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.
Jessyn Farrell: 00:02 Republicans are seen as taking care of the economy better because they are better at telling the story that they’re on your side.
Pramila Jayapal: 00:09 Increasingly, there’s this giant band between that poverty threshold and the top 10%, and those people can’t survive.
Jessyn Farrell: 00:20 We don’t talk about economic policy in terms of what is best for the broad swath of Americans.
Nick Hanauer: 00:25 Right. Medicare for All is centrism. Raising the overtime threshold to include the bottom 80% of workers is centrism. Moving the minimum wage up to the median wage is centrism. These are centrist ideas because they will unambiguously improve the lives of the median family, which should be our goal.
Speaker 4: 00:53 From the offices of Civic Ventures in Downtown Seattle, this Pitchfork Economics with Nick Hanauer, where we explore everything you wished you’d learned in Econ 101.
Jessyn Farrell: 01:12 I’m Jessyn Farrell, senior vice president at Civic Ventures, and former state legislator from Northeast Seattle.
Nick Hanauer: 01:19 I’m Nick Hanauer, founder of Civic Ventures.
Jessyn Farrell: 01:26 Nick, do you remember that day that we had a staff meeting in your office, and you had this yardstick sitting on your couch? What was that all about?
Nick Hanauer: 01:35 Yeah. The yardstick was this super useful prop that we’ve used a bunch of times, and have even brought to meetings with politicians to demonstrate the difference between ideological centrism and true centrism. The reason the yardstick is so useful is that it’s a really easy visual metaphor for people to figure out what it means to talk about the center. If you take a normal yardstick, and if you were to imagine putting every single American on that yardstick, from the very poorest person on the left all the way to the very richest person, and you were to try to find the center of that yardstick, if you go by weight, by pounds, you would find the center right in the middle, about 18 inches.
Nick Hanauer: 02:26 But if you were find the center, the fulcrum of that yardstick based on wealth shares and put 50% of the wealth on one side and 50% of the wealth on the other, or 50% of the income on one side and 50% of the income on the other side, you would find that the balance point, the fulcrum, about three fifths of an inch from the right, at sort of more than 35-and-a-half inches. Think about that.
Jessyn Farrell: 02:54 So, the literal visual that you had was you were holding the yardstick on your couch, and you were pointing at the far end as that’s what we’re thinking of and is-
Nick Hanauer: 03:05 Yeah, exactly. Exactly, and we call that the neoliberal yardstick, which finds the center, centrism, balancing the economic interest of the people who own half the wealth, which is about 35-and-a-half inches from the right, against the economic interest of everyone else in the economy on the left, and that’s what passes for centrism or what Howard Schultz likes to call moderate economic policies, which is to say, “What we’re gonna continue to do is the same vicious, exploitive, trickle-down policies, which have enriched the few and impoverished the many, and occasionally we’ll throw a bone to poor people at the very bottom of the economic spectrum.” What that version of centrism does is it leaves out the people basically in the middle eight deciles, or largely in the bottom nine deciles-
Jessyn Farrell: 03:55 Almost everybody else.
Nick Hanauer: 03:57 … and makes rich people richer and everybody else poorer.
Jessyn Farrell: 04:00 Thus, this great literal metaphor was born. So, we’ve been using that as a way to think about stuff, and I, in reflecting on some of the work that I’ve done as a legislator, I was part of the negotiating team on the paid family leave bill, and the impulse always is to start on that far end, or rather, I should put it this way, to start in the middle, which is to say that we are representing … We have an idea that represents the vast majority, and over time in the legislative process, it gets whittled down and whittled down, and the so called compromise or centrist position ends up being that thing that doesn’t benefit the vast majority of people in the state, and you see that happen over and over again.
Nick Hanauer: 04:39 Over, and over, and over again. Right? So, what’s really interesting is that in our heads, as we think about politics and economics, we’ve persuaded ourselves that centrism means just a little bit. Right?
Jessyn Farrell: 04:55 Right. Exactly.
Nick Hanauer: 04:56 Just do a tiny little bit.
Jessyn Farrell: 04:57 Just that little eighth of an inch, as opposed to the whole thing, almost the whole thing.
Nick Hanauer: 05:01 Yeah, or a policy that helps just a few people. That’s centrist, and a great example of that is that if we raise the minimum wage just a tiny bit, from $7.25 an hour to, say, $8.00 or $9.00, that’s centrism, and raising the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour or even $20.00 an hour, that’s crazy lefty.
Jessyn Farrell: 05:23 That’s right.
Nick Hanauer: 05:24 I guess our point is nothing could be further from the truth. If you raised the minimum wage to $20.00 an hour, it would benefit … Almost, I think, about 65% of Americans today, earn less than $20.00 an hour. It may be less than 70% of Americans. So, in that sense, because the policy would benefit seven in 10 Americans, that seems like centrist to me. Right?
Jessyn Farrell: 05:52 Right.
Nick Hanauer: 05:53 That’s benefiting the people at the center of the economic spectrum. Another great example is that one of our favorite policy issues is the overtime threshold.
Jessyn Farrell: 06:02 Right.
Nick Hanauer: 06:02 Right? So, today, it benefits just 7% of salaried employees, people who make below $23,600 a year. Sort of the orthodox way of thinking, the neoliberal way of thinking about centrism, would be to raise it from $23,600 to what the Trump Administration just did, to $35,000-
Jessyn Farrell: 06:24 Big whoop.
Nick Hanauer: 06:24 … benefiting 15% of American workers, or 20% of American workers, but what true centrism would be is to move the threshold up where it benefits 60% or 70% or 80% of Americans to the $70,000 or even $80,000 level. So, what we’ve gotta get people to recognize is that economic policies that directly benefit the vast majority of citizens, that’s true centrism. You’ll-
Jessyn Farrell: 06:51 And it builds broad political popularity in support of the idea.
Nick Hanauer: 06:55 Right. By the way, this truer way of thinking about centrism is both great economics, but it’s also great politics because if you’re a politician, and you’re talking about policies that benefit eight or seven out of 10 of the people that you bump into every day, well, that’s great politics, and again, I think one of the reasons that so many people today justly believe that Democrats are feckless corporate stooges too is that we really haven’t as a party stood for anything other than policies that generally make rich people richer, and occasionally we’ll throw a bone to poor people.
Jessyn Farrell: 07:32 Yeah, yeah. I can think of two really concrete examples in the state legislature in Washington state. There was a time when public college education was affordable for almost everybody. When I was at the University of Washington in the mid ’90s, my quarterly tuition was $690 a quarter. Right? So, that’s broadly accessible for most people, and over time it went way up, and one of the big scandals in 2014, in the 2014 session, is that the Republicans had proposed a tuition cut, and the Democrats felt so scooped by it because the Republicans weren’t supposed to be the people who were advocating for the middle class, but Democrats were so reflexively unable to think about policy from that broad-based, what is it that’s gonna help the most people, and certainly, affordable college tuition is one of those things, but we just could not think about it that way.
Nick Hanauer: 08:26 So, Jessyn, you raised a great example of the Democratic Party being on the wrong side of an issue, and I want to just acknowledge that I often am too partisan in this podcast. I often equate being a Democrat as being a good person and being a Republican as being a bad person, and that’s nonsense. Certainly, it is true that the Republican Party has gone off the rails in many, many ways, but we should clearly acknowledge that as Democrats we have done a terrible job over the last 40 years in taking care of the economic interests of most people, and the point of the podcast isn’t to promote Democrats. It’s to promote economic ideas that people in both the Democratic and Republican Party can embrace to make people’s lives better. You just raised a great example of a place where Republicans were probably on the right side of the issue-
Jessyn Farrell: 09:24 Yeah, they got it right.
Nick Hanauer: 09:25 … and Democrats weren’t, and I certainly feel like I need to be more careful in the podcast to not be so overtly partisan, even though I strongly believe that at this moment in time Democrats are on the right side of most of these issues, and Republicans are just sort of reflexively on the wrong side.
Jessyn Farrell: 09:43 Except, Republicans are seen as taking care of the economy better, and I think part of that is because they are better at telling the story, that they’re on your side, they’re on my side-
Nick Hanauer: 09:53 Yes. Well-
Jessyn Farrell: 09:53 … or they are literally on your side.
