Carmelo Barbaro: I’m going to start with the trillion-dollar question: What would an inclusive economy look like to you?
Ameya Pawar: One that allows everyone to share in the successes and the gains that we’ve realized over the last 50 years. Before Covid, only 4 in 10 Americans had $400 in the bank, a majority of Americans were living check to check, and this was during a time where we had historically low unemployment and booming stock market and corporate gains, so the economy really wasn’t working for most working people.
There are pressure points on working people and — the cost of housing, the cost of childcare, and student debt are just three. So what does an inclusive economy look like? One where you have a living wage, housing is accessible to everybody, and childcare is not something we’re taking for granted. And then really thinking about racial and economic justice by centering people who have been left behind over the last 50 years by the economic policy choices we’ve made.
The version of capitalism and the market-based economy we have right now is actually quite new. The way we think about deregulation and a lack of government investment in jobs to control inflation, supply-side privatization, tax cuts for the wealthy austerity — these trends are really like 50 years old. Before that, from the New Deal onward, you had a different mindset. Where we are today is the result of policy choices that have put public institutions as sort of passive bystanders to the market.
CB: Policies like the stimulus checks, or the child tax credit that’s putting cash in the pockets of eligible families, seemed like very unlikely events a year and a half ago. What opportunities do you see to take this unique moment that we find ourselves in and address some of these longer-term structural issues that you’ve highlighted?
AP: There are a few things we can make permanent very quickly. First, we know that cash has worked over the last years. We’ve provided stimulus checks to a majority of working people. We know that has prevented people from falling off a cliff, and so we should be thinking about adding cash payments as a part of our social safety net.
We should be thinking about automatic stabilizers so that we don’t have to go through the political rigmarole every single time there’s an economic crisis. A boost to unemployment insurance, a boost to cash and other benefits the second you have an economic issue that starts winding down as the economy recovers — those should be automatic and countercyclical. We don’t need to debate over it.