Episode 7: The Reflection Episode
References and resources
Kendra Bozarth 0:08
You’re listening to Racism Is Profitable, a podcast by and for people of color that aims to dismantle the assumptions that fuel the Oppression Economy. Your hosts are Jeremie Greer and Solana Rice, the co-founders and co-executive directors of Liberation in a Generation Action. Let’s get it.
Solana Rice 0:26
Hello! This week we’re taking a look back at our previous episodes to explore themes of just how racism is profitable with our friend, Robert Reich. You may know him as the former US Labor Secretary for the Clinton Administration. You may know him as the co-founder of Inequality Media. We know him as a truth-teller. Enjoy this conversation!
Hi y’all, welcome to Racism Is Profitable podcast. Yeah, it’s a podcast with me, Solana Rice, co-founder, co-executive director of Liberation In A Generation Action, and
Jeremie Greer 1:06
Jeremie Greer, co-founder, co-executive director of Liberation in a Generation Action.
Solana Rice 1:12
Yeah, this is a little bit of a different episode. We’re very excited to look back at our past six previous episodes, and just pull out some key themes and talk to our dope guest today. But before we do that, we’re looking back, we’ve had some really great conversations Jeremie, like literally every time I get off of the mic, I’m like “that was life that was life-giving.” We have talked about belonging, we have talked about deservedness, abundance, co-governance, what does trust look like in our economy? Like, what if we had a credit system that was actually based on like, real trust and trust of Black people, trust of other people of color? And I have to say, I feel like we’ve done a good like, scratching of the surface of how to undo some of these deeply, deeply embedded notions about how, what what it takes to run our economy. And it’s like what if we had these tenets as our core pillars of what it means to run an economy? That everybody belongs, that everybody deserves basic, their basic needs met, that we actually live in abundance, which we absolutely do, that there’s room for co-governance, and shared power, and that we trust, we like trust Black, Latinx, indigenous, other people of color. Like what? Yeah, I just —
Jeremie Greer 2:51
So today, what we’re gonna do is we’re going to pull back a little bit, and we’re going to just talk about this idea of like, racism being profitable. And like, what does it mean that racism is profitable? We’re going to talk to Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary, professor at University of California, Founder of Inequality Media, and we’re going to talk to him about this idea of racism being profitable and what what creates that. And you know, as I was thinking about the show, and going into like, who, you know, we talked to, you know, there was this moment in the conversation with Demond Drummer, where he said, you know, the United States has always been able to afford what it chooses to do. And you know, that kind of, that gave me life, because it’s like, this is, all the naysayers, all that you can’t do this, it does cost too much to do this, all that that we’ve been hearing, we know that that’s not true, and that we can lean into something that that is real. I was, Solana, I wonder if there was a moment that like stood out for you in the conversations that we had up to now.
Solana Rice 3:55
I always love talking to Greisa. And the idea that citizenship, like I’ve known this internally, but her saying it was so helpful, that citizenship is more than a social security number, and that we can think through and identify the ways that we can support all the people living in this nation, whether they have a social security number or not. Like we can actually redefine citizenship. And I I think that’s at the core of so much of this deservedness narrative, that just because you came here one way or the other, doesn’t matter. Like we got you, like, that would be that would be an amazing thing.
Jeremie Greer 4:44
We got you, right? And, you know, I was in, while we were having these conversations was always in the it’s been in the backdrop of this first year of President Biden’s administration. And I was just struck over and over again, how these concepts that we’re talking about, whether it’s deservedness, whether it’s citizenship and belonging, whether it’s work and like how hard people work and stuff like that, this idea around, like that we can or cannot afford things, how much all of that has been at the center of this first administration, and then really, I think, unfortunately, has led to the President not delivering on a lot of things that he’s promised. He talked about canceling everybody’s student loan debt, but right away, it turned into this whole conversation about could we afford it? Right? And then, we’re gonna give everyone a child tax credit, you know, we’re gonna extend the child tax credit. And then it became this conversation about, like, who deserves it and who doesn’t. And then, you know, they promised, which was, to me seemed like after everything that Black folks went through after the murder of George Floyd, and the murder of Breonna Taylor, and then the murders of so many other Black men and women after, even just after George Floyd, we couldn’t pass the basicest, most basic of police reform legislation, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. And then the response being to use Black activists as like this, this like excuse for why they couldn’t do it. You know, it just, it’s really like been unnerving to see how these themes have come up, even after such a transformative political moment, like we saw last last, you know, in 2020.
Solana Rice 6:26
And I do recall, correctly I think, that in the debates, in the presidential debates, there was this big question about like, “well, how will you negotiate with with Republicans?” and everybody was, I mean, when Joe Biden said, “I am gonna work across the aisle,” which, you know, we all were going to take with a grain of salt, but now we’re seeing like, are, are you a great negotiator? Should we be negotiating? What about the folks that are, in theory, on our side, quote, unquote, on our side, the Democrats that are also not falling in line with a really, honestly progressive vision? So I think we’re at a space where, you know, we’re two years in, and we’ve really got to ask ourselves, what’s on the horizon for not only the midterms, but also 2024? Like, who should we be standing up? Who should we be, and what are the terms under which we really can support somebody, we got to we have to turn out folks, and people have to be excited about the possibilities.
Jeremie Greer 7:44
Right, it’s, it’s, it’s too early probably to ask the question, you know, Joe Biden, in his victory speech, said, you know, to Black folks, “you have my back, I have yours.” It’s probably too early to make a judgment about whether he has our back or not, but we have some data. And there’s going to be a point in time where we are gonna have to ask that question. And, you know, based upon what this administration and the people that, you know, behind him that got him into office are going to do is going to kind of answer that question for us. But today, we’re going to have a real great conversation with someone who has been behind the scenes, and knows how this stuff works, in Robert Reich, so, you know, I look forward to that conversation. So let’s stop pontificating more. Let’s move over to Bob.
Solana Rice 8:31
Stay tuned y’all. So let’s just jump right in. Bob, how are you doing? How are you doing? Today is a tumultuous time, I will say I am tired. Not only because I have a little one, but because because there’s a lot going on in the world. Are you tired? What’s happening in your world? How are you feeling?
Robert Reich 8:54
Well, I’m exhausted. And I’m also pissed off. Because I was assuming that once the crisis of, you know, COVID, and Trump and all of the other crises that we’ve been involved in, were over that I could relax a little bit. And I suppose I should be relaxing, but we’re on the precipice of a possible possible nuclear war. And I remember, you know, I’m old enough to remember the 1950s. You know, I remember what it felt like to do the duck and cover.
Jeremie Greer 9:24
So one thing we wanted to talk to you a bit about today is, you know, we have this podcast about racism is profitable, it’s really kind of get underneath the like, underbelly of how this economy works. And I remember when we were sitting at a coffee shop, I don’t know if you remember this Bob, we were sitting in a coffee shop, and we were talking about like, Liberation in a Generation and what we what we hope to do, and you said to us, you said, “do you know about this guy, Marriner Eccles?” And we’re like, ‘No, tell us about Marriner Eccles.” And you know you told us about Marriner Eccles. So, I wonder if you could go into a little bit about why Marriner Eccles is so important, how this connects to the theme that we’re covering today, talking about racism is profitable, and like why like Black and brown people should care about this person, and what he did?
Robert Reich 10:15
Well, you know, it’s interesting Jeremie, when we met in the coffee place, I wanted to talk about Marriner Eccles, you guys didn’t know who he was, and I thought well, you know if I keep on talking about Marriner Eccles for the next three years, eventually people will know who he is. And people still don’t know who Marriner Eccles is, and they will never know who he is. But look, he’s a very important character, because even though he was a, what was in those days, a multimillionaire, he was one of the few people who understood that the key to everybody doing better in the economy was for everybody to do better in the economy. In other words, that the economy was not top down. It was not kind of a, we don’t use the term supply side, trickle down in those days, but that’s what a lot of people did believe. It really did depend on everybody doing better and doing well, because their buying power would create jobs. And those jobs would in turn create more buying power. It was a virtuous cycle. And Marriner Eccles testified before Congress, before the New Deal, and put out a bunch of recommendations that were actually the essence of the New Deal. In fact, they were better than the New Deal because as we all know, Black people were largely excluded from the New Deal for political reasons, were the worst kind of political reasons, because FDR wanted to get Southern Democrats. But Marriner Eccles really did understand that we were all in this together. He became the first chairman of the Fed under Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was there for a long time, I think something like 18 years. The building, the Fed building is named after him. Still, nobody knows who he is. And his legacy continues in the form of a lot of us, including you two, who are talking about the critical importance of investing in everybody.
