Indivisible’s Chad Bolt joins to co-host our first episode this year, with a welcome to the 116th Congress. PLUS: everything you need to know about Trump’s shutdown, with CAP’s Sam Berger; and TalkPoverty’s Pat Garofalo breaks down all things PAYGO.
Happy New Year! 2019 is starting off with a bang… er, more like a shutdown. This week on Off-Kilter, everything you need to know about what happens when the government shuts down and the human toll Trump’s temper tantrum is taking on workers and families across the U.S., with shutdown expert Sam Berger.
Later in the show, what is PAYGO, and what does it mean now that it’s back in force on Capitol Hill? Talk Poverty’s Pat Garafolo joins to make sense of it all.
But first… Indivisible’s Chad Bolt returns to step into Jeremy’s shoes for an ICYMI welcoming in the 116th Congress and giving a preview of what’s on deck for 2019 now that Democrats have taken back control of the House. He sticks around as guest co-host for the whole shebang.
This week’s guests:
- Chad Bolt, associate policy director, Indivisible
- Sam Berger, senior adviser, Center for American Progress
- Pat Garofalo, managing editor, TalkPoverty.org
For more on this week’s topics:
- Want to know what you can do to bring the shutdown to an end? CALL YOUR SENATOR: 202–224–3121. Indivisible’s handy guide has everything you need to take action.
- For anyone still possibly confused about whose shutdown this is, here’s Trump’s statement from December unequivocally taking responsibility
- The shutdown is costing federal workers $2 billion with every missed pay period. For more on how the shutdown is poised to wreak havoc for low-income workers and communities as it drags on, check out this piece by Tracy Jan in the Washington Post.
- Looking for more on HR1? Check out this Vox explainer — and Indivisible has some great resources on how you can put pressure on your members of Congress to pass this critical bill.
- For more on what it means for Dems to have gavels in the house, check out this New York Times roundup of some of their emerging priorities.
- Want more on the debate over PAYGO? Here’s a good explainer by Jeff Spross.
This week’s transcript:
REBECCA VALLAS (HOST): Welcome to Off Kilter, the show about poverty, inequality, and everything they intersect with, powered by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. I’m Rebecca Vallas and it’s 2019, happy new year friends! And boy is 2019 starting off with a bang, or well, more like a shutdown. So this week on Off Kilter everything you need to know about the shutdown and the human toll it’s already taking in communities across the US with seemingly no end in sight. Later in the show what is PAYGO and is it a good thing that it’s back in force now on Capitol Hill? But first, Chad Bolt, hey!
CHAD BOLT: Rebecca!
VALLAS: I was just in a meeting with you earlier, you came back to the office.
BOLT: Well it’s because I haven’t seen enough of you in 2019 yet, I mean, it’s been since 2018 since I last saw you.
VALLAS: Except that you also saw me yesterday at a meeting too so you’re totally blatently lying on air and that’s how you’re starting this segment.
BOLT: Rebecca, don’t give away too much about the inner workings of what we do here in DC.
VALLAS: Well that’s the sound of the radio studio door closing because Chad, we’re locking you in because I have decided that you need to be the guest co-host for this episode and maybe actually for a little bit because as listeners of the show will know we had to say goodbye to our beloved Slevinator at the end of 2018 because left us for some super exciting new opportunities on the Hill, which we’ll actually talk about in just a little bit. But Chad, what would you say about helping us out and doing some ‘In Case You Missed It’ and other things for the show in the next chunk of time.
BOLT: I’m here for it. it’s an honor to be asked.
VALLAS: Well it’s an honor to hang out with you every time I get to do it even when it’s a few times in a single day. So Chad, people who listen to this show will already know because you’re a friend of the show but you are I should say and we were just talking before we started taping about your actual title, so I have learned your title is Associate Director of Policy —
BOLT: That’s right.
VALLAS: At Indivisible, people know you’re at Indivisible. I like to call you the guru of all things over there because you do so much but thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule.
BOLT: God this is my favorite podcast because there’s no other podcast that is more flattering.
VALLAS: That you’ve been on or just period?
BOLT: Just period.
VALLAS: Well I do what I can and flattery will get you everywhere I was taught early. So Chad, I’m really excited to have you here to help us kick off 2019 and I got to say, what an amazing way to ring in the new year than to be able to say the words “Speaker Pelosi”.
BOLT: I love it.
VALLAS: I’m not even used to it yet because it’s just so lovely every time I say it I’m like I want to say that again.
BOLT: Yup, it’s really, really exciting. She’s just such an extraordinary leader and we’re really excited to see her back in the reins, back with the reins.
VALLAS: And we have, yeah, in the swing, with the reins, right, hey I mix metaphors most of when I open my mouth and people will know that about me. So I think you should feel like you’re in good company. So we right after the midterms last fall we actually, we had you on the show to talk about some of the amazing members of the, exciting new freshman class. I don’t really want to take up a ton of your time digging through all of the different members who have come in, obviously Representative Ocasio-Cortez is getting a ton of attention as she deserves to, perhaps outshining almost everyone else in the freshman class but I also wanted to give a quick plug in case people are wondering where Jeremy went, to Representative Ilhan Omar who is one of the first Muslim members of Congress and Jeremy, thank you for your service in advance over there. But I suspect you might be getting some incoming after I have outed where you headed.
BOLT: Super exciting both to see her in congress and only slightly less exciting to see Jeremy land such a great new gig. We will miss him.
VALLAS: There was this amazing moment where during her swearing in people all started emailing around oh my God, Jeremy’s on screen and there he was behind her on the screen and it was this amazing, I actually have a screenshot that we will definitely need to tweet and the thing that was amazing to me was not that he was there but that it turns out he owns a suit.
BOLT: I was just about to ask if he was wearing one of his sweaters.
VALLAS: I was fully expecting him to be in a dad Christmas sweater.
VALLAS: That is his usual.
BOLT: I mean that’s his year round look.
VALLAS: So also I would just like to say I didn’t know that it would be possible to roast Jeremy on this show in his absence but Chad, we found a way!
BOLT: We’ve done it before and we will do it again.
VALLAS: But so Jeremy aside, and Slevs we do miss you, there’s a lot to be excited about in this new Congress that isn’t just the people making up this new Democratic caucus in the freshman class. We’re already starting to get little bits and pieces here and there about what Congress is planning to focus on and what Democrats in Congress are planning to focus on. And we now know what HR 1 is going to be. So Chad, bring us up to speed. What do we know so far?
BOLT: That’s right, I gotta tell you Rebecca, Indivisible is really excited about this new congress. We had a national day of action on January 3rd, the day the new congress was sworn in. We had 168 events across the country to say whose house? Our house!
VALLAS: You were so excited that you were going to get to say that just now I know looking at your face.
BOLT: I’m wearing my biggest smile.
VALLAS: Was I supposed to do that with you, by the way? Is that why you were looking at me?
BOLT: I was kind of leaning into it, thinking maybe you’d join me but look, I’ll give you another shot, whose house?
[TOGETHER]: Our house!
VALLAS: Oh wow, saying that with, yep, all kinds of, I’m actually really excited, sorry I’m just laughing because you’re making this really great grin, yes, whose house? Our house, baby!
BOLT: I’m super excited about all of our great groups. The main message here with all of these events was to say look, we’re not going anywhere. This isn’t just a reactionary thing in the wake of the election of Donald Trump. We are building power that is here to stay and will last way beyond the Trump administration. So like I said, we had 168 events across the country and really this is the perfect time to plug in. we’re here, in fact we’re back and bigger than ever. So if you want to go to indivisible.org and find your nearest group, you can find out where they’re meeting, this is really a great time for you to plug in with us. So one thing that these events were largely about and we’re really excited about the new congress is HR 1. And that is the Democrats’ plan to pass a comprehensive package to strengthen our democracy. We’re really, really happy with what’s in it and how comprehensive it is. And it stems from the premise that a healthy democracy could have rejected Trump just like a healthy body rejects a virus. But we don’t have a perfectly healthy democracy. There’s a lot we need to do to strengthen it and make it work for everybody.
VALLAS: So what do we know about what’s actually in the bill? I think people are probably familiar that HR 1 is this anti-corruption, pro-democracy package but there’s a lot in there that actually hasn’t gotten a ton of attention.
BOLT: Sure, sure, yep and this is, it flows out of the work of Congressman John Sarbanes who led a task force in the house to put this together over the last number of years. So it really fans into three buckets. We’ve got bucket number one, voter empowerment and access and that’s support for things like automatic voter registration, restoring the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Course gutted just a few years ago, federal measures to protect against state voter purges, which we alarmingly saw just in this last election and many before.
VALLAS: Oh did we.
BOLT: We did. Restoring voting rights for previously incarcerated people, early voting and support for non-partisan redistricting commissions to prevent gerrymandering. There’s bucket two which is about money in politics, it encourages small dollar donations and amplifies their impact with public financing. It would eliminate dark money with stronger disclosure requirements, it better empowers the Federal Election Commission and then also riding alongside HR 1, it will likely happen as a separate vote but part of the same package is a constitutional amendment that the house will vote on to reverse Citizens United, which has just fueled the explosion of big money in our politics. Then the third bucket is about ethics and corruption and so this cracks down on corruptions by making ethics laws more broadly applicable across the government, demands disclosure or divestment of potential conflicts of interest for high-ranking public officials. It locks the so-called revolving door for lobbyists and government officials and it would require drum roll –
VALLAS: Yeah Will, we really gotta work on these sound effects. [LAUGHTER] This is so not going to cut it but we’ll do it for now.
BOLT: 2019 resolution. It would require the release of the President and Vice President’s tax returns. Obviously I’ve been on the show before, I’ve mentioned it once or twice, there’s a lot we could learn and this bill would require it.
VALLAS: And we’re going to come back to the tax returns in a minute but I want to acknowledge, my little sister, her name is Cat, she has this concept that I think is so perfect and I use this all the time which is that we’re all basically people who have dolls, we have strings in our backs, so when you pull the strings we have certain things that we say that are our usuals. So for me, that would be does anyone have any hummus? Or does this come with tofu? I have my things that she’ll go, oh yeah your string got caught, right, this is Becca things to say.
BOLT: It’s like somebody poisoned the water hole.
VALLAS: Yes exactly and Chad for you it would be, do it for me.
BOLT: Get those tax returns ready, honey!
VALLAS: That’s exactly right, so we know we’ll come back and do more of that in a bit when we talk about some of Dems plans for using their gavels in this new congress but really helpful to know that that’s in there as well.
BOLT: In all seriousness, there is a lot that we could learn from seeing the president’s tax returns. He’s broken decades of precedent by not releasing them, it actually is a serious measure of responsible oversight in addition to what’s become my doll string tagline.
VALLAS: So more on that shortly and yes, your doll string tagline I think is in tact because its like you didn’t miss a beat there Chad, even over the holidays but this is, you just walked through a bunch of different stuff, there is so much in there and we’re going to come back and do a lot more on this in this show in the weeks ahead to really dig into some of those particular pieces but what you’re describing is a total fundamental overhaul of in some ways, how Washington works and how campaigns work and how people get elected to office and how people vote and have access to the ballot box. There is so much in there. So would love to hear you bring to life some of those individual pieces in a way that maybe helps make them a little bit more concrete.
BOLT: Sure I think one thing that important to remember about HR 1 is that it’s in the best interest of our democracy to make these changes and for democrats to put out a strong signal that this is a strong priority for them. But think of it also as a precursor for a lot of the other priorities that we want to accomplish as progressives. We are not going to lower the cost of prescription drugs unless we can get the pervasive influence of big pharma’s money out of our politics. We are not going to reduce gun violence unless we take away the NRA’s political power. And we do that by implementing the money in politics provisions and frankly the voter empowerment and access provisions because we know why Republicans implement changes to voting laws. They want to make it harder for people to vote.
VALLAS: Well, certain people.
BOLT: Certain people and those are people who most likely are going to vote against the Republicans’ interest. So by taking this comprehensive package that I think really takes a 360 degree view of things it is again, good for our democracy to begin with but also sets the stage and makes it easier and more likely that we can take care of some of our other priorities too.
VALLAS: So a recognition that as a threshold matter, before we even as you said get to the business of trying to take up and debate and pass other legislation on a whole range of different policy issues we need to get our house in order.
BOLT: That’s right.
VALLAS: We need to make sure we have a healthy democracy, we need to make sure we have accountable political and elected officials and that we have meaningful voting rights and on and on. So a threshold matter before we can really get to anything else and hence why it is HR 1. So just a quick note on the politics around here, people might be listening and going great, what’s the point if Dems are just going to introduce this and we know Republicans aren’t going to go with this so what’s the point. Obviously there’s a strong message to send there and I think you captured it really well. But there is also the possibility that individual pieces of this package might actually be ones that could move and particularly as we’re watching some level of functional bipartisanship happening in the senate on some important issues. So it’s sounding like that’s where this goes. Yeah, Dems are going to want to pass this out of the gate as the first bill that they introduce but then it becomes fodder for smaller bills that might individually get bipartisan support from individual Republicans in the senate.
BOLT: I think that’s right and I do want to underscore that I think there’s a lot of value in the narrative contrast. Not just with HR 1 but with the other bills that you’ll see Democrats pass in the House, presenting a contrast to voters as we look ahead to 2020 between for example, an economic agenda that doesn’t try to concentrate wealth in the hands of powerful but instead encourages and creates opportunity and shared prosperity. It doesn’t take us down a reckless path of foreign policy and war making but instead it once again prioritized diplomacy and peace. Those are the kinds of narrative contrasts that I think the American people will get to see because democrats are back in charge of the house now. That’s the kind of legislation I expect to see them pass.
VALLAS: So another big piece of what we’re going to do see from Democrats in the house now that they’re back in control of that chamber is and I referenced before gavels, is they now are in the position in charge of house committees, not just to set the agenda, not just to hold hearings but actually to wield investigatory authority.
VALLAS: Over other branches of government including, ding, ding, ding, the White House and the president himself and that’s a huge deal given that we haven’t seen any appetite from Republicans in congress to do anything that puts a check on Trump. So what are we starting to hear from the investigatory agenda that Dems are planning to pursue in the House?
BOLT: Yeah, this is a really exciting part of why it’s so great to see Democrats back in charge of the house. Because Republicans used their control of the House to conduct virtually zero oversight of the Trump administration. In fact they did the opposite; they basically empowered him to do whatever he wanted and so we’re going to see a real change here I think. There are a couple, if you’d like to learn more about congress’s oversight authority I would encourage you to go to Indivisible.org because we’ve got Indivisible Guide 2.0, Indivisible on offense and there’s an entire chapter there that you can read about how you can make sure your Democratic house member is using the full extent of their oversight authorities.
VALLAS: And we’ll be sure to have a link to that on our nerdy syllabus page.
BOLT: In the nerdy syllabus!
VALLAS: Because it’s what we do!
BOLT: Great, so I think we should and will see investigations conducted by the committees of jurisdiction and the oversight committees on things like what’s going on at the border, why are children dying in the custody of border agencies. How many children remain separated from their families and what efforts are being made to reunite them and who’s responsible for all of this, how did it get to such a degree of atrocity? Investigations into Betsy DeVos and other cabinet secretaries who have personal entanglements and conflicts of interests with the industries that their departments and agencies purportedly oversee. I think we’ll see, I hope we see investigations into ACA sabotage. Why did the Trumpa administration cut off funding for navigators? Why did they turn off healthcare.gov at periods when people would likely be going there to find health insurance? Why did they hold cost-sharing reduction payments hostage that are intended to help low income families afford their copays and deductibles? The list goes on and on and then of course this would not be a Chad Bolt guest appearance on Off Kilter if I did not say the House Ways and Means committee is uniquely empowered to seek and obtain the president’s tax returns.
VALLAS: As my sister would say, your string got caught there, Chad.
BOLT: Get those tax returns ready, honey!
VALLAS: But in all seriousness, this seems not to be something that we’re actually hearing from Democrats on that committee appetite in going after. What’s going on there?
BOLT: Yeah, it’s really too bad. So the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee is a Democrat from Massachusetts named Richie Neal. He has signaled that he prefers Donald Trump to volunteer his tax returns as opposed to using his existing authority as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee to get them. respectfully, I would say to the congressman that the president has had a number of years to volunteer his tax returns and he has not done so against decades of precedent. And that suggests to me that maybe more extraordinary measures are needed. This is not totally unprecedented authority, the House majority has used it as recently as 2014 and again, there’s just so much I think the American people deserve to know that we could learn through his tax returns and the tax returns of his over 500 business entities. And that’s one, how much did he personally benefit from the tax law that he and his Republican enablers in congress push through. There was a big, it should have been a bombshell in the Times, October 4th that revealed just the extraordinary lengths that Trump and his businesses went to to avoid paying the taxes they owe. So we could learn is that a sustained systemic practice by Trump and his business entities to go to extraordinary lengths to avoid paying taxes and has he paid the taxes he legally owes. But we could also find out, what are his foreign entanglements and those of his business entities across the world and do they present a conflict of interest, I think they likely do when he’s conducting foreign policy on behalf of the United States. These are all things that the American people deserve to know and now Democrats, Chairman Neal in particular have the authority to find out and I hope they do.
VALLAS: Well I hope so too and I hope that they’re just thinking really hard about how they want to do it and haven’t told us that they do yet.
BOLT: That’s right. Look this is the charitable version of this.
BOLT: If I come back on future episodes, we’ll see how charitable I remain.
VALLAS: You hear that folks on the Hill? This is Chad telling you there’s the easy way and there’s the hard way and you don’t want to find out what the hard way is. [LAUGHTER] Because Chad plays kickball. [LAUGHTER] And does trivia. Definitely a scary guy. So we are running out of time because ethe next thing that we need to talk about is of course, the government being in shutdown but in the last minute or so that we have just to set things up for this episode and introduce people to the 2019 congress, the 119th congress, Chad what are you most excited about that we haven’t talked about yet that are priorities that you’re hoping that the new Democratic house takes up?
BOLT: I really just, I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I know we’re going to be talking about PAYGO later to give everyone a sweet little preview. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the economy and Democrats and their policymaking around it. And so I really hope that we can just really drill home a contrast in who the Democratic Party works for and who the Republican Party works for. We got to see two years of who the Republican Party works for in the Trump administration alone. They gave a huge tax cut to the wealthy and corporations that did virtually nothing for everyone else. They deregulated some of the biggest banks in the country, putting us at greater risk of a financial crisis and they did it because they are interested in serving their wealthy donors and their wealthy friends and making them better off. You are going to see a contrast between that and what Democrats do in the house. I would expect them to do things like pass legislation that raises the minimum wage for example. Things that I think paid family leave is another issue that’s likely to move early in this congress. Things that actually make the lives of everyday Americans and especially working families better. I think it will be a useful contrast for Americans and voters to see as we move towards 2020.
VALLAS: And a little birdy has told me that we should be seeing things in the coming weeks that sound like minimum wage increase bills and maybe even things to do with jobs for particularly vulnerable folks who are at the edges of the labor market and other good stuff to come. So a lot more to dig into that I know I’ll be having you back to talk about Chad.
VALLAS: Because you have been [volunteered] for this role.
BOLT: I love it and by the way Rebecca, this is not something that is out of our control. If you want your Democratic member or your Republican member for that matter, but particularly your Democratic member of the house if you’re got one, if you want them going big, if you want them going bold, we’ve got a guide and I mentioned it earlier but I’ll reup it again. We’ve got a guide that tells you how to do that. So go to indivisible.org and download Indivisible on Offense.
VALLAS: Chad Bolt is the director of strategic plugs at indivisible.
VALLAS: Shameless and strategic plugs that I love and I appreciate and you can find all of that on our nerdy syllabus page of course so don’t go away, more Off Kilter after the break, we’ll be talking shutdown.
You’re listening to Off Kilter, I’m Rebecca Vallas and still joined by Chad Bolt. I feel like I should come up with a different title for you every time we do a new segment.
BOLT: I’m going to leave that to you.
VALLAS: Director of shameless plugs actually is what I came up with last time at Indivisible, still with me for this episode.
BOLT: Err, we already used that one.
VALLAS: I know. I don’t get to just keep it? I have to come up with a new one every segment, alright, OK, next segment.
