267 Comments
Apr 19Liked by Matt Welch

I love Batya, but I find the idea that we should base policy on the opinions and instincts of the members of the working class in a precarious economic position, because they are in such a position, to be fraught with peril.

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I love Batya, but I find the idea that we should base policy on the opinions and instincts of the members of the working class in a precarious economic position, because they are in such a position, to be fraught with peril.

I liked Batya. I found her quick witted with an infectious laugh. To quote Suderman, “at the same time” I think closing our borders to a source of willing labor because the working class think those jobs (which they don’t want, eg, working in meat processing plants) should be theirs, and that tariffs will benefit lower paid people will somehow make them better off. I found myself yelling “bullshit” to her arguments during the podcast.

Her underlying argument seemed to be that it was unfair that workers get paid so little. Yet nowhere in the discussion with Oskar and Raoul did she acknowledge that labor is subject to market forces, except to say that immigration drives down wages. She is correct that Trump says this because it hits the working class’s erogenous zones. Yet, “Virtually all economists, regardless of ideology, agree that immigrants, both legal and illegal, have little to no effect on overall wages. The most-vulnerable workers in America are high-school dropouts and economists say that low-skill immigrants from Mexico reduce that group's wages by less than 5 percent” (source: https://reason.com/video/2018/02/14/best-arguments-against-immigration/). Batya acknowledged Ricardo’s Law of Comparative Advantage in providing cobalt, but not China’s or Vietnam’s or many other countries comparative advantage in labor. It is simply cheaper to have these components assembled elsewhere. These lower costs make goods more affordable for more people, especially those in the working class.

Making all imports cost 10 percent more will simply make the cost of living about 10 percent higher. I can weather a 10 percent cut in buying power much easier than a lower wage worker. I’m guessing most working class folks don’t think the costs will be passed along to them?

Batya mentions the 1970s. As if it were a time that a single breadwinner could afford a three bedroom, two bath house with two cars and a garage. This is nostalgianomics. I was an adult, getting a full time job, in that decade. I bought a foreign made car, a Honda because I could afford it far easier than the American cars. I bought my first color TV. A Hitachi instead of a Zenith or an RCA because for the price I paid I could have only bought a black and white for the domestic makes. Coincidentally, manufacturing jobs peaked in the late 1970s. And as Christian Britschgi notes, “But technology, not trade, has largely driven that decline. Tariffs wouldn't have stopped that.”

Things are demonstrably better today, though I get why many feel it was better in some past era. That’s nostalgianomics. “Homeownership rates haven't changed much since then, ticking up slightly: 62 percent in 1960 compared with about 66 percent today. What has changed dramatically are the homes themselves. New houses built in 1960 were about 25 percent smaller than new houses today and lacked many features we would now consider standard, such as laundry machines, dishwashers, and air conditioning,” Katherine Mangu-Ward wrote. “In 1960, there were four vehicles for every 10 Americans and about a quarter of households had none at all. Today there are about twice as many vehicles per capita. In other words, that 1960s family may have had one car, but they certainly didn't have two. And that car was more prone to breakdowns and blowouts and was generally less reliable. It certainly didn't have Bluetooth or Google Maps.”

As for homeownership being out of reach of the working class, I know many latino workers who are able to save and buy a house, and within two or three years have saved enough to buy another which they then rent out. If you think you can’t afford a home, you never will. You will spend money on other things.

Good show guys. Batya is right on Israel and wrong on trade.

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All the likes for you......

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It’s very sort of “indigenous knowledge” that someone with $176.57 should be automatically qualified to weigh in on macroeconomics.

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Great analogy!

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What’s great about Batya, is her willingness to find common ground. I don’t agree with her economic POV, but she argues in good faith, and that is refreshing.

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Came here to say exactly this. Totally think she’s misguided on her economics, but it is remarkably refreshing to have someone who can demonstrate both a strong personal commitment (which is what I think her arguments boils down to) and also really respect and appreciate those who disagree with her. Glad she was on.

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Her policy ideas could be a bit unfounded, to be generous, but her schtick about actually showing some damn gratitude and respect for the people who make upper-middle class life possible is something that is deeply needed and to be commended.

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Apr 21·edited Apr 21

echoing what you all are saying, but Batya has been my dream socialist interlocutor for a long time; she is so open-minded and good-faithed I always assumed a frank discussion about trade-offs, prices and reality would be productive.

I wish it had gone on much longer

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Apr 19Liked by Matt Welch

GDP is a meaningless abstraction totally divorced from anyone's individual experience. "Elites" and "the working class," on the other hand...

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Id like to point out that I contributed as much to this dispatch as Kmele... So I've got that going for me.

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I was expecting a comment like this. Well done.

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I hear the podcast is a good listen while caddying for the Dalai Lama

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So we got that going for us

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Maybe one of the best pieces of dialogue ever

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Which is nice.

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B̶r̶i̶a̶h̶n̶a̶ ̶J̶o̶y̶ ̶G̶r̶a̶y̶ 💔

Kat Rosenfield ✔️

Batya Ungar-Sargon ✔️

Ana Kasparian . . .

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I want Camille Paglia. The banter would be epic.

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Josh Barro

(Also Ben Dreyfuss. There can never be enough of Ben.)

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A Josh Barro episode would be fascinating. Or anyone in that category of center to center-left.

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Oh I loved him on Left Right and center. He was a true centrist and did an exceptional job moderating. After he left the show never got its footing back and just became another group of the usual coastal elites incapable of thinking outside their bubble. Imagine not being able to find another objective centrist.

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I like Sarah. She keeps the show semi-listenable. The other two are terrible. Gustavo’s guest run as ‘center’ was so much more fun, even though he’s on the left. But agree that Josh was the best host they’ve ever had.

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Yeah Gustavo’s always good

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The current host's greatest crime is calling his production company fearless media while loudly pissing himself verbally EvErY oThEr EpIsOdE!

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We were promised a Barro!

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+1 for Barro!!

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Melissa Chen

Tyler Austin Harper

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I hadn’t thought of the lovely Ms. Chen. A great addition to the list. Harper is very good. I enjoyed his conversation with Jonah Goldberg on The Remnant.

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With Stirewalt, the simple country pundit! Yes, it was a very productive and cordial conversation.

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Right! How could I forget? I actually preferred Stirewalt as host, no offense to Goldberg.

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They sound really similar! I struggle a bit when they’re together.

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So do I. CS sounds a little lighter, a bit of whimsy in his voice.

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I did too... eek

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Tyler Austin Harper !

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I’m still hoping for Peter Zeihan

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Peter has no off switch. So you would have to edit the discussion to fit it into a useable format.

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I don't know about that, he's been fine in the panel settings I've seen him in

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What I mean is he is really good if you preset the questions and keep him on track. I have been in numerous professional meetings with him and we learned over time how to optimise him. So the open style format of the boys could meander a bit.

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Still sounds like selling point :-)

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Brianna Wu sounds like a sane progressive voice these days

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What is this a list of?

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It’s my wish list for TFC guests/Hubermanesque collection of girlfriends.

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Did you also abandon Brianna after her completely idiotic takes on post Oct 7 Israel/Palastine

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With her completely idiotic takes, and her unprofessional, hysterical behavior on Rising post-Oct 7, Brianna abandoned me.

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Sir!

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🤷🏻‍♂️

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I've said it before and I'll say it again, Joyce Vance. 100% first choice. She's pretty classy, though. I don't know if she'd be down to talk to the boys. But maybe if they gave her a baby chick...

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I think Matt’s 10,000 yard state was probably him trying to find a way to mention his time in Hungary.

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I've always thought that 'thinking of a way to mention Hungary' was Matt's version of 'veinpopping constipation in class' face.

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Wait, was one of the white fifthers in Eastern Europe at some point?

I had no idea.

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Great guest. Loved that there was more pushback from the lads. Undoubtedly this was helped by her being such a great sport and having a sense of humor.

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She won’t take her ball and go home like some other guests (Rufo).

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Easier to push back on someone you know well and already have a rapport with.

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She's nice, but your guest is pretty economically illiterate, it seems.

Also, the working class used to have strong opinions on race and homosexuality, so why would you side against their will? Because mob rule is bad.

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I mean, seriously the argument that people aren't better off is just idiotic. It's not based on any fact whatsoever. It's a complete misunderstanding of the data. The canard about healthcare is the same, as is the thought that wage differences shouldn't be competitive advantage. Is she being willfully ignorant, or blinded by political ideology?

