Lever Time - This One Election Could End Democracy (also, Susan Sarandon On Being Liberals' Scapegoat)
12:08AM Aug 3, 2022
Hey there, and welcome to lever time the show where we save American democracy through the power of podcasting. I'm your host, David Sirota on today's show. We're gonna be talking about the Democrats surprise climate bill, which was announced last week. Its strengths, its weaknesses, and why is it being celebrated by the CEO of Exxon, we're gonna go into that, then I'll be sitting down with Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for governor of Pennsylvania. Now, the Pennsylvania governorship is particularly important because it appoints that state's Secretary of State, and therefore can throw an entire national presidential election to the Republicans, and Josh's opponent is a stop the steal lunatic, really a fascist, who will almost definitely try to hijack the presidential election for Republicans in 2024. If he wins, finally, we'll be sharing my interview with the one and only Susan Sarandon. In the last few years, Susan has become liberals favorite scapegoat to blame for the glaring failures of the Democratic Party. We talked to her about what she thinks that means. This week, our paid subscribers will also get to hear the speech I made this past weekend at the Tomorrowland festival in Belgium, where I spoke about the things keeping me hopeful in the face of the ongoing climate crisis, and feelings that the climate crisis is not being dealt with in a serious way. That's our bonus segment for our paying subscribers a reminder for our free listeners to head over to lever news.com To become a paying subscriber giving you access to our premium podcast feed. And you'll be directly supporting the investigative journalism that we do here at the lever. Speaking of which, if you like this podcast and our reporting, please, please, please tell your friends and family about the lever as we're trying to build an independent alternative to corporate media, which dominates so much of the political discourse. As always, I'm joined by my pal producer Frank, what's
up Frank, little sleepy today, David, although I think that's kind of across the board here at the lever. I was talking to Julia, she's sleepy. I know that you're sleepy from all your traveling. So maybe we're just at a sleepy low point right now. I know that's probably not the best podcasting energy. But if anything, were honest here at the library, you know,
yes, I'm a little bit jet lagged. I certainly am a little bit jet lagged. But the Tomorrowland conference was really amazing and and worth the trip. While I was over there, there was that surprise deal between Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer, this so called climate bill, which was announced by the Democrats last week, the deal cut again between Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer, a real surprise to everyone when it was announced in the sense that folks thought the negotiations were were done. Manchin has successfully now cut the ones $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill into something approaching about $700 billion. So it's hard to celebrate this as some sort of great victory mansion has basically cut the thing into a fifth, it's not even half a loaf, it's a fifth of a loaf. But there's certainly some good things in it, we're gonna go just break down real quick here, what the good and bad, bad and the ugly is in this bill, the goods the good stuff, almost $400 billion in new climate and energy investments, which, if passed, would become the most climate spending in US history. Although the Democrats keep saying that. And that's an unbelievably low bar because there hasn't been much climate spending in US history. So it's really kind of a bar. That's that's impossible not to clear. Other not awful things in the bill include it giving Medicare the power to negotiate some prescription drug prices, let me underscore some, it offers some new subsidies for the affordable care act to prevent a premium hike for next year. That's good. And that, in the short term will help some people. Other good things though, the bill provides the IRS $80 billion in additional funding to actually enforce the tax code. This is actually really good. And probably one of the best things in the bill is that it includes a 15% minimum corporate tax for companies that make over a billion dollars in yearly revenue. The idea being companies are going out making lots of money then using all sorts of tax breaks tax subsidies tax credits to drive their tax bills to near zero, and this provision would effectively prevent that for the largest company. So that's actually really, really good. So again, you can't deny that that those are good things. Now for the bad stuff, the Medicare price negotiations largely delayed until 2026. And had been limited to only about 10 or 20 drugs and it does not currently include insulin. So that's a complete fucking insult. The ACA subsidies, as I said, just another giveaway to the private health insurance industry fortifies their power. The additional IRS funding does not include language requiring that they increase their audits of the super wealthy. As of now, poor Americans are about five times more likely to be audited than the super rich. And then there was this whole thing where the Democrats are running out saying they closed the so called Private Equity tax loophole. And that's just a complete lie. It mildly limits the this special tax break for Wall Street billionaires, it limits it very, very slightly. But to say that it closes it. That's just a complete lie,
I actually read someone theorizing that they only put this provision in to give Kyrsten cinemas something to strike down so she could present herself as like actually doing something
right total total theater, I completely believe that. Now the ugly, we've gone through the good, the bad now now the ugly. Worst of all, this bill has a truly diabolical and evil provision in it that gives the fossil fuel industry access to millions and millions of acres of federal lands for new drilling, and holds wind and solar investment hostage until those lease sales are conducted. Let me give you an idea of how bad this is. The bill was loud added by the CEO of Exxon Mobil. Now, let's be clear, when the CEO of Exxon Mobil is celebrating your climate legislation, that just can't be a very good sign. So that's really ugly. One other piece of bad news. While that $396 billion in new climate spending would certainly be the biggest climate investment in US history. Let's be clear, that's $396 billion over 10 years. And I want to compare that to something so you understand how small that is. The US defense budget will cost about $8 trillion over that same time. Or to put it in a year by year framework, we're going to be spending about $40 billion a year to combat a climate crisis that threatens all life on Earth. And we're going to be spending about $800 billion a year on the Pentagon. So that gives you a sense of just how small this investment actually is. I mean, the investments are important, but they're tiny,
not even to mention the fact that the US military is the biggest polluter on the planet. So kind of kind of offsetting your cost there a little bit, I would say
absolutely a complete double whammy here. And again, I've said this before, I'll say it again, I think on the whole the bill is expected to reduce somewhat US emissions. And that's a good thing. So on the whole, the bill is probably a marginally good step forward. But the bill is also total proof that lawmakers are absolutely not taking the climate crisis seriously, in any real kind of way. Now, to be clear, we bring all this up not to just shit on the bill. As I said, some of the stuff is good. Some of the stuff is needed. But it's a reminder that American politicians seem unable to make binary choices. They don't want to make binary choices, either or choices. They infantilize us to believe that we never have to make those choices, we can have billionaires, and we can have shared prosperity, we can have legalized bribery. And they tell us we can also have democracy. Somehow we can deal with the climate crisis and have the CEO of Exxon celebrating, and that fundamental choice avoidance is horseshit. That's a lie. That is just not true. And this bill is predicated on that bullshit, that bullshit that says we never in America ever have to make binary choices. And you might be thinking, Well, why is that the paradigm in America? It's because that's a way that politicians can insist to voters that they're solving problems, but then also never actually offend the corporate donors that are creating those problems. Hey, we don't have to choose corporate donors can make lots of money. We can solve problems everyone's happy. Problem is, especially when it comes to the climate crisis. This is physics. Everyone is not going to be happy. You Exxon Mobil is happy, it's a good bet that the earth will be burning, because Exxon Mobil doesn't really invest in renewable energy. Exxon Mobil is kind of purely a fossil fuel company. So if Exxon Mobil is happy, that is a big warning sign, a huge warning sign. And that gets to our first interview of the day, I'm going to be speaking with the New York Times climate reporter, David Wallace wells. He's the author of a terrifying book called The uninhabitable Earth. I read him regularly. He is terrific. I encourage you, if you read one newsletter at the New York Times, read David Wallace wells as newsletter, The New York Times typically what I call a consent manufacturing machine. But David Wallace wells actually doesn't do that he actually tells the truth when it comes to climate. He's written some of the most compelling stories on climate. I spoke with him about the new bill. And whether or not the Democrats strategy of corporate appeasement and a so called all of the above energy policy will ultimately actually deal with the climate crisis. Hey, David, how you doing? I'm alright, how are you doing? I'm good trying to survive the climate crisis. I sometimes wonder how you survived the climate crisis, at least psychologically considering you cover it all the time? How are you feeling right now about the world on fire and covering it every day? How do you make sure it doesn't depress you and make you want to quit your job and run away to a cave somewhere?
