No Labels explains what it will take to run a Trump-Biden challenger
It’s clear the American people are looking for new options in the 2024 Presidential race. If there’s a Trump-Biden rematch, 64% of American voters would feel like our political system is broken, according to a recent CBS News/YouGov poll. A News Nation poll from June found that 49% of voters would consider a third-party candidate if Trump and Biden are once again the major-party nominees.
There is a massive effort underway to give voters that third option by No Labels. It’s a group led in part by former Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and former Gov. Larry Hogan, R-Md. They explain that they want to welcome people who feel politically homeless and are tired of extremes on the left and right.
Ryan Clancy, the No Labels Chief Strategist, spoke with SAN’s Ray Bogan about their efforts, as they consider whether to enter a candidate in the race.
No Labels wants to get on the ballot in all 50 states. How is that going?
Great. I mean, we’ve been at this for over a year and a half, 800,000 signatures that we’ve gathered. We’re on the ballot in 11 states now. And that’s about as many as you can be on. Interestingly enough, some states don’t even let you get started until next year. So anytime a state opens up, we’re in there working to get on the ballot and feel very good about our prospects for getting on all 50 and DC by next year.
No Labels says it wants to be the insurance policy for 2024. Your strategy says, “We are preparing for the possibility of nominating a candidate. We have not yet committed to do so. We will run ONLY under the proper environmental conditions.” What are the proper environmental conditions?
Basically, there’s got to be an opening. We’ve said from the very start we have no interest in fueling any kind of protest or spoiler effort. This is only worth doing if it looks like there’s an actual path to victory. And there’s a lot of reasons today to suggest there is. You cited the polls at the top about Americans dissatisfaction with the choices they’re likely to get in 2024. But we’ve of course done our own polling and research, the latest of which found 63% said they’d be open to voting for a moderate independent candidate if it were Trump and Biden. You just don’t see numbers like this. Anybody who says, ‘Well, this time is different, Americans are usually kind of unhappy with their choices’ This time is different. We really have never seen this level of dissatisfaction in this level of openness to an alternative.
People like to speculate as to who the No Labels candidate would take more votes away from, Joe Biden or Donald Trump. How does a third party avoid being a spoiler?
Well, first, we got to agree on what a spoiler is. And to me a spoiler is, one, a candidate that can’t win. And two, it’s a candidate that whatever votes they do take, they take disproportionately from one party. So you think about somebody like a Ralph Nader in 2000, who got only 2.5% of the vote, most of those votes probably would have went to Al Gore. Jill Stein in 2016 same deal, 1%, most of those votes probably would have went to Hillary Clinton. But no labels will never put up a ticket that looks like that. By definition, we would be putting forth a ticket that has a broad appeal to Americans across the political spectrum. And that’s why the polling and modeling we’ve done thus far shows no labels ticket pulling pretty evenly from both sides.
Do you think that waiting so long to get a candidate in could ultimately hurt you in the long run? All the other major party candidates are all out there campaigning right now.
I don’t think so. I mean, one of the things that is interesting is we of course have the permanent campaign in America. But being out there more, for more time, doesn’t necessarily accrue to the benefit of candidates. Sometimes they get a little stale over time. So we’re going to have a convention in April of 2024 in Dallas, Texas. That’s the latest date in which we put up a ticket. And if we do, that still gives them a good seven months to go make their case to the American public.
Is it more important for the No Labels party to come up with new ideas? Or promote the best ideas that are already out there, or more moderate or compromised versions of what’s already out there?
Well, it’s a little bit of both. In July, we actually released our common sense policy booklet, people can find it at Commonsensemajority.org. And this was based on our years worth of research and polling to see what the public really cares about. And what you’ll find in this booklet is 30 ideas that we think you could fairly say characterizes – this is where most Americans want to go on most issues. And if a unity ticket were to come along, we certainly don’t expect that they’d pick up every idea in this booklet, but that would be a great starting point.
The CBS News YouGov poll I mentioned earlier found that 51% of Biden voters say their vote is to oppose Trump, while 39% of Trump voters say they’re vote is to oppose Joe Biden. The protest vote numbers were worse for the 2016 election Trump v. Clinton. If people are this unhappy with their candidates, why do you think more hasn’t been done to grow roots at the local and state level?
Well, one thing to be clear, No Labels isn’t a political party. We’re what’s called a 501C4 organization, we’re just working to get on the ballot. But I do think generally speaking, you see a growing appetite for something different from American voters. It is so obvious. And I think one of the mistakes that both parties are making is, you think about that number you put up earlier, 60% plus, they think it was a failure if we had a rematch of 2020. If we had a functioning political system, the parties would adjust to that and they would give the public something they actually want. I think the problem we’re in now is that on some level both parties don’t even think they need to give us good choices anymore. They just figure in the end, you’ll hate and fear the person on the other side more and you’ll come home and vote for us. That’s part of the reason why there’s such an opening for, and an appetite for, what No Labels might be offering.
Gallup had a poll that came out earlier this year that showed 41% of Americans identify as political independents. In the 31 states that report voters’ party affiliations – 38% are Democrats, 29% are Republicans and 28% are independents. People say how can a third party candidate ever get enough support, but with that statistic in mind, why isn’t there a major independent candidate more often?