BOLT: In your downtime.
VALLAS: I will have a new title for you by the next segment. But we are joined by Sam Berger, senior advisor at CAP and also part of the team managing the 2013 shutdown in the Obama administration and so with shutdown as the word of the hour, the day, the week, now almost the month we’re actually approaching that point, we’re heading into week three of that shutdown we thought we would bring Sam back on the show to help us break down what the heck is going on with this goat rodeo that we are all currently living. So Sam, thank you so much for coming back on the show.
SAM BERGER: Thanks so much for having me, I really appreciate it.
VALLAS: So Sam, before we get into what the shutdown means, how it’s impact people across this country and communities across this country and where things go from here, I want to look in the rearview mirror a little bit because it’s helpful I think as sort of a grounding to remember how this all got started, where this all came from. So how did we get here? Why are we in shutdown, Sam?
BERGER: So Democrats and Republicans had come together on a bipartisan agreement to keep funding the government. They’d struck the agreement, the Trump administration was on board and then unfortunately somebody let Trump watch TV that night and people said some mean things about him on Fox News and he thought the best way to handle this situation was to blow up the whole deal, shut down the government and harm millions of people.
VALLAS: And this is all back in December.
BERGER: This is all back in December. And it was interesting, a lot of times elected officials will try and pretend well it’s not me, it’s you. But in this case, Trump got all the TV cameras together to say just to be clear I’m the one who’s doing this, it’s me, Donald Trump shutting down the government, I’m totally responsible and I’m never going to blame anybody else.
VALLAS: I kind of want to come in with the exact quote.
BERGER: Oh, go for it.
VALLAS: Because it’s even more damning than what you just said with your paraphrase. He said to quote him at his meeting with Pelosi and Schumer in December, he said quote, “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.” I have to say as a recovering lawyer, it doesn’t get more thorough or complete than that as a statement about this being his shutdown.
BERGER: Although I do think we need to do a narrator’s voice: He did blame other people for the shutdown. [LAUGHTER] But that was very clear, and so this is the Trump shutdown, the Trump temper tantrum, that’s what’s going on, that’s why we’re here.
VALLAS: So now take us to present day. We’re at the point where we are, as we’re taping we’re on day I think 20 of the shutdown, 19 or 20.
BERGER: Yeah, I think we may be actually at 19 but you start to lose a little bit of track.
VALLAS: And it is Blursday for me most days. But we’re headed into week three of this shutdown. We’re on track for this shutdown to be the longest in history and what’s going on?
BERGER: Well basically Trump is continuing to refuse to take a deal. There are multiple deals on the table, each of which is a compromise. It’s very interesting, you hear this Republican line, Democrats need to compromise, Democrats need to compromise, they did compromise. That was the compromise deal that everybody agreed to and voted on and was going to go to the president until he threw his temper tantrums so the issue isn’t that Democrats aren’t going to compromise. The issue is A, no one knows what Trump wants, B, what he keeps asking for nobody wants! The American people don’t want it, it’s a wall that nobody wants, it’s a wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for, it’s a wall that’s really ineffective and is really a monument to racism and xenophobia and that’s what it is. So there’s no way in which Democrats are ever going to go along with this. They’ve been clear if the issue is border security they’ll have to have a conversation about things that would actually improve border security but that’s not what this conversation about in fact, there’s already money in the bill to do that. So I think what we’re really dealing with is basically Trump throwing a temper tantrum and a bunch of elected Republicans trying to decide whether or not they want to stand up to him on behalf of the country or not.
VALLAS: So what exactly happens when the government shuts down. It feels like it’s good to do a refresher since people remember from past shutdowns that say, federal worekrs are furloughed in many cases at this point hundreds, many hundreds of thousands of them and that’s gotten a lot of attention, people set to miss their first paycheck. But what exactly happens when the government shuts down and what are the consequences?
BERGER: So this is what we call a partial shutdown meaning that some parts of the government are funded and other parts aren’t. but basically when a shutdown occurs a whole bunch of activities cease. Pretty much anything that isn’t necessary to protect life and property, that isn’t otherwise funded or part of the present constitutional responsibilities stop and for workers they’re either furloughed meaning they’re sent home, or they have to show up for work but they aren’t paid. So you have 800,000 workers who aren’t getting paid right now either because they’re furloughed at home or because they’re being asked to be on the job and this includes everyone from the Secret Service that’s protecting the president and the First Family right now to law enforcement to folks at NOAH, folks all across, TSA people that are making sure that airport traffic controllers, everybody, tons and tons of people, 800,000 people. And so those folks are being asked to work or being asked to sit at home without getting any money.
VALLAS: So and Chad, you’re being bizarrely quiet over here, just like watching tennis over here.
BOLT: I’m just stewing, I’m just stewing.
VALLAS: Chad’s just really angry.
BOLT: Because Rebecca, you know what? You know what Mitch McConnell is doing about this? Instead of putting the house passed legislation on the senate floor for a vote which would very likely pass, he instead wants to pretend that it is business as usual in the senate. Foreign policy, let’s do it. Federal lands management, you got it. I got bills coming up? No! That is not what the senate should be doing. First and foremost we should be voting to reopen the government. Let’s get these federal workers back to work. Let’s get these government programs functioning again so that folks across the country aren’t hurt by the shutdown any more than they currently have been and so what you saw this week was Democrats deny the votes necessary on a procedural vote to move onto legislation related to middle east policy. We will probably get to that later but first and foremost let’s get the government reopen. And so Democrats are fairly unified in that position and we think it’s the exact right place for them to be. This is the right strategy, it’s not business as usual in the senate. Let’s get the government reopened and then Mitch McConnell can move onto other things. But what he shouldn’t do is pretend that this isn’t happening because it only enables Trump’s intransigence on this. And you’re starting to see a few cracks. There are Republican senators coming out particularly senators on the appropriations committee that took a lot of time to write these bills to fund the government and they’re starting to say look, we actually probably should vote on legislation that the house passed to get the government open and that’s what they should be saying.
BERGER: This actually raises an important question. I should have stressed this. Despite what some people might think, Mitch McConnell himself is not shut down or furloughed. So his complete absence from any of the discussions or negotiations not required by law, just required by Mitch. So that is a confusion that some people have had and I think it’s important to stress. It is incredible, Mitch McConnell says I don’t know what I can do, I just run the senate. You gotta talk to some of these other guys! And the fact that people aren’t’ focusing on this more I think is concerning. Mitch McConnell, we all know he doesn’t really stand for anything other than political power. So in that sense, it can be easy to move him. If you convince him it would be bad for the Republican senate for the shutdown to continue then he’ll stop it. Until then he’s just going to let it go because he doesn’t really care, doesn’t care about the people being harmed, doesn’t care about the programs that are shut down. His questions are just how long will Republicans maintain control of the senate and that’s why it’s so important for people to be putting pressure on, to be reaching out to their senators and trying to ask what’s going on, where are you on this? Why is it that everyone’s decided that Donald Trump throwing this temper tantrum gets to decide whether 800,000 workers get paid or not, gets to decide whether millions of small businesses get to access loans, whether farmers can access loans, whether new homeowners can access loans? Why does Donald Trump’s temper tantrum, why does Fox News and Ann Coulter get to make that decision? Where’s the senate on this? Where’s Mitch McConnell on this? It’s a question that people really need to be asking.
