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DecodeDC

Updated 4 days ago

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A reliable, honest and entertaining podcast about Washington D.C’s people, culture and politics.

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A reliable, honest and entertaining podcast about Washington D.C’s people, culture and politics.

iTunes Ratings

1225 Ratings
Average Ratings
668
512
17
8
20

Nonpartisan, not afraid to tell it as it is

By BrianDomanski - Jan 17 2018
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Just listen. It’s a rare thing today when you can find people talking about policy without getting all the commentary and bias. It’s broken down here and they show you what is behind each sides argument without telling you which side is right. Politics and policy without the talking (screaming) opinionated heads.

Over?

By Ebuni - Jan 07 2018
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I was so heartbroken to hear that you had your final episode. It was a great source for an unbiased look into the way the government and DC works. You will be truly missed. I wish Jimmy, and everyone involved with the show, the best.

iTunes Ratings

1225 Ratings
Average Ratings
668
512
17
8
20

Nonpartisan, not afraid to tell it as it is

By BrianDomanski - Jan 17 2018
Read more
Just listen. It’s a rare thing today when you can find people talking about policy without getting all the commentary and bias. It’s broken down here and they show you what is behind each sides argument without telling you which side is right. Politics and policy without the talking (screaming) opinionated heads.

Over?

By Ebuni - Jan 07 2018
Read more
I was so heartbroken to hear that you had your final episode. It was a great source for an unbiased look into the way the government and DC works. You will be truly missed. I wish Jimmy, and everyone involved with the show, the best.

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Cover image of DecodeDC

DecodeDC

Updated 4 days ago

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A reliable, honest and entertaining podcast about Washington D.C’s people, culture and politics.

Episode 34: What can Mars teach us about politics on Earth?

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The future of Congress has been on our minds.
Recently, we considered how advances in technology and data analysis can and will change the way legislators do their work. There are places that are pushing the envelope in this arena. In Brazil official state hackers are building apps, games and data visualizations to help Brazilians – and the members of Parliament – understand the legislative process. In Finland, they are trying legal reform through crowdsourcing – literally turning the legislative process over to the people.
There’s one other place we wanted to explore for ideas about the future and politics – Mars.
Author Kim Stanley Robinson is probably best known for a trilogy of novels called “Red Mars,” “Green Mars” and “Blue Mars.” Their story follows the first human colony on the Red Planet, from scientific outpost through growing villages and cities, to political revolutions, independence from Earth, and a new constitution.
Science fiction is like a big sandbox of ideas in science and technology, but also in culture, politics, and governance. “Lincoln’s great sentence, ‘government of the people, for the people, by the people, shall not perish from the Earth,’ is a utopian science fiction story because it’s in future tense,” Robison says. “We do science fiction all the time in stating our political goals and then acting on them.”
A broad theme in Robinson’s work is tinkering with Mars to make it more hospitable to human life. He’s concocted a Martian constitution where the environment itself is an acknowledged stakeholder that has rights.
As his characters embark on this massive experiment, two factions emerge: those who believe that it is right and good for humans to manipulate and change the planet as much as they like, and those who believe the wild Martian environment should be protected. Sound familiar?
In this case, Robinson’s work is more about NOW than the future. He uses his science fiction to express a clear point of view on issues such as climate change. As far as he is concerned, we are actually in a better position to protect earth than his characters are on Mars.
This week on the DecodeDC podcast, it’s the future of Congress from about as far outside the Beltway as you can get.
Special thanks to Jeremy Stursberg for his original music in this week's podcast.

May 15 2014

18mins

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129: Superdelegates, WTF

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Superdelegates. Maybe you’ve heard something about them, but might not know how they came to be, how they work, who they are and why they matter. But if you want to make sense of the delegate math in this year’s Democratic contest, you need to understand what a superdelegate is.
Bob Shrum was there when superdelegates were created. The long time Democratic operative says if you trace the origins of this uniquely Democratic Party invention, you’ll see a battle between the people and their party where the power to select the nominee for president has swung back and forth and sort of back again.
The idea behind the superdelegates is that "they would provide a balancing force in case the voters went off the rails in Democratic primaries and chose somebody the party establishment didn’t like,” Shrum says.
On the latest DecodeDC podcast, host Jimmy Williams talks to Shrum about the secret world of super delegates and their potential to cause a train wreck in the Democratic Party.

