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You may not imagine many black people when you think about the old West, but on the Black Cowboys podcast, journalist Erin Burnett tells the untold story of the West like the fact that one in four cowboys were black, black men and white men riding together across the wide open plains. The Cowboys enjoyed a rare equality among men uncommon at that time in America. Listen to Black Cowboys with Erin Burnett on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.
Hey, everyone, John Heilemann here and welcome to Hell and High Water, my podcast from the Recount and I heart radio with big ups to the one and only rizza for our dope theme music. We are just about to hit the first anniversary of the moment when covid-19 came crashing down on America full force, when the country first went into lockdown, there were dire and indeed apocalyptic predictions as to the economic and financial impacts of the pandemic, forecasts of mass unemployment, real estate, Armageddon and a cataclysmic stock market crash that had some super savvy Wall Street types racing to cash out their holdings and stuff their greenbacks into their mattresses.
A year later, it is clear that some of these predictions were spot on. The economic pain that covid has unleashed has been far reaching and severe, especially for those whose incomes and employment status were precarious to begin with. At the same time, however, the stock market has done the opposite of collapse. It has soared to unprecedented heights, spurring a new big casino era on Wall Street, complete with an array of speculative manias, including one the game Robin Hood meme stock frenzy that captured the nation's attention due to its apparent populist David versus Goliath overtones.
And now, just as we are starting to get some good news on the covid front, vaccinations, surging infection and hospitalization and death rates stabilizing. Wall Street took a tumble last week on fears about wait for it.
The economy heating up too much, risking inflation and rising interest rates. Jesus fuckin Christ.
To help us sort all this out, I am pleased beyond measure to welcome to the podcast. A colleague, friend and a total mensch, the prodigious and prolific New York Times man behind the paper's pervasive and Essential Deal book franchise, co-anchor of CNBC Squawk Box and author of the definitive history of the 2007 2008 Financial Crisis Too Big to Fail. The One and Only Andrew Ross Sorkin. The state of capitalism in the midst of covid is well, in doubt, maybe more so than has been in decades or even a century.
And that might sound hyperbolic, but I think we're literally on the brink. At the relatively tender age of 44, although maddeningly he could still pass for thirty four or even twenty four, Andrew Ross Sorkin is arguably the country's most important and influential financial and business journalist and without doubt, its most plugged in, starting his career as an intern at the Times when he was still in high school in Scarsdale, New York, publishing seventy one byline pieces in the paper by the time he graduated from college.
That would be Cornell working full time as the Times London based European M&A reporter at 22 Founding Deal Book is a newsletter within the Times in 2001, at the age of twenty four Sorkin's Off the Chart. Precociousness was the stuff of legend in our business. Coming up fast on its 20th birthday this fall, Deal book has grown into a bona fide juggernaut, expanding from one of the first financial news aggregation services on the Internet into a semi-autonomous website within the Times empire with a thriving conference business.
Its sprawling remit includes economic policy and financial regulation in Washington, venture capital, big tech and startup culture in Silicon Valley, and much more. Not content with this degree of mastery of the universe and with a ton of free time on his hands. Every day between midnight and four a.m., Sorkin knocked out too big to fail, publishing the book to wide acclaim in the fall of 2009 and then helping HBO turn it into an excellent film of the same name starring William Hurt, Paul Giamatti, Billy Crudup, Cynthia Nixon and Topher Grace with a taste of Hollywood on his tongue, Sorkin went on to create the hit Showtime series Billions and is now developing another film for HBO on the GameStop Robin Hood saga.
All of which is part but only part of why I was so eager to get Andrew on the pod. I wanted to hear what the folks in the world he knows best are thinking about. The new era dawning in DC from President Biden's one point nine trillion dollars. That's trillion with a T trillion dollar covid relief and economic recovery legislation to raising the minimum wage to the deep polarization that continues to hobble our politics. I wanted to hear all about GameStop and Robin Hood and what that story was really all about, whether the big casino craziness gripping Wall Street has the market finally headed for that long predicted fall?
And what is likely to happen to big tech as Facebook, Apple, Amazon and the rest continue to amass size and scale and power even as the tides of economic populism rise? And I wanted to hear what Andrew had to say about Wall Street's place in our popular culture, how the world of high finance movers and shakers and makers and breakers has inspired countless enduring portraits on the big screen and the small screen, which seem to inspire both fascination and revulsion in roughly equal measure.
But mostly, I just wanted to catch up with my friend Andrew, one of the more delightful conversationalists I know and someone from whom I always learn a lot whenever we have lunch or a drink because of covid, we were long overdue for a good long gab. And what better place to remedy that situation than here on hell and high water? I am not a destroyer of companies, I am a liberator of them. The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.
Greed is right. Greed works, greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit, greed in all of its forms, greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed.
You, mark my words, will not only save told our paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. So that almost if it wasn't such a great clip, it would almost be a cliche, but it's such a great clip that it was worth playing as we bring on my friend Andrew Ross Sorkin to talk here on Helen Highwater. Andrew, it was great to see you. It's great to see you. What a great what a great line.
We're going to talk a little later on the podcast about a bunch of cultural stuff related to Wall Street and American business. But nineteen eighty seven, that movie comes out Wall Street. Michael Douglas playing Gordon Gekko. Those lines have not aged a day and the character hasn't really aged today. I mean, yeah, I mean, he's wearing suspenders and you don't see that on Wall Street very much anymore. But like, it's a bang up to date thing.
Bobby Axelrod and Gordon Gekko, Bobby Axelrod from Billions and Gordon Gekko are just, you know, their genetic twins. Right. And again, we'll play some brilliant stuff a little later, too, but it doesn't feel dated at all. There's a lot of cultural representations of business and finance that you look at them and go, man, that seems like it's from another age. That one does not feel that way. History repeats itself. Maybe nothing changed between eighty seven and now, but it's actually in many ways happening all over again.
We're seeing this confluence of capitalism on one side, rapacious capitalists in the midst of covid. We're seeing investors and speculators in the casino all over again. Yeah, yeah. And on the other side we're seeing a real, almost anticapitalist movement. And it's a war. Yes. And I think we're going to find out pretty soon who's going to win. Well, we're going to talk about all of that. There's a lot of embedded in those statements and we're going talk about all of them because I know some of the things you're thinking about.
But I mean, let's start with the first of those things, right. Which is rapacious capitalism, the age of Koven. I will tell you that not quite a year ago, middle of March, when covid really kicked in here in New York, shut down California, shut down. We shut down the circus by Showtime show a week early in the nomination fight. And I did a week on MSNBC guest hosting for Nicholaus the last week that anybody was in 30 Rock.
And I walked out that door on that Friday and Diana, my wife and I headed out east to get away, not knowing how long we'd be gone for not knowing what was to come. And I had a conversation with someone, you know, a seasoned Wall Street person who said to me, we're basically getting out of the market. We're moving all of our money to not financial market assets, whether it's real estate or cash. The market is doomed.
It is going to be a massive collapse. And my wife Diana said to me, should we be doing that? Like he knows a lot more about this shit than you do?
