“Who Is?,” an original podcast from NowThis, explores the biographies of influential people in the United States and beyond. Now in a third season, “Who Is?” presents deep dives into the stories of political power players, the donor class, and more. The podcast is hosted by NowThis correspondent Sean Morrow.
Who Is Inherited Wealth?
55:38If you work hard in the United States, there is no limit to the possibility of what you might achieve. That’s the American Dream. But the reality is that America today increasingly resembles aristocratic societies of the past, which were characterized by little social mobility and dramatic inequality perpetuated in part by the passage of enormous fortunes from one generation to the next. How and why this has occurred in the United States is largely the result of power, politics, and policy choices--choices that enable the coding of wealth in the legal systems that structure not only our economy, but our society and our democracy. The system is rigged--and rigged in favor of the few. Join Sean Morrow on the final episode of the third season of “Who Is?” for a look directly at the money, what it means for the rest of us, and what we can do about it. James Henry, an economist, attorney, tax justice activist, and a senior advisor to the Tax Justice Network Paul Krugman, an economist, author, and longtime columnist at The New York Times. His most recent book is “Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics, and the Fight for a Better Future” Katharina Pistor, a professor at Columbia Law School. Her most recent book is “The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Who Is Rebekah Mercer?
57:44Rebekah Mercer may be the most powerful woman in conservative politics today, and she’s never held--and probably will never run for--elected office. Since 2004, Rebekah Mercer has been the director of the Mercer Family Foundation, which means for nearly twenty years she has been one of the key people who is in charge of how her father Robert Mercer’s vast fortune is spent. And following the Citizens United decision in 2010, millions of dollars of that vast fortune have been dedicated to American politics, and primarily to American politics on the far right. The Mercers have played a major role in the contemporary rise of the far right, and from Cambridge Analytica to Kellyanne Conway, Rebekah Mercer and her father were instrumental in the election of President Donald Trump. But after Trump won, it was Rebekah who was named to his transition team. In 2021, however, Trump’s election almost feels like ancient history, and the real question is what will Rebekah Mercer do next, and what does that mean for the rest of us and our democracy? Brendan Fischer, Director of Federal Reform at the Campaign Legal Center Jane Mayer, Chief Washington Correspondent at The New Yorker, and author of several books, including “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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Who Is Pete Buttigieg?
54:18Mayor Pete is now Secretary Buttigieg, which means that the former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is now a member of the Biden Administration. A surprisingly popular presidential candidate in 2020, Buttigieg has an unusual story, and in just a few years, he’s gone from planning bike lanes and roundabouts to overseeing the nation’s highways, airports, and more. Buttigieg has already run for president once and he’ll almost certainly do it again, so it’s South Bend and beyond on this episode of "Who Is?," for a look at the man who could one day be America’s first (openly) gay president. Sam Centellas, Executive Director of la Casa de Amistad, a community center which has been serving the needs of immigrants and residents of South Bend, Indiana, since 1973 Beth Osborne, Director of Transportation for America. During the Obama Administration, Osborne served as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy Adam Wren, a Features Correspondent at Insider's Washington Bureau Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Who Is Andrew Yang?
59:41In 2020, Andrew Yang ran for president, and although he never really had a serious chance, he became a familiar name, and a familiar face. In 2021, he’s running for Mayor of New York City, and this time, he might win. If he does, Yang will face an enormous challenge: navigating one of the world’s most important cities through an uncertain recovery. A man with essentially no political experience but a lot of ideas and a lot of charisma, Yang has the opportunity to reimagine how the post-pandemic city functions. But he’ll also have to contend with the day-to-day realities of governing, from policing to public schools to public housing. On this episode of “Who Is?,” Sean Morrow dives deep into Yang himself, examines the policy and the people behind his current campaign for mayor, and explores how a city like New York can build an inclusive economy as it recovers from Covid-19. Katie Honan, who covers City Hall in New York City for The Wall Street Journal Amy Liu, vice president and director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, which she co-founded in 1996 Harry Siegel, a senior editor at The Daily Beast, columnist at The New York Daily News, and co-host of the podcast FAQ NYC Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Who Is Geoengineering?
49:03Unless you’re lucky enough to live on another planet, you’ve probably heard about the climate crisis. It’s a problem we must address if we want humanity--and the rest of the Earth’s animal and plant population--to continue to survive and thrive. But in order for that surviving and thriving to happen, we must immediately and definitively cut emissions and begin the transition away from fossil fuels. How’s that going? As you’ve probably heard, not so well, and as a result, more radical approaches are increasingly in the mix. Geoengineering is one of these, and while it won’t solve the climate crisis, it may enable us to remove some of the carbon dioxide we’ve emitted and even artificially lower global temperatures while we detox from fossil fuels. The catch? We don’t really know what would happen if we did it, and we may not be able to undo it. On this episode of “Who Is?,” it’s a look at one of the big choices we may have to make in the not so distant future. Elizabeth Kolbert, who has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1999. Her most recent book, “Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future,” was published in February of 2021 Janos Pasztor, executive director of the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative (C2G). Pasztor was previously United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Climate Change in New York under Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Who Is Big Weed?
