This essay is part of a series exploring bold ideas to revitalize and renew the American experiment. Read more about this project in a note from Ezekiel Kweku, Opinion’s politics editor.
Over the last century, two moments that transformed America and positioned it as the global economic leader were the post-World War II economic boom and the I.T. revolution of the 1990s. In both cases, America tore down many forms of discrimination and other barriers to harness the talents of marginalized groups in the country and to welcome new ones, injecting demographic vitality into the economy.
To continue America’s upward trajectory in the 21st century, the country must reverse its current demographic decline. As the Census Bureau reported last week, in the past decade, the U.S. population grew at the second-slowest rate since the government started counting in 1790 — and the slowest since the 1930s.
The most expeditious way out might be if the federal government gave up its monopoly on immigration and allowed states to bring in workers from anywhere in the world, based on their own labor needs, without being held to federal quotas. The growing concern is that the United States is facing a population bust. The U.S. fertility rate, which had bucked Europe’s low-fertility trend during the last century, is now around 1.73 children per woman — roughly on par with that of Denmark and Britain.
Declining population growth because of lower fertility rates by definition means that the ratio of young to old declines — which is not a formula for a dynamic economy or a competitive country. The risk-taking and experimentation of young workers make them the engine of capitalism. They are also more mobile: They can move to places where they will be most productive.
That is what America had in abundance after World War II. The Nobel prize-winning economist Vernon Smith notes that the prewar American labor force was quite immobile. But the returning 16 million World War II veterans, having traveled to foreign lands, weren’t daunted about moving within their own country for jobs.
The domestic shortage of men during the war also broke down barriers that had kept teenagers, women and Black Americans out of the labor force.
Young men like Mr. Smith (who worked at a Boeing factory in Wichita, Kan., from age 16 to 18) entered the work force and gained valuable skills and experience in the postwar economy. At the same time, weakening social norms against working women, even married ones, increased female labor participation by 50 percent between 1940 and 1945. The shortage of men also opened opportunities for Black workers, helping to trigger the second Great Migration from the South.
Some of these barriers shot up again after the war to accommodate the returning veterans. Still, there were gains: After the World War II generation, the baby boom generation, together with its progeny, kept the American work force humming until the 1980s.
The seeds of the 1990s I.T. revolution were planted in the 1960s. That era of civil rights activism dismantled at least many formal barriers preventing robust Black participation in the economy. And it eliminated the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act, which had blocked foreign talent. This law had not only cut immigration rates overall but imposed national-origin quotas expressly designed to maintain America’s Western European ethnic makeup by discouraging immigration from Eastern Europe and Asia. Its end in 1965 resulted in 58.5 million new immigrants over the next 50 years, about 25 million Asian. Many were high-tech professionals from China and India.
Their innovations and entrepreneurship helped power the I.T. revolution that transformed the world. According to a study by the nonpartisan National Foundation for American Policy, more than half of the 91 start-ups that became $1 billion companies had one or more immigrant founders. Likewise, the Partnership for a New American Economy found that immigrants or their children had founded more than 40 percent of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies.Sign up for the Peter Coy newsletter, for Times subscribers only. A veteran business and economics columnist unpacks the biggest headlines. .
So what’s the cure for America’s dwindling demographic vitality?
A new baby boom generation would be enormously difficult to produce in a world with easy birth control. On average, women say they want 2.5 children. But returning America to just a 2.1 replacement level through cash incentives would be “prohibitively costly,” as Lyman Stone of the American Enterprise Institute concluded after examining how these policies fared in European and other countries.
Instead, America might borrow a page from Canada. Its immigration policy is expressly meant to offset its aging population and low birthrates. Canada’s immigration intake is 0.9 percent of its population — or three times America’s per capita rate.
It has admitted immigrants in an ingenious way. In 1998, Canada initiated its Provincial Nominee Program, which gives most provinces a quota, based on their population, of immigrants to sponsor as they see fit (in addition to the immigrants the federal government in Ottawa admits). A province sets criteria based upon its needs for workers, and it can sponsor immigrants from anywhere in the world for permanent residency, provided they pass a basic background and health check. (The federal government has the final say.)
The average processing time for this program is about 18 months. In the United States, by contrast, many low-skilled immigrants on work visas have no pathway to green cards, and highly skilled immigrants on H-1B visas wait years — and in the case of Indian and Chinese, up to half a century.
Although in principle immigrants sponsored by a Canadian province are free to relocate to another province anytime, in practice the five-year retention rate for many provinces is upwards of 80 percent, according to a 2017 assessment by the Canadian government. That’s because the granular matching between skills and the local labor market ensures employment, which removes the main reason that immigrants leave. The program started small, but between 2021 and 2023, about 30 percent of Canada’s total immigrant admissions are expected to be through it.
America should begin its own version of this program but take it one step further and let states set their own limits on foreign workers. This would get federal bureaucrats out of the business of centrally planning the labor market for the whole country. States that understand their own labor markets would do a much better job of finding suitable workers for their businesses.
The states wouldn’t have to hew to the federal high-skilled and low-skilled distinction for visas. Right now, both high-tech and low-tech states are suffering from a tight labor market. States that don’t want or need immigrant workers could opt out of the program. Foreign workers would be free to travel anywhere in the country, but they would be limited to jobs in participating states until they are naturalized. This would be an improvement over the existing system for them, since work visas currently tether them to a single employer, unless they find a new employer to undertake the onerous process of sponsoring them. It would also reassure states that they would have a measure of control over the level of in-migration from other states, at least for some time.
States wouldn’t be required to participate, but they would face an inherent incentive to do so because businesses are far more likely to prefer locations where there are suitably skilled, motivated workers. Such a program would render the current broken and dysfunctional federal immigration system beside the point. (Constitutionally, immigration is a federal function, but nothing prevents Washington from voluntarily giving states more latitude to make their own decisions about foreign workers. Other aspects of immigration policy can remain in federal hands.)
Fiscally costly schemes won’t be necessary to attract immigrants. These workers are highly motivated to build their lives in America and will happily pay fees for state sponsorship. They often come to America during their peak productive years after another society has usually borne the cost of raising them, which bestows a one-time fiscal windfall on America. Also, given that immigrant fertility rates may not typically drop to native levels for a generation or two, foreign workers would stabilize the population for longer than would a short-term family-policy approach.
Another benefit of federalizing immigration would be that the restored demographic health and improved economic performance of participating states would make it easier for U.S. citizens to see immigrants as assets and saviors rather than liabilities and threats. America would then have a material — not just an idealistic — interest in redoubling its commitment to its core value of pluralism and tolerance.
Washington Post Opinion Columnist Max Boot joins Zerlina Maxwell to discuss his latest piece on what’s wrong with the Republican party, and why it may not survive.
Zerlina.: Incisive and timely coverage of politics and current events, through in-depth conversations that unpack the latest developments in this era’s breakneck news cycle and draw back the curtain on their real-world consequences.
The “Great Replacement” theory is something that has been talked about for a while in Europe and is a big deal there. I know as I have friends and relatives who talk about it and use it as a way to justify limiting immigration. So it is not a nothing thing.
Tucker is leading the charge and expect to see more of the ‘replacement’ theory in the future and most of all for him and $$, he and the Murdochs will get viewers on this one
The changing demographics of the US, Trump’s decisive loss, the diversity of the Democratic party and the stroking of white angst, mean people like Tucker are going to be pounding this more and more in the future.
In Europe the debate is a struggle, some countries are openly against any form of immigration like Hungary and even the UK’s Brexit turn is clearly at least in part to limit immigration.
The Great Replacement or white genocide theory is something you all can look up but basically it is a fear of being out populated by non white, non Christians though you could put in anything in the US other than white evangelicals are not welcome.
In my circle, if you are not Republican for instance you are a baby killer so it can become extreme and this is just the latest in a multi century nativist approach in the US that will be rearing it’s head up again and again.
Ultimately the importance to the US will be to use this to limit immigration which is what it has done in Europe. That I don’t see changing in fact ‘replacement theory’ will gather steam in the US in the next few years and will become one of the next code words for anti anything other than white evangelical Christians.
Welcome America to the next version of culture wars that are gradually engulfing the world. On the opposite side you are going to have ‘American’ values which will be about evolving values which are inclusive and moving towards secularism and away from religion and race and even European culture as a background.
Much will be made of this in the future but now that Tucker has introduced this and Murdoch’s son has provided tacit endorsement, it matters not that it is considered also anti-semitic by the ADL, what matters is Republican voters will gladly embrace this as their next theory to support in the wake of Trump losses which mean even more voter suppression and an increasing reliance on those Trump/McConnell judges and SCOTUS to ‘protect’ them in the future.
After the 2007-09 financial crisis, the imbalances and risks pervading the global economy were exacerbated by policy mistakes. So, rather than address the structural problems that the financial collapse and ensuing recession revealed, governments mostly kicked the can down the road, creating major downside risks that made another crisis inevitable. And now that it has arrived, the risks are growing even more acute. Unfortunately, even if the Greater Recession leads to a lacklustre U-shaped recovery this year, an L-shaped “Greater Depression” will follow later in this decade, owing to 10 ominous and risky trends.
The first trend concerns deficits and their corollary risks: debts and defaults. The policy response to the Covid-19 crisis entails a massive increase in fiscal deficits – on the order of 10% of GDP or more – at a time when public debt levels in many countries were already high, if not unsustainable.
Worse, the loss of income for many households and firms means that private-sector debt levels will become unsustainable, too, potentially leading to mass defaults and bankruptcies. Together with soaring levels of public debt, this all but ensures a more anaemic recovery than the one that followed the Great Recession a decade ago.
A second factor is the demographic timebomb in advanced economies. The Covid-19 crisis shows that much more public spending must be allocated to health systems, and that universal healthcare and other relevant public goods are necessities, not luxuries. Yet, because most developed countries have ageing societies, funding such outlays in the future will make the implicit debts from today’s unfunded healthcare and social security systems even larger.
A third issue is the growing risk of deflation. In addition to causing a deep recession, the crisis is also creating a massive slack in goods (unused machines and capacity) and labour markets (mass unemployment), as well as driving a price collapse in commodities such as oil and industrial metals. That makes debt deflation likely, increasing the risk of insolvency.
A fourth (related) factor will be currency debasement. As central banks try to fight deflation and head off the risk of surging interest rates (following from the massive debt build-up), monetary policies will become even more unconventional and far-reaching. In the short run, governments will need to run monetised fiscal deficits to avoid depression and deflation. Yet, over time, the permanent negative supply shocks from accelerated de-globalisation and renewed protectionism will make stagflation all but inevitable.
A fifth issue is the broader digital disruption of the economy. With millions of people losing their jobs or working and earning less, the income and wealth gaps of the 21st-century economy will widen further. To guard against future supply-chain shocks, companies in advanced economies will re-shore production from low-cost regions to higher-cost domestic markets. But rather than helping workers at home, this trend will accelerate the pace of automation, putting downward pressure on wages and further fanning the flames of populism, nationalism, and xenophobia.
This points to the sixth major factor: deglobalisation. The pandemic is accelerating trends toward balkanisation and fragmentation that were already well underway. The US and China will decouple faster, and most countries will respond by adopting still more protectionist policies to shield domestic firms and workers from global disruptions. The post-pandemic world will be marked by tighter restrictions on the movement of goods, services, capital, labour, technology, data, and information. This is already happening in the pharmaceutical, medical-equipment, and food sectors, where governments are imposing export restrictions and other protectionist measures in response to the crisis.
The backlash against democracy will reinforce this trend. Populist leaders often benefit from economic weakness, mass unemployment, and rising inequality. Under conditions of heightened economic insecurity, there will be a strong impulse to scapegoat foreigners for the crisis. Blue-collar workers and broad cohorts of the middle class will become more susceptible to populist rhetoric, particularly proposals to restrict migration and trade.
This points to an eighth factor: the geostrategic standoff between the US and China. With the Trump administration making every effort to blame China for the pandemic, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s regime will double down on its claim that the US is conspiring to prevent China’s peaceful rise. The Sino-American decoupling in trade, technology, investment, data, and monetary arrangements will intensify.
Worse, this diplomatic breakup will set the stage for a new cold war between the US and its rivals – not just China, but also Russia, Iran, and North Korea. With a US presidential election approaching, there is every reason to expect an upsurge in clandestine cyber warfare, potentially leading even to conventional military clashes. And because technology is the key weapon in the fight for control of the industries of the future and in combating pandemics, the US private tech sector will become increasingly integrated into the national-security-industrial complex.
A final risk that cannot be ignored is environmental disruption, which, as the Covid-19 crisis has shown, can wreak far more economic havoc than a financial crisis. Recurring epidemics (HIV since the 1980s, Sars in 2003, H1N1 in 2009, Mers in 2011, Ebola in 2014-16) are, like climate change, essentially manmade disasters, born of poor health and sanitary standards, the abuse of natural systems, and the growing interconnectivity of a globalised world. Pandemics and the many morbid symptoms of climate change will become more frequent, severe, and costly in the years ahead.
These 10 risks, already looming large before Covid-19 struck, now threaten to fuel a perfect storm that sweeps the entire global economy into a decade of despair. By the 2030s, technology and more competent political leadership may be able to reduce, resolve, or minimise many of these problems, giving rise to a more inclusive, cooperative, and stable international order. But any happy ending assumes that we find a way to survive the coming Greater Depression.