I mean, there's a bunch of different ways to answer that question. I would like a first order level, I sort of feel like the, the best thing to say the best response to offer is, you know, the climate crisis doesn't really feel doesn't care about how I feel about it. So whether I'm feeling optimistic or dejected, or Despairing or angry, is somewhat immaterial to the actual story that's unfolding. And I tried to do my best to focus on that actual story and not worry too too much about how it's affecting me emotionally are affecting other people emotionally. But you know, I'm a human. So I do think about that stuff sometimes. And where I am, is coming down from a baseline of really, really intense alarm from a few years ago, thinking that the future is looking a little bit softer and more manageable than I thought it was a few years ago, without being anywhere near the comfortable future that we would have hoped for, if we're, you know, fighting for this for, you know, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. And that means that I'm relatively speaking more optimistic than I was not that long ago. But I'm working from a set of facts that I think would still alarm almost everybody.
Right? I mean, your book was called the uninhabitable Earth. I mean, that's, that's basically the most depressing and scary possible idea that I can really come up with. I mean, that really, truly is if the Earth is uninhabitable. That is essentially saying there is no future. Now I saw this week, I think it was just a couple days ago, there was an op ed by, among them climate scientist, Michael Mann, which said, actually, the science that we're learning now suggests that we're not necessarily locking in warming forever, that if we actually take steps that are necessary that scientists are telling us to take on climate to reduce emissions, we may be actually able to stop warming in the sense of it might not be as permanent as we think. What do you make of that revelation? Is it a revelation is that a new set of facts that we've learned? And should that make us more optimistic,
is sort of an evolving consensus, I would say the scientists and brand new but it's new ish, and more and more people have sort of signed on to it as a best understanding of the dynamics.
I didn't know if I if I was, I was wrong to feel excited when I read this, this op ed a few days ago, not excited, but like, I actually felt like wow, this is actually really, really good news. But I was wondering a little bit not that, that Michael Mann is like lying or anything, but I was wondering is like, is this? Is this too nice a way of putting it right. Where do you come down?
Basic idea is that if we get to zero emissions, then warming stops. That is the promise of this perspective on climate science. I think it's fair to call that a now a conventional view of the big systems at play in, you know, climate dynamics. That's not to say that there are no uncertainties around that finding. It's not to say that we know for sure that that is precisely what will happen. But scientists used to say a decade two decades ago, they used to say there's a lot of warming in the pipeline. And when we get to zero we still have some ways to go before warming flattens out. And our best understanding seems to be that that's probably not true that if we really got to zero, we could count on warming, slow, like slowing to zero and temperature stabilizing quite quickly. Now, the caveat there is, we're not anywhere near zero. And we actually don't really have a pathway to zero. Even though many corporations, many countries will draw these lines on their emissions graphs that allow them to get to net zero, there's a good chunk of global emissions today that we simply don't yet know how to decarbonize. And so it's a little bit cart before the horse to be talking about what exactly the climate dynamics are going to be when we do get there, I think we will get there. But I think we're probably going to get there sometimes towards the end of the century, not towards the middle of the century. And that means that we're going to be at temperature levels that are well above what scientists have told us were comfortable, stable, safe levels, and well into the zone that they've called Dangerous, catastrophic, in which amount to a fairly fundamental reordering of the climate system on which we've built all of human civilization. So I don't want to say that, you know, everything about that civilization is on unstable are up for grabs. But, you know, the planet is now warmer than it's ever been in all of human history. And we are already today running an experiment about how much of the institution's human and otherwise human and material that we have today can survive these new conditions, we're almost certainly going to be dealing with something or twice as much warming as we have now. And so that experiment is going to get much more intense in the decades ahead. And I don't think anybody can really credibly say that they can should be confident about exactly what the results of that experiment is going to be. That said, you know, if we're talking about getting to net zero in 2070, or 2080, that means that we're likely going to have warming of about, say, two and a half degrees Celsius, probably not four and a half degrees Celsius, which is something that we were worrying about a few years ago. And that is real progress. But like I said a minute ago, it does also land us well above the threshold of dangerous warming, catastrophic warming. And it's hard to hold us to ideas in your heads at once, especially when you're trying to reduce things to like, how do I feel about this kind of narrative, but they're both true, we've lost the opportunity for safe for, you know, for a safe future. And we are probably doing well enough that we are also going to avoid the most apocalyptic features.
Okay. And you and that's a good segue to the new bill moving through Congress right now. The bill, the deal that was cut between Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin, I should say Coal Baron Joe Manchin, fossil fuel magnate Joe Manchin, top recipient of oil and gas cash, Joe Manchin, and you talked about how difficult it is to hold two ideas in your head that seemed to contradict each other. And I'm having that problem right now, as I look at this bill, in this sense, this bill is being touted as the most historic piece of climate legislation that Congress could pass if it does pass, and that's a big F. Meanwhile, Exxon Mobil CEO, and parts of the oil and gas industry seem to be celebrating this bill. So I'm having trouble understanding how there's a celebration among some not all, but some in the climate movement about this bill, but also celebrations from Exxon Mobil, and the oil industry, trade associations. What do you make of that? What do you make of this bill? Why are both sides celebrating? It's that seems a little bit.
Yeah, I think you're exactly the right nail on the head. This is exactly the problem with this bill, which I think is a much larger investment in clean energy tech. And also some other areas that climate activists are a little squishier about, you know, carbon removal and nuclear that sort of thing than we've seen ever in American history. But of course, that's an extremely low bar, because we've basically never seen meaningful climate legislation ever before. And we shouldn't be judging action today, just by the standards of the past, which has been a abject failure, but also by the standards of what we deem necessary today and what the future sort of requires of us. And by that sort of standards, this bill, even just looking at what it's doing for clean energy, fall short, we're not spending nearly as much as we need to, to really bring about a true green transition. Even the optimistic accounts say that we're this is going to land us well, short of Joe Biden's climate pledges. Well, short of the America of the US promises under the Paris agreement. And those promises are themselves inadequate given that the US is the world's largest historical emitter, carbon hangs in the air for centuries, if not 1000s of years, if not millennia, which means that all the carbon that the US has ever produced is still up there eating the planet today, which means that we are still doing more damage as a country than any other country in the world, to the future of the planet. That's as a result of the carbon we've produced to this point. it. And no matter almost no matter what happens this century, we're still going to be in that first place because China's not going to surpass the US in terms of historical emissions, which means we should be moving faster than anybody else by any moral calculus. And yet we are lagging behind just about all of the other rich countries in the world in our decarbonisation plans. And this bill, you know, moves us forward in terms of clean energy, but it doesn't allow us to catch any of those countries or the promises that we've made in the past under international agreements, or in the case of Joe Biden on the campaign trail. So it's a sort of like, we've saved ourselves from being an absolute do nothing laughingstock, we are going to be making some progress with clean energy. But it's well short of where we should be. That's just on the like, additive positive side of the ledger, like what are we doing to make our capacity to produce green energy better, and more, be our make it possible for us to do more of it. We're not doing that nearly enough. But there is significant progress in this bill. The problem is global warming doesn't care about clean energy, it only cares about dirty energy. And unless we are actively displacing this dirty sources of energy that we're using today. And all the other things that we use fossil fuels for, we can quadruple, we could quintuple, we can multiply by 50, or 1000, the renewable capacity that we have, if we keep our dependence on fossil fuels stable, we're still going to be doing as much damage as we are today. And the problem with this bill is that there's not nearly enough in it to limit that future use of fossil fuels and make sure that the expansion of renewables that will be produced will be, you know, will be replacing dirty energy as opposed to just being added to it. And the most conspicuous, notorious problematic piece of that is this provision that requires the annual leasing of oil and gas rights off the coast of the US in like you have, we have to be leasing those annually in order to also lease wind rights,
right. I mean, I'm going to stop you there and just say this is I just want to underscore this, this is one of the most, in my view, evil and deliberately evil provisions I frankly ever seen written into legislation. I used to work on Capitol Hill, I worked on Capitol Hill when Republicans controlled Congress. And it's not that they didn't do evil things. But I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that the way this was written to tie clean energy development, to the expansion of fossil fuel, leasing, the opportunity for drilling, the way it's basically saying, if you want to expand clean energy, you must expand dirty energy. To me that's like a new level of like, Dr. Evil, evil. I mean, if you can imagine the lobbyists writing this and thinking, There's no way we're going to be able to get this in there. It's just so kind of diabolical. I would ask you on the details of it, there's a question of well, you can expand leases, right? I mean, I would ask you to explain this provision, specifically, but then address the question, you know, you can expand the leases for oil and gas drilling, but it doesn't necessarily mean they will be drilled. I would love you to, to hear a little bit more about that, too.