Jeremie Greer 12:35
Yeah, you know, so we had Demond Drummer from PolicyLink on an earlier episode. So we talked a bit about the Federal Reserve and how it works. And one of the things he said is that there is nothing this country can’t afford when we choose to do it. Right. And so one of the things that I’ve been thinking about throughout this, you know, all these debates around the size of the Build Back Better plan and the size of the infrastructure package, all the kinds of spending programs that that President Biden and some people in Congress want to do. Is that like, these conversations about what can we afford, it just seemed really like ridiculous to me, and it seems like when you know, and that this idea that we can, we can cover the costs of everything that we need to do is rooted in like someone like Marriner Eccles, and like the his philosophy, I just wonder if you could talk a bit about like, how these conversations today are connecting to this kind of discussion about the role of government and what it is that it can do for people?
Robert Reich 13:43
Well, first of all Jeremie, there is a view, and I think there has a lot of legitimacy attached to the view, that because we print our own money, essentially, we’re the only country that is big enough and powerful enough to be able to do that, that we shouldn’t even worry about how to pay for anything, that we can afford, by the very nature of the fact that the dollar is the reserve currency for the world, we can afford to do anything we want. Let’s get out of this bind, that is self imposed, largely conservative Republican bind that says we’ve got to pay for everything. But even if you accept that proposition, we are paying, look at it, we have a defense budget per year of $760 billion. I mean, you trim that a little bit and you get enough money to pay for for example, the refundable expanded Child Tax Credit. We have a billionaire class, 760 people, who over the last two years during the pandemic, increased their wealth by $1.2 trillion dollars! Trillion not billion, trillion dollars! They, if you if you had had a wealth tax that sopped up a lot of that wealth, they would still be doing better than they did two years ago. In other words, there is absolutely no limit to what we can and should be able to do for our people in order to invest in them. And then and public investments, by the way, pay for themselves. I mean, if if we put money into preschool, if we put money into early childhood education, if we put money into childcare, put money into anything that has to do with young people, and giving them better opportunities, giving them better education, giving them a better start, well, that means they’re going to be more productive. That means they’re going to be less costly in terms of every measure of cost in our society. That means these investments pay off big, we shouldn’t even be worrying about anything we’re talking about in terms of cost.
Solana Rice 15:55
I mean, you bringing that up, though, reminds me of this State of the Union address that we’ve just heard. And this idea that we need to fund police and not all of the things that you just mentioned, which we just heard, like, these things pay off. And I’m, to me, I’m like, who was in the room when folks are writing that State of the Union? Because that was like, that, to me, that was unnecessary. But I’m curious from your experience. You’ve been in these rooms where big decisions are happening and are being made. Seems like when it comes out on the other end on for us, it’s like, it’s kind of coded about racism, it’s kind of coded about who gets to have what, who doesn’t get to have what. Have you been in rooms where you’re just like, “Wait, why, why are we really just still dependent on this deservedness narrative, on this scarcity narrative? Are the conversations in those rooms just like blatant? Or are you decoding as well?
Robert Reich 17:10
Yes. And that’s the short answer. The longer answer is that it doesn’t matter what I thought, or think. I mean, the people have the most influence over the State of the Union addresses or really over much of what Joe Biden or Kamala Harris or anybody in the administration does day by day, are political advisors. And they have their eyes, especially once you’re in the gravitational pull of the midterm elections, or they’re after the general election of 2024, they have their eyes on the election, they have their eyes on, on public approval, the likelihood of getting people out, or not getting people out. Why did that particular phrase get into the State of the Union about, whatever he said, you know, he rejected, defund the police, uh “fund the police,” he said. How did it get there? I’m sure, although I wasn’t there, I’m reasonably sure, based on my experience, that it was political advisors saying, Mr. President, defund the police has been utilized by Republicans or by conservatives, to scare middle class and working class whites. And in, particularly in states that we need. And you know, these are swing states, and these are suburbs. And we’ve got to take away their ammunition. That’s what the argument was about that. Was there some other political adviser there saying, Mr. President, we need young people and people of color in the next election to be motivated to get out there, and if you say something like that, their motivation is going to drop? Well, maybe there was there was a three minute discussion between those two sets of political advisors as to what’s going to net the bigger, the bigger positive. But that’s, unfortunately, sadly, what it comes to.
