The G Word with Adam Conover (2022) s01e01 Episode Script


1 [pensive music plays.]
A comedy show about the United States government, starring me, produced by you.
I have some concerns.
Adam, can we make this fast, I'm right in the middle of doing my taxes.
You don't have an accountant? I enjoy doing them myself.
You know taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilized society.
So, how's it going? It's actually easy.
All you have to do is follow the instructions.
Multiply taxable income by point two and enter on line thirteen.
[playful music plays.]
Then enter the amount from Schedule D, line six.
I'm pretty sure I've got Schedule D around here somewhere.
[playful music plays.]
Adam, what's on your mind? - Well, former President Obama, if people - You know most - people just say "president.
" - [scoffs.]
Well that's inaccurate.
It's not your job anymore.
You know, I was promoted at the supermarket junior year of high school, but I'm not making people call me Shift Manager Adam Conover for the rest of my life.
That would be crazy.
I don't want our fact-checkers on my ass.
So, I'm gonna have to stick with former president, or do you prefer FOPOTUS? Anytime you want to get to the point is fine by me.
FOPOTUS Obama, [sighs.]
you're producing the show.
People are going to think it's pro-government propaganda.
Well the show is not about me.
The goal of the show is to show people what our government actually does.
And to introduce them to the Americans who actually do the work.
But the government doesn't always work well.
In fact, sometimes it does harm.
I don't wanna make a show about how the government works.
I wanna know if it works and for whom.
Do you think I can deduct this as a home office? O Okay.
Look, your shtick is revealing the truth right? So look into those questions and tell the whole truth about what you find.
So we could investigate financial bailouts.
Be my guest.
FEMA! Go nuts.
Military technology.
Adam, it's your funeral.
Make the show you wanna make.
I've got expenses to report.
Attach additional worksheet.
What additional worksheet? There is no additional worksheet! [dramatic bass music plays.]
Okay, look, I'm as skeptical as you are.
Does the algorithm actually expect you to watch a comedy show about the government when you could be watching I don't know Food Fails on Nailed It? Okay, don't actually do it.
But look, I am with you.
Government is practically a dirty word in America.
And if you don't believe me, try bringing it up on Thanksgiving and watch what happens to you.
We don't even wanna think about the government, much less talk about it.
It's nothing but bureaucracy and lobbyists and politicians, right? I'm asking for your vote so I can blah, blah, taxes, liberty, everyone hates me.
But once I started looking into what our government actually does, I was amazed to discover that behind the politics lies the biggest and most powerful organization on Earth.
One out of every 16 workers in America is employed by the federal government.
And for better and for worse, they shape every aspect of our lives.
Yet most of us have no idea what any of these people do.
Seriously, what do you do? I make sure our nuclear weapons don't accidentally explode.
See?! This is important shit.
Isn't it a little weird that every four years we get into a national screaming match about who's going to run a government most of us know nothing about? Our government is supposed to be of the people, by the people, for the people.
So shouldn't we the people understand what the hell it actually does? So, on this show, we're gonna investigate all the ways, good and bad, the government affects our lives.
From the money in our pockets, to the health of our bodies, to the very thing that keeps us alive, our food.
[wheels squeaking.]
When I go to the supermarket, I'm overwhelmed by all the choices.
But, what about the choices we don't get to make? Like why are unhealthy foods cheaper than healthy ones? Why does every loaf of bread have corn syrup in it? And why does milk go straight from whole to two percent? Where's all the 53% milk?! Other people are making these choices for us.
And in our food system, no one's choices are more powerful than the government's.
So what I want to know is - are its choices helping us or hurting us.
- [earpiece static.]
And do they have our best interest at heart or someone else's? Well, one choice the government makes is that it sets standards for food safety.
Think about it, no matter what you choose at the supermarket, you can generally assume it's not going to make you violently ill.
- A hundred years ago though, - [electricity static sound.]
food in America made people sick all the damn time.
Hey honey, should I get the tainted meat or the non-tainted meat? Agh, I'll get the brand name, it's got twenty percent less arsenic.
[woman coughs.]
And it's not hard to see why once you know how meat was processed back then.
Hey boss, the rats were defecating on the meat, so I poisoned the rats, but now all the meats are covered in dead poisoned rats.
What do you say we do? Sounds like a new flavor of sausage to me.
I wish I could say this was an exaggeration.
When the writer Upton Sinclair exposed these unsanitary conditions in his book, The Jungle, the public outcry forced President Teddy Roosevelt to act.
That's disgusting! We gotta do something about this.