Nick Hanauer: 09:55 Yeah.
Jessyn Farrell: 09:55 Sorry. That’s not a good one, but on the side of the middle class. Right?
Nick Hanauer: 09:59 Yeah.
Jessyn Farrell: 09:59 Whether or not that’s true, part of it is that we don’t talk about economic policy in terms of what is best for the broad swath of Americans, and that’s your point about centrism.
Nick Hanauer: 10:09 That’s right, and putting lie to the claim that if you’re making rich people richer, that’s better for everybody, and the Republicans have been great at telling this trickle-down story, the neoliberal story, that what’s good for rich people is good for everyone, and that theory of growth beats no theory of growth, which is where the Democratic Party has been for a very long time.
Jessyn Farrell: 10:29 Yeah, and so that brings me back to that day in the office where you had brought this yardstick, and we were all scratching our heads, wondering what you were doing with a yardstick, and you started talking about this idea of the center being the thing that benefits the vast majority of people, and from that, coming this article, Democrats Must Reclaim the Center by Moving Hard Left-
Nick Hanauer: 10:49 Yeah, that we did in Politico in August, which you should read, dear listeners.
Jessyn Farrell: 10:53 Right, in August. It’s a great article.
Nick Hanauer: 10:54 Yeah. Google that, Democrats Must Reclaim the Center by Moving Hard Left.
Jessyn Farrell: 10:59 Exactly, and then how far we’ve come. Right?
Nick Hanauer: 11:01 Yeah.
Jessyn Farrell: 11:01 So, we put this idea out into the world, and now we are debating is Bernie Sanders a centrist. One might argue, free college, free community college, free college, that’s a centrist.
Nick Hanauer: 11:12 Yeah. Yeah.
Jessyn Farrell: 11:13 Free healthcare, Medicare for all, or healthcare for all, centrist.
Nick Hanauer: 11:17 Yeah, centrist. Yeah. Yeah. We have come far.
Jessyn Farrell: 11:19 We have come far.
Nick Hanauer: 11:19 Yeah. So, today we get to talk to our friend, Pramila Jayapal, who’s one of the most remarkable members of Congress, who definitely understands these issues of centrism in a way that few people do.
Jessyn Farrell: 11:32 Yeah. She is just a complete rockstar as the first Indian-American woman to serve in the House of Representatives. She’s the first vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She is one of the best organizers in the country. You’ve seen it on her work on local issues, whether it’s raising the minimum wage-
Nick Hanauer: 11:50 That’s right, and a long-time collaborator of ours here in Seattle on lots of fun things.
Jessyn Farrell: 11:53 Yep, and you see it in her work in Congress, organizing those Congress people into having a really strong progressive stance and a strong progressive institutional mechanism, which she has really invigorated and worked towards. It’s really exciting to see her.
Nick Hanauer: 12:12 So, we’re just gonna begin to chat, and this is gonna be both a podcast and catch-up. Okay? Okay?
Pramila Jayapal: 12:18 Perfect.
Nick Hanauer: 12:20 Pramila and I go way back. We did a lot of fun things together over the years in Seattle, where she’s from, among them, the $15 minimum wage, and I should just say that it was really … That was a journey. It was a journey and a learning experience, and for my own part, one of the things that I was … As I reflect back on that experience, you love to think about what you thought was right and what was wrong and where you were wrong, and one of the ways in which I was most wrong were my views on tipped workers.
Pramila Jayapal: 12:56 I remember that.
Nick Hanauer: 12:57 Yeah, and I came into that conversation, into that effort, feeling pretty strongly that tipped workers should be treated differently than other workers, and Pramila and a bunch of other people strongly disagreed with me, and I think I can say safely and confidently now that I was dead wrong about that.
Pramila Jayapal: 13:22 I think that’s pretty amazing. I mean, I just feel like we’re fortunate to have you in the region, and to be able to have this conversation around not just what is the right policy, but also what is the right language, and we view some of your … I’ve been testing this centrist idea and taking back the use of the word centrist, which you wrote an excellent essay on, and you know what? I’m constantly trying to tweak it, but I think that’s the value of these conversations, and 15, I feel like there isn’t even a conversation now here in Congress that 15 is the right level. High five on that because we did that, and not we, just you and me, but we, the movement, and fast food workers and low-wage workers across the country who have changed the reality. So, I’m here in Congress because I believe that if politics is the art of the possible, then our role is to try to push the boundaries of what is seen as possible.
Pramila Jayapal: 14:23 I just wrote a piece on the working poor, and I was thinking about this idea that really, what we have to do is transform the way we think about workers so that workers are not the drain on companies, but they are the valued engine of profitability and growth for companies, and then taking your same narrative, again, but that is a dynamic shift in how we see workers, because people say, “Oh, no. We can’t increase the minimum wage,” or, “We can’t give people benefits,” or, “We can’t do this,” or, “We can’t pay overtime because it’s too expensive,” but no. Actually, you don’t get growth if you don’t have workers who are driving that growth, and so the profits have to be shared in a very different and equitable fashion than they have been.
Nick Hanauer: 15:11 Absolutely, and I think what you’re talking about is strictly not neoliberalism, I would say.
Pramila Jayapal: 15:18 Right. Right.
Nick Hanauer: 15:19 So, one of the most profound lessons of organizing for the $15 minimum wage, just sort of pathetically obvious when you consider it, is that contrary to a lot of instincts from activists on the left, in a weird way, the farther we went, the easier it got. This is one of the profound lessons of the $15 minimum wage, is you can’t have a fight for $7.75.
Pramila Jayapal: 15:46 Right. Totally. I totally agree with you, and now we’ve … I mean, 15 felt far at the time, but it’s really not far enough. Right? I mean, if wages had kept pace with inflation, we would be at 21, 22, and depending on what state you’re in, more than that, and so-
Nick Hanauer: 16:00 Right, but if you raise the minimum wage from $7.25, which is the federal minimum, to $7.75, you help a few people on the bottom one or two deciles. In 2012, when we first started talking about this, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour included the bottom 45% of workers or something like that. It may have been slightly more. So, you absolutely have people’s attention, and that lesson has turned into a new conversation that you and I have had about what the true meaning of centrism is, because what 40 years of neoliberalism taught us, taught the Democratic Party, if we’re being honest, is that centrism is found when you balance the economic interests of the richest people who hold 50% of the income against everyone else in the country who owns the other 50% of the income-
Pramila Jayapal: 16:56 Well, and this came about because … I think I was at a conference where I was talking about how these progressive policies aren’t really progressive. I mean, I’m proud to be called a progressive, but they’re not radical, and I think you said, “No, they’re actually centrists because they serve the center of the country. Why should centrism mean that the top 1% or the wealthiest corporations are getting all of the benefit? Why wouldn’t centrism mean serving the center?” I loved that because I was an English major in college, and I was thinking about etymology, and I’m like, yeah, centrist should mean center.
Pramila Jayapal: 17:33 So, I’ve been taking that around the country and trying that. I used it in a speech in Iowa. I’ve used it in some places, and we still have to tweak it a little bit, but I think … So, the opportunity of that is that there is a fair amount of research that shows that people love these progressive ideas, whatever you want to call them. Right? These ideas we’re talking about, raising the minimum wage, overtime pay-
Nick Hanauer: 17:58 Yeah, fair wages-
Pramila Jayapal: 17:59 Fair wages.
Nick Hanauer: 18:00 … reasonable healthcare costs, affordable college, a decent place to live that doesn’t bankrupt you. It’s so weird how people prefer those things.
Pramila Jayapal: 18:08 Right. I mean, it’s amazing. Right? It’s not just progressives or young people. It’s actually Republicans-
Nick Hanauer: 18:13 Everybody.
Pramila Jayapal: 18:13 … and Independents.
Nick Hanauer: 18:15 Everybody.
Pramila Jayapal: 18:15 Everyone wants the same thing, and sometimes there is this push to say, “Well, this person is progressive,” but I started a Medicare for All pack, and I actually endorsed a couple of people who are not in the Progressive Caucus, but ran on Medicare for All, and I think we do have to think about … There are some people who were like, “No, don’t say centrist,” because that’s talking about the centrism that is, but we’ve reclaimed a lot of words in our narrative. I mean, we’ve done that on racial justice. We’ve done that on so many things. We can reclaim this and make centrism mean center, serving the center, not serving that fulcrum at the end.
Nick Hanauer: 18:51 Right, and we, of course, need to always be thinking about taking care of the most disadvantaged people in our society, but it is a terrible political policy and economic mistake to make the rich richer every day, and occasionally throw a bone to the very poor.
Pramila Jayapal: 19:12 Right.
Nick Hanauer: 19:13 Our policies should directly, unambiguously, and significantly improve the lives of the bottom nine deciles of Americans who have been left out of the last 40 years of economic growth, and to me, that’s what centrism is. Medicare for All is centrism. Raising the overtime threshold to include the bottom 80% of workers is centrism. Moving the minimum wage up to the median wage is centrism. These are centrist ideas because they will unambiguously improve the lives of the median family, which should be our goal.
Pramila Jayapal: 19:51 Right, and so much of what’s happened as inequality has grown is that, yes, we have these programs that serve the most vulnerable, the poorest, and we need to have those, but increasingly, there’s this giant band between that poverty threshold and the top 10%, and those people can’t survive.
Nick Hanauer: 20:15 They have been forgotten.
Pramila Jayapal: 20:16 They have been forgotten, and if you look at the statistic that keeps me up at night, is 62% of Americans don’t even have $1,000 in their bank account. 45% of Americans can’t even deal with a $400 emergency. That’s a leak in your roof. That’s your car breaks down. That’s your kid gets sick and you have to take a couple days off from work, and you don’t live in Washington state where you get paid medical leave. It’s any of those things, and so this anxiety is ever present for 90% of people, and for me, that also is the opening for then the blaming that somebody like Donald Trump taps into. Right? Because he taps into working people who feel like they’ve sort of been doing everything right.
Pramila Jayapal: 21:00 They got a job, they’re working 40 hours a week, now more and more, they’re working two jobs, they don’t have money to send their kids to college because education is so costly now, they are worried about their social security because they’re afraid it’s gonna be cut, they’re one healthcare crisis away from bankruptcy, housing has gone through the roof, they can’t pay for housing, and they’re like, “Wait a second. You want to talk about immigrants? What about me?” So, it leads to this place where people get divided, and I think the more we can point out that the only people that benefit from any of the device of rhetoric or the cuts to social security or any of these things are the people at the very top.
Nick Hanauer: 21:50 Yeah, the very rich people. For sure. Myself included, I should add.
Pramila Jayapal: 21:50 Well, that’s why you’re so unusual, because you’re willing to say that, and I will say that there are, and we have some of these folks in Washington state, a lot of really wealthy people who don’t want to have this either. They know that your future is not gonna be good if we devolve into a country where literally only 10% of the people, if that, have opportunity.
Nick Hanauer: 22:08 Yeah. If America falls apart, it will suck to be rich, too.
Pramila Jayapal: 22:11 Yeah, there will be a revolution. There will be a revolution, and guess who’s gonna be the target of that?
Nick Hanauer: 22:15 Exactly. So, how do we talk the Democratic Party, and ideally, a bunch of the Republican Party, into this notion that the purpose of politics is to unambiguously improve the lives of the median family? I will just admit that I’m about to have dinner with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and a bunch of people to talk about the future of the Democratic Party in one of these big dinners. What should I say to them?
Pramila Jayapal: 22:44 Well, I think you should, first of all, point out that people won across the country, and we took control of the house because of bold ideas, not because anyone was talking about a 25-cent increase to the minimum wage, but because people were talking about even in swing districts, ideas like Medicare for All. I think you should talk about the centrism of these ideas. I think you should talk about the fact that we have a situation of crisis where people don’t trust either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party because there’s so much money in politics.
Pramila Jayapal: 23:19 Now, it’ll be awkward because you’ll be at a dinner, which is about donors to the Democratic Party, but I think that we have some big pieces of legislation around anti-corruption, but I also think, for me … I don’t know if this is something you want say tonight, but for me, one of the things that I’ve been trying to do is think about how you use elected office to drive a conversation and to drive a narrative versus following a bunch of polling that is often not useful, but also not just. Right? Because if you look at, and not that I want us to do what Trump is doing, but if you look at what Trump does, he just has a narrative, and then he pushes it out there.
Pramila Jayapal: 24:03 After the Kavanaugh hearings, all of a sudden it was all about the unfairness to Kavanaugh. He didn’t care about the polling. The polling did not say that at all, but he used his bully pulpit to frame and change the narrative. How do we as Democrats get bolder about actually framing a narrative? Because I think for a lot of people, and I see it even in our district, for people that aren’t as up on the issues as you are, people look to me and to this office and to us for a frame. How do we think about this problem? How do we think about the border? How do we think about immigration? How do we think about healthcare?
Pramila Jayapal: 24:41 So, we have a real opportunity to use our platforms to really drive a narrative, and that in some ways is one of the biggest things that I think Democrats need to harness, is to be bold, and to understand that our wins did not come from people having incremental positions. Even in districts that elected swing, or more conservative Democrats, it was indivisibles that turned out. It was black women. It was young people. It was people who were excited about potentially not even that candidate, but maybe a candidate up ticket, maybe a Stacey Abrams, maybe a Beto O’Rourke. So, the analysis has to be right, and the analysis has to take us towards the country is moving to common sense slash progressive slash centrist, in our meaning of the word, proposals, transformations in our economy.
Pramila Jayapal: 25:46 One other thing, we’ve gotta pay attention to monopolies, antitrust, corporate buybacks. I mean, if you look at what has happened with inequality, when we stopped enforcing the no corporate buyback rules, you really saw inequality increase dramatically, and instead of money going into wages for workers, it went into these stock buybacks. So, I think that there are a few different pieces here that Democrats have been unwilling to take on, but we really have to take on antitrust monopoly stuff.
Nick Hanauer: 26:20 Yeah. Pramila, am I crazy to think that if Democrats, or frankly, any elected official, just did more for their constituents, they would need less from their donors? I mean, isn’t that the problem with the Democratic Party, is it’s been so long since we’ve made a big difference in people’s lives, that they see Democrats as feckless corporate stooges, too, which is fair? Right?
Pramila Jayapal: 26:51 Yeah. I mean, I think that … I tell everybody who comes in as a new member that constituent services is one of the most important things you can do, and we got back 1.5 million dollars for our constituents. We helped over 800 people. It was crazy. Just having my name on a letter, it helps people navigate the system. But I also think it’s about … We have work to do to really leverage the power of the progressive movement. I just got elected the co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. We have more progressive members than we’ve ever had before. 40% of the caucus are members of the CPC. We just set up the CPCC, this 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) that can be this intersection between the outside organizing and the inside organizing.
Pramila Jayapal: 27:34 You saw that work a little bit with the speakers. We were able to work with the outside groups to sort of leverage, look, here are our asks. We realized we had very few progressives on most of the exclusive committees. That’s where the decisions get made, ways and means. Appropriations we were not bad on. Energy and commerce, hardly anybody. Financial services, one person left. Intelligence, one person left. So, we worked with the progressive groups and said, “Hold your endorsement. Let us get proportional representation, plus a few other things, and we will use our power, we will leverage our power,” and we can do that with our donors as well.
Pramila Jayapal: 28:16 We really want to see the Democratic Party move in a way that really addresses this, and by the way, it’s not identity politics versus economics. That frame just drives me nuts. So, we just have to keep pushing back on that, because I think there are a lot of people who are afraid to talk about race, a lot of people who think that these are ancillary questions. Don’t get into the immigration questions. Well, you know what? It’s been put on the table by the president, so good luck not getting into them. I mean, that’s all the work we have to do, and I am excited about it because I feel like we have this real opportunity to leverage the outside, the inside, donors, powerful ideas that are out there, and just to seize that narrative.
Nick Hanauer: 29:01 Well, Pramila, thank you so much for being with us today. Super fun to be in your snazzy office.
Pramila Jayapal: 29:08 Nick, thank you for everything you do, and for the ideas, and for the vision and the passion of the work.
Nick Hanauer: 29:14 Thank you.
Nick Hanauer: 29:20 So, it was super fun to get to chat with Pramila in her offices in Washington DC, and how awesome is it to have somebody so clear-sighted representing us in Congress?
Jessyn Farrell: 29:34 Yeah. We’re so lucky here in the 7th to have her, and one of the things that she has done so well throughout her career is to take a norm and move it, that re-norming of what a minimum wage should look like, re-norming of what tipped workers should have access to. That’s really been one of the things she’s been good at, and I’m really interested in how she looks at elective office as part of that. Too often, elective officials are running around chasing after polls, and not leading and pushing, but she really sees her role as an elected person as part of that re-norming and shifting the narrative, and I think that part’s really interesting.
Nick Hanauer: 30:15 Exactly, and thinking about centrism in this much broader way, as it’s not centrist unless it directly benefits the broad majority of citizens, including the people in the middle deciles, and all the way up into the ninth decile. That gives permission for people thinking about economic policy to be far bolder than we’ve ever been before, and to just finally acknowledge that what people like Howard Schultz think of as centrism, which is just the same ridiculous exploitive policies that make rich people richer and everybody else poorer, aren’t centrists. They’re just radical trickle-down economics, and we need to put them behind us.
Jessyn Farrell: 30:55 Right, and it’s not like Howard Schultz has shown himself to be a super adept politician in his rollout, and what I really think about the centrist idea is that you get this great intersection of great policy and great politics.
Nick Hanauer: 31:11 Right.
Jessyn Farrell: 31:11 It is good for a politician to be on the side of almost everybody, right?
Nick Hanauer: 31:15 Yes. Exactly.
Jessyn Farrell: 31:16 I don’t know how any politician can say that this is not a good idea, except for the fact that a lot of politicians are bought and purchased by corporations and all that good stuff, and it’s very threatening. Right?
Nick Hanauer: 31:26 Right, and the people. That’s right.
Jessyn Farrell: 31:27 So, if you have the mechanisms on the outside to organize people, you’re able to counter that, and you’re able to, I think, create the conditions for politicians to do, again, not just right by everybody, but really is in their own self interest, in doing things that are broadly popular. That’s what is so great about this. It’s just so perfectly self-interested, plus the greatness of doing something that benefits a lot of people.
Nick Hanauer: 31:52 Yeah, and for our listeners out there, as you reflect on these ideas, we encourage you think more carefully about what it means to be moderate or centrist, and to push back on people who claim the mantle of centrism or moderation because they’re simply promoting the same ideas that have made rich people richer and everyone else poorer over the last couple of decades. These people aren’t being moderate. They’re being orthodox.
Jessyn Farrell: 32:23 Yeah, exactly. That’s right. That’s right. They’re being extremist.
Nick Hanauer: 32:27 That’s not the same thing. Yeah.
Jessyn Farrell: 32:28 They’re being extremist. To be only on the side of corporations or the very wealthy is an extremist position, not a centrist position.
Nick Hanauer: 32:34 That’s right, and it’s not moderate either, even though it may feel like that, or seems like that, or certainly, that they say that’s what they’re being. These two things have nothing to do with one another. Speaking of not moderate, in our next episode, we get to talk to a really remarkable woman who’s at the leading edge of monetary policies, something called MMP, or modern monetary policy, Dr. Stephanie Kelton, who will take us through those ideas and open up new possibilities of how we can get some important things done.
Speaker 5: 33:23 Pitchfork Economics is produced by Civic Ventures. The magic happens in Seattle in partnership with Larj Media. That’s L-A-R-J Media, and the Young Turks Network. Find us on Twitter and Facebook at Civic Action, and follow our writing on Medium at Civic Skunk Works, and you should also follow Nick Hanauer on Twitter, @NickHanauer. As always, a big thank you to our guests, and thank you to our team at Civic Ventures, Nick Hanauer, Zach Silk, Jasmin Weaver, Jessyn Farrell, Stephanie Ervin, David Goldstein, Paul Constant, Nick Cassella, and Annie Fadely. Thanks for listening.