Jeremie Greer 19:07
Bob, I wonder how this stuff gets codified in policy? And like, you know, so you know, we in our earlier podcast, we talked about the welfare queen narrative, and how like that became pervasive and like shifting certain people’s perspective on social programs like welfare and food stamps, and things like that. So how does like narrative conversations like that, that are like racism may be placating or pandering to some interest group, how do they make themselves into a policy that like actually really affects people on like a day to day basis?
Robert Reich 19:41
Generally speaking, Jeremie, you’ve got people in, let’s say, Biden’s White House, who want to do the right thing, defined as what the country ought to be doing in terms of moving toward a more just, fair society, including obviously people of color. Now, they have to run a gauntlet. They’ve got to make sure the political advisors are with them. Because, well, as I used to, I used to have this debate with a fellow named Morris in the Clinton White House. Dick Morris was the pollster, he was a political adviser. He was the one poll advisor. And I would say,
Jeremie Greer 20:24
Wait wait wait, a pollster was telling you, economist, about some policymaking thing?
Robert Reich 20:31
Oh, I had to, I had to sell him, I had to sell. And I would say, “How about the president doing this or that?” And he’d say, “Well, if the President says this, or wants to do that, he’s not going to be reelected. And if he’s not reelected, you have a zero chance of ever doing this or that.” And that’s the kind of that’s the kind of chicken and egg show we got into over and over again. I think there are a lot of people, and let’s not get too cynical, a lot of people around Biden who want to do the right thing. And they’re good people, it’s a good staff. In fact, if I look back over the last three Democratic administrations, I would say, this White House staff is the best. It has fewest Wall Street shills, than certainly the Obama or the Clinton White House. But even, but they are constantly locking horns with the political people about what is going to get in the midterm elections, Democrats, what what what gives the Democrats best the best chance of keeping the House and or the Senate, and what gives Biden and Kamala Harris the best chance, depending upon who’s going to be running in 2024, of keeping the White House.
Solana Rice 22:05
So from your perspective, then, and then what you’re telling me is like the policy folks, and the political folks are constantly doing this dance about what can be moved forward, but still reassure reelection? So what kind of political power do we need to be building in this moment, in order to make sure that like, the people, the pollsters are really taking into account like the future of the progressive movement, the future of the nation, which is mostly people of color? Like, from your, from your vantage point, where do we go? How do we energize the young people and people of color? Like I know that’s funny coming from a young person of color, but I’m curious about your thoughts.
Robert Reich 23:01
I would say, honestly, you and Jeremie and others, who are young, and people of color, and politically motivated, are the key to the future. That is not just the Democratic Party, but all of American politics. And to the extent that you organize, energize and mobilize, then that is going to find its way into the brains of the political people who are advising any president or any major politician. That’s, it’s as simple and as direct as that. Now, the difference, though, may be in terms of time horizon. The people who are political advisors in the White House, they’re just looking at the next election, election cycle. They’re not really looking, you know, two administrations from now, they don’t really care. But I but I think that to the extent that there is an understanding of how much power young people, people of color, progressives actually bring to the table and getting out the vote, and getting out the vote is a big, big piece of this, then the political people in the White House, and the political people in the Senate and and in the House will act accordingly.
Jeremie Greer 24:20
So how did how does this play out? Because, you know, you’ve been advocating for years around like, things like paid, paid leave, things like, you know, a livable minimum wage, you know, like, these policies that are very popular when you poll people, and would help a lot of Black and brown folks, if passed, but seem to keep hitting these walls. And is is the vote the way to that or is there other stuff that people should be doing and thinking about as they try to push these policies that are popular when you ask people about it, but just can’t seem to get through the kind of minutia of the policymaking?