• Nouriel Roubini is professor of economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He has worked for the International Monetary Fund, the US Federal Reserve, and the World Bank.
@RaoulGMI identified the following factors contributing to a crisis, before Coronavirus:
- Stocks: Largest Equity Bubble of All Time: (Pension Crisis & Buyback Bubble)
- Largest Retiree Wave, all wanting to sell stocks and bonds at the same time
- Millennials are too poor and indebted (make 20% less than parents)
- Corporate Credit: Largest Credit Bubble of All Time
- ($10 Trillion + Off balance Sheet = 75% of GDP)
- Student Loan Bubble:
- $1.6 Trillion
- Auto Loan Bubble
- ($1.2 Trillion)
- Indexation Bubble
- ETF/Market Structure Bubble
- Foreign Borrowings (Dollar Standard Bubble)
- Monetary Policy Bubble (The Central Bank Bubble)
- EU Banking Crisis
- why they hired Christine Lagarde, for her political negotiating skills to deal with the nationalization of the European banks (which are facing insolvency) not for her economic or financial skills
- A Trade War:
- The Trade Wars “shattered” supply chains
- Largest Supply & Demand Shocks of all Time
Central Banks have been fighting for the last 20 years:
- Full Scale Debt Deflation and a Solvency Crisis
- A loss of confidence in the Dollar Standard and the Entire Financial Architecture
OSCARS 2020 TRANSCRIPT
2.6.20 / The Oscars
SEAN: Alissa Wilkinson, Vox. It’s the Oscars every year. The Oscar nominations come out and every year we hear about who was robbed. And this year it was women who were robbed. And more specifically, it was Little Women that was robbed. And every year I see everyone bemoaning the people who got robbed and the robbing of those people. And I feel like these people don’t understand the Oscars really work. And I was hoping that you could help them understand.
ALISSA: That’s my job.
SEAN: What are these people missing, Alissa?
ALISSA: I think most people just don’t quite know what the Academy is or what they’re picking when they pick the Oscars. They’re a very large group and very large groups tend to pick the middle option.
ALISSA: So that’s often what happens with the Oscars.
SEAN: Yeah. Who are these people? The Academy.
ALISSA: So the Academy is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. That’s their full name. There’s about 9000 of them. It’s film industry professionals, you know, cinematographers and actors and directors, also publicists and executives. They right now sit at about 32 percent women and 16 percent minorities, which is up from 2015. But in the earlier part of the decade, the L.A. Times did some investigative journalism and found that the median Oscar voter was probably kind of a white guy who was older than 60.
SEAN: <Laughs> And if everyone on the Internet knew that, they would probably freak out a little less or at least temper their expectations.
ALISSA: Right. It’s not all that surprising that they’re picking things like The King’s Speech and Argo. It’s a lot more surprising when they pick movies like Moonlight.
<CLIP> WARREN BEATTY: And the Academy Award…
SEAN: Yeah. Well, as we all remember… they almost didn’t.
WARREN BEATTY: For Best Picture…
FAYE DUNAWAY: You’re impossible… come on… La La Land!
SEAN: And thennnnnnn they did.
<CLIP> JORDAN HOROWITZ: No. There’s a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture. This is not a joke! I’m afraid they read the wrong thing. Moonlight. Best Picture.
SEAN: What do the people in the Academy — these largely 60 plus white men most respond to?
ALISSA: They seem to respond to a couple different things. They really, really, really love movies about Hollywood.
JOHN GOODMAN: It doesn’t matter. It’s a fake movie.
ALAN ALDA: If I’m doing a fake movie, it’s going to be a fake hit.
ALISSA: So a movie like Argo was almost a shoo in because it’s a movie about Hollywood kind of saving the world. That’s like perfect.
PHILIP BAKER HALL: The United States government has just sanctioned your science fiction movie.
ALISSA: They also like kind of ponderous historical dramas of different kinds. So they really love, you know, The English Patient.
<CLIP> THE ENGLISH PATIENT
MAN: You’ll have to forgive us. We’re not accustomed to the company of women.
WOMAN: Not at all I was thoroughly enjoying my book.
ALISSA: They like movies that are big and impressive.
RUSSELL CROWE: Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance. In this life or the next.
ALISSA: But you know what they like even more than all those movies, Sean?
SEAN: Tell me.
SCORING – TREMENDOUS SIDEBURNS
ALISSA: You know, like political campaigns. They cost a lot of money. An Oscar campaign can cost the studio ten million dollars for one movie.
<CLIP> NEWS: And in the race to the finish line. The studio shelled out big bucks themselves because gold means green.
ALISSA: They’re spending it on screenings. They’re spending it on hosted events, luncheons, cocktail parties, meet and greets.
<CLIP> ANTONIO BANDERAS: But I am tired of the campaign. I am an actor. I am not a politician.
ALISSA: They do a lot of sending of swag.
SEAN: What kind of swag?
ALISSA: People get DVDs in the mail, I have piles and piles of them in my house.
ALISSA: So that they can watch the film. But they also send weirder swag though. So, for instance, I have a whole stack of coffee table books from movies like The Irishman.
<CLIP> THE IRISHMAN
JOE PESCI: It’s what it is.
SEAN: Is The Irishman coffee table book, like 4000 pages long as the movie was three hours?
ALISSA: It’s not, but it’s about two feet wide.
ALISSA: And apparently you can actually fetch about 80 bucks for it if you put it on the market.
SEAN: Oh, they’re like worth money?
ALISSA: Yeah. If people really liked the movie. They’re meant to be collectors items. They also sent even stranger swag. So if you look around my apartment, I, for instance, have a bobblehead of Ruth Bader Ginsburg that was sent out as swag to people who might be voting for the RBG documentary.
SEAN: Oh! That seems way better than a coffee table book.
ALISSA: Yeah, it’s kind of great. And it sits next to one of those Russian nesting doll things that I guy as part of the swag for The Death of Stalin. It has Steve Buscemi on the outside and then inside are increasingly smaller versions of all of the characters from that movie.
SEAN: <Laughs> That’s smart. That’s why you kept that one. Because it’s good.
ALISSA: Yeah. And they sent it with a bottle of vodka, which was very nice.
SEAN: Okay, well that’s just BRIBERY!
SEAN: It reminds me of the Golden Globes! People always talk smack about the Globes. They say that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who hands out these trophies, just wants to get their pictures taken with big celebrities. Are Oscar campaigns just as empty as that? Are they just about who gives the biggest bottle of Vodka?
ALISSA: It definitely happens in the academy. It definitely also is to a lesser degree, again, because of the size of it and also because the Academy does have a labyrinthine set of rules about what you can do to promote your movie — rules that they actually had to set in place, because Harvey Weinstein, of all people, was concocting more and more elaborate plans to get his movies in front of voters,
SEAN: Because that was the deal with Harvey. He could get you an Oscar.
ALISSA: Yeah. That’s why Harvey Weinstein was so, so powerful, was that he could turn your little film into an Oscar winner.
SEAN: So I imagine, though, you got to do more than just send some fun swag and have a nice reputation, though, like what’s the most extreme version of this campaign in like, I don’t know, the Harvey Weinstein classic sense?
ALISSA: Yeah. So just like in a political campaign. Opposition research is important.
SEAN: No! You sully the waters of the other movies?
ALISSA: You sure do. You plant negative stories. For instance, if you see a story about a movie that came out eight months ago, two weeks before the Oscars, then you know that somebody is probably behind it. And this is the consummate Harvey Weinstein tactic. When Slumdog Millionaire was up against one of his films, a story suddenly appeared that the Slumdog Millionaire filmmakers were exploiting their subjects.
SEAN: Oh, I remember that.
<CLIP> NEWS: It’s not where you’d expect to find one of the stars of this year’s favorite Oscar film. But this tarp tent is Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail’s home.
ALISSA: And it may or may not be true. And they called Weinstein and said, is this you? And he basically said, ‘Well, you know, I’m not saying it’s not me.’ That’s essentially what he said.
ALISSA: And so, you know, obviously that’s taking a page right out of political campaign books.
SEAN: That’s an extreme version. Is this sort of campaigning happening on a smaller scale, too? Maybe in a less negative fashion?
ALISSA: I mean, the whole idea is to build a narrative around your movie or around your actor or writers or whatever, that people feel like they want to vote for it the same way with a political candidate. You want to say, you know, this guy’s from outside the establishment. He’s going to come in and he’s going to change things or like this person overcame the odds. These are things people resonate with. Movies do the same thing every single year.
SEAN: The best story about the best story?
ALISSA: Yeah, the best story about the best story in these fit different archetypes. We have you know, here’s the underdog film that might just make it or here’s the movie that, you know, we’re going to give you the values that you want to be part of. Or here is a movie that, you know, embodies what it is to experience the power of art. All these different things are archetypes that really work on Oscar voters.
