH: The answer is they didn't.


MARK BLYTH: Right, they didn't.

CARRIE NORDLUND: It's interesting then, all of the economics and it's so complicated and all of this stuff. But it sounds like it's really like my expectations of what I think the bottle of Hellman's should cost versus like what it does. And if I think $8 seems reasonable, then I might think the economy is doing OK versus it's gone up $3.

MARK BLYTH: Except for one thing. The one thing that we've seen in this has been true since about Twenty Fifteen is that when you break out the Michigan confidence index, what you find is a huge partisan effect. And actually, it doubles down for Republicans.

So when the Democrats lose, you ask them, how's the economy doing? About 25% number like, yeah, it's pretty bad. And another 25%, it's OK, that sort of stuff. And then when you do the same thing Republicans, 75%, like, it's hell. We're on fire. It's the worst economy ever.

So you get this much, much more extreme effect with the Republicans. The really interesting thing is if the data improves for the next several months, do the Republicans start to change their opinion? And we don't know yet, but I wouldn't bank on it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: No, because mean back to your mayonnaise example, you feel like you're getting screwed at the grocery store. What is going on with this mayonnaise being $3 more expensive versus, like you said, the person who doesn't drive. And you're like, that's just the cost of doing business, and I want mayonnaise, so I buy it.

MARK BLYTH: There's also something else going on. There's a really interesting guy called Don Davis. He used to work for the Bank of England, and he was like a finance dude for a while. And he has a Substack, which I forget the name of it now.

But anybody who's interested in Substack, go find Don Davis. He's really good. And he had this really brilliant observation. And he said, so why do we go to comedy shows? We go to comedy shows to make us laugh because we like laughter, right? But nobody goes to a comedy show all day.

Nobody goes to comedy for a week. Eventually, it has to stop, right? You reach a saturation point. Funny thing about anger is it's not like that. So let's say you start to get a wee bit angry about something, and then you go on the internet.

And you look into it, and you get even more angry. And it becomes your hobby, and then you find other groups on the internet. And then you find a whole community. And the one thing is keeping you going as angry, it becomes like a dopamine response.

You just need more and more and more of it, and it just stalks a politics of permanent anger. It just doesn't have a decay on it. You see, there's only so much comedy you can take, but it seems to be an infinite amount of anger you can take. And I thought that was super interesting.

CARRIE NORDLUND: It is, and everything feeds into that anger, like that guy cut me off.

MARK BLYTH: Right, exactly. And the economy's horrible, blah, blah, blah, right?


MARK BLYTH: And if you think about a politics of anger and grievance, I mean, just turn on right wing news. That's all it is. It's just anger and grievance, anger and grievance, anger and grievance all the time. And that's under, if you will, the emotional underlying component on that.

So we can be talking about surveys and expectations and prices and all that. But I think we're missing the fundamental generators as to what's really going on.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Moving on, speaking of anger and grievance, we talked about this at the end of our year podcast. But it turns out, Claudine Gay, Harvard President, now former Harvard President, was sacked by their corporation over the winter holidays.

And I just thought it was such an interesting thing to watch because you suddenly, as part of the discourse, suddenly had people talking about her scholarship, and that there were plagiarism accusations. And that her scholarship wasn't-- why did she only have x number of articles and notebooks.

And why does somebody, whatever, have way more scholarship. And how did she become president of Harvard with such a thin record? And I thought it was so interesting-- and when she stepped down, she wrote this long op-ed. And it was just really--

I mean, clearly, her perspective on it was there are two different things going on. And one was scholarship, which muddied the argument about whether or not what was going on with her presidency. And meanwhile, you had what's called the woke, right?

You had the critical race theory guy. Chris Rufo had this op-ed in the Washington-- in the Wall Street Journal about her scholarship and how it wasn't up to the standards and all of this stuff, really mixing what was going on. And then suddenly, she stepped out.