Robert Reich 25:02
Some of the policies, like a minimum wage increase, are extremely popular. And that’s why in election years, minimum wage increases occur. In non election years, they don’t occur. So you need to know, you just need to know, there’s a kind of ebb and wane to what can be done when there are openings. Even Republicans vote, I mean you know, in 1996, I went to Bill Clinton and said, “Can we just please raise the minimum wage?” And he said, as he he said, ” You gotta ask, ask Dick Morris, the pollster.” I went to Morris and said, “Well, I, you know, the President said to come to you, and, you know, I think it’s time to raise the minimum wage.” So Dick Morris said, “Well let me do a poll.” And he, and then he, the next day, the very next day, I got a call from him, Dick Morris, saying “You’ll never guess what, 80% of Americans are in favor of raising the minimum wage.” I said “Dick, how did you get that poll result so fast? Did you poll members of your family? Was that how you did it? So, but I then had Dick Morris’s poll results, and I went back to the President and I went to House and Senate leader. Now they weren’t, at that time, it was all Republican. Because the, Newt Gingrich’s so-called revolution had occurred. But it didn’t really matter, because House and Senate, they they looked at those polls, they they had conversations with the National Restaurant Association, small business, all the people who normally hate minimum wage increases and said, “Look, it’s time, we don’t want to be penalized at the ballot box.” And we did, we got it. We got it. We got a minimum wage increase. One of the one of the last ones to get through Congress, but that’s with a Republican House and a Republican Senate. And, and something in the order of 50, no, 30 million Americans got a wage increase that day, on the vote. Is that possible again? Absolutely. Absolutely. If you could do it with a Republican House and Republican Senate, we can do it now. Another, on other issues though, it’s more complicated. Medicare for All, it’s easy to demagogue. Minimum wage, everybody understands it. Medicare for All, the forces against it can say “Oh, you’re gonna lose your doctor, you’re gonna lose this, you’re gonna lose that you’re gonna lose your employer provided health care,” it’s hard to come back, come back and give people as, well, as as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both saw, if if you have to come back and explain a negative, then you’re halfway, you know, halfway gone to begin with. What are some other examples of policies? I think what I’m saying is, it depends on the year, where are there opportunities? When, is it an election year? And also, is it complicated? Is it easy for people to understand or is it easy to demagogue?
Jeremie Greer 25:17
Yeah, well, I hear you saying is like, the best argument doesn’t win, always. Like if you can show the, you know, like research, it says it’ll take this number of people out of poverty or will do this or that, like that doesn’t always win, because political implications come into play, around, “Is that the right year? Is it going to bring the right voters out things like that all that stuff is, needs to be a part of the package that you’re presenting.
Robert Reich 28:45
Oh it’s a big part of living in a democracy. I mean, I’m I’m glad, but it means the policy is always takes a backseat to polit. Always, always, always, always. Oh, I mean, I’ve been trying to tell people on the Hill, that we had a perfect experiment on the expanded child tax credit. So we had a perfect experiment. I mean, we we know what happened to child poverty before. We know what happened to child poverty when we had it in that six month window. And we know what’s happened to child poverty since. I mean, I mean, there’s it’s it’s absolutely clear that you reduce child poverty by 30 to 40% with a refundable child tax credit that’s expanded in exactly the way that we did. But how far does that policy argument go? Well, it doesn’t go very far. I wish I could say —
Jeremie Greer 29:45
Well we see, because we did ,we’re likely not gonna win it right. Like it’s all up to Joe Manchin and his what he wants to do, right like it’s –
Robert Reich 29:53
That’s right. Now, talking, I don’t want to get in the weeds but Mitt Romney came up with a fairly decent plan in the early stages of thinking about the expanded child tax credit. And I remember thinking in purely policy perspective, gee Mitt Romney’s plan is in some ways superior to the plan that everybody else came up with. So in political terms, why not just try to get Mitt Romney? I mean, you don’t need, we have 50 Democrats and minus Joe Manchin, 49. And we’ve got, you know, we’ve got the vote, Kamala Harris can do this swing vote. So why don’t we just get Mitt Romney? Hello!
Jeremie Greer 30:34
Mitt Romney’s gotta ACA the child tax credit? Like he did in Massachusetts?
