2020 Election trends with Republican political consultant Luke Thompson

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Ryan Morfin:

Welcome to Non-Beta Alpha. I’m Ryan Morfin. On today’s episode, we have Luke Thompson, a Republican political consultant, talking to us about the trends for the 2020 election. This is Non-Beta Alpha.

Ryan Morfin:

Luke, welcome to the show. Thanks for coming on. I really would love to get your thoughts on the Supreme Court nomination for Amy Coney Barrett. But before we get into that, you’re a political consultant. What are some of the 2020 election trends that are keeping you up at night?

Luke Thompson:

What’s keeping me up at night right now is just sort of the nuts and bolts of campaigning. Getting through approvals, making sure the lawyers sign off on everything and … I come out of the data management side of politics too, and I still do some of that as part of my general consultancy practice. And that means that there’s just a lot of moving items from A to B. Fortunately, it’s all digital now, and a lot of it is done remote, so COVID has not been a huge … hasn’t done a lot to hamper the way we do business.

Luke Thompson:

It has done a lot on the sort of campaign trail where candidates are going out, meeting with voters, shaking hands at the door. And then also on fundraising. Holding fundraising events has been pretty challenging and events, in general, have been attenuated. So campaigns have had to learn a lot about how to do that, how to fundraise over Zoom, how to do what we’re doing now, remotely. But in terms of the getting dollars turned into ads, turned into votes, hopefully, not a whole lot has changed.

Luke Thompson:

In terms of the political trends [crosstalk 00:02:06] … sorry, [inaudible 00:02:04]. In terms of the political trends, sorry, that are keeping me up, which is what you actually asked about and I forgot to answer. When you’re working … when your party has the presidency, the bottom line is, you want low unemployment and, if you can’t have low unemployment, you want unemployment to be dropping. You want things trending your way. And so the big picture trend that I’m really focused on is every sort of … every time the federal government releases some new numbers on consumer confidence, unemployment numbers, non auto durable goods purchases, those sorts of things, those are the tea leaves that we’re trying to read to figure out where the national mood is going to be.

Luke Thompson:

Obviously a lot of the polling around whether people think that the country is on the wrong … is on the right track versus on the wrong track, it looks pretty dire right now. But COVID is a unique challenge because it’s a genuine exogenous shock to the economy and that means that some of what we would normally predict about the way the state of the economy affects an election may not apply. That means, to some extent, we really are on a high wire without a net here because we just … we do not know what’s going to happen and every election is unique, but this one certainly has some degrees of distinctiveness that we don’t usually see.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, and you mentioned that COVID hasn’t really impacted we’ll call the mechanics of running a campaign, but how has it impacted grassroots? And the president just got diagnosed and is now out of the hospital. How has that impacted the kissing babies and shaking hands of a political season?

Luke Thompson:

Tons. Tons. It’s the bread and butter of politics, especially at the US House level and below, is being present so that voters can meet you. They can sort of make a face-to-face assessment of you. And it’s not that you think you’re going to meet all the voters, but it doesn’t take a whole lot of degrees of removal from a face to face contact with a large number of people to cover most of the voters in your district. And so you want to be out there having events, getting … meeting people, getting seen, showing the flag, so to speak. And this has just made that impossible.

Luke Thompson:

I think it’s probably helped younger candidates a bit. I have a client I won’t name, who’s a younger candidate challenging an older incumbent. And I think it’s benefited the younger candidate because, just put bluntly, the younger candidates always have more energy, but they also have … I think they can manage risks with a greater degree of latitude. No one wants to be reckless and certainly the average age of the electorate is far different from the average age of the population overall. So you also don’t want to be endangering your voters, but yeah, from the standpoint of running a campaign, it’s really hard to have phone banks now. It’s really hard to have a victory office. It’s hard to go door to door because you don’t always know if people are going to be … how they’re going to receive having a knock on the door.

Luke Thompson:

Fortunately, technology is at a place that you can do a lot through phones, through texts, through one-to-one communication. I’m not talking about the mass blasts that you get from people all the time, but person to person communication has been enabled by technology so the campaigns have had to adapt. They haven’t had to just stop. But yeah, it’s been a challenge, for sure.

Ryan Morfin:

And as we kind of go into this season, have you seen a huge … the media is talking about a huge uptick in early voting. Do you think that is actually playing out? And then, secondly, do you think that we’ll know on election day, or shortly thereafter, who won the 2020 election?

Luke Thompson:

Sure. So we know it’s happening. One of the largest county … some of the largest counties in Iowa have seen about two times the number of early votes they usually have. Florida is seeing a lot of early votes. North Carolina is seeing a lot of early votes. There’s some interesting trends in that. Not everyone is voting early at accelerated rates. Democrats are voting early much more than Republicans in states where we have party registration, but it’s not all Democrats. It tends to be in … I’m painting in broad strokes here, but your white, higher earning, liberal voters are voting early. That may mean that they’re cannibalizing election day turnout rather than generating new votes. But, look, a vote early is a better vote because everybody only gets one and it removes a lot of uncertainty.

Luke Thompson:

In terms of your second question, whether we’re going to know who won, I wrote a piece for the Spectator USA that I recommend everybody check out. I’m trying to allay some of the fears people have around this issue. There are two parts to early voting. So I’m going to set aside early in-person voting where you show up to the courthouse in the cast your ballot. That’s very simple. It goes in a ballot box, gets tabulated on election night, sometimes it even gets tabulated ahead of time in a lot of states. But, that stuff, not a problem. The real issue is going to be mail-in votes. And we are seeing a lot of mail-in votes.

Luke Thompson:

Now mail votes have two parts to them and this is what makes them a bit of a logistical challenge from a time standpoint. You have to first go through the validation process which is to say, “Can we confirm that the person who mailed this vote is in is the voter that it’s supposed to be tied to?” That usually means a signature match process. So you compare the signature on the affidavit that every voter has to sign on the mail ballot to the signature you have on file. If they match, then you have to take it out of the envelope, flatten it out and run it through a machine to tabulate it. That second part, tabulation, again, doesn’t take a lot of time, but signature validation does take a lot of time.

Luke Thompson:

Here’s the bad news up front. Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have very short validation windows. So in Michigan, for instance … now the legislatures and the secretaries of state are trying to change to accommodate this. And, actually, Iowa has a short window too. They don’t start validating until the election or right before. Right? So, that means that they’re going to have these pallets of votes that they’re going to have to start doing signature match on sometimes when the polls open on election day. Those states could come in late, but other states are already counting votes. Colorado is already counting votes. Arizona’s already counting votes. Well, they’re not already but they will be very soon. Right?

