Any society that allows itself to become radically unequal eventually collapses into an uprising or a police state—or both. Join venture capitalist Nick Hanauer and some of the world’s leading economic and political thinkers in an exploration of who gets what and why. Turns out, everything you learned about economics is wrong. And if we don’t do something about rising inequality, the pitchforks are coming.
In 2014, venture capitalist Nick Hanauer warned his fellow plutocrats that our growing crisis of economic inequality would lead to an uprising or a dictatorship. Two years later, angry voters elected Donald Trump. In this inaugural episode of Pitchfork Economics, we explore why the pitchforks are coming, who they’re coming for, and how the stories we tell about the economy can change the economy itself.
Ganesh Sitaraman: Professor of Law at Vanderbilt Law School and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Co-founder and Director of Policy for the Great Democracy Initiative. Policy Director to Elizabeth Warren, 2011-2013. Author of The Crisis of the Middle Class Constitution: Law in the Age of Small Wars, named one of the New York Times’ 100 notable books of 2017.
Walter Scheidel: Historian at Stanford. The most frequently cited active-duty Roman historian adjusted for age in the Western Hemisphere, Scheidel is the author or (co-)editor of 20 books, including The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality.
What is “Econ 101,” and why do economists always get things wrong? In this episode we dismantle orthodox economics, exploring where it comes from, why it’s wrong, and how “It’s Econ 101!” became a cynical rallying cry in defense of the status quo. Guests Eric Beinhocker (The Origin of Wealth) and James Kwak (Economism) explain that, far from a science, Econ 101 is really just a story we tell ourselves to justify who gets what and why. And it’s time to tell a different story.
Eric Beinhocker: Professor of Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School. Author of The Origin of Wealth.
James Kwak: Professor of Law at the Connecticut School of Law. Co-founder of the economics blog “The Baseline Scenario”, a commentary on developments in the global economy, law, and public policy. Author of Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality. Columnist for The Atlantic.
What is the “trick” in “trickle down” economics? It’s how wealthy elites and their neoliberal lackeys convince you that what’s good for them (tax cuts, deregulation, etc.) is good for you… and that policies like the minimum wage, overtime, and paid sick leave will ruin the economy. Economics is a story we tell ourselves to help explain who gets what, and why. In this episode we explore how to tell a better story.
Yuval Harari: Author of international bestsellers: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Professor in the Department of History at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. PhD from the University of Oxford.
Molly Crockett: Director of the Crockett Lab, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Yale University, and Distinguished Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics. PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Cambridge.
Civic Ventures president Zach Silk joins us for a quick explainer on how Republicans sold their trickle-down tax cuts as a great deal for the middle class—and how angry suburban voters punished them for their lies.
The American middle class is shrinking and, contrary to popular belief, globalization and automation are not to blame. Far from inevitable, skyrocketing inequality is a choice. In this episode, we look at the policy choices that have relentlessly undermined the middle class, and why we desperately need to choose a better future.
Heather Boushey: Executive director and chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Author of Finding Time: The Economics of Work-Life Conflict.
Matthew Stewart: Philosopher, D.Phil from Oxford University. Author of Nature’s God and The Management Myth. Contributor to The Atlantic.
Pop quiz: What does “GDP” stand for? And now, quickly: what the hell does “gross domestic product” even mean? It turns out, the way we measure the economy changes the way we manage the economy, so if we want to broadly improve the lives of all Americans we need to measure the things that really matter.
Diane Coyle: Bennett Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge. Former advisor to the UK treasury. Author of numerous books, most recently GDP: A Brief But Affectionate History, The Economics of Enough, and The Soulful Science. Founder of the consultancy Enlightenment Economics, specializing in the economics of new technologies.
Is economic growth all about money, trade, and GDP, or are healthy economies built on a different foundation? In this episode, economist W. Brian Arthur and MIT physicist Cesar Hidalgo explain why human knowledge, knowhow, and innovation are the best measures of rising prosperity and future economic growth.
W. Brian Arthur: Economist credited with developing the modern approach to increasing returns, and one of the pioneers of the science of complexity. Author of three books including The Nature of Technology: What it Is and How it Evolves. External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute.
Cesar Hidalgo: Physicist, writer, and entrepreneur. Associate Professor at MIT, and Director of the Collective Learning group at the MIT Media Lab. Co-founder of Datawheel, a company that specializes in digital transformation solutions for governments and large companies. Author of Why Information Grows and co-author of The Atlas of Economic Complexity.
Complexity Economics: a different framework for economic thought: https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Ftuvalu.santafe.edu%2F~wbarthur%2FPapers%2FComp.Econ.SFI.pdf
Economic Complexity: From useless to keystone: https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=https%3A%2F%2Fchidalgo.com%2Fs%2Fnphys4337.pdf
Complexity Economics Shows Us Why Laissez-Faire Economics Always Fails: http://evonomics.com/complexity-economics-shows-us-that-laissez-faire-fail-nickhanauer/
As newly elected Democrats across the country enter their respective capitol buildings for the first time, Civic Ventures president Zach Silk and former Washington State legislator (and Civic Ventures senior VP) Jessyn Farrell offer advice for what they should prioritize – and it starts with economic policies that help the broad majority.
Further reading: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/08/14/democrats-must-reclaim-the-center-by-moving-hard-left-219354
Is the American Dream dead? Is economic mobility a myth? The foundational promise of America is that anyone, if they work hard and play by the rules, can enjoy a secure, middle-class life. Christian Cooper and Khiara Bridges join us to discuss the prevailing narrative that we each control our own economic destiny.
Christian Cooper: Derivatives trader and author. Frequent commentator in the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Financial Times, and Bloomberg News. Director of Banking for a New Beginning, a public/private partnership between The Aspen Institute and the US Department of State. Member of the roundtables at the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Khiara Bridges: Associate Dean for Equity, Justice, and Engagement at the Boston University School of Law, specializing in the intersectionality of race, reproductive justice, and law. Professor of Law and Professor of Anthropology at Boston University. Author of The Poverty of Privacy Rights and Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization.
Why Poverty Is Like a Disease: http://nautil.us/issue/47/consciousness/why-poverty-is-like-a-disease
Excavating Race-Based Disadvantage Among Class-Privileged People of Color: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3143892
Income Mobility Charts: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/03/27/upshot/make-your-own-mobility-animation.html
Divided We Fall: https://newrepublic.com/article/141644/divided-fall-trump-symptom-constitutional-crisis-inequality
Raj Chetty in 14 charts: Big findings on opportunity and mobility we should all know: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/social-mobility-memos/2018/01/11/raj-chetty-in-14-charts-big-findings-on-opportunity-and-mobility-we-should-know/
Since forever, Republicans have insisted that cutting taxes on wealthy corporations and individuals would grow the economy, create jobs, and lift wages. But it never does. As an early architect of what became “Reaganomics,” Bruce Bartlett was there at the birth of this GOP tax myth. He joins the podcast to help set the record straight.
Bruce Bartlett: American historian who helped draft the Kemp-Roth tax bill that formed the basis of President Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts. Served as domestic policy adviser for Reagan, in the Treasury for George H.W. Bush, and in senior roles for other American politicians. Former Executive Director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.
Want to Expand the Economy? Tax the Rich! https://prospect.org/article/want-expand-economy-tax-rich
I helped create the GOP tax myth. Trump is wrong: Tax cuts don’t equal growth. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/09/28/i-helped-create-the-gop-tax-myth-trump-is-wrong-tax-cuts-dont-equal-growth/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.4344a80a6efc
Deregulation for the powerful is a central tenet of the trickle-down myth, embraced by Democrats and Republican alike. Government regulations, we’re told, are costly and inefficient intrusions that slow grow and kill jobs. But Robert Reich explains that when thoughtfully applied, regulations are absolutely essential to growing a safe, secure, and broadly prosperous economy.
Robert Reich: Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. Served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Author of fifteen books, including ‘The Common Good’. Co-creator of the documentaries ‘Inequality for All’ and ‘Saving Capitalism’.
Facebook: Robert Reich
Further reading: Robert B. Reich: How Trump’s war on regulation is trickle-down economics
Trickle-downers always argue that raising the minimum wage inevitably kills jobs. But the empirical evidence from Seattle, Los Angeles, and elsewhere prove otherwise. Experts, including Mayor Garcetti of LA, discuss how our economic understanding has changed, and why changing the public perception around the minimum wage has been so difficult.
Eric Garcetti: Mayor of Los Angeles since 2013. Former member of the LA City Council, serving as council president from 2006 to 2012.
Alan Krueger: Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton. Former Chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and a member of the Cabinet from 2011 to 2013. Co-author of ‘Myth of Measurement: The New Economics of the Minimum Wage’ and ‘Inequality in America: What Role for Human Capital Policies?’.
Richard Kirsch: Director of Our Story at the Hub for American Narratives. Led development of Progressive Economic Narrative Project and has done extensive training with organizational leaders and elected officials on delivering powerful narratives.
Further reading: Raising the Minimum Wage Is Good for Everyone
Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage Experiment Is a Success
When we talked with historian Yuval Harari, the best-selling author of Sapiens, Homo Deus, and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, the conversation was so wide-ranging and so smart that we just couldn’t bear to leave any of it behind on the cutting room floor. So here’s the full, unedited interview on a range of topics including why our society has fallen so hard for the myth of trickle-down economics.
Nick, Goldy, and their guests William Lazonick and Lenore Palladino explain why “shareholder value maximization” is the world’s dumbest idea.
William Lazonick: Professor of economics at University of Massachusetts Lowell, visiting Professor at University of Ljubljana, professeur associé at Institut Mines-Télécom in Paris, and professorial research associate, SOAS, University of London. His book ‘Sustainable Prosperity in the New Economy? Business Organization and High-Tech Employment in the United States’ won the 2010 Schumpeter Prize, and he has written extensively on corporate profits.
Lenore Palladino: Senior Economist and Policy Counsel at the Roosevelt Institute, where she brings expertise to Roosevelt’s work on inequality and finance. Her research and writing focuses on financial reform, financial taxation, labor rights, and financial crises. Her publications have appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, State Tax Notes, and other venues.
Senator Cory Booker explains the problem with stock buybacks, walks us through his Workers Dividend Act, and offers Goldy some much-needed counseling.
Cory Booker is the U.S. Senator from New Jersey and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.
Further reading: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/3/6/17083398/booker-buyback-populist
Monopoly and its equally evil twin monopsony are destroying competition, depressing wages, and slowing economic growth. Is market concentration an inevitable outcome of capitalism, or is there a smarter solution?
Jared Bernstein: Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, former Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to VP Biden and Executive Director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, and author of ‘The Reconnection Agenda: Reuniting Growth and Prosperity’.
Jonathan Tepper: Founder of Variant Perception, a macroeconomic research group that caters to asset managers. Author of ‘The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition’, ‘Endgame: The End of the Debt Supercycle’, and ‘Code Red’, a book on unconventional monetary policy.
Further reading: https://democracyjournal.org/magazine/51/progressive-labor-standards/
Ever been in the middle of a Pitchfork Economics pod ep and thought, “WTF are they talking about?” If so, this might help – we define some complex terms that get thrown around a lot (neoclassical, neoliberal, heterodoxy, monopoly, monopsony, and stock buybacks) because we want this to be a fun and informative pod, not, like, a painful and confusing pod.
Twitter: @NickHanauer @GoldyHA
The overtime threshold used to be the minimum wage for the middle class—but where did it go? Labor experts Sharon Block and Chris Lu join Nick and Jasmin to explain why the overtime threshold, which used to cover 65 percent of workers, today covers only 7 percent. That’s craziness! And surprise, surprise—employers love to claim that forcing you to work for free is in your own best interest. But are they telling the truth?
Sharon Block is the Executive Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. For twenty years, she held key labor policy positions across the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, including head of the policy office at the Department of Labor.
Chris Lu was the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor in the Obama Administration from 2014 to 2017. He also served as Assistant to the President and White House Cabinet Secretary under Obama from 2009 to 2013. He is a Practitioner Senior Fellow at the UVA Miller Center.
Here are two phrases that should be oxymorons, but aren’t: ‘working poor’ and ‘poverty-level jobs.’ Writer and anti-poverty advocate Hanna Brooks Olsen joins Nick and Goldy to explore how the intense burdens of poverty make it nearly impossible to even think about climbing the economic ladder.
Felicia Wong is the President and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, a think tank that seeks to re-imagine the social and economic policies of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt for the 21st century.
Twitter: @FeliciaWongRI @rooseveltinst
Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and policy consultant. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, the Nation, Salon, the New York Daily News, the Huffington Post, and Democracy.
In 2009, President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, thereby ensuring that women across the United States were finally paid the same as men. Just kidding! Women still only make 80% of what their male counterparts do. What is this bullshit? Why hasn’t pay equity been achieved yet? Economist Julie Nelson and journalist Claire Cain Miller join Nick and Steph to explain why this problem is so damn persistent, and to offer solutions for how we can fully include women in the economy.
Julie Nelson is a professor of economics and department chair at the University of Massachusetts Boston, most known for her application of feminist theory to economics. She is the author of ‘Economics for Humans’ and ‘Feminism, Objectivity, and Economics’.
Claire Cain Miller is a correspondent for The New York Times, where she writes about gender, families, and the future of work for The Upshot, a Times site for analysis of policy and economics. She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues.
We’ve established that trickle-down economics and neoliberalism are failed philosophies. But we haven’t yet explored whether economics should be moral – should it reflect our behaviors and preferences, or is it a science that lives separately from our societal norms and values? Heather McGhee joins Nick and Paul to argue that an inclusive economy is not only possible, but imperative to growth.
Heather McGhee was the President of Demos from 2014-2018, where she is now a Distinguished Senior Fellow. She’s finishing a major book about the personal, economic, and societal costs of racism to everyone in America—including white people. A recognized thought leader on the national stage, Heather serves as a contributor to NBC News and frequently appears on shows such as Meet the Press. Her opinions, writing, and research have appeared in numerous outlets, including The New York Times, The Nation, and The Hill.
Further reading: https://www.demos.org/issue/economy-opportunity
For all our talk about family values, the U.S. is actually the worst place to raise a family in the developed world. Anne-Marie Slaughter and Katie Hamm join Nick and Jessyn to explain how our family policies got stuck in the last century, and what we should do about it.
Anne-Marie Slaughter is the President and CEO of New America, a think and action tank dedicated to renewing America in the Digital Age. She is also a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, and from 2009-2011 she served as director of Policy Planning for the U.S. Department of State—the first woman to hold that position.
Katie Hamm is the Vice President for Early Childhood Policy at the Center for American Progress, where she leads CAP’s work on policies impacting young children from birth to five.
Kristine Reeves is a member of the Washington House of Representatives representing the 30th legislative district. She is also the Director of Economic Development for the Military and Defense sector for the state of Washington.
For too long, pundits and politicians have talked about the political center as a perfect balance between conservatives and liberals. But this quest for some sort of mythical middle ground between left and right has only succeeded in elevating the interests of the top one percent over everyone else. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal joins Nick to propose a new way of thinking about centrism: a framework of wildly popular policies that directly and significantly improve the lives of the vast majority of Americans who have been left out of economic growth.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal is the U.S. Representative from Washington’s 7th congressional district, which includes most of Seattle. She is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Congress.
Is government debt real? Is anything real? Professor Stephanie Kelton gives Nick and Goldy a master class on the hottest idea in economics right now: Modern Monetary Theory.
Stephanie Kelton is a professor of public policy and economics at Stony Brook University and a senior economic adviser to Bernie Sanders’s 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns. She was the chief economist on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee in 2015 and in 2016, POLITICO named her one of the 50 people most influencing the public debate in America. Her forthcoming book, ‘The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of a New Economy’ will be published by Public Affairs in 2020.
All the economic and social policy that we discuss on this podcast won’t matter if we don’t address climate change. Governor Jay Inslee and Professor Fadhel Kaboub join Nick and Goldy to explain that if we don’t get climate right… well, the pitchforks are coming.
Jay Inslee is the Governor of Washington state. In March of this year, he announced he is running for president on a platform of combating climate change.
Fadhel Kaboub is President of the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity, and Associate Professor of economics at Denison University. His research focuses on the political economy of the Middle East, and the fiscal and monetary policy dimensions of job creation programs.
Our friends at the Tax March, a national progressive tax awareness coalition, just launched a new campaign called “Tax the Rich” which urges every Democrat in Congress and every presidential candidate to support taxing the country’s wealthiest people. Zach talked to the Executive Director of Tax March, Maura Quint, about the launch of the campaign, Tax March’s plan for the 2020 election, and why higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy is both good policy and good politics. Plus, Annie explains marginal tax rates and capital gains.
Maura Quint is the Executive Director of Tax March.
Homo economicus is the figurative human being used in economic modeling. But the term defines human nature as perfectly rational, perfectly logical, and always self-interested. Does that sound like any real humans you know? Nope, we didn’t think so either. So we invited Professor Samuel Bowles to join Nick and Goldy in throwing a funeral for homo economicus, and all the flawed economic thinking that he’s inspired over the years.
Samuel Bowles is a Research Professor at the Santa Fe Institute where he heads the Behavioral Sciences Program. His work on cultural evolution have challenged the conventional economic assumption that people are motivated entirely by self-interest. His most recent books are ‘The Moral Economy: Why good laws are no substitute for good citizens’ and ‘A Cooperative Species: Human reciprocity and its revolution’.
‘Spock goes shopping’ was based on a thought experiment in Eric Beinhocker’s book ‘The Origin of Wealth’: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781422121030
It’s not just economic inequality, the gap between rich and poor people, that’s growing wider in America. Spatial inequality, the gap between rich and poor places, is growing too. The most obvious example of spatial inequality is the decline of rural areas and the rise of cities. Can rural America be saved? And is urban America obligated to do the saving? Journalist Eduardo Porter and author Sarah Smarsh weigh in.
Eduardo Porter is an economics reporter for the business section of The New York Times, where he was the Economic Scene columnist from 2012 to 2018. He is the author of ‘The Price of Everything’ and is working on an upcoming book called ‘American Poison’.
Sarah Smarsh is the author of ‘Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth’, which became an instant New York Times bestseller and was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award. She has covered socioeconomic class, politics, and public policy for The Guardian, The New York Times, and many other publications.
The Hard Truths of Trying to ‘Save’ the Rural Economy: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/14/opinion/rural-america-trump-decline.html
Country pride: What I learned growing up in rural America: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/06/country-pride-kansas-rural-america-sarah-smarsh
America’s Worsening Geographic Inequality: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/10/americas-worsening-geographic-inequality/573061/
The Contribution of National Income Inequality to Regional Economic Divergence: https://academic.oup.com/sf/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/sf/soz013/5418441
The Economic Innovation Group’s 2018 Distressed Communities Index: https://eig.org/dci
Washington state lost 440,000 acres in almost two thousand wildfires last year﹣a record high. Once the most beautiful month in Washington’s year, August is now marred by hazy, smoky skies that drive everyone indoors while our small and underfunded team of wildland firefighters work around the clock to save lives, property, and public lands. It’s not just a Washington problem, either: wildfires are burning more acreage than ever before across the country. Luckily, this is a problem we can actually do something about! In this bonus episode, Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz sits down with Nick to explain the ins and outs of forest health, fighting for funding to give wildfire fighters the resources they need, and her fleet of Vietnam-era helicopters.
Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz protects and manages nearly six million acres of public lands in Washington. She is leading the push to make Washington’s lands more resilient in the face of climate change, and as the leader of the state’s largest wildfire fighting force, she has pushed for new strategies, innovations, and resources to protect communities. Commissioner Franz’s 20-year Forest Health Strategic Plan will make more than one million acres of forest healthier and more resistant to wildfires.
HuffPost: Controlled Burns Lower Wildfire Risks. These Western States Struggle To Set More Of Them. http://bit.ly/huffpowildfire
Crosscut: A bold plan to curb wildfires, create jobs and build affordable housing http://bit.ly/CrosscutDNRplan
You’ve been flooding Nick’s voicemail for months, and the time is finally here! Comedian Trae Crowder joins Nick to answer your questions in this freewheeling Ask Me Anything session. What does John Hickenlooper think about Nick’s net worth? How can we help people see that a $15 minimum wage is good for everyone? We answer these questions and more!
Trae Crowder is a comedian and co-author of ‘The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outta the Dark’. Trae has earned national attention for his “Liberal Redneck” series of viral videos. He has been performing his particular brand of Southern-friend intellectual comedy in the Southeast for the past six years, and is now on the WellRED Comedy Tour with fellow comedians and writing partners Drew Morgan and Corey Ryan Forrester.