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Interview: Jared Bernstein Talks About Hillary, Liz Warren and Reconnecting With Prosperity

Danny Feingold

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In 2009, as the U.S. economy teetered on the brink of catastrophe, a newly elected Barack Obama leaned heavily on the counsel of a small circle of experts. Perhaps the most unlikely member of Obama’s inner sanctum, which included Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner, Christina Romer and Peter Orszag, was Jared Bernstein, a meditation devotee and professionally trained musician with a PhD in social welfare.

Chosen by Joe Biden to be the Vice President’s top economic advisor, Bernstein had distinguished himself as a passionate critic of inequality during his long tenure at the Economic Policy Institute, one of the country’s leading think tanks. His views on economic issues were well to the left of Obama’s and the rest of the President’s team, ensuring that progressive ideas would get a hearing inside the White House as the administration wrestled with the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

While Obama and his advisors succeeded in reversing the Great Recession’s massive job losses and saving the bacon of the financial industry, they could claim no such victory when it came to income inequality and the inexorable decline of the middle class. And Bernstein, who left his White House position in 2011, is the first to admit it. In his new book, The Reconnection Agenda: Reuniting Growth With Prosperity, Bernstein lays out an ambitious agenda to restore the lost relationship between economic expansion and the well-being of most Americans.

Now a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and a frequent commentator on MSNBC and CNBC, Bernstein sat down recently with Capital & Main to discuss the nation’s inequality morass, the upcoming presidential race and his favorite Joe Biden moment. Here is an excerpt from that interview, whose complete version will appear here next week.

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