Mar 03 2016

20mins

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11: Paint By Numbers

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Let's start from the beginning. To understand what underlies every argument in Washington these days, you have to know the basics of the federal budget. Problem is, most of us don't.

Mar 28 2013

20mins

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Episode 33: Future Congress

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We have always been innovators. It is in our nature as Americans. Heck, democracy itself was born here, as part of what the 19th century French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville called the Great American Experiment.
But with the average age in Congress at around 60, plus a legislative process that has come to a grinding halt in the past several years, could the United States be losing its experimental edge?
Sure, it may feel like our civic lives are advancing with the Internet age, what with the massive proliferation of ways you can contact your representatives in Washington -- email, Twitter, Facebook, and so on. The problem is, the people on the receiving end of those messages -- Congress -- hasn’t really put in place ways to deal with the modern onslaught of messages.
In fact, unless you take great pains to be clear that you live in the district of the lawmaker you’re contacting, the truth is, by and large, members of Congress ignore your messages.
By contrast, consider Finland. There, lawmakers are experimenting with a bold new way of reforming a law: crowdsourcing -- meaning turning the legislative process over to the people.
Or consider Brazil, where there is now an experimental computer lab smack in the middle of the Parliament’s committee rooms. There, official staff hackers throw together apps and games and data visualizations to help Brazilians -- and the members of Parliament -- understand the legislative process.
Today on the DecodeDC weekly podcast, we explore these forward-looking examples of legislative innovation, and ask the question of our own lawmakers here in Washington, DC: What’s the future of Congress?

May 08 2014

22mins

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House of (mis)Representatives

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Ever have that sinking feeling that your voice isn’t heard in Washington? It could be because it isn’t.

Sep 14 2012

14mins

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Repost Episode 1: House of (Mis) Representatives

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This is it, folks — DecodeDC is relaunching next week! Keep an eye out for our new logo, and enjoy multimedia content on our daily blog, which will be posted on all Scripps websites.
Thanks for sticking with us as we’ve been preparing for the all new DecodeDC and reposting some of our favorite podcasts.
For the final repost, we’re going back to the very beginning of DecodeDC to Episode 1: House of (Mis) Representatives. This very first podcast focuses on a feeling many people get when dealing with Washington: “My voice isn’t being heard.” Why do they feel that way? It could be because they aren’t being heard.

May 01 2014

13mins

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169: What can President Trump do Day 1?

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When Donald Trump is sworn in as President of the United States on January 20, 2017, the clock starts ticking on his political agenda. Trump's goals for his first 100 days in office include repealing and replacing Obamacare, deporting criminal undocumented immigrants and banning people from terror-prone countries from entering the U.S.
Can he really do all these things? On the latest DecodeDC podcast we try to answer that question, and figure out what President Trump can do on his own and what he'll need help with.

Nov 17 2016

36mins

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Episode 27: The Untold Story of the Stimulus

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Five years ago. It was the early days of the Obama presidency. And it was a panicky moment in what came to be called the Great Recession.
Congress already had bailed out Wall Street’s most troubled companies with a program called TARP – the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Now Congress was desperately trying to find a way to pump some blood into a very sick economy. The markets, the experts, the country wanted action.


In the House of Representatives, the man in the middle of coming up with stimulus plan fast was David Obey, a longtime Democratic congressman from Wisconsin who chaired the Appropriations Committee.
Obey was known for his mastery of the appropriations process and his blunt talk. He retired in 2011, and now he is really blunt about what went on in the smoke-filled rooms five years ago and about today’s bitter budget battles.
With the economy in free fall, Obey met with his Republican counterpart Jerry Lewis of California to start writing a bill.
“And Jerry just grinned and said ‘Dave, I’m sorry, but we’ve got orders from headquarters, we can’t play, we can’t play,’” Obey recalls. “He said it twice.”


