Ignoring the Need Economy

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S1: If you follow me on Twitter at P.S. seei am I. Why not follow the gist at Slate. Just.

S2: It’s Monday, July twenty seventh, twenty twenty from Slate, it’s the gist. I’m Mike Pesca. The Republicans in the Senate are debating the details of a new stimulus bill that an ailing American economy badly needs. Well, not debating so much as dithering and dickering, actually, they’re dickering has led to dithering.

S1: That is the proper chronological sequence. Dithering meaning delay, dickering, meaning dispute. So the delayed debate, intra divisional dithering has led to a disputatious dickering that characterizes the census among a diversity of Republicans. If I were to give them a letter grade, it would be a date. One big issue that the Republicans clearly feel they have public support on is they mustn’t be overly generous. Treasury Secretary Steve Manoogian put it in somewhat bloodless terms on Fox News Sunday.

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S3: We want to make sure what the expiring unemployment insurance. We have the tactical effect so people don’t get paid more to stay home than they do to work without that snoozer of a phrase.

S1: The technical fix. Ted Cruz argued pretty much same point on Face the Nation.

S4: But I’ll tell you, I’ve spoken to small business owners all over the state of Texas who are trying to reopen and they’re calling their their waiters and waitresses their their busboys, and they won’t come back. And, of course, they won’t come back as the federal government is paying, in some instance, just twice as much money to stay home.

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S1: Apparently, all small businesses in Texas are restaurants. Either that or the busboys are actual boys who drive buses. And without them, bakers and haberdashers can’t get to their bakeries in haberdashers. Also, I don’t know, maybe Senator Cruz, waiters, waitresses, busboys don’t want to return to bars and restaurants in Texas for some reason other than they’re getting paid to stay home. They also get Corona virus a lot less if they don’t go into bars and restaurants in the hotspot state of Texas. But the serious point to make is that Cruz Manoogian are articulating a position which they think appeals to most people. And you know what? I think they’re right. But that also may explain why America can be a very stingy, quite punitive place that lacks the ability to fundamentally transform its economy. Yes, of course, in principle, paying someone not to work is poor policy. But to say so does, of course, give you the whiff of the Puritan scold. But there are exceptions to when you might want to air on the side of, OK, we’re a little generous exceptions, like it being the time of great economic crisis or how about this when to properly and precisely calculate and administer exactly who shall and shan’t be the beneficiary of government largesse when that all takes so much time that the entire economy shuts to a halt as you perform those calculations? Maybe it’s better just to give the six hundred dollars. I mean, an NPR investigation found that pursuing Minchin’s deal, where beneficiaries would only get 70 percent of their wages prior to the pandemic, means that the states would take months to process payments. In fact, the Department of Labor told Congress in May that it strongly opposed the technical fix because it would be, quote, exceedingly difficult, if not impossible to implement. So, yeah, it does offend something and most people to pay their fellow citizens more than their fellow citizens would have earned had they only worked. But still, that can be true. And it can also be true that it will hurt all taxpayers and all citizens, because being extra fine and particular about who doesn’t doesn’t get money crashes the overall economy or crashed the economy more than the economy is currently crashed. You know, some guy right now is driving to his job grousing as he commutes in each morning saying God damn layabouts, they got so good they get six hundred dollars a week. I only get eight hundred dollars a week. And I’ve got to put an actual effort. Yes. Well, if those people getting the six hundred didn’t get the six hundred, they maybe wouldn’t have enough money to spend at your job and then your eight hundred dollar a week job would disappear. This what I’m talking about here. The stinginess differs by region in the south, very parsimonious. The Upper Midwest, the Northeast being a little less stingy. But by and large, Americans are obsessed with the idea of no one getting one over on anyone else to the point where many of us would rather deny a hundred people their needed benefits than to face 10 people getting ill gotten benefits. And we really aren’t great at defining needed in the phrase needed benefits either. I don’t know what the proper acceptable ratio is. How many people will cheat you? For you to say this government program isn’t worth it. Right. I would put the number of definitely in the double digits. Probably well into the double digits. Before I say, you know, 20 or 30 percent of the people benefiting from this program shouldn’t be or don’t deserve to be in real life. If waste is documented or said to be documented in like five. Percent of the cases, that’s when the public turns against the program. But then did you hear the words I was using people who deserve or don’t deserve these benefits? How about this is a thought experiment for America to undergo for a little while if we entirely remove the word and concept of deserve from the political discourse? I think we might have better outcomes. I don’t mean we’d be better people or more or less generous or moral. I mean, literally, the economic outcomes that we would all agree with in the abstract would be better. Things like income mobility, not having huge wealth disparity. Having living wages. Having a functional safety net that doesn’t also double as a lifestyle. Just eliminate deserve. I think we should take into account need. Need is important. Need is a lot better than deserve. And I also don’t propose scrapping a Ford. I believe in a Ford to some extent less than Rand Paul believes in a Ford more than Stephanie Kelton does. But making these choices without thinking of the concept of deserve. I think that might well give rise to an economy that’s more functional for everyone. Don’t we need that on the show today? The Miami Marlins came into the season about to set a franchise record for fewest losses. They found a new way to lead the league. For those of you scoring at home, it’s a six four three covered 19 inning ending double play. But first, Zephyr Teachout is a law professor, a political campaigner, Bernie Sanders, for one, Howard Dean when I first became aware of her. But her campaigns are also for herself. She’s run for governor of New York and A.G. in the House Representatives came pretty close to that. But she has never taken her eye off the big issues of government corruption, open communication and corporate manipulation. The last one is the subject of her new book, Break Up Recovering Our Freedom from Big AG, Big Tech and Big Money, Zephyr Teachout, up next. Zephyr Teachout is an attorney and author, a professor of law at Fordham University. She is out with a new book and I will tell you the title in a second. But I found it funny that the reference to her previous book, where she was on the just to talk about it, came in this form. Zephyr Teachout is author of American Corruption. Actually, she’s not the author of the amount of American corruption other plutocrats are. She was against it so so as to not create an ambiguous title the next time. Zephyr Teachout new book is called Break Them Up Recovering Our Freedom from Big AG, Big Tech and Big Money. Thanks for coming on again. Zephyr.

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S5: Oh, I’m so excited to be on again. Great to talk to you.

S6: So you’ve taken a populist turn. And I can I can sense that because of the M is not THC. It’s apostrophe M. You’re now a woman of the people.

S5: Well, one of the things that I think I mean, we’ll talk more about some of the technical parts of the book. But one of the horrible things that has happened with antitrust and Antimonopoly is that a bunch of economists, academics, well-funded Robert Bork style thinkers, really basically started to tell the American people that they had no business talking about antitrust or antimonopoly, that this is not is a technical issue for highly trained economist. Get your nose out of here. And one of the things that I care the most about is letting people know that they have complete authority to demand a new antitrust era, to demand things being broken up. They don’t have to know all the details of particular economic models in order to say, hey, Amazon and Monsanto have way too much power and it’s a problem.

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S6: Yeah, and you’re right. Amazon, Google, Facebook, Monsanto, AT&T, Verizon, Wal-Mart, Pfizer, Comcast and CBS, quote, represent a new political phenomenon, a 21st century form of centralized authoritarian government. OK, why aren’t they just, say, robber barons who want to rob as opposed to want to rule? Because that’s what a government does as opposed to capitalists.

S5: Yeah, that’s right. We’ll think about it. Facebook or Amazon. I mean, if you’re a seller in America today and you want to get your goods to market, if you’re a seller of consumer goods, you basically have to go to Amazon. You don’t have a choice. You can’t opt out unless you have happen to have a trust fund and don’t plan to make any money. And so Amazon then becomes the regulator, basically regulating how you are treated, how well you show up in search results when people are looking for shoes. And there is a scope of power that they have over people’s lives, making decisions, directing who wins and loses or when it comes to Facebook. The amount of power that Facebook has over a media and deciding who the winners or losers, winners or losers are in media that is beyond just being a participant in the market and actually comes to be a kind of governing power. And I don’t think that there’s a easy, precise line that divides the two. But I don’t think there’s any doubt that Monsanto and and and Facebook and Google are on the other side of that line, that they are not inside the market, but controlling the market. And that’s the real line that the line that I take. And by the way, this is part of a long American tradition of thinking of monopoly power as governmental power and as a rival form of government that really threatens democracy. It’s an idea that was popular for most of American history and then faded out of view in the 1980s with the Reagan revolution.