Well, interestingly enough, that Gallup finding you cited, it was 41% earlier in the year, the latest reading on that is 47%. And interestingly enough, if you go back 30 years ago, when Ross Perot ran, that was the last time there was really a serious third alternative in the race. Only about 32-33% of Americans considered themselves as independents at that time. So you see this vast expansion in the universe of people who don’t want to affiliate themselves with the major parties, you see their dissatisfaction with the likely presidential nominees they’re gonna get. And then of course, you just have the broader attitude in the country where you look at things where people say, you know, only 16% of people trust the federal government to do the right thing. That’s the lowest reading and 70 years. 78% of the public doesn’t think their kids are going to be better off than they are. That’s the worst reading in 40 years. And so there’s so much out there to suggest that the public is desperate for something different. In a lot of ways it shouldn’t surprise anybody that there’s this level of support for a No Labels offering, given the broader attitudes we’re seeing in the country and the dissatisfaction they have with our political system.
Recently it was reported that Mitt Romney has been considering forming a new party that wouldn’t have it’s own candidate. He was quoted as saying, “This party’s going to endorse whichever party’s nominee isn’t stupid,’ What do you make of the strategy of seeking to promote a candidate that is already running rather than entering your own candidate?
You know, that’s actually the first I’ve heard of that. I mean, I had heard he retired last week. But look, you do see a lot of, in any marketplace, when there’s an opening, you see a lot of people come in and try to fill that. So you saw last year, that the Forward Party, that is a new political party that’s trying to be created from the ground up. Obviously, Senator Romney’s looking to create something there. I mean, that famous saying that, you know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I think that’s how Americans feel about our politics right now. They know if we have a repeat of this election, it is not going to solve the underlying divisions that we have in the country. And it is not going to let us tackle the problems that desperately need solving. You think about our immigration system, you think about our budget situation, that is only going to get solved with Republicans and Democrats at the table working together. And that’s why No Labels ultimately is considering putting this offering on the table early next year.
ChatGPT launched an AI revolution. Here’s where we stand nearly 1 year on.
AI is coming for 300 million jobs. Is the future work optional?
Aleksandra Przegalinska: Obviously, you touched upon a very important part of decision-making; that we have to find or strike a balance where we are still the main or key decision-makers. For instance, I am now involved in a project that we are doing at my university in Warsaw, Kozminski University, with Harvard University. And in that project, we are looking at collaborative AI. So the type of artificial intelligence that is designed for collaboration with humans. So it does not do the job instead of you, but instead works together with you. And that’s a very different approach, I think, can be very useful in many different professions. We are now testing our tool, that is also generative, on salespeople and marketers. We’ve seen an increase in productivity, but also an increase in job satisfaction. And this is something that we would like, right? Getting rid of some routines and really focusing in our work on something that is interesting and fun for us. So I do hope that this is the trajectory that we will choose. And I would really look very carefully at, you know, the speed and pace of automation, finding the proper use cases for it. Not everything can be done by generative AI and also not everything should be done by generative AI. So I do think that we have a bit of road mapping to do ahead of us.
Simone Del Rosario: Do you think there’s a risk of someone taking the technology a little bit too far just because the technology can go there and then by then, it’s too late, the cat’s out of the bag and you can’t really figure out why it’s a better case to have humans in that role over AI?
Aleksandra Przegalinska: Well, I do think that many things can go wrong if you decide to choose that pathway of full automation. M any things can go wrong because this is just a technology. It’s not, you know, it does not have any experiences, any internal states, no affections, no emotions. And it’s just, you know, simply designed by humans and it’s prompted by humans. So you have to know how to use it in order to use it well. If you just rely on it, usually the results are not so spectacular. So in that way, I would say that those who choose full automation will probably not be very happy with their choice.
The race to regulate AI hits snag; politicians don’t understand the tech
Simone Del Rosario: All of this conversation has really been sparked over who’s going to regulate AI and this urgency behind that effort to regulate AI. Who do you think should be regulating something like this, though? I mean, you have to admit that politicians aren’t really the most well-versed in the most groundbreaking technology.
Aleksandra Przegalinska: That is correct. And we’ve seen that with, you know, the social media and the hearings of Mark Zuckerberg, the Senate, right, that there was a bit of a mismatch in terms of digital competencies. I don’t know how to call it. But ultimately, I think it has to be a collective effort of many different stakeholders because this technology is not only about technology. It’s not about IT people and how they’re going to use it, but it’s a technology that is very, very broad. It’s a general-purpose technology, you could even say. So it’s the type of technology that will penetrate so many different professions, tasks, accountants, healthcare professionals, different people who are working in various organizations, business, consultancy, wherever you really look, you will see AI, right? So in that way, I think it has to be a collective effort. I do regret a bit that this regulation happens this late, because actually, you know, many people from the AI field have been calling for regulation before ChatGPT and way before ChatGPT. And we knew already that there will be some problems because some of these systems are just not explainable. They’re like black boxes. They are very difficult to understand and yet we use them. We want them to make decisions about important things like giving someone a loan, right, in a bank, or not, or declining. So we really need to understand what these systems are doing. And that has been a problem way before ChatGPT. But now I am sort of glad that there’s at least a debate. And I do hope that this time around, the politicians will come prepared and that they will be better prepared for these types of discussions. They do have experts. They can talk to many people. I have to say that I observed, you know, what’s been going on at the White House. There was a meeting, obviously, between Kamala Harris, I believe, and then many representatives of those companies that are building generative tools, generative AI. There has been a hearing at the Senate where one of the senators said that Sam Altman should tell everyone how to regulate AI. And I don’t think it’s necessarily the best way to go. I think it has to be, well, we need at least a couple of rounds of different consultations. Many companies have to be involved, but also NGOs, civil society, researchers who are not working perhaps in private companies, but also at universities. There are many people with good ideas, so it has to be a dialogue. And I just hope that this time around, we will do a better job than we did with social media.
