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News brief: DeSantis' immigration stand, poll on the economy, King Charles III

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What drove Florida's governor to use taxpayer money to move migrants around?

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Ron DeSantis drew lots of attention by arranging for his state to pay to transport people to Martha's Vineyard. The move was unusual in several ways. DeSantis wanted to highlight a flood of migrants but didn't seem to have enough in Florida to use as props. So he found some in Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott is already doing this, moving migrants around for political capital. As we've reported, people from Venezuela and Colombia were lured onto a plane, lied to about their destination and left in an elite vacation spot, where they now have shelter. In the end, we should note, the number of immigrants in Florida was the same as before.

INSKEEP: NPR's Greg Allen has been following the governor. Greg, good morning.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Why would he do this now?

ALLEN: Well, DeSantis is running for reelection as governor, and illegal immigration has really not been much of an issue in that race. This is a state with a lot of immigrants and a history of accommodating them. But he's also seen as maneuvering for the presidency in 2024. And this move is seen as enhancing his national political profile. One sign of that is that video of the migrants arriving at Martha's Vineyard was provided to and first shown on Fox News.

INSKEEP: OK. There are a lot of politicians who said politics is storytelling. He's telling a story here. How does that particular story enhance his national profile, if at all?

ALLEN: Well, he's an outspoken Republican critic of most of President Biden's policies, including down at the southern border where migration is at record levels. DeSantis thinks Biden hasn't done enough to stem the flow of people coming over the border. He's talked for months about sending them to Delaware, Biden's home state, and he's also talked about sending them to Martha's Vineyard, which he sees as a bastion for liberal elites, as he calls them.

INSKEEP: OK. So he goes to - he does this. He makes this message against the elites. Just to double check, where did DeSantis go to college?

ALLEN: Yeah, well, Harvard and Yale.

INSKEEP: OK. OK. Just to be clear on that. So he's a member of the elite. How's he talking about the flights?

ALLEN: Well, yesterday, he took credit for the flights and defended them, saying that they're intended to make sure that migrants coming over the southern border don't head to Florida.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON DESANTIS: Our message to them is we are not a sanctuary state, and it's better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction. And, yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you to be able to go to greener pastures.

ALLEN: That was at a news conference. You can see, he always has a lot of happy supporters there who are cheering him for all kinds of things. He took just a few questions about the flights, didn't provide any new details. At his request this year, Republican lawmakers set up a $12 million fund to transport unauthorized migrants out of Florida. There's no word if that fund allows for transporting them out of Texas. But there's also been a suggestion by some that this may run afoul of federal anti-trafficking laws. California Governor Gavin Newsom and Florida's top Democrat, Nikki Fried, are among those who are asking the Justice Department to investigate if that's the case.

INSKEEP: Again, just to be very clear, $12 million to move migrants out of Florida. How many of the migrants had previously been in Florida?

ALLEN: Well, those - these were all from Texas, taken from a shelter in San Antonio.

INSKEEP: OK. Is there an argument that this would be bad timing at all for DeSantis to make this move?

ALLEN: Well, Democrats would like to think so. You know, he is running for governor. Yesterday, his Democratic opponent in the race, former Governor Charlie Crist, called him out on the flights, calling them vile and disgusting.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHARLIE CRIST: When you are this inhumane in how you treat human beings, you're not qualified to be governor of anything. And it's just - it's amazing to me what he's willing to do for sheer political gain.

ALLEN: You know, but DeSantis is clearly feeling confident about his gubernatorial reelection campaign. He has lots of money, more than $130 million in the bank, and is very popular with Republicans.

INSKEEP: NPR's Greg Allen, thanks so much.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Early in the pandemic, a lot of Americans saved money. In the past year, it's been different.

MARTIN: A new poll finds nearly 4 out of 10 people say their family finances have gotten worse over the last year. Far fewer people say things have gotten better. The Marist poll was conducted for NPR and the PBS NewsHour. It shows that rising prices are forcing many Americans to cut back on spending or dip into their savings.

INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Horsley has been studying the results. Scott, good morning.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: I guess we should get some context here. Inflation is moderating a little but not a lot. What's that do to people's attitudes?

HORSLEY: Yeah, high inflation is really weighing on people. For most people, the cost of living has been going up faster than their income. And nearly 3 out of 4 people who answered our survey say they've had to cut back on spending as a result. As an example, I spoke to Susan Morrison. She's a retiree in Thousand Oaks, Calif. She's been watching her savings erode this year by the falling stock market. And she used to drive to Simi Valley every week to help run a knitting group at a senior center. Now she goes only every other week to save on gasoline. She and her husband have also been cutting back on travel.

SUSAN MORRISON: We love to vacation in our motor home, but we have not gone anywhere in our motor home at all this year because of the cost of diesel.

HORSLEY: Now, diesel prices have come down from their record high in June, but, you know, the price is still averaging nearly $5 a gallon nationwide.

INSKEEP: Are people viewing the state of the economy through the lens of their particular politics?

HORSLEY: In many cases, yes. Economic attitudes, like so many things, are politically polarized right now. In our poll, Republicans like Morrison were nearly four times as likely as Democrats to say their financial situation has gotten worse in the last year. But even among Democrats, economic attitudes have deteriorated since the last time this poll was conducted back in February.

INSKEEP: So how are people responding to this?

HORSLEY: About 1 in 4 say they've drawn down their savings in order to make ends meet. And many people say they are spending less. For example, more than half of the people surveyed say they're eating out less now than they were six months ago. Now, a little reality check - just yesterday, the Commerce Department reported that actual spending in restaurants is up nearly 7% from six months ago. But there's no question many people feel as if they are having to tighten their belts. Lavender Justice is a pizza delivery driver in suburban Atlanta and says tips this summer are substantially down.