Luke Thompson:

They will be counting two and three weeks before election day. Some states will be validating and tabulating over the weekend or a week before election day. North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, Arizona. These states are not going to see significant delays, I don’t think, at least. Obviously there will be some parts of these states that have problems with elections every time. I fully expect Broward County, Florida, will be a mess because it’s always a mess, but it won’t be because of the mail-in ballots.

Luke Thompson:

If we’re going to have a delay in the election, it’s going to be because, one, the election is extremely close. If the election is extremely close, though, it’s going to be delayed anyway because the lawyers are going to start litigating like crazy, regardless of the fact that there’s a huge spike in mail-in ballots. What’s more likely to happen is we get a pretty good sense of who won on election night based on the ratios out of states like Ohio, which does a really good job with early in-mail voting, Florida and North Carolina, and we’re able to extrapolate from that based on geography, based on history, what’s likely happening in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, where we’re also going to get election day returns and be able to extrapolate from those.

Luke Thompson:

So for instance, if the election day returns, in terms of the overall number of Republican votes cast in a Republican county is way off, if it’s way short, or if it’s much larger than normal, right, then we’ll be able to say, “Oh, okay. We know what’s going on here. We have high Republican turnout or low Republican turnout.” We’re also probably going to get top line numbers, very quickly, for how many votes were cast in precincts, even as they haven’t validated and tabulated them, and those rough numbers will also give us a sense. Right? If we see through the roof ballots coming in in heavily Democratic precincts or heavily Republican precincts, even if we don’t know what the final numbers are, we can start to make informed extrapolation.

Luke Thompson:

So the short version of this answer is, we will either know on election night or the wee hours of Wednesday morning or, if we don’t know, it’s because it’s close in a lot of places and we wouldn’t know anyway. We’d be looking at like a Bush v. Gore type situation. So it could go either way. I would just remind everyone that, look, last year at this time, it didn’t … we knew late in the night, but we knew that Donald Trump had beaten Hillary Clinton. Now we didn’t have these high numbers of mail ballots, but we were able to make informed extrapolations based on the returns we had. And even before all the votes were counted, we knew the outcome. Yes, I think it may take a day or two, but I don’t think we’re looking at the kind of constitutional crisis with people in the streets that you’re hearing a lot about.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, and so that leads us to the question about ACB. Do you think that Mitch McConnell has what it takes to get her nomination passed in the Senate prior to election?

Luke Thompson:

Well, certainly, I don’t know that the final vote for confirmation will happen before election day, but if anyone can do it, Mitch McConnell certainly can. Right now there’s a challenge, which is several judiciary committee members have been … have tested positive for coronavirus. They tested positive early enough that they should be able to … it shouldn’t affect them voting. And the Senate has already done remote hearings so, from a hearing standpoint, it shouldn’t be a huge problem. Right? We all got to meet Lamar Alexander’s dog during a Senate hearing this summer because he intervened in a Senate hearing.

Luke Thompson:

So it’s important to break out the hearing part of this from the vote part of this. I don’t know when the vote will happen, whether it happens before election day or after election day, I don’t actually think it matters in the final analysis. I believe that Amy Coney Barrett will get confirmed but, in terms of the logistics of the hearings, it will be a challenge. They may have to be done remote or partially remote. We may even have to have senators showing up in hazmat suits to cast their votes if the virus is still running around the Capitol. But, no, I don’t think that this will change whether or not she gets confirmed, and I believe she will.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, and do the … The Dems are talking that they don’t think this is a legitimate process to go through, but a little history fact, wasn’t it the Dems that changed the filibuster and then put this in place and now that we have the situation playing out?

Luke Thompson:

Well, there’s been a lot of tit for tat on judicial politics since the … well, I mean, you can date it back to the Bork hearings or back to the George W. Bush Administration, but there’s been an escalating partisan tit for tat on judicial hearings. What you’re referring to is Harry Reid’s decision to go nuclear on the filibuster, I believe in 2013, to … on lower court federal judges. And what that did was it, for all courts except for the Supreme Court, it meant that judges only needed a simple majority and you couldn’t filibuster those appointments, and it got rid of the filibuster for executive branch appointments as well. It actually held the Supreme Court out as the only place where filibuster is still applied.

Luke Thompson:

When Neil Gorsuch was nominated at the beginning of the Trump presidency, Gorsuch was an exemplary candidate, had great hearings and Democrats decide to filibuster him anyway and, at that point, Mitch McConnell exercised the nuclear option on the Supreme Court, which was the only sort of appointment area where it remained. But, in general, if you look at the broader Trump legacy with the judiciary beyond just the Supreme Court, if you look at the remaking of the Federal Bench where Donald Trump will have appointed and the Senate would have confirmed something like a quarter to two thirds or, sorry, a third to … a quarter to a third of the federal judges on the Bench in four years, that was entirely a by-product of Harry Reid’s decision to eliminate the filibuster on judicial appointments.

Ryan Morfin:

That’s a fascinating history. Well, so question on the polls, as it relates to 2016, the missing the mark perhaps. Are the pollsters in the industry, are they at risk of doing that again or was that an aberration and they fixed the models going into 2020?

Luke Thompson:

It’s definitely a risk. So if you look at 2016 and you also look at 2018, we did see systematic correlated bias across the polls in certain regions, especially in the Upper Midwest. In 2018, the bias in the polls towards Democrats was about half what it was in 2016. That was largely a by-product of pollsters taking into account education as a salient variable in predicting vote choice, especially among white voters. Although also, I think, Latino voters. It will be very important if you look at states like Nevada, where you have a large Latino electorate that … where you see some real splits in … by education. I would point out that, in 16, the national polls were accurate. They got it right. They predicted Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote by about three and a half points. She won it by about, what, two and a half points.

Luke Thompson:

And so it’s not all polls were bad in 16, but polling in the Upper Midwest miss pretty badly, and in 18 it missed as well, and it missed in a systematic way. So yes, it is possible that they are under counting Republicans, but pollsters are always trying to change with technology, with underlying demographic shifts, and with emerging categories of salience in terms of demographics. So I think that they will do as good a job as humanly possible, at least on the … I am not going to say anything about the media, the public polls, but the private pollsters are working very hard to get things right and I think they’re doing a better job.

Ryan Morfin:

Guys like Frank Luntz and that whole lot, are they still making phone calls? Because I don’t recognize the phone number, I never pick it up. I barely make … people making inbound sales calls barely reach me. Is that still the method of choice from a polling company standpoint?