54:42Americans aren’t in agreement about much these days, but there does appear to be one thing that they overwhelmingly support: legalizing the medical and recreational use of cannabis. Across the country, cannabis is winning at the ballot box and in the statehouse, and whether you partake or not, legalization has major implications for civil rights and civil liberties, for social and racial justice, and, of course, for those who see cannabis as an enormous opportunity to make a lot of money. While federal legalization remains distant, how states legalize could play a significant role in determining the type of cannabis economy that may emerge in America. Will it be a market characterized by equity and competition--a small business success story--or a market dominated by politically influential corporate interests: Big Weed? On this episode of “Who Is?,” Sean Morrow takes a look at legalization and who stands to benefit from it. Emily Dufton, a writer and historian. Her first book is “Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America” Beau Kilmer, Director of the Drug Policy Research Center and McCauley Chair in Drug Policy Innovation at RAND Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, who represents District 141 in the New York State Assembly Shaleen Title, Distinguished Cannabis Policy Practitioner in Residence at the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center of the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Who Is Deb Haaland?
57:29In 1851, then Secretary of the Interior Alexander H.H. Stuart wrote the following: “What is to become of the aboriginal race? … A temporary system can no longer be pursued. The policy of removal, except under peculiar circumstances, must necessarily be abandoned; and the only alternatives left are, to civilize or exterminate them.” In 2021, Congresswoman Deb Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo woman, was confirmed Secretary of the Interior. Haaland, a single mother who enrolled in college at 28 and would later experience homelessness, is a remarkable person--and politician--whose presence in the Biden Administration marks a profound assertion of Indigenous political power in the United States. Julia Bernal, Alliance Director at the Pueblo Action Alliance John Leshy, who has dedicated much of his career to America’s public lands and the laws that govern them, served as Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior throughout the Clinton Administration. His political history of public lands in the United States, “Our Common Ground,” will be published in late 2021 by Yale University Press Jenni Monet, a journalist who writes about Indigenous Affairs Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
A Conversation with Joan Rohlfing
1:00:24Does the nuclear command authority of the United States protect the world from an ill-considered strike by the Commander in Chief? Short answer: No. Before 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, many people may have thought that existential risk was the stuff of science fiction. Not anymore. Joan Rohlfing has been working on managing existential risk for decades. From arms control to disarmament, she has had a hand in almost every conceivable aspect of the nuclear portfolio. And while an intentional or inadvertent use of nuclear weapons could conceivably end the human story at any moment, Rohlfing is optimistic. Nuclear is a solvable problem, and the solutions we might imagine and enact--from international cooperation to technology innovation--offer models for mitigating existential risk elsewhere. On “Who Is?” this week, it’s the end of the world, and what we can do to prevent it. Joan Rohlfing, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
A Conversation with Mary Kay Henry
54:32In 2012, hundreds of fast-food workers in New York City walked off the job to demand higher wages and the right to unionize, in what would mark the beginning of the “Fight for $15.” In 2021, raising the minimum wage to $15-an-hour nearly made it into the American Rescue Plan, the enormous COVID-19 relief package which President Biden signed in March. And from fast-food workers to home care workers and beyond, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is engaged in the fights that may determine the future of work--and of workers--in the United States. On this episode of “Who Is?,” Sean Morrow talks labor, politics, and power with Mary Kay Henry, International President of SEIU. Mary Kay Henry, International President of the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Who Is Tom Vilsack?
54:25Do you eat food? If you answered yes, you are impacted by the United States Department of Agriculture, and the person who is currently in charge of it: former Governor of Iowa Tom Vilsack. And it’s not just food: from environmental justice, to economic justice, to racial justice, to climate justice, agriculture sits at the nexus of many of the critical issues of our time. Basically, power isn’t always where you think it is, and the Secretary of Agriculture is probably the most powerful cabinet official that you’ve maybe never heard of. On this episode of “Who Is?,” Sean Morrow heads to Iowa, for a look at an agency with changemaking potential that is particularly susceptible to business as usual, and for a glimpse at who’s in charge in the Biden Administration. Chris Clayton, Ag Policy Editor at The Progressive Farmer. Clayton is the author of “The Elephant in the Cornfield: The Politics of Agriculture and Climate Change” Navina Khanna, Executive Director of the Health, Environment, Agriculture and Labor (HEAL) Food Alliance, which is based in Oakland, California Adam Mason, State Policy Director at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Kathie Obradovich, Editor of the Iowa Capital Dispatch Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices