The term “economic anxiety” is one we’ve heard a lot since Donald Trump won the 2016 election. The theory is that Trump stoked Americans anger at rising economic inequality and rode that populist anger to the presidency. But what does that term “economic anxiety” really mean? On this episode, I talk to William Darity – a Duke University scholar who says it may be a euphemism for more insidious racial anxieties from white Americans who fear that people of color are gaining too much ground. Darity says the whole story of Trump as a great economic populist papers over how race and bigotry play into economic anxiety. He argues that Donald Trump did not just tap into general economic anxiety, but also white Americans’ more specific fear that they are losing their economic advantage over people of color. He also says that fear isn’t actually true — in a recent Atlantic magazine article entitled “How Barack Obama Failed Black America,” he recounted how African Americans have not gained much economic ground over the last decade.
In 2008, Wall Street banks created a financial crisis that incinerated the economy. It was only a few years after the Justice Department aggressively prosecuted Enron and Arthur Anderson, and so many folks expected there would be similar prosecutions of financial executives, especially because Democratic presdiential candidate Barack Obama promised to “bring a new era of responsibility and accountability to Wall Street.” But it never happened. On this episode, I talk to a Pulitzer Prize winning ProPublica reporter Jesse Eisinger about why he says this failure to prosecute Wall Street reflects the rise of the Chickenshit Club. That’s the name of his new book, which details how the federal government has reduced its efforts to seriously prosecute corporate executives.
In 2012, the Russian punk band Pussy Riot made international headlines, when they staged a protest against Vladimir Putin and were then thrown in jail. They spent 21 months in prison. As speculation has since swirled about alleged ties between Putin and Donald Trump, I met up with one of the founders of Pussy Riot, Nadya Tolokonnikova, to get her take on the situation. She was joined in our interview by actor John Cusack, who as part of his work for the Freedom of the Press Foundation has traveled to Russia to meet with whistleblower Edward Snowden. Cusack recently co-authored a book about that experience called “Things That Can And Cannot Be Said.”
As record amounts of money have flooded into politics in recent years, polls have shown that the public sees Congress as out of touch with America – and wildly corrupt. On this episode, you’ll hear Republican Congressman Ken Buck agreeing with that view. He is sounding an alarm with a new book called “Drain the Swamp: How Washington Corruption Is Worse Than You Think.” Of course, Buck may look like the epitome of what he is now lamenting: he is a former staffer for Dick Cheney, and has raised millions of dollars for his campaigns and has consistently voted to support legislation that helps his donors’ industries. But he argues that there is a difference between “ideological fundraising” and “transactional fundraising.” He also says that President Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” is consistent with him appointing billionaires to government positions that regulate those billionaires’ industries.
Last week on this podcast, we dove into the huge fight over a California bill to create a single-payer, Medicare-for-all healthcare system in that state. California Democrats twice in the past passed single-payer legislation and this year they passed a single-payer bill through the state senate. However, the latest bill was blocked by Democratic Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. On this episode, I talk do David Dayen, who recently wrote an article for The Intercept asserting that the legislative fight is misleading. He argues that even if the bill moves forward, there remain huge state constitutional hurdles and other obstacles to actually creating a single-payer system in California. Proponents of the bill have pushed back, saying Dayen and others who are making process arguments against the bill are actually making it harder to pass critical legislation.
In 2015, the Justice Department appointed Hui Chen its compliance counsel. In that role, she was responsible for helping federal officials decide which corporations to prosecute, and also help them assess whether corporations are following compliance laws. Last month, though, Chen decided to resign — and she slammed Trump. She said his officials were engaging in “conducts I would not tolerate seeing in a company.” On this episode, I talk to Chen about her decision to leave the government, and about what the public should be most concerned about when it comes to white collar crime.