Week in politics: Banking volatility; efforts to change TikTok ownership
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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Thanks to the quick action of my administration over the past few days, Americans can have confidence that the banking system is safe. Your deposits will be there when you need them.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
President Biden speaking earlier this week. We're joined now by NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thanks so much for being with us.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, Scott. Thanks for having me.
SIMON: The president has a political line to finesse here. On the one hand, he wants to shore up banks but doesn't want to be accused of bailing out fat cats. And on the other, no one wants an unstable financial system. How do you think the president is doing to navigate this?
MONTANARO: Yeah. Well, first of all, I mean, this is nowhere near the situation of 2008. I mean, I understand there's this populist notion out there in our politics certainly of not wanting to help banks. But this actually isn't even about helping banks. This isn't a bailout for those banks themselves. This is about making sure people know that the money they put into these banks is there. That's sort of the end of where the money from the government is going, to help make sure those accounts are shored up. So it's a tricky political line for any president when you're dealing with this. But really, a domino effect hurting the economy would be far worse.
SIMON: What about the charge made by some in recent days that some of those banks were so busy trying to align themselves with social and political policies that they were inattentive to keeping their depositors' money safe?
MONTANARO: Yeah, and all this kind of started with conservatives who lined up saying that DEI and ESG policies, as they're called, are to blame. That's diversity, equity and inclusion in hiring and environmental, social and governance policies with how companies' money is used. That's basically companies wanting to be socially conscious. But there's really little evidence that in these cases that any of that led to these banks' failures. There's certainly an argument to be made, if you've got money that you want to invest, whether socially conscious policies are a priority if you're strictly looking to make the most money possible. But this debate really seems to have little to do with what actually happened with the failed Silicon Valley Bank, for example, whose failure was really about bad investments, increased interest rates and people wanting their money back.
SIMON: We're approaching two decades since the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and in the Senate there's a move to undo two congressional resolutions that authorized the use of military force there - one, Gulf War of 1991 and the other from 2002. Why go through with this now?
MONTANARO: I know. Talk about flashbacks. You know, it is the 20th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war next week. So this is really symbolic, you know, given that anniversary and that combat operations there ended a decade ago. But this hasn't come out of nowhere. You know, it's been a years-long effort, largely driven by two senators - Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, and Todd Young, a Republican from Indiana.
And it's part of a larger debate of who should have more power to when it comes to authorizing military force, the president or Congress. The Constitution gives it to Congress, but Congress has really ceded it to presidents really since the end of World War II. There really hasn't been a war declaration since then. What's interesting here is the emerging GOP split on this. Some Republicans are on board. Others, though, feel that this is a bad sign, especially to Mideast allies who are nervous about the U.S. increasingly turning its focus more to China. And there's certainly been a pivot there.
SIMON: Well, and that brings up the matter of TikTok. A different bipartisan group of senators is pushing to give the Biden administration more power to ban TikTok. The administration told the app's Chinese owners they must sell or face a ban. Help us understand what's going on here.
MONTANARO: I know. It's obviously a pretty big deal to the social fabric of the country - TikTok. TikTok is the most downloaded app out there right now. Some 80 million Americans are on TikTok. And that means millions of young people in particular handing over their data to a Chinese-owned company, which really worries U.S. intelligence agencies who see this as a real threat. FBI Director Chris Wray said it, quote, "screams out with national security concerns" because of the potential for exploitation from the Chinese government, you know, if they ask for this data, which the company would be required to if they were asked.
You know, and this isn't about really not being able to see funny videos. You know, this is kind of exactly the point to many in the intelligence community, that they fear having this many Americans hooked on the app essentially softens them up if and/or when they - you know, China chooses to subtly push propaganda, manipulate algorithms to steer Americans how they want.
SIMON: NPR's Domenico Montanaro, thanks so much.
MONTANARO: You're so welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.