And her take on it-- and I just thought this was-- Her take on it was that it was the woke that got her presidency, and that it had nothing to do with scholarship. And it was just, again, this drip, drip of distrust in public institutions.

And that people, if you-- if you believe the all caps, you're going to believe that her scholarship was this, that, and the other, and weak, and all these terrible things, which, in fact, it was this takedown by the right. And they got the most elite institution as well.

So I just thought that was interesting in the bigger picture. Of course, where we sit, an elite higher education institution, what's going on with the decay of public trust in public institutions? But where it is that higher education is, and it's like there's so much skepticism.

MARK BLYTH: So two things, right? And we could get into the, was it really plagiarism type stuff, right? And one of the accusations was that she copied her acknowledgments or something like this. And I'm like, how do you even do that? You're going to be acknowledging the wrong people.

That's just really weird. Why would you ever do that, right? And a lot of this comes down to-- I'm super careful about this stuff, right? But people take-- I tend to write free form, and then write cite. And then when I stop writing, I go back, and I put the cite in, so it keeps me in line.

Other people tend to write a lot of notes. And then they'll write up their notes, and they forget that what they're actually doing is sometimes taking chunks, and it's not really theirs or whatever. And you have to be careful, and it happens. And if as Chris Osnos wants to say, and I bought on everyone's scholarship, he's going to find out a lot of people are involuntary plagiarists, if you want to do that.

But anyway, putting that one aside. There's a bill going through Congress, and it's like a higher education reform bill. And you can't use the words trust in public institutions. Harvard's private. It's not a public institution. And to go to any of the Ivies now, including room and board, costs you 80 grand.

And there's been a feeling, not just amongst Republicans. And if you think about this from something Republicans can do that actually is going to appeal to a broad mass of people, there's a feeling that these institutions have just detached themselves from society.

They're not universities. They're hedge funds that run university for tax purposes. They have $50 billion in endowment in Harvard's case. And they get to do whatever they want. And they create a little universe, where they define what free speech is, which is totally different from what everybody else is.

And they set their own rules and their own standards. And guess what, we need to stop this. And they have these crazy proposals that, basically, if you charge 80,000, and people end up in debt, and they don't make that underemployment, you have to pay it back. It's like, so let me get this straight, a university has to guarantee the wage level on someone's employment years out.

So the stuff is nuts, right? But tapping into that feeling of like, we're a family of two. I'm a teacher. My wife does whatever, right? We'll never navigate to the institutions. They belong to and for a different class. That's what this is about as well, right? It really is. And I think that taking the-- ignore the plagiarism stuff is neither here nor there.

This is really about, there's a set of elite institutions that are overwhelmingly Democratic. They're extremely left Democratic in their principles. And we're going to make them into a target for the next election and beyond. That's what's actually going on.

CARRIE NORDLUND: No, I, 100%, agree. And we're going to show you how broken they are. And I think they are broken. And yeah, yeah, I totally agree. And it's just another piece of this bigger puzzle that-- I don't think there's someone actually pulling the string or putting this puzzle together. But just this sense of something's wrong and mad.

MARK BLYTH: But here's where both the hypocrisy and the weirdness in this, right? Do Republicans send their kids to elite schools?


MARK BLYTH: Turns out, they do.


MARK BLYTH: So when they go on this crusade to burn it all down, where are they going to put their own kids? Where are they going to generate those elites from? And also, if they are private institutions, you can't do anything other than basically take away their Title IX funding.


MARK BLYTH: So what are you going to do? You're not going to shut down Brown. It's not going to happen. So, yeah, we'll see where this one goes.

CARRIE NORDLUND: The one other thing I would just add to this is that there's an article in the paper that talked about discussing female presidents and how there's more against female presidents and, of course, the three presidents that were before Congress. So there's this gender on the presidency part of it. There's just gender component.

MARK BLYTH: Well, there's a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" quality to this. Because if you basically were to do a graph of gender on the y-axis, just male, right? Male, right? And then on the time axis, you just do time. In the x-axis is your time. You would just have male, male, male.