Luke Thompson:

No. I think that one of the biggest revolutions is that there is no method of choice now. The method of choice is mixed method and there are statistical challenges that are presented by using mixed method polling. For one thing you don’t have randomness as the sort of benchmark. Right? In the old days, in the high glory days of polling, you could basically say, “Well, every voter has a landline so if we call a certain number of people at random, we can assume that the laws of probability are more or less correct.” Over time, we had demographic changes where some groups use cell phones and didn’t have landlines, especially younger voters, especially voters on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

Luke Thompson:

Where we’ve seen change now is that most pollsters have moved to a non-probability sampling approach. That can mean a combination of random digit dials on landlines still, sometimes automated machines, sometimes human beings. You can have live calls done to cell phones. Text polling is increasingly popular and that’s actually a reasonable part of my business is we provide sample to polling companies. Typically, you text someone a link and say, “Please participate in this poll on our civic leaders.” And then also email polling, where you send people emails. Either you have emails matched to a voter file, or you build a panel of respondents over time. And now pollsters are mixing and matching from all of these different modes of communication.

Ryan Morfin:

And the … we’ll call it the data wars. Right? Some campaigns say, “Hey, we got 3000 variables in each election … I’m sorry, for each voter in the election.” I mean, the data sets that exist from social media and from Equifax, is that an accurate statement that they really do have this much data per voter, or is that kind of hyperbole and not everybody has the access to the kind of the data vaults?

Luke Thompson:

Well, it’s trivially true. I would put it this way. If nothing comes from the last four years other than the nuclear irradiation of data guruism in politics, I will be a perfectly happy person. There are … So at a baseline level, every well-funded campaign has the same data and the same math, so to speak, the same equations, the day that the campaign begins. Right? You have the voter file. You have the commercial file. You have your national party database, et cetera. What changes, and where data still matters a lot in campaigns, is what you do with the data you collect. Your first party data. The data that your volunteers are collecting, historically, at the doors. People signing up on your website. Responses you’re getting to text message campaigns, donation information, phones, et cetera.

Luke Thompson:

Well-disciplined campaigns that are collecting, collating and analyzing that data, and integrating it into the background data sets that everybody has, they can actually glean unique insights, but both national operations are really pushing very hard on these things. They’re collecting tons of information. I do think an incumbent president has some advantages because you’ve had four years of collection. So you have some longitudinal data that the other side doesn’t have. Nonetheless, on the whole, I would say that the myth of data guruism is mostly wrong, but that the power of data discipline is probably underrated in politics.

Ryan Morfin:

Data discipline. I like that. So you’re also the co-founder of Envoi. Can you tell us a little bit about that political technology company?

Luke Thompson:

Sure. So Envoi, E-N-V-O-I, is responsible for some of the irritating political text messages that you get. Under American federal law you cannot send a text message, from a company or a private organization or a nonprofit, to someone who has not opted in, using a machine. You can only use automated texts, that is to say, you upload a list, you send it to the carriers, the carriers distribute it to their numbers if someone has opted in. But there is an exception for nonprofits. This was originally carved out by the unions many, many years ago, and they were the first organizations to exploit what’s called peer to peer text messaging.

Luke Thompson:

What peer to peer texting is, is an individual has to click a button to send every single text. What Envoi does is we’ve built a web interface that allows our senders, who are remote, we use college students, to click and send messages to targeted voters. Sometimes they’re donation solicitations. Sometimes we send out news articles telling people, “Hey, you really need to read this.” Sometimes they’re get-out-to vote reminders. It just depends on the environment. And as I mentioned earlier, about with political polling companies who are working for campaigns and nonprofits, we frequently will send out text solicitations that ask people to participate in polls so that our pollsters can collect a sample. So I apologize for flooding your text inbox, but, hey, we’re just trying to get people to vote.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, and I’m sure my friends have been signing me up for candidates they know I don’t support, but when I text back something pithy towards the other candidate, question for you is, is that a human on the other side or is it AI responding back?

Luke Thompson:

So it depends. That’s the short version of it. We have inbox functionality, which is what we call it, so that a human being receives the texts and replies. And so it looks on our interface, like an iMessage type situation. On automated texts, the A2P, automated to person texting, you don’t have to have a human replying, although someone will read your answers and catalog them. So it will depend.

Luke Thompson:

Campaign lawyers sort of vary on this but, in some jurisdictions, campaign attorneys believe that it’s okay to have an automated response. So if I were to say, do a campaign, sending text messages saying, “Do you support Donald Trump?” And somebody wrote back, “Yes.” We could preprogram a response to say, “Great, you should sign up to volunteer here.” Or, “Do you oppose Senator X?” “Yes.” “Good, call three friends,” or whatever. So sometimes it’s automated but, certainly, at Envoi, we make a point of having someone ready to answer you in your inbox.

Ryan Morfin:

And do you … being an operative in the field, working in this industry, do you feel that there is foreign nation state actors trying to manipulate this information? How do you become aware of that? Or how do you see that, if at all, and how do you combat it?

Luke Thompson:

Sure. So in 2016, I worked for Jeb Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise, and we were cognizant that we were a target for some foreign state interference. We saw people trying to hack into things, and we pursued pretty rigorous digital security, and a lot of credit to my old boss, Mike Murphy, for making that a priority. There are really sort of two ways in which you might get foreign or third-party interference. The most pernicious is hacking. They’ll use run-of-the-mill phishing campaigns to try to get people to click on a link. This then gives you access to their email account. But you also had the Russians, in 2016, buying some Facebook ads.

Luke Thompson:

The first kind I think is a problem. Every campaign needs to be aware of it. Campaigns are getting better about it. Many of them are using two factor authentication. They’re taking a lot of communication off of email. They’re introducing 30 day auto delete email programs, which are in compliance with the FEC, but mean that you don’t have a large backlog of email. And all of that serves to make your email a less desirable target for … of both less accessible and less desirable for foreign entities that would like to do harm. On the second front, which is what you hear a lot about, about, “Oh, the Cambridge Analytica and the memes that the Russians bought.” That is … am I allowed to swear on this podcast?

Ryan Morfin:

Abso-fucking-lutely.

Luke Thompson:

Great. It’s bullshit. It’s hot bullshit. It’s stupid, paranoid, conspiracy theory bullshit. If the Russians swung the election with memes, they must’ve done an amazing job of getting corresponding turnout rates among rural, white, non-college educated voters in Upstate New York to match the ones in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. “Whoa, they’re way better than we thought and they left no fingerprints.”

Luke Thompson:

Nobody altered any votes, no voting machines were violated and the stupid memes they bought didn’t make a damn lick of difference. And frankly, the fact that this has become a prevailing paranoia, at least on the Democratic side of the aisle, is largely a by-product of irresponsible leaders saying things they either should know are false or know to be false, but they cared … they prefer to exploit for the sake of drumming up frothy enthusiasm on their base.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, that’s good to hear. It means, in my opinion, that our antiquated voting infrastructure in 50 different states is unhackable.

Luke Thompson:

Well, it is. And part of that is because you have … it’s not just 50 different states. Elections in the United States take place at the county level in almost every state. And so there’s something like 1500 or I’m probably vastly underrating the number of jurisdictions that are responsible for voting. Even if you could physically hack into them, which is impossible in most cases, it would take a miracle of logistical success as well as it would be extremely expensive.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, on this is season two, what we tend to do is ask our guests, we call it the human factor, which is just six quick questions or yes or no, kind of whatever comes to your mind. And here we go. Ready? If there was a COVID vaccine available today, would you take it? Yes or no?

Luke Thompson:

Yeah.

Ryan Morfin:

Who’s going to win the election 2020.

Luke Thompson:

Ooh. That’s a tough one. Based on the national polling right now, unless there’s significant polling error, Joe Biden will win. Yep.

Ryan Morfin:

What type of letter shape recovery, economic recovery, are we in? Is it a V-shape, a W, an L. What are your thoughts?

Luke Thompson:

A K. I thought K was an option too.

Ryan Morfin:

K is a good option.

Luke Thompson:

K is a good option. Okay. I guess I would say K, because we’re seeing a real divergence in terms of sector specific outcomes. What we don’t know is how those different things congeal later on in terms of overall consumer confidence and economic feelings in the broader electorate. Consumer confidence has stayed higher than I thought it would stay.

Luke Thompson:

I think that’s … if you’re on the Trump campaign, you’ve got to look at that and say, “Okay. Yes. We’re seeing certain sectors just get crushed. Tourism. Entertainment. Obviously the restaurant sector is just getting brutalized. On the other hand, we are seeing a lot of other parts of the economy continue to chug along and there are also geographic and demographic variations in terms of who’s getting hit.”

Ryan Morfin:

Anything you achieved this summer during lockdown … this summer that you’re particularly proud of?

Luke Thompson:

Boy. I taught my dog some tricks and I lost some weight. So I’ll settle for that.

Ryan Morfin:

That’s a pretty good summer, in my opinion. Are there any silver linings that you see in the economy for 2020? Oh, back up.

Luke Thompson:

Probably the biggest thing, it wasn’t this summer, but I got married. So, you know.

Ryan Morfin:

Ah, congrats. And you’re still married. Even more congrats.

Luke Thompson:

Well, it’s only been a month and a day. So, you know.

Ryan Morfin:

Hey, count your blessings daily. Are there any silver linings in the US economy for 2021?

Luke Thompson:

Silver linings for 2021? I think that this has been a forced updating of processes for a lot of companies and, being forced to work remotely, has probably exposed where they have a lot of slack in their operations. I also have a sneaking suspicion that remote work, while it has variable outcomes in terms of productivity, may fix a lot of HR problems because people aren’t bumping into each other in the office and performance is much more traceable.

Luke Thompson:

So I think we will see companies come out of this, emerge from it and it will vary widely by sector, a lot smarter about their operations. If I were in the commercial real estate industry, that probably would make me grit my teeth a little bit but I think, for a lot of individual companies, this will have been a shock, forced learning experience that, nonetheless, they’ll take some real beneficial lessons from.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, I tend to agree. Do you think we’re going to see a … this is the part of the human round, but are we going to see a stimulus package come out? You mentioned that earlier.

Luke Thompson:

Yeah. The president tweeted he was not going to sign a stimulus until after the election, earlier today. The market rapidly tanked. It’s unclear to me whether that’s jocking or positioning. Right now you have an administration that wants a deal done. You have a Republican Senate that’s divided roughly evenly between people who just want a deal done and people who think that the deals are too inflated and just out of whack, and you have House Democrats who, frankly, in my view, are cynically holding out on a deal in order to prevent … with their allies in the Senate, in order to prevent a deal getting done and the economy recovering going into the election.

Luke Thompson:

So there are plenty of veto points, but I do think the political pressure is picking up considerably. The one big pressure point is that, if House Democrats continue to stonewall and deal or continue to ask for Christmas tree deal with a bunch of extraneous stuff tacked onto it, they have incumbents who are in swing districts, who would be vulnerable to a generic ballot shift of two or three points against the Democratic Party, and they will start to put serious topside pressure on Nancy Pelosi to move the ball forward.

Luke Thompson:

I suspect the president’s tweet today was an attempt to put down a marker on negotiating. It may backfire and the Democrats may walk away from negotiating for a deal and just let him take the heat for it. Or it could force some people back to the table and we might actually get something done. I wouldn’t bet on a deal right now, but stranger things have happened.

Ryan Morfin:

And is there anything that you’re watching or listening to right now, or reading, that you’re using to make yourself a better professional?

Luke Thompson:

Oh, to make myself better at my job? I’m doing the same thing I always do which is, I like to read a lot of histories of 19th century campaigns. In the 19th century, obviously, the electorate was smaller because large groups of people were wrongly excluded from voting, but the political machines in the 19th century managed to secure really high rates of turnout. And so I try to learn from history and say, “Well, what are the things we can … that they did that we can bring bring back into service.” We can’t have ward bosses paying people off, shaking people down or giving people booze, unfortunately, but there are some-

Ryan Morfin:

Some Peaky blinders. Peaky Blinders.

Luke Thompson:

Yeah. Right? Exactly. So there are a lot of things that you can learn about elections because, as much as they change, there are … there is a great deal of continuity. So, that’s what I try to do to stay sharp.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, the Chicago machine was notorious. Is there a machine that nobody knows about that was just really well run?

Luke Thompson:

Well, there’s a really interesting challenge going on right now in Illinois. The notorious Illinois machine, run by Mike Madigan there, who runs the state legislature in Illinois and really runs the state, is starting to break down. Madigan’s district is near Midway Airport and is one of these, what you would call, heritage Democratic district of what sociologists used to call quaintly, ethnic white voters. Mostly sort of practicing Roman Catholic descendants of Polish, Irish and Italian immigrants.

Luke Thompson:

That area has increasingly gentrified and you have a lot more wealthier white liberals moving into that area, especially south of the sort of core district. And you saw long-term Congressman, Dan Lipinski, lose a primary to Marie Newman who challenged him two years ago, lost, challenged him again, and won. Lipinski was a sort of classic labor Democrat, social conservative, fiscal liberal. And he now lost to Newman who ran essentially on a hard line, socially progressive platform. So it remains to be seen if the Madigan machine, which geographically overlaps Madigan’s district [inaudible 00:33:22] with Illinois three can survive gentrification.

