We face no shortage of extraordinary headlines and timely issues that will affect not just our domestic economy but the economy globally. The question, of course, is how?
The Greek bailout package. An historic nuclear deal with Iran. A collapsing Chinese stock market.
Domestically, other questions: Rising inequality. Job growth without wage growth. The minimum wage battle inside city limits. The pending first Fed rate increase in years.
Any one of these alone would have a significant effect on the global economy – and the businesses that compete every day. All of them at the same time, well, we need some help to make sense of that.
To provide that help, Austan Goolsbee, former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and current Gwinn Professor of Economics at The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Goolsbee is well-known not only for his insights and intelligence, but also his humor and wit. He’s been called one of the 100 Global Leaders for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum, one of the six “Gurus of the Future” by the Financial Times, as well as D.C’s Funniest Economist. He released several must-see White House YouTube videos on the economy and made six appearances on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. We’ll get to the funny, but let’s start with the substance…
We all know the headlines that Detroit, its leaders, and citizens lived through: In 2013, the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history by debt. The largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy. The debt numbers, staggering: $18-20 billion.
We also know what the decades leading up to bankruptcy were like in Detroit: Businesses closed; infrastructure crumbled; crime rose – homicides at their highest rate in 40 years; about half the population left the city limits.
But perhaps no image stood more starkly as a symbol of Detroit’s decline more than the city’s lights. Some 40% of them didn’t work. Literally as well as figuratively, Detroit was going dark.
So how do you flip that switch back on? How do you let there be light in a place where it seemed no one wanted to invest? And why would one of the world’s largest banks find value in helping a bankrupt Midwestern city turn the lights back on?
Our two guests today can explain. Odis Jones is CEO of the Public Lighting Authority of Detroit. Tom Green heads the U.S. Public Finance Infrastructure Group at Citi and led the deal that brought light back to the Motor City.
Americans’ interest in energy efficiency can be seen in the numbers: The vast majority of us believe in it. In one recent national poll: 87 percent said renewable energy is important to the country’s future. In another, 57 percent said the best way to solve our nation’s energy issues was conservation.
However, one of the hardest places to implement a clean energy lifestyle just may be the place where most of us spend most of our time: Our homes. And one of the biggest reasons may also be among the hardest to solve: Cost.
While we know that clean energy solutions will save us money in utility bills over the long run, the initial short-term investments stop many from making the necessary infrastructure changes.
But a new partnership is actively attacking this public policy problem, and the place they’re doing it just may surprise you: The private markets.
The partnership is called WHEEL: Warehouse for Energy Efficiency Loans. It’s a combination of non-profits, state leaders and agencies, national associations, a specialist in innovative renewable energy financing and even one of the world’s largest banks.
The group started by leveraging public funds with private capital to provide loans that help home owners invest in energy efficiency changes. And now, new headlines that should allow the program to truly scale and help a wider number of home owners reach their energy efficiency dreams: The recent announcement of the creation of the first-ever secondary market for these loans.
How does it work? Colin Bishopp, Vice President at Renew Financial and Bruce Schlein, Director of Alternative Energy Finance at Citi, explain.
The challenge of work/life balance continues confound. Employees insist they want it. Many companies – through flex schedules, job shares, training and more – try to offer it. And yet, so many of us – men and women – feel like we’re just not doing it right.
To make it worse, we then combine that frustration with the ideal that we can – or at least should – have it all. We think we see the alleged examples parading in front of us every day – the so-called superstars who hold down high-powered jobs, work out constantly, volunteer incessantly, love their spouses and kids, and surely in their free time, compose music like Mozart, paint like Monet and cook like Julia Child. You know who they are. We come to believe that to reach that next level – perhaps even to have it all – we only need to lean in a bit harder.
So why doesn’t it happen? Why aren’t we all walking around feeling like we have it all?
Award-winning writer Susie Orman Schnall wanted to find out. So she did the obvious thing: She asked. In a series of interviews with powerful, accomplished, seemingly have-it-all women, she asked their secrets to having it all. And the answers – what these women acknowledged – just might surprise you.
The interview series is called, quite appropriately, The Balance Project, which you can find at susieschnall.com. And now it’s transformed as well into Schnall’s second novel, an engaging, funny and often uncomfortably accurate read called “The Balance Project: A Novel.”
We face no shortage of negative news around the financial industry. And within this zone, one the most damning phrases is “financial engineering.” Following the economic crisis – and even before – financial engineering came to symbolize the worst of what a free and active system of capitalism can provide.
But what if financial innovation could help find a cure for cancer? Or help address homelessness? Or send lower-class youth to college?
These efforts represent the other side of financial engineering. And while the negative – the real pain that real people felt and continue to feel – must be addressed and should never be ignored, the incredible innovation that has driven global and local economies for centuries is also fascinating and important.
In little more than a week, we’ll mark 40 years since one of the darkest days in American politics, government and culture – 40 years since President Richard Nixon resigned our nation’s highest office.
Much has been written and reviewed about Watergate. So much that there would seem little room for anything new.
But there is.
John Dean played a key role in the Watergate tale. He served as counsel to the President during that time, and while he did not know of the break-in when it occurred nor of White House involvement for many months later, he found himself – perhaps unwittingly – becoming a central player in what he calls The Nixon Defense.
In the last years, Dean listened to and transcribed the primary Watergate source material: Nixon’s own White House recordings. Incredibly, many of these conversations have never been transcribed, cataloged and examined. That’s what Dean has done, and in the process – he says – connected the dots between what we believe about Watergate and what actually occurred. He has documented it all in a new book: “The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It.”
For anyone who looks at our government today and says, “Everything seems great to me. No room for improvement here,” well, today’s conversation is not for you.
Now that that person has stopped listening, here’s what the rest of America can learn from today’s talk: The problem is even worse that you thought. While most discussion on fixing government deals with the politics and the posturing, we instead might want to focus on something much more difficult to fix: Nobody is actually in charge. A mountain of overlapping, contradictory and often unnecessary laws, regulations, oversight committees and more seem designed specifically to block responsibility and accountability – and ensure the status quo.
So how did we get here? How can we get out? And where is the leadership?
At first glance, today’s conversation might seem as surprising as dog bites man: Money has taken over our political process. I know – not a shocker. But what if I told you that, quite possibly, our next President will be chosen by 5 or 6 of the richest people in America? Or a dozen? Certainly no more than 100?
It’s hardly an exaggeration. From the historic growth of PACs to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision through now the increasing mega-wealth of the top .01 percent, the role of the super rich in politics has grown exponentially. Control of America’s future has shifted from political parties to power players – individuals who bankroll campaigns and collect politicians like sports franchise. And this is no fantasy league.
What does this shift in money and influence mean for our political future? Who are these individuals and what are they doing to our democracy? While you may know some of the names – Koch or Adelson or Soros or Katzenberg – you likely don’t know them all.
The White House recently announced a change at the top. Not the very top, of course, but as head of the Press Office. Jay Carney is stepping down; Josh Earnest is stepping up.
The White House Press Secretary is, quite often, America’s face to the world. And speaking for the President, sometimes several times a day, the Press Secretary faces many masters – the Commander in Chief, the media, and of course, the American people.
So how to balance the competing pressures: For example, protecting information responsibly vs. the public’s right to know? Particularly in these highly partisan times – with POW swaps, VA scandals, Midterms, Obamacare fights and more – how do you balance policy with politics?
Few in the role had to walk that line more regularly Joe Lockhart, who served as President Clinton’s Press Secretary. Today he is a Founding Partner and Managing Director of The Glover Park Group, which offers media, communications and political strategy to global corporations and non-profits. He also served as Vice President of global communications for Facebook.
Forget the Koch Brothers or Super PACs or even President Obama. The most-watched player in the 2014 Midterms just might be a computer program called LEO.
LEO is the always-on, data-crunching, poll-adjusting Senate forecasting model used by the New York Times. Each day LEO takes the latest polls and historical data from around the country, blends in other information like fundraising and national polling, and then simulates all 36 Senate races – 250,000 times. And from that, each day LEO speaks about which party will win the Midterm’s grand prize – U.S. Senate control.
So following several big weeks of primary voting, what does LEO have to say… and why should we believe it?
Nate Cohn is a reporter at the New York Times’ new hot spot – The Upshot – where he covers elections, polling and demographics.
We might have debated who invented the Internet, but there’s no debate over which candidate brought the Internet into political campaigns. In 2003 and 2004, Democrat Presidential candidate Howard Dean made fundraising go digital.
The brains – if not the functionality, design, and execution – behind that operation belonged to Nicco Mele, a 20-something year old webmaster who had worked for various advocacy groups.
Since that online revolution, Mele has launched his own firm – EchoDitto – which helps organizations gain greater impact through technology. He also is a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and author of “The End of Big: How The Internet Makes David The New Goliath,” where he warns against – of all things – the disruptive and perhaps dangerous power of the Internet. Among the areas he worries about: Digital’s potential destruction through polarization of politics and government.
Often the only positive to come out of a disaster is the promise that it won’t happen again.
That certainly was the case in 2007, when the I-35w bridge in Minneapolis collapsed with hundreds of cars on it, most falling into the Mississippi River 10 stories below.
Thirteen died; 145 were injured. Following the horrific accident and aftermath, promises – from the states, from the federal government – that a review of American bridges would occur. Our infrastructure, long ignored, surely now would get the attention it needed and we deserved.
But nearly seven years later, what has occurred? Were promises kept? Are our bridges safe?
Drew Magratten is a producer at Retro Report, the non-profit news and documentary group that follows important events after the headlines fade. Their new video is “When a Bridge Falls.”
The next phase of Chris Christie’s bridge scandal has arrived, and it won’t end quickly. It’s the legal battle – subpoenas, documents, testimony and more. To complicate things, it’ll occur across several fronts: legislative and judicial; state and federal; Lane closures on the GWB and alleged suggestions of trading Hurricane Sandy funds for Hoboken development projects.
With so many competing players, goals and possible outcomes, what will the next legal and political steps look like? And how long might they last?
Few people analyze and explain the intersection of law and politics more clearly than Jeffrey Toobin, staff writer at the New Yorker and senior legal analyst at CNN.
The agenda is set. President Obama gave his State of the Union address this week, and he was clear: He wants a year of action, and he’ll go it alone if Congress won’t go with him.
But with Midterm Elections driving the political calendar and 2016 coming on fast – did the President lay groundwork for Democrats to succeed or openings for Republicans to attack? How will the substance – the ideas and goals – resonate with American voters? And for a President who’s been struggling in the polls, has he offered a plan that might turn things around?
Few understand the art and the science of polling more than Stan Greenberg: Polling adviser to President Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Nelson Mandela, among many others; CEO of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Co-Founder Democracy Corps.
The connection between policy and communication is a close one. Get only the policy right, and you’re a wonk. Focus solely on the communication, and you risk being seen as just another political sweet-talker.
For the Obama administration – from health care to the economy to dealing with wars around the world – there’s been a continual need to score high on both fronts. So how to strike the right balance?
One expert on the topic – Jon Favreau, Former director of Speechwriting for President Obama, now a Principal at Fenway Strategies and columnist for The Daily Beast.
The challenges for Republicans keep piling up. First it was the Great Divide, the battle between the Tea Party wing and so-called Establishment. Now, NJ Gov. Chris Christie – Fort Lee and Bridgegate, along with Hoboken and Hurricane Sandy Funds. And on Friday, the release of a new – more human – documentary on Mitt Romney – a film that is already raising questions of what type of Presidential candidate Republicans should nominate and how they should run their campaigns.
With 2014 Midterms and a possible Senate takeover on the horizon – and the 2016 Presidential campaign on the mind – can Republicans get their act together? And if so, what’s their best path forward?
To help provide answers, renowned Republican media strategist Mike Murphy. He has handled media and strategy for more than 26 successful Gubernatorial and Senatorial campaigns; he helped run John McCain’s Presidential race in 2000; and today, he’s a partner at Revolution Agency in Washington D.C. and when you’re not following him on Twitter, you can read him in Time and see him on Meet the Press.
New Jersey Bridgegate is not slowing down. Questions around how and why several George Washington Bridge access lanes were shut last September – questions around what Governor Chris Christie knew and when he knew it – are not only growing, but now they’ve gone viral.
Thanks to Jimmy Fallon, Bruce Springsteen and a devastating “Born to Run” update, the scandal has jumped from political fiasco to pop culture touchstone. And like those cars in Fort Lee, the issues pile up: Who’s lying? Who’s telling the truth? Why was this done? And why did no one have the brains or courage to stop it?
If you want answers, few people have covered this story more closely – and few know more about New Jersey politics – than Steve Kornacki, host of MSNBC’s Up with Steve Kornacki.
It took less than 10 days for our first big political scandal of the year to hit: Chris Christie’s revenge. Bridgegate.
Whatever you call it, as we try to understand what happened – and as the New Jersey State Legislature and U.S. Attorney’s Office do the same – questions about Gov. Christie’s temperament and management ability. Is he fit – emotionally and skillfully – to run our country? What does this mean for the Republican party and, of course, the 2016 Presidential race.
And then there’s Congress. With midterm elections on the horizon, another key member announces retirement. How might this affect the campaigns and the ultimate balance?
Joining me to discuss New Jersey, Washington and beyond: Chuck Todd, NBC News’ Chief White House Correspondent and Political Director, as well as Host of “The Daily Rundown” on MSNBC.
The holidays are over and politics is back. After what was a relatively quiet two weeks – President Obama didn’t even have to leave Hawaii this year – Washington and our other political centers are back to life.
And as we begin the 2014 Midterm season – and with a State of the Union address on the way – some analysis on where we stand? And for this conversation, more specifically, where does the Democratic Party stand?
One major issue: Inequality. Unemployment benefits, minimum wage and new efforts to address a growing financial gap in our country. And of course another issue: Obamacare. Now that it’s in full action, how will it work as policy and politics?
Given all the arguing that dominates television, radio and the web -- the he said/she said, the all-or-nothing verbal warfare, the relentless search for scandal or quick quip -- the most simple element that drives important, human communication is often missing: Smart conversation.
Yes, there is a space that exists between the screaming -- between the one-sided agendas, the caustic commentary and irrational judgement that defines audiences down and drives much of today's content.
There is space between the noise. That's where "Conversations with Thinkers" sits.
At its best, smart conversation informs, excites and prods. It reveals, intrigues and explains. Always, it must entertain.
Here you'll find conversation on politics, business, foreign affairs, culture, economics, sports, public policy and more.
"Conversations with Thinkers" is for someone who wants to explore ideas in a rational way. Someone who wants to connect.