Yeah, that's the bet that those who are biting their tongues and taking this deal are making that the provision that there will be annual leases does not necessarily mean first of all, that those rights will be actually sold. And second of all, even if they are sold, that they will be the infrastructure, the necessary infrastructure will be built by the oil and gas industries to produce that to produce that fossil fuel.
Right? So why don't you tell us first and foremost cart before the horse here what exactly the provision does.
So it basically means that it's every year that the US government wants to sell new rights to build wind power offshore, they also have to lease oil and gas rights in the Gulf of Mexico. And that means that we, you know, there needs to there's a particular don't actually remember the numbers off the top of my head, but there's a certain amount of acreage in the in the ocean that needs to be put up for sale every year that would allow for future oil and gas exploration and production in exchange for the right to produce any additional wind power. And that's, you know, there is like a, there's a minimum that we have to do for the dirty energy side, and there's no minimum that we have to do for the wind side. So there's also a sort of an imbalance there. But it's, you know, it's a complicated question, to think through exactly how this will play out. Because the oil and gas business is doing much less investment in infrastructure now, in part because they are seeing the green transition future coming and they're choosing instead to just accumulate profit at record levels. This year and last Hear, and maybe next year as well, rather than turning that money into long term investment, which is what they used to do. Now, it may be the case that changing policy landscape, especially emerging sort of in the, in the aftermath of the Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and in the aftermath of this bill, they may start to change their thinking about some of that and be much more aggressive about investing in longer term projects. But the moment I would say, I would say my own personal bet is that while this provision is ugly, for all the reasons that you outline, I think it'll be a little bit less consequential than it appears on paper. No, I don't want to be taking that that I don't want to be taking that risk. It'll be a much healthier, stronger, more responsible bill, if it didn't involve this provision. But I also don't think that we can assume that it means that for 20 years, you know, from now, they're going to be massive new oil and gas structures being built in the Gulf of Mexico. I somewhat doubt that that's the case. But it's possible enough that it's a worry, yeah,
I come down where you are. I'm basically with you that I think if this was the price of Joe mansions vote, it's an ugly price. It's it's complete. It's it's bakes in some level of climate denial to create such a diabolical provision inside the law. But I, but But I also think that they need to do something and most estimates that I've seen say that this bill overall will somewhat reduce overall emissions somewhere between I think I've seen estimates of 18%, all the way down to all the way up to 40% emissions reductions. So I think overall, it is fair to say what we can estimate at the bill is that it will, it is a positive step. I also agree with you that we're not nearly spending nearly enough. I mean, the lever put out a a Twitter graph graphic showing that, you know, the Pentagon spends $800 billion a year that's regular non war spending. And this bill invests $37 billion dollars in fighting climate climate. So that's not you know, that that imbalance is is absurd,
which is actually like less than Gavin Newsom's climate budget.
That's incredible. It's less than one state's climate budget. I mean, it's Can I
pause you on a couple of things you just said just so yeah, when you say diabolical, just to be really clear about how diabolical This is the IEA, the International Energy Agency, which historically has been essentially the research arm of the oil and gas business, although they've become much more green friendly over the last few years. And they still have that legacy built into their institutions, they say that in order to have a decent chance of meeting the targets, temperature targets set by the Paris Agreement, keeping warming close to 1.5, or under 1.5 degrees Celsius, means that no new oil and gas infrastructure can ever be built ever again, from this day forward. This bill mandates the selling of the right to build new oil and gas infrastructure. Now again, as I said, I think there are reasons to be skeptical, a lot of it will be built. But it is completely inconsistent with the research findings and advice and guidance of the International Energy Agency and the IPCC the UN's climate change body, which says the same thing, no new oil and gas infrastructure can ever be built if we want to hit our temperature targets.
Right. So this is like straight out of don't look up, I mean, straight out of the concept of don't look up, the scientists are saying, do not do this. And the bill is not just allowing it to happen is mandating the conditions for it to happen. I mean, that's how diabolical it is. It's kind of mind blowing. But I want to ask you, on that point, when you said, you know, the bet from from good faith climate activist is that the leases won't necessarily be used, because of renewable energy will be price competitive, we're able to actually out compete fossil fuels in the future and the like, I agree with and believe that that is a good faith estimate. But I keep going back to Exxon Mobil is not stupid, right? They're not the CEO of Exxon Mobil is not dumb. So if he's happy, what has he seen?
Well, I mean, one way of looking at it is that, you know, reduced supply this year and last year has actually led to record setting profits. And there's a way in which a world in which fossil supply is restricted by clean energy policies and cultural changes having to do with the green transition, don't actually destroy the business model of oil and gas business because there remains enough demand out there for them to continue producing and profiting off of what they have without even the expectation that they need to be investing in making long term investments. So there can be a 10 or 20, or maybe even 30 or 40 year period in which the industry is in a sort of structural decline. And yet there are still immense profits to be had which if you're are like a CEO of one of those companies is actually a quite appealing place to be, you know, you're not talking about going out of business in five years, you're talking about a period of decades in which it could be accumulating record profits. Without even the sort of obligation to build a real future for your company in the second half of the century.
I want to turn to a question about other sources of energy. You've done some really great reporting on air pollution and air pollution linked to fossil fuels. Air pollution, as your report has killed an estimated 10 million people each year. And that's just at the those are just deaths. There's all sorts of other problems, the air pollution creates my question when I read your reporting on air pollution, and I'd like you to tell us a little more about why fossil fuel related air pollution what other effects it has? But my question always comes back to, are we properly factoring that into a discussion, for instance, of nuclear energy, nuclear energy, I bring that up because people are afraid, rightly so of some of the risks of nuclear energy. And I feel like the discussion about nuclear energy's risks, in terms of meltdowns in the like, are exist kind of in a vacuum, not compared to fossil fuel. energy sources, not just the fossil fuel energy sources effect on climate change, but their effect on pollution. So I guess what I'm trying to ask is, why isn't fossil fuel energies air pollution side ever factored in as a risk factor when discussing discussing sources of energy like nuclear energy? Well, I
think the short answer is that we tend to conceptualize the status quo as costless no matter how bad it is. And so we think of change as representing costs, but not opportunities. And we think of the present as having no costs, even though the burdens of continuing the systems in which we live today may be enormous. And in this case, they really are unbelievably large. So you mentioned the figure 10 million deaths a year from air pollution, that's sort of drawn from some of the high end estimates, but even the low end estimates are still in the millions. So we're not talking about a global impact that is marginal. I mean, we're talking about annual deaths from air pollution, you know, on the order of how many people have died of COVID each of the last two years, if you take seriously the 10 million a year number, that's the Holocaust, every single year. Now there are important moral distinctions between the scourge of air pollution. And as you know, in the Holocaust, it's not the killing is not directed, it's not purposeful in the same way. But in terms of just the sheer number, that is the number, those are the numbers that we're dealing with millet in the US, which has clean air 350,000 people a year are dying from air pollution. And you know, in Delhi, the average resident of Delhi loses 10 years of life expectancy, which means this is a city of 20 million people, every single one of those people can expect to live 10 years shorter than they would if there were no air pollution in that city. And as you mentioned, the impacts go far beyond death. I mean, it's really affects every aspect of human wellbeing you could possibly imagine from, you know, respiratory health, cancers, ADHD, schizophrenia, you know, low birth, weight, premature birth, you know, just every aspect of mental health and physical health you could possibly imagine cognitive performance, economic productivity, all down the line, all of that is being dampened by this force. And yet, we almost don't see it. And that's a tragedy. It's a complicated story to explain and understand, I think there are a lot of factors and the big one I would say is that we have this sort of that sort of status quo problem. But another part of it is that we look at the experience of the US where we had really dirty air and dirty water. And the same happened in Europe as a legacy of industrial industrialization. And then eventually, we got our act together and cleaned it up. And we sort of assumed that that's the story that everyone everywhere in the world is gonna go through. And that dirty air and dirty water is the cost of growing through industrialization. And if we want to see people in Sub Saharan Africa, and India and South Asia get richer, maybe they're gonna have to live through a dirty period for a period of time. I'm not saying that's my idea. I think that's sort of our cultural idea about it. But while that to some degree may have been true at other points in the past the fact that today 90% of the world lives were clean energy is cheaper than dirty energy means that that trade off is no longer valid. Like you don't have to live dirty to get rich, you can live cleaner and get richer. And that is the point of some incredibly eye opening testimony that I cited in my piece and I think interested you made by Drishyam Dalhousie One of the world's experts on air quality air pollution of Duke University last year in the Senate, maybe Congress actually I don't remember off the top my head. But he found that the the public health benefits of cleaner air in the US which again, is one of the places in the world with one of the cleanest air, the public health benefits of cleaning up our air would entirely pay for the energy transition. 