It's like University presidents, male, male, male, male, male, male, male, male, male. And then it would drop a little bit. And then at the top end and in other places, there would suddenly be the appearance of women. And a little bit on, there would be some people who weren't white, right? But it's still very small, but they're all at the top.


MARK BLYTH: All right, they're all at the top. And that's another reason you get a target for that particular constituency.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, that's the point. Yeah.

MARK BLYTH: So moving on from that topic, let's see, where do we want to go. Oh, China. China, right? So for years and years, and 30 years now, right? It's never had a recession. It's just going gangbusters, right? And it's still going gangbusters in certain things.

They're producing so many solar panels now, that you can literally produce free electricity, which is a huge problem, if you are a for-profit electricity company because there's no profit in it, right? Brett Christoforous has a great book coming out about all this called, The Price is Wrong, which is basically why prices in markets are never going to solve climate change.

I don't know how pessimistic he is. I don't think he's as pessimistic as that, but anyway, we'll go with it. But the point is, China going gangbusters creates huge problems for everybody else. So China dominates the world TV market. It does all the stuff that Tesla doesn't does. It's way better than the Europeans at this. BYD cars have karaoke machines in them.


MARK BLYTH: Yeah, I know. Like, who doesn't want that, right? It's just brilliant, right? I mean, forget videos for the kids, you know? Carrie, you put on sound canceling headphones, they're doing karaoke. Everybody wins, right?


MARK BLYTH: So they're going to keep producing this. They've got a gateway into Hungary. They buy up marks of badges of cars that have disappeared like MGM in Britain. They start making them, right? So they do all this stuff. What does that do? It's basically wiping out your own domestic car industry.

It's a huge input into cheaper electricity, if you want solar. But if you've got a solar industry, it's going to kill you. Now part of that growth in China, a large part of it has been basically the part of the local Communist party works with developers to steal land and then develop it.


MARK BLYTH: And eventually, you run out of land in the sense that built all the apartments you can. You've got all the GDP you can about building another airport that nobody needs. And eventually, it stops. There's only so much you can get out of this.

And we reached out a while ago. And now the biggest property developer Evergrande has gone, right? And the Hong Kong courts, because they actually still have courts, have said, you guys are illiquid. You need to wind up. And mainland China's went, maybe, right?

So all the things that we've had to learn to do, like liquidation, bankruptcy, all these things that make capitalism work, right? No major American airline ever goes bankrupt. It goes in a Chapter 11, reorganization comes out, right? They've never had to do any of this stuff.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So this is really--

MARK BLYTH: This is the first time, right? So it's a super interesting moment because, on the one hand, produce everything that the world can never absorb and double down on this export-led growth model. But at the same time, you've been getting so much of domestic growth out of housing.

That's hit a wall. We don't really have independent courts or arbiters or bankruptcy. In fact, the Communist Party just put a finance committee above the central bank, so the central bank isn't even independent anymore. And they're just like, it's really what fascinating to watch from the outside. Because it's like, whoa, this isn't going well.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and to peel back the curtain, I'm like, what's going on? How is this actually-- what's going to actually happen, and how do they solve this?

MARK BLYTH: So after decades and decades of growth, I mean, it's really slowed down. And you've got-- I mean, people get hysterical about this. I think we mentioned this before. It was just before Christmas. There was this whole thing about, China's youth unemployment is now 20%.

And I'm like, that's the average of the developed West. Nothing to get freaked out about, right? So this place has had an incredibly good run. This could just be a series of bumps in the road. But it could also be a fundamental slowdown and a change in the whole thing.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I mean, their population numbers, I was really curious about that or interested in this. I mean, I really quite-- I mean, this freak Xi Jinping out to see their declining population and all this stuff.

MARK BLYTH: Every time they say, have more babies, they literally have less.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, no, women are like, no, thank you.