And I was like, I don't know anything about this. I'm a total idiot, but some very smart other people I know. So that's probably a little extreme. Don't do that. So we didn't do that. And the market has gone ballistic in the last 11 months, as everybody knows. Can you explain that to me like I'm a three year old or like I'm a listener to this podcast, which is not the kind of people who necessarily watch CNBC.
And no, you're right. You're Juju all day long. Like, how do you explain in the midst of this pandemic and this recession and all of this this explosion that's happened in the stock market?
So first of all, let me just do a mia culpa, which is to say I didn't know or get this right either. In fact, I had conversations maybe with the same person you're talking about and others who pretty much convinced me that we were going back to eight. Right. That we were having debates about bailouts and we had bailouts and the economy was going to take a very, very long time to recover. And if you believe that there were investors who were clearly jumping out of the market and there were some what I didn't appreciate and I think now I do is two things.
One, and this is broadly known. So I'm not saying anything special. Investors are never looking at what's happening tomorrow, and they're definitely never looking at what happened today or yesterday. They're looking at what they think could happen 12 months out. 18 months out. Twenty four months out. And a lot of them even very early on. Maybe we're even a little wrong in that they thought this was going to happen pretty quickly, maybe things would get better or maybe would take three months, maybe six months, maybe take eight months, but they thought it'd be better.
And so stocks oddly held up. While the unemployment rate was soaring because investors were saying to themselves, you know what, we're going to get through this and on the other side, things are going to get better. And that disconnect was real. And on any given day, you hear about so many people losing their job and you and then you'd see the market up and you think, what the hell is happening here? That sounds crazy. The other piece of this is that there's two other views that add to it.
One is that technology has become such a big part of the quote unquote, marketplace. And a lot of the technology companies were winners in all of this. Amazon is a massive winner, crazy winner. You know, Zoom who zoom all of these companies were all of a sudden having this massive success. And the view was that it was going to be a step change for these companies. This was going to propel them into the future in a whole new way, peloton, obviously, all that kind of stuff.
Right. And so that pushed it. And then the last piece was we did politically learn a lesson from 2008, which was the government jumped in and jumped in early, both fiscally and monetarily, meaning we just threw money at it. And when that money got thrown, people said, you can't fight the Fed, you have to play. And that's been, for better or worse, the lesson of all this. And so people think and maybe rightly so, we're talking maybe they'll six, seven percent growth literally in the third or fourth quarter of this year.
I mean, this is sort of like a post Spanish flu situation. So we might actually have the Roaring Twenties until we don't, of course.
Well, right. Except for now. Here we are, as of course, at the moment when people are starting to get a little bit of optimism about, like life returning back to normal. I mean, measured tempered optimism about covid case is flattening and death rates flattening and new vaccines coming online at that moment. All of a sudden, the market and it's kind of traditionally like fucked in the head way is all of a sudden like worried about inflation.
And we saw the light last week, not a great week in the market, like one of the worst weeks in the market since it started. So explain that to me. And whether you think there's any legitimacy to that, it leads to another set of discussions that I want to have with you about the Biden stimulus and the big arguments around whether this thing makes a ton of sense or whether it is coming after five big bipartisan influxes of federal money into the system, whether it's actually too much and we risk actually overheating this thing in the next few months.
So there's a great phrase on Wall Street, which is buy the rumor, sell the news. And I think that's what this week was. I think for a year we were buying the rumor, the market was buying the rumor that things were going to get better. And now we're here, right? Vaccinations are starting in earnest. We're starting to see it. Hopefully things are going to get better. And all of a sudden it's a bit of a sell the news situation, because here we are and I think there are real questions as to what comes next and what happens next.
And you're starting to see interest rates creep up. Well, if interest rates creep up and even get higher, that's all of a sudden competing, if you will, with the stock markets competing with equities. Investors have a choice about where to put their money and the big tech stocks. All of a sudden people are saying, hmm, maybe I should take a little left over here. You're also seeing, I think, a question of what happens in a post pandemic world, which is to say, do people really use door dash as much?
Do people really use peloton as much? You know, the problem with Wall Street in many ways is it's very it's even though it's supposed to be a long term thinking, meaning eighteen, twenty four months out, it's very short term thinking. So when they see Peloton doing well and they sort of make these crazy projections. And then the question of course, is whether it can hold up.
And I think that's where we are right now. They started to raise the issue of the stimulus, right, one point nine dollars billion in stimulus. The House passed this thing late Friday night, early Saturday morning, whatever you want to call it. And, you know, in the end, I think there's a pretty broad consensus that on a purely party line basis, it's going to get enacted. And I'm curious, as you talk to people who are across the spectrum, business leaders, financial leaders, economists.
Right. And I see like mixed signals here. Right. There's a partisan split. We can talk about that. But there's also, you know, the Larry Summers of the world, someone progressive Democrat who is like two big inflation worried. And the market seems to be a little bit buying that notion right now. But then I saw one hundred and fifty business leaders last week signed on to this thing, including people like Steve Schwarzman. I mean, like hard core Republicans, like some very serious conservative partisans in the business world who were like, great Gojo.
So I'm just trying to figure out, like, what do business and finance and the economics world think about this plan?
So the business folks, I'm a little secret. I'm going to I'm going to whisper here for a second. I think the business folks, in truth, think it's too much money. But they like it because it's too much money. That that's a just keep that keep that in your head, but you don't know if you remember was going to Chuck Prince ran Citigroup into the financial crisis, a great phrase, which was when the music's playing, you got to dance.
And that's a little bit of what's going on here, the business community is very happy for the music to play into play longer and to play louder. And I think there's a view of we'll figure it out later. Right. Most of the economists I know, frankly, even particularly liberal economists, you mentioned Larry Summers, but others as well, I think are starting to have real concerns about how big the stimulus plan is. I mean, everybody looked at the financial crisis and said, we don't spend enough.
And so now we sit around going, well, OK, are we spending enough? And I think they're looking at some of these programs. I mean, three hundred fifty billion dollars that the program doesn't get spent at minimum until twenty twenty two. Twenty three. Right. Right, right. The 14 hundred dollar checks, that's four hundred and twenty two billion dollars of the program. And I think there's an argument to be made even when you think about what's happening, the stock market, whether it's GameStop or other kind of casino, the speculation part of it has actually stimulus checks are ending up there.
I'm not saying across the board and there clearly people who are vulnerable, who desperately need it. And I desperately wish we had a more precise way to get people money. Yes, right. But I think people are looking at all of that saying maybe it's too much. And then, of course, there's a question of whether it's just been larded up with other pet projects. Yeah.
Anybody who cares to go read the CBO projections about this and realizes that there's so many billions of dollars that are passed in the December bill that have not been close to spent now. And you look at some of the school spending, not only does it get spent until this year and doesn't get spent next year, there's billions being outlaid all the way out to twenty twenty eight totally. You know, Joe Biden could be on his way out of office if he served two terms and you'd still be spending down some money from the stimulus.
And I'm not critiquing that there's arguments for it, but there's a little bit of that. And it's not, again, just Republicans who have that. Some people who are having a little bit of a question about whether they might be a little bit going overboard. On the other hand, as you point out, there is a little bit of like, hey, I'd rather make that mistake than I think it's a precision issue, you know?