100% Which is to say, we don't have to worry about the climate benefits of decarbonizing, we don't have to worry about all the millions of jobs that would create, we don't have to worry about all of the other sort of spillover cascading positives that would come from getting off of fossil fuels, just through the public health benefits, the transition would entirely pay for itself, which means that it would be economically net positive. Just thinking about public health and forgetting all the rest of it. So we can make a very strong argument that we should do this, even if there was no climate change. And don't worry about climate change at all, even
if you're a climate denier. Even if you're like I don't think climate change is happening. And it's just, you know, it's a liberal conspiracy. And I don't think we need to do decarbonisation because of the climate, you're just a complete moron. This is data that says fine, even if we stipulate your those ridiculous arguments. decarbonizing would pay for itself in terms of reduced public health costs, it's, it's actually a cost saving measure, because of air pollution is that basically
it totally, and it's also incredibly local, which means that, you know, when people on the right will often talk about the problem of climate change is a global problem. And, you know, we don't get the benefits. If we reduce our emissions, we don't get the benefits other people get to freeride. on us, air pollution is not like that, if we reduce our emissions, the people in our country benefit, if we reduce our emissions in our town, if we reduce our emissions in our neighborhood, the local people benefit. And so the benefits are also immediate, unlike global warming, which means like, as soon as pollution falls, those effects drop to look, you're
talking to me, I'm coming to you from Denver, Colorado, where we've got, you know, excess ozone and, and pollution. And in our air, where we're where we've been fighting with the EPA is saying you got to bring down your air pollution that's causing all sorts of health effects. I mean, that is an entirely you're just reiterating what you're saying. And entirely local situation, where you've got this toxic cloud, bumped up against the Rocky Mountains, creating all sorts of problems, getting rid of that, I totally get how you how it would be a cost effective in the sense of reducing the cost that the city, county and state are paying out in terms of public health costs, it makes total sense.
And just to put a couple of dollars on that dollar figures on that. So you know, I mentioned earlier 350,000 Americans are estimated to die every year from air pollution, you know, the US government officially has like $1 value that it puts on human life, which is a gross calculation, but just to work through the math right now. So that's, that's depending on which department you use, it's at least 7 million, but taking the lower figure $7 million for an American life, that means that those 350,000 lives would be worth about would be worth more than $2 trillion annually. And that's just the just the deaths, which is to say, we're not even thinking about all the other people who are dealing with treatment for respiratory disease, coronary disease, cancers, Alzheimer's, you know, all the other stuff that I mentioned, we're talking about huge, huge public health benefits on the order of trillions of dollars a year, just from this reduced air pollution. And to get back to the original question that you asked about comparing the scale of impact versus nuclear power. Just to put this in global perspective, you know, the best estimates for the number of people who have died from nuclear meltdowns and the entire history of nuclear power is something on the order of about 10,000 people were very scared of these deaths, they seem really creepy, in part because they're connected to our fears of nuclear war. We have all of this, you know, like stories about, you know, Marvel Superheroes, like evolving from nuclear waste today, the these stories all affect how we think about nuclear meltdowns and the risks they were real, I don't mean to say that there's zero. But in terms of deaths, we're talking about about 10,000 total in the history of nuclear power, and about 20,000 people die every single day, from the air pollution, from the production of fossil fuels in Europe, for every 1000 People who get their power from coal, one person dies. And we have just totally looked past this in assessing the big picture, you know, math of whether we should move forward with a green transition. And it's just astonishing, because in certain ways, the argument from public health is actually stronger than the argument from from climate change. I wouldn't want to push that argument too far, far, but it's it's at least a very, very, very, very persuasive and as we were saying earlier, local argument, which, you know, presumably even people who are skeptical of climate change should be should be open to
David Wallace wells. I want to thank you for your book The uninhabitable Earth. I want to thank you for your newsletter, which I read religiously. I want to thank you for being a voice unfortunately, in the wilderness, less in the wilderness. As of late, I want to thank you, essentially for being a real life character in our movie, don't look up and I want to encourage you to keep up the really the great work. Thanks for all that you do.
Thanks so much for having me. Great to talk to you.
We're gonna take a quick break, but we'll be right back with more leisure time. All right, look, if you're listening to this show, you know soft when you see it. Soft is a Democratic House member pledging to vie for a $15 minimum wage and then immediately backing down soft is a Democratic senator pledging to tax billionaires and then betraying the promised soft is Joe Biden, saying he supports unions and then backing down to lobbyists. But even the Democrats in Washington aren't as soft as sheets and giggles eucalyptus sheets, sheets and giggles should be the place you get your sheets, because they're awesome. They're unlike anything you've ever tried. They're naturally softer than even the best cotton and they're temperature regulating. They keep hot sleepers, cool and cold sleepers warm even in the same bed. This is particularly important in places like where I live Colorado, and where the temperature fluctuates all over the place. The cool thing is that Colin, the founder of sheets and giggles is mission driven. He's a guy right here in my hometown of Denver, who's been a longtime reader the levers journalism, he's been pushing Colorado to enact the public health insurance option. And he's making sure sheets and giggles products are made sustainably and ship and zero plastic packaging. Let me give you an example. Their sheets use 96% less water than cotton 30% less energy than cotton to make. For comparison, a single set of polyester sheets can leach 10 million micro plastic fibers into the waterways every year just through the laundry. So look, if you want to support a business that supports our journalism, and its values driven sheets and giggles is for you go to sheet giggles.com/lever. That's sheets giggles.com/lever for a 15% discount and get yourself set up today. Their sheets are softer than the Biden administration. And you're helping support a great company that's making our journalism possible.
Welcome back to labor time. Next up, we're going to be going to my interview with Josh Shapiro, who's running as the Democratic nominee for governor of Pennsylvania in this year's election. Now, I want you to understand something. The Pennsylvania governor's race is not just any old governor's race, it is arguably one of the most important races of this year, maybe the most important race of the entire 2022 election. That's because Josh his opponent, Republican Doug mastriano, was one of the main proponents of Donald Trump's stop the steel grift after the 2020 presidential election. At the time, Mastriano was a state senator in Pennsylvania, who tried to create an alternate slate of presidential electors in the aftermath of the 2020 election. He wanted to have those electors count towards Donald Trump, as opposed to electors for Joe Biden who actually won the election in the state Mastriano. His efforts in 2020 ultimately failed. But if he wins this year's governor's race in Pennsylvania, he would become the Republican governor of a very important swing state. And he will most definitely try to pull off an electoral coup to steal the 2024 presidential election. And here's the thing. The Pennsylvania governor's office is one of the offices in the country that appoints the state's Secretary of State. It appoints the state's top election official, as opposed to that top election official being an independently elected office. So it gives the governor enormous power over elections. So imagine the dystopia here, where we're heading into the 2024 election. And you've got a Republican governor who tried to steal the election for Donald Trump, a Republican legislature because of gerrymandering in Pennsylvania, that Confluence able to essentially declare even before the election is happens that Pennsylvania's electors will go to the Republican nominee for president, regardless of what happens in the state. That is not far fetched. That is a very real possibility. And that's what Josh Shapiro is up against. I spoke with Josh about the current state of the race, as well as the broader implications the results of that election could have on all of American democracy. Hey, Josh, what's up, man?
Hey, Serota, it's good to be with you.
So you are running in what people are calling the most important race of 2022 and What some people have said is that the entire future of American democracy hinges on your particular race? I guess for those who don't live in Pennsylvania, why don't you explain why people are saying that this race is that important in the sense of some, you know, all governor's races are important. But why are people saying that this race is like the race, that is that could decide whether American democracy survives.
If you think back to 2016, we saw the rise of the former president, and a lot of people didn't think he could win. Obviously, he did. And we know the destruction that he did in this country. But he was sort of a one man band back then, part of the destruction that he left this country is that he seated all of these people in states, like mine, and others, who want to destroy our institutions and undermine our democracy and take away our fundamental freedoms. And so there are more people like that now across this country, who want to undermine our institutions and our democracy. I think exhibit a of that is Doug Mastriano. He is the dangerous extremist that I'm running against, in this gubernatorial race in Pennsylvania. And of course, I don't need to tell you this. Pennsylvania is the ultimate swing state. And oftentimes, as Pennsylvania goes in a presidential race, so goes the nation. And in a Commonwealth like ours, the governor by law, has the authority to oversee all elections through his appointment of a Secretary of State, and to individually certify the winner of an election. And he has already said that he wants to make sure all 19 electoral votes here in Pennsylvania go to Donald Trump in 2024. So I think in part, it's because these dangerous extremists have sort of, you know, popped up across the country, thanks to the former president, this guy's the most dangerous and most extreme of them all. He's the nominee of the Republican Party in a state that oftentimes is the most pivotal in the nation. And so the stakes could not be higher. David,
your campaign, or at least the Pennsylvania Democrats, there was some app some suggestion that there was an effort to get Doug Mastriano to be the Republican nominee on the idea that a an a particularly a cartoonishly extremist lunatic as the Republican nominee would be an easier candidate to run against in the general election. But polls show that the race is extremely close. I mean, there was an AARP poll that had you up 49 to 46, was a poll two weeks ago 44 to 40. And there's some concern that the strategy may have worked, you got the nominee, an extremist nominee as a Republican nominee. But of course, it's a heist, high stakes risk in the sense of if you don't win, then Pennsylvania has an even more far right extremist Governor than perhaps it might have been had another candidate one. What do you say to those who are nervous about the strategy of of trying to get the most extremist cartoonishly lunatic lunatic as a nominee because other states have pursued that?
Right? So let me address both parts of what you said. The so called strategy. I'm going to push back on that a little bit on yet. And then second, the closeness of the race, right. Those are kind of the two important points in your question. Number one, it was clear, about a month out from all of the public polls and private polls, the Mastriano was going to win that 14 way Republican primary. And by the way, he won by 20 plus points in a multi multi multi candidate field. What we did was start the general election early. And if you notice, David, we spoke about his role to try and undermine democracy, his efforts to take away a woman's reproductive freedoms, and they are the exact same themes we talked about then that we're continuing to talk about now. So we got to jump on the general election campaign. And the reason why we did that dovetails with the second point you made about the closeness of the race now, they were public polls, and they're not always super accurate, but they do paint a picture of this being a close race because you know what, David? It is a close race. And the reason it's a close race is because every damn race in Pennsylvania is close. If you go back and look at the history here in 2016, our presidential race and in 2020 Our presidential race, we're both settled by less than one percentage point. And by the way, in both of those cases, I won when Hillary Clinton lost, and I won in 2020, and dramatically outperformed Biden, and, frankly, anyone else who's ever run in the history of Pennsylvania, and so I know how to win tough races, it's going to be close. And this guy was going to win anyway, the last thing I'll say on that is this. Someone asked me the very question that you just did the other day in the context of the dobs decision, of course, that's the decision that overturn Roe v. Wade and sent the issue back to the state. And, you know, my opponent believes that all abortions should be banned, there should be no exceptions for life or health or if you're raped are subject to incest. But understand that every single one of those Republicans running would sign that bill into law as well. So it's not as though there's some huge difference between where he was, and where or where he is and where the Republicans he was running against where the bottom line was, he was going to win. And we wanted to start making a clear contrast,
as much of a swing state as Pennsylvania is, for those who don't know, the the legislative districts are so effectively gerrymandered that it's a full Republican legislature, and that's likely to remain the case. So the abortion issue is certainly a live issue in Pennsylvania in this in this race. And in in the election. You've said that you will not obviously sign any bill to ban abortion restrict abortion in in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania has been a state where abortion politics into the 90s, even into arguably into the 2000s have been a somewhat divisive issue. I mean, the KC decision, which is one of the decisions that relates to abortion, Casey refers to the cases of Pennsylvania. So my question for you is you're out talking to people about this, you're hearing from voters all the time, has the politics of abortion changed in Pennsylvania, and I want to remind folks about Bob Casey, the governor of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, who was an anti choice Democrat, so the politics are have been a little different in Pennsylvania. What are they like now? And have they changed from that era?
Look, Pennsylvania is a lot different. David, since you left or since the spectrum on your your T shirt was was, you know, imploded there, I have always leaned in on the issue of abortion rights and reproductive freedom. I believe abortion is healthcare. Back in 2016, when I was running for Attorney General, I ran ads, talking about how I would always defend a woman's right to choose, even in western Pennsylvania, where as you recall, this was an issue that was, you know, probably lean the other way for for many years, I've never been afraid to lean in on these issues. I've never been afraid as attorney general to fight these fights to protect reproductive rights. I will say that for a long time, David, it was more of a theoretical conversation, right? In the sense that everybody knew the federal government was there to protect abortion rights to protect reproductive freedom to protect women's health. And so in some ways, it was more of a political question. I'm not downplaying the importance of the issue, but just follow me on this. Like the political question was, were you pro choice, or were you anti choice, and that is how you were assessed as a candidate for whatever office you were running for. What has happened in the last several days since Dobbs, really since the draft leaked, you know, whatever that was, David a month or two ago is we went from having a theoretical political conversation, to a practical conversation that we know is going to be resolved by who the next governor is in Pennsylvania. If Doug Mastriano is the governor of Pennsylvania, all abortion will be banned. And he wants to criminalize doctors who perform them. If Josh Shapiro is the governor, I will veto every single bill that reaches my desk that undermines a woman's right to choose or undermines their reproductive freedoms. There is a clear choice. I have never viewed this issue through a political prism. I've always stood up for what I think is right. And what I think is right is trusting the women of Pennsylvania to make those decisions, not the politicians in Harrisburg.
Let's talk about Joe Biden, the midterm elections. You're running in midterms, obviously, there's always a fear that the National situation can drag down state candidates. I mean, you're not running for the Senate. You're not running for Congress. You're running for a state office. But obviously politics is so nationalized. Now, how much of a drag. Do you think that the National Democratic Party's brand has been so far in the race? How do you distinguish yourself from that brand? What can you do? What are you hearing from foe? talks about their feelings about the Biden administration, the Democratic Party is that is that a difficult challenge for you?
So maybe a half a step back? And then looking forward in order to answer your question most effectively. Look, I have run in two national cycles before in 2016. I ran statewide and in 2020, I ran statewide. Both times, obviously, for attorney general both times successful, I won in 2016, when Hillary Clinton lost Pennsylvania, and I won in 2020, and earned more votes than anyone in the history of our Commonwealth running for any office at anytime I share that with you not to pat myself on the back, but rather to be able to show that even in these nationalized elections, I cannot only win, but I'm able to effectively keep the issues focused on, you know, Washington County, Pennsylvania, not Washington, DC. And that is, of course, a challenge now, given how people feel about, you know, the the president, it's also a challenge is given how frustrated people are generally and not even about politics or the president, but, you know, frustrated by the cost of gas, they're frustrated by the fact that certain things aren't on the store shelves, it's why I have worked so hard to put forth my plan on how we're going to cut costs. It's why I'm focused every day on addressing the problems that exist here in Pennsylvania and staying out of these, frankly, silly national conversations. And so I just keep it focused every single day, on the issues that I know matter most to good people of Pennsylvania, educate our kids, safe communities, grow the economy and protect people's rights. And on the final point, protecting people's rights is an issue that oftentimes David is you know, would be associated with Washington DC, yet, because of the conduct of this Supreme Court. What we're seeing is those issues are now within the purview of the state. And so we're making these state centered issues, whether it is reproductive freedoms, whether it's how to protect our planet, or so many other issues, they're now issues in the state realm, and I'm focused on this date race. Just to follow up
on that there's this whole conversation that happens every election cycle, in the Democratic Party, this this suppose a debate between so called moderates, I don't even know what that word means. And, and and the left I have, I'm starting to not understand what that word means, either. I mean, it's just these words, I don't I don't really mean like, I'm not sure what they even people think they mean anymore. But I would say this, one of the arguments you hear is that the Democratic Party is has gone too far, quote, unquote, left that in pushing things like Medicare for all, and pushing things like a green New Deal and pushing to deal more broadly with climate change. And, and, and, and, you know, tough regulations on Wall Street and the like, that's too far left. And that's not what swing states swing voters really want. Just like your thoughts on this whole conversation about moderate versus the left versus where do you see yourself in the party? Like, what are your thoughts on that?
Well, first off, I've never really had a conversation with a with a voter with a constituent with a Pennsylvanian, where they're talking about, you know, the left or the right, or this ideology or that ideology. The conversations I have with people is, I don't know if I'm allowed to say this in your podcast, but they just want you to get shit done. Right, are not allowed to say that you can, you're absolutely allowed to say that. Yeah, they just want to know that you're going to fight for them every day. And while you may not be their cup of tea on this particular issue, or that particular issue, the reality is, if they know you're fighting for them, and in my case, if you've actually delivered for them, right, you've brought money home, you've held big corporations accountable, you've held polluters accountable, this stuff I've done as ag then then they have a sense of your body of work, and that you're willing to take on big fights for them and get things done for them. At the end of the day, I think that actually unifies the so called left and right and middle or whatever you want to call it. They just want government to work. They want to know you have core convictions, even if they happen to disagree with your core convictions. They want to know that you give a damn about them, that you care about something and you're going to be willing to fight for them a quick story that I think elucidates this, Bradford County, Pennsylvania, which is up in the northern kind of northeastern part of our state along the New York state border. It's super conservative, David, I'd have to go back and look but the top of the ticket, you know, Clinton and Biden probably lost their about at 20. Just to give you a sense of the politics. And there were natural gas companies that would get what's known as leases to be able to drill on people's backyards, which is legal in Pennsylvania. And so they go to the homeowner they'd sign a lease, and they'd say, if we extract this amount of natural gas from the ground, then we will pay You acts and what they pay is known as a royalty. Well, of course, Chesapeake Energy, we're not good actors, they come they get everybody sign these leases. And then what they did was they never paid the royalty, right. And so I sued Chesapeake. And I went up to Bradford County, a place where politically, you know, you'd think that they wouldn't agree with me. And I said, I got your back, I'm gonna get you your money back. And you know what? I remember one guy who grabbed me, he was wearing one of those red, you know, whatever they're called the Magga hats or whatever. And he kind of motions over to me, David to come talk to him. And he points at me, he goes, Well, I don't like your views on abortion. I don't like your views on gay rights. I don't like to you keep suing my president, meaning, you know, meeting Trump. Well, you know what, you're the only guy who showed up here, and you're fighting to get me my money back. And I'm going to vote for you every time. Now, look, David, I don't know if he voted for me. Right? I hope he did. But I do think that conversation is more indicative of the conversations I have around Pennsylvania, that people are just glad when you show up, treat them with respect, fight like hell for them, even if ideologically they don't always see eye to eye with you. And I think we have to get away from this kind of DC conversation of are we left? Are we right? Are we middle and instead just focus on delivering real things for people and making their lives better?
So that's a good segue to the question of climate. We keep hearing really, really terrifying warnings about what the world what the world is going to be. If we don't stop fossil fuel extraction, fossil fuel burning carbon emissions, and the like. Pennsylvania is ground zero to this in the same way where I'm talking to you from Colorado is ground zero, we have a huge fracking industry, Pennsylvania, is fracking coal, we have coal to my question to you is, if you become the governor of the state, what is your position on whether there should be more fracking, whether there should be more coal development? What are the things you're going to have to navigate in terms of the things that come up? When we talk about this? Where it's a question of, do we keep fracking and cold development and the jobs and they come with them and the communities that are supported? Or do we do what the scientists are screaming at us to do before it's too late? What are your thoughts on that? What are you going to do,
the first thing you need to do is build a new coalition that cares about our planet that cares about the future of your kids and my kids and, and their children. We cannot address climate change, particularly by the way, given the ruling from the Supreme Court yesterday, essentially saying it's going to be up to Congress or state legislatures, it can't be done very much through a regulatory structure. We can't do it unless we build a new political coalition. When I say political, I mean, that kind of lowercase p right, with people from all walks of life coming together, recognizing this is a real serious, clear and present danger. And we must act. That is how I feel. Now, I feel in order to accomplish that. You can't just force everybody to eat their broccoli all the time, you have to show that in building a coalition, you can do that, by helping people see that you can address climate, without always feeling like you're eating broccoli, that you can address climate without having to buy an $80,000 Tesla. And that's the only way you can do it. Right, which is what I think some people feel. So here's an example of how I do that in the Commonwealth. The number one driver of greenhouse gas emissions right now is orphan wells, and Mines not a sexy topic, but a real one, about 13 and 14% of our annual greenhouse gas emissions come from all these wells, the dot all across these kind of northern tier communities, you know, by the way, largely very Republican communities in Pennsylvania. And you go over to one of those and take out a Zippo lighter, which by the way, comes from Bradford, Pennsylvania, and you light it you will see a massive fire come out of any one of those wells, because they're all leaking an insane amount of methane. So the first thing I'm going to do as governor is take the federal dollars that have come in, marry that up with a pot of state dollars and plug all of these roughly quarter million orphan wells mines and in doing so David, what we're going to do is not only address climate, but we begin to build a new coalition of partners to address climate like the building trades like others in those communities, those Republican committees who are going to be doing the work to improve our environment and public health. Now the question then you should press me on is okay, well then what do you do after that? And so what you do after that is then you begin to change the mix of energy. So what I want to do is move to 30% renewable energy by the year 2030. Pennsylvania. Right now we're at 8%, renewable energy by 20. Currently, I should say, so I want to get to 30%. By the year 2030, you do that with a big, strong coalition. You also do that by making sure people don't feel displaced in the process, but that they're finding that those green energy jobs are the jobs of tomorrow that they want to migrate to. And because we've built a new coalition to do that, you no longer have these divides in our politics that make it nearly impossible to address climate on a large scale way. Now, we're going to do this work in Pennsylvania, I hope the federal government gets its act together, and they act as well, because the truth is, even though we are a critically important player on energy, here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or one tiny piece, when you look at the broader United States, or of course, you know, globally, which is how you really have to address this, but I think we can take some concrete steps to both clean up our environment deal with legacy issues like these orphan wells, mines, change our mix of usage to go to 30%. By the year 2030, create a lot new jobs have that and have a political coalition that can actually deal with the issue of climate change in a way that they just can't right now,
one last question for you, you and I grew up together in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I've known you for a very, very long time. I just want you to talk a little bit about the experience of campaigning in such a hotly contested race, in what seems to be an intensifying cauldron of anxiety and anger. You face down Donald Trump's efforts to steal the election as Attorney General Pennsylvania, you, you essentially defended the Pennsylvanians voting results in that election, and I'm sure you got your share of threats. Just give us a sense of the campaign trail. Are you fake? Do you feel that heat? Do you feel? Are there days when you're like, Man, I it's just like this feels the political environment right now feels completely out of control? Do you feel a sense of intimidation on the campaign trail? I mean, I know I've known you a long time. You're not a wimpy guy. But like, I just wonder if it like if it gets to you or and and? And if it does, what, what you what you what you draw on to move through it?
It's a great question. It's not a question I get every day. I feel the heaviness of this, the weight of this every single second of every minute of every hour of every day. I also am keenly aware of David that this race is way bigger than me, way bigger than Josh Shapiro, I get the My name is on the ballot, but people's rights are on the line, the future of our democracy is at stake. And why understand that that is not typical in a governor's race, I'm prepared to meet this moment, I really am. I don't let the noise that you're describing sort of get to me, I don't get too high. When we have, you know, big rallies with 1000s of people come out cheering. And I don't get too low. When people are out there, saying, you know, the nasty stuff, they say, I have a very, very serious job to do, which is to win this race, to stop, you know, the type of sort of fascist approach that my opponent wants to bring to protect our freedoms, and to defend our democracy. That was I mean, literally born just a couple of blocks from here. And so I feel the weightiness of of this moment. I'm also fueled by the very personal conversations that people have with me. You know, the, the moms who are scared to death, but sending their kids to school, the the women who, along the, you know, the the rope line after we had a rally about abortion rights this weekend, the National Constitution Center, the number of women who talked to me about their experiences of being raped, and how scared they are to live in a place where their protections might go away, if Doug Mastriano wins this election, the folks who are concerned about their safety and their communities like these are powerful conversations that fueled me and helped me move every day along with the swift kick in the ass I get from my wife every morning, get going. But I'm aware that this is an important moment. I'm aware that I'm in a position where I have to deliver and I'm also keenly aware that this is way bigger than me. And I relish this moment. I'm prepared for it. And we're going to win.
Well, I'm not just saying this. Well, maybe I am just saying this because I know you so well. Well, but I really do mean that there is nobody I would want in the position that you're in, other than you in the sense of being ready for it, having the record and the experience to do it. Because I'm sure it is a wild wild ride. And we will continue to cover it here in our work. And I just want to thank you for taking time with us. And thank you for your friendship over so many years. And most importantly, good luck, man. I mean, it everything you said about how important this race is, cannot be stated enough. Good luck with it.
I appreciate it. I want to invite you to let's do the next podcast here in Pennsylvania, you can join us on the trail and and see what we're seeing out there every day. It's really powerful. Well,
my mom is definitely listening. And she always will be she'll be happy that you're giving me another excuse to come home to Philly to see the parents
we love. We'd love to have you back. And thanks for the work you're doing. And I look forward to seeing you back in Pennsylvania soon.
Thanks, man. We'll talk soon. For our final segment, we'll be going to my interview with the one and only Susan Sarandon. Now, for those of you who aren't on Twitter for 12 hours a day. You may not have heard what's been happening to Susan Sarandon. Quick summary. Susan was one of the first celebrities to endorse Bernie Sanders during the 2016 primary, and she was a vocal critic of Hillary Clinton. So when Hillary lost liberals needed to rationalize how that disaster happened, could it be that she was a terrible candidate pushed on us from the Democratic establishment that ran an absolutely awful campaign? Nope, nope. Not according to the Democratic establishment. Could it be that Hillary Clinton just didn't bother to visit Wisconsin at all, in the general election and then lost Wisconsin? Nope. Apparently, apparently, that's not not wasn't the problem either. Apparently, according to liberals and the Democratic Party establishment, it was Susan Sarandon 's fault. Now since then, Twitter liberals have been blaming Susan Sarandon for everything from Trump's 2016 victory to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. She keeps trending on Twitter anytime something bad in the world happens. Susan Sarandon has named trends on social media, with liberals blaming her for this. So I asked Susan to come on the show to speak with her about why she's become such a liberal scapegoat and how it's undermining national politics, how it's undermining a discussion of what needs to actually happen in Democratic Party politics. And I also talked to her about what's keeping her hopeful these days, these days, which are incredibly dark. Hey, Susan, how you doing?
I'm doing great. I'm sitting in my apartment in New York sweltering, but I'm doing great. You look like you have had a bit of a break.
I did. I took a little bit of a break. First time in a very long time. It was just me and my wife, the kids were at camp. So I actually, for the first time in a very long time, I feel and perhaps look a tad bit rested.
10 years younger, let's face it.
Thank you this week. I appreciate it. It has been a stressful week. I tried to not look at the news over the past week. But you know, it seeps in. And it's been incredibly stressful. All over the world, the climate crisis, all the things that you and I discuss so often when we chat and and for folks who don't know, Susan is one of my favorite people in the whole world. One of my inspirations and I'm not sure I've ever mentioned to you that Susan and I first met in 2000, I think it was 2002 or tooth out early 2003. You don't remember it. It was at an anti war rally, an anti Iraq War rally. I was reporting my book and you were there. And you were speaking at the rally. Tim was there. And Sean Penn was there and a whole lot of people were there was 1000s and 1000s of people. So that's when I first actually met. Realize that Yeah, way back. Listen, over the break. I actually broke my rule. And I checked Twitter for like a second. Okay, fine, more than a second. And at one point, I believe last week you you were trending. And I sort of I got in trouble with my wife for tweeting this. She's mad that I tweeted anything she didn't want. She didn't want me looking at Twitter and I tweeted something to the effect of I just checked in from my vacation to see that this website is still as insane as ever point. And I pointed to the fact that you were trending not that you don't deserve to trend for all of your great work but you are clearly trending for the reason you mostly trend of late which is to say that liberals blame you. Anytime the Democrats refuse to do anything or anytime actually anything bad in the world happens. And I want to ask you about that. And what you think it really means because I Obviously, you're not responsible for climate change, you're not responsible for the right wing Supreme Court. You're not responsible for any of the things that people seem to sort of reflexively blame you for and almost a rigged it's almost funny at this point. But But I what I think is not funny is what is at the root of it. And I want to know from you what you think is actually at the root of it? Well,
let me just preface this by saying that, here we are, in undoubtedly the greatest existential crisis for our species that has ever existed, brought about by these huge corporations run by these little tiny greedy men who have managed to completely change all the systems in terms of any kind of accountability or even taxation. And in the midst of all this flooding, fire, wars, losing of our civil liberties, the fact that you would choose me as the reason means that they have no accountability. We're not we're not having those conversations that go to where these things actually happened, you know, am I the one during Obama's term after he promised to codify Roe v Wade. And then once he got in, said it wasn't a priority was I also responsible at that way back then, you know, even before I hooked up with Russia to ruin Hillary, I mean, so to spend all of this time and energy and focus is, is hiding from the bigger problem, which is that we need a new paradigm, and we need people who have balls and imagination, and will fight reflecting the emergency situation that we're in right now. And all of us identity politics, and that has, you know, even the left fighting, progressive fighting Neo lives. I mean, we're just way in way out on a limb now, and we can't afford those distractions. We we also in the United States seem to just, we have such a narrow view of what's happening with the rest of the world. That's our thanks to our media, you know, that's not really reporting on all these millions of people that are in the streets, the farmers that are in the streets, that in Sri Lanka, what happened, you know, and so we've been brainwashed into thinking that we have so little power, and not only we don't have any power, our president doesn't have any power. He can't, what can he do? He's doing the best he can, what can he do? You know, just keep mansion on his committee keep his give his wife a job? I mean, what can he do? You know, so we're not even holding them responsible?
I mean, I think, look, I think, obviously, people blaming you. The reason I say it's funny is because the good news is, I think, among many people, it's become almost laughable. And I think it's so obvious that it's an effort to not deal with the here and now to not deal with the root of the problem. That's why
it's important. Because I understand, you know, if, if I suddenly had to look at Bernie, who I, who I really respect for so much that He gave him for so much that He gave me the opportunity to travel around the United States for two cycles, and to really talk and listen to people and really regain my faith in America and what's possible, and to see people that from so many diverse people who had the same interest in this, who just wanted to help their fellow Americans, you know, for me, restored my faith in America. So I have a huge debt of gratitude to him. And a practical one, and the fact that he's been so authentic, and that restored my faith and actually having a purpose and having. And if someone told me that, you know, something horrible about him, I understand how difficult that is to accept. So if you've, you know, if all of your politics is a kind of team based politics and not policy, bakes politics, and someone in your team may have betrayed you by taking a lot of money and actually not doing so much or actually, you know, the kids are still in cages, and oh, my goodness, who's benefiting from those contracts? You don't want to follow that down? Because then what do you have? People are so worn out, they just want to break, you know, they want someone to believe and they want to believe that somebody else is taking care of it. But it's not working. It's not. There's nobody that can tell you that the system that we have now, and the corruption that it has and the people that are at the top that supposedly are on our side, and by that I mean the side if humanity and the future, are doing their jobs and it's not working, nobody can tell you it's working. It's not getting better. It's is getting worse and worse and worse and more. So that's a big thing to deal with. Right? Psychologically, that's a huge thing to deal with. People tell you to vote, you vote and it gets worse.
