Jul 23, 2021 - Podcasts

Patriotism tested at the Olympics

For Americans, the Tokyo Olympics will be a test of what patriotism looks like in 2021. Axios and our partners at Momentive have polled more than 5,000 people on their feelings about the U.S. and other countries at the Games.

  • Plus, the scope of the opioid epidemic.
  • And, the Delta variant grips Capitol Hill

Guests: Axios' Dave Lawler, Bob Herman and Sarah Mucha.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Margaret, Talev, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Amy Pedulla, Naomi Shavin, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected] You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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MARGARET TALEV: Good morning!

Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Friday, July 23rd.

I’m Margaret Talev, filling in for Niala Boodhoo. Here’s how we’re making you smarter today: patriotism gets a test at the Olympics. Plus, the Delta variant grips Capitol Hill. But first: getting drug companies to pay for the growing overdose crisis is today’s One Big Thing.

While the COVID pandemic has raged in the U.S., another public health crisis never stopped. And in fact, it's still growing. Drug overdose deaths hit a record of 93,000 in the U.S. in 2020. And opioids, particularly the synthetic fentanyl, are a major factor. Now this week, we saw some more movement in that fight by states to get drug companies to pay for their role in this devastating epidemic. Bob Herman Axios’ healthcare business reporter has some updates for us. Good morning, Bob.

BOB HERMAN: Hi Margaret.

MARGARET: So Bob, tell us about this $26 billion national opioid settlement, which companies are part of it? What are the details that we need to know?

BOB: Yeah, 14 states led the negotiations for this particular agreement. And they're basically asking other state attorneys general out there to join. So there's four main companies involved, the three big drug distributors, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, and then a pharmaceutical company, Johnson and Johnson. The amount of money varies by company and all of the money's being paid out over a long period of time. So $26 billion, it sounds like a lot of money and it is but these are also very large companies. If you look at the settlement in terms of what their revenue looks like the $26 billion is just 4% of their combined annual revenue. And a lot of these companies have already set aside these funds in anticipation of a settlement.

MARGARET: If this does go ahead though, Bob, would victims’ families get any of the money or how would the money be used?

BOB: It's a good question. Kinda reminds me of the big tobacco settlement from years ago where, you know, states and local municipalities really will become in charge of distributing funds. The states did say that a majority of the money would be used for opioid treatment and prevention. That could mean a lot of things, but the hope is it would help families who've been most hurt by this. But in terms of who's going to get money and who's going to get treatment, we're just so far from determining how that money will be used toward that.

MARGARET: What should we be watching for next?

BOB: There's many other settlements and negotiations and bankruptcy proceedings going on that everyone should be aware of. Most notably is Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin. They're still going through bankruptcy filings, and then there's many other court cases involving other opioids manufacturers and pharmacies. And then even Native American tribes are pursuing separate legal action from all of this. This is a start toward some kind of national opioid settlement, but we're still pretty far off from anything being definitive.

MARGARET: Bob Herman is Axios’ healthcare business reporter joining us from Northwest Indiana. Thanks, Bob.

BOB: Thanks Margaret.

MARGARET: We’ll be back in 15 seconds with new polling on national pride at the Olympics.

[ad break]

MARGARET: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Margaret Talev filling in for Niala Boodhoo. For Americans, the Tokyo Olympics will be a test of what patriotism looks like in 2021. That's what Axios’ world editor Dave Lawler is writing with the opening ceremony today. Axios and our partners at Momentive have polled more than 5,000 people on their feelings about the U.S. and other countries at the Games. And Dave is here to break down those results and why they matter. Hey, Dave.

DAVE LAWLER: Hi Margaret.

MARGARET: I think this poll is fascinating. What was the most surprising finding to you?

DAVE: So one of the things that was really interesting to me was how people responded to this idea of athletes protesting at the Olympics. And it was split basically down the middle as to whether people thought it was appropriate for athletes to use the Olympic stage, to protest on social justice issues. And as you might expect, uh, there's a big partisan split there with Republicans overwhelmingly against the idea of these protests. Democrats generally in favor. And younger Americans, much more likely to be in favor than older Americans.