Robert Reich 30:43
You see it. Again, it very often comes down to personalities as well. Much as those of us who are steeped in policy analysis and economics would rather not admit it. That’s, it really is people. Joe Manchin, for some reason, got very, very angry with the Biden White House, he felt that he was taking a lot of the heat for how slow Build Back Better was going through, was moving through. He felt that he was taking all of the heat on voting rights. And he’s, you know, he just he just lost it. He doesn’t want to, he doesn’t want to cooperate.
Solana Rice 31:23
Here’s a contradiction I feel though, Bob, like, and I don’t know what to do with it. We are saying that people turning out to vote is really important. And we’ve just laid out like several examples of where personalities come into play, politics come into play. How do how do folks reconcile, like, “Yes, I should vote. And I understand that there’s so much more to politics than voting, right?” You’ve got these special interests, you’ve got, you’ve got folks like, the Chamber and all these special interest groups that are just like, “Nah, we’re gonna shut that down.” Right. So I’m curious about like, yes, we should vote. And like, how do we build power in those spaces, in those like sacred spaces that like people of color are often not allowed to enter?
Robert Reich 32:23
Well, I think I think sort of the the way to do it, or the way to argue about doing it is number one, demographics. Demographics are on our side, in terms of people of color, and young people. And the whole Republican paranoid reaction, and the kind of, you know, proto-Trump stuff that’s going on right now, around the country is all a fear about more and more people voting. But that’s, you know, demographics. You can’t you can’t just, demographics are destiny, that’s going to happen. So that’s, that’s number one. Number two, I think a lot of people should take some encouragement from the 2020 election. A lot of good things happened. I mean, we never expected Georgia, for example, to come up with two, you know, two Democratic senators. And, and the number of people of color actually moving into politics and young people. I think that there has been a huge slow moving revolution in the making. And that’s it’s going to happen in fits and starts, it’s, you know, it’s not going to be a huge success. I think that this fall, is going to be a big test for all of us. But, and I don’t want to sound as if I’m a Pollyanna, or I’m simply, you know, repeating Martin Luther King Junior’s “the arc of of justice.” No, I think it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be hard work. And we have to understand that. But we also have got to be patient. Patience is critical here. Nothing is going to change right away. But I’m, I’m, I would be very surprised if we were having this discussion in eight years or four years, and things had not improved dramatically.
Solana Rice 34:25
What I also hear you saying though, is that we don’t have to wait necessarily, but that it’s going to take a while. Because I think there’s a difference sometimes are like, “Just wait your turn” or just like “We’ll make these incremental things.” I don’t think that’s what you’re saying. I think you’re saying though, that the tide, that taking power and being in positions of power is going to that that literally just takes time. That we should be doing that work. But we don’t have to like, wait forever.
Robert Reich 35:00
Yeah, sorry, don’t don’t wait, don’t wait in terms of being politically active or energized, or organizing, do it now, and do it with extraordinary efforts. And do it with as many people as you possibly can. Now, don’t wait. But in terms of your expectations, your understanding of the speed of change, when you’re dealing with power, and the change that you want, in terms of the structure of power, you need to understand that it’s not going to happen overnight.
Jeremie Greer 35:36
I wonder, I wonder if you could reflect a little bit around like, kind of back in your career and kind of bringing it to where you are now, like, where, you know, we had come to you and with the idea of doing a video called “racism is profitable.” And we focused on the prison industrial complex. And, you know, you were like, right away, like, “Oh, I see this so many places in the economy.” I just wonder, like, over the years, how, reflecting back like, how have you seen that show up over time? And then where do you see it, like, showing up over and over again, kind of in the work that you’re, on the things that you’re focusing on today?
Robert Reich 36:14
Well, you can see it, even today. The military contractors are celebrating what’s going on in the world, in terms of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Military contractor and defense industry stocks are going through the roof. I mean, they have, and I won’t, I don’t want to accuse them of being in any way you know, unAmerican, they would say they’re, you know, they’re extraordinary American, they are, they’re the ones who are leading the charge. But the fact of the matter is that as the situation deteriorates in the world, there are people whose job it is to maximize the shareholder value, of, of institutions that are in the business of killing people, or the prison industrial complex of confining people, or creating a world that is a pretty bleak, awful world. And we’ve got to understand that they are in the game as well. They are a political influence. Now, in the best of all worlds, these people, particularly government contractors, whether we’re talking about the military industrial complex, or the prison industrial complex, these government contracts should not be able to lobby or make campaign contributions, because they’re on the you know, they’re getting money from the government. But, and maybe we can get to a point where we have campaign finance reform that makes that impossible. But for now, they really are players. And we’ve got to understand that and we’ve got to name them. And we’ve got to make people very aware of what they are doing.
