Red Tape

From good-paying jobs to TikTok and electric vehicles, Americans often find themselves in need of a real solution that fits the real world. But more often than not, bureaucratic red tape gets in their way. The problems might be more absurd and the answers far simpler than you’d think. Join co-hosts Kelli Pierce and Shoshana Weissmann as they speak with experts and dive deep into some of the biggest policy challenges facing Americans and learn how getting government out of the way is often the answer.

Red Tape is a new podcast from the R Street Institute and Pod People. Subscribe to Red Tape today on your favorite podcasting app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Pandora, iHeart or via RSS feed.

MEDIA Contact

For general media inquiries and to book our experts, please contact [email protected].


To sponsor an episode of this podcast, please contact William Gray, Communications Director at [email protected].

About the Hosts

Kelli Pierce is an award-winning journalist who manages R Street’s website as part of the communications team. When she’s not relaxing in Utah, she can be found chasing her toddler son and helping address the U.S. infant formula crisis. Follow Kelli on Twitter.

Shoshana Weissmann is R Street’s digital director. When she’s not tweeting memes at elected officials, she can be found researching and writing technology and occupational licensing policy as a fellow or hiking around the world for weeks at a time. Follow Shoshana on Twitter.

About the R Street Institute

The R Street Institute is a think tank for the modern age. We focus on deep scholarship and pragmatic policy solutions that many groups tend to neglect. Our goal is to publish timely, relevant research and analysis that advances a market-oriented society and limited, effective government. To that end, our motto is: “Free Markets. Real Solutions.” Learn more about R Street.

About Pod People

Pod People is a content and marketing studio for award-winning podcasts and social creative products. Red Tape is produced by the R Street Institute, in partnership with Pod People. Special thanks to the production teams at Pod People (producer Chris Jacobs and senior production manager Bryan Rivers) and R Street (executive producer Ann Phelan, with support from Alexa Cunniff and Addyson Garner). Album art by Ashley Blackwell. Learn more about Pod People.

Season 1

Episode 1 – “You’re not as free as you think”

Episode description: How free are we really? In the first episode of Red Tape from R Street, hosts Kelli Pierce and Shoshana Weissmann pull back the curtain on some of the ways that the government is getting in the way of your day-to-day freedom. Host Kelli Pierce first speaks with Jill Snider, a retired New York City Police Officer and R Street’s Policy Director for Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties, who talks about the consequences of cash bail and the punishment it inflicts on those unable to pay. Kelli also speaks with R Street’s Courtney Joslin about pharmacist-prescribed birth control as a way to improve access and reduce barriers to care. They discuss the significant ramifications birth control access can have on the lives and freedom of women across the country. (Full transcript here.)

Episode 2It Ain’t Easy Being Green

Episode description: Why is the government getting in the way of green energy initiatives? Join hosts Kelli Pierce and Shoshana Weissmann as they navigate some of the red tape that is slowing down clean energy projects. R Street’s Josiah Neeley speaks with host Kelli Pierce about the crucial role of our nation’s power grid in our pursuit of green energy goals. He talks about how wind and solar have become the cheaper options, why utilities are monopolies, the challenges this creates for our clean energy future, and finally why there aren’t more clean energy projects connected to the grid. Next up, R Street’s Philip Rossetti shares his thoughts on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and how it can delay clean energy projects by years-even decades. He also talks about the hard choices we have to make as we pursue a greener future. (Full transcript here.)

Episode 3 – Ban It All!

Episode description: Don’t like or understand something? Just ban it! In this episode of Red Tape from R Street, host Kelli Pierce is joined by Brandon Pugh, R Street’s Resident Fellow and Policy Director for the Cybersecurity and Emerging Threats Program. They discuss the potential implications of a Tik Tok ban in the United States and examine the delicate balance between data security and tech policy.

Kelli also speaks with Mazen Saleh, R Street’s Policy Director for Integrated Harm Reduction, to discuss why tobacco bans are a bad idea and the challenges surrounding nicotine and tobacco-related policies. Mazen also breaks down the controversy surrounding flavored e-cigarettes, discussing their potential benefits as a safer alternative to traditional combustible cigarettes. Plus, they get real about why quitting cold turkey doesn’t always work and the essential role of harm reduction strategies in managing nicotine addiction. (Full transcript here.)

Episode 4South Park Explains Why We’re Trillions in Debt

Episode description: What can we learn about the U.S. debt crisis from a classic South Park episode? Turns out, almost everything. In this episode of Red Tape, Kelli and Shoshana dissect the classic Margaritaville episode from Season 13 of South Park in 2009.

Host Kelli Pierce is then joined by Nan Swift, a Resident Fellow for R Street’s Governance Program, to examine the complexities of the U.S. budget and why bad ideas persist in government. Also, why is Bill Gates receiving farm bill subsidies?

Kelli also speaks with Jonathan Bydlak, Policy Director for the Governance Policy Program and a Resident Senior Fellow, where they discuss the differences between how the federal government and states handle budgeting, and the implications of people seeking more and better public assistance. Also, what Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul have in common. (Full transcript here.)

Episode 5 – They Took Our Jobs

Episode description: What will happen to our jobs when the robots take over? Kelli and Shoshana navigate the world of artificial intelligence and jobs with R Street’s Resident Senior Fellow for Technology and Innovation, Adam Thierer. An expert on AI, he explains why you shouldn’t worry so much about the robots taking your job. 

Kelli also speaks with Dr. Christi Smith who explains why a criminal record shouldn’t always prevent you from getting a job. Instead, more states should look at “clean slate” laws that remove barriers to jobs for those with criminal records. Kelli and Christi discuss the importance of giving people second chances and allowing them to become productive members of society. (Full transcript here.)

Episode 6 – Where’s the Lie?

Episode description: The Pope was wearing what?! Get ready to find out as we navigate the murky waters of misinformation.  R Street’s Resident Elections Fellow, Matt Germer, joins host Kelli Pierce to talk about election misinformation, and unpacks mail-in ballots and the strengths and weaknesses in states’ voting infrastructures that were revealed by the 2020 election. They also discuss election fraud in the US, recapping recent cases of ballot harvesting and bad apples.

Kelli also speaks with Stacey McKenna, R Street’s Resident Senior Fellow for Integrated Harm Reduction about the complexities of the illicit drug crisis. Stacey breaks down how fear-based anti-drug campaigns riddled with misinformation are doing more harm than good. Stacey also gives insight on effective harm-reduction methods, and shares her personal experience with addiction. (Full transcript here.)

Episode 7 – It’s 230. Do you know where your children are?

Episode description:

The internet as we know it exists today thanks to an obscure law called Section 230. On this week’s episode, Kelli interviews Red Tape’s very own Shoshana Weissmann about Section 230’s crucial role in our digital liberty. Shoshana discusses how this legislation empowers individuals to voice their opinions freely online without fear of litigation, a pivotal element in today’s social media-driven world.

Kelli also speaks with Josh Withrow, R Street’s Innovation and Technology Fellow, about how to keep kids safe on the internet. Josh talks about how to create a safe and responsible online environment for their kids, and brings to light the potential pitfalls of laws designed to protect children that might inadvertently lead to greater harm. (Full transcript here.)

Episode 8 – Build high where it’s dry

Episode description:

What do California and Florida have in common other than beaches and Disney? Natural disasters and insurance markets that are in shambles.

Kelli Pierce interviews Caroline Melear, R Street’s resident fellow on Insurance and Trade policy. Caroline, a Florida resident, breaks down the state’s years long struggle with massive hurricanes, insurance, and why the crisis recently came to a head.

The situation in California is no less chaotic. Kelli also speaks to Steve Greenhut, R Street’s western region director and a California resident, about California’s recent wildfires and floods, the political decisions that have caused major insurance companies to leave the state, and what can be done to prevent California from having the same insurance problems as Florida. (Note: R Street recorded this episode before the existence of Hurricane Hilary.)

Episode 9 – Humble Beginnings

Episode description:

Not many organizations can say they were founded because of a billboard, or that they have a “no ninjas” policy. But there is one organization that can claim both, plus they love South Park. In today’s episode, host Kelli Pierce dives into the story of R Street. She interviews our President and Co-Founder, Eli Lehrer and the Executive Director and very first hire, Erica Schoder

First, Eli and Kelli talk about the controversial billboard that started it all, why working with those who disagree with you is important, and why we should be optimistic about the future. Kelli then speaks with Erica about her love of books, that first R Street job ad, maintaining R Street’s quirky culture, and the importance of transparency, credibility, and diversity in safeguarding the independence of think tanks. (Full transcript here.)

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