MARK BLYTH: No, thanks. We're done. We're good.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

MARK BLYTH: And if the answer-- if it is because basically you need to work six days a week, and you get one day off, and you're called a slacker if you take it off, there's no welfare state, really, to speak of despite the fact you're meant to be a communist nation, right?

You have to save up for everything, so domestic saving's really, really high. It means you never really switch to a domestic consumption-led growth. And you've got huge regional inequalities, right? These were all 10 big challenges before breakfast when things were going well.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right. Right. Yeah. And now, I think we didn't have a chance to talk about this, but I was in Japan for the holidays.

MARK BLYTH: All right.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And we stayed at this traditional home on Airbnb. And they had a karaoke room. Kitchen, dining room, no chairs, but they did have a karaoke room. So I mean, it's just, yeah, priorities. Yeah.

MARK BLYTH: So maybe if we give the Germans karaoke, they might be a bit happier.

CARRIE NORDLUND: That's got to be a good sign of happiness to have a karaoke room.

MARK BLYTH: Are you using your karaoke room or machine? That's the indicator of happiness, I think, right?


MARK BLYTH: They don't seem to be very happy in Germany just now. Have you been following this?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I haven't followed this. And I was really curious, because the trying to ban a political party sounds interesting to me.

MARK BLYTH: So let's go back to Trump for a minute, right? so. In a sense, let's take the like not the deep state critique, right? But there are certain segments of the American elite, that if they could just ban Trump, they would, right?


MARK BLYTH: And you would go, no, no, you can't do that. That's anti-democratic, right? The whole point is if he gets enough votes, he wins, right? He just doesn't like the downside. When he loses, he denies it, right? So here's this alternative for Deutschland. And it turns out that a couple of their members, quite senior members went off to this meeting that was hosted by this actual Austrian Nazi.

And they discussed the mass deportation of people who aren't German. So you know, here we go again, right? Nazi's fun, right? Exactly. And people are quite rightly freaked out about this and demonstrated, et cetera, and hit their electoral numbers a little bit in the most recent regional elections.

But then, there was this conversation about maybe we should just ban them. And it's about speech you don't like, right? While maintaining you have free speech, but you don't, you just can't say that. So we have free speech, but nobody ever says these things, right?


MARK BLYTH: And it's the same. You may find these opinions abhorrent, but you can't ban their existence. And by banning a political party, you're trying to ban their existence. It's really weird.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I mean, it's in a similar vein to what we talked about, I think, the last podcast with people at the Colorado State. The State of Colorado decided to take Trump's name off the ballot. I mean, you feel even as someone who's like, I don't think Trump-- I don't want him to win.

At least, put him on the ballot. So the point about trying to ban a party, it does feel the exact opposite of s you're actually trying to accomplish.

MARK BLYTH: No, totally. Totally.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So this has been percolating for a while in UK politics, and that is the-- and I've been trying to sort this out as I've been listening to the BBC.

MARK BLYTH: I think I know where you're going with this.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So this is Sunaks bill, but I think it was started by Boris, right? And that is to send people asylum seekers or people who came across illegally and send them to Rwanda.


CARRIE NORDLUND: And I've been trying to untangle this in my head.

MARK BLYTH: This is weirder than it seems, right?


MARK BLYTH: So I've been told this. I haven't checked it, but I've been told by someone who lives there, that they actually got this idea from the Danes.


MARK BLYTH: Apparently, the Danes actually do this. Now here's the crazy thing about it, right? Most immigration United Kingdom doesn't come in small boats across the channel. It really doesn't, right? And in fact, what they did was they said, we want to have a Canadian or Australian points based system where people come in on merit. Now the fourth biggest or fifth biggest industry in Britain, if you count it as services exports, is higher education.


MARK BLYTH: Yeah. So imagine the hundreds of thousands of master's students coming in every year, and they had the right to bring in their family with them. And then they had a right to stay, like a green card extension. And then they get jobs, right?

