In the past, there was a mythology built around the concept of the millionaire next door. It was the assuming couple who brought little attention to themselves. They didn’t drive flashy cars or exhibit a taste for bling. As two-income professionals, however, they had a nice home and learned the lessons of compound interest early on. Today, in aggregate, they make up the group with the most wealth in America. And while we often talk about the excesses of the 0.1 percent, perhaps we have given too much of a free ride to those right below them who have plenty of assets when totalled up but see nothing in their lifestyle that creates the inequities that the other ninety percent are feeling. In many cases, they fail to recognize the many ‘invisible’ benefits that society offers those in this group. Philosopher Matthew Stewart, author of ‘The 9.9 Percent: The New Aristrocacy That Is Entrenching Inequality and Warping Our Culture’, joins us to discuss this key sub-set in our culture. By the end of the podcast, you will determine if the label applies to you.
Description: It would seem that the pandemic has pushed some manufacturers to bring certain manufacturing processes home and while the percentage of movement stateside seems impressive given the movement away from our shores it’s still not enough, according to Harry Moser, president of the Reshoring Initiative. In order to insure that this is not a temporary pause in offshoring, America must develop a clear and consistent industrial policy. One unlike that which has seen America’s manufacturing sector whither over the last 40 years. With advanced manufacturing initiatives, particularly in the computer and electronics sector,there is a move to reverse that trend to some degree. But, according to Moser, it will take the adoption of a VAT tax, the weakening of the dollar against other currencies and an educational push to drive young people into manufacturing jobs of the future in order to sustain the reshoring effort and provide us with the manufacturing base necessary to provide for our own defense and health and safety. With the race to the bottom in manufacturing such a consistent tool for multi-national companies, it will take a concerted American reversal of policy to attentuate its impact.
With cascading economic crises, political unrest and climate change, four billion youth are abandoning failing states and looking for livable situations everywhere. Given the climate and affordable housing, America’s Rust Belt will look attractive to many in the years to come. It will also bring people closer to the border of Canada, one of the most welcoming countries for immigrants in the century ahead. America which has traditionally been open to immigrants finds itself having recoiled from that position in recent years, just at a time when the young people of Central and South America and other spots could provide necessary services for an aging population. Within the borders of the United States, movement inland from the coasts and south to north will also be inevitable as climate pushes people to less turbulent destinations. Parag Khanna one of the most far-sighted thinkers of his generation, and founder and managing partner of Future Map, has a vision of the future in which there is a war for young talent as countries realize their need for able-bodied, tax-paying migrants to avoid demographic doom. ‘Move: The Forces Uprooting Us’ is the first book to reveal where we will go to survive climate change and other misalignment of natural resources, borders, infrastructure and people. He speaks as cogently as he writes and he joins us on today’s podcast.
In a reversal for the American approach to many endeavors, space exploration started out as a public venture through NASA, focused on national security and scientific dominance, to an area that sees most of the investment today coming from private space barons, like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, among others. Their motivations, individually and collectively, are wide ranging from the desire to take heavy industry off our planet for environmental reasons to commercial travel and actual creating a place where humans can go on a more permanent basis. People have been excited to witness a re-commitment to manned space travel and imagining that the possibilities for the average person to explore the next frontier are finally within reach. Joining us to discuss the future of space travel is Professor Mike Gruntman, who teaches Astronautics at the University of Southern California. So before you sign up to take a ride or join the newly minted Space Force, listen to this podcast.
How do you know the food you’re eating is safe to consume? That the labels on food tell you something meaningful about what you’re going to eat? That the food supply, which now includes many staples from overseas, has been inspected? Presumably, we have a powerful regulatory agency in the Food & Drug Administration(FDA) that can provide us with these certainties. Or can they? The first insider account of what goes on there has been released by Richard Williams, PhD., author of ‘Fixing Food: An FDA Insider Unravels the Myths and Solutions”. While much of the focus of late has been on how the FDA handles drug approvals in the wake of the pandemic, the other side of the house has important responsibilities to keep our food supply safe. How do they go about that process with our confidence given the fact that inspections often take place once every six years and one out of every six Americans gets food poisoning each year, according the Centers for Disease Control. It’s a complicated business with lots of big food manufacturers designing more new food products each year. We’ll ask the hard questions and get answers from a man who did the cost/benefit analysis on food for our government for decades.