My fellow Americans, I have signed the Federal Meat Inspection Act, giving the United States Department of Agriculture the authority to inspect meat to ensure it's fit to eat.
From now on, the only jungle you'll hear about - is the one where I shoot elephants.
- [shot fired.]
And when you see that USDA logo, just know that's Uncle Teddy telling you, it's yum yum for your tum-tum.
Wow, Teddy really was the original bear.
And his push for food regulation was unbelievably successful.
Mass fear of tainted meat became a thing of the past.
And the industry actually benefited because the USDA logo was basically a stamp of government approval that the food was safe.
When you think about it, though, isn't this job almost too big? I mean, the US commercial meat industry now processes over a hundred billion pounds of beef, chicken, pork, lamb, mutton and goat every year, not to mention emu.
Yeah, we're eating emu now.
And every single pound of that hundred billion has to be inspected multiple times by the USDA.
So who exactly is touching all of our meat? Do they find it gross or hot that I put it that way? And most importantly, what the hell is that job even like? [low beat soft music plays.]
Welcome to Cargill Schuyler.
Hey, thanks for having me.
- Nice to meet you.
- You bet.
[steam engine chugs.]
So, h how many head of cattle a day here? [Sammy Renteria.]
We're gonna process uh, roughly five thousand head a day.
And how many folks from USDA do you have working here? [Sammy Renteria.]
So we'll have uh, roughly thirteen USDA inspectors um, on-site, for both shifts, so twenty-six total and then we'll have two vets with the USDA.
This is something that not a lot of people get to see other than people who work here.
[Sammy Renteria.]
That is correct.
How should I say, We don't allow many cameras.
So this is where we'll break the carcass down and then put it in a box and then we'll sell it for consumers.
Got it.
So if you look down here, um, you know we talked earlier about the USDA.
- [Adam.]
Yeah, I see it, there is a USDA - There's there's [Sammy Renteria.]
one of our USDA inspectors right there.
- [Adam.]
Right there with the USDA logo on.
- That is correct.
So he's just walking around, he's like looking under that, looking under that tarp.
Just like a roving kind of inspection, sort of like having a restaurant inspector, but they're here everyday.
[Sammy Renteria.]
That's correct.
Not a lot of private businesses invite the government in like that.
A lot of them say, "Well, then you're gonna tell me I gotta stop work and that costs me money.
" [Sammy Renteria.]
We have to have them.
It's a federal mandate that we have USDA.
Can I can I ask you on uh, a personal level, you think that federal mandate is important? You think that helps improve the quality of the meat, that they're mandated to be here? - [Sammy Renteria.]
- [Adam.]
[Sammy Renteria.]
There's a partnership there.
They are helping us to get better.
They're making sure that we are doing what we're supposed to from a food safety standpoint.
Any deficiency in our process, that's what they're looking for, right.
That's what they're that's what they're inspecting for.
[lighthearted music plays.]
- Hey! - Hi Adam, I'm Miguel.
So I'm a Safety Inspector for USDA.
So even though you're right next to people who work for the company and they're giving you a little bit of a hard time, "Hey, why do you have to stop the line?" That never gets in the way of you doing your job? No, if I have a legitimate reason to shut the line off, if I see the product is gonna get contaminated, cross-contaminated and it's gonna harm somebody, I have to do my job.
To me personally, it's very important to make sure that I'm doing my part so people doesn't get sick.
- Yeah.
- Coz uh The food that we produce here goes to my table and goes to everybody's table.
What happens when you know, you see something, that there's a problem? If we see anything, we're going to use one of these blue tags who is called sus suspect tags, and we'll write it out for our veterinarian, and he's going to take uh, this position on him.
So you see something, you see some lymph nodes that aren't quite right, or something like that and you say, "Uh-oh, I got a tag this so the veterinarian can look at it.
" - Hi, Adam.
Angela Broatman.
- Hey! [Adam.]
So you're you're a veterinarian for the USDA.
I've been a veterinarian for 11 years with the USDA.
And the reason I do this is because I'm interested in public health.
These are just some of the cows that are going to slaughter today and to enter the food chain for the American public.
But I I guess I'm not an expert, I'm looking at these cows, I'm like, to me, it doesn't look like a super happy sight, right? So, like how can you tell if they're, you know, in good spirits or they've been mistreated or anything like that? [Dr.
Having the catwalk is actually a really great vantage point.
Because sometimes I watch the truckers as they're unloading, to make sure they're um, using humane handling techniques and make sure that they're walking them and nobody's doing anything else to cause them undue stress as they come off the trucks.