Ryan Morfin:

Fantastic. Well, Luke, thanks for coming on today and talking to us about these trends that … you’re not going to hear a lot of this on the news so we appreciate you giving us some clarity.

Luke Thompson:

Hey, my pleasure. Happy to do it.

Ryan Morfin:

All right, good luck for the rest of the season.

Luke Thompson:

Thanks guys. Have a good one.

Ryan Morfin:

Thanks for watching Non-Beta Alpha. Before we go, please remember to like and subscribe on Apple podcast and on YouTube channel. This is Non-Beta Alpha and, now, you know.

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Ryan Morfin: Welcome to Non-Beta Alpha. I'm Ryan Morfin. On today's episode, we have Pini Althaus, CEO of USA Rare Earth, talking to us about the supply chain glut in rare earth minerals. This is Non-Beta Alpha.

Ryan MorfinPini, Welcome to the show. Thank you for coming on today.

Pini AlthausThank you for having me, Ryan. Good to be here.

Ryan Morfin: So you're an investor and a miner in rare earth minerals. Can you share with our listener base, what are rare earth minerals? Why are they important and why is there a geopolitical race going on globally?

Pini AlthausYeah, I mean, rare earths are an extremely ubiquitous part of all advanced manufacturing or technology manufacturing today's day and age. Several years ago, I had not heard too much about rare earths myself. I was not that familiar with it and being involved in this sector, in this company, for the past few years has given me an education of course. And I mean, I was sad to hear that 50% of all imports into the United States contain are earth elements and it runs the gamut from consumer electronic devices that we use every day. Our cell phones, our laptops, most communication devices, medical equipment. So there's a tie with COVID, which we can touch on at your discretion. Electric vehicles, defense equipment. So pretty much anything or everything high tech today has a rare earth element or critical minerals contained within them.

Ryan MorfinAnd what are some of the names of some of the more important rare earth? I know there's lithium for batteries, but what else is considered in this category, critical?

Pini Althaus: Yeah, so lithium is a separate category to battery material. The rare earths are 17 rare earths. The four, let's call it, key rare earths that we're focused on at our company, the four rare earths that go into the permanent magnets. And these are the magnets that are found, there are a number of them in your back of your cell phone or an iPad. But if you look at an F35 striker jet, you've got about a ton of rare earth magnets in those. And we've got two heavy rare earths and two light rare earths is part of the permanent magnets. You've got dysprosium, ytterbium are the heavies, and then you've got neodymium, praseodymium as the two light rare earths. So those would be key rare earths that are the focus.

Ryan MorfinAnd you use these in, I guess, in military applications as well, but historically, where has the United States sourced the rare earth for supply chain?

Pini AlthausYeah. And that's the shocking part. We've been securing those materials from China. So China controls the rare earth sector and has done so for the past 30 years or so. And it was a significant misstep on the part of the United States, allowing China to have this control. And actually this wasn't a question of China coming in and doing anything nefarious as far as stealing IP or anything. The US government made a conscious decision about 30 years ago to allow China to come to the United States and acquire the processing capabilities for rare earths. So just as part of some background, you've got the rare earth materials containing various mining projects, but once you extract them, you have to then process them and they go through certain phases before they get to the magnet phase. And China, the thought process was let China do the mining, let China do the processing.

Pini AlthausWe don't need to do that here. And we'll buy the materials from China cheaply and the premier of China at the time, Deng Xiaoping made the comment, he said, "The Middle East has oil. China has rare earths." And unfortunately we weren't smart enough to understand what he was saying. And the Chinese understood that the future of manufacturing is going to revolve around control of the rare earth and critical mineral supply chain. So if you think about it today, Ryan, we cannot build... Forget about consumer electronics and medical equipment. We cannot build the equipment that the US Pentagon or the US armed forces require, whether it's F35 fighter jet, Tomahawk cruise missile, communications equipment, without going to China and obtaining those materials. And it's obvious to all that this should be extremely alarming. We've seen China use this as a weapon, if you will, as far as how it interacts with other countries back in 2010, when there was a dispute between China and Japan on the East China Sea.

Pini AlthausSo China cut off rare earth exports from Japan for 40 days. Japan obviously being a significant user of rare earth elements for their high-tech manufacturing sector, that was stopped after 40 days. But in fact, it was President Obama that first made the United States aware of this, formed a division within the Department of Defense to handle this issue, but not much has happened. And we continue to be relying on China for these materials. And what has been made about trade war with China and whether the trade war is really the impetus for China withholding rare earth exports. And that is a huge misnomer. Whilst China had been talking or implying that they would cut off rare earth exports, the truth of the matter is that China, under it's made in China, 2025 mandate, its belt and road initiatives and others. And you seem to control the critical minerals and rare earth supply chain so that it can continue its dominance as a manufacturer or a global supplier of these materials and finished products.

Pini Althaus: It's the backbone of its economy. And in fact, China has become a net importer of rare earths from different countries like Miramar and others. So with that, they are decreasing the exports to countries like the United States, Japan and others.

Ryan Morfin: And was it ever a risk that the Chinese were going to turn off the exports of rare earth to the US during the trade war? How close were we to that? And was that ever some saber rattling that went down during trade negotiations?

Pini AlthausYeah, I think it was saber rattling. I think it would be paramount to an act of war. I can't say with any authority that that would not happen, but it would be probably, aside from war itself, it would be one of the most significant acts of war cutting the United States off from the ability to procure rare earths. But that being said, I mean, if you look at, as an analogy, the oil and gas sector and the reliance of the United States had for many, many years on OPEC countries to supply us with the oil. And we had embargoes and we had price manipulation by OPEC. This is far more significant given the ubiquity of where these rare earths go. And yes, we're always under the threat that China can cut off exports under the guise of a trade war or for any other nefarious reasons.

Pini AlthausBut I think even more importantly, to just as the natural run of the course of things with regards to their business and their desire to maintain themselves as the global leader in manufacturing and exporting of goods, China is in a position now where it actually requires these materials for their own domestic consumption and can legitimately cut off rare earth exports by stating that they need it for manufacturing and that would actually be somewhat correct. So we're in an extremely dangerous position here with this reliance on China. And it wouldn't just be China. If it was another country, it would be similar issues, not to the same extent, but reliance on one country for these materials is dangerous.