Is it alive? How AI’s uncanny valley could threaten human interaction
Simone Del Rosario: I was hoping that you could explain for me this concept of the uncanny valley. I’ve heard you talk on it before and I just thought it was a really fascinating look at where people should be designing AI versus where they should be steering away from. Can you talk to me about that?
Aleksandra Przegalinska: Yes, sure. This is a concept that my team and I have been researching for the past couple of years. And it was mainly focused on building robots and how not to build them, really. So the uncanny valley is this concept that tells us that if something resembles a human being, but not fully, then we are scared of it, right. So our probably very deeply inrooted biological response to something that looks like a human and is not a human and we know that, is to just have this eerie sensation that this is not something we should be interacting with. So this is something that we’ve known, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with a robot called Sophia. It’s very, very popular on social media and it gives you that sensation or effect of the uncanny valley, that is just sort of very confusing to figure out whether you’re really talking to something that is alive or not. And is it healthy or is it sick? What’s going on with it? Why is the mimic so weird, right? So why are the eyes rolling so slowly? So it does resemble a human, but then again, it’s not a human. And that is interesting because now in the era of deep fakes and also in the context of, you know, the fact that we are mostly interacting with the digital world, not necessarily with physical robots, this uncanny valley idea is very, very, I would say, problematic. And we do see avatars that look almost exactly like humans where that immediate response of your body is just like acceptance, right? You’re seeing something that looks like a human and it talks and it’s all good. But then there’s suddenly a glitch and that glitch is that moment when you realize that this may not be a human. Then who knows? Maybe also in the future where there will be more of such deepfakes, we will become very cautious right and afraid of interactions with others because it will be very hard to classify who is it that we’re dealing with.
Why we fear AI, from a PhD in philosophy of artificial intelligence
Simone Del Rosario: What would you say are some of the emotions that we struggle with when we’re reckoning with the AI development going on?
Aleksandra Przegalinska: Well, I think the most prevalent emotion is probably fear. When you think about it, the way the story of artificial intelligence is being told to us by pop culture, by media, by movies that we like, like The Terminator, it is mostly really a story that is infused with fear, with a sense of threat, where artificial intelligence can reach a level, it figures out that it’s also as smart as we are, or perhaps even smarter, and then becomes our enemy. And I think it’s in many ways a story about our history, how we’ve struggled and how there were so many conflicts and revolutions as we were moving forward as a civilization. And I do think that we kind of put many of these fears into AI because this is something we know. On the other hand, we are absolutely intrigued, right. It’s an intriguing field. We don’t have any other technology that is so close to us that can also communicate with us, have a perception of reality, see something, hear something, respond, make inferences, you know, reason also. So I think in that way, we are challenged by it, but we are also very interested and intrigued by it and how it’s going to evolve in the future is a very intriguing question here.
Brent Jabbour: I have an interesting question about that, too, because you talk about the fear and the concerns about Terminator and Skynet. Do you think us, as a society, we do a disservice because every time something interesting in AI comes up, we immediately go to the bad rather than the possible good?
Aleksandra Przegalinska: Well, yes, I absolutely agree with that. So I’m definitely on the, I hope, rational side here. So very often I would just say, hey, let’s not panic. It’s just technology. AI is a statistical model. It’s very good at what it does and it can be very helpful to us, but nonetheless, it’s just a tool. But there are many other experts also, you know, people who are so prominent in the field who are clearly afraid of this technology. The current discourse around artificial intelligence, including generative AI, something we will probably talk about is absolutely full of panic, which is unnecessary and perhaps it is a bit of a disservice because instead of focusing on things that are to be solved and some challenges ahead, we are just clearly falling into that Terminator narrative immediately, right. And that does not help us in, you know, kind of rational thinking and kind of planning, strategizing around this technology. So that I think is a problem.
Constitutional lawyer explains why Trump shouldn’t be removed from ballot
Can Former President Donald Trump be banned from the 2024 presidential election ballot over his actions surrounding the January 6, 2021 riot at the United States Capitol building? Some legal scholars and politicians are trying to make that case.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment states in part: “No person shall…hold any office…having previously taken an oath…to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
Now some Secretaries of State are wondering how they should legally move forward with Trump on the ballot.
But a number of constitutional law experts argue the 14th Amendment does not apply to Donald Trump. That includes the director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School, Professor Michael McConnell, who joined Straight Arrow News to explain.
You wrote that January 6 was not necessarily an insurrection or rebellion, and that the former president did not engage or give “aid” or “comfort” to it in the way that the framers meant, why not? What was the intent of the 14th amendment?
The 14th Amendment was enacted immediately after the Civil War. And the purpose of Section Three was to make sure that people who had been officials of the United States government and taken an oath of loyalty and then abandoned that and supported the Confederacy would not be able to hold office until Congress gave them permission to do so.
People who support using the 14th Amendment to remove Trump from the ballot say it’s self enforcing, meaning a Secretary of State can remove him on their own without a court ruling or conviction. What do you make of that argument?