LAVENDER JUSTICE: People are struggling, and it's kind of tragic. Even on Fridays and Saturdays, I've been making probably only 75% of what I was about a year ago.

HORSLEY: As a result, Justice has also had to scale back on favorite hobbies, like costume camping.

INSKEEP: Scott, this is not the main point of the story, but what is costume camping, and what exactly do they do?

HORSLEY: Well, the real name is live action role play, and Justice's favorite is re-enacting a sort of zombie apocalypse while dressed as a giant mushroom.

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

HORSLEY: You can actually see a photograph on our website where we chronicle the poll.

INSKEEP: OK. OK. I'm glad that we're on top of that. Something about the zombie apocalypse does feel appropriate for the moment.

HORSLEY: But the LARPing economy is also taking a hit from high inflation.

INSKEEP: Exactly. Exactly. And I just want to clarify, I mean, for some people, this is a big deal. This is a serious thing. And they're losing more than a hobby. Who's having to cut back the most?

HORSLEY: Not surprisingly, it's the people who had less money to start with that are cutting back the most. In our poll, families making less than $50,000 have had to tighten their belts more than those with upper incomes. We know lower income families start with less of a cushion. They also tend to spend more of their household budget on things like rent and groceries that have gone up the most. I talked to Connor Slaten, who works at a KFC in Kansas City. He recently got a promotion and a pay raise to $14 an hour, but he told me he still has trouble scraping up the rent each month.

CONNOR SLATEN: I don't think there's anywhere in America where $14 an hour can adequately pay for a one-bedroom apartment and everything else that you need.

HORSLEY: Missing a rent or a mortgage payment is still relatively rare in our survey. But among families making under $25,000, nearly 1 out of 4 said they felt that kind of housing hardship.

INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Horsley, thanks so much.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Queen Elizabeth's funeral will attract leaders from around the world next week.

MARTIN: And whatever people think of the old British Empire, the feelings are complicated, and the funeral is a moment to mark generations of history, stretching back to the years just after World War II. Next, attention turns to her successor.

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KING CHARLES III: I am deeply aware of this great inheritance and of the duties and heavy responsibilities of sovereignty. In taking up these responsibilities, I shall strive to follow the inspiring example I have been set.

MARTIN: Charles has far less power than his distant predecessors. He still has enormous prominence. So how is he going to use it?

INSKEEP: Let's ask NPR's London correspondent, Frank Langfitt. Frank, welcome.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey, good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What are royal watchers, of which there are, many saying about the role they expect King Charles to play?

LANGFITT: Well, there is some concern. You know, royals are supposed to stay above politics here. That's part of the deal. And people will say that the queen's genius was that nobody ever knew exactly what she thought about public, let alone political, issues. Now, Charles has a different history. He's been very opinionated about a variety of things, everything from urban architecture to back in the 2000s, he was sending private memos to government officials for things like getting them to restore money for homeopathic medicine, which is a cause of his, even requested funding for an Afghan charity that he has. So critics in the past have seen him as a meddler of sorts. And they say that if he - you know, if they feel he crosses a line, he could get himself in hot water pretty fast.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about the people who would be his - you know, who are now his subjects, people who are lining up by the thousands to see Elizabeth's coffin. What do they make of the successor?

LANGFITT: Well, Steve, not what they made of his mom. The queen was very, very popular. The last poll that I saw, which was in the spring, her rating was about 75% approval rating. That's compared to Charles, which was just about 42%. And a lot of that had to do with Charles' divorce from Diana, which happened back in 1996. I mean, and in the past, he's also been seen as a bit quirky, doesn't have the necessarily personal connection with the subjects that his mother had. And I was talking to a guy named Jonathan Rabbitt. He's a software engineer in Oxford, and this is what he had to say.

JONATHAN RABBITT: I'm not enthusiastic about King Charles as I was about Queen Elizabeth, but that's possibly not hard to say. Elizabeth was an incredible queen. Her faith was an inspiration. Her Christmas broadcasts were always wonderful to see. And Charles has a lot to live up to.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about the queen, the departed. What are the lines like to see her? And what are people saying?

LANGFITT: Very long. I mean, right now, I understand it's more than three miles down the south bank of the Thames and at least nine hours. And the lines - I was down there yesterday - they were moving a lot faster then and weren't quite as many people. But the queen's coffin is in Parliament's Westminster Hall. This is a cavernous hall for big events inside the Parliament building. And I was in there yesterday, and the queen's coffin is on a platform. She's flanked by these bodyguards with swords and pikes. These are - some of them are from the various regiments that you'd see in the bearskin hats outside of Buckingham Palace. Some of the mourners that I saw were very moved by it. One woman had wrapped her arms around a friend, who was weeping. Another middle-aged guy was dabbing his eyes and holding hands with his wife.

INSKEEP: What's the funeral going to be like?

LANGFITT: Yeah, Steve, so the coffin will move from Parliament just across the street to Westminster Abbey. And that is, of course, where Queen Elizabeth - her coronation was back in 1953. So in a sense, this is all coming full circle. There'll be dignitaries from around the world inside the abbey, including President Biden. And then the coffin will make its way up The Mall. This is a big boulevard that leads to Buckingham Palace. And then eventually it will make its way out to Windsor Castle outside of London, where the queen will be buried.

INSKEEP: NPR's Frank Langfitt, always a pleasure to talk with you. Thanks.

LANGFITT: Good to talk, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Rachel Martin
Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.