Ryan Morfin: And it's been mentioned in the past that in 2010, China flooded the market to really kill all the competitors in the rare earth mining industry. Where was the World Trade Organization during this period? And how did that play out and how does that set the chess board for China to run the tables?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. So the WTO stepped in when China cut off rare earth exports from Japan, I think it lasted for about 40 days because the US and Japan protested the WTO, and they stepped in and China resumed exports. While I'm not an expert on these trade matters, one thing that I am aware of is that one of the reasons why China had to resume the export of rare earths was it did not legitimately need all the rare earths for domestic consumption. So therefore it was a nefarious act, if you will, to cut off rare earth exports. Now that has changed, which means China have to cut off rare earth exports today, they have a legitimate case to say that they require these materials. There's a shortage of these materials and they require them for their own domestic purposes. It is the backbone of their economy and there's very little we could do about this today, which is why it's becoming an even more urgent issue.

Ryan Morfin:

And the US government started stockpiling some of these after that incident. Can you talk a little bit about what DOD and DOE has done to start making sure that there's not a critical supply shortage going forward, and is it enough?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, again, there is a national defense stock pile, and there are materials still that the United States needs to procure in order to shore up its stockpile. There are magnets, the finished magnet products as well, the United States government needs to stockpile. Again, there's a limited amount that the United States government has. It requires approval from Congress, whether it's in the NDAA or other approvals from Congress, to allocate monies for the national defense stock pile of these materials. That being said, there's no endless supply of these materials. And unfortunately, the apparatus, the way it's set up right now with the US government, it's going to continue to require having a secure supply chain of those materials for many, many years to come. So it's not a question of stockpiling for 10 or 20 years, and then this complacency and saying, we'll kick the can down the road. But keep in mind as well, Ryan, that US government accounts for low single digits of overall rare earth imports into the United States.

Pini Althaus:

We're talking about defense contractors, we're talking about the manufacturing sector. The direct impact this has on the economy, jobs, the automotive sector, and others is significant. So it's not just limited to the United States government. If you look at over the past couple of weeks, the sanctions that China have put on Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed, et cetera. I mean, the question is where are they going to get those materials? And if we go beyond that, you need rare earths for the 5G network. Now that Huawei has been banned from installing the network, not only in the US but other countries, we have to have the ability to get a secure supply of these materials as well. Which currently, again, trying to control the hundred percent. So it runs across the board, both for government, defense and manufacturing in this country.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, and so help me paint a picture for our audience. Does China have all the mines for rare earth, or they're the only ones who started mining it? Or are their mines globally dispersed and nobody's been doing the actual infrastructure to do the mining?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. So finding rare earth projects or rare earth elements is not the difficult part. It's finding them in significant quantities that makes a project economically viable. And part of that consideration are the environmental rigors that companies in the West have to adhere to. And China, even by their own admission, have had a complete disregard for mining these materials and even for processing these materials. And in fact, just the last week or so, the BBC did an expose on this, 60 Minutes has done an expose on this. But the Chinese have not denied this and have talked about cleaning up their act, but it has an effect on the bottom line for what the costs of mining and processing are if you have no environmental standards to adhere to. So China have exploited those rare earth projects they have, primarily in inner Mongolia, and have brought a number of projects online and quite quickly, and in a significant way, with a complete disregard for the environment.

Pini Althaus:

So it was seen as an environmental no-no in the West for many years. Now, what's happened over the past few years is you're starting to see rare earth projects in different parts of the world sprout up. You've got the Mountain World project in Australia owned by Linus, which is a producer of Nd and Pr, neodymium and praseodymium. So two of the light rare earths. They may have some heavy rare earths coming online at some point in time. And you've got Arafura, which is another company in Australia that we're working with to assist them with their processing so they don't have to send the materials to China for processing. But really these are a drop in the bucket for what the requirements are for the United States. And certainly what the requirements are for allied countries, the EU, et cetera. So there is a race, if you will, worldwide to start bringing projects online. The Chinese are very active in trying to secure assets outside of China.

Pini Althaus:

So in Africa. They have ownership of a project in Greenland. So there is somewhat of a race. The Australian government has stepped in and has started limiting the ability for China to own, or have ownership in, or off takes for the Australian rare earth projects. And that's part of the strategic Alliance between Australia and the US. Canada, similar thing as well. There are a number of projects that are looking to come alive, but these projects are, for the most part, will take many, many years to come online. We have to expedite the process. We have to assist with a [inaudible 00:14:41] supply chain and the domestic rare earth sector, because previously investors have been scared off by things like China flooding the market, which is not a possibility at this point in time, given that China can't actually afford to flood the market. They are already very heavily subsidizing their mine to magnet supply chain there.

Pini Althaus:

This is more now a case of being able to get production from non-Chinese sources so that the United States and allies have a viable, secure supply chain of these materials. And it's a concern worldwide. We speak to governments all over the world, and we're all facing the same issue. Some more than others, especially countries like Japan, that don't have their own rare earth projects there and are reliant on Australia where they've made some investments there. And in the United States, they've made an investment recently in Africa. So there is this race, if you will. And I think we've got a five-year window here to at least stand up a few projects worldwide. Otherwise we've lost this race and we will be dependent on China for many, many years to come. And Ryan, it's a bit of a hypocrisy. If you look at it where you've got materials going through clean, green energy applications, like electric vehicles, wind turbines, et cetera.

Pini Althaus:

That we're sourcing these materials from China, where they've, again by their own admission, has been complete environmental devastation to water bodies around these mines and processing facilities, to the communities. People have been getting sick around these projects yet we're putting these materials into our electric vehicles or wind turbines. It makes no sense at all. And people are starting to wake up to this. And that's why the sector is starting to see a lot of support come out of Congress and bi-partisan support. And in fact, it's one of the only bi-partisan issues right now in Washington. And it's good to see that some things decided to move in the right direction.

Ryan Morfin:

And is there a special process? You talk about the expense, is it really difficult to mine these? You have to go through a special chemical process to extract and clean and purify. Is it a lot harder than, say, gold or silver or some of the other, we'll call, more traditional elements?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. It's all about the processing to some extent. So if you look at MP Materials in California, which used to be Molycorp before they went through their bankruptcy. They are a miner of Cerium and Lanthanum, which are two of the light rare earths, the lower valued light rare earths. Given that they do not currently have processing technology, they are sending those materials to China for processing where China is tariffing those heavily. Linus is also, they're doing their processing work in Malaysia and elsewhere. So it's really about the processing at this stage. One of the things that we've done, after we put out our PDA last year with our upgraded resource, which now includes a significant amount of lithium. We make a decision that, based on the test work that we had done around our processing methodology, that we were not going to send our materials to China. That it's paramount for us to do this work in the United States and in a collaborative effort as well.