Jeremie Greer 38:09
Yeah, and how do we balance that with the role that, you know, we opened in talking about Marriner Eccles, who was someone that saw the role of government and actually making a better world, right, like, if people were out of work, the government should be involved in making sure those people if they don’t find a job, or covering their, you know, their their basic needs, so they can live live a good life. So what are how do we balance the role that government plays with doing that? Because I think that the pathway out of, you know, things like poverty and, you know, mass incarceration and the things that we’re seeing in Black and brown communities is that path, with kind of where we are, which is this like, profiting from pain, like, what is the way to kind of rebalance that in a way so that we can get back to kind of, you know, the thinking of where we started, which was, which was around someone that saw the world very differently than the way we’re kind of living in it now?
Robert Reich 39:05
I think the first step is not to celebrate or in any way talk about the goal as being government, or a bigger government or a government. Government in our history, going back to the beginning, government was was always it wasn’t Ronald Reagan, government was always a problem. I mean, we hated the British government, we this country was, was was born out of a revolution against centralized power. The government is not popular. We had a brief period where Marriner Eccles stepped up in 1929 through, let’s say, the Cold War, and that was a period where we had a depression and a hot war and a Cold War and government was necessary. It was a and people rallied behind the United States but not behind the government. And that’s the, there’s a difference. We love our system of government, at least many people do. Most of us do. We don’t love government, per se. And I think it’s important to keep that in mind, the goals that we’re talking about that is a goal in which our children are, are taken care of, that our children don’t go for lack of food or lack of shelter, they have good education, they, they can become effective and productive citizens and participants in our society. And, I mean, that’s something we can agree on. People also understand that over the kitchen table, the problems are almost exactly the same, regardless of our race. You know, people can’t pay the bills. You know, gas prices are hitting $4 A gallon in California $5 a gallon, people who have to drive to work and get caught in traffic. I mean, this is the where people live, start where people live. Don’t talk about labels don’t talk about republican or democrat or Donald Trump or progressive or, or, or socialist or what just just start where people are. And it’s amazing how far you can go.
Jeremie Greer 41:21
Yeah, we need to have a Maryland Maryland, Marriner Eccles block party. I think that’s, that’s, that’s —
Robert Reich 41:27
Exactly. I think he’d like something very much like that.
Solana Rice 41:40
Oh, that’s great. Okay, this is we’re gonna do a rapid set of questions. This is like off the cuff. If there was one agency, one federal agency, you could take apart and rebuild? What agency? Would that be?
Robert Reich 41:56
The Defense Department.
Solana Rice 41:58
Oh, yeah. I think I might have heard a campaign slogan in what you just said, but I’m curious. If you were to run for president, we’re just gonna say for President, what would your campaign slogan be?
Robert Reich 42:10
The people versus the powerful.
Solana Rice 42:13
And the last good laugh you had?
Robert Reich 42:21
Just a couple of seconds ago with you guys. And actually, let me let me just pause there because that’s an important point. I think anybody who’s involved in our civic life, or political life or trying to move things, you can’t take yourself too seriously, but you have to take the issues very seriously. Gotta laugh. That’s like if you don’t, if you don’t find humor, you’re really cooked.
Solana Rice 42:49
Well, we look forward to continuing the laughs, continuing the serious issues with you and with Inequality Media, and we’ve had a great time. Thanks Bob. What should people know about Inequality Media? What should people know?
Robert Reich 43:07
This is a nonprofit that we started in, in order to educate the public because it’s all about fundamentally it’s all about public education. If if people know what is at stake, they can be good citizens. If they just listen to propaganda, or Fox News or sort of fake news, they can’t be good citizens. So public, so Inequality Media is all about finding ways to get the truth and truthful narratives to people. But let me just use my last seconds to thank you guys. Both of you, Solana and Jeremie you’re doing wonderful, wonderful work. And I want to you know, there it seems like 20 years have passed since we met at the coffee bar to talk about your ideas. And I want to thank you for what you’ve done.