And I was talking to Janet Yellen. We did this conference this week and that was the issue. I think the argument that the administration makes privately and in some cases publicly when pushed is we don't have the apparatus in this country to actually precisely decide who actually deserves it and who should get it, who's really out of work, who's really been impacted and who hasn't. And I think the view is, you know, what? If we have to spend a little extra, maybe spend a little extra.
The question is, how much extra is we're talking about a couple hundred billion extra. But that sounds like a lot to begin with. But or are we talking about a trillion extra? Because we're talking about it's close to two trillion dollars. And I don't think we know the answer.
I want to give props to this thing. The Deal book, DC Policy Project and your amazing subbrand underneath The New York Times, a single deal book which started out as a very narrow Wall Street thing and then became a broader business and finance and economics thing. It now overlaps into a lot of public policy stuff. You guys did this thing in D.C., not really in D.C., because it was mostly virtual, but it was a D.C. focused thing last week and had a lot of very interesting people speaking at it.
One of whom I saw you interview was Mitt Romney, who, you know, has kind of embodies at this point the tripartite Republican critique of this bill now, which is the thing we just talked about, too big liberal laundry list. That's one thing. The second thing is process. You know, Joe Biden promised bipartisanship, not giving it to us. He's jamming this thing through on a party line basis. We were ready to deal with him.
Romney was one of those supposedly moderate senators who went up to the White House very early in the process and said, hey, we're ready to spend six hundred fifty six point eighty billion dollars. You guys want one point nine. Let's negotiate. And that didn't go anywhere negotiation wise. And then the third thing is you guys are backsliding on the schools. I wonder what you took away from that conversation with Romney, because obviously he's one of the very few.
Yes. Same Republicans left. Right. And yet his critique is now the same critique that, you know, the the whack jobs in the party are also making. And that's a kind of dangerous place for the administration to be. When you've got a unified Republican Party saying we're not on board with this thing.
You know, Senator Romney said he went obviously when he visited with with Biden. And I think he was expecting there to be some kind of back and forth. And the question about the back and forth is, was a gap just too wide? I mean, if you're at one point nine and the others are six hundred eighty seven hundred fifty, whatever your number is, there no middle ground. But one thing the senator said, which did strike me, as you said, look, they're going to pass it and they're going to pass it their way.
And I get it, because if we were in their shoes, meaning if we had control, we'd pass it to. Right. And I think, unfortunately, that speaks to where Washington is right now. And I think it's not where he wants it to be, obviously. But it's funny because I didn't think it was where Biden wanted it to be either. Right. But then again, maybe this is the lesson of the post financial crisis. Two thousand eight.
You remember when President Obama got in that office, you know, he campaigned on one to bring Washington together, and, boy, did he try and he got pummeled along the way. Yes.
I mean, he chased bipartisanship both on the stimulus and on the affordable. Act chase bipartisanship to the ends of the Earth for two years and then got his teeth kicked in in the midterm elections, the party did in 2010, partly because, as you know, again, the big lesson, the their recovery act turned out to be too small by everyone's agreement at this point. And I think it is one of the lessons that Biden learned, and I bet I agree with you.
I think Joe Biden would love to be able to get some Republican votes. I think that they do not want to waste a lot of time chasing them, though, given the various crises that they're confronting. Let me ask you one other question about one subelement of this debate, which is this minimum wage debate. And I'm curious again, to hear I mean, that was one of the things we learned. Senate parliamentarian this week said, no, you can't pass a minimum wage increase to 15 bucks or any kind of minimum wage increase through the reconciliation process that would let Democrats pass a bill with a narrow majority, 51 votes.
So I'm curious, again, go to business. Right. You hear such different points of view about this. You know, we've had some notable CEOs stand up and say, yeah, I'm already committed to 15. I think 15 is right. We've had a lot of economists who say, hey, there's been a revolution in labor economics. The reality is a gradual increase. The minimum wage isn't going to hurt jobs at all. And then you've got a lot of people in the traditional orthodoxy which says raise minimum wage, you're going to kill jobs, are going to crush jobs.
Give me your sense, because you spent a lot more time talking to people who are actual job creators than I do about how they see that debate.
Well, let's start with just the numbers. And I usually buy the CBO for the most part. I don't think it's a political organization and I think that they do a relatively good job. Right. So it would help. Twenty seven million Americans, no question. It would likely hurt one point four million Americans. All right. One point four million Americans, according to the CBO estimate, would lose their job. And so there's a question, what's the balance?
And I think, you know, as the president, the United States, I don't know if the president wants to think of myself as the CEO of the United States. You know, how do you measure that balance? Right. The companies that have come out for 15 dollars or more an hour, frankly, can afford to do it. Is this math there in a position to do it in certain ways? They want to pressure their competitors to do it who they think can't afford to do it.
So there's a showmanship issue to it. There's a marketing issue to it. Those that can do it are doing it. But they're doing it because they actually think it's good for their business. You know, Mitt Romney would tell you and, you know, Mitt Romney paired up with Tom Cotton, by the way, for this proposal that the minimum wage really should be ten dollars and should be phased in gradually. And it's true, if it was at ten dollars, you would not lose the one point four million.
Also, that twenty seven million number would come down. And I think you have to think about just what that means. I think that's the debate. You know, people having pushed Romney on this, you could go from 10 to 12 to 14, 15 over a period of time and maybe you get there. We're all headed on the same journey. The question is how quickly you get there. I think the fundamental question and I think that small businesses are scared, but we'll see what happens.
By the way, if the economy rips, the economy could rip off everyone's taxes, the economy could rip and maybe 15 dollars is totally fine in most places in the country. Yeah, well, the one question I'd ask, though, which I still don't understand, is why in so many of the cities of municipalities and states that have not tried to enact something along the order of fifteen dollars an hour, why they haven't. Right. Right. Why hasn't that happened?
You would think that the people would say, yeah, this makes no sense. I'm going to go vote. Yeah, that's a good question. It's one of the great challenges of the Democratic Party trying to somehow have this issue that are on which there's so much public support. And then they have been, for various reasons, stymied or not able to get it done in a lot of places. Obviously, there's these regional variations and there's differences from place to place.
But it is one of those great conundrums where you'd like to think that an issue that has seventy five or 80 percent of the public behind it wouldn't be that hard to get, shouldn't be that hard. This one turns out to be super hard for a variety of reasons.
Why don't Republicans lose points with the public over this issue? In some sense, I mean, obviously we don't be too Marxist here. But, you know, there's obviously a difference between business and labor. On the other hand, you know, we're all in the same boat on some level. And I don't mean to be naive about it, but you would think that like some of these companies that have seen it as being in their corporate interests, to have a happy workforce that can feed itself, that there would be some way in which there would be some enlightened self-interest that would come into play on the part of Republicans in their alliance with business, making some kind of gradual progress towards this, especially in light of all this economic data that suggests that a gradual increase over time isn't really a massive job killer.
It just feels like a place that would be ripe for a bunch of win wins here. Easy. I would think it would be easy, but here we are at seven dollars and twenty five cents an hour and it's a shame that a lot of people hurting.
