I recently interviewed one of the country’s unabashed progressive leaders, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Our discussion ranged from Ronald Reagan’s legacy to the failures of contemporary Democrats to stand up for their values. “We have an income inequality crisis in this country that will endanger the future of the entire United States of America,” de Blasio told me. We present here the first in a series of clips from that interview. (Full transcript here.)
Capital & Main: Do you see risk in Democrats running away from a populist progressive agenda?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Absolutely. I think the biggest development we saw [in the midterm election] was Democrats not standing up for the ideals of the Democratic Party, not talking to the economic realities of our people, not being willing to offer real progressive solutions. I think there’s another model of Democrats who actually addressed these issues, who were willing to take on big corporations, who were willing to challenge the status quo, who were willing to ask those who are wealthy to pay their fair share, who were willing to talk about how we create living wage jobs and better benefits….
People are looking for answers to what is now a fundamental structural economic crisis. The middle class has been collapsing, people’s earning power has been declining rapidly…. I love that the conventional wisdom [about the recent election] is about a conservative tidal wave.
Sunday’s extreme heat didn’t prevent some 200-plus Angelenos from gathering in the Ann and John Nickoll Family Sanctuary at Temple Isaiah for an informal economic summit. The audience for this Westside event, partly sponsored by Bend the Arc, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, included District 5 Councilman Paul Koretz.
The crowd saw a screening of economist Robert Reich’s 2013 film Inequality for All. Narrated by Reich, this documentary provides some of the most incisive analyses of the causes of the income gap yet found in the popular media. The film is recommended viewing for anyone wanting to learn how the American middle class has become an endangered species.
But many in the audience had already seen the film and after the lights came up emcee Serena Zeise brought out the guest speaker and Reich friend, Harold Meyerson. The affable yet acerbic Myerson is a native son of Los Angeles who years ago moved east to become a Washington Post columnist and American Prospect editor-at-large.
In this uncertain post-recession era, economic inequality seems to be the only thing you can count on being in full supply. It’s certainly a subject that’s increasingly on people’s lips – thanks in no small part to Jacob Kornbluth’s 2013 documentary, Inequality for All. The film, wryly narrated by economist Robert Reich, lays out Reich’s astute perspective on how our country has arrived at the point where 400 Americans own more wealth than the entire bottom half of the country combined.
Sunday the Southern California Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union will screen Inequality for All, an event that will serve as a refresher course for some and an eye-opener for others who have not seen the film. Afterwards, Harold Meyerson, American Prospect editor-at-large and Washington Post columnist, will offer his always lively insights into what’s happened since the documentary’s premier, along with a discussion of commercial property tax reform.