So what happened was by reforming it to be more about the labor market and allowing employers better skill selection, et cetera, and then staffing the NHS with people who can actually like do nursing and stuff because we don't train enough, because we have weird austerity budgets, you end up with about a million more coming in after Brexit than you thought you ever would.

So everyone freaks out. So part of this freak out is they're like, yes, we will take the people in the small boats, not the 95% that actually constitute. We'll take the vulnerable people in small boats. And we'll send them to Rwanda. So they spent five years, and I don't know how many millions of pounds, trying to get this to work.

And every time the law courts getting hold, and they're like, no, you're not doing it. It's crazy. And even if they got it to work, guess what percentage of asylum seekers would actually end up in Rwanda?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Less than 10%.



MARK BLYTH: Yeah. I mean, it's just and this is one of the reasons the tories are imploding. Because people are just-- first of all, it's irrelevant. Secondly, it's weird. It's cruel. And it doesn't want to solve the underlying problem. And you're spending all your time focusing on it.

You're a bunch of idiots. And that's literally the way that the tories look just now. So the Labor Party are actually playing this-- at first, I was really worried and critical about this. They're very hesitant to make promises about what they want to do, et cetera. But just let them self. I mean, every day, every week, there's just another disaster that they inflict upon themselves. So that's where it is.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But I just want to clarify, the people that they want to, quote, unquote, "send back to Rwanda" are not from Rwanda?

MARK BLYTH: No, no, no, no.

CARRIE NORDLUND: They're just from around the world.

MARK BLYTH: They could be anywhere. Absolutely, yeah.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And it's just this country that has been chosen?

MARK BLYTH: Yes, exactly. Well, I mean, this is something that-- we don't do the joined up thinking on this one, right? I mean, people who have skills and mobility that can come in legally will tend to go to places where they've got higher growth prospects or are more stable or whatever.

And as the economies of lots of places around the world become crappier and more unstable and more violent, people are going to be on the move. Throwing climate change onto this, right? I don't know if you've been looking at any of the statistics on who's showing up at the southern border. There's a lot of Indians.


MARK BLYTH: There's quite a lot of Russians, right? There's all these nationalities that are not mesoamericans, right? And South Americans. And this tells you a lot about global instability and where people want to come because they feel it's more stable.

So until you tap down on the sources of instability, you're not actually going to be able to solve your border and immigration problems.

CARRIE NORDLUND: No, I know. And I mean, just the term border crisis and immigration-- because there's so much talk in Congress that the Senate might have this bill and all this stuff that I don't think will actually happen. And it's just the frame around it. I mean, just to the point that you made, it's just so off and antiquated in so many different ways.

MARK BLYTH: But at the same time, I mean, in a sense, the southern governors have played a blinder by just throwing all these migrants onto buses and overwhelming New York and overwhelming these other places that were previously unaffected by it.

So suddenly, the Democrats are now paying attention. Because something that was an extra 100,000 people one of our months coming into Arizona, et cetera, et cetera, now becomes their problem, too. Because as far as they were concerned, and yes, it's weaponized.

And yes, it's politicized, right? But there are hundreds of thousands of people coming through the border. And if you're not set up to deal with that, in a sense of like, we are really labor short. Come on in, let's do this. We're totally into it, you have a crisis.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Yeah. Well, ther's recent pictures from Logan. Lots of people sleeping in the hallways at Logan Airport in Boston. And the mayor's like, hey, governor, what are we going to do? And the governor is like, hey, Biden administration, what are we going to do?

And so, I mean, yeah, so the politics of it really make it difficult for anyone to solve this, quote, unquote, "crisis." So I'm from Michigan, which I've talked a lot about. The Detroit Lions, American football team, have been a losing team owned by the Ford family for a very-- my entire existence, my family, they've never been a winning team.

They finally have a successful season. They run up against the 49ers over the weekend. They lose by three points. Everyone in Detroit is sad. But I just I had to bring them up, only because it's so not frequent that a losing team climbs their way, finds their way out of the basement of the NFL and has a winning season, especially against franchises like the Patriots that are so much more rich or richer and better run, et cetera, et cetera.

