Sep 13, 2023 - Podcasts

McCarthy goes after Biden

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy opened an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, on Tuesday. The move could result in months of divisive hearings in Congress as both President Biden and former President Trump, who was impeached twice, campaign for the presidency.

Guests: Axios' Alex Thompson and Felix Salmon.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Robin Linn and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can send questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.


NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It's Wednesday, September 13th.

I'm Niala Boodhoo.

Today: The United Auto Workers union gears up for a strike. And, the pluses and perils of homeownership in America today.

But first, McCarthy goes after Biden. That's today's One Big Thing.

NIALA: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy opened an impeachment inquiry yesterday into President Biden. The move could result in months of divisive hearings in Congress as both President Biden and former President Trump, who, of course, was impeached twice, campaigned for the presidency. Axios' national political correspondent Alex Thompson is here with the big picture. Hi, Alex.


NIALA: What's the reason Republicans are giving for impeaching Biden now?

ALEX: Kevin McCarthy said at the top of his announcement that President Biden, as he put it, lied during the 2020 presidential campaign about how much he knew about Hunter's business dealings. Now, what we have seen from sworn testimony from both Hunter and from his business associate Devon Archer over the last month and a half is we have sworn testimony that does contradict some things that Joe Biden said on the campaign trail in 2020. Joe Biden said in the second presidential debate that his son never received money from China. Hunter confirmed in court that he did receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from associates and firms in China. Joe Biden's campaign said on the record that he had never met with one of the business associates of Hunter Biden on the board of Burisma. In fact, Joe Biden did have dinner with him. It was a group dinner, but these contradictions have not been fully explained by the White House, and that is what Republicans have really, you know, held onto in order to justify this impeachment push.

Now, I think it's important to say that, I don't know if, you know, misstating, or false statements during a presidential campaign is an impeachable offense, especially since it came before Joe Biden was president.

NIALA: Is this possibly also a non-starter, given that Democrats control the Senate?

ALEX: It is very unlikely that Joe Biden will be thrown out of office for this. It would be stunning to, to me, and I actually still am skeptical that they're even going to be able to impeach Biden. I think, you know, if you're looking at the political part of this, part of this is also just creates a huge muddle. You know, you have Trump who has I think over 90 counts, criminal counts against him right now, is very much, has always had a communication strategy of, you just gotta muddy the waters. It's like, "yes, I may have done bad things, but he's also done bad things".

NIALA: So Congress is back in town as of this week. Is this impeachment proceedings expected to derail the other conversation about the government possibly being shut down?

ALEX: Such an interesting question, because some Republicans, Margorie Taylor Green, in particular, have basically said that the impeachment inquiry was one of the prices for her vote to keep the government open. So, in some ways, doing the impeachment inquiry was a way to try to keep the government open. Now, I still think it's very possible that you could see a government shutdown, but I think there's reason to believe this announcement makes it a little bit less likely that there will be a government shutdown, as weird as that is

NIALA: Alex Thompson is Axios national political correspondent. Thanks Alex.

ALEX: Thank you.

NIALA: Here are some other stories we're following:

The United Auto Workers union says it will strike against the Detroit Three automakers – GM, Ford and Chrysler-owner Stellantis – if an agreement isn't reached before midnight on Friday. UAW has around 150,000 members, and among other things, they're asking for an immediate raise, a shift back to pensions, and a 32-hour workweek.

A landmark antitrust case against Google began yesterday. The Justice Department is accusing the tech giant of pushing out the competition by making deals with phone makers and browsers to be their go-to search engine. The trial is being compared to the government's challenge of Microsoft in the '90s.

And finally, thousands have been killed in catastrophic floods along Libya's east coast, after the country was hit by Mediterranean Storm Daniel. Officials said as of late Tuesday local time that as many as 5,200 people could be dead. More than 10,000 people remain missing. The city of Derna has been the most affected, after water overtook two dams and washed entire buildings into the sea.

After the break, the value of American home ownership today.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Home prices continue to rise, and according to one new report, it costs the average American around $625,000 to own a home over the average property lifetime. We recently asked you to send in your thoughts about whether owning a home matters to you. And many of you said that's no longer a goal.

ERIC: Hello Niala, this is Eric in Centennial, Colorado. My wife Mary and I have rented since we've lived in the state. We initially had the thought to buy a house and live here long term, because that has been the American dream for many people for decades. However, we realized that is not our dream. We work from home and have the ability to really work from anywhere. So I feel like a benefit to renting that is not discussed often enough is that it gives one freedom to be able to move around and not be locked into a 15 or 30-year mortgage.

SHERI: This is Sheri in Northern California, about home ownership, which I think is very important. I know it's difficult nowadays. However, it's one way for somebody who identifies as a Black woman to build generational wealth. And I'm hoping that my two daughters will be in position to purchase their own homes and keep it going for their children.

ROGER: My name is Roger, and I live in the Chicagoland area. I believe that home ownership is still important, because not only does it give you a sense of pride of ownership, but the equity in your home is usually a major portion of your net worth. I'm heading into retirement now with my home paid off, and I have much more disposable income available to me.

STEPHANIE: Hi, my name is Stephanie. I'm a 29-year-old single woman living in Rhode Island. Home ownership is not even a twinkle in my eye at this point. I have a good job. I make a decent amount of money, but I just cannot afford to buy a home and to pay a mortgage on a single income, it's just not feasible. And at this point it just makes so much more sense to just stay renting than put myself in a lifetime of debt, because I never want to get married, and I value my independence.

NIALA: I asked Axios' chief financial correspondent, Felix Salmon, to join me to talk about this. Hey, Felix.


NIALA: Thoughts on what you just heard from our listener?

FELIX: Love Stephanie. She knows what she wants. You go. It is absolutely true. Eric is absolutely right that renting gives you an enormous amount of freedom and people don't value renting highly enough. If you buy a place, given the costs of buying a house, and given the costs of selling a house, you really need to be pretty sure you're going to be in that place for seven to ten years, otherwise it just doesn't make sense to buy it. If you're like Eric, and you work from home, and you can work any way you like, and you like traveling, you like seeing new places, it makes sense to rent. And all of that freedom, all of that ability to move to where you want, and live how you want, is economically valuable. And so the more renters there are in America, the more economic activity we have in America.

NIALA: But Felix, the conventional wisdom is that homeownership is a way to build not just wealth for yourself, but for your family, generational wealth. We also heard that.

FELIX: Yes, and that is absolutely true, as well, especially if you look at Black families and to a lesser extent Hispanic families in America, a very, very large proportion of their wealth is tied up in real estate. And the mortgage, as a financial product, is a very effective, what I call, forced savings device. It can be a very effective way of forcing people to save money and build wealth.

NIALA: When we look at the fact that mortgage rates are at a 22-year high, how much does that factor into what we talked about at the beginning, that it's an average of $625,000 to just get into homeownership these days?

FELIX: With high mortgage rates, you wind up paying much more in interest when you buy a home, and that interest just goes to the bank. It doesn't go to building equity. It's money that you will never see again. And that's one of the reasons why it's not just mortgage rates that are at 22-year highs, it's also housing affordability is at 22-year lows. Almost not in living memory has there been a point at which buying a new house is as expensive as it is right now.

NIALA: How does housing affordability affect the overall economy?

FELIX: In general, if housing is abundant and cheap, then the economy can fire on all cylinders in a way that it can't when people are hobbled by having to pay huge amounts of money just for shelter.

NIALA: So how do you think about homeownership then?

FELIX: I think of homeownership as something that has really skewed democracy in a bad way. One of the things we know is that homeowners are much more likely to vote than non-homeowners. And as a result, politicians tend to do things that homeowners like and are less likely to do things that renters like. And I think that democratically speaking we have this problem, and it's a real problem, where basically, the entire government has been captured by homeowners. There are hundreds of billions of dollars a year going to subsidies for homeowners, and they just get all of the goodies in fiscal policy. They are, after all, richer than non-homeowners. Why do they deserve all the money?

NIALA: Isn't that then an argument for becoming a homeowner? Isn't that why everyone wants to be one?

FELIX: Oh, absolutely. And just because homeownership itself is bad does not mean that you individually should not become a homeowner. Like, there are many situations in which it is rational to become a homeowner, although I would say there are fewer than you might think.

NIALA: Felix Salmon is Axios' chief financial correspondent. Thanks, Felix.

FELIX: Thanks Niala.

NIALA: That's all we've got for you today!

I'm Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we'll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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