SCORING – LADYBUG (BMC)
SEAN: Let’s take it to present day. I mean, what are the best stories about stories we have this year? The underdog and all the rest?
ALISSA: So this year, one great underdog story is Parasite.
<CLIP> PARASITE: (In Korean): “Jessica, Only Child, Illinois, Chicago”
ALISSA: You might say, ‘How’s that an underdog? I feel like I’ve been hearing about it all year.’ But it’s the first Korean film to ever get nominated for best international feature, formerly Foreign Language Feature.
ALISSA: And if it wins Best Picture, it would be the first movie not in English to win in that category, which is a huge deal
ALISSA: Ever in the history of the Oscars. One thing they did very smartly to create a narrative around it is they released it into just, I think, one or two theaters.
ALISSA: And in New York, the big news was Parasite is sold out all weekend.
NEWSCASTER 1: South Korea dark comedy thriller Parasite opens in theaters today and it’s already a box office smash.
NEWSCASTER 2: Proving to be quite popular. People wait in the long line outside the IFC Center in the village tonight.
SEAN: I was at one of those sold out shows at the IFC!
ALISSA: Yeah. And people thought, oh my goodness. Like, I must see this movie that everyone is going to. That’s a great, great way to light a fire underneath your movie. And it’s a great movie. People really liked it. So word of mouth was very helpful there. But that’s an underdog.
ALISSA: We have Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. On the other hand, which is Tarantino, came out actually the same day at Cannes as Parasite did.
ALISSA: But it has a totally different narrative attached to it, which is that this is a film about Hollywood. Right. This is a almost a love letter to how Hollywood used to be to an older age.
<CLIP> ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD: Hello, everybody. This is Alan Kincaid on the set of the exciting Get NBC and Screen Gems television series Bounty Law.
ALISSA: You know, it’s a movie about kind of one kind of acting, giving way to another kind of acting.
<CLIP> ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD: Now, if you think you’re seeing double. Don’t adjust your television sets because, well, in a way, you are.
ALISSA: And especially for Hollywood, people who feel like their industry is changing right now with the advent of streaming and things like that. It feels like that’s a movie that kind of taps into a feeling they’re having, too, of nostalgia. We also have movies like, for instance, 1917, which if I was allowed to place bets, that’s probably the one that I would bet on as best picture winner.
COLIN FIRTH: Deliver this to Colonel Mackenzie. There’s a direct order to cool off tomorrow morning’s attack. If you don’t, we will lose two battalions. Sixteen hundred men, your brother among them.
ALISSA: It’s a movie that’s kind of a very classic Hollywood film about like courage in the face of war.
COLIN FIRTH: You think you can get there in time?
DEAN-CHARLES CHAPMAN: Yes sir.
ALISSA: The idea of like someone persevering and overcoming the odds. This has always done really well at the Oscars. People just really like those kinds of movies.
ALISSA: And you might say the same thing about the Irishman potentially. Right. I mean, here’s another movie from arguably the master of American cinema, Martin Scorsese. It replicates a lot of what’s been popular about his work for a really long time and kind of puts a new spin on it.
<CLIP> THE IRISHMAN:
STEPHEN GRAHAM: This is how you dress in Florida? In a suit?
AL PACINO: For a meeting? Anywhere. Florida, Timbuktu, I dress in a suit. For a meeting.
ALISSA: I think the reason that one might be kind of coasting in, not at the position it hopes in the rankings is that it’s a Netflix movie and there’s still a large contingent of Hollywood that thinks Netflix is trying to kill Hollywood and that it’s killing the theatrical experience.
SEAN: You know, the whole time I was watching The Irishman, I was just thinking, this is great, but I’d love it more as a coffee table book.
ALISSA: <Laughs> Well, I have a coffee table book for you, Sean.
SEAN: Now, you keep it. It’s worth eighty dollars.
SCORING FADE OUT
SEAN: I wonder, with a movie like The Irishman, you got someone like Joe Pesci who like came out of retirement out of his like, you know, pushy cave to make this movie for his buddy Martin Scorsese. I can’t see that dude engaging in the Oscar campaign, engaging in a narrative, getting out there, telling the story to win an award. Does that happen? Do people ever say, like, man, this isn’t for me, I don’t want to do this?