You're actually paying attention to their like, to their behavior.
I'm watching for anybody that's limping.
I need to watch to see if they come to the water troughs.
Are our water tanks full so that they can get a drink, I'm watching for any foreign animal diseases.
I'm listening.
- Listening to those sounds.
- Yeah.
I'm listening, that's a normal moo.
- Smelling the smell.
- Yeah.
- How'd you get into this? - During vet school, I actually discovered that I really love necropsy, because I love seeing their organs - That's autopsy, basically.
- Yeah, the autopsy on animals.
So you were like Hold on a second.
You were a veterinarian and you were like my favorite part is when I cut apart a dead animal? - It yeah It actually was.
- And you were like ping! Yeah, it's like where can I work on dead animals? - [laughs.]
- And and the USDA has afforded me that.
I love looking at the disease processes, and I get to see so many different um, diseases.
- You're a geek for cow diseases.
- I am.
There's the right job out there for every obsession.
- Right.
- No matter what weird thing you like.
There's a job There's a job out there for it.
You'll see inside that the inspectors are looking at every single carcass and they're looking at all the viscera, all the organs.
So, anything that would be a threat to public health.
[machines clanging.]
Okay so, tell me what I was looking at in there.
Like I noticed you were looking at that big carcass and you saw something and you started stamping it with blue dye, what does that mean? A lot of times that dye means that a product is not good for it's contaminated so it can't go for edible product.
As you saw, all those lungs had a whole bunch of uh, pneumonia inside there.
- [Adam.]
- So as I looked at the carcass, I noticed that systemically that carcass was not healthy.
So it couldn't have been used for human consumption.
Man! I I mean [chuckles.]
this is just such an intense thing to see.
Is it an intense job to have or do you get used to this? You get used to it after a while because you know that while you're on the floor, that you're actually protecting the public by making sure that these animals are healthy and making it to so uh, some type of product that's meaningful.
- That your family could enjoy.
- Yeah.
How did you start doing this? I started off as a private practitioner vet in northwest Missouri.
Like a regular vet, like "My dog is coughing" vet? Exactly.
I assume you must love animals, like because you were doing that work.
So how does that feel to you to be a part of a system that is, you know, killing animals? Well, the way I see it is, I do I enjoy the live animals very much.
But at the same time too, I want to make sure they're humanely treated and all that any time they're going for slaughter process, that they're being appropriately handled.
If I If someone's not there to do that, then who else is? Yeah, that's true.
Thank you so much Dr.
Suntrup, it was - awesome talking to you.
- Thank you.
- [pensive music plays.]
- [snickers.]
You know it was hard to see a lot of that.
But it's still so important for us to take a good look at the system that actually produces our food.
And no matter what you think of the meat industry, I think you have to be happy that at every meat factory in America, there are inspectors on the line who work not for the company, but for us, with our best interest at heart.
But you know, they might not always be there.
See, because of a push for deregulation in 2019, the USDA passed a new rule that could cut up to 40% of pork inspectors at some plants and instead allow those plants to self-inspect, even though it's been found that plants that tried such a system had double the violations for digestive and fecal contamination.
You know, I just learned these meat inspectors existed.
And now I find out they're being taken away? This is Jupiter's Legacy all over again.
You know, I get why a big meat company wouldn't want to have inspectors in their factory, but, that sure doesn't help me when I'm choking down my cheesesteak.
And how about that factory, I mean, not only did the cows uh, not seem to like that place, studies show that animal agriculture is such a big polluter, their emissions are literally cooking the planet and killing more people every year than pollution from coal power plants.
Thank you, Brianna.
So, if the government were really looking out for us, it would be curtailing factory farming, not inspecting it less, right? So, who is the government really working for, the farmers? Or we the people, who actually eat the food? Well, we did a deep dive into our government's food policy and it turns out that our government has always favored the former, the farmer.
And that makes some sense because for much of our history, helping out farmers actually meant helping the average American.
Dang right it did.
Why during the Great Depression, one out of every four Americans lived on a farm, like this one here.
And during that great calamity, we lost 60% of our income.
[wind howling.]
My molasses! Oh, what do we do? [intriguing music plays.]
Not to worry, folks, I'm from the government and I'm here to help.
I've come direct from Mr.
Franklin Roosevelt himself to spread the news about this amazing new program.
It's called "Uncle Sam's Bonus Simoleons Intended and Directed to Increase Every Seedling".
Swap the "s" and the "u" and that spells subsidies.
Here's how it works.
You grow corn on this here farm? Well, yeah-huh.