MARGARET: What about how Americans feel about the other countries that the athletes are coming from? What does a poll say about what countries Americans like in the Olympics and and who Americans are rooting against?

DAVE: Yeah. So I was wondering when we asked these questions, if this Olympics was going to have kind of a Cold War flavor to it with Americans rooting against Russian and Chinese athletes in particular. The polls say that yes, Americans are more likely to root against rather than for athletes from those countries. And Republicans were twice as likely to be rooting against China than Democrats. 34% of Republicans will be rooting against athletes from China. Uh, so for whatever reason, Republicans are more likely to root against particular countries than Democrats are. And then we also asked about some friends and neighbors of the U.S., you know, Canada, Mexico, U.K., Japan, and those were more consistent across parties. Basically people were more likely to root for those countries than against them. But in general, people said they were rooting for the U.S. and not necessarily for anybody else.

MARGARET: You know, in the old days, or at least I think this is true, the Olympic Games were a lever of diplomacy and a way for countries to build bridges and-and form alliances. Is that the way Americans still think about the Olympic Games?

DAVE: Americans are more likely to say that the Olympics will improve relations between countries, rather than make them worse. But a lot of people say neither basically, that it's not going to have a big effect on how the U.S. interacts with countries off of the field.

MARGARET: That the Olympics is really more about the sports than it is about geopolitics, is that right?

DAVE: Yeah, exactly. And we also asked is it important to you that the U.S. comes out with the most metals in Tokyo, and 48% of people said it was important and another 48% of people said basically they could care less.

MARGARET: Dave Lawler is Axios’ world editor and writes Axios World. We'll have more on this poll in the coming days. And Dave, thanks so much for joining.

DAVE: Thanks Margaret.

MARGARET: Congress is turning into a petri dish for the Delta variant as Capitol Hill faces a new wave of the coronavirus. Axios politics reporter Sarah Mucha has been in and out of the Capitol this week and she's here to catch us up on what she's hearing. Hi Sarah.

SARAH MUCHA: Hey, Margaret.

MARGARET: So this story started when reports that a White House official and a staff member for the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had tested positive. You were on the Hill this week, what sort of response did you see in terms of mask wearing or anything else?

SARAH: Absolutely. I'm seeing many, many more people wearing masks and, you know, Margaret, I went to go get a COVID test myself, just a precautionary measure. And I thought it would be a quick in and out like it has been for the past couple months, and I walked down the stairs and I saw a line going out the door. I spoke to the intake nurse, and said, you know, “how long has this been going on?” She said, “It's only been two days, but these are the longest lines that we've seen.”

MARGARET: What does that say to you?

SARAH: I think a couple things. I mean, the Delta variant is clearly creating a lot of consternation around folks. A lot of people I've spoken to compare this to the beginning of that initial Covid outbreak, that uncertainty, that people don't really know what's going on. They're wearing masks because while they know, science has shown, that people who are fully vaccinated and testing positive, they're really only experiencing mild symptoms, but they don't know what that means for transmission. So they really have to be careful.

MARGARET: Sarah Mucha is a politics reporter for Axios. Thank you, Sarah.

SARAH: Thanks Margaret.

MARGARET: Before we go today, something fun for your weekend: starting today, and through August 1st, scientists are turning to us to help them with the backyard bumblebee count. Now in its third year, the annual count helps researchers with bee conservation efforts. We’ll put a link in our show notes where you can learn how to count bees in your own backyard!

That’s all for this week. Axios Today is brought to you by Axios and Pushkin Industries. We’re produced by Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, and Sabeena Singhani. Our sound engineers are Alex Sugiura and Michael Hanf. Dan Bobkoff is our Executive Producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is our Executive Editor. And special thanks to Axios co-founder Mike Allen. At Pushkin, our executive producers are Leital Molad and Jacob Weisberg.

I’m Margaret Talev, Niala is back with you on Monday. Have a great weekend.

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