ALISSA: Yeah, they do. I mean, Pesci actually has gotten the nomination in spite of that. But I think that’s because he’s a larger than life person. But yeah, not all actors love being on the road all the time. It’s exhausting. It’s several months of just going to awards dinners every night, maybe listening to yourself lose to the same person every night. And that can sometimes sink their chances. There were stories last year about, you know, Bradley Cooper just not loving that kind of a limelight. And that widely is considered to be one of the reasons, you know, he didn’t end up doing as well with A Star Is Born as he wants.
SEAN: I mean, is it a bad thing, the campaigning? I mean, is there a better way to do this or is this just the nature of the beast? Everyone still wants an Oscar, I guess, right?
ALISSA: Everyone wants an Oscar because they want to keep working. And an Oscar really makes it more possible for you to keep working because an Oscar winner gets hired. Right. Or even an Oscar nominee. On the other hand, you know, the campaign is kind of distasteful to a lot of people. And the academy likes to keep up this fiction that it doesn’t actually happen, that this is oh, these are people just going around and sort of going to parties and they’re winning on the merits. And it’s better if we remember that people are winning partly because they campaign really well. At the end of the day, I think everyone maybe wishes that the genie had never been let out of the bottle. But it has happened, and unless the rules are really tightened, it will probably continue to go the way it is.
SEAN: And like the Academy isn’t changing anytime soon, which means movies like Little Women or female directors like Greta Gerwig might just suffer under the weight of this sort of old guard.
ALISSA: I think that at some point a critical mass will be reached where enough of the Academy looks at a movie like Little Women and sees that, ‘Hey, this is actually a genius movie, right?’ This is great writing. Just because all of the characters in this film are women doesn’t mean that it’s not for men. But that does not seem to be what’s happening right now.
SCORING – ALL THESE PIECES
ALISSA: It’s going to take a while. You know, once you’re in the academy, you’re basically in for life. And so it’s going to take a long time for the composition to change.
SEAN: This whole time we’ve been talking about the big categories. The big movies. What about those little ones? After the break, how David got Goliath to notice he existed.
It’s Today, Explained.
MARSHALL CURRY (DIRECTOR): I’m Marshall Curry and I am a director. I directed the short live action fiction film “The Neighbour’s Window,” which is up for an Oscar this year.
SEAN: You’ve been to a few Academy Awards ceremonies. Is that fair?
MARSHALL: Yep, that’s right. So this will be my fourth. But the first for fiction. So I’ve had two feature length documentaries that were nominated and one short documentary.
SEAN: Cool, so, I mean, most of this episode we’ve been talking about the big campaigns that people like, you know, Harvey Weinstein have run
SEAN: …and big studios. It sounds like your experience might be slightly different, but I still have to ask, like, do you still run a campaign for, you know, best short, best documentary, short stuff like that?
MARSHALL: Yeah. I mean, so my first film came out in 2005, 2006. It was called “Street Fight.” It was about Cory Booker’s first run for mayor.
SEAN: I remember that!
MARSHALL: And that year we were up against March of the Penguins, which had made more money than any movie up for best picture that year.
SEAN: Mmm. I remember that, too.
MARSHALL: We had a screening in New York. We hosted the screening in L.A. I remember sort of putting my pennies together and buying a quarter page ad, a for your consideration ad that a friend of mine who’s a graphic designer designed for me in the documentary edition of The Hollywood Reporter and in Variety. And I thought like, wow, that’s that’s a real campaign. I like cut it out later and stuck it in my scrapbook as this… this was my campaign. But of course, when I got that addition in the mail, I saw that March of the Penguins had bought the entire cover.
SEAN: Oh, no!
MARSHALL: I just thought, oh, well, I did my part.
SEAN: So what did you do after your March of the Penguins experience? Because you got nominated again after that. Right?
MARSHALL: Right. Last year I had a short documentary that was nominated and it was called “A Night at the Garden.” It was only seven minutes long. It’s the shortest film nominated for an Oscar in like 50 years, I think people were saying. And it is all archival footage of a Nazi rally that filled Madison Square Garden in 1939. At this rally, 20,000 New Yorkers arrived carrying American flags. They said the Pledge of Allegiance.
<CLIP> MAN: I pledge undivided allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…
MARSHALL: And there was a huge 30 foot portrait of George Washington with swastikas on either side of them. And there were swastikas all over the room.
TRAILER MUSIC FADES IN
MARSHALL: And the leader takes the stage.
<CLIP> FRITZ JULIUS KUHN: You all have heard of me through the Jewish controlled press as a creature with horns, a cloven hoof, and a long tail.
MARSHALL: He attacks the press for lying about him. And he tells the audience that we need to take back America from the minorities who are destroying it.