Pini Althaus:

We've been asked by some of our investors, "Well, why would you be looking to help other projects with their processing?" And the answer is simple. There's no one project or one company that's going to put China out of business or make a dent, or somehow be able to take care of the overall demand worldwide for rare earths and critical minerals. And it's very important for us to have processing capability in the West. So that was the impetus for us opening up our own rare earth and critical minerals processing facility earlier this year, which we did in Wheatridge, Colorado. And in fact, we've made some significant progress on the method that we're using for this. And we're starting to collaborate with Australian companies, Canadian companies. We're currently talking to a group over in Europe as well, because this has to be a collaborative effort.

Ryan Morfin:

How does Europe solve for these problems? Do they have this better under control than the US?

Pini Althaus:

No, they're in a far worse position than we are. The EU commission recently put out a report, I think, a couple of months ago that the requirement for rare earths is going to increase tenfold within a short period of time. Lithium 18 times. They don't really have rare earth projects. Again, there are the Greenland projects, which people have heard in the news recently. Those need to further development work so they don't have rare earth projects ready to come online there. There are a couple of lithium projects that are spread around Europe, but for the most part, Europe is in an even more precarious position. If you look at Germany with the auto manufacturers, you look at the big companies like ThyssenKrupp and others, all these countries and companies are looking for alternatives to China, because we've already seen in the news about China withholding or reducing exports of some of these rare earths that are required for these industries.

Ryan Morfin:

And you mentioned earlier the regulatory posture of the US makes it difficult to mine. Is it becoming a more bi-partisan issue that we need to maybe relax some regulation around the mining exercise, to incentivize private sector to come in and start producing this? Or is the Republican party versus the Democratic party on two separate pages of music?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. Good question, Ryan. I mean traditionally the Republican party is obviously being more pro-mining and in favor of less regulation when it comes to these things. With regards to our project, we're on Texas state land. So we don't trigger federal environmental permitting at this point in time. And obviously Texas being Texas, a mining state and oil and gas state, things are a lot easier in Texas than they are on projects on federal land where the Bureau of Land Management controls the environmental process around that. But the thing is here, and I don't want to step into what other companies are doing, et cetera, but we do need to be reasonable about allowing projects to come online if they're adhering to environmental standards that are acceptable worldwide. And what we do know, is that China is destroying the environment and cities and water bodies around their mines and processing facilities.

Pini Althaus:

We have standards here in the United States, and I think what we need to do is make it easier for companies to mine, while at the same time protecting the environment. And there are ways to do that. And we're definitely seeing buy-in from Congress, from both sides, with regards to looking how we can stand up a secure supply chain. And, obviously under the Obama administration, they had very strict regulations when it comes to mining. And that's changed under the Trump administration. Hopefully what we start to see is some normal middle ground that'll allow other projects to come online.

Ryan Morfin:

And typically in these rare earth mines, is it amalgamation of different minerals that are all consolidated together and you have to separate them out? Or do you ever find pure play, Europium, I can't even pronounce some of these. Gadolinium, Cerium. I mean, are they all mixed together and you've got to filter and sift them through, or are they pure play mines?

Pini Althaus:

No, they're generally they have a mix. So they're polymetallic projects. They have a number of different materials. Some projects, you more to what we call the light rare earths like MP in California or Linus in Australia. Our project is actually on the opposite end of the spectrum. We have a very high concentration of heavy rare earths. That being said, we do have to go through a process of separating these materials. But the case of our project where we've got 30 materials. We're not going to produce 30 materials. We're not going to market 30 materials. So what we're doing is we're focusing on the key materials that are marketable, that we need for permanent magnets, lithium as well, and working on the separation and the optimization of those materials in particular. But we're all faced with the same processing challenges and that is something that can't be set.

Pini Althaus:

There's no easy way to do this. There are different technologies that have been used in different parts of the world. So predominantly there's a process called solvent extraction, but it's big, it's bulky, it's not benign. It's a bespoke solution for one particular project. So it doesn't work for feedstock from other projects. What we've done is we're using a processing technology that's actually been around since the 1940s. It was part of the Manhattan Project. It's called continuous ion exchange. In fact, the Chinese use it to increase the purities from 99.99 to four nines, five nines, and even six nines. So for some applications you require higher purity levels. It's a far easier processing method to scale up and to take feedstock from other projects. In fact, we've demonstrated for the Department of Energy that we can take coal waste from Pennsylvania and do high purity separation of rare earths using our processing methods. So it's not a step that can be skipped unless one needs to send it to China for processing, which is not going to help us with our objectives here.

Ryan Morfin:

How many other, we'll call it, going concerns on any other businesses that are doing this, that are trying to, I guess, start the development of these mines. Are you guys one of a few or are you one of many? And is it an international or just a US game? Who's leading the charge at going after this?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, well, I'd say the Australians are leading it outside of China right now. You've got some really good projects in Australia. Again, more skewed toward the light rare earths. There's one more heavy rare earth project in Australia, which is not yet producing. The United States, you've got MP Materials, you've got Ucore in Alaska, you've got the Bear Lodge project in Wyoming, which is also another light rare earth project. So as far as a heavy rare earth project that looks like it will come online in the near term, that would be our project. In Canada there are a couple of projects there as well, and again, more skewed toward the light rare earths. But we really need to get as many of these projects online as possible. Because again, I don't see it as competition. We all have a problem doing supply agreements or offtake agreements for our materials.

Pini Althaus:

In fact, one of the things that we're going to have to consider is looking at potentially scaling up our production, based on the demand that we're already starting to see. And I think other companies would find that as well. So it's all about the economics of the project. You have projects that were economically viable back in 2012 or rare earth prices with 35% or so higher than they are today, and are not necessarily viable today. So that's the challenge as well, economically viable projects. And we've got to get as many of them online as possible. It takes many, many years. I mean, our project has had over $70 million put into it to get to where we are today, and we're close to getting to the production scenario. It all revolves around processing at this point in time.

Pini Althaus:

We'd be very happy to see another couple of projects come online, because this is extremely important for national security and for the economy as well. I mean, if you think about it, Ryan, if you've got a billion dollars of rare earth materials, that translates into a trillion dollars or I should say trillions of dollars of finished product. So you've got a magnet in your phone there that's worth a couple of dollars and the cell phone's a thousand dollars. And electric vehicles and defense applications even more.

Ryan Morfin:

Yeah, everyone has one of these iPhones now, and there's tremendous amounts of rare earth on the circuit boards here. And I think people take it for granted that that supply chain is not secure right now. So one question for you, there's talk of this maybe medium term to longterm, but there's talk about mining in space. Do you think that's a feasible option in the longterm, medium term? What are your thoughts on that?