BOLT: And if folks have Republican senators, when they do make those calls and we do need you making those calls, they can remind their Republican senator that the senate unanimously passed legislation to open the government and sent it to the house at the end of the last congress. Now because of the way congress works, when a new one starts you have to go back and pass legislation out of the house and senate again. But the house has given the senate options. The house has passed a package of bills and one stand alone bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security for February, they are now just at the end of this past week they passed individual standalone bills in case the senate would tackle it that way. So the ball is in Mitch McConnell’s court, Trump is the cause of the shutdown but Mitch McConnell is complicit in prolonging it.
VALLAS: It’s sort of is like the thoughts and prayers strategy here. It’s oh, I don’t know what’s happening, no. He’s totally in a seat among the greatest power of all humans who could do something about this and needs to be hearing from people. So Sam you started to walk though some of the other consequences of this partial shutdown, the 800,000 federal workers that’s a huge piece of this. And the impacts of this are felt in communities across this country but there’s a ton else that’s really just been brought to a stand still or been halted in some way because of this shutdown. What are some of the impacts that are going to impact lower income folks or working class folks a little more?
BERGER: One of the things we need to talk about is contractors. The federal government, it’s enormous, it does a lot of contract work, people forming janitorial services, food services, things of that nature. Those folks aren’t getting paid now and they’re not going to ever get paid, they don’t get back pay when the shutdown ends. And that’s challenging. It’s challenging for the people doing the work, it’s challenging for the small business owners that run these companies trying to make payroll. It’s challenging for everybody. Obviously, as I mentioned before, there’s a huge number of loan programs, federally backed loans that go to farmers, new homeowners, small businesses, none of those can be accessed. There are knock down effects, for example, the parks are still open but obviously the parks are at significantly degraded capacity and in some cases are going to be closed because of damage being done to the parks themselves. That hurts small businesses, people around the area, people that work in the parks, not federal employees but others. There’s knockdown effects throughout the entire economy. The federal government does a lot of things for a lot of people. And so when you shut it down there’s a lot of things that stop. And the federal government, this is another thing that I think is important for people to understand. Federal government programs aren’t designed to shut down, to just stop on a dime. And so there isn’t really a safety net for a lot of folks and so unless it can continue because either it has funding or because it’s necessary for life and property, there are folks that are just left out in the cold. Another one is public housing agencies are seeing funding shortages, which can cause issues for many of the services that they provide. The list goes on and on and on.
VALLAS: And hearing you talk about how there is no real safety net at this point, it’s actually the safety net itself that is being halted to a stand still in some cases if this shutdown continues on much longer. You mentioned housing and that’s a piece of that but it’s also some of our key nutrition programs that are potentially at risk. You mentioned housing so I want to stay with that for a second. And one of the key program’s here that’s at risk if funding runs out which it’s on track to if the shutdown lasts all that much longer and heads into February and deep into February is public housing, it’s rental assistance and that could impact 2.2 million low income households potentially if that program runs out of funding. So tell us a little bit about what we know about some of the programs that might not be currently at risk because they have funding for the moment but are actually set to run dry if the shutdown runs on.
BERGER: There are programs that we’re going to see, USDA recently announced that they’re taking some steps in the nutrition programs to try and extend basically the deadline in which things get very problematic. So people will be able to get SNAP a little longer than anticipated which is good. They’re trying to do some stuff with WIC, this is a program that helps new mothers, school lunches I think will be OK for a while. But Trump says it’s going to go months and months, it can’t go months and months because pretty soon these people are going to run out of money. This step has taken it longer, I think many of these cases we’re looking more towards March where at first we were worried about February. But if it goes months and months these programs are going to break down and there’s going to be nothing there. And there are folks who depend on, millions of people who depend on these programs.
BOLT: And Sam tell me if I have this right but what we’re seeing at a number of different agencies is they’re trying to come up with these workarounds to make sure that the basic services they provide can be preserved to some degree at least. For example a couple weeks ago we were thinking man, this shutdown could really impact tax season, people aren’t going to get their tax refunds. And then the Trump administration comes out and says oh no, don’t worry. We’re still going to send out tax returns. Think about the IRS, there are tons of people who rely on the IRS for help filing their taxes and there’s going to be much longer wait times to get that assistance. There are volunteers that work in tax preparation services on a volunteer basis that call the IRS for help. Much longer wait times for them. Low income families rely on the tax return that they get in February or March. And so while they still may get it there could still be significant delays even though the Trump administration has come up with some kind of work around. What we could do is just avoid all of these work-arounds and just fund the government, put people back to work on behalf of the American people.
BERGER: I want to separate out those SNAP from what IRS is doing. What IRS is doing is actually illegal.
BOLT: Interesting. Tell us more, Sam.
VALLAS: Chad’s like, illegal? Hmmm.
BERGER: They’re not allowed to make these payments. IRS told them they’re not allowed to make these payments, they said that back in the Obama administration, they said that in the Trump administration. They said it in 2018, they said it in 2019. They said they couldn’t make them when it wasn’t filing season, when it was filing season. Why is that? Normally you can only make payments that are necessary to protect life or property, meaning the government’s property. In some cases you can still have these programs where there’s funding that’s there if you’re required to make payments. So basically the issue is you have funding to make the payment but you don’t have funding to make the people make the payment, someone’s gotta figure out who gets the payment, when they get and you lick the stamp and put it on the envelope even though they don’t do that, run the computer systems. But it’s only if you actually have to make the payment at a time certain, so the example being social security. There’s funding for social security and payments have to go out on the dates certain. It’s clear what day that is, the amount it is. It’s gotta go out. It’s not like that with tax refunds. There isn’t a time that tax refunds have to be sent out by at all.
Now at a certain point at the end of tax filing season, we start getting interest payments that accrue and one could make an argument that at that point, here we’re talking about late May that perhaps there’s a government property [INAUDIBLE], I think that’s still challenging. But no, there’s no reason these payments have to go out the door in February other than that there’s political pressure that the Trump administration is facing because they walked into a shutdown, they just said oh, we’ll shut down the government and then they looked around and said huh, seems like the government does a lot of things, why didn’t anyone tell us? And I can tell you that there are a bunch of career offices that said we were screaming at you about this. And you didn’t listen because you never listen and now here’s where we are. They’re desperately scrambling around trying to undo their own mistakes and sometimes they’re taking legal actions as with SNAP and sometimes they’re taking illegal actions as with IRS and sometimes they’re taking actions that are going to screw up the very thing that they’re doing which is like parks, they’re like OK everyone can come to the parks. Oops, we don’t have enough people to clear the human waste. Oops we don’t have the ability to keep people from driving off wherever they want, cutting down trees.
These are serious problems. That’s why in 2013 we shutdown the parks because they told us we can’t have the people to ensure the safety of the parks, the safety of the folks who come through. And so we said OK we’ll take the political hit because this is the right thing to do to protect the parks. Unfortunately the Trump administration has decided differently.
VALLAS: And I have to say there was this day where I feel like the media realized that our national parks were literally covered in human sh*t, and there was a flurry a stories all around. That was real, that is actually a thing that happened because as you said this administration is scrambling so much to even just get a handle on what the impacts of their actions and the president’s actions are here. I want to add a little bit of clarity some of what’s going on with the nutrition side and the housing side because I just want to be clear to all of our listeners, no cuts are technically in effect for people who are helped by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, food stamps or school lunch or WIC benefits or housing assistance. Those all are programs that are still current in force and benefits are still being paid. USDA actually took some action this week as you said, scrambling to try to put a bandaid on things and so what they did was to assure people that February benefits are going to be paid.
But if this shutdown continues to last quote months if not years, those are the president’s own words, what we could see as soon as March is families seeing a cut of actually close to half of their food stamp beenfits. These are the kinds of impacts that we’re going to see and we’re actually already starting to see some real scares in the housing context because a whole bunch of contracts, over 1,000 affordable housing contracts all expired in December and oops! That was because a whole bunch of HUD staff weren’t in place, they’d been furloughed under the shutdown and so now you’ve got 100,000 low income tenants at risk of being evicted and you’ve got the administration being like oops, maybe we should tell them not to evict people. These are the kinds of things that ar happening and it’s total and utter chaos.
Sam, in the last minute that we have with you, because there’s a lot more we could talk about here, people are probably all listening and going but where does it go from here? When does this end? And I what I want to do is put you on the spot in the way that Bill Murray did in “Ghostbusters” where he actually had a guest on his fictional TV show, and this was the sequel, this was “Ghostbusters Two”, to be clear, for anyone who’s like oh my God that wasn’t “Ghostbusters” one that was “Ghostbusters Two”. And in it he asks people to predict when the end of the world, right is going to happen. And they pick a date, they pick dates and one of the people actually picked Valentine’s Day from a couple of years. Sam, if I were to do what Bill Murray did and say when is the shutdown going to end, what would you say?
BERGER: The first thing I would say is a lot of this is depended on Trump. And remember, there are a lot of people at the White House whose job it is to figure out what Trump is going to do on a given day and they can’t do it so little bit unfair to ask me. But putting that aside, I think that this is probably something that’s going to end if not next week then the week after. And the reason for that is shutdowns, the harm and damage from shut downs is not linear, it’s exponential. It gets worse and worse and worse. So day 10 is not five days worse than day 5. Day 15 isn’t five days worse than day 10, things get worse and worse and worse. And I think you’re starting to see some Republicans in the senate realize that. I think ultimately what’s going to happen is you’re getting enough Republican senators to come to their senses, realize that causing damage to millions and millions of people because Trump doesn’t like his TV coverage is inexcusable and they’re going to quietly tell Mitch McConnell this needs to end and then suddenly Mitch McConnell’s going to pop up from his hole, a little “Groundhog Day” reference, we’re doing the, yes!
BOLT: Oh, but I haven’t seen it!
BERGER: That is happening.
VALLAS: Yeah, Chad has seen none of these movies but you already knew that listeners.
BERGER: Spoiler alert, Chad, Bill Murray is in that movie.
BOLT: I did know that.
VALLAS: He’s not the groundhog, just to be clear he doesn’t play the groundhog.
BERGER: Second spoiler alert there. But anyway Mitch McConnell will quietly tell the administration Trump this needs to end and then he’ll either declare an emergency and try to illegally build a wall and we’ll all be having a conversation about that, or he’ll make up some nonsense about how actually his trade deal is building a wall, a wall of better trade deals or whatever nonsense. You can never tell what this guy’s going to say. But that’s how I think it ends. It ends with Republicans in the senate realizing that they need to take a stand and that means that it ends with people around the country putting pressure on them and then seeing that pressure reflect in actions by their elected representatives.
BOLT: Putting pressure on your members of congress? Go to indivisible.org, we’ve got call scripts for Republican and Democratic senators. It’s important to say Republicans reopen the government this is getting real dumb. And to your Democrats say thank you for standing strong, what we don’t want is a compromise on the wall, what we do want you to do is to continue denying Trump his wall money because the house has already passed legislation to get the government reopened and what you should also keep doing is preventing the senate from proceeding to other business until we finally get this taken care of. So say thank you for your Democrats because most of them are on board with that strategy.
VALLAS: And Chad your string got caught there again and boy was I glad that it did so lots of good things for folks to be doing right now to raise their voices with members of congress to tell them this is absolutely unacceptable. And just to close out with words in case anyone possibly just listening to this conversation and is wondering but whose shutdown was it? It is Trump’s shutdown, quote, “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.” And we know what the narrator will say. Sam Berger is senior advisor at the Center for American Progress, he was part of the shutdown team in 2013 under Obama handling this kind of stuff very differently I recall.
BERGER: Legally, legally, we were handling it legally, that is a primary difference that I would –
BOLT: Kudos to you Sam!
BERGER: Yeah it was a novel approach but I think it bore the test of time there.
VALLAS: And we’ll have you back sometime soon but in the meantime we’re going to see how your predictions pan out.
VALLAS: Don’t go away, more Off Kilter after the break, Chad sticking around because we’re going to be talking a little bit about PAYGO.
You’re listening to Off Kilter, I’m Rebecca Vallas and Chad, you’re still with me, right?
BOLT: I haven’t worn out my welcome yet?
VALLAS: Are you still awake?
BOLT: Boy, I’m about to.
VALLAS: So I don’t have a new title for you, I’m sorry, because I think you’re still the director of shameless plugs after how you just closed out that last segment.
BOLT: Cruising on shameless plugs, go to indivisible.org.
VALLAS: Why would you possibly change your title if that’s what it’s going to be. So we are shifting gears a little bit here to talk about something else that is another one of the words of the day that folks are probably seeing everywhere. It’s not even quite a word, it’s more of a, can we call it a portmanteau? I guess it kind of is because it’s bringing words together but it’s also Washington garbage language that means nothing to normal people.
BOLT: So bad.
VALLAS: But is so important to understand because it is the topic of a very live, very hot debate going on in congress right now. And that word/portmanteau/something is PAYGO.
BOLT: I just might name my trivia team after it.
VALLAS: Are you going to call the trivia team PAYGO?
BOLT: I don’t know.
VALLAS: That’s so bleak.
