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- Good evening.
I'm Janet Gornick, Professor of Political Science
and Sociology here at The CUNY Graduate Center
and I'm also director of The Stone Center
on socioeconomic inequality,
one of the hosts for this evening's event,
and it's my pleasure to welcome you this evening.
Welcome to those of you in the Elebash Recital Hall
and welcome to our viewers joining via live stream.
Let me just say a few words about
the City University of New York and The Graduate Center
for those of you who might not be familiar with CUNY
or The Graduate Center.
CUNY, which of course serves the city of New York
is the country's largest urban public university
and the third largest university system
in the United States.
We have 25 campuses, about 275000 matriculated students
and nearly 7000 professors.
Among the overarching themes
to be raised this evening is inequality,
and in my view, there's no more appropriate setting
in which to discuss inequality than here at CUNY.
CUNY itself is a massive project aimed
at reducing socioeconomic inequality
and enabling intergenerational mobility.
When our first college, The City College of New York,
was founded in 1847, it was described as an experiment
whose purpose was to educate
the children of the whole people.
And over 170 years later, our mission is intact.
CUNY, with a design unique in the United States,
has dedicated one of its campuses to graduate study
and that's The Graduate Center where we are this evening,
The Graduate Center, a small school embedded
in this large system enrolls nearly 5000 graduate students
across an array of disciplines.
The Graduate Center is strongly committed
to CUNY's historic mission, we provide access
to doctoral education for diverse groups
of talented students including those
who have been underrepresented in higher education.
In the last decade, the graduate center has set,
among its highest priorities, expanding our capacity
in research and teaching in the field
of socioeconomic inequality
with an emphasis on empirical work,
high quality data and quantitative methods.
One of our primary goals is to contribute to
and to deepen the complicated national
and international conversation about economic inequality
that has received so much attention in recent years.
This evening's event will address several of the economic,
political and institutional challenges that many of us here
at The Graduate Center and throughout CUNY
have grappled with in recent years.
The Graduate Center is now home
to more than 30 research centers
and institutes including our own,
The Stone Center on Socioeconomic Inequality.
The center's mission is to build and disseminate knowledge
related to the causes, nature and consequences
of multiple forms of socioeconomic inequality.
The Stone Center has six core faculty members,
myself, Leslie McCall who's on stage,
Miles Corak, Paul Krugman,
Salvatore Morelli and Branko Milanovic.
Tonight, The Graduate Center and The Stone Center
are delighted to be partnering with The Guardian
whose new series, 'Broken Capitalism',
addresses the question of why discontent with capitalism
is rising and asks if it can be repaired.
Richard Reeves, from whom you'll hear in just a moment,
is the guest editor for this Guardian series.
Richard is bringing together an extraordinary group
of scholars, politicians, writers and activists
to reflect on this critical topic.
I encourage you to follow this series
which will run throughout the summer
and we're extremely pleased tonight
to offer this companion live event
which will examine the topic of democracy and capitalism
asking the fundamental and rather ambitious question,
can they co-exist?
Tonight's event is also part of The Graduate Center's
two year initiative of scholarship and public programs
called the Promise and Perils of Democracy
which is supported in part by a grant
from the Carnegie Corporation New York.
And now without further ado,
I'd like to introduce our moderator
for tonight, Richard Reeves.
Richard is a senior fellow in economic studies
at the Brookings Institution where he's also co-director
of the Center on Children and Families.
He's author of the highly praised book,
'Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class
'Is Leaving Everyone in the Dust,
'Why That's a Problem, and What to Do About It.
'Richard will introduce our distinguished panel.'
Richard, I turn the evening over to you.
- Thank you Janet for that great introduction.
It's my great pleasure to be moderating this panel today
and to be guest editing The Guardian series.
It's a deliberately provocative title of course,
the idea that capitalism and democracy can't coexist
is a provocative one.
It's one we wouldn't have even asked ourselves
not so very long ago and probably the thinking behind
the title of this evening's event but also this series
is to think about the connections between
our political system, our forms of governance and democracy
and our economic system.
So it goes, it wasn't that long ago
when we wouldn't even ask,
not only not asking a question whether they can coexist
but also they seem like natural bedfellows.
Those long enough memories,
we remember the end of history being declared,
the end of the Cold War and there's just this sense
that broadly market based economies
would come together, converge together
with broadly representative political systems.
It seemed to be the way the world was converging
but now we're seeing the rise of illiberal democracies,
the rise of state forms of capitalism.
And a real question being asked now
which is how do the traditional ways
in which market based economies operate,
really interact with political systems
and particularly with democratic systems.
And Janet has already set up very well
by talking about the rise in inequality,
sluggish income growth especially in the middle
and the bottom and growing fears about climate crisis.
The promise of capitalism is one that is being questioned
as, I would say, as never before
but certainly more strongly questioned
than in recent history.
In some polling you'll now see
significant numbers of Americans especially millennials
and those who support a democrat party
saying that they actually kind of veer more
towards socialism than capitalism.
On closer investigation of course,
what they really mean is more social democracy,
something more like a welfare state
and so being clear in our definitions is important too.
And so what I'm gonna do is introduce our three speakers
who are gonna speak to this kind of question
and what does it mean to be a citizen
in both a political democracy and a participant
in a capitalist economy, what does that mean now?
Where are the pressure points?
Why are we having this conversation at all?
They'll each give some brief comments,
I'll then moderate the discussion between the panelists
and then we'll throw it open to the floor for Q&A.
I'm gonna offer brief introductions
because obviously you can look online
to see more about our distinguished panel.
And I'm going to introduce in the order
in which they're going to speak.
So first we're gonna hear from Andrew Yang.
Andrew Yang is a tech entrepreneur, he's a philanthropist,
he founded 'Venture for America'
and he's author of most recent book of
'The War on Normal People:
'The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs
'and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future.'
I apologize in advance to the other panelists.
I don't have their book in my hand.
That's because they didn't just give it to me
whereas Andrew cleverly gave me the book,
literally as I'm walking on the stage
so that's excellent marketing.
And Mr. Yang is of course
well known for other activities.
He's enjoying a particularly high public profile right now.
Many people are supporting him
and are interested in his policies.
That of course he is here today as a thought leader.
And then we're gonna hear from Leslie
who's one your far right.
Leslie McCall, Janet's already mentioned.
She's presidential professor of sociology here at CUNY
and she's the executive director
of The Stone Center that Janet runs.
She is the author of 'The Undeserving Rich: American Beliefs
'about Inequality, Opportunity, and Redistribution.'
And then you'll hear last from Vanessa Williamson
who's on your left.
Vanessa is a senior fellow at the best think tank
in the world, the Brookings Institution.
It's just, there are surveys of these things apparently,
and she is author of 'Read My Lips: Why Americans
'Are Proud to Pay Taxes.'
And so between the panelists we have really rich experience
of both business but also academia and political science.
And so I'll stop talking and hand over
to Andrew to kick us off.
- Thank you Richard and thank you
for the generous introduction.
It's true, I do carry copies of my book around
just wherever I go.
So I was fascinated by the question
and scaffolding for this conversation as well
because I grew up thinking that capitalism and democracy
were natural bedfellows.
And that the problem right now is that we're dealing
with this distorted version of each and so now it seems like
neither is functioning very well, which is accurate.
And one of the quotes I like to share
is from a friend of mine, Eric Weinstein,
who said that we never knew that capitalism
was gonna get eaten by its son, technology
which is unfortunately the era we're entering
where we're entering this win or take all economy
that is breaking down many of the capitalist relationships
we take for granted.
So for example, in the 1970s,
if I started a successful company,
you could make a number of assumptions.
I would have to hire lots of people to feel my growth,
I would need to treat them moderately well
maybe so they could buy my offering like Henry Ford
and buy my car and I would need to care
about what happens in my backyard
because my workers live there, I live there et cetera.
Today none of that is true.
I can start a successful company that does not need
to hire lots of people or if I do hire people,
they have a very specialized skill set.
If I hire lots of people, let's call them Uber drivers,
I do not need to treat them very well,
I do not need to give them benefits
and I don't have to care about my own backyard
because I don't sell in any one place, I sell everywhere.
And so there are all of these underpinnings
of what you thought the economic benefits would be
to growth that are not translating to the broader population
and then you have a democracy that's being held captive
in many ways by the same moneyed interests,
and that's why young people today are coming of age
where they think capitalism hasn't served
their interests very well and they're correct,
so you can't fault them.
And so if I had grown up during this era,
I too would be very dubious given
the record levels of student loan debt
and the underemployment and everything else.
So we need to fix both systems.
We need to fix both capitalisms that it functions
better for more Americans and then we need
to return democracy to our people as fast as possible.
- [Richard] Thank you, Leslie.
- Thanks, thanks very much Richard.
So I wanna back to this specifically looking
at the issue of economic inequality which is what I study
and which has already been raised as perhaps
one of the central tensions between capitalism
on the one hand which fosters inequality
and today fosters extreme levels of inequality,
and democracy on the other hand which seeks
to alleviate inequality and in fact
does alleviate inequality but certainly
not to the extent that it should nowadays.
And I wanna illustrate this tension first with
an anecdote that I think also offers
a little bit of historical context for the discussion
that we'll have tonight.
So I started studying the politics of inequality
in the early 2000s, and specifically public opinion
and public views about economic inequality,
about the economy, about related public policy issues
and starting with the 2004 presidential election,
friends and colleagues of mine who knew
that I studied this issue would say to me,
"Wow, Leslie, isn't it great that the issue
"of economic inequality is receiving
"so much attention these days?"
And then they said it again, a different group of people
said it again in 2008 and then in 2012 and 2016
and of course nowadays everyone says,
isn't the most important issue in this year's
or 2020's presidential election is in economic inequality.
And so this has been a real concern because in fact
economic inequality hasn't really changed very much
over that time period, really hasn't changed at all.
If anything it's grown.
And so my response has always been,
throughout this period, pretty much the same
which is yes, it's a step forward,
the politicians and other thought leaders
and influential groups such as journalists,
academics, policy advocates, business leaders even
that they're starting to catch up, is what I argue,
they're starting to catch up with where
the American people have been for a long time
which is actually opposed to extreme levels
of economic inequality.
So they're catching up but one thing that they have avoided
talking about is what I consider, based on my research,
the central problem that Americans are concerned about
which is the lack of a fair economy
and the lack of a broadly, broadly inclusive economy,
what some people call stakeholder capitalism
and which I also see as very much rooted
in the civil rights movement
and in particular equal employment and equal pay doctrine.
So coming back to the present,
I think the fact, as Richard said,
the fact that we are talking about this issue
in such bold grandiose terms as capitalism
and democracy, I think is very much a step forward
because up until this point,
the discussion in the past presidential elections,
and I'm just using that as an example,
and this has been true throughout
in the political discussion,
I don't believe that that elite level political discussion
has fairly represented the American people
and the public interest on issues of economic inequality
and maybe that is starting to change.
- I just wanna say it's past time talking about it,
we should do something about it.
- Yeah, absolutely.
- [Richard] Vanessa.
- So when I was asked to think about this question
of whether capitalism and democracy can coexist,
the sort of punitive into that occurred to me
which I'm gonna try and defend is that we don't know
because we haven't tried.
I really do mean that in a way because when you think about,
the basic tension which we've already been talking about
is if capitalism concentrates wealth,
it thereby concentrates power.
And if we concentrate power, that is at odds
with the democratic system, right?
And you might consider that there are some kind of threshold
below which a little bit of concentration, not so bad
but certainly I think we'd all agree
that we're on the far side of whatever that threshold is.
But when we think about how we've developed capitalism,
we've never done it in a way that valued people equally.
And you only have to look as far as the gender pay gap,
the racial wealth gap, to see that some people's labor
has never been fairly valued and those are the same people
whose political voices have never been fairly valued.
And so I think that if we're gonna think
about whether capitalism and democracy can coexist,
we first have to ask ourselves if we've ever given either
the testing that it might warrant.
And in particular I think we should think about
whether we can imagine a system
that creates immense inequality as acceptable
if we actually do think of all people as equal.
- Thank you.
And thank you to all of you for keeping
your comments so brief at the beginning
and giving us plenty of time for discussion.
I wanna push, I think I'll probably push all of you on this,
the nature of the problem
and whether it's an economic failure
or it's a political failure to deal with economic trends.
And I think this is quite an important distinction
to make in this debate 'cause you can say that capitalism,
market economies generate inequality, yes they do,
they're supposed to, they only work
if they generate inequality
but we then have a collective responsibility
to ensure that the winners don't win too big
and the losers don't get kind of left behind
but that's a political decision.
And in fact, depending on how you calculate it,
if the US just redistributed more
along the lines of other countries then the resulting levels
of inequality wouldn't be that different.
So I guess what I'm asking is there a danger here
that we're blaming capitalism for the failures
of the political system and that we should instead
just be trying to fix it a political level.
So you could do two things for example,
you could redistribute more but you could also
reform, camp and finance.
So the cumulation of wealth as power can have
a very different effect in a country
that doesn't have funding of politics to one that does.
So the broader question is who's really at fault here.
Why don't we start with you Vanessa
'cause you kicked me off.
- So I think that it's a mistake to imagine
that markets aren't political by nature.
Markets are a political outcome,
exactly the same as the tax system
because markets are governed by laws
and laws are made by lawmakers
who in our country we still elect for now.
I always do.
My point is that when you're thinking about a market system,
it's not something that somehow
precedes the political economy.
The market isn't something that happens.
It's not that everyone has a couple of apple trees
and then goes to the market and exchanges
and then the king came along and took some taxes.
It's not sort of a simplified version of the economy.
Entire industries rise and fall based on whether
we enforce antitrust laws.
The legalization of marijuana has created entire industries
that are now legal industries that never existed before.
So I think it's a mistake to imagine that market economies,
there's an economy that preexists
the political institutions.
And I think that when we think about what the solutions are
to the concentration of wealth,
we need to think both about the laws that govern
how money gets distributed first and the laws about
how the money gets redistributed thereafter.
- [Richard] Right, so markets are political institutions
and predistribution as well as redistribution
is a political decision.
Andrew, do you wanna weigh in?
- The example I use that everyone understands most directly
is how did Amazon pay zero in taxes in 2018,
how did the trillion dollar tech company
pay less than the federal taxes
than the vast majority of people in this room?
And that is a colossal political failure
at the highest levels.
It's clearly completely opposite of what you'd want,
particularly because Amazon is soaking up
another 20 billion dollars in commerce every year
that is now pushing 30% of malls
and main street stores to close, and being a retail worker
is still the most common job in this country.
The average retail worker is a 39-year-old woman
making between 10 and $11 an hour.
So if you look at that equation, 30% of the stores close,
cashiers get sent home, meager savings,
not much in the way of path forward and zero in return.
That's public policy and political failure
at the highest levels.
So we've created this system and then people look around
to your point that's like market.
And every other advanced economy already has a mechanism
in place to avoid something like Amazon paying zero taxes.
And that was not an anomaly.
Their lifetime tax rate is only 3%.
And so you look at that and you say
any of the cries of where are the resources?
It's like where are the resources?
So you just look around and who's benefiting the most
from our current arrangement which I agree
is a completely political decision that we've done
but we've done it very passively
and now we have to actively correct for it.
So one suggestion that would help everything is that
if we just gave every American citizen 100 democracy dollars
that you could then contribute to any candidate
or political campaign, that would wash out
the lobbyist money by a factor of five.
That would actually make it so that politicians
would listen to constituents as opposed to people
because right now as a politician,
if you get people behind you,
you then have to get the money some place else
and who has the money?
Rich companies and rich individuals.
So who do you listen to?
Rich companies and rich individuals.
If you could get 10000 people behind you
and that's a million dollars
and then the company starts waving 50, 100000 at you
you'd be like I don't care about your 50, 100000,
I'll just listen to the people who voted me in the office.
So that's the kind of dramatic fix that we need
to try and strengthen a democracy
that would then turn to the Amazons of the world
and say you're paying zero taxes make no sense at all.
- So rather than trying to stop corporate money
you crowd it out with citizen's money basically.
I wanna tell us about the Amazon thing.
I'm gonna come to you in a little bit.
The Amazon is a great example I think
because if you're sitting on the board of Amazon
on the current regulator environments and you're making
a decision about what to do about reducing your tax bill
you've got shareholders then the right thing to do
is try and reduce your tax bill as much as possible.
But there are people who are attacking Amazon.
They're saying there's something wrong with Amazon.
What I think I'm hearing you say,
Leslie's gonna weigh on this
is Amazon aren't doing anything wrong,
they're playing by the rules of the game.
It's the game that's the fault.
And it does seem to me that's quite an important distinction
in who we decide is at fault here, who are the villains.
If people are just profit maximizing in a market economy,
that's kind of what they're supposed to do, isn't it?
Or are they supposed to work differently?
- Leslie come in and we'll come back.
- I just wanna say it's ridiculous
that we're berating these corporate leaders
like they're supposed to self regulate.
That makes no sense.
It's their job to make as much money as possible.
- [Richard] I think that's an answer to the question then.
What about you Leslie?
- I wanna take the question really seriously
because in reality what politicians are doing
is they are taking a hands-off
perspective on the economy,
that there's technological change, there's globalization,
there are these dynamics
that we as politicians can't interfere with
or if we do interfere with them
then there might be job loss, for example.
And so we can see what Amazon has done.
This very issue of threatening job loss
and imposing or intervening
in political processes in the City of Seattle,
in New York City all throughout,
actually overturning past legislation in Seattle
that was meant to increase taxes
on individuals within, actually on corporations
that make more than 20 million dollars in revenue
and the tax would be on the corporations per employee head.
This was passed by the Seattle City Council
in order to help fund housing, more affordable housing.
Apparently, I'm not an expert on this
but I think there are parallels to the New York City case
but apparently Amazon had said that
they were supportive of this policy.
Well, it turns out they weren't supportive
and they created an organization with Starbucks
and other large companies called, what was it called?
No Taxes on Jobs.
So the fear is about if you do regulate
then corporations can come back and say
I'm taking my jobs and leaving.
So that's the reality.
- They're able to do what Vanessa's talking about
which is to turn economic power into political power.
It's the way that these spheres of power,
how porous are the boundaries between them?
But Vanessa I wanna come to you and ask you to respond
to my challenge on Amazon not doing anything wrong
partly because your own work is about attitudes towards tax,
I think more among individuals and wrapping a question
which I wanna ask all of you but I'll ask you first
which is the sense of what does a citizen owe
to the collective and what does it mean
as an act of citizenship
as an individual to be paying taxes or contributing
but maybe also as a company.
- Yeah, so I think that first of all
if we're gonna talk about the ways
in which economic power affects our political system,
part of it is campaign finance but the other part is that
we have starved the public sector
in these really critical ways.
Legislators don't have the resources they need
so they rely on lobbyists.
So people don't like to talk about the fact
that congress needs more money,
not so we can fly congressmen around
in planes more effectively but so that
they can hire they staff that they need
so that the only information they get about legislation
doesn't come from the Amazons of the world.
So I think that's a really big piece of it
when we think about how to rebalance political power
and economic inequality.
On the question of taxation,
so my book has a controversial title.
I say that Americans are proud to pay taxes
but being proud is not the same as being happy.
And if you look for this rhetoric,
you really hear it all the time.
People talk about themselves as taxpayers.
They say, I pay my taxes which is weird
because paying taxes is mandatory
so giving yourself credit for doing so seems a little odd
but it's a really common rhetorical device
in the United States.
And it's actually backed by a lot of civic sentiment.
People see tax paying as part of their obligation
as a citizen, right?
And as something that they do to contribute
to their community.
I sort of push people in these interviews.
In surveys the rates are remarkably.
You get 90 plus, 95 plus and 10% of Americans agreeing
that tax paying is a civic duty
which is almost unheard of in survey data.
Similar questions can be asked about
whether all this still alive then you get 90,
90 plus percent of Americans agreeing on something.
But I thought this was just nice, happy talk in a survey
but the thing is it comes up in interviews.
So if you talk to people about taxation,
it doesn't take long before they start talking about,
they feel that their government owes them something,
and not necessarily in the form of a check holder,
I would imagine that's pretty popular too
but in the sense that they chipped in
so they deserve to be heard.
And people get very very angry.
They bring it up without being asked
which I always think it's a real sign
that if someone actually cares about this idea
that these corporations they are paying less in taxes
than I did and I'm making $30000 a year, whatever it is.
Those kinds of comments are very common
and I think fundamentally it's a very positive trait
that Americans still, after many decades of antitax rhetoric
in this country still use taxation as a way
of talking about what contribution,
what part of one's labor one should give to the public.
- So I'm gonna put some of these together
and I'll ask the question.
And we'll start with you Leslie and come back this way.
So what we're hearing is economic inequality is real
and is growing, it's a very salient political issue
within huge economic divisions geographically,
occupationally, certainly in terms of people's pay packets,
big wealth gaps, so any iconic inequality, big problem.
People are really worried about that,
people are proud if not happy to pay their taxes
and they know that the system's not working for them.
I'm just summarizing kind of various things
that I've heard from three of you so far.
So why are we where we are then?
If all of those things are true,
why are we actually going through,
if anything, policy is going the other way.
Policy is going to increase inequality.
Certainly, fiscal policy will at the moment.
If the ingredients that you've all identified are correct
why are we getting this dish served to us?
Because the way you've just described it,
we should be living in a democratic
socialist America already.
So what's the gap between the analysis and action?
Leslie, why don't we start with you.
- Sure, so we've already talked about one pathway
which is the economic power and influence
that people with a lot of money have on public policy.
So I wanna talk about the sort of other side of this
which is even apart from the influence
that money has on politics, I actually think
that politicians genuinely believe
that they cannot affect the economy,
that they cannot intervene in the economy
in really significant ways.
Maybe the only exception is the minimum wage
which is hugely popular but yet there's a lot of debate
and controversy over the minimum wage as well
lifting it up to $15.
So I think this is really a major hurdle
and because politicians don't offer genuine remedies
to the problem of low wages, to the lack of benefits,
these are workplace problems, right?
So we're not talking about solutions
like increasing taxes on the rich.
I'm talking about changing the work environment,
compensation, benefits and so on.
These kinds of policies are just pretty much off limits.
And what I would argue, is that that discourages voters.
They're not interested in politics
because the kinds of policies that they would like to see
which is essentially a stronger
more thriving economy for everyone,
that that hasn't been on the table.
So that discourages participation
and I think that's extremely important.
There's this mismatch in other words
between what politicians are offering
in terms of solving these problems
and what people actually want.
- We say collective fatalism
about our ability to do it.
But you've already the fact and this, I think, will help
you Andrew mope and motivate some of your own work.
If you say this is gonna kill jobs
then it's not quite game over in terms of political debate
but it's really difficult to recover from that.
And so a higher minimum wage does reduce employment
at the margins in some circumstances
but the benefits will mostly outweigh it.
The best studies, I think Kruger Card,
this will get boring really fast
but Kruger Card, they show some effect or be of some effect.
It's almost impossible to believe that raising the price
of labor would have some effect on labor market
but they tend to be pretty marginal in the long-run,
probably increases in productivity bla bla bla.
But f there's any evidence it's gonna cost any jobs at all
then all the other benefits that come from it,
reducing poverty et cetera, just get blown out of the water
because jobs, everyone cares so much about jobs
and if they're afraid of jobs
and it almost ends the debate right there
which is why we think about something else.
- Just one last point on this.
The problem is that then people think
that it's jobs and that's it versus what kind of jobs.
That's they key thing.
- [Richard] Any job will do if it's not true.
- The example of Amazon in New York City,
a very very tough issue, I'm not gonna pretend
that there was a right and wrong answer here.
So the loss of 25000 jobs, you can't treat that lightly.
On the other hand,
then that becomes the center of the conversation,
that it's only about those 25000 jobs
versus all the other aspects of the inequality issue
that are so central.
It's not just about the jobs but the character of the jobs,
the pay, the benefits and all of the other surrounding jobs
as well as lots of infrastructure and housing.
There are so many issues involved.
- [Richard] Okay, Vanessa then Andrew.
- I think that one of the sort of paradoxical aspects
of this is that as the economy gets weaker
and as the social safety net has been weakened,
your need for a job gets stronger.
So you might imagine that some part of that rhetoric
actually grows as you undercut every kind of security.
I wanted to make one additional point about why...
- [Richard] It's a very interesting point there
'cause then it's a viscous circle, isn't it?
Then you've created a situation where
the very absence of support means that the job...
- Right, so it can actually get harder to convince people
to believe that change is possible
when peoples lives get harder and that just makes sense.
It's unfortunate and it's something we have to overcome.
The other point I wanted to make was that
when we're thinking about why we don't get policy outcomes
that look like what any regular poll of Americans
would tell you which is that there are all sorts of things
like family leave, minimum wage, Medicare,
all these policies that are hugely popular,
why we don't have them and why instead we have policies
that were hugely unpopular like the tax cuts and jobs act.
I think it's important to remember that in general,
public opinion does not make public policy.
What makes public policy is organized interests
operating for the party system.
And there's no reason really to expect
that average opinion would drive policy in general
because politics requires organization
but especially in a system like ours
which is so inert about and we're certainly built
to avoid majority rule, right?
- Andrew you might have thought a little bit
about the intersection between policy and politics.
- So first, I think we should all be offended
by the spectacle of Amazon pitting communities
against each other to see who could bend over backwards more
for a pure ordained process.
That's thousands of man hours put forward
by hundreds of communities around their country
just to show again the primacy, again,
of a company saying I have jobs, you need jobs,
let's see what you can do.
We shouldn't make any of these local tax inducements
just 100% taxable and just get rid
of the beauty contest forever because
from a national point of view it makes no difference to us
which city or state a company is based in
as long as it's in the United States of America.
So having someone move within the country
produces no net economic benefits.
All we're doing is giving the companies more money
that some of these communities can't afford,
a lot of the benefits they promise don't materialize,
we should all be offended by that.
But what that does is it illustrates what Leslie is saying
is that we have so brainwashed into thinking
that human worth and economic worth are the same thing
that we are contorting ourselves
and increasingly attenuated in ridiculous fashion.
Why else would we imagine that we could turn
thousands of coal miners into software engineers.
That actually makes no sense.
But when you look at, you say,
well, your current function has zero market value
thus you have no market value, thus we will pretend
we can turn you into something that does have market value
because we can't even tell the difference anymore.
My wife is at home with our two boys
one of whom is autistic, what is her market value?
What is her work calculated at in GDP?
Zero, and we have to get beyond the market's estimation
of our worth because the market is about to turn on us
in historic catastrophic fashion.
When artificial intelligence lands for real
and there are 3 1/2 million Americans
who drive a truck for a living right now
and the trucks start driving themselves in five to 10 years,
do you wanna be the person that say,
"Hey, you were worth $46000 last year
"and now you're worth zero."
Tell that to half a million 49-year-old men
who see their livelihood about to go down the drain.
We have to get our heads up and realize that the market
is a highly flawed determinate of what our value is.
We have to unbrainwash ourselves really.
'Cause this is what Leslie's point is.
It's like hey, we haven't been presented with an option
and the American people are getting increasingly desperate.
Bernie Sanders legitimately
could have won the nomination last time
if the DNC hadn't sand bagged him and kneecapped him
and we all know that happened.
And then Donald Trump, this avatar of distorted,
dark tainted populism, actually he's our president today.
And people are looking up being like 'Huh.'
Like well, this is an aberration.
This is not aberration.
We're in the historic disintegration of our way of life.
Our life expectancy has declined for the last three years
due to and suicides and drug overdoses.
Cheerleading this GDP number being at record highs
makes no sense when your people
are dying younger and sooner.
This is the desperation we are in.
People are looking around and saying
what does the democracy hold.
And our politicians aren't able
to respond to that challenge because
they're too busy doing the fundraising for this.
- I'm gonna stop you there
'cause I got a feeling if I don't stop you soon
we're gonna keep going.
And it's not that I don't appreciate the direction
you're thinking in but I do wanna bring the conversation
to the next part which I think you'll appreciate
which is what does the state owe citizens?
Would it be something like a UBI?
But there's a prelude to that.
I do wanna guess one more go at
how deep this problem is economically.
Because I would say there's the prevailing consensus
would be yes there are problems,
there is too much inequality,
we should be doing more to help workers
but it's a question that kind of fixes, essentially,
that that can be done through a series of reforms
many of which have already been mentioned,
but it's not a profound shift in the capacity of markets
to deliver increased well-being to most citizens.
It's a failure to regulate the market to do that.
But what you're now saying Andrew
is something's about to be very different
and maybe we're already getting the start
of that big difference which is actually we're gonna see
a detachment between economic growth
and people's well-being.
The connective tissue between the economy growing
and people getting better off is stretching and might break.
It seems to me that the answer to that question
profoundly influences everything we think
about policy and politics from now.
So I'm pretty sure I know where you're gonna come out
on that Andrew but I'd like to hear, first of all,
Vanessa and then have Leslie on do you think
it's as deep as not just fixing but really
it aint gonna deliver in the way,
the machine just is not gonna deliver in the way
for the reasons Andrews suggests.
- I have pretty dim view of the future
but not for the same reasons precisely
but the dimness is similar.
I feel like a kinship on that front.
And to me the, and the place where I go
where I worry is climate change.
I don't think that there's any evidence right now
that our current economy has any capacity
to deal with the problem that is absolutely cataclysmic.
I don't think that there is any reason to believe
or there's any evidence that the kind of economies
we've built in the past have any capacity
to deal with genuine resource shortages.
That is not what market economies
have shown any of it.
And so I think that we have
a very very limited period of time
to make some absolutely revolutionary changes.
- But that's, I do wanna come on but that's again
whose fault is that?
The fact that the market doesn't care about the planet
is not the market's fault.
Any more, like capitalism doesn't care about a planet
but actually communism wasn't great either.
And in fact I think you can then argue
that the kind of despoiling of some of the lakes
in the former Soviet Union is
what would have been unthinkable
in the great lakes of the US.
And so I don't think that that's something
we can put at the door of capitalism.
And so the point of a political system of any kind
that just fails to act in the long run, is that fair?
- I think that it's clear that the economy of the future