Monthly Archives: November 2020

EP 399 Is True Integration Possible in America?

There have been a number of false starts in American history toward the concept of a more equal, more integrated society. Yet, at each turn, those attempts have been blunted by forces that cannot see America without a power and status differential drawn white and black. It could’ve happened at the onset of the Continental Congress, after the Civil War, on the heels of the 1960’s civil rights movement or as the natural evolution following the historic presidency of Barack Obama. Unfortunately, it did not occur at any of those moments. Reactionary forces clinging to power, often abetted by more liberal patrons of society, never gave those changes time to build a truly integrated society. As Calvin Baker, author of ‘A More Perfect Reunion’ reminds us never has a victor(African-Americans freed from bondage)been treated so shabbily after winning a struggle. And so it goes in America. As young Americans, white, black and brown, have taken to the streets in the recent period, we are left to contemplate whether this is the moment for true integration or simply a surge of good intentions blunted by forces long opposed to true fairness and justice. Let’s discuss on this podcast.

EP 398 The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. The United States of America

Many of the heroes of the civil rights movement for African-Americans have been in the forefront of public consciousness again in the recent period. Perhaps, it’s fitting that for a group of Americans who often were reticent to share their identity, the name of the leader of their movement, pre-dating the 1969 Stonewall riots, remains unknown to most. It was author Eric Cervini’s objective in his book, ‘The Deviant’s War’ to introduce us to Frank Kameny who, for almost a decade before Stonewall, challenged the orthodoxy that homosexuality was a mental illness and led an aggressive campaign against the federal government’s ban on employing gay workers. Mr. Cervini is an historian of the LGBTQ community and its politics and walks us through the battles Kameny ignited, adopting many of the tactics of the African American civil rights movement, and on through the battle for marriage equality and the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on discrimination of gays in employment. He also talks about where the movement is headed and the challenges that lie ahead.

EP 397 In a Nation of Grocery Chains, Why Do We Have So Many ‘Food Deserts’?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports there are 3,000 food deserts throughout the United States.  Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?  While our guest gives a clearer definition of this designation, it basically means where people do not have access to a large format supermarket with healthy and nutritious food choices within walking distance. Most of these food dead zones are in neighborhoods with high density,l ow income populations.  Yet given the federal reimbursements for supplemental nutrition and mothers and infants in this country, you might imagine that a grocery chain could do good business in these communities.  So, what’s going on here?  Barry Schuster, the founder of the Center for Food Service Research and author of ‘How to End Every Food Desert in America’, joins us to discuss. With skyrocketing medical costs in this country, before and during the pandemic you might imagine that encouraging investment in better foods upfront might do a world of good in addressing the growing problem of chronic diseases, like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and associated heart problems.  Our guest has ideas on how to address the issue and offers them on today’s podcast.

EP 396 Why Don’t We Talk About Nuclear Weapons Anymore?

In his compelling new book, ‘The Apocalypse Factory’, Steve Olson lays out the road to the Manhattan Project as it wends its way through Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and to some degree forgotten, Hanford, Washington.  He crafts a story of the scientists involved and the discovery of plutonium, which was a true game changer as America wrongly assumed that it was in a race with Germany to unleash new weapons capable of unthinkable destruction.  He then visits the decision-making throughout the process of using two bombs on Japan.  The first on Hiroshima, using uranium, and the second on Nagasaki, unlocking the even greater destructive force of plutonium. Our discussion then centers on nuclear weapons today, including modernization, treaties to limit and defense shields to blunt.  And, finally, we explore whether there is any serious movement to eliminate the threat to mankind forever.  In a moment of serious challenges, lurching, overarching is the potential for split second miscalculation which could obliterate life as we know it.  And, it gets barely a mention. We revive the conversation today.

EP 395 Does the Federal Government Really Need to Tax to Spend?

Many pundits are fixated on the budget mess in Washington, D.C. and how we are burdening future generations with debt and deficits and that, by virtue of this spending, we are crowding out borrowing that will needed for investments in the private market.  Stephanie Kelton, former chief economist on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, dares to protest.  She’s not a budget hawk or dove, but rather a budget owl.  Some might say that means she’s has wisdom of new truths and other might say she doesn’t give a hoot about deficits.  In either case you may wonder how she can be so indifferent to what others are so frantic about?  It’s because of the modern monetary theory to which she subscribes and defends in her new book, ‘The Deficit Myth’.  This theory posits that as a currency issuer, the federal government isn’t subject to the same kinds of budgetary constraints as a household.  Rather than asking how to pay for crucial improvements our society needs, as it relates to health care, infrastructure, child care and the like, Kelton says it’s a deficit of policy design and imagination rather than money.  While I have been concerned about debt over many years, consider this.  Did anyone raise their voice on either side of the aisle recently when in combination, monetary stimulus and fiscal stimulus in response to the pandemic, pushed $7 trillion out the door?  Did any deficit hawk say ‘well how are we going to pay for this…what taxes must be raised’?  In fact, the President talked about a payroll tax cut on top of this huge outlay.  This is a fascinating new theory well out side the Keynesian or supply side schools of economics. Recently, Ms. Kelton spoke to Members of Parliament in the United Kingdon about it.  She’s the leading thinker and most visible public advocate of modern monetary theory.  It’s fresh.  It’s bold.  I’d imagine this will be your first exposure to it on our podcast.