You're getting a subsidy! Now how about growing some wheat? Well, I could do it.
Subsidy! Rice and cotton? You name it, I grow it.
Well, call me Old Faithful coz you're getting a geyser of subsidies! And Uncle Sam's not stopping there, no siree.
We're gonna keep ploughin' haystacks of cash into rural America for the next century whether you like it or not.
Why we won't just subsidize you, we'll buy your surplus when you grow too much.
And we'll fund agricultural research to keep your fields flourishing.
Just a dab'll do ya.
[lighthearted music plays.]
All this federal investment didn't just save the American farm.
It was nothing short of a revolution in the food system.
farm output has nearly tripled since 1948 and Americans now spend less of our income on food than any other developed nation.
In fact, we've become the world's largest agricultural exporter.
Thank you kindly, Uncle Sam.
There's just a few problems though.
One: Black farmers never received the same level of support white farmers did, a historic mistake that the government has only recently even acknowledged.
And secondly, if we fast-forward to today These century-old, Depression-era subsidies are still in place.
But most Americans aren't farmers today.
Less than one percent of us are.
And nearly half of our subsidies aren't going to the small farmers, they're going to the top seven percent of the biggest farms in the country.
That means they're not for the people, they're going straight to Big Agriculture.
Old MacDonald makes it rain Ee-i-ee-i dough! ♪ Not only that, these subsidies are quite literally bad for our health.
See, when you subsidize something, you get a lot more of it.
[grain pouring.]
Have you ever looked at your supermarket shelves and wondered why they're so full of cheap, processed junk food? This is the answer.
Instead of subsidizing healthy fruits and vegetables, our government is still literally paying farmers to grow bulk grains like wheat, rice, and corn that get processed into this crap.
This delicious crap.
I mean, I know it's bad for me.
I know it puts me at greater risk of diabetes and high cholesterol, but I cannot stop eating it.
Hoo! And yet, my own government is helping make sure it's the cheapest, most abundant food in America.
Why? You know, it sure seems like the government's mission to help farmers is getting in the way of its duty to help eaters.
Especially since the same USDA that keeps Big Agriculture afloat is also responsible for crafting the dietary guidelines that advise us what to eat.
Wonder if it's a little bit of a conflict of interest? Like, ooh, hey Remember the USDA food pyramid that was slapped on the back of every cereal box and health class handout in the 90s? Ever wonder where that came from? Okay team, this guide will influence every American's eating choices for decades to come.
So we have to base it on the best nutrition science available.
Uh-uh oh.
Sorry, nerds.
The USDA gave the agriculture industry final say over your precious pyramid.
[evil chuckle.]
My God! They're cutting fresh fruits and vegetables in half, and doubling the recommended daily allowance of grains! Hey, more bread in your mouth means more bread in our pockets.
[evil laugh.]
I know it seems hard to believe, but, according to the former USDA Director of Nutrition Guidance, Luise Light, it's true.
She wrote that the AG Secretary's office altered wording because the meat and milk lobbies believed it'd hurt sales.
And also hugely increase the servings of wheat and other grains to make wheat growers happy.
And this goes deeper than the food pyramid.
The USDA even created a marketing arm to work with fast food companies to find new ways to cram their products full of cheese.
Why? To help the dairy industry.
[combative music plays.]
We need to put more cheese here! Here! Dammit soldier, we need to put more cheese here! But ma'am, it's already covered in cheese! - There's no more room! - [yells.]
I don't give a crap! Put it in the goddamn crust if you have to.
Brilliant! [marching band playing.]
Hold on a second.
The government delivered us stuffed crust pizza? Not only that, I grew up scarfing down six to eleven servings of bagels and pasta a day because the government told me it was healthy, and because I had low self-esteem.
But now I find out that it was all a lie to prop up the food industry.
What the fuck?! You know, every article and ad says that the key to healthy eating is for us to make better choices, but why is it all on us? Maybe instead of worrying so much about what we choose off the shelves, we should pay more attention to what our government chooses to put on them.
Because only it has the power to determine whether our food is safe and fit to eat, whether the advice on the back is healthy or harmful.
And whether a box of Super Sugar Berry Bombs is ten times cheaper than a real goddamn berry.
Oh, these are good though.
They give these to kids, really? You know, sometimes you hear people say that the government can't do big things, but, clearly it can and does.
The more important question to ask is who it's doing them for? Because if our government stops working to our benefit, it can be a disaster.
- [suspenseful music plays.]
- [thunder rumbles.]
[lighthearted music plays.]

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