So the Super Bowl now is set. I don't know if you've been paying attention, but it's the Kansas City Chiefs versus the San Francisco 49ers. And the big question, Blyth, is not who's going to win the game, it's whether Taylor Swift is going to be able to get back from her concert in Tokyo to Vegas in time to watch her boyfriend play in the Super Bowl.

MARK BLYTH: Well, if she's not, she's a horrible girlfriend.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, well, obviously.

MARK BLYTH: That's all there is to it. Simple as that, right?


MARK BLYTH: I mean, honestly, when you-- when you were saying all those things, I was checking my phone to see if my football team had lost again. I'm an Everton fan. 0, 0, we'll count that as a point. Yeah, there's a weird thing about American sports in general, the way that you describe, which is that like, we suck forever, right? Then we started to be good, but then we lost.

Well, winning isn't guaranteed. I mean, if you had a relative-- I'm an Everton fan. I'd kill for a relatively good season. That would be amazing to have a relatively good season. As for the whole Taylor Swift thing, it's funny. When she brings her tour to town, it boosts local GDP. I mean, basically, she's just a giant economic multiplier. That's it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: That's all we need is.

MARK BLYTH: And Kansas City, they probably need it as well. So, great. You're going to get the Taylor effect. Everybody wins.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Get rid of Jerome Powell. You just need Taylor Swift.

MARK BLYTH: It's actually a more direct link.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, it really is.

MARK BLYTH: No, my major problem is that people's food costs are going up, and the cost of heating is going up in Europe. So why don't we make bank loans more expensive? What would you expect that to do? Why is that a direct mechanism? All right, everything sucks. Bring on Taylor Swift. Do a big concert. Everybody will feel better. You get a GDP boost.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Everyone laughs a little bit, too, a little comedy. Yeah.

MARK BLYTH: And throw some comedy on the side, right? We've got a whole new Taylor Swift Marshall Plan.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, that's your next book.

MARK BLYTH: My God, that's so good.


MARK BLYTH: One thing that I do want to close out on is-- because I never watch it. And I'm fascinated by the fact that everyone watches it. People seem to be genuinely upset that the people in the Barbie movie didn't get Best Actor. Come on, really? I mean, it's the Barbie movie. What do people want for now?

What do you mean by Best Actor, if, basically, the Barbie movie is contention? Yes, I thought he played Ken well. Yes, I thought she was great, too. But she's actually done movies where her acting chops have been far more tested than being Barbie. I don't know. What did you make of the whole thing?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I thought it was the deep irony of it all, right? That the patriarchy like exists. And that, of course, Ken get it gets an accolade just for being Ken. She doesn't get it for, and the director doesn't get it. So I mean-- but then, I did see in a similar way of people saying, well, maybe it wasn't-- And whispering it. Maybe it wasn't as good.

MARK BLYTH: Maybe it was just a Barbie movie.


MARK BLYTH: And it was good. It was a good one. They managed to pull off a good Barbie movie, which is pretty difficult, right? Oscar-worthy? I mean, at which point do you draw the line and go, OK, we just have to stop doing this.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, it was great to see you.

MARK BLYTH: It was lovely to see you. And in January, we must do this again in February.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, I guess we'll be able to talk about the continuing saga of the American presidential race.

MARK BLYTH: That one runs through in November and then afterwards.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Until the end of time.

MARK BLYTH: It's the never ending story.


MARK BLYTH: That never got an Oscar either.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Good Lord. Yeah. I don't know if it deserves one. Yeah. Great to see you.

MARK BLYTH: You, too. Bye.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Thank you for listening. Bye.

About the Podcast

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Mark and Carrie
Mark Blyth, political economist at The Watson Ins…

About your hosts

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Mark Blyth

Host, Rhodes Center Podcast
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Carrie Nordlund

Co-Host, Mark and Carrie