Whatever Republicans thought privately – some of them told Obey they agreed that Congress needed to pass a stimulus bill – they weren’t going to publicly help the new president help the economy.
But that wasn’t the scariest thing, Obey says. He realized many fellow House members – Democrats and Republicans – simply lacked a sophisticated understanding of the economy and government spending policy.


“One of the problems that you have today, is that a lot of members of Congress just don’t know a hell of a lot anymore,” Obey says.


Eventually, the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was born. But “it was about half the size it should have been,” Obey says. “So we were from day one … we were trying to row the rowboat with only one oar.” In other words, according to Obey, the size was a result of stubborn politics and many lawmakers who struggled to comprehend what was going on.

If bipartisanship in Congress needed a stimulus then, it needs a bailout now, Obey says.
The biggest culprit: Gerrymandering that creates one-party districts and safe seats for members.
“I mean you wouldn’t have such idiotic statements coming out of members of Congress if they had to be taken seriously by a majority of people across the political spectrum,” Obey says. “All you have to do is appeal to the most extreme 25 per cent. How in the hell do you bring this country together?”
Exactly.

Feb 14 2014

23mins

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Mind Control

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Ever wonder about the neuroscience behind party politics?

Sep 28 2012

16mins

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93: LBJ and the racial divide, 50 years later

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It isn’t often that the president of the United States opens up about America’s history of racism or about how African Americans have suffered because of it - or about how white America must accept responsibility for these wrongs.
But that is exactly what happened 50 years ago this month when President Lyndon Johnson delivered the commencement address at Howard University in Washington, D.C. And those who were in the crowd June 4, 1965, say what they heard on still feels relevant today.
“I think anyone could give that speech today, and with few exceptions, not recognize that it was something that was related to a 50-year-old occasion,” said Judith Winston, a Howard student at the time who was there. “It’s a speech that in many sad ways has the same resonance today that it had 50 years ago.”
Despite the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a voting rights bill that was on its way to getting passed, Johnson told the crowd of mostly African-Americans gathered in the quadrangle that those laws were not enough.
“You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want and do as you desire, and choose your leaders please,” he said. It was time for the next and the “more profound stage of the battle for civil rights…”
The speech is known as the intellectual framework for affirmative action. Johnson spoke of a widening gulf between blacks and whites in unemployment, infant mortality and economic opportunity. “It is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates,” he said.
“It was good to hear him speak of those things and to realize that he really understood, and not only understood but really wanted to do something about it,” said Pricilla Harris Wallace, graduate of Howard’s School of Social Work. Half a century later, Wallace says she is still waiting for things to change, “We’ve made progress along the way, but when you look at things and where we should be as far as race is concerned, economics and other things of that nature, I feel that we’ve gone backwards.”

Jun 18 2015

19mins

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179: A user's guide to 'alternative facts,' aka lies

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Imagine being lied to, repeatedly, for days on end, and what that does to your brain. Well, you may not have to imagine it—it seems like more and more “alternative facts” are coming out of Washington every day. In this episode, author Maria Konnikova tells us how repeated lies affect our brain, and Paul Singer of USA Today tells us how to deal with it.

Feb 01 2017

28mins

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170: Can Trump live up to populist voters' expectations?

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Donald Trump’s attacks on elites and us-versus-them rhetoric are classic populist themes. But what happens when populists actually take office, and suddenly joins the ruling class? John Judis, author of "The Populist Explosion,” helps us define populism and explains why Trump may not be able to live up to voters’ expectations.

Dec 01 2016

28mins

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203: What you should know about Trump's voter fraud commission

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President Trump believes he would have won the popular vote -- if it weren't for the 3 million people that voted illegally. Even though there's no evidence to support his claim, he put together a commission to look into the issue, and their first meeting is today. They've already been pretty active, asking for voter data from all 50 states. But what exactly is going on with this commission, and what can we expect?

Jul 19 2017

30mins

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214: Why can’t Congress get anything done on guns?

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Americans are once again mourning after another mass shooting. We explain why elected leaders fail — despite broad public support — to pass measures like additional background checks on firearm purchases. We speak with filmmaker Michael Kirk, who made the FRONTLINE documentary Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA.

Oct 05 2017

30mins

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167: Meet the disgusted voter

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It's crunch time. Doomsday--er, Election Day--is almost here, so we're checking back in with our undecided voters. For the past few weeks DecodeDC reporter Miranda Green has been profiling four voters on the fence. She fills Jimmy in on their feelings of disgust toward the election, and the sense of unease after the news about the FBI's investigation into Clinton's emails.

Nov 03 2016

23mins

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94: The $140 Billion Investment No One Is Tracking

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Every year, we spend $140 billion on grants and loans for college students. How's that investment doing? Well, we really don't know, and to find out, it turns out we'd have to break the law.

Jun 25 2015

24mins

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174: That moment when Americans choose ignorance over money

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When it comes to American politics, many people will choose to give up money, rather than listen to the other side. That's the result of a new study by Canadian professor Jeremy Frimer, at the University of Winnipeg. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, Jimmy talks to Jeremy about a phenomenon he calls 'motivated ignorance,' and why Americans are choosing to remain, well, ignorant.

Dec 29 2016

19mins

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182: I'm a reformed lobbyist. Ask me anything

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You asked and we answered. This week: what’s the difference between lobbying and bribery, a real example of a lobbyist buying their agenda into law (or failing to), and the best reform for the lobbying industry. Plus, Jimmy’s former salary.

Feb 23 2017

29mins

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Episode 28: And the winner is...

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Politicians have been performing since history has been recorded – and some performances have stood the test of time for their eloquence, their intelligence and their ability to comfort a nation.
And others, well, not so much.
We have nominated eight video clips, and we are inviting you, members of the American Citizens Academy, to watch and vote for the one you think is best.
You don’t get to vote for the winner of our Lifetime Achievement Award, Vice President Joe Biden. But you do get to watch a medley of his greatest hits – free and uninterrupted.
So, go visit us on Twitter @DecodeDC, start watching, submit your vote and click back here on Thursday, Feb. 27, to see which political star is taking home the DecodeDC People's Choice Award.

Feb 21 2014

18mins

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Episode 26: Polling 2016

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Something happened. We lost two years. It’s already 2016, and the presidential election is here – as in right now.
That must be the case. There’s a new poll out almost every day. One poll after another declares Hillary Clinton is in the lead for the Democratic nomination. Another only a few days ago declared Rep. Paul Ryan has a lock on the Republican nomination.
But wait. Check your calendar. No matter how much buzz there is in the news media about the 2016 presidential polls, it’s actually 2014 – and it’s more than two years before the nominees are selected and President Barack Obama’s successor is declared.
So what’s with all 2016 polls, and how much should you be paying attention?
“They attract attention, for sure,” Carroll Doherty, director of political research at the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, says. But “they don’t tell us a lot. … They tell us name recognition, and not much else.”
In poll speak, that means the results at this point are not predictive of what will happen in 2016. There’s that little problem of what social scientists call “intervening variables,” and what the rest of us describe as “things happen.” In other words, there still is plenty of opportunity for strong candidates to get derailed (think “bridgegate”) and weak ones to develop political muscle.
Doherty emphasizes that Pew, which labels itself as a non-partisan “fact tank,” is not in the 2016 polling business at this point.
Why? Well, Doherty points out that Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani looked strong in the summer of 2007, which was later in that cycle than February 2014 is in this one, and neither won the party nomination, not to mention the White House. Plus, he’s more focused on that little event coming up this November known as the midterm election.
So what are you to do with the barrage of 2016 polls?
DecodeDC’s latest podcast provides some guidance and perspective – along with mention of some possible candidates you definitely would never think of.

Feb 07 2014

14mins

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225: Where's the line between religious freedom and civil rights?

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The clash of two American values -- religious freedom and freedom from discrimination –- didn’t seem so huge when a broad coalition of religious and civil rights representatives got together in a room in 1993. While starting from different ends of the political spectrum, this group came together to push for a new law, The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, meant to protect the religious practice of all faiths, no matter how small. RFRA became the law of the land. 

But just a few years and a huge cultural shift later, the law was found to be only applicable at the federal level, and the coalition could not find a way to balance religious freedom with the civil rights of LGBT persons and women. That rift continues today as we continue to ask what does it mean to be free to exercise one’s religion? We hear from the people who were in that room in 1993 – and now are living with the consequences of their efforts.

Dec 28 2017

27mins

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224: The 2017 Lie of the Year

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Our friends at PolitiFact have sorted through a year of lies, fibs, exaggerations, fabrications and outright falsehoods to find the worst of the worst. PolitiFact’s Editor Angie Drobnic Holan joins us to reveal the 2017 lie of the year.

Dec 21 2017

26mins

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223: This is what happens when Congress polices itself

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Congress is considering changes to the way it handles sexual harassment complaints after its current rules have been called onerous by critics. We take stock of what might change with Patrick Terpstra of the Scripps Washington Bureau, and we speak with the lawmaker who helped shape the system, retired Rep. Chris Shays, who says it’s imperfect but is a vast improvement over what came before.

Dec 14 2017

29mins

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222: The Changing Race of Immigration in America

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America has long sold itself as "the nation of immigrants." But when you look at our history -- even the halcyon Ellis Island days -- that branding has always come with an asterisk. Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses... especially if they’ll work for cheap. Our guests on this episode are Hiroshi Motomura of the University of California and Andre Perry of the Brookings Institution.

Dec 07 2017

34mins

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221: What happens when the DOJ defies the courts?

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Judges in a legal stand-off. A power struggle between two branches of the federal government has left potentially thousands of undocumented immigrants stuck in detention centers with no idea how long they'll be there.  Are some immigration judges defying the law?

Jimmy speaks to Scripps' senior national investigative correspondent Mark Greenblatt about his investigation… “Above the Law?”

Nov 30 2017

22mins

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Revisiting how tax reform really works

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With Republicans pushing ahead on their plan to overhaul taxes for the first time in 30 years, we revisit an episode of DeocdeDC that explained how that reform 30 years ago actually came together. Jimmy speaks with two major players in that effort - Pam Olsen of Pricewaterhouse Coopers and former Congressman Bill Archer.

Nov 21 2017

20mins

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220: A Republican has some advice for the GOP

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Phyllis Henderson is a state representative in South Carolina, and she is worn out by the state of political discourse. We spoke with her right after the 2016 election, and she had some reservations. Now we check back in with her to see how she thinks the GOP is doing -- and what she thinks about the tone of American politics. 

Nov 16 2017

20mins

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219: Fact checking the link between mental illness and mass shootings

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Last Sunday, a gunman walked into a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and opened fire on the congregation -- killing more than two dozen people. The next day, President Donald Trump told reporters the mass shooting wasn't a "guns situation," and instead blamed it on "mental health." Politicians have linked mental illness and mass shootings after virtually every mass shooting. In this week's episode, Jimmy talks to The Atlantic's Olga Khazan, who looked into that link... and found that it doesn't exist.

Nov 09 2017

23mins

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218: Don’t touch my tax loophole!

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It seems like for every winner in tax reform, there’s a loser. As the House beings its push for huge changes to how American people and companies pay their taxes, we explain the basics and dig into the intended and unintended consequences of it all. Think of it as Tax Reform 101, with guests Bernie Becker of Politico and Steve Taylor of the United Way. 

Nov 02 2017

29mins

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217: When politicians scream "bailout," what do they really mean?

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From the beginning of American politics, politicians have been using the term "bailout" as a political cudgel. In this week's podcast, Jimmy speaks with two experts who explain the what, when, why, where, and how of government bailouts.

Oct 30 2017

25mins

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216: A coal community divided

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Residents of coal country are getting sick, but not everyone is convinced of the cause. 

Our Newsy colleague Zach Toombs explains what the science says and what the government is — or is not — doing about it.

Oct 19 2017

28mins

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215: No one knows how big the opioid epidemic really is

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Local law enforcement and national politicians are struggling to deal with the opioid epidemic gripping American communities, in large part because no one can figure out just how big the problem is. We speak with Angela Hill, who led a Scripps News investigation into a synthetic opioid called carfentanil.

Oct 12 2017

20mins

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214: Why can’t Congress get anything done on guns?

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Americans are once again mourning after another mass shooting. We explain why elected leaders fail — despite broad public support — to pass measures like additional background checks on firearm purchases. We speak with filmmaker Michael Kirk, who made the FRONTLINE documentary Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA.

Oct 05 2017

30mins

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213: Got milk subsidies?

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What does the government have to do with the price of milk? Turns out – everything. For decades, government subsidies have tried to balance supply and demand for a commodity that is produced every day, at least twice day, everywhere – and has only hours to go from the cow to the store shelf. This week, Amy Mayer of Iowa Public Radio and Harvest Public Media explains how that support has changed and what the farmers think about it.

Sep 28 2017

25mins

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212: What if the government gave everyone free money?

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A universal basic income isn't a new idea, but it's getting traction in politics today. It's a different type of safety net: free cash from the government, with absolutely no strings attached. It's never been tried in the US in a pure form, but we have had experiments that came close. Ioana Marinescu, a professor of economics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice, walks us through some of those experiments, and tells us how this whole idea might work.

Sep 21 2017

24mins

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211: The problem with FEMA's flood maps

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency maps flood plains across the country. The maps are intended to show which areas are likely to flood so that local governments can better plan for disasters. They also determine who must buy flood insurance, and at what rates. But there are problems: Many of them are outdated and don’t take into account the anticipated effects of climate change. And if you have enough money and enough political power, you can get your condo or your city moved off the map, even if you are in the eye of a storm. Host Jimmy Williams talks to two experts on why these maps don’t tell the true story of where floods are happening now and in the future.

Sep 14 2017

30mins

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Bonus: Jeff Sessions spins the facts on DACA

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions made some questionable statements to justify ending, DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that shielded 800,000 people who were brought to the US illegally as children. In this bonus episode, we fact-check some of those claims with the editor of PolitiFact, Angie Drobnic-Holan.

Sep 08 2017

14mins

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210: Why Washington isn’t ready for the next hurricane

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Hurricane Harvey caused billions of dollars of damage, and Hurricane Irma will likely cost even more. But how will the federal government pay for all of it, and is it possible that Washington had a hand in making the destruction worse? This week we take a look at the National Flood Insurance Program with Michael Grunwald of Politico.

Sep 07 2017

29mins

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209: The Texas town with no drinking water

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Contaminated drinking water is coming into the homes of tens of millions of Americans, especially in smaller, lower income communities, from aging, under-funded water treatment plant and distribution systems, poorly maintained private wells, and groundwater sources polluted by industrial dumping and agricultural waste. Experts and the GAO say it will require billions of dollars of infrastructure improvements to maintain safe water throughout the U. S. Customers of antiquated, poorly maintained, under-funded systems in rural areas, smaller communities and neglected older urban areas – who are disproportionately lower income, African-American and Latino – are most at risk.


Today we're going to Sand Branch, Texas, where 100 residents haven't had access to clean water for decades. What's it like to not have access to clean drinking water, and just how far do residents have to go to get it? Jimmy speaks with Brandon Kitchin, a reporter with News21's Troubled Waters investigative team, about their deep dive into clean water access across the country.

Aug 31 2017

22mins

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208: The military's toxic water problem

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The military spent decades contaminating the drinking and ground water at bases across the country and has spent billions to contain the mess.

But the veterans and families who lived on those bases are still struggling with the long legacy of that toxic water and feel abandoned and betrayed by their government. Host Jimmy Williams speaks with Adrienne St. Claire, a reporter with News21 Troubled Waters investigative team about their deep dive into the impact of the military’s on-going toxic water problem.

Aug 24 2017

28mins

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