BOLT: It needs some workshopping.
VALLAS: Yeah, let’s work on that, it needs a rest of it. like PAYGO blank.
VALLAS: Ok we’ll work on this. So but to help us understand PAYGO because to understand the debate that’s currently going on you have to get pretty wonky, you have to get pretty nerdy. We brought in one of the biggest nerds I know and that is Pat Garofalo who is the managing editor of TalkPoverty.org and has done tons of reporting on PAYGO and actually previous versions of it that were called different things over the years. Pat, thanks so much for coming back on the show to nerd out a little bit.
PAT GAROFALO: Hey, thanks for having me back.
VALLAS: So Pat, what is PAYGO?
GAROFALO: It is a silly name.
VALLAS: You looked at me like I was asking you an existential question there, just for the record.
GAROFALO: IT’s really deep, there is a lot of levels here. PAYGO is an onion. [LAUGHTER] PAYGO is a silly name for a budget rule essentially that’s been around in various versions since 1990. At the very top level it’s the idea that new programs, new government spending should always be offset by either spending cuts elsewhere or new tax increases to pay for them so that the deficit isn’t always getting bigger because you’re adding new programs on top of old programs.
VALLAS: Hence the term, it’s like pay-as-you-go, except you lost the “as you” so I wasn’t sure that I should call that a portmanteau but hey we’re going with it. so this is back in the news because there’s a hot debate going on in the house right now actually among democrats about whether this is a thing to put back in force. But before we talk about the politics, I’m going to make you give us the history on this and the history goes back many years actually to when it was a different term and a different concept and it’s been a lot of different things over the years. So bring us put to speed on the history this garbage DC that actually is really important to understand.
GAROFALO: So it came into being in 1990, the initial version and stuck around through the Clinton administration and part of the reason it was brought into being was because everyone started freaking out about the Reagan deficits and so H.W. Bush was in office and then the rules continued through the Clinton administration. Once there were surpluses at the end of the second Clinton term it was basically allowed to expire because oh now we have all this money to spend and people didn’t care so much about the deficit but Republicans have brought it back in various ways over the years, the most recent iteration of this was in 2010, President Obama actually signed into law a PAYGO rule that said new mandatory spending needed to be offset elsewhere. Republicans then morphed that into something when they took control of the House called CUT-GO, no we’re not paying for things, we’re only cutting things now. And they took tax increases off the table so their tweak to the rule was you would pay for new spending only by cutting old spending. Brings us to present day wherein house Democrats want to get rid of CUT-GO and bring back PAYGO, which puts tax increases back on the table.
VALLAS: So and Chad you look like you’re stewing again so I know you’re going to, is it now? Is it now?
BOLT: No, it’s ok, where Pat left us off actually, it’s an important change that Democrats made just to underscore this. Under the republican version of the rule, new spending had to be offset by cutting other spending. And so if we wanted to pay for something, for example, by raising taxes on the wealthy that did not satisfy Republicans’ CUT-GO rule. So that change up to the point of the story where Pat has brought us so far is OK. Alright, so I’m just going to –
VALLAS: So checking in with Chad, he’s doing OK over here.
GAROFALO: Chad’s cool.
VALLAS: Chad’s cool so far.
GAROFALO: Everyone’s cool.
VALLAS: But not for much longer. [LAUGHTER] Pat, why is Chad getting pissed off?
GAROFALO: So the debate over this rule comes down to a couple of different buckets. And the people who are upset about this rule are folks on the more progressive end of the Democratic caucus. And their main objections lie on two grounds. One practical and one more theoretical. The practical objection is that this is a rule that could prevent say Medicare for All program or a Green New Deal from being passed into law because you couldn’t deficit finance those programs. The reaction to that from people who are usually in favor of PAYGO is that well, if the thing is important enough then they would just wave the rule for that bill and to that argument’s credit PAYGO has been waived time and time and time again over the years. It hasn’t actually restrained anything. These rules were in effect when Republicans passed tax cuts they didn’t care. They just waived them.
VALLAS: Almost $2 trillion in tax cuts that have blown up the deficit that they’re now complaining about, interesting, so clearly, easily waivable.
GAROFALO: Exactly, this law has been on the books since 2010 and it did not stop the Republicans from passing that tax cut. So on the practical level, it doesn’t necessary mean a whole lot. But then critics say on a more theoretical level this says that Democrats are paying more attention to the deficit than is warranted by economic conditions. That they shouldn’t be worrying so much about the deficit given the economic conditions of the current day and that by talking up this rule they are focusing on the wrong thing and paying attention to a problem that doesn’t really exist.
VALLAS: So do you think that that carries water as an argument against it? We’re watching this intra-party debate play out between basically democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi and others and the congressional progressive caucus and we’ve got leadership saying let’s restore PAYGO, which as Chad noted is different from CUT-GO and that it’s really important to understand those differences. We’ve got the CPC being like yo, why are we obsessing in the ways that you’re describing? What do you know from the economic nerd perspective about which side has facts on their side or is it somewhere in between?
GAROFALO: I think it’s not so much facts as your worldview and how you talk about things. But there is certainly something to the argument that by talking about PAYGO you make it sound like deficit spending is always bad. And that’s not definitely not true. There are plenty of moments when deficit spending is really important and really key and is needed to fill gaps in the economy that the private sector can’t fill. And so the argument is that by talking about PAYGO in the way that it’s talked about and saying that every new thing needs to be offset by an old thing you’re at least rhetorically saying that we can’t do big things.
VALLAS: Now what are the, in terms of the arguments for it, do you, we’re hearing from leadership that this is something that they want to put back in place but dig a little bit in more on is there a case for it and should we actually be saying yeah, actually they have a strong argument here?
GAROFALO: The case for it is that debt is not a non-problem. Eventually someday you do need to get debt down to a sustainable level. And the other argument the proponents of PAYGO make is that it makes you think a little harder so that when you go into a bill, if you have to find tax increases to pay for it or root out spending programs that aren’t working it makes you do the work of governing in a way that just saying eh, we’ll slap it all on the deficit doesn’t.
VALLAS: And I think some people make the argument that’s an expansion of that last piece that you just said, it actually makes proposals seem more serious and also gives them more in the way of potential legs to actually become policy so that everything isn’t just one big message bill. But it’s actual serious policy proposals that happen in a way that actually could be enacted if they were passed. Is that something that holds water to you as well?
GAROFALO: There’s certainly something to that. Both proponents and critics of PAYGO will point to the Obamacare debate. Proponents will say look we paid for Obamacare because we had to and we put these tax increases in place and we found a way to make it work and got to a bill that everyone in the caucus supported. Critics will then turn around and say yeah well what could we have done with that bill if we didn’t twist ourselves into knots to pay for every last cent.
VALLAS: Chad how you doing?
BOLT: So surprise –
VALLAS: Checking in on you again.
BOLT: I’m going to jump in here for a second and I’m going to make a progressive case for PAYGO and I’m going to get a ton of Twitter tomatoes thrown at me and then I’m going to circle back to what I really think is the bottom line here. Ok, so –
VALLAS: I love that you just laid out your agenda like it was a power point slide. You were like in my time today I’m going to be doing these three things. Chad, you’re so organized always.
BOLT: Alright, so in my view the progressive case for, and literally this came up at brunch last weekend. So I’ve talked about this with some friends.
VALLAS: That’s what you were talking about at brunch?
BOLT: I know, I’m –
GAROFALO: This is Washington.
BOLT: I’m naming my trivia team after PAYGO.
VALLAS: That remains to be seen because you weren’t able to come up with a second half of it yet.
BOLT: NO it’s PAY-GO fork yourself.
VALLAS: Oh! OK, now I’m there, now I’m there.
BOLT: So the progressive case I think for it is that it’s to say look this is the government we want to have. This is the kinds of things that we think government should do, where it should intervene, the quality of life we think it should ensure and it’s so important to us to make sure that we do that that we’re going to pay for it in the following ways. Remember that raising taxes on the wealthy accomplishes two objectives. One, is that it uses the tax code as an instrument of social justice, which is how we should always use the tax code but that’s not how it’s currently being used. Because it make the economy fairer and it means that the wealthy are contributing more to the kind of government we want to have. But then the second part of that just as important is that it actually pays for stuff. So I think you get a little further with that argument with a PAYGO rule in place than without it. now but where I think the bottom line, I think there’s some merit to that case. But in my view the bottom line is the rule is so easily waived and statutory PAYGO that we didn’t discuss the details of is so easily avoided as well that these debates at the end of the day are seriously abstract and what they really project is what your point of view is about deficits. And so one I think the progressive case against it from an economic standpoint is that it misunderstands economics. That there’s actually positive effects from the economy from government spending. And we certainly shouldn’t put something in place that is a barrier to doing that. But I think more to the point is Democrats are back in control of the house for the first time since 2010 and this is true for the Democratic Party on the economy broadly and certainly applies more broadly than just house Democrats but we don’t have to play out of the Republican economic playbook anymore and we shouldn’t. we’ve done it for far too long.
VALLAS: I would argue we never had to and never should have but hey.
BOLT: Absolutely not.
VALLAS: I’ll tinker at the edges of your very good points, please continue.
BOLT: We’ve always, we’ve been playing away games on the economy for seasons and seasons and seasons.
VALLAS: Was wondering how far that was going to go.
BOLT: Since the beginning of the franchise. I don’t even watch sports-ball so I’m going to leave it there. But I’m ready to reclaim home field advantage, it’s like let’s start talking about the economy with our own terms. We don’t need to seed Republicans point that deficits are always bad and should be avoided at all costs. We don’t need to use their messaging anymore and it was too bad to see yes, we’re it’s the 116th congress, Democrats are back and by the way we think Republicans got it right on this issue so we’re going to put it in our rules. That was too bad. But I think the important thing to remember here is the real fight is going to come when we are the precipice of passing something in the house like single payer or a Green New Deal, something of that magnitude that would violate the PAYGO rule because we will have another bite at this apple, it’s in the house rules, but we will have another opportunity to have this fight and at that moment if there are any democrats saying yeah I’m all for the Green New Deal the problem is we’ve got this pesky rule and it’s called PAYGO, that is the moment where we pick up the phone, call that member of congress if indeed that member of congress is yours and say you’re out of your mind.
VALLAS: Or they just name their trivia team.
VALLAS: Which is kind of a bold move to say to a member of congress but it would be quoting a trivia name so.
VALLAS: Oh now it’s a hashtag too, oh there’s so much happening on this show this week, we’re making so much news. So and I want to echo one piece in particular of what you just said Chad which is that at its heart this is really about deficits, this is really about how do policymakers, how do elected officials talk and think and strategize around deficits and what are the consequences of the choices that we make in terms of the rules that we apply to ourselves, the procedures and protocols that we put in place governing policy making, it fundamentally comes down to do we see deficit spending as a scary terrible horrible thing that oh my God the sky is falling in the ways that we often hear Republicans talk about spending a dollar that’s not going to contribute to a rich person’s second yacht. Or do we actually think that deficit spending sometimes is warranted and can have good outcomes that are not just good policy outcomes that are good economic outcomes and can have good reasons for it in ways that we maybe shouldn’t be making this into the boogieman that this kind of a policy can reinforce. So Pat in the last minute or so that we have, where do things go from here? What should people be watching for in the coming days and weeks as this debate continues?
GAROFALO: So PAYGO is a rule in the house. It’s in and it’s there. The progressive caucus did introduce a bill to repeal the 2010 statutory PAYGO law that chad referred to which was signed into law by Obama but I think it’s really going to be on when a big Democratic priority comes down the pike and people start asking well how are we going to pay for it? Are we going to pay for it? Where is this money going to come from? That’s when this will really come to a head.
VALLAS: So a lot to watch that maybe is not around whether the rule gets adopted because it is in force but around what happens. Does it get waived? How does it get discussed and what does it mean in terms of how it shapes these debates. And I suspect that not just Indivisible’s opposition but also the progressive caucus’s is not going to go away anytime soon as well. Pat, thanks for coming and helping tell us the story of the word that became Chad’s new trivia name which is what I’d like to say really excellent sophisiticated Washington multitasking.
BOLT: We’ll see if it’s got a critical mass among team mates.
VALLAS: Yeah I know some people who are going to vote this one down. But hey, does it also mean, maybe if this is for trivia it means it changes who has to pay for drinks? [LAUGHTER] Can we think about this in a multilayered way?
BOLT: I don’t know I was just excited that I brought The Good Place into this because I hear people like The Good Place, I don’t watch it of course but I know that —
VALLAS: Will is losing it over here, I don’t even know.
BOLT: I have heard that my husband watch it and from the kitchen I’ve heard Kristen Bell say “go fork yourself” so these are the kinds of pop culture references that you can rely on me for.
VALLAS: And that make you feel better for not having seen Seinfeld or “Ghostbusters” or many other really important things. And threw him under the bus there are the end, Pat thanks so much for coming back on the show, Pat Garofalo is the managing editor of TalkPoverty.org, read lots of his great stuff that he’s written and edited over there and Chad thank you for joining me for this whole entire episode. You are the best.
BOLT: Look it was my pleasure I think.
VALLAS: And we’re just going to leave it there. And tune in next week when you’ll get to learn whether Chad won at trivia.
VALLAS: And that does it for this week’s episode of Off Kilter, powered by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. I’m your host, Rebecca Vallas, the show is produced each week by Will Urquhart. Find us on Facebook and Twitter @offkiltershow and you can find us on the airwaves on the Progressive Voices Network and the WeAct Radio Network or anytime as a podcast on iTunes. See you next week.