How to Save the U.S. Economy, With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Stephanie Kelton

Radical measures are needed to address the economic crisis caused by the new coronavirus. Can Congress find the political will?

Photo illustration: Soohee Cho/The Intercept, Getty Images

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Border closures. Economic meltdown. Skyrocketing unemployment claims. Every day brings new news of the Covid-19 pandemic’s unprecedented impact on American life. Will the federal government find the political will to enact the kinds of radical measures necessary to help Americans keep their heads above water during this crisis? New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and economist Stephanie Kelton join Mehdi Hasan to discuss what needs to be done.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: We cannot respond to this with a bandaid. We need to respond to this with permanent systems and structures so that we do not find ourselves in this fragile of a position again.

[Music interlude.]

Mehdi Hasan: Welcome to a special episode of Deconstructed, which I hope you’re listening to at home, while social distancing. I’m recording this here in my home, in my closet in fact. Because these are dark times. Here in the United States, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to skyrocket. 200 Americans are dead and the US economy is in meltdown. How many more Americans will suffer and even die not just from the virus itself but from the massive economic fallout: the lost jobs, incomes, homes? As the economy comes to an unprecedented standstill, and some politicians, even top Democrats, don’t quite get it.

AOC: There’s a lot of this 90s wonkery going on but it doesn’t address the core issue which is that people are experiencing a shock right now, we need to get checks into people’s hands.

MH: That’s one of my guests today, yes, the one and only Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who’s making her debut on Deconstructed.

And I’m also joined for the first time by the brilliant lefty economist and former Bernie Sanders adviser Professor Stephanie Kelton.

Stephanie Kelton: When it becomes clear and it will, that a trillion dollars is insufficient, we have to be prepared to go back and do more.

MH: So, how do we save the U.S. economy? How do we save workers in this country?

Newscaster: Fears grow about the economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak.

Newscaster: Sweeping containment measures have disrupted markets around the world, including the U.S.

Newscaster: The Dow falling almost 3,000 points. That is the biggest one day point drop of all time.

Newscaster: This is going to be an economic catastrophe. One of the worst this country may have ever faced.

Newscaster: The unemployment rate, listen to this, could hit 20%.

Newscaster: The last time the number was that high, the country was in the midst of the Great Depression.

MH: While we’re all rightly focused on vaccines and ventilators and the need for social distancing, as the coronavirus pandemic continues and spreads, we can’t afford to take our eyes off the economic crisis also unfolding in front of us, as a direct result of this public health crisis. We are, I am sorry to say, heading into an economic unknown. We don’t know how bad it’s going to get, only that it’s going to be bad beyond anything we’ve seen before in our lifetimes.

Goldman Sachs is predicting a five percent decline in U.S. GDP this quarter alone. So is JP Morgan. You have unemployment claims rocketing upwards, the biggest week to week increase in jobless claims since the 2008 financial crisis. A poll out this week from NPR and PBS found one in five adults saying they’d been laid off or had their work hours cut, already. And as the New York Times pointed out, “what would normally be a few months’ worth of job loss” is happening in the space of days and weeks. In fact, Goldman Sachs is predicting a ten-fold rise next week in jobless claims. Yes, ten-fold, next week!

And look: It’s very hard to sustain any kind of normal economy, or growth, or spending, when you’re not supposed to leave your house. Let alone travel outside of your country. We’ve never been in a situation like this before which means any response to this crisis, the economic side of this crisis, has to be something beyond anything we’ve tried ever or ever done before. We can’t use the same playbook we’ve used before. And whatever we do: it can’t be small bore, it can’t lack ambition, and it can’t screw over ordinary working Americans. Again.

Barry Eichengreen, a professor of economics at Berkeley, who specializes in economic history. He’s an expert on the Great Depression, he told the New Yorker magazine this week that he’s working on the assumption that consumer spending will fall by around 30 percent in the second quarter of 2020. Thirty percent! Which would be unprecedented.

Let’s be clear: what’s happening right now is the economic and financial equivalent of 9/11 and the Financial Crash rolled into one. And what’s fast coming down the track could make even the Great Depression look like a stroll through the park. A total and complete shutdown of vast sections of the economy, indefinitely, with mass unemployment possibly around the corner. Even Trump’s own Treasury Secretary, ex-banker Steve Mnuchin conceded in a private meeting with Republicans senators that unemployment, right now at a record low, could hit 20 percent. Twenty percent!

So I’ll be honest, it was good to hear Mnuchin himself take to the White House podium earlier this week and announce that the U.S. government will be taking direct action to try and help people in this country keep their heads above water:

Steven Mnuchin: We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately and what we’ve heard from hardworking Americans many companies have now shut down, whether it’s bars or restaurants, Americans need cash now and the president wants to get cash now.

MH: The idea of cutting checks to Americans has had support from unusual Republican quarters, people like former GOP presidential candidate turned Utah Senator Mitt Romney:

Chris Hayes: Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney endorsed the idea. “Every American adult should immediately receive a one-time check for $1,000.” Note that would not be monthly. Though others are calling for more sustained basic income.

MH: The problem is not only are a bunch of Republican senators like Lindsay Graham and Richard Shelby opposed to direct payments but also that on Thursday the Senate Republican leadership unveiled a big trillion-dollar rescue bill which promised checks of $1,200 to American adults earning up to 75k a year, but only offered $600 to people lower down the income scale. People who don’t earn enough money to pay income tax in the first place. Tens of millions of poorer Americans who need more help than the rest will get smaller checks. And oh, yeah: The GOP bill also offers — yes, you guessed it! — tax cuts for big corporations. So, even in a crisis like this, Congressional Republicans make sure to protect the wealthy while screwing over the poorest.

Now, on the other side of the aisle, almost two dozen Senate Democrats say they support the idea of direct payments, of checks sent out to Americans, but so far, at the time of this recording, not Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer or Speaker Nancy Pelosi, both of whom say they want more targeted payments, that they have their doubts about sending out checks to everybody. They prefer to focus on boosting unemployment insurance. Pelosi even agreed a deal with House Republicans on paid sick leave that doesn’t actually cover four out of five American workers. I mean, seriously, sometimes I just want to give up.

Over in France, they’ve suspended rent, taxes, household bills. In Italy, mortgage payments. In Spain, they’ve nationalized all private hospitals. In Denmark, the government is guaranteeing the vast majority of incomes of any workers threatened with job losses. See, it can be done. Radical measures in radical times.

So let me ask today: what can elected politicians in Washington DC, especially Democratic ones, progressive ones, do here in the face of this unprecedented economic meltdown?

Because this is serious, people are dying, people are losing everything, and it’s only going to get worse. Are our politicians and policymakers up to the challenge? Will they bail out the people this time, and not just big businesses and corporations?

[Music interlude.]

MH: I’m joined on the show to discuss all of this and more with two of the most brilliant, outspoken and progressive women in American public life right now: Stephanie Kelton is an economist and a professor at Stony Brook University, a former adviser to Bernie Sanders and a leading advocate of Modern Monetary Theory or MMT. She’s also the author of the forthcoming book, “The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy.”

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has represented New York’s 14th congressional district since her shock election in 2018 and, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, is probably the most famous socialist in America today. She’s also a member of, right now, the hugely influential House Financial Services Committee.

Thank you both for joining me on the show. Congresswoman, I know you’re short on time, so let me kick off with you and get straight into it. How bad is the economic crisis we’re facing right now? And how big, how radical does the response from Congress need to be?

AOC: I think that, you know, truly, it’s very important and it’s quite difficult to understand the scale and the lack of precedents that the sheer public health and economic shock that we’re experiencing right now. This is unlike 2008. This is unlike almost any other shock that we have seen in how quickly everything has ground to a halt, not just in the stock market but in everyday lives. And I truly do not believe that there is an action we can consider right now that is too small. I certainly have not seen any proposal that I would say is too large for us to be considering right now.

MH: And what kind of calls are you getting from constituents? What are they going through?

AOC: It’s everything and anything. I think what’s very important for us to realize in this moment is that what coronavirus has essentially done at least in the United States and in my district, is that it has taken all of these slow moving crises that we have already been experiencing in the United States and basically pressed fast forward on every single one. So housing insecurities have now been exacerbated. People don’t know if they’re going to be able to afford their rent this month. And even before the virus hit, 40% of Americans had less than $400 saved for an emergency. So my constituents are talking to me about how am I going to afford rent? Will I be evicted? If I go to the hospital, if I get sick, how much, is this going to cost me $10,000? And because we don’t have single payer health care, because we don’t pay a living wage, because we haven’t been investing in our health care infrastructure, because we haven’t been educating people to the level and allowing people to have access to an education, all of these things are coming to a head in this very moment.