Well, nothing is self enforcing. That would be enforcement by a state secretary of state. And the authority of state secretaries of state varies from one state to another. So in the first instance, that’s a question of state law. I have very little doubt that if a state election official were to remove Mr. Trump or anyone else from the ballot, under Section Three, that would be taken up to the United States Supreme Court pretty fast.
To that point, I want to ask you about Arizona and Michigan specifically, those are two states that Trump won in 2016 and lost in 2020, they could be deciding factors in 2024. And they also both have democratic secretaries of state. So what do you think of the possibility of a democratic Secretary of State, removing Trump from the ballot in a crucial swing state?
Well, I think that’s not unlikely. There’s a lot of political pressure to do that. And there is a, you know, a colorable legal argument for it. And these days, it seems as though everybody on both sides pushes every power they have to the limit.
The House January 6 investigative committee made a recommendation to the Justice Department that Trump be charged with “Incite”, “Assist” or “Aid” and “Comfort” an Insurrection. But Special Counsel Jack Smith did not charge him with that. And the Justice Department has prosecuted hundreds of people for their involvement in the January 6 riot but has not charged anyone with insurrection. So let’s say for purposes of this conversation, Trump was charged and found guilty of insurrection, or somebody who was there on January 6, was found guilty and that there was an official court finding that Trump gave them aid or comfort. Does that change anything? Could he be removed then?
So the criminal statute of insurrection does state that anyone convicted of insurrection becomes ineligible to hold office. So there could indeed be an effect from that. Now, I don’t believe that Section Three necessarily requires a criminal conviction. But I think it’s very significant that the Department of Justice must have thought about this. They have all the evidence, they know more about this than any of us do, and they chose not to bring a charge of insurrection against Mr. Trump or anybody else involved with January 6.
I would like to ask you one question about former Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. He said Trump cannot be disqualified under the 14th amendment because that only applies to officers, not elected officials. And as President, he took a different oath of office than appointed officials. But let me ask you this, is it plausible then to argue that the President is not only an officer of the United States, but he is the Chief Executive Officer?
So I’m not sure how the courts are going to rule on this or even whether they would get to it. But it is the case that the word office, either officer, or civil office is used in about four different provisions of the Constitution. And the others almost certainly apply only to appointed office. So for example, the President is charged with commissioning all civil officers of the United States, he does not commission himself, no president or vice president has ever been commissioned. And the explanation for that is that they aren’t officers. Similarly, members of the House and Senate cannot serve in any civil office under the United States. And yet, in the case of a vacancy in the office, the Speaker of the House is the next right after the vice president to step in. That would be unconstitutional if the presidency is in fact a civil office. So I don’t know, ultimately how the courts would resolve this. But Attorney General Mukasey’s argument is certainly not frivolous.
Secretaries of State in Colorado, Michigan, Arizona, and New Hampshire are all trying to get some legal clarity on this issue. The New Hampshire Secretary of State said he’s going to ask his State’s Attorney General, while others have said they’re going to be going to the courts for clarity. Who should the secretaries of state be getting their guidance from?
Well, inthe first instance, they should be getting their guidance from their lawyer, which is presumably the state attorney general. But ultimately, this is going to be decided in court.
And what happens if 50 secretaries of state each come to their own conclusions as to whether Trump can be on the ballot in their state and they all give 50 different reasons. Who settles that?
Well, my guess is that this is going to go up to the Supreme Court pretty fast and that they will settle it. I don’t actually believe the Supreme Court is likely to intervene if they leave him on the ballot. But I think if any major candidate for office were removed from the ballot on the basis of some legally questionable, and I don’t mean wrong, but questionable, debatable, justification, that the Supreme Court will step in. Because after all Americans do have a fundamental right to cast our votes for the candidates of our choice. And if that’s going to be taken away from us, I think that the Supreme Court is going to make sure that it was properly grounded.
Then finally, let me ask you one more question. In Colorado, a group of voters sued to keep Trump off the ballot. And there have also been suggestions that some of Trump’s primary opponents should sue and say they would be injured or harmed with him still on the ballot, because he would take votes away from them. In your mind, is there a particular party that can show they have true standing to sue here?
I do think that other candidates are more likely to be found to have standing. And I think the leading jurisdictional problem with the lawsuit in Colorado is actually the timing, what we call in the law “ripeness.” Because nothing has actually happened. And you don’t have a right just to sue in the vacuum thinking, you know, something might happen that might be unconstitutional. Nothing unconstitutional has happened. And it might never happen. And so I think it’s not unlikely the lawsuit will be tossed out.
Americans say media bias divides the nation. This chart shows most polarizing.
SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: THE STAGE IS SET. AS AMERICANS GEAR UP FOR THE NEXT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, MEDIA BIAS WILL BE ON THE MIND. FOR THE FIRST TIME LAST YEAR, MORE AMERICANS SAID THEY DIDN’T TRUST MEDIA AT ALL – THEN THOSE WHO SAID THEY TRUST MEDIA A FAIR OR GREAT AMOUNT. SEARCHES FOR UNBIASED NEWS SOURCES SPIKE AS VOTERS HEAD TO THE POLLS AND MY NEXT GUEST AIMS TO HELP PEOPLE NAVIGATE THE MEDIA TERRAIN WITH A SIMPLE CHART. VANESSA OTERO IS FOUNDER AND CEO OF AD FONTES MEDIA AND CREATOR OF THE MEDIA BIAS CHART. OVER THE NEXT 10 MINUTES WE’RE GOING TO TALK ABOUT WHETHER MEDIA BIAS IS GETTING WORSE – WE’RE GOING TO STACK UP NEWS OUTLETS CLAIMING TO BE UNBIASED WITH WHERE THEY ACTUALLY LAND ON THE CHART (YOU KNOW THE ONES) – AND TOWARD THE END OF OUR CONVERSATION VANESSA SHARES WHAT IS UNSETTLING ABOUT THE CONTENT BEING SHARED TODAY, AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT.