Jeremie Greer 43:57
We thank you too, Bob. It’s been a great ride and we’ll continue to ride with you. Thank you.
Robert Reich 44:03
Solana Rice 44:05
Take it easy, we’ll see you soon.
Robert Reich 44:08
Okay, see you soon. Bye.
Solana Rice 44:15
Wow, that was that was the Bob Reich. A lot of people wonder how to say his last name, Reich. The Inequality Media former labor secretary in the Clinton administration. I learned a lot. I learned a lot about this this pollster. And like what? Your pollster, your issues have to poll well? Even if we know even if we know like it like this substantially like we know what to do, which actually explains a lot it’s not that we don’t know what to do.
Jeremie Greer 44:58
Or it’s also funny as you’re polling people about something that you intend to do, but probably haven’t done yet. And you’re expecting people to know something about it. But anyway, my big problem with pollsters. But yeah, it was, it was really great. And he’s but we joked a lot about Marriner Eccles, but what it really was bringing forward is that there was a time when the Federal Reserve like we talked about in another kind of pod with Demond Drummer, saw its mission as providing, and they completely restructured the Fed. So I encourage people to look, we joked about it, look up Marriner Eccles, and the Federal Reserve and the Banking Act that passed at that time where they really reconstructed the Federal Reserve so that it could respond to the effects of the Depression. And what was happening in the country at that time and saw the government take on a role of caring for its people, which I believe was not too dissimilar to the impact of something like COVID-19, or just the impact of, you know, centuries of systemic racism that has been put down upon Black and brown folks in this country, and that the Federal Reserve could be used in a way to undo many of those harms. So I encourage people to look and research a little bit about Marriner Eccles.
Solana Rice 46:22
I’m glad Bob got to talk about Marriner Eccles, because I feel like I haven’t had a conversation with him where he hasn’t brought up Mariner Eccles. That was, that was great. And I was really struck, for me, I was struck by this idea that our expectations should reflect what’s not not necessarily what’s possible, but our expectations also have to be in the long view, which is partly why we do the work we do at Liberation in a Generation Action, because we also want to have something to say about the long view like we don’t have to wait for it to happen to us. But we know that just focusing on this next election or even the election after that is not the way forward and it’s not getting at those real embedded structural issues that we’ve we’ve got to imagine entirely different systems like like you said, that Marriner Eccles started right, but like, in our image. We have to think about what that looks like. And we have to start polling people that are not talking about this next election, but like, what is the possibility of a of guarantees, of guaranteed income, guarantee to a job? What is the future of a liberation economy? Can we imagine a place where we’re not just dependent on this deservedness narrative? And like, what, what all, what systems would totally change? If we did that?
Jeremie Greer 47:57
Yeah. And I think that’s a good segue into what Kendra is going to kill us if we don’t do, which is to talk about how this this podcast is going to contribute to that that future economy. And you know, we’re going to take a little hiatus. We’ve done seven episodes, hope that you all have enjoyed them. We’re going to take a little hiatus probably a month or two after the release of this one, and we’re going to regroup. And we’re going to come back with a podcast that we hope is beginning to force those conversations that many of the guests that we’ve had up to this point have come on. We want to have more organizers on the show we want to have we’re going to be in an election year we want to have some some political candidates on the pod, so like we got a lot of ideas, a lot of things that we’re we want to do but it’s we’re going to have to take a couple of months to sort through it and get ready to go. So keep an eye on your wherever you get your podcasts, and be on the lookout for an alert from Racism Is Profitable.
Solana Rice 48:56
Take it easy y’all.
Jeremie Greer 48:58
Kendra Bozarth 49:01
Thanks for listening. For more information, check out our list of episode resources and visit us at LiberationInAGeneration.Org. Shout out to our producer Jacob Bronstein, audio editor Nina Fernandez, communications director me, Kendra Bozarth. The design team at TrimTab and the whole squad at LibGen Action. Like what you heard? Help us make some noise by telling two friends about the Racism Is Profitable podcast. Until next time, y’all. Peace.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai