#100 The Myth of Main Street, Louis Hyman

Our guest is Louis Hyman, author of the provocative New York Times editorial, "The Myth of Main Street." Louis is a Cornell University History Professor and the Director of the Institute for Workplace Studies. 

Nostalgia for the economy's "good old days" has great appeal for many Americans. For the right, past decades bring back memories of Ronald Reagan, traditional cultural values and U.S. dominance in global affairs. For the left, post-war America was a time of stronger unions and less income inequality.

But "Make America Great Again" and other appeals to nostalgia come at a high price.  Going back to a past with trade barriers, price controls and lower productivity would damage the living standards of many households they're designed to protect.

Louis tells us: "Main Street is a touchstone for how we like to imagine the real America. There's always this anxiety about what America is, and Main Street is how we imagine ourselves."  The challenge is to balance a need for higher wages, autonomy and local pride with efficiency.

Small-town and rural America have been left behind in the digital economy, which is centered in a few big cities. But it doesn't have to stay this way.

Solutions:

  • By gaining access to sales and freelance platforms, people in rural communities can sell products and find jobs anywhere in the world. 
  • Upwork, Thumbtack and other sites are online marketplaces that match freelance workers and small businesses with demand for their services. 
  • Local governments can help by expanding the crucial work done by libraries to educate and connect workers to the changing online marketplace.
  • The Digital Countryside Initiative at Cornell's Institute for Workplace Studies in Ithaca is working with corporations and labor groups to connect rural New Yorkers with the digital economy. Greater access to high-speed internet connections is one step. But the online "gig economy" is unfamiliar to many skilled workers.

#90 David Greenberg: President Trump and The History of Spin

Does Donald Trump lie more than previous presidents? In the history of political spin, how does the Trump administration stack up? 

Presidents have always used spin and propaganda to skirt the truth, but the Trump administration has made it especially hard for citizens to remain informed. The easiest example of this was when Kellyanne Conway, the Counselor to the President, used the term “alternative facts” to defend a false statement by the White House Press Secretary.

In this episode we look at how Presidential propaganda, messaging or spin has changed over the decades.

David Greenberg is our guest and the author of "Republic of Spin - An Inside History of the American Presidency.” David argues that Teddy Roosevelt was responsible for the birth of modern Presidential spin more than one hundred years ago. 

Trump is part of a tradition that began with Roosevelt: Mark Twain saw Roosevelt as “The Tom Sawyer of the political world.” Unlike his predecessors, Roosevelt appealed directly to the public, to give him more authority to roll out an ambitious agenda. Roosevelt hired press agents, held press stunts, and informal press conferences. When he left office, there was no turning back.

#88 The New Brooklyn: Bringing Cities Back: Kay Hymowitz

In his inaugural address, Donald Trump gave a grim description of American cities, speaking of "carnage" and "rusted out factories.” But the reality is far different in many urban centers.

Our guest is Kay Hymowitz of The Manhattan Institute, author of "The New Brooklyn: What It Takes To Bring a City Back."

Kay has lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn since 1981. She gives a first-hand account of Brooklyn's transformation from high crime and deindustrialization in the 60's, 70's and 80's to the borough's comeback in the last two decades.

Kay says, “Brooklyn, which was once a major factory town, peaked in 1950—in terms of manufacturing power. In recent decades we've seen a rise of "a different kind of economy." Before the hipsters and tech startups, there was an expansion in government, healthcare and legal jobs. From education, tech innovation and new forms of business to public transportation and rezoning, this show looks at how the new Brooklyn took shape and how this story can help other cities.

Solutions:

Encourage new business and creative workers. From makers, artisans and immigrant-run small businesses to tech entrepreneurs, Brooklyn's growth has been nurtured by new arrivals. Business leaders, educational institutions and New York's Mayor established the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a development corporation to coordinate business improvement districts.

Nurture tech and creative startups. Every industry needs people who are trained in technology, The Brooklyn Law Incubator and Policy Clinic, launched in 2008, advise aspiring entrepreneurs on everything from intellectual property law to contract agreements. The City University of New York, The Pratt Institute and Brooklyn College have all started initiatives in the past decade.

Ease the confusing array of regulations that put up barriers for small neighborhood businesses and start-ups.

Bring business and schools together to encourage new forms of work training, especially for middle-skilled jobs.

Improve and reform public education to build opportunity for the next generation of workers and residents.

Invest in public transportation. Brooklyn's success has largely depended on buses and trains, which provide an affordable form of travel. 

In Brooklyn and other cities where rents have soared, consider rezoning. Done in a sensitive way, with respect for older buildings and neighborhoods that often add to the charm and character of a city, this can increase the amount of overall housing, leading to rent reduction. 

You can read a recent review of Kay's book in The New York Times 

#83 Best Moments of 2016

 

Alan Dershowitz on Trump; what an Islamic fundamentalist learned in an Egyptian jail; plus a tenured professor explained why she quit her job—trigger warning ahead.

 

 

No doubt about it - the nomination and election of Donald Trump was the biggest, most surprising news story of 2016. At the start of this show we get two fascinating takes on the Trump story from a marketing man and a Harvard Professor.

For decades Alan Dershowitz has been on the front lines in the fight for civil liberties. He also has a refreshing take on the Trump phenomenon. "He was unpredictable: somebody who gave some people hope that maybe things won't be the same," says Dershowitz.

British marketing expert Mark Earls, made a second visit to our podcast, told us that emotion and identity play far greater roles in our voting decisions than many of us realize." We imagine that people consider in something as important as politics the pros and cons and the policy, but we don’t.

We spoke to Karen Firestone, the author of Even the Odds, about the time she met the famous advice columnist, Anne Landers, on a plane. The advice Landers gave Firestone changed her life. Find out why.

Do you like talking to strangers on planes, or talking to strangers? If the answer is no, then listen to Kio Stark (TED author and speaker), she may change your mind. We can all benefit from talking to strangers; find out why and how. 

Joan Blades tells us how she brings progressives and Tea Party supporters together for Living Room Conversations.

As a young Muslim man in Britain, Maajid Nawaz joined a global Islamist group. Jailed in Egypt in 2001, Maajid began an extraordinary personal journey. In this episode he describes his transformation towards liberal, democratic values as a secular Muslim. Today, Maajid is an active counter-extremist and founding Chairman of Quilliam - a global organization focusing on integration, religious freedom, citizenship and identity.  He is also the author of, "Radical: My Journey Out of Islamic Extremism."

Historian Alice Dreger, author of "Galileo's Middle Finger", reveals her personal fight for academic freedom and why it cost her a tenured job at a prestigious university.