If You Care About Growing the Economy from the Middle Out, This Is Required Listening

Some of the many guests from The Other Washington season one.

Tomorrow, we’re relaunching the second season of our podcast, The Other Washington, with a fantastic interview with author and progressive truth-teller Thomas Frank. Frank, the author of Listen, Liberal, believes that the Democratic Party has been hijacked by a professional class of elites, at the expense of the working class. I can’t think of a better way to kick off a new (weekly!) season of The Other Washington, and I can’t wait for you to hear it. (You can read a sample of our talk here.)

But while we wait for the second season of the podcast to arrive, I’d like to urge you to visit (or revisit) the first season of The Other Washington. “Why would I want to listen to some old political podcast,” you ask? Well, because the first season of the Other Washington was constructed to be an evergreen listen. It establishes the foundation of our beliefs at Civic Ventures, and explains why we promote the policies that we do.  The first season is a primer that says what we’re all about. The second season will put those bedrock policies into action and show how here in the other Washington  we’re moving forward while leaders over in the other other Washington — that’s Washington DC—keep pushing us back.

Here’s a rundown of our first season:

Episode 1: The Minimum Wage

Our signature issue here at Civic Ventures is the minimum wage. We realized a long time ago that when workers don’t have money to spend, inequality grows and the economy stops thriving. We discuss the history of the minimum wage as an American ideal and why Seattle became ground zero of the $15 minimum wage movement. This is a great podcast to share with friends who think that the minimum wage should be increased, but wonder if $15 seems like too much.

Episode 2: Gun Responsibility

How did Washington state voters become the first citizens to beat the NRA at the ballot box in at least a generation? This episode looks at the history, the theory, and the language of the modern gun responsibility movement, and explains how, since our Congress refuses to do anything about the gun violence epidemic, it’s up to the states to promote sane policies. (Also, we discuss why you should never say the words “gun control” ever again.)

Episode 3: Robots and Automation

The robots are coming for your jobs! Even today, this episode actually still feels a little bit ahead of its time. The whole crew talks about what work might look like in a world where robots have taken on the most menial tasks. And now that Carls Jr CEO Andrew Puzder, one of the world’s biggest cheerleaders of automation, very nearly became Secretary of Labor, we ask the more-essential-than-ever question: if the humans are out of work because robots are flipping burgers, taking orders, and cleaning the bathrooms of all our fast food restaurants, who’s going to have any money left to buy those burgers?

Episode 4: The Gig Economy

The nature of work is changing. Some want to frame the gig economy as all bad, but honestly, some of the basics sound pretty cool: schedule flexibility, an opportunity to pick up work when you choose, a chance to use your skills in many different scenarios. The problem, though, is that the nature of work in America is tied to important benefits — health insurance, retirement, vacation time — that gig economy employers don’t offer. The contract of what work means in America needs to be reconsidered so that workers can enjoy the security promised in the American dream while still living up to their best potential. We offer a potential path forward.

Episode 5: Secure Scheduling

This episode builds on some of the thinking from the previous one: low-wage workers are scheduled irregularly by their employers, and it’s a problem that’s growing worse with every passing year. Some workers we talked to in this episode would go to work on Sunday not knowing if they’d have to work the next day. They were called in for shifts at the last minute, or told to go home when they expected to work a full eight-hour day. We talked with Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzáles about what the city is doing to ensure that workers can enjoy more reasonable scheduling practices while employers still enjoy the tools they need to succeed in a competitive business climate.

Episode 6: Raise Wages, Kill Jobs?

The trickle-down talking point goes something like this: if you raise the minimum wage, employers will hire fewer workers. A groundbreaking new study disproved the connection between minimum wages and job losses. We talked with Igor Volsky from the Center for American Progress about those “demonstrably false” claims and why for so long even American workers have argued against their own interests for fear of losing their jobs.

Episode 6.5: Paid Sick Leave

The paid sick leave episode discusses another worker right that has declined with the traditional working arrangement: we talk with Washington state legislator Jessyn Farrell about why paid sick leave is a hugely important issue when it comes to creating pay equity for women, and why she thinks it’s nearly as important as raising the minimum wage.

Episode 7: Everything You Know About Economics Is Wrong

and

Episode 8: Everything You Know About Economics Is Wrong

We closed out our first season with a bang, a two-part episode that dismantles the simplistic Econ 101 understanding of what an economy is and does, and then rebuilds our understanding of the economy from — well, not the ground up, more from the middle out. This is the source code for everything that we do here at Civic Ventures, based in the realization that an economy is a choice, and not a law of nature. You can choose an economy with more winners, an economy in which the success of a tiny portion of Americans rests in the destruction of the other 99 percent. It’s a heady discussion that wades into huge topics, but it’s highly approachable and easy to understand.

You don’t have to have listened to the first season of The Other Washington in order to follow the second. But if you do, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the issues, and you’ll be able to win any fight with those randos on Twitter who spout conventional wisdom and prematurely drop the mic. And really, isn’t that all that matters?

I hope you’ll subscribe to the Other Washington on iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. We’ll see you on your phone bright and early tomorrow morning!

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.