MH: Stephanie Kelton, I believe you’ve been in conversation with senior Democrats in the Senate this week. Do you get a sense that they get A, the urgency of responding ASAP, and B, the scale of the response, how big it needs to be?

SK: Ah, well, I definitely get the impression that they understand the urgency, that seems very clear. On the scale, you know, I think that what’s happening is that people are looking back at the last crisis, at the financial crisis, and sort of coming away with this idea that we need to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past which is true, of course, but what I think that I’m a little concerned that the lesson that they appear to be drawing is that it’s really important to get the number right, that we don’t do something that’s too small for the moment, because you only get one chance at this thing. Because last time, you know, we got the 787 billion and then when it became clear that that was insufficient, there was just no appetite to go back and do more when it was urgently needed. And I’m trying to, the advice that I’m giving is, you know, don’t get into that mindset that you get one shot at this. And if you get it wrong, that’s the end of it. You just have to pay the price I’m urging them to, you know, do the legislation, the best piece of legislation they can now but be prepared, be steadfast in your commitment to do whatever it takes. And when it becomes clear and it will that a trillion dollars is insufficient, we have to be prepared to go back and do more.

MH: So, if you’re Chuck Schumer, you’re Nancy Pelosi, what would you be calling for right now from a podium? What would you be saying is top of your wish list?

SK: Yeah, so what I’ve explained is that there are basically two big ways that we can help working people and families. And you know, there are two broad categories. One is to increase cash inflows. We have to make it possible, as we tell people, you know, we want to keep people attached to their jobs, keep them on payroll, as we keep them out of the workforce. And so, to the extent that we can do things to help employers stay committed to paying their employees, keep them on payroll, that’s one really important thing to do. Cash payments, cash assistance is important. That increases cash inflow. It helps people you know, bridge this gap, where their incomes are going to be insufficient to cover bills and the other big category is to decrease cash outflows. So to the extent that you can do things in terms of a moratorium on whether it’s your rent and your mortgage, your tax payment, your student loan payment. So you’ve got those two moving parts, decrease the amount that people are required to pay out each month and increase what’s coming in because that’s the only way people are going to be able to hold it together. Go ahead.

MH: No, I was gonna say, Congresswoman, do you sign on to all of that? And also a follow up. Katie Porter, your fellow freshman Democrat from California came out in the Atlantic yesterday and said she disagrees with Speaker Pelosi is focused on “refundable tax credits” over direct cash payments. She says that’s too slow. Do you agree with Katie Porter? Is the Pelosi/Schumer way just too slow given how fast the economy is going downwards right now?

AOC: Yes, I completely agree. I sit with Katie Porter on the Financial Services Committee and she’s absolutely right. And I agree with Professor Kelton. I think one thing that’s important to underscore when Professor Kelton is talking about well, we want to look, last time we only have one bite at this apple, there won’t be appetite. We have to examine why there wasn’t political appetite to do more in 2008. And the reason for that was because there was a package that was entirely designed to favor corporations, to bail out Wall Street that was more concerned with stock prices than wages and the health of Wall Street than the actual healthcare system. And that’s why there wasn’t political appetite to do more because we passed out billions of dollars and then the CEOs came in flying in on their private jets, asking for more. And so that was the core of why Americans rejected doing more after the first package.

Now is a very different time. If we focus our package on immediate bailouts for everyday people, making sure that we’re issuing things like mortgage and rent and student loan debt moratoriums, making sure that we’re getting cash into people’s hands, ensuring the fact that if they have to go to the hospital, coronavirus related or not because as we know this can trigger a series of other health issues, that you will be financially okay. And that is the number one thing that we need to do right now. We need to be introducing stabilizers to working families. And Katie Porter is absolutely right on the point of tax credits. You know, I think sometimes with all due respect to my colleagues, we get into this, you know, there’s a lot of like this 90s wonkery going on where if we do a backdoor tax credit, oh, that’s a clever way of helping people. But it doesn’t address the core issue, which is that people are experiencing a shock right now. We need to get checks into people’s hands. If you’re concerned about it being means-based, tax it on the other end. Get everyone a check right now. And then if you want to make sure that the millionaire’s don’t get 1,000 bucks, do an extra, you know, tax them on the other end of that and make sure that they can’t wriggle out of that.

MH: It’s so frustrating when you have top Democrats, liberals saying stuff like no we need to target this. When we know that means testing doesn’t work especially in a crisis. And we know that something called progressive taxation which deals with the whole concept of universality. You mentioned, you know, the wonkery and getting behind the different policies. This week, we saw the Republicans do a bit of a bait and switch, where on the one hand, they were claimed to be outflanking the Democrats by proposing big amounts. Mnuchin coming out and saying direct checks, trillion dollars. And then you see the actual bill that Senate Republicans put out on Thursday. It had big tax cuts for corporations, as you mentioned, and some of the poorest Americans, millions of people who don’t earn enough to pay federal tax are going to get much smaller checks than everyone else.

AOC: Mmhmm. I mean, it’s abhorrent. You actually look at this kind of trash pile of legislation that the Republicans have just introduced and it’s phased in. I’ve never seen such a thing in my life of, we’re going to give the neediest people less. And we’re going to give people who are you know, need help but don’t need as much help more. It’s completely on its head. And you know, I think it’s important because, you know, this is an emergency. There is a very strong, compelling feeling to say, let’s put our partisan differences aside, but at the same time when they’re using this opportunity to, you know, essentially be public corporate raiders, it’s just not something that that we should be finding acceptable in this moment.

MH: Stephanie, you mentioned earlier that $1 trillion is too small a figure, you think it’s gonna be way too small, given the shock this economy is experiencing. How big do you think the check should be? And is this a time for a federal jobs guarantee which you’ve worked a lot on?

SK: Yeah, well, the first how big the checks should be is really dependent upon what you’re doing on the other side. So the less you do to reduce cash outflow if you’re not doing a moratorium on mortgages and rents and student loan payment, if you’re not guaranteeing health care payments for everything, the less you do on that side, the bigger I would say you need to go on the cash inflow side. So the bigger the checks were going to need to be. So I think it’s a question of, you know, the entirety of what it is you’re doing legislatively. You’re absolutely right. A trillion dollars is going to come nowhere near helping us get through this crisis. We’re looking at 37 million jobs that are vulnerable right now to short term layoffs. Goldman Sachs has already told us that we should expect next week that unemployment insurance claims could jump from what we saw most recently 281,000 to 2.25 million in a week’s time. This is catastrophic, and it will cascade like a domino through the economy. It will rip through this very, very quickly. So we’re going to be back at this again and again and again.

AOC: I would say that the other thing that’s important for us to realize in this moment is that we’ve been building the economy off of a sugar high for the last you know, who knows how many years? I want to say 10 years. But it’s really, in a lot of ways, structurally, it’s been multiple decades. And so what we’re seeing right now is the fragility of an economy that is built on tax cuts and subsidies instead of actual prosperity and increase in prosperity for working people. You know, this is what happens when wages don’t go up for 30 years in real terms when you account for inflation.

MH: It’s funny, Congresswoman, that you see some of you, we talk about federal jobs guarantee, we’re talking about getting, you know, involved in the economy, the government getting much more involved in the economy. Is it fair to say that just as there are no atheists in a foxhole, there are no capitalists, certainly no libertarians in a pandemic? We now have Republican senators basically endorsing the idea of big government. A Republican president saying this week he’s okay with the federal government taking equity stakes in companies that are bailed out. Are we all socialists now?

AOC: Yeah, I mean, they’ve always been socialist, it’s just about for who.

MH: Exactly.

AOC: And so they’ve never been this kind of hardscrabble bootstrapping capitalists ever. They’ve been that for struggling families, and they’ve been telling this entire time, you have these folks telling working families, oh, you know, poo-poo, if you’re about to get evicted from your apartment or evicted from your home or get foreclosed on, that’s your fault, because you don’t have three months savings. But the moment the airline industry has a bad week, they run through everything and run to the federal government and say you need to bail us out when they just spent 96% of their free cash flow and purchasing their own stock, we’re considering it. And so you know, the hypocrisy and all of it is laid open.

And really what this is about politically in people who are moving is whether you considered people struggling and people dying because they couldn’t afford insulin an emergency before and if you’re considering it an emergency now. And I hope that every single person who considers a lack of health care an emergency right now, ask themselves why wasn’t this an emergency a month ago, six months ago, a year ago? Because Americans have been dying. We have some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world. And we’ve just been kind of strolling along as though everything has been fine.

And you know, one of the things about this pandemic, and our response right now is that we cannot respond to this with a bandaid. It cannot be a bailout package and we keep on going the way that we did before. We need to respond to this with permanent systems and structures so that we do not find ourselves in this fragile of a position again.

MH: So I know you have to run Congresswoman, but before you go, I do want to get very bluntly to the point: Nancy Pelosi rings you up tonight and says Congresswoman, what do you want me to do? What’s top of your wish list? What should I be saying? What would you say to her?

AOC: Oh, man, well, it’s hard to prioritize because so many of these issues are interconnected. But one thing that I would say, you know, speaking of Professor Kelton’s talk on outflows and inflows is that we need both debt moratorium and universal basic income right now. If we can get both of those pieces, then we can buy ourselves three to six months of breathing room. And we can enact a whole lot of other longer-term stabilizers. But right now, we need to stop the bleeding. And what that means is getting checks in the hands of working families and making sure that those checks aren’t going right out the door for being you know, for owing long term debts like mortgage and student loan payments.

MH: Should people have faith in the Democratic leadership to pull that off, though, with people like you perhaps pushing them?

AOC: I think that right now, what’s really important is, you know, this isn’t a spectator sport. We shouldn’t be sitting around looking at Congress and saying, I hope Democratic leadership does the right thing. We need to be blowing up their phones right now and telling them what we need, especially if you are a vulnerable worker, a gig worker, hourly, freelance, contracting. Most of these bills tend to be designed for an economy that existed 30 years ago. And that’s why we saw a paid sick leave bill that left out half of the workforce. So we really need to make sure that we’re not taking this like, Oh, do I have faith? I’m not here trying to pray to any person. I’m here to make sure that we put on the heat and the pressure to get demands and make sure that we take care of people.

MH: Congresswoman, I’d love to carry on this conversation with you and Stephanie, but I want to respect your time in this crisis. I know you have to run. I do hope we can get you back on the show soon for a longer period of time. But thanks for joining us. Good luck with your work.

AOC: Of course. Thank you so much. Have a good one.

MH: And Stephanie Kelton is still here with us. Stephanie, I’ve got to ask you the question that every lazy journalist and diehard conservative puts forward, how do you pay for it? How do we all pay for all this stuff? What do you say to that question?

SK: Well, I say that we’re getting a beautiful example of exactly how it works right now. In the span of the last week, Mehdi, Congress has moved first an $8.3 billion piece of legislation, the House and Senate put it through. President signed it. Those are the instructions that are being sent to the Federal Reserve by Congress to say we are ordering up $8.3 billion, go make the payments. A few days later, the House passed the bill that we were just talking about $104 billion. Congress passed it, I’m sorry the House passed it. The Senate passed it off it went. Another set of instructions went to the Federal Reserve. We are ordering up $104 billion go carry out the payments. Now, the White House is negotiating and it looks like we’re going to see a third piece of legislation this one probably for a trillion dollars. Again, Congress is ordering up a trillion dollars, the Fed will carry out all of those payments.

What people mean when they say, you know, oh, Senator Sanders, you want Medicare for All or you want to make public colleges and universities tuition free, you want to cancel student debt, how are you going to pay for it? Where is the money going to come from? What that means in beltway speak is how are you going to offset all of that spending with new revenue from somewhere else, or by spending less in defense or some other category, the budget? In other words, a lot of the time what happens is that Congress writes a piece of legislation ordering up, let’s say $50 billion, but then they pair that legislation with another set of instructions that says to the Fed, while you clear these payments for 50 billion, we also want you to take 50 billion away from people in the form of higher taxes. So you can give two sets of instructions and that’s what Congress usually means when they say how are you going to pay for it? It means how are you going to offset every dollar of new spending with, let’s say, a dollar of new revenue. But what we’ve seen in the last week is that you can send just one set of instructions. You can just tell the Fed, you’re ordering up dollars, but you’re not subtracting any away. And so I know —

MH: That blows a lot people’s minds, they say, “Wait a minute, what about deficits? What about debt? Aren’t we gonna have to pay all this back?

SK: So, here’s the thing, when you do a piece of legislation that’s “paid for,” it means you’re putting the 50 billion in and it goes to some parts of the economy, and you’re taking 50 billion out of some other parts of the economy so that you’re not deficit spending. What Congress has done in the span of the last week, let’s say, is commit to spending dollars into the economy without taking any back out. So it’s doing deficit spending. And we’ve been so badly educated to respond to that sort of financing as something that’s fiscally irresponsible, reckless, dangerous, whatever the case may be. It isn’t. The government is committing to dropping dollars into the economy without ripping them right back out again. It’s exactly what we want them to do right now.

MH: So a lot of people listening to this show who might know about deficit spending, might understand the position, especially in the last financial crash when this was a big debate, they will also hear the phrase MMT, Modern Monetary Theory, which you’re associated with. You have a new book coming out in June “The Deficit Myth” which is all about this, and people associate that with printing money. They talk about Zimbabwe, when things are out of control, the central bank just prints money, and it leads to hyperinflation. Explain to our listeners very briefly, especially in a time of crisis like this, what is MMT? And what role could it play?

SK: Well, in fact, MMT is almost entirely a descriptive project. There is a prescriptive policy piece as well. But MMT is mostly about helping people get a better understanding of the nature of the monetary system we have today. That is we’re not on a gold standard. We have something called a fiat currency, flexible floating exchange rate. So MMT says, let’s talk about the monetary system that we have today. Let’s try to understand it. Let’s understand what that affords a government that issues its own, let’s say sovereign currency, how much policy space is opened up around us? Because we’re no longer on a gold standard. We don’t have fixed exchange rates and how can we best take advantage of the monetary system of the policy space to build a better economy? That’s essentially what MMT is about.

MH: And I’ve gotta ask this question when we talk about kind of the left and economic solutions and Bernie Sanders, you’ve advised Bernie Sanders back when he was running in 2016, back when he was a senior Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee. Is it fair to say that Bernie may not be on course to win the presidential nomination, but his ideas seemed to have won the day. Ironically, paradoxically, at a time when he’s deemed as too extreme to be the presidential candidate, everyone’s dipping into the Sanders/socialist playbook right now.

SK: Well, yeah, and not just right now it started a little bit, the dipping in started a little bit in the 2016 election, right, because we managed to get to a point where the ultimate nominee did embrace things like making public colleges and universities tuition free. There was some means testing but it came closer. Now you have, you know, Medicare for All, student debt cancellation. I mean, these are the things we’re talking about in this crisis moment because as we’ve been saying, this crisis exposes widespread weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our social safety net, in our healthcare system, in our trade policies. So as we look for solutions to help us through this moment, it turns out we’re reaching right into that grab bag where so many of the things that he’s been fighting for happen to reside.

MH: Last question, Stephanie, then I’ll let you go: the president’s approval ratings are at 55%. A majority of Americans saying they approve of his handling of the crisis, according to a poll out astonishingly on Friday morning. Do you think that’s because Democrats haven’t been loud or forceful enough in pointing out both his manifest failures so far? And in providing alternative leadership, especially on the economy?

SK: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s definitely part of it. I think that to the extent that people are tuning in and hearing you know, that there is a response of some kind, it’s reassuring to know that, you know, he’s on TV. He’s communicating with the public. We see some people that are more credible than others, Dr. Fauci and people like that. So yeah, I don’t think the media and I don’t think Democrats have really been hammering at the inadequate to say the least, response in the early months where so much more could have been done to position us to avoid what appears to be where we’re headed in the next week or so with this huge strain being placed on the healthcare system and probably, Mehdi, honestly some of it is probably almost like patriotic post-9/11 coming together.

MH: Rally around the flag and the institution.

SK: Yeah.

MH: Well, I do hope you’re right about you know, things changing in the coming days in a way they haven’t in the last few weeks. We’ve got this big bill next week. The debate’s not going away. Stephanie, thanks so much for joining me on Deconstructed and do stay safe.

SK: Thank you, Mehdi. You too.

[Music interlude.]

MH: That was Stephanie Kelton, economist, academic, and author of the forthcoming book, “The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy.” And I was also joined on this special edition of Deconstructed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Thanks for listening, I hope at home, if you can afford to stay at home, and I hope we can all put pressure on our elected representatives in Congress to get legislation passed that gets financial help to people in this country who need it fast, that’s of the size and scope to tackle the monumental challenge this country, this economy, is facing right now.

I also hope you’re all washing your hands.

[Music interlude.]

MH: That’s our show! Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our producer is Zach Young. The show was mixed by Bryan Pugh. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Betsy Reed is The Intercept’s editor in chief.

And I’m Mehdi Hasan. You can follow me on Twitter @mehdirhasan. If you haven’t already, please do subscribe to the show so you can hear it every week. Go to to subscribe from your podcast platform of choice, iPhone, Android, whatever. If you’re subscribed already, please do leave us a rating or review. It helps people find the show. And if you want to give us feedback, email us at Thanks so much! See you next week.

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