America loves its cars but the romance may be cooling a bit as the increasingly urban society recognizes that the ‘internet of motion’ can provide them with many options for living the life previously available only to someone who had a car. Our guest, Tom Standage, the author of ‘A Brief History of Motion’ takes us through time to see what has become unrecognizable–a whole society built on its transport options. As those options more and more become available on a smartphone, expect that our culture will undergo radical change as well. Our choices going forward in getting around will be abundant from ride sharing to autonomous vehicles to electric scooters. The social transformations spurred by the pandemic and overshadowed by climate change create a unique opportunity to critically reexamine our relationship to the car. In this informative podcast, Tom has some fun facts about the automobile, as well. The road ahead promises some great changes for each of us.
When I worked for my state Commissioner of Education in Connecticut in the early 1980’s the educational establishment was abuzz with the concept of ‘equity and excellence’. Yet nearly 50 years later, despite lots of money and resources thrown at our old model of education, one reformer John Dewey in the early twentieth century would still recognize, is just not cutting it. In fact, David Osborne in his book ‘Reinventing America’s Schools’ says that our current system serves just over half of our children. And in the wake of the pandemic with children detached and disenrolled, particularly those already disadvantaged from a socio-economic standpoint, it is frightening to think that we might be on the verge of losing a whole generation of children. For our global competitiveness, this would be devastating, particularly given the fact that on many international measures we are already lacking. To discuss a way forward is Tress Pankovits, co-director of the reinventing schools project at the Progressive Policy Institute. It’s a discussion we must turn into action…and fast.
Amid a wave of police shootings in 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began a series of quiet protests on the field, most notably refusing to stand and taking a knee during the national anthem. Much controversy ensued in the wake of his action and while he has found himself, despite a strong showing on the field, in exile as a result, there is a direct line between his actions and protesters on the streets across America in 2020. They were there to protest another knee, that of Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, which choked the life out of George Floyd. While some commenentators say ‘shut up and play ball’, that flies in the face of athlete activism throughout our history, most notably names like Jackie Robinson, Muhammed Ali, Bill Russell and today, LeBron James. In his book ‘The Kaepernick Effect’, sports writer Dave Zirin documents the many acts of courage by athletes in high school and college who were inspired by Colin Kaepernick. He has made his mark. And as promising as he career on the field was, until he was used as an example of what NFL authorities would not tolerate, his impact off the field has been far greater.
Once a little regarded niche of the investment world, private equity has grown into a juggernaut, with impacts on a wide range of industries as well as financial markets. While most pension funds and endowments rely to a large degree on publicly traded securities and bonds, the portfolios of many of these funds add private equity to their mix. The question is why. Do private equity firms get better returns? Cost less in fees? Have more transparency? The answer in each case is–no. In his book, ‘The Myth of Private Equity’, Jeffrey Hooke tries to explain why up to 10 percent of investment dollars today are in private equity. Looking back as far as 2006 it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense given the fact that it hasn’t between plain vanilla, low cost index funds or portfolios with a traditional 60/40 blend of stocks and bonds. So why have many money managers been enamored with private equity, which involves not buying shares, but rather whole companies. It seemed hard for me to understand the aura surrounding these financial instruments so, on your behalf, I asked him to explain to you and me what’s really the state of play in the finance world surrounding private equity. We, indeed, explode some myths today on the podcast.
It takes a lot of knowledge, research and time to write 500 pages on the way that infectious disease has intersected with the history of humanity on this planet. Kyle Harper, our guest and author of ‘Plagues Upon the Earth’ does a masterful job of breaking it down for us on this podcast. If you think we have all the tools to eradicate future plagues and pandemics using modern technology, I must ask where you’ve been for the last two years. It’s inevitable and accelerating as more people mean more opportunity for our invisible companions to find a host. The story of disease has enduring effects in patterns of wealth, health, power and inequality. The good news is that we who are alive today won the pathogen lottery. For the 10,000 generations of humans who came before us, life was short. It has been only the last three or four generations when we would not be gone within 30 years. Yet we cannot take this advance for granted. While we have antibiotics, vaccines and insecticides, we are dealing with a shrewd nemesis determined to attack an ever growing population on this earth. Be alert and learn the history in order to understand the threat more clearly.