<CLIP> KUHN: We, with American ideals, demand that our government shall be returned to the American people who founded it.
MARSHALL: And a protester runs out on stage and gets beaten up.
<CLIP> A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN
MARSHALL: While the crowd laughs and cheers.
<CLIP> A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN
MARSHALL: It felt weirdly contemporary, and so the entire film is just this archival footage with no commentary, no interviews. And for that, we decided that we would buy a 30 second television ad on Sean Hannity’s show. It was only archival footage of the rally. And then at the end, it says, “It can happen here. For your consideration.” But The Washington Post wrote a story about the fact that we had bought the ad and the CEO of Fox News must have seen that story because she personally intervened and killed our ad from being allowed to run on Sean Hannity’s show.
MARSHALL: And she made a big mistake, which is that she told the booker of the ad that she had personally rejected it.
MARSHALL: And so suddenly it became a huge story. What is it about America’s history that Fox News doesn’t want Sean Hannity’s viewers to know? What is it about this story that’s so frightening that they’re going to turn down an ad? So we took it to CNN, we took it to NBC, both of whom happily accepted the ad and aired it. And it became a story with hundreds of news stories about the fact that Sean Hannity’s show and Fox News’s CEO had personally rejected this thing from being allowed to be shown on Fox News.
SEAN: Wow. So this is like a real, like, advertising coup for you.
MARSHALL: It was crazy. I mean, it turned a very small ad buy into, you know, ten thousand times as much publicity.
<CLIP> THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Fox News has rejected a national ad for the Oscar nominated anti-Nazi documentary short “A Night at the Garden” But The Hollywood Reporter has learned that a Fox News ad sales representatives said network leadership deemed it inappropriate.
SEAN: Do you have any idea why? Like a Fox executive reached in to personally reject your ad?
MARSHALL: I think that they recognized that we were trying to warn Hannity’s viewers that in 1939 there were demagogues who were attacking the press and during violence against protesters and and scapegoating minorities and wrapping all of this stuff in patriotism. And I think Hannity is an enabler of that kind of demagoguery today. So I was trying to go around him to speak directly to his audiences. And I think the people at Fox, the CEO of Fox, recognized that and didn’t want us to speak to his audiences.
SEAN: So by your own measure, did that really work as a campaign? Did you get more people watching your short documentary?
MARSHALL: A ton. I mean, the film was online, so you could just see the numbers explode. And I think it also helped us. You know, with the Academy, we didn’t end up winning. But I heard from lots of people that they had heard on NPR, they’d heard on CNN and MSNBC and places like that about the controversy. And it had made them watch the film and they saw the relevance in it.
SEAN: Well, I hope you win it this time around I’ll be paying extra attention during the best live action short film category and I’ll be listening for the name Marshall Curry.
MARSHALL: Thanks. Thanks. Nice to talk with you.
SEAN: You know what they say fourth time’s a charm.
MARSHALL: Is that what they say? I’m not sure about that.
PRESENTER 1: And the Academy Award for Best Daily News Podcast…
PRESENTER 2: You’re impossible! Come on… The Daily!
ANNOUNCER: This is the Daily’s third nomination and first award.
MIKEY B: Today. The Academy has given us the greatest honor in podcasting. So why now?
EFIM: I’m sorry no! There’s a mistake! Today, Explained. You guys won best podcast.
EFIM: This is not a joke. I’m afraid they read the wrong thing. Today Explained… You’re the best daily news podcast.
ANNOUNCER: This is Today, Explained’s first nomination and first award.
SEAN: Oh my goodness! Thank you. I wanna thank the Daily first and foremost. Love your work. Mom, dad, Nim, we did it! And oh my gosh. Umm… the producers. We wouldn’t be here without YOU. Haleema Shah, Brigid McCarthy, Amina al-Sadi, Noam Hassenfeld. Noam made so much music, too. Along with the Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. I can’t believe I’m saying your name on this stage right now Breakmaster. Thanks to Efim “THIS IS OUR DREAM” Shapiro. We did it, brother! And Jillian Weinberger who’s always been there for us. Ohh, mann… I know I’m forgetting someone.
SEAN STARTS TO GET PLAYED OFF – THE TALES OF HOFFMAN
SEAN: Cecilia Lei, thank you for having us back throughout this project.
And to everyone at the Vox Media Podcast Network, I know you’re staying up extra late to watch this on the East Coast, but we did it! Now, go to sleep! See you guys back at work on Monday. Thank you!