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S6: So the argument you just made about Amazon, which I think is accurate. I do recall 12, 15 years ago, the same argument being made about Wal-Mart. They have such power as a retailer. They can. They have such. They have such monopsony power. They could set prices. And I think that was true. And Wal-Mart’s still on the list. But doesn’t the presence of Amazon argue that even such a world changing power can be threatened? In fact, it was in the two companies we’re talking about right here.

S5: Well, no, but I first want to just give people a sense of what this means, the scope of the power. And one of the examples that was often used with Wal-Mart is that Wal-Mart could tell Coca-Cola what sweetener to use in its in a recipe or threaten to take it and put it in demote its shelf space. And basically that Wal-Mart, because of its position, like Amazon, because of its position, has the ability to demand in its contracts with sellers a huge amount of transparency into their businesses and then control what those businesses do. So I see it more like Amazon and these other new monopolists. So, one, if you if you analogizes. The Mafia saw one crime family doing well and said, let’s get in on that. And in fact, you see Amazon really studying the pathologies that that Wal-Mart did a great job of, of pioneering and building on top of them. So now now that we have multiple crime families, it doesn’t make it a better system. It makes it a more dangerous one. And I end what I see is that more and more, our government is a shared government between elected officials and a relatively small number of big companies and then financiers behind them.

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S6: Would you admit, though, that there is a certain genius behind some of these methods, that the Google algorithm is really smart and really good and whatever they do with it aside, they deserve to have some success, some measure of success based on the fact that they’ve, I don’t know, delivered such delivered that to consumers in a way that consumers really like. And I tricked into liking it really helps their life. The same with what Wal-Mart was doing in terms of the efficiency of the supply chain. And the same that Amazon even perfected what Wal-Mart did. It’s not just in some of these cases. I think these aren’t even quality products. They’ve just learned to capture the market. But with other cases, maybe the tech ones, there really is some genius, some benefit to the consumer and some success should be allowed.

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S5: Well, I think we got to separate out two different things. One is that a lot of innovation is innovation in monopolization. And you referred to that. But the other and maybe I’ll use the Uber example, is that a lot of times we look at companies like Uber and praise them for technological advances that really Uber shouldn’t get credit for. In fact, the ideas that Uber really pushed in terms of being able to not have to hail a taxi, but push a button and have a taxi come, we’re already well in the works. And most of what Uber did had to do with a monopolising markets and lawbreaking. And I think that there’s a fiction out there that we can’t have nice things unless monopolies provide it to us. And that’s just not true. You know, there’s a ongoing debate that’s 100 years old about which is more innovative systems that are top down or systems that are decentralized. I fall on the decentralized side. So we don’t know what incredible innovations might have happened if Amazon, Facebook and Google weren’t in the catch and kill business where they make sure that they smother any innovators who come up to challenge their power. And in fact, it’s it’s hard because we don’t have those innovations. But I’ll tell you, I’d rather have thousands of people all pushing their imaginative capacity in different companies than relying on Sheryl Sandberg having a new idea next month for pushing the limits on our innovation. I think we can have more innovation after we break up these companies, not less. And when you look at history, there’s a lot of evidence that’s exactly what happens. Look at the breakup of AT&T. It’s an incredible flowering that led to we don’t know what the flowering will be after we breakup Amazon, but I promise you, it’s coming.

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S6: I generally agree with the premise that companies like Amazon and Wal-Mart are good for consumers, but bad for workers and facts and probably bad for suppliers. So bad for workers, especially in some of Amazon’s practices, it far outweighs the benefit to consumers. But couldn’t we I mean, we could try to break up Amazon, but wouldn’t an alternative be if there is the political will to wade into a fight with Jeff Bezos, perhaps there it is. There would also be the political will to say, raise the minimum wage to twenty three dollars or to have real union rules. And that would be sort of an end around the some of the most pernicious aspects of a company like Amazon.

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S5: Yeah, I don’t see these as either or. In fact, one of the later chapters I get into this, especially since I spend most of my time talking to Progressive’s about how they don’t spend enough time taking on power and spend almost all their time focusing on policies, most of which policies I support, including a significant raise, the minimum wage. And I think that there’s often us a false sense of of having to choose between better yousry laws and breaking up big banks. Well, I would argue that the way to get to better usury laws is have a more stable political environment where power is more decentralized. You actually have the capacity to demand those usury laws not just in a one off moment, but in a continuous way. I want to get away from a way of talking about antitrust and antimonopoly that ignores the human impacts of how humiliating it can be to be subservient in this big chain and not to feel like free enough that you could walk away. And also, how paranoid it makes people is difficult to prove hypothesis. I think growing monopolisation. Is part of the growing paranoia in our culture. Because if you are a ologist, U.S. chicken farmer, uber driver for now. But we can also say newspaper who relies on Facebook and you suddenly see your numbers drop and you suddenly get paid a lot less. Or you suddenly get paid a lot more. You start to develop theories about how Uber or Tyson or Facebook is treating you, but they’re unprovable theories. You’re in. You’re in the dark because they are these central forces that can decide your fate. And I think when people’s economic life is so precarious and so dependent on a handful of big companies, it’s not only, you know, not ideal because it represses wages. It actually changes who we are, makes us more paranoid and fearful and suspicious. And I don’t think that’s a good thing.

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S1: So you did run for office? I think we had you on when you were running for the House of Representatives in New York in 2014. You ran for the Democratic Party nomination for Governor Cuomo, won that primary and then he won again. But let’s say you had won and you’d have been governor. And then this pandemic hits that at let us at least say doesn’t really touch upon your core competencies going in. Is that the kind of challenge that you say there, but for the grace of God? Or do you say, well, as a good leader, I would have found a way to lead the people out of this position?

S5: I am very confident that I would have had an amazing staff and amazing people around me. And in an incredibly difficult situation, we would have made some pretty different decisions. And the most serious, different decisions have to do with being willing to take on and actually, you know, increase taxation to deal with some of the incredible tragedies that we are facing in New York State. We need desperately need money for social services, for education, and then for something that I think the federal government has wholly fallen down on, which is supporting small businesses and that they are small businesses are so essential to not just New York City, but to every part of the state. And they are getting clobbered. The wave of oncoming bankruptcies that is about to come on is absolutely heartbreaking. And it’s bad for those small business owners. It’s bad for their employees. It’s bad for the communities that rely on them. And unfortunately, at the city and state level, the response has been largely a shrug, that there’s little that we can do because the federal government is an acting. And that’s just not true. I mean, this does relate to my book. Antimonopoly ism isn’t just a federal issue. It’s something that states can do something about. But to do it, you have to be willing to take on some of the wealthiest interests in the country and in the world who live in New York state and raise taxes. And it breaks my heart that New York has not risen to the moment and basically allowed schoolchildren and small businesses to suffer when we’ve had this horrific natural disaster.

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S6: Zephyr Teachout is a law professor. A lot of things, but now is the author of Recovering Our Freedom from Big Ad, Big Tech and Big Money. The name of the book is Break Them Up. Thanks so much. Thanks so much for having me.

S2: And now the spiel, baseball, it’s the pastoral sport as spring turns to summer and then to fall. Young men shag fly balls and chew on sunflower seeds to most slowly consumed of seeds. But with the inter mouth de husking involved, we slowly oh so slowly move on the dewy outfield grass, as did urban shocker. We will eat killer and Zach Wheat. Of your baseball slowly unwinds to present the most timeless of game.

S1: All right. Season’s over. Shut it down. That’s it. Pack it all in, folks. All right. Well, maybe not all the way down, but the season’s opening day was Friday for the Miami Marlins and their last game for a while was Sunday. Got a case of the Corona 14 or so Marlins players and staff testing positive, causing a postponement of their game tonight against the Baltimore Orioles. Also causing a shutdown of the Yankees Phillies game because the Phillies played the Marlins and the Yankees were due to take up residence in the same clubhouse, what adults call locker room that the Marlins used and that the Marlins possibly infected over the weekend. Carl Ravich of ESPN does not speak for baseball. He is just the host of baseball tonight. But if the sport could be represented in a single collective voice, it might sound something like this. In retrospect, do you think that there was regret or that there should be regret for Major League Baseball deciding not to go into bubble situations?

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S7: Well, look, hindsight being 20/20, I’m sure they wished that the bubble scenario would have worked out.

S1: Hindsight hind God damn sight. There is near-sighted and far sighted. What’s hindsight? It is that the condition where you’re blind to what everyone else can see. And yet, in retrospect, you say, oh, that’s what everyone is talking about. Let’s have an uncooperative workspace in a hot spot with at best very loose restrictions on the comings and goings of hundreds of personnel. Hindsight, that’s hindsight. Had the other leagues, the MLS, the NBA, the WNBA, the NHL, decide, well, we have to contain the players, quarantining them and then establishing pretty strict bubbles. How could they possibly see that this was the only way they could possibly make it work? Was it far sight? Was it second sight? Was it the sight of the three eyed raven? No, no. They actually looked at the data around them and said a non bubble is the only chance to make this work. Baseball decided something different. And three days in. You got one team down, two games postponed, an entire league waiting and worrying. Hey, maybe we were bound to have some snafu somewhere along the season. Just really bad luck. It happened within the first three days. Or maybe this had no real chance of working today. I haven’t see the least relevant question in the history of sports posed on ESPN. Can the Marlins Orioles game be rescheduled, for God’s sake? I hope not. Now, if you’re not a Major League Baseball fan, you might not realize the Marlins and Orioles combined for 213 losses last year. Of course, if you are a Major League Baseball fan, you might not be that up on the Marlins or Orioles because you are, of course, a Major League Baseball fan. Actually did want baseball back this year and and realize it or how much I wanted it back until it started happening. And for three games, I got baseball in the case of the Dodgers and Giants, four games. I was interested as a fan of the Mets. I was thrilled when you’re in a cesspit is provided the only run in the Mets opener with a solo blast from his mighty bat. This after being away from the game for two years, one with injuries to both heals and then experiencing a new injury. He was hurt on his farm in an incident involving a wild boar. When this fact was announced by Mets play by play man Gary Cohn, his broadcast partner, Ron Darling, remarked, That sounds like this one show I binge watched on Netflix during quarantine. I love the delightful repartee of a snappy major league buth, which is why I thought at the risk of re traumatizing cesspit as it bore repeating. I was eager to see how many whiffs Garrett Cole could collect if Mooki bats with Lap Mooki, Wilson and Mookie Blaylock on the all time informal Mooki Meter. I’ve been sponsoring and also how many leadoff men would get on in every Cubs’ game, thus prompting Binnie’s beverage depot to pledge a hundred dollars per occurrence. I was rooting for baseball. I loved the game. Play the air Satz. Crowd noise, the stupid cardboard cut outs in the stands as if batters were vaudevillians in 1915, playing before a crowd scene painted onto the back wall. I loved how, other than those overeager Dodgers and Giants, which played four games every team this year, went to win one or one and two. So everyone’s a winner or just one game under 500. I think I love baseball more than the organizers of baseball loved it. I mean, they seem to just which way the pandemic. They chose to try to conduct business outside a bubble and with only a tangential relationship to reality. I’m using the past tense because while I think there will be some more games, I also foresee more outbreaks. And having 30 major league teams traverse the country, interacting with lots of other citizens in the most covered, infected country on Earth doesn’t seem like a viable long term strategy. Carl Ravich, what might the eulogy for this season be?

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S7: I think that they’re going to look back on it and hope that none of these covert cases are serious. God willing, that nothing significant happens to a particular player or any member that was exposed, that they tried.

S1: Oh, they tried, but just barely.

S2: And that’s it for Today Show and a Breuer’s victory gives you instant gratification. But no one could give you instant results like Daniel Schrader’s medical M.D. clinic. Just drive and get swabbed and let just producer Daniel Schrader test your sinuses for Corona virus. Bring your spouse to make every throat swab a double header. Today’s game also brought to you by Margaret Kelly, producer and namesake of Margaret Kelly Hospital in Rhinovirus Center. Just as no pitcher wants to operate on short rest and no batter wants to hit you at Depay. No surgeon at Margaret Kelly Hospital wants to operate with a shortage of PPE. That’s why our board certified staff always has a full supply of personal protective equipment for all your hospitalization needs. We’re also brought to you by Alicia Montgomery, executive producer of Slate podcasts, who remind you that in baseball, a reliever riding a hot streak will never cough up the lead. But if you are coughing, running a fever and need relief, you might want to put in a call to the bullpen or your local physician or driving clinic, have a large family gathering or conference on the schedule. Just take a rain check and that way you’re safe. The gist may not be reproduced to retransmitted in any form in the accounts and descriptions of this podcast may not be disseminated without express, written, inferred, verbal or boldly hinted at interpretive dance. Consent and prudent produce proof. And thanks for listening.