Episodi

  • **Thank you to our listeners! Can you believe this is our 200th episode? Crazy, right? Well, it wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of a dedicated team. Our sound editor and engineer, Andy Kennedy, has spent thousands of hours (literally) producing these weekly gems. Then there’s the diligent band of copy editors—Brad Sandler, Jonathan Kadmon, Jay Spencer, and yours truly, Virginia Cotts, (plus, in earlier days, Rose Ann Rabiola Miele and Rob Baxter)—who pore over every AI-generated transcript, correcting mistakes and fixing punctuation for clarity. Julie Alberding, the RP website’s reigning eminence, created the layout. Each week she meticulously formats and posts the transcript, show notes, and extras. And let’s not forget our inimitable host, Steve Grumbine, who invites us along on his personal quest for knowledge. The journey has resulted in some unforgettable interviews, invaluable content, and a few “aha!” moments.**

    It’s fitting that our 200th episode is also Fadhel Kaboub’s 10th. Fadhel is the non-economist's economist. You don’t need a new language to learn from him. In this episode he revisits some familiar themes, expands upon them and draws conclusions that... well, they just make so much sense.

    He looks at global changes, post-2008, post-Covid, and post-Russia/Ukraine. To avoid future disruptions to the supply chain, the three major power blocs—the US and North America, the EU and western Europe, and China, with Russia and central Asia in the hub—are looking to repatriate strategic industries. They are consolidating their sovereignty in terms of food, energy, high-tech manufacturing, strategic industries, and geopolitical, geostrategic sovereignty within each region. That leaves the global South as the place all three blocs perceive as the source of cheap raw materials, the dumping-ground for surplus output, and the site for low-cost assembly line manufacturing.

    “So that's the world that is emerging. The question for me and for the global South in general, and for Africa as a continent in particular, how do we position ourselves on this new map? And I think I said it before to you on the show, Steve. If you don't have a long-term strategic vision for yourself, you're going to be part of somebody else's strategic vision.”

    Fadhel proceeds to describe the structural deficiencies that neocolonial nations must overcome and then lays out his vision for the solution.

    “And that's been one of the most important things that I'm trying to convey to global South activists, academics, public intellectuals, and people who have influence in government policy on the African continent, is formulating that coherent pan-African vision for economic sovereignty, food sovereignty, energy sovereignty, technological sovereignty, and then leveraging that coherent vision—on African terms—to partner with anybody, including China.”

    He talks about the IMF and its debt traps. He talks about the built-in roadblocks on the path to energy independence. He talks of the need for truth and reconciliation commissions and looks at what post-colonial reparations must include. If you made a diagram of this discussion, there would be arrows connecting each piece to all the others. Sounds dialectical, doesn’t it?

    Dr. Fadhel Kaboub is an Associate Professor of Economics at Denison University and President of the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity.

    @FadhelKaboub on Twitter

  • Steve talks with Thomas Fazi, journalist/writer/translator/socialist. Many of us know him as co-author, with Bill Mitchell, of Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World.

    A few weeks ago, we had an episode entitled Trussonomics. It was recorded a few weeks after Liz became Prime Minister, and mere days before she got the boot, making her the shortest-serving PM in UK history. Fazi has a different take on the events leading up to Truss’s removal, and spends much of the first half of this interview breaking it down. Truss is a libertarian free market conservative, so why was she such a threat? The mainstream narrative—left, center, and right—had it that her budgetary package spooked the markets so they forced her out.

    Truss’s real crime? She understood government finance. As listeners to this podcast know, deficit spending did not cause the current inflation. Fazi talks about the actual causes and makes the case that the markets didn’t oust Truss; the Bank of England did.

    “...In currency issuing countries, you don't usually see such overt tensions between central banks and government. Even though most central banks are formally independent, they tend to support whatever budgetary or fiscal policy the government decides to pursue. So, what transpired in the UK context was actually quite extraordinary because it was, I think, a rare instance of the central bank of a currency issuing country deliberately acting to sabotage a government.”

    Fazi lays out the ways in which austerity can now be justified in the UK, warding off the threat of a potentially strengthened working class. There are many layers to this story.

    The second half of the episode shifts the focus to global geopolitics and the US stance against China and Russia.

    “This isn't just US versus Russia and a few proxy countries. This new Cold War is a completely different one than the old one. It's one-way. The US is a declining power with declining influence over the rest of the world, where most of the world isn't following the US, for example, with regards to its policies against Russia and China. The US sphere of influence now is pretty much limited to Europe and Australia and New Zealand.”

    The US ruling class is the most powerful and dangerous in all of human history. The structural changes of the global economy have brought us into a multi-polar world. It's just a reality that the US elites don't seem ready to accept.

    Thomas Fazi is a “journalist/writer/translator/socialist.” who lives in Italy. He is the co-director of Standing Army (2010), an award-winning feature-length documentary on US military bases featuring Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky; and the author of The Battle for Europe: How an Elite Hijacked a Continent – and How We Can Take It Back (2014) and Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (co-authored with Bill Mitchell, 2017). His articles have appeared in numerous online and printed publications. Find links to his articles on his Substack.

    @battleforeurope on Twitter

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  • “Austerity is the best weapon they have to try to convince. And if they can't convince, they can't coerce. So in my book, I say austerity plays with a double strategy: coercion and consensus.”

    Clara Mattei is the author of The Capital Order: How Economists Invented Austerity & Paved the Way to Fascism, published this month. Steve Grumbine, who uses the Twitter display name “Austerity is murder,” was drawn to her position that austerity is not just bad economic theory prescribing bad economic policy. That is a simplistic framing that ultimately depoliticizes austerity.

    Many on the left tie the birth of austerity to the birth of neoliberalism – which some identify with Reagan/Thatcherism, while others say it goes back to Jimmy Carter and the 70s. Clara traces it back a full century, to the years immediately following the First World War, when capitalism was in crisis. It’s no coincidence that WW1, the Bolshevik revolution and the dawn of fascism all occurred during this period. The post-war period was full of socialist stirrings in Europe and the US. Squashing them required a brutal economic response.

    US and British capitalists openly celebrated the defeat of labor at home and expressed admiration for Mussolini. The head of the Bank of England wrote to Jack Morgan (son of Pierpont), "Fascism has surely brought order out of chaos over the last few years. Something of the kind was no doubt needed if the pendulum was not to swing too far in quite the other direction.” The alliance of liberalism and fascism in its diverse forms should not be a surprise; they are achieving the same ends. To understand austerity, don’t look to the form of government. Look to capitalism itself.

    We are reminded there are class antagonisms between countries as well as within. When the US exploits and plunders other nations, it is acting on behalf of the ruling class – the same ruling class that is exploiting American citizens and plundering our communities.

    Clara says, “If you look at austerity just as a tool to manage the economy, which is a typical stance that most Keynesians take, then you cannot really understand why austerity is so persistent and present and structural to our societies.” Austerity is required to enforce society's organization by class divisions, based on wage labor and exploitation. Destabilizing the economy in terms of economic growth is necessary to preserve the capital order.

    Clara E. Mattei is an Assistant Professor in the Economics Department of The New School for Social Research and was a 2018-2019 member of the School of Social Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Studies. Her research contributes to the history of capitalism, exploring the critical relation between economic ideas and technocratic policy making.

    @claraemattei on Twitter

  • **Full transcripts of all our episodes are available on the website, where you will also find an “Extras” page with additional resources. realprogressives.org/macro-n-cheese-podcast/

    Steve’s guest, Davarian Baldwin, calls himself an urbanist. This affects his prescriptions for reparations in the US, which extend beyond ADOS and beyond individual payments. His bio says he is a historian, cultural critic, and social theorist of urban America – and this episode touches on all those strands. The legacy of slavery and history of racism reverberates through any analysis of, or approach to resolving, this country’s social and economic problems. The New Deal itself helped increase disparity between the races.

    The interview includes a discussion of “wokeness”—a term which continues to stir up trouble among leftists and pseudo-progressives.

    “I'm glad you brought up the term identity politics, because what's happened now is that in any discussion of race or racism, identity politics is seen as black and brown, or women, or queer, or LGBTQ, as if straight or white or elite aren't identities. As if those aren't the identities that have guided and driven our society since its founding. So, identity politics is not discriminatory. Everyone has an identity politics.”

    In the second half of the episode, Davarian explains the concept of racial capitalism, then goes on to tie it to gentrification. He gives a detailed description of the effects on the white working class as well as communities of color. He makes the case that any solution must be both race and class based and must be systemic.

    Davarian L. Baldwin is the Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of American Studies at Trinity College, and is a historian, cultural critic, and social theorist of urban America. His work largely examines the landscape of global cities through the lens of the African Diasporic experience. He is author of “In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: How Universities are Plundering Our Cities,” “Chicago’s New Negroes: Modernity, the Great Migration, and Black Urban Life,” as well as numerous essays and scholarly articles. He wrote the historical text for The World of the Harlem Renaissance: A Jigsaw Puzzle.

    @DavarianBaldwin on Twitter

  • “We have to understand neoliberalism as a particular phase of capitalism dominated by US imperialism. So let's start with the last point I mentioned: regime change operation. Any country around the world, any government that tries to have state oversight over the economy opposing neoliberalism was overthrown through regime change.”

    Ben Norton’s journalism, according to his bio, focuses primarily on US foreign policy and geopolitics, but that description doesn’t do him justice. If any of our listeners are under the illusion the US government serves a purpose other than making the world safe for neoliberal monopoly capitalism, this episode is for you. If you believe neoliberalism is driven by bad ideas, this episode is for you.

    Ben and Steve discuss Lenin’s prescience in ‘Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism,’ writing about the predatory nature of finance capital a full century ago. But finance capital in 1916 was a far cry from that of today:

    “No one in 1916 could have imagined the level of financialization of the economy, especially the US economy – and also deindustrialization. Let's not forget that deindustrialization is something quite new in the history of capitalism. This is something that really emerges with the rise of neoliberalism, especially starting in the '70s, going into the '80s forward and this neoliberal phase of globalization.”

    As the mainstream media is getting our minds prepped for war, we would do well to revisit some of the other ‘enemies’ in our recent past. They all had one thing in common. It had nothing to do with some crazy evil dictator threatening US national security.

    Ben Norton is a journalist, writer, and filmmaker. His journalism focuses primarily on US foreign policy and geopolitics. He is based in Latin America and speaks English and Spanish.

    @BenjaminNorton and @Multipolarista on Twitter

  • ** Check out the transcript for this and every episode of Macro N Cheese at the Real Progressives website.

    Grumbine: I follow a lot of Brits on Twitter, and not just regular rank and file activists, but a lot of the actual economists. And the folks that are considered left, very strongly remind me of neoliberals.Wilson: Because they are. [laughter] What we have, you see, is this wonderful thing called the Oxford degree in philosophy, politics and economics [PPE]. And what happens is, when they graduate from that, there's a Sorting Hat, and it just puts them in either the Labor Party or the Tory Party, depending upon what the Sorting Hat thinks. They're all exactly the same. They're all the same graduates, they're all the same set of people. The economists are like that, too. They just get a Sorting Hat when they get the degree, I swear to God.

    Here in the US, we’ve been watching the administration scramble to deal with inflation. That chaos is nothing compared to what’s going on in the UK. They are soon to be on their fifth prime minister in six years. (As a point of reference, Maggie Thatcher was PM for 13 years; they don’t have term limits.)

    When Steve asked Neil Wilson to come on the podcast to talk about Liz Truss, he must have assumed she would last longer than six weeks! Oh well. It’s still an informative episode. As we well know, the MMT lens is useful regardless of economic conditions.

    Neil talks to Steve about the political lessons he has learned from the Tory’s attempt at handling of the economy. He and Steve talk about the EU and Brexit, and how the war in Ukraine is affecting the energy situation in the UK and Europe.

    Neil Wilson is an associate member of the Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies in London, a co-author of "An accounting model of the UK Exchequer" and a co-editor and contributor to the forthcoming book "Modern Monetary Theory: Key Insights, Leading Thinkers"

  • ** To donate to the flood relief effort in Pakistan, please visit the Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund 2022

    How do we unpack a problem like this year’s floods in Pakistan? Where do we place the blame? Steve invited our friend Aqdas Afzal back on the podcast to discuss his recent article, “Collapse of Civilizations.”

    The article’s title is a cheeky play on Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations,” which predicted massive conflict between the world’s non-white, non-Christian peoples and the global North. Coincidentally, the countries of the global North have profited quite well from their destruction of the environment, whereas those in the global South bear the brunt – like floods of biblical proportions.

    Pakistan’s contribution to carbon emissions is less than 1% yet, when hit by climate catastrophe, the devastation is not only physical, it is economic, it is political. With an economy choked by foreign debt obligations, Pakistan, in the best of times, struggles to meet basic needs.

    “Steve, to give you an example, about 40% of Pakistan's federal budget - remember that figure - 40% is now spent on paying interest on external loans that Pakistan has taken over the last 75 years. And this situation not only eats up all the fiscal space that this country has, we cannot spend on health, we cannot spend on education, we don't have enough money to spend on climate mitigation adaptation, on clean drinking water. And the situation is becoming worse by the day. It's a completely unsustainable situation.”

    Aqdas and Steve talk about debt jubilee and reparations to address the immediate situation, but the overlapping crises are a direct result of capitalism’s failure to deliver on its promises – not just to Pakistan, but to most of the world – causing strife and division.

    Are we proving Samuel Huntington right?

    Aqdas Afzal finished his undergraduate and first master’s degree in Political Science from Ohio State University, then returned to his native Pakistan. After working there for five years he won the Fulbright scholarship for his second master’s and PhD in Economics from UMKC. He teaches at Habib University in Karachi and writes a monthly op-ed in Dawn, a leading English language newspaper there.

    @AqdasAfzal on Twitter

  • Ivan Invernizzi, of Rete MMT Italia and MMT France, returns to Macro N Cheese to bring us up to speed on the Italian political landscape. He and Steve met at the 2nd International MMT conference in NYC in 2018, and he was an early guest on this podcast.

    The US mainstream media tends to catastrophize the election of right-wing leaders around the world by lumping them all into a single sensational fascist identity. Ivan brings nuance to the issue. Italy has real historical experience with actual fascism. It originated there. Ivan suggests that a politician can have an abhorrent rightwing agenda without necessarily being fascist. There are gradients. Like in everything else.

    Unlike the US, Italy is a parliamentary republic. Italians elect the parliament, and the parliament elects the prime minister. In the US, it’s possible to have a president from one party and a congressional majority from the other. Not so in Italy; its government cannot exist without the support of parliament. What has emerged, at present, is a coalition of right-wing parties, with Fratelli d’Italia having the most votes right now.

    Ivan suggests that external forces, rather than internal elections, may have a greater impact in determining Italy’s future. He talks with Steve about the US proxy war in Ukraine, and its effect on the European Union. He talks about the EU’s power over the economies of its individual member countries, especially the imposition of the 3% deficit limit.

    Ivan Invernizzi has been an MMT activist since 2012 and is co-founder of Rete MMT Italia and MMT France: two activist groups and web sites spreading MMT respectively in Italy and in French speaking countries. He has a master’s degree in Economics and Global Markets.

    @invernizziivan on Twitter

  • The movement for free universal healthcare is under attack. Groups like March for Medicare for All, National Single Payer, and others, have been criticized for not buying into the Democratic Party’s agenda promoting individual state healthcare initiatives. The party wants us to stop pressuring Congress. They tell us to go home. They say there’s more likelihood of success in our statehouses.

    Well, MMT-informed activists can see through the party’s obfuscation. The single-state solution is no solution at all. The US federal government is the currency issuer; it creates US dollars by spending them into existence. States and cities are currency users. Before they can spend, they must somehow earn or borrow that money, ultimately placing the burden onto the citizens, whether through taxes or cuts to other programs. It doesn’t matter how fat their tax base is, even the state of California and the city of New York must balance their budgets. The difference between currency issuer and currency user is at the heart of the matter.

    Since its founding, Real Progressives’ stated mission has been to help arm activists with a useful understanding of Modern Monetary Theory.

    “We're not going to move the needle unless we mobilize and organize. And as I say, sometimes it's not enough to be angry and it's not enough to raise the pitchforks. We want not just organized pitchforks but well-informed pitchforks. And I think MMT provides the right framing to mobilize this movement.”

    This week’s episode comes from the webinar we hosted as part of our RP Live series for our friends at M4M4ALL. It gave them the opportunity to talk with one of our favorite economists, Fadhel Kaboub, who spent the hour answering their questions and arming them against the “taxpayer dollars” bamboozlement of those in power. In the Macro N Cheese clubhouse, we like to say we’re weaponizing knowledge.

    *****

    Be sure to check out our website, realprogressives.org, where you will find additional resource material. Use the Media drop-down menu and select Macro N Cheese to access past episodes of this podcast (192 so far!), each accompanied by a transcript and an “Extras” page of useful links.

    Visit m4m4all.org to learn how you can help their efforts.

    Dr. Fadhel Kaboub is an Associate Professor of Economics at Denison University and President of the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity.

    @FadhelKaboub on Twitter

  • Grumbine: Can we have too much money?

    Wray: Yes, we surely can. Usually, our problem is that there's too much bank money, and the usual consequence is a financial crisis.

    Obviously, Steve and his guest are talking about the nation, not their own wallets. In this episode, he welcomes L. Randall Wray to Macro N Cheese for the eighth time to talk about Randy’s new book, "Making Money Work for Us: How MMT Can Save America," which will be released in America in November.

    Our listeners know they can count on Randy to explain MMT principles clearly without drowning us in a sea of wonkiness, but, also, without oversimplifying the subject. Consider the above exchange... and then this:

    Wray: Money cannot cause inflation. I can state that unequivocally.

    MMT understands that those two statements are not contradictory. Randy talks about the banks financing too much speculative activity that goes bad, usually resulting in a financial crisis. Extensive government spending – when it’s targeted, as in a job guarantee – does not cause a crisis, does not cause inflation. He contrasts this to the wrong kind of government spending, and describes how it is inflationary (cough, UBI).

    Steve and Randy go through the other questions that MMT is uniquely able to answer in a way that isn’t disconnected from our real-world observations. What is money and how is it created? What does it mean when you say “taxes drive money”? They discuss deficits and debt – and why it is that the few times the US repaid part of the national debt, it led to a depression, except under Bill Clinton, when it led to the great financial crisis.

    You’ll want to listen to this episode just for the discussion of the Fed and the banks. The CEO’s should all be locked up.

    L. Randall Wray is a Professor of Economics at Bard College and Senior Scholar at the Levy Economics Institute.

    www.levyinstitute.org

  • Cory Doctorow writes when he’s anxious. He has eight books coming out soon. Yep, it’s been a tough couple of years.

    The number of upcoming books gives us a sense of the wide range of subjects Doctorow concerns himself with. His upcoming Chokepoint Capitalism, co-authored with Rebecca Giblin, is about monopoly, monopsony, and fairness in the creative arts labor market.

    Cory and Steve return to several themes throughout this episode, including the crushing effects of concentrated power. The past 40 years have seen an expansion of copyright laws, but the share of income creators receive from their labor has been in free fall and shows no sign of slowing. We know how Amazon treats its employees, so we shouldn’t be surprised that it abuses writers. Amazon’s audio book platform, Audible, controls about 90% of the market, making it able to steal from artists in multiple ways. (After listening to this podcast, go check out #audiblegate on social media.)

    Excessive corporate power and monopoly concentration have captured and neutered regulatory bodies and strong-armed the unions. Cory’s book focuses on the labor of artists and creators, but workers in every industry are fighting to stay afloat. Monopolies also have a choke hold on us as consumers – and as citizens facing social and environmental catastrophe.

    Neoliberalism relies upon our isolation – our belief that each of us is facing the world alone and powerless. By effectively starving the machinery of the state, it too is rendered impotent. At the end of the road, there is only capital. Margaret Thatcher said, “there is no alternative.” As a science fiction author, Cory Doctorow has a problem with that. His job is to imagine alternatives.

    Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction author, activist and journalist. He is the author of many books, most recently RADICALIZED and WALKAWAY, science fiction for adults; HOW TO DESTROY SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM, nonfiction about monopoly and conspiracy; IN REAL LIFE, a graphic novel; and the picture book POESY THE MONSTER SLAYER. His latest book is ATTACK SURFACE, a standalone adult sequel to LITTLE BROTHER; his next nonfiction book is CHOKEPOINT CAPITALISM, with Rebecca Giblin, about monopoly, monopsony and fairness in the creative arts labor market, (Beacon Press, 2022). In 2020, he was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

    @craphound on Twitter

  • Some of the more, um, senior members of the Macro N Cheese team can remember a time when the Democratic Party supported labor and the union movement. Then we came to realize we had it backwards – it's really the Party expecting support from the unions, who made donations, helped with campaigning, and got out the vote. Followers of this podcast are regularly introduced to guests who bring word of a newly invigorated labor movement – one that is no longer tied to the Democrats’ apron strings.

    Steve’s guest is Liz Medina, the Executive Director of the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Her job title does a poor job of telling you what makes her so interesting. She is an artist (check out her Manifesto for Common Art) as well as a podcaster working to build an oral working-class history and culture. She’s a labor organizer with an expansive vision of the need for class struggle unionism and the understanding that unions don’t exist in isolation; they must be connected to community and independent political groups. She speaks of the need to rebuild the relationship between the left and the labor movement, which has been decoupled since the days of the New Left in the 1970s.

    “I really do believe that the politics will follow what we do on the ground in our workplaces and in our communities … It is very hard work, but it's easier when we feel like we are part of a community in doing that. There's a real interest of our bosses and of capital more broadly in us staying isolated and alone and disconnected and out of community and not having a society at all, frankly. “There is no society,” as Margaret Thatcher would say. We really need that. We need those connections to continue to have strength to keep on going...”

    Liz talks about the labor movement in general, past and present, and the Vermont AFL-CIO. She describes the need to turn the movement around and adopt class struggle unionism. “We believe in the rank and file strategy,” she says. “We believe in prioritizing organizing and not being afraid of being militant.” Activists should follow suit.

    Liz Medina is the Executive Director of the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Previously, she served as the Goddard College Staff Union Co-Chair, UAW 2322. She received her MFA from Goddard College and an MA in Cultural Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London. She hosts an oral history podcast called En Masse to build working-class history and culture in her spare time. En Masse is part of the Labor Radio Network. Find her art and other content at atlizmedina.com

    @LizMedinArt on Twitter

  • When Jakob Feinig speaks of moral economies, he’s talking about we, the people – the currency users – and how we relate to the institutions that issue money, as well as our monetary knowledge and its ability to inform direct action. Needless to say, Modern Monetary Theory is an essential component of this.

    This week he and Steve discuss both moral economies and “monetary silencing,” a concept that gives shape to the frustration MMTers experience on a daily basis. Feinig has said he derived the term “silencing” from Paolo Freire, the Brazilian educator and philosopher who wrote about the dehumanizing nature of political silencing, denying people the right to participate in their own history.

    “There are moral economies that enable people to connect their lives and their needs to monetary design. And there is another process, and that's what I call monetary silencing, that disconnects people, that makes it seem like, oh, those are forces that are beyond your reach. This is something you should not be thinking about ... You have to try to work as hard as you can as an individual. And if you don't make it, or if you don't have enough for a decent life, that is your own fault. But please do not think about where it comes from.”

    Feinig gives historical examples of both moral economies and monetary silencing – though rather fewer of the former than the latter in recent times. During the US Civil War, the federal government issued the greenback, a brand new currency. Not only did it enable them to win the war, it also made visible the fact that the government has the power to spend money into existence. (Haven’t we said the same about Covid stimulus checks?)

    The gold standard and bitcoin are among the notable monetary silencers, but some may be surprised to find FDR in this category. Feinig makes the case that he was one of the most successful. We cannot disagree.

    Jakob Feinig is a historical sociologist who writes about the connection between justice, democracy, and monetary design. He teaches at the State University of New York (Binghamton). His book, Moral Economies of Money: Politics and the Monetary Constitution of Society, will be published in October, 2022.

    @FeinigJakob on Twitter

  • **Every episode of Macro N Cheese is accompanied by a full transcript and an “Extras” page of additional resources. Find them at realprogressives.org/macro-n-cheese-podcast/

     

    This week Steve interviews Latasha Holloway, who is running for Congress in Virginia’s Third District. What makes the episode unusual is the fact that there’s very little campaign talk, except in connection with her legal battle against the Commonwealth. Listening to her story, it's easy to see why she’s running for office. The circumstances of her life left her little choice.

     

    Latasha’s family history is one of multi-generational poverty with the collateral trauma connected to it (but often overlooked) and the failure of systems that could - and should – have provided assistance. Although she was ultimately able to break the cycle of poverty, the systemic failure continued to plague her and her children, two of whom were adopted and have special needs.

     

    Navigating the educational system, the health department, the foster care system, and the Veterans Administration, among others, led to her determination to run for office – at which point she learned about Virginia’s twisted electoral laws.

     

    To follow Latasha Holloway’s campaign, visit her website, latashahollowayforamerica.com/

     

    @latasha_4equity on Twitter

  • David Van Deusen, president of the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, talks to Steve about their radical ten-point program, adopted in 2019. In the interview, he explains why they were spurred to develop the plan and breaks down what it means in practice as they move away from lobbying and expand their focus on the rank-and-file. This includes training workshops for non-union workers – How to Organize 101.

    David describes their approach to building a social justice-oriented labor movement. They work with groups like Migrant Justice to support efforts to ensure safe and fair working conditions for undocumented farm workers. They seek to build bridges to non-labor organizations, “be they farmer or environmental groups, (who) are ready and able to embrace our core working class values.”

    The fifth item of the ten-point plan calls for a Green New Deal. This is followed by item number six, “Electoral Politics,” which begins: “The time of the VT AFL-CIO endorsing candidates simply because they are a Democrat is over.”

    Below are excerpts from the preamble to the Vermont AFL-CIO Ten Point Program:

    A NEW PATH TOWARDS PROGRESSIVE CHANGE FOR LABOR

    Organized Labor has been the most powerful force for change in the History of the United States of America. From the 8 hour day/40 hour work week, the establishment of the weekend, livable wages (in Union shops), to workplace safety standards; Labor has won these foundational victories through collective action and solidarity. However, for some decades Labor, nationally, has been on the decline.

    This wilting of Labor does not have to be. We can (and must) be a social and political power once again; one capable not only of defending against the attacks we now face from DC, but also of going on the offensive and delivering positive life altering changes for working people. But we will not achieve our potential if we stay on the road more traveled. We cannot continue to do what we have always done and expect a different result. Nor can we be satisfied with candidates that run for Union office who support all the good things, but who neglect to tell us how we will get there. Instead we must be bold, we must experiment, and we must forge a way forward which not only transforms the Vermont AFL-CIO, but also delivers a powerful Labor Movement with the muscle needed to transform Vermont as a whole. And here, the Vermont we intend to deliver is one wherein working class people not only possess the means to live a secure and dignified life, but one where we, as the great majority, wield the democratic power required to give social and political expression to the many. Such a transformative potential presupposes first a unity around an effective program, and second the development of our immediate political power.

    To learn more about Vermont AFL-CIO and see the ten-point plan in its entirety, go to https://vt.aflcio.org/news/vermont-afl-cio-ten-point-program

    David Van Deusen, President of the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, was elected to office in 2019 as part of the progressive United! Slate. He is a member of AFSCME Local 2413 (Northeast Kingdom), serves on the Labor for Single Payer national Advisory Board, and is a member of Labor Against Racism & War's national Representatives Assembly. Van Deusen is also a member of Democratic Socialists of America and a past member of Anti-Racist Action.

    @VT_AFLCIO

  • Near the start of this episode, Jason Hickel raises Noam Chomsky’s position that the urgency of the climate crisis is so dire it will have to be dealt with under capitalism. There isn’t time to transition to socialism. Hickel disagrees. Capitalism is incapable of handling the problem.

    Hickel, an economic anthropologist, begins the interview pointing out the mistaken notion that we have no climate policy, no action, when in fact this is exactly what climate policy action under capitalism looks like: systematic denial and nonstop investment in fossil fuel expansion. It is not due to ignorance. We have the knowledge. We have the science. It boils down to class; the interests of the ruling class are anti-environmental and anti-poor. Capitalism is anti-democratic.

    “The status quo is not just a failure, it's a death march. Our governments are failing us and failing all of life on Earth. We have to face up to that.”

    In less than an hour, Hickel lays out the political and economic history of the ecological effects of neocolonialism. He explains why mainstream solutions (if you can call them solutions) to the climate crisis cannot work, despite UN climate resolutions, annual COP conferences, and IPCC reports.

    As an MMT-informed ecosocialist, Hickel has powerful suggestions for radical systemic change, including a job guarantee and universal public services. The single most important step would be to nationalize the fossil fuel industry. We talk about capping and shrinking emissions, which are caused by burning fossil fuels, so why are we not targeting the industry itself? The environmental movement constantly faces fossil capital, with its grip on politicians and the media (and unethical scientists). Fossil fuel companies are a dangerous foe. They must be treated as such.

    In addition to policy, Hickel also addresses strategy. He urges us to look to the civil rights movement and the anti-colonial national liberation movements of the mid-20th century. A crisis on the scale we are facing requires all hands on deck. We need a working class as well as a global perspective.

    “We have a global economy where growth and accumulation in the global North depends on a net appropriation and drain from the global South through unequal exchange, which is an effect basically, of the out-sized geopolitical and commercial power of northern firms ... An ecosocialist transition that is not also anti-imperialist, not also organized around global justice, is not an ecosocialism worth having.”

    We’ll let you in on a little secret: Jason Hickel is one of our favorite interview guests of all time. This little description is woefully inadequate. Listen to it and tell us what you think. There is a transcript and “Extras” page for this and every episode at realprogressives.org/macro-n-cheese-podcast/

    Jason Hickel is an economic anthropologist. His research focuses on global inequality, political economy, post-development, and ecological economics, which are the subjects of his two most recent books: "The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and Its Solutions" and "Less Is More: How De-Growth Will Save the World".

    Find his work at jasonhickel.org

    @jasonhickel on Twitter

  • We often talk about climate change on this podcast. The IPCC deadline is hanging over our heads like the sword of Damocles. This week Steve talks to David Keith, a professor of both Applied Physics and Applied Policy at Harvard, and author of A Case for Climate Engineering.

    Climate engineering, a term for solar geoengineering or solar radiation modification, would enable us to alter the Earth's reflectivity and reduce some of the climate risks that come from accumulated carbon dioxide. Keith is quick to point out that this is not a silver bullet but should be considered as part of a multi-pronged strategy.

    Managing climate risk involves four basic actions:

    Cut emissions by decarbonizing the energy systemRemove carbon dioxide from the atmosphereSolar radiation modification, or solar geoengineeringAdaption to reduce the harms of climate change on crops, people, and ecosystems

    While there’s no way to address climate change without replacing our energy system, it’s not the entire solution. If we stop all CO2 emissions today, the climate problem won’t improve, it will merely stop getting worse. We won’t have reduced the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Thus the case for climate engineering.

    The discussion includes the different roles for scientists and activists. They look at limitations, or flaws, in the IPCC report, and consider the importance of separating science from strategy.

    David Keith has worked near the interface between climate science, energy, technology, and public policy for 25 years. He took first prize in Canada's National Physics Prize exam, won MIT's Prize for Excellence in Experimental Physics, and is one of Time Magazine's heroes of the environment. He's a professor of Applied Physics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and founder of Carbon Engineering, a company developing technology to capture CO2 from the ambient air to make carbon neutral hydrocarbon fuels. He is author of “A Case for Climate Engineering.”

    @DKeithClimate on Twitter

  • In a recent episode of Macro N Cheese, Steve spoke with a guest about the MMT view of exports as a benefit and imports as a cost. There ensued some disagreement on social media (where else?) This week Steve invited Bill Mitchell to weigh in on the topic. As their discussion develops, this becomes an episode we’d recommend to anyone who is still unclear on the meaning and consequences of foreign trade deficits.

    “Exports have to be a cost because you're foregoing real resources that you could use yourself. And imports have to be a benefit because you're getting real resources from other countries that you didn't previously have which allow you to expand your consumption possibilities. The question then is: does that mean that exports are bad and imports are good? Well, not really. That's where people get tripped up.” (Mitchell)

    MMT isn’t a theory of everything. It doesn’t pass judgment or recommend policy.

    “To me, it's an interesting intersection... MMT allows us to understand what we can and can't do and our theory of politics and the commons will inform what we do with that knowledge.” (Grumbine)

    They discuss national debt, both before and after Bretton Woods. As a bonus, Bill dispels fears of Big Bad China holding too many US dollars. “They're not funding the US government. They've got US dollars because they sold more stuff to you than you sold to them.” The government can always restrict or regulate foreign direct investment. Who should be able to own a country’s natural resources?

    Bill and Steve talk about imperialism, globalization, the pandemic, and climate disaster. Bill suggests we start thinking in terms of poly crises. If every crisis is connected to multiple others, does it make sense to take them on one by one?

    Bill’s visits usually review some core MMT principles and provide answers to some of the critics. This episode is no exception. Every topic of discussion loops back to the fact that money is not the issue – real resources are. Understanding MMT flushes out political motivation. There’s nowhere left to hide.

    From http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/

    Bill Mitchell is a Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia.

    He is also a professional musician and plays guitar with the Melbourne Reggae-Dub band, Pressure Drop. The band was popular around the live music scene in Melbourne in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The band re-formed in late 2010.

    @billy_blog on Twitter

  • Robert Hockett joins Steve to talk about his latest book, The Citizens’ Ledger: Digitizing Our Money, Democratizing Our Future. The episode is right at home in our archive of interviews around the topics of fintech, digital wallets, cryptocurrency, CBDCs, and privacy. We urge our listeners to look up past episodes featuring Brett Scott and Rohan Grey.

    Just about everyone acknowledges that digital payment systems offer enormous convenience, but we’re equally aware they come with a cost – we lose all claim to privacy. Bob presents sound arguments for halting the private takeover of the public commons.

    “If we think in terms of the commons ... you might say that what the private sector fintech industry is trying to do, and what the private sector crypto industry seems to be trying to do, is to displace actual physical cash; in effect to take away that commons and replace it with a bunch of proprietary fiefdoms.”

    Cryptopians, as Bob calls them, are touting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as creating some kind of democratic new world of sovereign selfhood. This is patently absurd. Bob makes the case that we could develop a digital system – a digital wallet – with all the attractive attributes of cash, including privacy and universal accessibility.

    Bob describes a way for individuals to pay, receive, and save, while completely bypassing private banks and financial institutions. He says it could be run by the Fed, the Treasury, or both. The Fed would have new monetary tools that directly benefit people instead of banks.

    Steve and Bob discuss concerns about government overreach and consider the kinds of regulatory laws that would need to be in place.

    As for privacy, well, do you have a smartphone with GPS? Are you making purchases online? Or with a credit card? It’s already too easy to peer into our lives. Unlike private entities, neither the Fed nor the Treasury are profiting from our transactions.

    “Obviously it's like a never-ending quest to get our data protected and to prevent overreach by federal agencies ... But all I mean to say is that I don't think that introducing the system introduces new vulnerabilities that aren't already there.”

    Bob usually has a rosier view than we do at Macro N Cheese, but he always gives us something to chew on. This episode will have you thinking about history, policy, and possibilities.

    Robert C. Hockett is an American lawyer, law professor, and policy advocate. He holds two positions at Cornell University and is senior counsel at investment firm Westwood Capital, LLC. His latest book is The Citizens’ Ledger: Digitizing Our Money, Democratizing Our Future.

    @rch371 on Twitter

  • At first glance, HBO’s new documentary series The Anarchists looks like fun. It’s got the sexy circle-A symbol in the title and… Well, at second glance, that’s all it has going for it. The title. If you’re hoping to find the intellectual heirs of Emma Goldman and Bakunin, you’ll be disappointed. These aren’t even the scrappy anarchists of punk rock or the raucous groups waving black banners at demonstrations. HBO’s Anarchists are the one percent. They are tech billionaires and cryptocurrency hucksters. This is the 21st century, where left-wing rhetoric is gobbled up and regurgitated, having been scrubbed clean of its urgency.

    Brett Scott is the perfect guest for someone confused by The Anarchists. He doesn’t refer to that show but, in a way, he’s been preparing us for it since his first appearance on this podcast in 2019. He has taken us through the history of fintech, explained the uses of blockchain, and dispelled the myths about cryptocurrency. He makes the case that the war on cash is a war on class.

    This week, Brett talks about his new book, Cloudmoney: Cash, Cards, Crypto, and the War for Our Wallets. Just like the so-called anarchists of HBO’s series, in the unholy marriage of big finance and big tech the state is the enemy.

    Digital financial transactions are being sold to us as liberating and convenient. Steve and Brett question the assumption that high speed “frictionlessness” is a virtue. They ask whose interests are served through these and other mainstream narratives.

    “We'll see these news stories that say something like, cashless society is an inevitability. We will all be moving towards this ever more digital future, and so on. Whenever I see that, all I see is the commercial interests of large corporations being presented as the general interest of all people.”

    Brett brings his background in anthropology to look at some of the less obvious consequences of replacing state money - a public utility - with a massive global system that is almost impossible to track or understand. What happens when we have no interaction with the people we depend upon?

    Brett Scott is an author, journalist, and activist, who explores the intersections between money systems, finance, and digital technology. He's the author of The Heretics Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money. His latest book is Cloudmoney: Cash, Cards, Crypto, and the War for Our Wallets. Find more of his work on brettscott.substack.com

    @suitpossum on Twitter