Season 1
Episode 3
The Economy

Ever wonder why you have a full-time job and a side hustle driving drunk people home from brunch and you still can’t afford the basic costs of life? Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos, one of our nation’s least essential workers, is launching himself into space? Something seems … a little off with our economy.

Keep reading to learn how us regular people can take some power back from massive corporations and make things more fair.

Ain't nothin' free about our market

It’s tempting to say the system is busted, but as we explore in this episode, the American economy is actually functioning exactly the way it was built to — and it’s working better than anything Elon Musk ever invented. We're fed the myth that if we just let the market do its thing, everyone will benefit and things will be fair. But the reality is that the government has a huge amount of control over the market and it picks winners and losers all the time. The winners are mostly giant companies who hardly need a handout from Uncle Sam. But if you suggest shifting the system so it makes workers, the very people America claims to love so much, the winners — GASP! Suddenly everyone's calling you a dirty socialist.

Please, sir, I want some more

If you're a person who doesn't have enough money to launch yourself to the moon, you're probably sitting here thinking, "This is extremely shitty! Why is the American government funneling massive amounts of money into corporations when it could be bailing out my student loan debt so that I can afford to pay for better health care?" The common rationale is that corporate welfare — using tools like tax breaks, bailouts, and industry subsidies — helps the entire economy grow and then we all benefit, but that’s not true. Just look at all the people who work for these giant, subsidized companies and are barely able to keep their heads above water. (Think minimum wage is enough to live on? See how far it’d take you in your county.)

Wanna know something fucked up? In 2019, state and local tax breaks for corporations cost public school districts at least $2.37 billion. In 97 school districts, corporate tax breaks robbed them of more than $5 million each. In 149 districts, these losses amounted to more than $1,000 per student. There is simply no way to spin that math so it seems good for the children, who as you may know, are our future.

OK, so for the 99.9% of us who don't have robotic butlers wheeling slowly around our mansions, the end result of this trickle down system has been ... not great! Basically, America now has a large segment of the population stuck in perpetual poverty. That's not only immoral, it’s really bad for business. If we make the system fairer, it becomes more efficient and then everyone really does benefit. But how the hell do we do that?

"The biggest problem in our country is ... poor people need better lobbyists.”

Jon Stewart

Meet our panelists

Amy Jo Hutchison on the set of The Problem With Jon Stewart, with text that reads,
Darrick Hamilton on the set of The Problem With Jon Stewart, with text that reads,
Douglas Holtz-Eakin on the set of The Problem With Jon Stewart, with text that reads
Magaly Licolli on the set of The Problem With Jon Stewart, with text that reads

Power To The People, like for real this time

Take Action

To fix our economy, we just need to reorient our priorities as a country, redirect money to actual people instead of corporations, and build a robust social safety net. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Ok, fine, this stuff is extremely difficult difficult lemon difficult.

But it's not completely impossible. There are plenty of bottom-up solutions to push for that could make things just a little more fair. Unions and other labor organizations are a key element in this fight, for instance, though it's not always safe or possible for workers to organize in every place. The truth is that government action — like regulations, social welfare programs, etc. — remain the best top-down solution to redistributing power.

So what should we demand our government do first, since they are theoretically supposed to be representing we the people? Panelist Amy Jo Hutchison said it perfectly: "We need a care infrastructure." That would not only lift a considerable burden off of those in poverty, it would also empower workers to push for better conditions and wages. It's not socialism; it's common sense.

The small glimmer of good news is that the pandemic has given many workers a rare upper hand since the demand for labor has grown so high. The Biden administration has also taken some steps toward expanding the social safety net. But these changes may not last forever. So we still have a loooooong way to go before we're all guaranteed to be able to feed our families and Elon Musk stops trying to colonize Mars and settles for a summer home in Scottsdale.

At the end of the day government works on behalf of people. That is who they should be responsible for.

Darrick Hamilton

Where to start

Obviously you can and should continue to tell your local and state representatives that you're in favor of specific policies which give money to people and not companies. There are also a ton of great organizations pushing to make our economy better for everyone. Fight for $15 is a great example. They're working to raise the federal minimum wage.

Fight for $15

You should also follow some of the folks we featured on our show:



Amy Jo Hutchison

Darrick Hamilton

Funny shit