Pini Althaus:

No, that's just ridiculous. I mean, we're trying to find ways to make mining on earth economically viable. I think the cost of going up to space would be more than what our capex will be bringing our entire project into production. I mean, we've got about a 350 to $400 million capex to bring 130 year mine life into production. I'm not an aerospace expert, but I think sending a rocket, building a rocket ship and sending it up, I think maybe on the fuel alone, you could bring a couple of projects into production. So unless we have a fortunate situation or an asteroid lands on earth, and fortunate if it lands somewhere where we don't care, I don't see how that happens. And if it's big enough, it's a problem as well. It's nonsense. And even, options aside of the deep sea mining for rare earths, I mean, you've got all sorts of environmental issues around that as well. I think we need to look at projects that we can bring online, that can be done so in an economic way, that can be done so in an environmentally responsible way.

Pini Althaus:

I mean, one of the things that we've done at our project is we've got in excess of 60% of the materials that have come out around top, will have a clean green energy applicability to them. So we're using the benign processing method. We're going to be using renewable energy on site. In fact, we will likely be putting a solar farm on site as well. We've talked to a couple of companies that have approached us about that, and we'll be a net producer of power for the surrounding area. So there are ways to do it which don't affect the environment. Obviously if there's a project that's situated on a sensitive area, that's a unique situation for that specific project. We've seen it with the Pebble project, which is not a rare earth project. The Pebble project in Alaska where their environmental concerns is we've been recognized by both Republicans and Democrats, but we have to be reasonable about the projects that don't have environmental concerns.

Ryan Morfin:

So Pini, in season two, we ask all of our guests a series of six questions. They're usually, yes, no questions, but trying to take a survey of our conversations. And if you want to add a little context to the yes or no, feel free, but here goes the first question. If there was a COVID vaccine available today, would you take it?

Pini Althaus:

Yes.

Ryan Morfin:

Who do you think is going to win the election?

Pini Althaus:

Which election?

Ryan Morfin:

The US election.

Pini Althaus:

Well, I think it looks like Joe Biden's going to win it, but I think what happens, if we go past January six from my understanding is that the house will vote on it and it's one vote per state. But I don't know if I see it getting there at this point in time. I really don't have a crystal ball.

Ryan Morfin:

Third question. What type of economic recovery are we in? What type of shape is it taking? A V-shape, W, U, L?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, I think 2021 is going to be challenging. I think we've been, and rightly so. I mean, we've had no choice as of almost every other country. We've been printing money for the past year because of COVID. And I think we've got to brace ourselves that, at some point in time, the chickens come home to roost. It was a necessary step. People needed it on an individual level. Businesses needed it as well, but I think we've got to do whatever we can to stimulate the economy, give people confidence to go out and work again, employ people. So I think we've got to watch ourselves, especially in 2021. And I have some concerns, but long-term, I think the approach in the United States is a healthy one.

Ryan Morfin:

During lockdown this summer and quarantine, was there anything in particular that you accomplished that you're particularly proud of?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. A great amount of family time, which, if you would've asked me a few years ago if I could sit at home and be at home for six months, I would have told you absolutely not. I wouldn't be able to do it for six days, but it has... I'm sure it's done this with a lot of families as well. It's brought families together. We had a baby actually last year on Thanksgiving. So I was doing a lot of travel at the time and thought I wouldn't get to see my daughter in her first year or couple of years too often. And being home with her every day is actually been just the most amazing experience. So thankful at least for some silver lining in COVID.

Ryan Morfin:

Are there any silver linings that you see in the economy going into 2021?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, I think we've gone through an absolute beating and it looks like we've got the ability to come out of it. And I think that's a testament to how strong the economy was built up in the years preceding COVID. So overall I remain an optimist. I mean, we are a country built on opportunity and going out and making it happen. And we're not a socialist country sitting and waiting for people to send us paychecks or wealth distribution or anything like that. I think the American dream still lives on. I think if you go out and you're willing to work and put your head to it and heart in it, I think we do have the ability to climb out of it. So if we look at what the economy is doing over the past few weeks, it looks like it's starting to rebound. And to me, that's assuring because it could go completely one way as well.

Ryan Morfin:

And the last question is, is there anything that you're watching, or listening to, or reading today that has been impactful on your thinking that you'd like to share with our audience?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, that's a good question. I think it's been more personal stories. The news, I sort of take that in context or with more than a grain of salt. In some cases stay off the news channels for a number of days at a time, it became quite repetitive. But I think on the personal side, talking to friends, my family's all back home in Australia, they've just come out of 110 day lockdown, which we can't relate to that. It's been very trying on them and seeing the fortitude that they've had to come out of that and stay intact. I think the mental health issues that will come out of COVID are going to have a far longer effect than the economic issues. I think we're going to have to focus on mental health issues in this country for a long time to come.

Pini Althaus:

The impact on kids has been significant with regards to lockdown or remote schooling, et cetera. But to see people come through it. I think it's a testament to people in general and to the country and other countries as well, to see got that fortitude and survival instinct to try to get through whatever adversity we can. So hearing the personal stories, the challenges that people have gone through, I think it's made me a lot more aware of things that I have to be thankful for and where we can help out other people as well. I think we have to be united going forward because there are things...

Pini Althaus:

I think one of the things that COVID has shown us is we can get into this complacency and life goes on and we go one day to the next. And all of a sudden we get hit by something that affects everybody equally. I mean, COVID, whilst there were groups of people, whether it was the elderly or people with underlying health conditions, that got hit the worst. I mean, we all got hit in some form or another. So really, this should be something that unites us, not divides us.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, Pini, I appreciate you coming on today to talk to us a little bit about the supply chain crimp on rare earth and we'll definitely keep an eye on it and would love to have you back in the future.

Pini Althaus:

Thank you, Ryan. Thanks for having me.

Ryan Morfin:

Absolutely. Thank you. Bye-bye. Thanks for watching Non-Beta Alpha. And before we go, please remember to like, and subscribe on Apple podcasts and our YouTube channel. This is Non-Beta Alpha, and now you know.

 

The unique history of a Maryland based distillery and craft secrets on how to make great American Bourbon w/ Admiral Scott Sanders Founder of Tobacco Barn Distillery

The unique history of a Maryland based distillery and craft secrets on how to make great American Bourbon w/ Admiral Scott Sanders Founder of Tobacco Barn Distillery

The unique history of a Maryland based distillery and craft secrets on how to make great American Bourbon w/ Admiral Scott Sanders Founder of Tobacco Barn Distillery

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