You know, I ask you about one other area for just the perspective from business, because, you know, we did in our last episode of The Circus, we focused on the climate thing. And from Biden rolling out of this, you know, trying to put the prism of climate on all of the policy going forward that they're going to do especially a big thing like infrastructure that's going to be an even bigger bill than this stimulus bill. They're talking about a three to four trillion dollar bill on infrastructure that is going to apply the lens of climate to everything related to infrastructure.
And the fascinating thing, again, from my outsider's perspective, is I'm amazed to see Ford and GM and Delta all kind of saying stuff that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago about how fast they're moving towards electric vehicles, towards carbon neutrality, towards all that stuff.
Am I right? The long term thing here has always been you've got climate on one side, you've got jobs on the other side. And people would say the future is green energy. But the question was, when is the future going to come? I guess my question is from the point of view of business and the market, is the future now really finally here? So I think the future is not necessarily here right this second. But for the first time, the business community, the CEO community is saying to themselves, you know what, I'm looking down this tunnel and I see the light at the end that basically says we are going to have to deal with carbon.
I think the view is, if you believe the Paris climate accord, we're going to have to deal with carbon and we're going have to somehow get to net zero by 2050. So if that's true and it's happening around the world, we're going to have to deal with it. And guess what? It's twenty, twenty one, so we don't have a lot of time to figure this out. Now, there are some companies, whether it's Microsoft or Google or Apple, we're trying to get ahead of this and by the way, can afford to get ahead of it with some very ambitious plans very early on.
And they'll get credit for that with the public and their employees and everybody else. There's a competitive element to it in that regard. But I think for a lot of the others who have been resistant up until now, I think there's just a general acceptance. I think a lot of these companies, these privately used to fight it. I mean, yeah, they acknowledge it, but then they pretend it's not real or all of that. And so I think.
Now they're saying, OK, you know what, the fight is over, we're going to have to, I don't know, embrace it, but we have to figure it out. And I think that's what you're starting to see. Also, you're starting to see for the first time, investors actually assign multiples to companies based on what their climate risk is going to look like in the future. And they're starting to say, OK, we're going to give Tesla a lot more credit than most other companies for this.
And I think if you're Mary Barra on GM like Jesus, that's unbelievable. And we don't if you saw GM change your logo, it looks like this kind of, you know, New Age Eve style thing to try to signify we are we're changing here.
It's kind of amazing. And, you know, look, if you look at the way the Tesla is performed, I can see why Mary Barra would be looking on with some envy at Tesla and saying, give me some of that sugar, please. I have one last question before we take a break in this realm. And then I want to talk about the democratization of Wall Street and some of the GameStop and Robin Hood and all that stuff. But before we get out of Raw Politics intersects with this stuff, I ask you one last question, which is your perspective.
I obviously have one, but I'm not going to hold back, Nancy. I'm going to hold back. I mean, I have perspective on it.
But again, you're just so much deeper into this world than I have ever been. What you and I would say, you covering Wall Street and the way you do and business the way you do and me mostly covering it from the perspective of how does it intersect with politics and particularly the donor world of Wall Street and business.
You know, we kind of could say what they thought of Trump for a long time, which was they fucking hated it and he was a clown until he won. He came in and they were like, he's still a clown and we still kind of hate him, but he's doing stuff we really like on regulation and taxes. We're going to put up with it because there's a lot in it for us in terms of our bottom line.
But now he's gone. As he hovers out there in the world, what's your view of what I would call the kind of cross-party consensus in the business of financial world, which is really is a consensus that exists? It's not really the job is the Democrats, but they all often have the same point of view about these kinds of things. Do they look at Trump and say, God, I hope that guy just stays out of our politics we don't deal with?
I'm glad to see the back of him or there are a bunch of people kind of going to be OK if he came back.
You know what? I think on the whole, they they hope that there's a moat around Mar a Lago and that the bridge the bridge is pulled out. You know what I mean? I think that's the hope. I think that the this is really hates volatility. They hated the tweet storms. They just hated having to wake up every morning and try to grapple with all of that. And I do think there were policies that they liked of his, but I think they had to suppress and they knew they were suppressing their own view, both about character, but also about judgment.
And I think it came back in spades when it came to covid in terms of how we handle covid on the piece of judgment. And I think that most CEOs today, privately, publicly to a large degree, would say that. And I think there's going to be a very interesting fight in Washington between business and Biden for the first time, farseeing because the fights that happened between business and Trump were usually over his social policies. And I think with Biden, because they got what they wanted on the economy, I think with Biden, we're going to see a shift where the fight is actually real.
It's not just going to be you know, I don't like immigration or this. I'm not saying that the immigration fight wasn't a real fight, but I think it's going to be a fight they're going to dig in on because it's going to affect their balance sheet. Right.
Right. Different kind of fight. All right. It's a good time to take a break. Let's actually do a podcast unusually devoted to matters financial and economic. Maybe we should go and actually do some business here. Let's take a break and do that business, sell some soap. So we'll come back and talk to my friend Andrew Ross Sorkin here on Hell and High Water.
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I mean, there's a lot of investors out there. This whole phenomenon of these, you know, Internet stocks has transformed, transformed and in the past week. Right. And it has taken this sort of like anti-establishment flavor in some pockets. So, you know, I understand the frustrations that people might have with, you know, short selling or these different these different firms. We we think that there is a bottled up. There's a lot of bottled up energy because a lot of these customers felt like they were left out of the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis.
There was the whole Occupy Wall Street movement in the early part of the last decade. So I understand the frustrations.
So that's Vlad Tonev, the the CEO of Robin Hood, the democratizing app trading platform for the little guy as itself's styles itself. Yep. Talking there with our guest today, Andrew Ross Sorkin, on television in the midst of the GameStop controversy. So I'm going to throw you a large question here, pal, because I feel like this GameStop Robin Hood thing became one of the rare things from Wall Street where, like everybody in the country was talking about it for about a week and like whether they really understood it or not, some people thought it was a scandal some people thought was really fucking cool.
People would never talk about Wall Street, never talk about finance, were absorbed in this story. And I'm sure you got that kind of feedback as you were covering it, that level of popular fascination that was really quite stunning. So I really just want to throw you a big open ended question. Right, because there's a lot in this about the democratization of Wall Street, about the populist spirit in America right now and how it applies to Wall Street and these particular characters, this Robin Hood and GameStop itself.
So I'm just going to throw you the fat one here and say, like now with a little bit of it's a little bit in hindsight, but like, what do you make of what happened and what does it mean? So I have to admit, this thing threw me for a complete loop because it was the opposite of anything I thought that would happen, but more importantly was the genesis of it was different than anything I imagined as well. Post financial crisis, all we did was talk about trying to protect the little guy, to protect the small investor.
And if you really believe the investors and GameStop, this was about their freedom. This was about their opportunity to stick it to the man and their demonstration that the market unto itself is manipulated. And we're going to show you that we can manipulate it, too, and stop trying to protect me, the little guy, because your protection of me is actually not protecting me at all. You're protecting the establishment. You're protecting the hedge funds. Now, it might have started that way, but every good protest gets co-opted by looters and others.
And so in the end, the sad, sad or not, I think the reality is that the hedge funds made off as the winners again. Cynically, maybe they always do, and the little guy might have stuck it to the man and stuck it to himself in the process, is this thing symptomatic of something larger?
You've now used the phrase the casino a couple of times in our open. You said, you know, capitalism on the brink. I want to know what you mean by that and whether this is part of what you're talking about. This kind of you know, I feel like this is an instance or an example of a thing that's connected to a broader phenomenon instead of concerns that we should all be focused on right now, when you think about where we are right now in late stage capitalism in America.
OK, so let's just take as is the argument, though, that there was protest investing because there are people and I don't know I don't know, we can debate this. There are people who just think this is a classic pump and dump. Right. Right. That this is just a pump and dump dressed up with a little Mother Theresa around it. Yeah. And then there is others who think this is like a real thing. So let's assume it's a real thing.
You think it's at least a little bit of real thing, right. I have friends whose 18 year old kids were doing this for exactly this reason. They were not pumping and dumping. They thought they were part of the little guy revolution to fuck the hedge fund. Totally kids of Wall Street, people that I know who are like part of this and we're like into it for precisely that reason. Maybe that's not the majority, but that's something. And they didn't care if they lost their money because they were trying to make a point.
Yes. And so I think that part is very, very real. I think that's very real. And I think it represents this moment where people are saying, you know what, the system is so effed. We've watched these guys get so rich, especially Jerkovic, by the way. I mean, I think this goes back to the question you were even talking about before you see the unemployment rate and then you see what the stock market is and you say this whole thing makes no sense.
How is it possible that Jeff Bezos is worth twice as much, you know, when twice as many people out of work? So I do think that this represents potentially a turning point in the conversation of sorts around what's supposed to happen in the markets. And I know that's about what's supposed to happen in the market or what's supposed to happen in the economy. I don't know if this therefore translates into some kind of conversation about tax policy in the United States later this year when the Bush administration digs into that in earnest.
I don't know how it plays itself out because I think you have two things happening. One is you have a group of people saying, I want to screw the big guy or screw the suits. And at the other end, you have people who say, I want the freedom is like a freedom argument going on. I want the freedom to be able to play in the casino. I want to be able to speculate, you know, don't stop me from buying the lottery ticket.
I want my shot.
But am I wrong to see the game stop Robin Hood thing and the explosive growth of crypto and NFTE, these non fungible tokens? Right. This notion of like digital tchotchkes that are like now there's an exploding market for crypto kitties and that's an older version of this. But now there's new versions of it. And it's like people with supposedly unique digital assets that live in block chain, all of this stuff. Am I wrong to see that this is all part of the same thing in some way or these things that are really I like an idiot and these are wildly they're all I know they're discrete phenomenon, but it feels like they're part of the same thing.
No, I actually think they're all related in so many ways. By the way, part of the early GameStop investors, some of them were actually Bitcoin winners who use some of their proceeds from that. But the larger sort of thematic idea, I think, is a very anti-establishment anti institution, anti expert view of the world. By the way, I even think this is like started in 2008. This is like a financial crisis. I can draw the line to it, which is I think that was the moment that people said the experts don't know what they're talking about.
The institutions aren't here for me, government stocks and they're not here for me. And it's sort of opened everything up. And Bitcoin was supposed to be the solution to the money piece of it. Right. That doesn't know what they're doing. It's a mess, this is this other decentralized thing with no expert or no institution at the top, in a way, GameStop is a bit of that in that it may be decoupled from the sort of classic analysts.
Wall Street never liked the stock. All these people thought it was crazy, but these people decided they could make it so. And then after a bit that way to a layer on top of all of that, the casino thing you've been talking about.
Right. Which is on top of all of that fucked the man spirit, the populist spirit, that anti expert, anti big guy, anti elite kind of sentiment. Then there's also the speculative element to it. Right. Which is kind of like, you know, hey, there's a big casino playing here. I want in why I want to see I want to give me my shot. This is all about giving my shot. I by the way, I went on TV one morning when all this was going on.
And I was so concerned for the the viewer, the little guy. And I can't tell you, I mean, the amount of people who just torched me torched me online saying, what are you talking about? Stalking, you know, why are you trying to protect us from doing this when we are basically losing our shirt, buying lottery tickets? We could go to Vegas and play the tables there and everyone can lose their shirt. You know, we're allowed to lose our shirts in every place except this one, and they want their shot.
I really think there is an element of that. And what's so backwards about this in a weird way, is because of covid, a lot of people actually have more money than they ever had, not less. And so they're trying to put it somewhere. That's literally what's going on. They haven't been going to the clubs at night. They haven't been doing all this other stuff. So now this is their version of the club and they're showing off and doing all it's that there's a whole thing going on.
Right? They've saved money and it's accessible online in a way that Wall Street has always felt more forbidding, even though you could do a lot of stuff online. But somehow this is all made it. You know, it's app driven and it's super easy, like it's idiot proof in some sense. I mean, not in the larger sense in terms of how to execute what you want to do, not approve of the sense of whether you're going to lose money or make money.
But, well, the problem is the house always wins. But you write this is like you can do draft kings or you can do this. Yes, right.
And when you said that you think that capitalism, late stage capitalism is on the brink, what did you mean? This some of the stuff that's feeding into your sense of it? Totally, because I think you have to think you have a whole group of people who are both playing the markets on one side, but they're playing the markets recognize they know that the game is rigged and they don't care. They're trying to take advantage of the big game on one side.
And then on the other side, you have a political class and just a whole part of the country. I think that says this whole thing doesn't just doesn't work, you know? And I think we had the conversation with minimum wage in the United States. So I think we're having conversations about universal basic income in this country. I don't know where that goes, but I think there's going to be I think over the next four years, maybe longer.
I don't know if it's this administration or the next one. However, this ends because this is going to end at some point. I think it's going to create an inflection point where the question really gets asked.
One of the things of now being an old man and having covered this political game for over 30 years, like the two defining features of that time. For me, the big stories of my career have been polarization and populism and the populist thing on the left and the right that drove Trump and drove Sanders different kinds of populism, dramatically different, to be clear. But the same kind of animating impulse that turned those guys into cult figures of a certain kind in their respective ideological cadre is is a giant story that I just don't see it, even though Joe Biden was not that, and even though he was arguably the only person who could beat Donald Trump, the forces that are driving the boat, the polarization, but certainly the populism are not like in any way.
Don't seem to me to be ebbing at all and quite, quite the contrary. And so I do, you know, in a less sophisticated way than you when it comes to the markets and business.
I do sort of see that confluence of just there's still just a lot of broken lives and a lot of anger and a lot of question actually had driven at the overclass because the overclass has gotten so much richer and so much more dominant culturally and financially that, like their anger at it, is much more pointed and much more passionate than it's ever been before, I think.
But does it come to a head or as we talked about, Michael Douglas at the top, is this just another example? And we'll do this conversation ourselves in 20 years and we'll find the next one maybe.
And, you know, again, I make no predictions like my favorite political philosopher, Yogi Berra, who always said that prediction is difficult, especially about the future. I don't like to make predictions, but I will ask you this as I bring this second segment of our discussion to a close. You mentioned Amazon before and I am interested in this again, a thing in my career. I spent a few years up in San Francisco covering Silicon Valley at The New Yorker magazine and writing a letter from Silicon Valley and wrote a book about Bill Gates and Microsoft brilliantly so.
So I am interested in just the amazing amount of the growth in both the market capitalization and the market power of that handful of. You know, Facebook and and Amazon and Twitter, that core Google, obviously, you know, the fang companies. What do you see there? What do you see happening? You know what I wrote about the Microsoft antitrust trial? That was the first moment where there was really after two decades of Silicon Valley barefoot billionaires, creators, the new economy.
We love them. We love them. All of a sudden, there was this worry about power, concentrated power in the technology sector, and it rose up. And in spite Bill Gates, in a way, and then it went away, you know, now these companies have way more power, I would say, even though Microsoft had at its peak. But you hear the rumblings in D.C. about antitrust and privacy and other things. Where do you see that going?
Do you sense any kind of a movement in the country broadly and in our politics to try to do anything to constrain the power of those companies?
So this is like the trillion dollar, the multitrillion dollar question, and what I don't know is it's funny, had Trump won. I actually thought these companies were going to get broken up. I did what I asked, which is, you know, completely at odds with everything you would have thought. What I don't know under the Biden administration, frankly, is what their appetite for antitrust is going to be. I think there'll be some, but I could also see it be tempered, meaning, you know, the case against Google.
They put some regulations on it. They make it a little more difficult for them. I don't know. Look, could you break up Facebook? Yes. If you broke up Facebook, how would you do it? You'd make Facebook one thing, you'd make Instagram another thing. You'd make WhatsApp another thing and maybe make the other bets. Another thing. Would that create more competition? Probably would write Google separate Google from YouTube gets a little more complicated after that, maybe separate Google cloud Amazon.
If you broke Amazon up between the retail business and the cloud business, maybe you stop. I mean, it's sort of hard to figure out what the right answer is. Do you stop Amazon from allowing its platform to be used for third party sellers? Because one of the things you keep saying is that Amazon has this strange tendency to strange to look at the data, see what's selling, and then to make their own white label version of it and compete with them.
Strangest thing I've ever heard of. Right. I mean, we should be going on forever in all sorts of industries. It's just being done with precision in a particularly unique way. And Amazon. And there's part of me that says, well, you know, they've also helped all these small businesses around the world, frankly, by using the platform and then a couple of gotten screwed. And then there's another view that's like, well, if you stop the platform from doing that, sort of Elizabeth Warren would say pick one, either sell your own stuff or somebody else's stuff, but that's it.
Do I think that some outcome of those possibilities will happen? I do. It's hard to think that this is going to go away now, whether it gets all settled the next four years that I don't know. I think this conversation, if it doesn't get settled up in the next four years that we're going to have for the next decade, because this is. This is the new oil, there's no other way to think of it's interesting to me that, like.
I think people hate Mark Zuckerberg in a way that I don't think people hate Jeff Bezos and I literally think that matters. I think Amazon, as much as there are pockets of people who hate it, everybody is so addicted to it at this point.
They're wedded to it. Yes. And by the way, it's helped it's improved people's lives in many ways. No one will yell at me when I say this, but I know Amazon's business practices, labor practices. I know there are people out there who are pissed at them for a variety of things. But in everyday America, most people are like, I'm really glad to have Amazon founder. Like there's a reason why they have Amazon Prime they like.
The value of Jeff Bezos is relentless focus on keeping customers satisfied.
People are generally pretty satisfied, like Amazon. You don't hear a lot of people mad at Jeff Bezos out in the world.
You hear a lot of people who fucking hate Mark Zuckerberg and hate Facebook and hate Twitter and see those as being a source of a different kind of set of social ills. Right. They seem a lot more vulnerable to me politically than the commerce companies do because they're in the middle of this other discussion about misinformation, disinformation, about parents who are worried about their kids being online too much.
There's totally tons of things that make them more vulnerable, it seems to me. Totally.
But but I would say, given that you covered the Microsoft trial, you appreciate this better than most, I think, which is who's got the bigger moat around them, really? Right. Amazon's got the real moat. It's like a physical moat. Yeah. You know, Facebook sure owns a huge part of the business. But if I had said the word ticktock to you two years ago, you would've looked at your watch, right? Still. You know, I still might if I said clubhouse, you would, you know, talk about maybe go to a game or I don't know what.
And here we have this new audio. You know, social media enable that. Yeah. So I don't know. I actually do think that the clubhouse is the world and the tech stocks and others. You know, I do believe there's still innovation in the Vallens in certain ways. And so I don't know what happens to a Facebook, but I agree with you. I think that the public hates social media. It's funny, the public loves social media and also loves social media because they're addicted to it.
And I think part of it is they hate the addiction.
Well, look, I'm the biggest addict of all, and this is actually a good time to break up. I got to order some products of Ross auctions on Amazon right now. I know where my copy of Too Big to Fail is. Oh, God bless you, Speaker. Too Big to fail. When we come back after this break, we're going to do like Wall Street and popular culture because interest, in addition to being a brilliant journalist, a great television personality, a brilliant guy, knows this world better than anybody on planet Earth, is also now an increasingly increasingly fecund source of cultural artifacts that shape the way America thinks about these assholes who work in business and finance.
We're going to talk about that after this break on how it highwater.
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The Depression may have started because of a stock market crash, but what hit the general economy was a disruption of credit. Average citizens unable to borrow money to do anything to buy a home, start a business, stock the shelves. Credit has the ability to build a modern economy, but lack of credit has the power to destroy it swiftly and absolutely. If we do not act boldly and immediately, we will replay the depression of the 1930s, only this time it will be.
Far, far worse. We don't do this now. We won't have an economy on Monday. So there's Paul Giamatti in the HBO film, Too Big to Fail at playing Ben Bernanke. And we're back with Andrew Ross Sorkin, who wrote the book, Too Big to Fail. Had that movie made a little bit before the movie got made of a book that I wrote called Game Change. And so Andrew and I have this weird, like kind of common.
We both we had HBO movies made on the basis of books that we wrote at roughly the same time. Yeah, it's funny. When I had somebody reach out to you to say, hey, what should we pull from too big to fail to play? You picked this Bernanke thing, which I had picked on my own.
And so it's a very nice little piece of sound, partly because Paul Giamatti is is also played is also in billions. Yes. Another series that Andrew has co created with my friends, Brian Koppelman, Dave Levine on Showtime. So I just ask you, man, how do you feel about this?
You know, you and I have talked about this offline on various occasions, but I'm curious at this juncture, too big to fail.
Is your only book still right? Only book that gets me that way, I mean, like I'm not missing, it was not a book that I missed. So you haven't missed one. An incredible book that kind of defines the financial crisis of 2007, 2008 that Andrew wrote.
I'm curious how you feel just about the whole thing at this point. Looking back on it, the book, the movie and all the talk about billions. I want to talk about this new thing, talking about a film project related to GameStop. But just talk to our listeners a little bit about what it's like to go through that thing of writing a big, epic, important book and then seeing it made into a movie. And now how you look back on it and how it informs your aspirations going forward.
Well, so I still think that too big to fail was the hardest thing I ever did in my life, probably. And I think maybe those proud of me. For me, it was a personal competition just to see whether I could even do it. Unlike you writing books and magazine articles for years, I probably had never written more than 5000 words in my whole life at one time. So writing one hundred twenty thousand a year turned into more than that was unto itself.
Sort of a challenge to me was just a fascinating experience. I learned so much from it, both the writing of the book and then coproduced in the movie. And I loved it. I loved every second of it. And I learned so much just about how that whole business works and have the opportunity to work with Paul Giamatti was, you know, sort of beyond and to see sort of get into the culture and to be able to explain something.
I mean, look, these topics that we're talking about are complicated things. And a lot of people don't even when we deal with it because it feels hard. And so all I wanted to do is figure out a way to take people inside and make it human and make it dramatic. It didn't didn't really need me to make it dramatic because I thought it was. But to tell it as a personal story, a human story, as opposed to a story about institutions and numbers and whatnot.
So there's not much to say except that it was a fascinating experience. It's really sort of opened my eyes to other things that I then was able to get involved in, like billions and other projects.
Yeah, it does whet your appetite, right, because I think we both say, you know, writing a book is a uniquely challenging thing and you're proud of it in a way that you're as much as having. It is amazing to see the movie. I'm sure if you were like me, you sat there and you watched this thing on screen and we're just sort of like, you know, not in the making of it.
And then seeing it that on the night you first ever saw it, you sort of sat there and thought, oh, my God, I can't believe this. I couldn't be luckier. On the other hand, in the end, what you really remember about this is the having written the book and the book is like the thing that really means, I mean, the book, but about the years of labor. And, you know, that's really you own it in a way that that the movie you don't.
With I'll tell you. So, yes, 100 percent the book in many ways. And people you know, obviously the books longer than the film and the film can only do so much in certain ways. I had a very lucky experience with this film. Curtis Hanson was our director. He's no longer alive, but he was a spectacular man. And they invited me into the the editing room in L.A. towards the end after they'd done the first cut. And I sat there, I remember with Barbara, who's the editor, and we went through it and really moved stuff around.
And it was it to me, it was an amazing experience to see what you could do on film that I didn't even understand. It didn't fully appreciate how much you could change the scene. So when I saw the final product, you know, yes, I had a smile across my my face, no question. But the film was is something I'm also proud of because it was just selfishly a great experience, a great learning experience when we had the great experience on Game Changer, working with Danny Strong and Jay Roach in the same way.
HBO was a wonderful home. You hear horror stories. I know we both do have heard horror stories of people, have written books and then are end up angry at the adaptations because they feel like their work has been disrespected or plundered in some way.
That's not the experience that either one of us had because HBO under under our mutual friend Len Amato, who rented films, was very attentive to the notion that these films should be true to the books that they were based on. And I think we were very lucky, both of us, in that regard. Let's play Bobby Axelrod in this reporter thing from the pilot that Andrew pointed out. I was going to put on something for maybe later in the series.
But this is from the pilot from billions, and it plays into something we just talked about as populist moment and some of the sentiments on Wall Street. Let's play that where the reporter is talking to Axe in the pilot of the series. Give me some insight into how you process information.
The press acts like information is a dirty word. Everyone has access to the information. We just know how to analyze it better. You answer me one. When did it become a crime to succeed in this country? America used to salute the guy in the limousine and wanted to be the guy in the limousine. They still want to, but now they throw eggs at it.
So there's Bobby Axelrod from Billions, played by Damian Lewis. I quickly mentioned that you were a co creator of that. Brian, David, David. And I know you're not. You know, this is not a thing. There's a co creator of it. You're not in there. They're now in their head into their fifth season and their fifth season got disrupted. Yes, but I know you're not, like, actively involved your scriptwriter now. I'm proud, Papa.
Papa. And they're doing a great job with it.
I mean, but just tell me about that. Is Bobby Axelrod in your mind? I know they're all composite characters in the show, but what is Bobby? By the fifth season, he's much more like Michael Douglas on Wall Street at the beginning of that series. He was a lot more you know, he was more of a mixed character where he wasn't just a rapacious vulture. And now I think he's evolved into a more straightforwardly rapacious vulture over the course of the five seasons.
I'm curious how you thought of, as you guys were first creating the series, what you were thinking of? We know that the Giamatti character is a little bit based on Preet Bharara. But Bobby was what and what was the aspiration in the creation of it? That character was was meant to exemplify what in the private equity and Wall Street world. So I want to speak for Brian and David now, because they're the ones who really know and they're doing.
They're doing a great job with who Bobby has become. But I'll say that, look, when I first started thinking about even trying to put a project like this together, this probably 2011 right after too big to fail with HBO. I thought somebody should do a show about this world of finance and try to get it through. These characters on Wall Street really are. And obviously the hedge fund guys were they were the kings of Wall Street. And I remember going to L.A. and meeting some agents and people and they were like, Sorkin, nobody likes these guys.
They hate these guys. Even if you're telling me that they're interesting or nice on one side and bad and forget about it and remember going home, being kind of depressed about the situation. And my wife was watching USA Networks and she was watching Law and Order repeat. And I said to her, you know, what kind of shows were legal shows? Legal shows always work. Why? Why is that? Why don't people love a procedural? And that was sort of like a bit of a eureka moment because I thought, OK, if you could set these two worlds against each other, but more importantly, you have to set them against type, right.
At least initially, even if you don't like the hedge fund guy on the outside, you have to sort of fall in love with him a little bit. And the prosecutor who's supposed to be doing everything in the name of right is invariably going to be conflicted because I covered a million White-Collar trials, as have you, I'm sure. And there's always something else going on. And so, you know, I think that Bobby and I think you saw it in the pilot and shot obviously early on.
I think the viewer has a perspective of is he good? Is he bad? There's things I like about things I don't like about him. What is he really underneath? And I won't make a judgment on where maybe you think he is right now. But I think that over time, the quote unquote, real the real version of everybody is supposed to emerge. And maybe that's what you're you're feeling right now. Well, yeah, I actually. Now, do you say I'm just going to play let's play this more recent this fifth season, Bobby Axelrod thing.
We'll move off billions in a second. But I do want to just as a sense of evolution, there was the Bobby Axelrod from the pilot. Here's Bobby Axelrod in season five of billions.
The headmaster was kind enough to send me the money for this morning's lesson, and I'm here to give you a little bit about what the school has been holding back from you.
The goddamn truth about Darwin scarcity and the world you actually live in. It's not the warm swaddled place your headmaster and your parents have told you about, it's populated by people like me who will tear you apart. Nature didn't select me, I selected myself by harnessing my nature. He's speaking at his kids boarding school and he goes on to there to extol capitalism in a way that's very difficult.
I would just say I think what your point is, is that the evolution of this character, maybe because of all the battles he's been through with Chuck Rhoades, played by Paul Giamatti and others, is that he's a more nakedly, hostilely aggressive. But still there's things that are lovable at but he's become much more the redness in his tooth and claw are redder now than they were, I would say. And that they'd be at the inception.
Maybe, but let me say it again. I don't want to speak for Brian or David or the writers who are doing such a strange job with it. But I will say that one of the things that's always to me need the audience and I know myself appreciate Bobby is his honesty. So to me, when I watch a scene like that, I see a guy, whether you agree or disagree with him, I think you admire the honesty about it.
At least maybe that's a hope. I don't know.
So I asked you, give me your top five Wall Street movies and we talked about Wall Street. We played Wall Street or it's the basically the top everybody's list. Your other five, just for the record here, trading places.
I mean, nobody's done a great just Wall Street comedy. True. I mean, you're going to see the next one is a bit of a dramedy, but it's not a true comedy. Right.
So you got Wall Street trading places, the big short, Wolf, of Wall Street and Boiler Room, which is a great list. They're super interesting. They come from different eras, trading places, obviously a straight up comedy, Big Short, both a comedy and a drama, Wolf, of Wall Street also has a lot of comedy in it. Right. I mean, what I find interesting about them all is that they are all, you know, as much as people both.
I mean, I don't know. I would even say people love and hate Wall Street. Even people who even people they hate and they. Well, happy. Right, right. They hate and hate Wall Street. Right. Even people who invest a lot of money on Wall Street and appreciate it for what it is don't really love Wall Street. But these movies are beloved. All of those I mean, Wall Street trading places, the big short, Wolf, of Wall Street, at least I'd say Boiler Room is not quite as iconic or pantheon as those other four, but their beloved movies.
What is it about that list? What are the things that those representations of Wall Street, of those movies, what is it that makes them compelling to viewers?
After you answer the question, I want to take it to what this next movie project that you're working on is and how you think about it that way in terms of that. But what do you see in common in those movies that works that doesn't just have people say, fuck it, I don't want to watch a fucking movie about Wall Street assholes.
Why would I want to watch that movie?
Because there's a fascination with the central character in each of those films. So much so that I think the audience. Either relate to them or wants to be them. Even though they know that they hate everything about them. And to me that you think about Michael Douglas. You know, when Oliver Stone put that film together, he wanted people to hate Michael Douglas and to hate Wall Street and what happened? Michael Douglas became a hero, to become a hero to Wall Street.
People on Wall Street wanted to be Michael Douglas. And I think that's similar in many ways to the character of Leonardo DiCaprio, that there's a love hate thing that goes on with these individuals because they have a certain code, they have a certain approach to life. And it's not something that I necessarily suggesting needs to be glamorized persay, but. I think that the people who made those films found a way to do it in such a way that where they create this really compelling character, really compelling story, that some degree glamorized what this whole life was, but also for sticking needles in it the entire time.
And that's the magic of it.
I'm going to now play two pieces of sound. I want to put these two piece of sound next to each other because I think it will illustrate perhaps the challenge that Andrew faces as he considers going on to do a movie project, which we'll talk about in a second about the GameStop kind of phenomenon. So first, let's listen to Jordan Belfort in Wolf of Wall Street. Here's Leo DiCaprio.
All you have to do today is pick up that phone. And speak the words that I have taught you and I will make you richer than the most powerful CEO in the United States of fucking America.
I want you to go out there. And I want you to ram Steve Madden's stock down your clients throats till they fucking choke on it, till they choke on it and they buy a hundred thousand shares. That's what I want to. You be ferocious, you'd be relentless. Be telephone sucking. So that's DiCaprio playing Jordan Belfort, the Wolf of Wall Street. Now, here's a guy who got famous in the GameStop thing. This guy's name is Keith Gill.
His avatar on Robin Hood is roaring Kiddi. He's giving he's giving testimony here to the House Financial Services Committee. Let's listen to Roaring Kiddi.
It is true that my investment in that company multiplied in value many times. For that, I feel enormously fortunate. I also believe the current price of the shares demonstrates that I've been right about the company. A few things I am not I'm not a cat. I'm not an institutional investor, nor am I a hedge fund. I do not have clients and I do not provide personalized investment advice for fees or commissions.
I'm just an individual whose investment in GameStop and posts on social media were based upon my own research and analysis.
I read a story. In deadline that you and our friend I mentioned before, Animoto, who's now left HBO Let Amortisation Jason, someone from Blumhouse are developing a movie at GameStop Project. I ask you as I play Jordan Belfort there, and then I played the real guy Roarin Kittie, have you not set yourself a rather large challenge and try to make a compelling film about someone who is that on Jordan Belfort? Like, let's put it that way. There's a dork quotient here that is very high related to the story.
You're not familiar. We could find a videotape of Jordan Belfort at a hearing in Congress. You might come across differently.
What do you think the Warren Kittie guy is really like Jordan Belfort in private? As always, you're trying to say it's just because he was making the assumption. Do I? Look, I think that this is the modern day version of these stories. And I do think the challenge is going to be in the characters. But the characters to me are so spectacular behind the scenes, whether you think about. The folks that Rory Kennedy represented and by the way, there are so many other characters that glommed on and jumped on to the roaring kiddie train that.
Are so unique and frankly, over the top, and if you can put them on screen, I think you'll you get really excited. I also think that between the story inside of what was happening at Robin Hood is the story that's happening at GameStop themselves and inside the story that the hedge funds that were shorting this thing and inside the story of, you know, the market makers that got involved in this whole crazy thing, I think that there's there's enough character.
I don't know if the Jordan Belfort, but I think get you pretty close. And I'm hoping that we can. You know, fun, fun way to put it on screen. Well, I obviously set those things up a little bit of an unfair way just for fun to kind of do the contrast. But and I get it. I get the challenge that we've got. And that's that's part of the job. There's there's a kernel of truth in it, but it's not at all.
Look, I mean, this team that you're working with on developing this film is a very high quality group of people. And the combination of your knowledge and what you've learned about how to translate stuff from this world on a screen with Jason Blum and Len Amato, that's a powerhouse team. So I think the challenge is high. But I also think that you guys are in a better position than any.
I've certainly learned so much. They're amazing. There's a bunch of these projects, as you know, in Hollywood. And I when I think about the various projects I've heard written about in this in this sphere out in Hollywood, I look at yours and think you guys are head and tails above your competitors in terms of likely to make something that I will want to watch.
So you're very kind of say that a knock on the wood, but my microphone fell off.
You are a great and glorious American. Andrew Ross Sorkin, thank you for taking the time today to be on holiday water. And we got to, like, hang out a little bit some point soon.
We absolutely do. Thank you so very much for having me. Appreciate it. Hell and High Water is a podcast from the Recount and I Heart Radio. Thanks again to Andrew Ross Sorkin for being here. If you like this episode of Hell and High Water, please subscribe to the podcast and leave a nice rating in the Apple podcast app, Hell and High Water.
We'll be taking a break next week, but we will be back on Tuesday, March 16th. I am your host and the executive editor of the recount, John Heilemann. Bruce Weinstein is a co creator of Hell and High Water. Aleah Jackson and David Wilson engineered the podcast. Justin Chervil and Diana handled the research. Stephanie Stender is our host, producer and Christian Fidel Castro. Russell is our executive producer.
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