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It's not so much blindness as run-of-the-mill ignorance. In some fields, you don't learn much by reading about data. You need to go through the actual logic, understand how things connect. Otherwise you end up confused, and usually confused along predictable lines. The reason economists are still fighting a lot of the same battles against non-economists isn't that they are wrong, it's that (1) every new person needs to be individually disabused of incorrect intuitions and (2) incentives (explained by economics!) align to thwart good policy. Both facts are only discovered through focused study of economics, not cursory study of data selected to support a narrative.

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There is this type of person that thinks input matters more than output. Communists actually think a lot like this. “You are what you do” or something like that. So they tie up this idea of jobs and labor as this sacrosanct thing. Which is bizarre to me. Technology, and by that I mean just the literal concept of technology, exists as a way to alleviate work. Because work sucks. like working out. You do it for the gains. But if you could get the gains elsewhere with little downside you will. (This is also why drug dealing is big business. Less work for more money)

But this attitude that what matters is the work you do and not the society you have is odd. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that way of thinking.

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She gets hung up on “aggregates” and when Matt points out medians gotten better, she just ignores it lol. Half the stuff she said is just factually wrong.

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yeah, but she is so generous of spirit and down to discuss(tm) that I think if we just work together in the spirit of the season we can totally educate her and make this the best yearbook ever!

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To be fair, Batya's mentions about healthcare seem like completely detached coalition building more than Tab A into Slot B policy prescriptivism.

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As a former collegiate squash player at an Ivy, I resent Batya and Michael's sweeping generalizations. Clenching my fists from my château in the Swiss Alps.

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Batya - "I'm not in favor of more regulation." What does she think a tariff is?

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Eh... I think there is an important distinction between "you have to do this thing in this particular way" (how I would characterize regulation) and "you have to pay this amount if you want to do this thing" (which seems more like a tax to me).

Yes, in some fundamental ways, taxes can be thought of as a kind of regulation, but I do think it's worthwhile having them as separate categories

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Hamas: Power Bottoms

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Whatever anyone’s opinion of Smith might be, he is an incredibly effective communicator.

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I can’t help but wonder what Smith or Nick Gillespie think when their debate partner is Cenk Uygur.

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One of my favorite episodes to date.

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😂 That was the most I’ve ever seen of him, and yeah, that was something. When did Nick debate with him?

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A recent immigration debate for The Free Press. I haven’t watched it. I’m not sure they’ve made it available yet.

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Based on 3 episodes of Just Asking Questions (2 featuring him and the most recent episode Liz defends him to their guest) him and Liz Wolfe are frenemies now so I guess he’s become more acceptable in the Reasonsphere

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He did really well in this debate. He was an emotional mess discussing it with RFK.

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Unwatchable. Massive L for Saager, disappointing.

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This episode was great, but oy vey is Batya confused on economics. I think I heard one correct statement in that whole portion. I thought up a 1000 word response while listening on my run, but I'll boil it down to three points:

1. David Ricardo figured out trade over 200 years ago. Once Batya can draw up an elementary 2-good, 2-actor grid and explain comparative versus absolute advantage, then it might be time to rejoin the conversation.

2. For the more complex model, you can add in currency exchange, but in analyzing domestic impacts, you can still basically ignore that. Someone should introduce her to David Friedman's truly elegant "growing cars in Iowa" example, referenced here: https://www.aei.org/carpe-diem/economics-at-its-best-the-story-of-the-iowa-car-crop/. Economies are not pies and tariffs don't plunder foreigners, they plunder neighbors.

3. Batya falls into the trap of thinking one can determine the truth of mechanisms, and human systems in particular, by analyzing statistics. That is not generally the case, for many reasons. In part, it boils down to always being able to find a counter example. Importantly, though, 1 counter does not generally outweigh 99 others where statistics are concerned. It is therefore possible for an intelligent, earnest, and passionate individual to nevertheless fool herself into complete misunderstanding quite easily. Empirical analysis instead gives us a way to check our theories, discover nuance, and perhaps most of all improve our empirical research methodology - because when a study on a well-understood topic has unusual results, it isn't typically the theory that's in the wrong. Essentially every example y'all discussed falls into this category (interestingly minimum wage policy was glossed over - it's a common example of the error).

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Brilliantly written. I had the same thoughts. Batya’s overall economic principals seem to be more so dogmatic and/or emotional than evidence based.

And if we follow her logic train to its final stop we end up with price controls. Because we would have to. That kind of tinkering with the economy (tariffs etc) will affect prices, will affect people’s purchasing habits, will affect businesses, will price people out of certain goods, will cause a political uproar, will cause a fervor for cheaper goods, will cause a push for things like price control.

I never understood why consumers get left out of the conversation. Not everyone in the economy is a producer. But everyone of us is a consumer. I know consumerism is a bad word. And maybe that’s it. But I find the consumer to be the most important part of an economy. And since only a tiny slice of America builds cars compared to the number of people who buy cars what you end up with is a tiny marginalized group holding the entire economy hostage for a few jobs. How that ends up being a net good is beyond me.

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A Passover gift! ❤️

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I love Batya.

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That’s right, Batya is from Boston! I wonder if she visits...

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Chag sameach!

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Until this very second, I always thought this was Gaelic.

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To be fair the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, aka Chaim Herzog's dad, was known as the Gaelic Rabbi, because well he spoke Gaelic, as he had been the Chief Rabbi of Ireland

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I don’t blame you, it definitely has that Gaelic quality of too many wrong-seeming letter.

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*s 🤦‍♀️

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In your defense, I'm a part Irish shiksa wife

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I do miss the Bar Pod subs. I do not, alas, miss Bar Pod much. Chag Sameach everyone

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I've been paused for a little while (which was not an anti-them or the sub move - just needed a break) but, I haven't really felt lured back. I am curious about their Cass report analysis but, that's about it.

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Same, but it's so hit and miss for me lately.

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The "sabbatical" has improved things for sure. They seem to Care about stories more. I was lured back but not sure how long I'll stay.

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Thanks - I've unpaused and am giving it a go. I enjoyed the Cass episode. I am going to give the Ana K one a go as well.

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I miss you though!

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I miss you you too! You, and a bunch of others.!

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chag samech! 🫓

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Is that an kosher for Passover arepa??

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According to noted philo-semite Nick Griffin, you must be referring to Purim.

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Lol....

Unfortunately this year at the local purim carnival there had to be very obvious and very armed security which was very sobering.

As far as passover, the most dangerous part is it's our first attempt as a family to do a sedar with a 3 year old....

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a few days early, but thanks.....

you too!

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I like Batya but wish she'd stick to cultural commentary (which I found really interesting and often insightful).

The economics were eeeeh...

I mean, it has been tested time and again: people risk (and lose) their life to move from an economically leftist (for lack of a better word) to an economically liberal place. Not the other way round. Never.* If you want to study working class people's economic preferences, this would be a much stronger case, I think.

*Unless you're an ideological weirdo who regrets the decision as soon as you learn that the well-known GDR joke "Are you the shop that doesn't sell shoes? No, the shop that doesn't sell shoes is over there. We're the shop that doesn't sell coffee." isn't really a joke.

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Apr 21·edited Apr 21

nah, she is totally wrong. But.... correcting stupid takes is fun and she is one of the few who are actually open discussion and debate.

She almost always appears in my podcasts discussing 'le woke or israel. Their is no value added to that. As an earnest, polite, good natured socialist she is a rare gem.

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Fun to see horseshoe theory in action with leftie labor and trump.

My feeling is the parties they are changing and no idea where they will end up

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deletedApr 19
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I don't agree with her economics at all, but that is just a mean-spirited take.

I am down with all the free trade and liberal markets.....

Working in the public school I do, I definitely see way too much bad culture and bad habits but I also recognize how much harder my students have to work to break free of their circumstances.

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deletedApr 25
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Framed that way, sounds better.

Not that you need my approval.

Sorry for jumping on you.

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“The most of it [his money] goes for likker and wimmen. The rest I spend foolishly.”* - A sailor on the Yangtze patrol.

* Smith, Steven Trent. "Welcome to China! The Yangtze Patrol." History Net. Accessed October 29, 2014.

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Fantastic podcast today. Thank you! 🥹

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