EP 394 Trade is Not a Four Letter Word

The concept of free trade has gotten a bad name over the recent period as the current occupant of the White House has harpooned recent trade deals made by the United States as stupid and detrimental to the economic fortunes of the country. How can this be so when America wrote a lot of the rules for trade and designed organizations, like the World Trade Organization, establishing the world’s trading framework?  Fred Hochberg, who was the chairman and president of the  Export-Import Bank of the United States for eight years, disputes the many myths, as he sees it, about the issue of trade, thus the title of his new book and this podcast.  He makes some compelling arguments demonstrating the interconnectedness of world commerce and how it has afforded America the opportunity to export high value services, like banking, insurance and technology, in lieu of some of the lower end physical goods that were once made here.  While acknowledging the dislocation that this has wrought in much of America’s heartland, and the important political constituencies impacted, he maintains that overall we have been able to maintain economic dominance in the world while sharing product development and manufacturing with other countries in a new blend.  He points to six particular products as examples and we discuss, in specific, the Honda Odyssey and the taco salad.  We get his views on NAFTA and the successor, USMCA deal, and include China and its trade practices in our conversation.  We also discuss what globalization looks like in(hopefully soon)a post COVID-19 world.

EP 393 Beyond the Driverless Car

We’ve all been told that we will no longer have our hands on the steering wheel much longer.  We will be replaced by artificial intelligence and the autonomous vehicle.  Anthony Townsend, author of ‘ Ghost Road’, suggests we slow down the hype about the imminence of that changeover and recognize that this technology may result in us moving more goods than people at the outset.  It’s not that driverless cars won’t be safer and more efficient, but it’s clear from the research that the majority of us remain skeptical and reluctant to join the driverless parade.  So how will the massive investment that tech and car companies are making on this future play out over the next twenty years?  Our guest plays out some very interesting scenarios on this podcast.

EP 392 The Amazon Behemoth Gains Momentum in This Moment of Crisis

Amazon. How many of us can live without it in this pandemic age? Jeff Bezos and his spinwheel fueled by artificial intelligence(we explain that concept in the podcast) keep accelerating their impact in various sectors of our economy and in our lives. It’s an awe inspiring story, but there are damages in the wake of providing the customer with the largest range of products at the cheapest price at the quickest speed. There are overstressed workers, devastated competitors and hollowed our brick and mortar stores shuttered at the deft hand of Jeff Bezos and Company. How do you compete with the data, speed and size which makes the shopping experience so targeted to the customer with such one click ease? And it’s a company that retains its Day One philosophy that it acts as if it’s a start-up, because on day two that’s when you begin to see complacency set in. The Amazon hand is also into so many product and service lines, some seen and others unseen, that it is almost impossible to escape its growing grip on the nation. In his book, ‘Bezonomics’, author Brian Dumaine describes the culture that just keeps winning and what, if anything, can get in its way as it designs a future that is long-term and never willing to stop innovating.

EP 391 Did the Democrats Learn From Their Loss in 2016?

On Election Day 2020, we are posting this podcast, recorded on Friday, October 30, recounting the soul searching and internal debates that went on in the Democratic Party as they tried to understand Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in 2016. Is this a conscious and helpful exercise? If you recall, the Republicans did the same after Mitt Romney’s rebuke in 2012. They said that they needed to be more inclusive and reach out to voters not in the GOP tent. And then out of the nominating process in 2016 emerged an insurgent Donald Trump who literally wanted to ‘wall off’ outsiders and yet he won with a message diametrically opposed to that 2012 autopsy by the party. In all of this lies the question as to whether the parties themselves have much control over anything as they have democratized the nominating process to such a degree that more fringe candidates can emerge in the end. In the case of the Democrats in 2020 they emerged looking to stitch back their winning formulas from the past with a more establishment candidate in Joe Biden, who could appeal to a previously reliable part of their coalition–the white working class voter. That stitching together spackles over cracks between moderates and progressives in the party. But will desire to remove President Trump be enough to make it work? We’ll find out in the days ahead. With us to discuss is Seth Masket, author of ‘Learning From Loss: The Democrats 2016-2020’.