Vanessa, how have you seen the media bias landscape change since you started analyzing this in 2016?
VANESSA OTERO: It’s a great question. It’s grown. There’s just more and more and more new sources out there and news and information sources out there every day. Unfortunately, one way it hasn’t changed is that it’s still quite polarizing. When I started the the media bias chart in 2016, the impetus of it was really the fact that there were so many polarizing news sources and people are fighting over them. Unfortunately, that’s still the case. But there’s just more to navigate.
SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: Vanessa, would you say there are more hyper partisan options now? Or more options in the middle?
VANESSA OTERO: I think there’s more of both right? There are a lot of news sources that that are in the middle. Most of the news sources we rate actually, like the majority, tend to be less biased, but the ones that are on the far left and right, they’re the loudest, and they seem to get most of the attention. So there’s really more of both. But because there are so many new sources to choose from people have to be really intentional about seeking out things that are minimally biased, and highly reliable.
SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: What does that tell us about Americans consumption of news, if the ones on the edges are getting more viewership, more attention?
VANESSA OTERO: Well, look, folks are polarized. Every poll that you look at just shows like increasing and increasing polarization over the last 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, and not just polarization, but what’s called affective polarization, like the kind where it makes you dislike, distrust, even hate folks on the other side, that I think is really damaging and dangerous. You know, when you’re not assuming the, the folks on the other side have good intentions, when you’re just assuming that they disagree with you because they’re stupid or evil are both, you know, it’s really hard to come to any kind of consensus. But things that you agree with, they tend to give you this confirmation bias. You know, we’re sort of programmed to like things that we already agree with. So I mean, what it tells you about Americans is that, you know, we can fall into those traps really easily. It’s not hopeless, though, you know, we can do something about it, we can recognize that something that we’re like strongly agreeing with is like just feeding our confirmation bias. That maybe that’s not the most effective way to make decisions, or live your life. You can see that when you’ve got, like, if politics is dividing your family, your friends, you’re not able to have conversations with folks, it may be an indication that you’re really focusing on very polarizing news sources.
SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: Okay, this is going to be a hard question to answer. It’s sort of a chicken versus the egg argument. Do you think that more media bias is increasing political division, or do you think it’s the other way Around.
VANESSA OTERO: Great question. The causes of polarization are many, you know, there are constitutional causes, you know, cause you can have politicians that drive polarization. But the media is a big part of it, you know, it’s a stakeholders in our democracy. There are there are many, there’s, you know, the citizenry, there are the politicians, there’s the media, and each influence each other in a push and pull kind of way. So, one thing we’ve seen over the years, since the advent of cable news, really, is the participation of politicians in media. I mean, how often do you look at a cable news show, and politicians are on the cable news show? I mean, this happens all night, every night, every channel, right? So the media, and politicians are part of the media. And politicians, just like every other citizen, are susceptible to confirmation bias, to being wrapped up in their own side stuff, like not being able to filter out, you know, highly reliable versus low, reliable information. I don’t know if you notice, but you know, there are some politicians that are not very good. It’s telling what’s true in the news, and participating, they participate in the extreme bias of the news. So I think it’s really a combination of both where they feed off each other.
SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: Okay, so CNN says they’re unbiased. Fox dropped the fair and balanced but says they’re the most trusted. What does your analysis say?
VANESSA OTERO: It’s funny what you say, as a slogan. And what you actually do can be different things. Also, how people perceive you can be really different things. So one of the most common ways of measuring media bias, is consumer opinion polling, like asking people, well, how much do you trust Fox, or CNN or MSNBC? And really, the answer to that question tells you so much more about the person and their politics than it does about the news source. So the way we go about it is by analyzing the content, which is it’s hard to do, like it’s a little bit easier to pull a bunch of folks and say, What do you think about this, but the content itself has the answers, you can look at the headlines and the graphics and each individual sentence, you can see how they’re expressed this fact analysis opinion. And you can fact check the claims that are in there, you can see if they advocate for left or right political positions, you can see how they refer to their political issues or opponents. So you can actually tell from looking at the content. So what our data shows, it is that you know, Fox is right leaning, CNN is left leaning, MSNBC is left leaning a little bit more so than CNN. And they have varying levels of reliability. What’s really fascinating is that Internet content, like going to cnn.com, or Fox news.com, or msnbc.com, tends to be less biased and more reliable than their TV counterparts, which have, of course, a lot of primetime opinion programming. And opinion programming really isn’t news.
SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: It is our belief that Americans are hungry for unbiased news. That is why Straight Arrow News is here. How is Straight Arrow News doing in that mission, according to your analysis?
VANESSA OTERO: Really well, you know, I think Straight Arrow News is correct in the assumption that people are looking for unbiased news. Now, of course, you know, everyone has some bias, right? There’s, it’s really hard to be unbiased. But you can mitigate your bias as best you can by trying by, you’re showing balance by being you’re describing things as straightforwardly as possible. We’ve seen so many Americans say like, yes, we want unbiased news, like Can, can I just go turn something on where I’m not being told what to think? Or I’m just getting the facts, right. People say that all the time. It’s one of the reasons you see this level of trust declining in those opinion polls. People don’t trust news when it’s more full of opinion and analysis than actual fact reporting. So you know, Straight Arrow News is right in the middle, for bias in our on our chart, that middle section is labeled minimal or balanced bias. And it’s rated as highly reliable. And look, that’s what we’re looking for in the media landscape. That’s what we want. Like we want to promote the work of good journalists that are bringing folks facts that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to find on their own.
SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: I looked at the history of Google search trends and the search for unbiased news sources was never higher than in November of 2020. What does that tell us about what Americans are looking for as they go to the polls?
VANESSA OTERO: So much. We actually did some studies around, you know, social media, and monitoring the spread of you biased and unreliable information. before, during, and after the November 2020 election. And there was a marked increase in the myths and misinformation and polarizing content being shared just across the board. You’re given that people have this have a need, they have a desire to want to be well informed. They don’t want to feel lost, right? Like you don’t want to go around like not knowing what’s true. It’s very disorienting. It’s very unsettling. So, I mean, what that tells me is that, you know, Americans recognize the problem, you know, Americans are smart. They realize when there’s like this flood of information that they have to sort through and unfortunately, because there’s so many new sources, you’re the responsibility falls on folks to sort through them, you know, are that’s that’s why we exist is because no one has time to sort through 10s of 1000s of information sources. So we’re a reference point, right? Like, ultimately, people should make the determinations for themselves learn to recognize reliability and bias. But when there are just so many out there, it’s really helpful to have a guidepost. And so we just hope we can be that for folks.
SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: Vanessa Otero founder and CEO of Ad Fontes Media, really appreciate your time today.
VANESSA OTERO: Thank you so much Simone.
With college spending sprees, students and taxpayers foot much of the bill
SIMONE DEL ROSARIO: STUDENT DEBT IS CALLED A CRISIS FOR A REASON – AND UNIVERSITIES ARE A BIG PART OF THE PROBLEM. UNIVERSITY SPENDING SPREES FAR OUTPACE ENROLLMENT AND INFLATION – AND STUDENTS AND GOVERNMENT AID ARE FOOTING THE BILL. ACCORDING TO A RECENT WALL STREET JOURNAL ANALYSIS, THE MEDIAN U-S FLAGSHIP UNIVERSITY INCREASED SPENDING BY 38% OVER THE PAST TWO DECADES, WHILE ENROLLMENT IS UP 21% OVER THAT TIME. AND THAT ENROLLMENT GROWTH ALL HAPPENED IN THE FIRST DECADE, UNDERGRAD ENROLLMENT’S BEEN DECLINING SINCE 2010. WHO’S WRITING THE CHECKS? WHERE’S THE MONEY GOING? AND WHAT’S THIS SEMI-DEPRESSION SET TO HAPPEN IN 2026? THAT’S ALL COMING UP IN OUR CONVERSATION WITH PROFESSOR JAMES KOCH, FORMER PRESIDENT AT OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY AND AN ECONOMIST WHO ANALYZES UNIVERSITY SPENDING.
Professor Koch, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today.
James V. Koch: Thanks for having me.
Simone Del Rosario: Your own research showed that public university trustees approved 98% of the cost increasing proposals that were put in front of them. You said most of the time it was unanimous. What does that tell us about the culture of spending at our universities?
James V. Koch: Well, public university trustees should be fiduciary, they should be people who are taking care of students and parents and the like and taxpaying citizens. But they tend not to do that during effectively they tend to buy into institutional narratives that said, we want to be this, we want to be that and they get taken in by that and end up voting for things that probably they shouldn’t.
Simone Del Rosario: What are some of the red flags that you see when you look at how universities are spending their money? If you look at just good economics of it, you’re saying, well, this doesn’t make sense because this is happening?
James V. Koch: Well, I have data going back to 2004. And since then, the typical public university has spent one to 2% more annually per year on an average students, then the rate of price inflation. So they’re spending more than the CPI and this has gone on year after year after year. So that’s a dangerous signal. And if you look behind that, you see they’re spending money on new buildings on granite table top in dormitories, especially on intercollegiate athletics. But there are a variety of other things, I mean, exercise facilities, and lots of additional administrators. In fact, I would pick that out as a particular problem. administrative overhead has gone up in the typical public institution over the last 20 years. And it’s not just a little bit, it’s a huge amount.
Simone Del Rosario: What do you think is the motivation behind this type of spending? Do they think that it’s going to be attracting more students to come into their universities?
James V. Koch: Well, yes, I think that’s part of it. And higher education enrollments have been going down 11 years in a row. Now, there are 3 million fewer college students in the US right now than there were in 2011. So that’s caused the university to say, Gee, what are we going to do about this, and in many industries, outside of higher education, the response would be, gee, we need to change our product, we need to improve it, we need to lower prices, we need to become more efficient. But in higher education, for the most part, that has not happened. Higher education is deciding Well, we’re going to raise prices and add things to our product, we’re going to have those granite table tops in the dorms, because we think that will attract students will spend more money on intercollegiate athletics if we think students would like to attend games and do that sort of thing. So the reaction in higher education has been different than it would be, let’s say in the steel industry, or if they are selling computers or on the bills.
Simone Del Rosario: There’s a Wall Street Journal analysis that says the percentage of spending increases outpaced enrollment by nearly two to one from the last two decades. So pointing to your your statistics there about student enrollment dropping, who is footing the bill for these increases?
James V. Koch: Well, for the most part, students, they’re paying more than they used to and tuition and fees have gone up faster than the CPI. Also, the federal government is paying for a good portion of this through federal student loans. There is a persuasive economic argument to be made that the federal government is actually enabling the inflation that we’ve seen in higher education by providing so much in the way of student loans. Now, I think student loans are necessary, and I’m entirely in favor of need based financial aid. But the federal government seems to have gone overboard somewhat in this respect and is granting money to universities that they then loan to students. And part of the problem is that if a student doesn’t pay back his or her loan, the university bears no penalty. So they’re in favor of granting as much more money to students as they can because they don’t have to pay for it.
Simone Del Rosario: It’s a very fair point. Look, as a former university president yourself, how would you tackle this situation? If you were leading a university at this point? How would you go about cutting spending to prepare for fewer enrollment numbers?
James V. Koch: Well, I think university presidents are like most people like respond to incentives. And part of the problem here is that boards reward presidents for doing bigger and better things. They don’t reward them for holding costs down or being more efficient. And what we need than that is for governing boards to start rewarding present presidents who are really making their institution more efficient and controlling prices and controlling costs. But instead, what happens is they get rewarded for more research money and building more buildings and, and having a bigger athletic enterprise. And mine is not to say that some of those things aren’t good. But we’ve simply overdone those kinds of things in higher education.
Simone Del Rosario: And who’s making up these boards? And what sort of fiduciary responsibility do they have? Or do they not really have that it sounds like they’re just writing checks?
James V. Koch: Well, for the most part, in most states, the governor nominates the people who feel boards, and then those individuals have to be approved by the Senate or the House, or maybe both houses of the legislature. So it really starts in the governor’s office, you have to appoint people to boards, who recognize that they should be fiduciary, and not fans and advocates necessarily of the institution. But the nature of the political beast is who’s going to get appointed to a board? Well, it’s the individuals who gave the largest contributions to the governor, as a major qualification, and these are individuals who want to be on a specific board to be on, let’s say, the board of let’s say, the University of Virginia, that ordinarily requires a financial contribution of some significance. And as a consequence, when these people get on the board, it’s orderly, because they are fans and proponents of the institution. And not because they’ve been told by the government gee, you need to pay attention to costs, you need to worry about administrative overhead. Those kinds of things fall into the background. So part of the problem, in addition to what I just mentioned, is we need state to orient and train board members when they join boards, so that they understand what the nature of the beast is and how these costs have increased over time. But in many states, that simply doesn’t happen.
Simone Del Rosario: Where would you like to see cuts in university spending is it in the extracurriculars in the buildings and research and programs for students? Where’s the most logical place to implement these cuts?
James V. Koch: Nearly all of those qualified but I would pick out in particular administrative costs. We have too many associate deans and directors and the like, that kind of spending has proliferated. Intercollegiate Athletics is another area. In Virginia, for example, at James Madison University, students pay an annual athletic fee that is mandatory of more than $2,300 a year. That’s an astonishingly large amount for a student to pay for the privilege of attending intercollegiate athletic events. One is hard put to say that that really makes their degree more worthwhile, and that makes them more competitive after they leave the institution. So administrative overhead and athletics are two major areas. But in general, I think we have to look at expenditures and say, Is this benefiting students isn’t making them more competitive? are they learning more? And that kind of approach to governance isn’t very common today in public higher education?
Simone Del Rosario: Is there an issue on the horizon for colleges to because of the student debt crisis? I do think the idea of the college dream and investing so much money into it, it’s kind of lost its luster in recent years. Do you think fewer and fewer people are going to be enrolling in these expensive four year universities down the road?
James V. Koch: Oh, absolutely. I think higher education is in for a semi depression, if not a recession, in terms of enrollment. In 2026 begins what many people are terming the enrollment cliff, the absolute number of high school graduates nationally is going to decline and it will decline for 10 or 15 years. We already know because these people are born. And as a consequence, there aren’t going to be as many conventionally aged students who are available to go to come I pledge. So when I said earlier that college enrollments and following 11 years in a row, that might stretch it out to 20 years in a row or 25 years in a row, higher education is headed for some really pretty bad times, and they need to adjust. Now in order to survive, I think many small private institutions are simply going to go out of business. And we are likely to see mergers among public institutions that have simply gotten too small and too expensive to operate.
Simone Del Rosario: We’ll see if they heed your warnings. Professor Koch, former president at Old Dominion University, thank you so much for your time today.
James V. Koch: Thank you.
‘Crazy’ auto loan payments of $1,000 or more: When will car market cool down?
Simone Del Rosario: Will those looking to buy a car ever catch a break? With interest rates around 7% and monthly payments above $700, it has never been more expensive to buy and finance a new car. And affordable used cars are hard to find. A glimmer of hope is here. UBS believes global automakers are overproducing, which could lead to an excess of 5 million vehicles and price cuts to clear those lots. But a looming strike could throw a wrench in at all. Brian Moody, executive editor at autotrader.com, is here to help us sort it out. Brian, we wanted you on to talk all things trends happening in the auto industry right now. But before we get into all of that I need to bring up this threatened strike happening with United Auto Workers, the chief of the Union, they’re demanding a 46% raise for their 150,000 workers return to traditional pensions and a 32 hour work week, they’re talking about possibly striking three groups at the same time, GM, Ford and Stellantis. How would this disrupt the auto industry, from a consumer perspective, if this were to go through on September 14?
Brian Moody: Well, one thing is that might not be any impact right away. But eventually, what that would lead to is something that we saw about a year ago, and maybe even back into the sort of more pandemic era, whenever you start to lose supply, or you’re low on product. That’s a problem for consumers, because what will happen is, the prices will go up, that’s usually what happens there won’t be as abundant of a supply of new cars, especially but then later, they’ll have a sort of a delayed effect with a less abundant supply of used cars, which is what we’re seeing right now. So the way it will impact consumers is the prices will eventually go up. And they may not be able to find exactly what they want, again, not dissimilar to what we were seeing about a year ago.
Simone Del Rosario: Say the strike doesn’t happen. Can people expect car prices to go down? And how much of a difference would that make given how high interest rates are right now?
Brian Moody: It will make somewhat of a difference. So what’s difficult to understand about the new car prices is they’re trending down. But the most recent data we have says that they went up slightly. When I say slightly, I mean less than 1%. That’s the smallest increase in more than a decade. So that’s not a significant enough number to worry about. So they are trending downward. Same with used car prices used car prices are kind of down. But that’s again, a delayed reaction from the low wholesale prices. We saw the beginning of summer. Now we’re seeing higher wholesale prices for used cars. So we expect that the prices of used cars will toward the end of the year, probably ramp up a little bit.
Simone Del Rosario: What are these high interest rates doing to the market? You look at the average monthly payment right now Americans are looking at $733 a month for their payment for a new car. That’s according to Edmunds, which is just so high, I think the experts would advise not to spend more than 15% of your take home pay on a used car that is 15% of the average pay before taxes are taken out. It’s obviously not advised to be spending that kind of money, but that’s what people are looking at.
Brian Moody: Yeah, you know, part of it is that the prices are simply higher from say 2020 2021 There’s no doubt about that. You can look at the graph and see that the prices went up. But also, some buyers are overextending themselves, we see certain things little indicators like that the luxury market in terms of new cars is near 20%. That’s very high. That means a lot of people who are buying a new car are opting for a luxury brand. Another thing that’s kind of telling is that we just saw that there was only one model transacting under $20,000. And that was a Mitsubishi. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t cars for sale under $20,000. There are plenty at or below the $20,000 mark, the Nissan Versa the Hyundai venue. The Kia, there’s plenty of examples of those. But what it says is so you have these cars that are priced around 20,000 doors but transacting above means people are opting for more options, or the dealers simply aren’t stocking the low price models. Both of those things could be true, but we do see that consumers are asking for higher and higher trim levels. Look at Toyota for example, they recently added an even nicer trim level on top of the already premium platinum now they have Capstone Oh, why are they doing that? Because people are asking for it.
Simone Del Rosario: And they’re willing to spend the money, I guess, uh, the amount of people that are spending more than $1,000 a month on their monthly payment at 18%. Now, I mean, it’s a crazy amount of money to be spending every single month on a vehicle. Talk to me about the the market of near New cars is that is what we’re seeing happen in the housing industry right now where people are holding on to those low mortgage rates and not wanting to sell their homes. Are we seeing the same thing happen with cars where people have a more favorable loan rate? And yes, hang onto those vehicles instead of maybe turning them around as quickly as we used to?
Brian Moody: Yes but there’s also the fact like what you said is exactly right, the interest rates are low, so holding on to him. But there’s also the fact that the cars are more reliable. The average used car on the road right now is about 12 years old. And that means that those cars are working for them right now. One of the interesting things we see with when it comes to used cars is that I gotta make sure I say this correctly is that is the more expensive the used car, the more abundant the supply, the more inexpensive of a used car, the harder those are to come by. So there’s very few cars available across the country, if you’re looking for something under $10,000, if you’re looking for something over $30,000, you’re gonna have plenty to pick from. So that’s the irony of that as the people are holding on to their cars. And yet, it’s the expensive used cars that are abundant. The whole point of getting used cars with you want to save money. So there is ways there are ways to do that. Incentives help with that. Also not getting all the bells and whistles helps with that. Also not getting full size SUVs and trucks. People always say things like, I’m looking for a great deal. And then you give them some pointers. Oh, you should do this. There’s that. Yeah, I’m thinking about getting a Yukon Denali. You’re not looking for a deal. You’re looking for the nicest car you can afford. That’s different than getting a great deal.
Simone Del Rosario: Yeah, and you talked about people overextending themselves a little bit, we’re seeing new auto loan delinquencies hit 7.3%. That is above pre pandemic levels. Are you concerned about any trends that we’re seeing here?
Brian Moody: They’re up a little bit, but I don’t think they’re up to the point of it being alarming. So this is typically a low number, but it is trending up like you said, so it’s something to keep an eye on. But I don’t think it’s an emergency right now. However, the numbers that you just gave, and the idea that people are maybe overextending themselves with $1,000 a month car payments. I think that’s concerning.
Simone Del Rosario: Brian Moody from autotrader.com Thank you so much for your expertise today.
Brian Moody: Great. Thank you.