That's the that's the democracy crisis. I mean, into my mind, that's the big democracy crisis that there's obviously the January 16. And the Trump movement as a as an assault on democracy. But the real democracy crisis underneath it is people keep voting for change, and keep getting more of the same
colonization of imagination that's going on, there's a colonization all over the world, that's just pretends to be helping people out the Monsanto's of the world or whatever, we're getting to the point where we don't have soil. I mean, we just the basic water, air, we don't, we don't own seeds, you know, farmers are going under, when the farmers are going under what's gonna happen, even if you're very, very rich, what's going to happen, you're gonna have food, you know, supply problem problems, you know, and so this system is broken, and we have to find a new one. That's all there is to it. And I don't know where we go for that or anything else, but to blame me, definitely isn't going to, you know, okay, lock me up, then for all these terrible things that I've done. I mean, or burn me at the stake, that's not going to solve the problem.
I wonder, how much do you think how you've been targeted and treated, has created a kind of chilling effect on other people in entertainment world, the sports world any other arenas to not use their platform?
Absolutely. I mean, even way back before this really came into existence really strongly, like if I was talking to somebody who for instance, in 2015, or they wanted to be involved I would say listen, you're not an you don't have to be an expert on the environment you can just voice if you're if somebody with a large platform, you can use your platform to put an expert on there. You don't have to stick your neck out and become an expert on anything but your own survival. But you can say your concern you can talk about your feelings you can talk about your confusion you can talk about and somehow I've and be sincere and I think that that's that was the safest thing you could do but now you even poke your head out and the next thing I mean this is why if I have information I and I put it out I don't put it out with my opinion. I just retweeted or put it up because the minute I I say anything then it becomes about me and oh yeah, well, it's easy for you to say you know, you're rich Lee it's your fault. So then it gets off the whole all the information so I'm even very careful of not expressing an opinion but just putting facts and I am not trying to be bitchy and not trying to answer bitchiness with bitchiness, but definitely people don't. I mean, so many people have come up to me all kinds of celebrities or, and said I wish I just cannot, I cannot and some of them have been actually during the primaries, warned by the DNC have actually had conversations saying you cannot say that or don't even mention Medicare for all if you want to say anything, maybe you can say healthcare but do not go to Georgia and say, Medicare for all, we don't say that.
Has there ever been moments? Whether during the campaigns or even of late where in your quieter moments you've said you've heard your internal monologue say why what am I doing what what why am I brain what why do I do this? Why do I speak out? Like it's just not worth it? I'm sure you've heard it from folks in and around the entertainment industry were wondering, you know, why why do you? Why do you bring on the the the trouble and the and the attacks,
they just distanced themselves and kind of don't look you in the eye have not had, you know, I mean, I've seen online, a lot of women during the Hillary thing, you know, that were other celebrities, because, of course, everyone was very much, pretty much everyone was on Hillary's part of that movement. And at that point, you know, I, people did come up to me, but I think I was talking to someone who will remain unnamed, but he's an activist, and he's very, very brilliant guy, and he's a movie star. And he is very learned on the environment and has done so much to try to get information out there and everything and add it to the cost of some time with his family to the cost of you know, this this attack that's just always right here. And we were having lunch and he just looked at me and he said Why does it have to be us? And I think you do have that feeling like camp somebody else. I mean, this is why burning rant, nobody's doing it, you know you'd like. And the problem is once you get become a focal point to receive information, and I'm talking about information that's not mainstream media information that the mainstream media, like the whole Steven Donziger thing that couldn't get, you know, Exxon and that you couldn't no one would cover, the New York Times wouldn't cover it, their lawyer was part of the problem handles Exxon, you know that we covered it. Yeah, of course, you did even covered it. But even I did a piece for the post the New York Post, and they called me later and said, We can't run it. So when you have that happening, you know, you feel a certain kind of pressure to help people be informed not to tell them what they should think not to offer solutions, but they should at least know what's going on. And we have, and it scares me, because of the deep platforming that's going on all the censorship that's going on the algorithms, the Patreon money being taken from the, you know, this, the independent media that's came up during the primaries, and as you know, and you see covering, questionably in a different way, Ukraine, for instance, and then all of a sudden, they're gone. And that's scary. That's really scary. So if, you know, there's a way for us to get information to people, that's all I'm trying to do. But definitely, I know that it becomes also difficult sometimes for my family, you know, when they started targeting my kids at times, in LA, in New York papers and things like that ran articles, you know, stupid article about my kid who was in middle school at the time, like who would care except my kid, right.
And I think there's obviously a deterrent effect to younger people, for instance, in the entertainment industry, and in the, in the sports world in any of the high profile arenas that says, Look, maybe Susan Sarandon, who is a huge movie star who's had a huge career for many, many years, can get away with speaking out. But if you're an up and coming actor, or actress or sports figure, and you're thinking about speaking out, the potential punishment for that, to the work that you do, could be a sort of career threatening, like, it could be, oh, you're you're not yet a big movie star, you speak your mind, you're never going to have a career. Now, that's
very true. And I really respect the younger, especially, it seems like the environmental, young people that have really been risking so much, because you're absolutely right, that one of the advantages of being my age, is, you know, how many bridges are left to burn. And I think one of the things that has made a lot of people who don't agree with me accept me is that I have a long standing consistency in my life, and, you know, in spite of my career, and so people know that maybe they don't agree with me, but at least they know I'm sincere. And, and they, they, they give me a few points for that. And but you're right, it's a it's an they're definitely your management would tell you not to go there. But I think that I put all my faith into things these days, that's the New Union Movement. And kids, and especially environmentally, because they realize they've been screwed, they, they're they don't have any allegiance to Democrats or Republicans, they just are looking at policy, they're looking at their world, they need their student debt canceled, they need, you know, access to clean water, they want a future they things that they are entitled to, and they know they're not on the way to get those things. And so I think that when they have been organized, they they do a very good job. And I think so that's where my, you know, that's my hopes are with with them. And with the workers around the world, because there's so many more workers than there are those few people at the top. But, you know, as I said, we've been so brainwashed into thinking that we have no power. And there's nothing we can do except every now and then vote for someone who lets us down.
So let me ask you one final question here, which is, because I always ask this to our guests, what are you most optimistic about? I mean, you just said the labor movement. You just said, young people. I mean, is that what you're most optimistic about? Was it what you saw on the Bernie campaign? I mean, when you when you wake up in the morning, what do you think and like, hey, like, things could go in the right direction. Sure there are
people who are identifying problems. And so having seen what I saw, working on Bernie's campaigns, I know that that kind of community is possible. So that hasn't gone away. There's there's doesn't seem to be anyone that's tapping into that in a way. That is exciting people. And, you know, getting them out there. But I know that there there are people who when you say to them, you know, find someone who doesn't look like you. What did he say? And saw me that you will be there for them?
I mean, it was it was it was a powerful message, fight for somebody you don't know. Yeah. And that's what we're going to need a whole lot of, and we're in short supply of right now, I think that's absolutely absolutely the case. I think
that when this new system comes about, it's going to have to be focused around community, right, it's going to have to be local farmers, people, cutting back on the transporting food, clear across the United States, just very practical things that are going to have to happen that, you know, gas is going to keep us a slave for so long until we get off of that somehow. And we have to get people that design communities differently. And I think also that a terrible thing has happened in terms of us being seen homelessness, for instance, as a fault of people, like, you know, not understanding that you just shouldn't be buying up all the real estate does have Airbnbs, that you people need homes. And the fact that, that around our country, so many people are falling through the cracks, is making it more violent and more desperate in so many ways that everyone is going to be affected. You know, you can't just scoop up a bunch of people and put them on a bus and get rid of them, you have to deal again, with some kind of accountability. And I saw so much good in people. And I believe in people. And that's where I put my faith. But it's I think that these, it's broken. And so maybe because it's broken, and people are starting to also look movements towards back towards nature. I think a lot of kids are learning about farming, and people are starting to really understand that connection with a higher power, that is nature. No matter how you were brought up that we are have to now respect the earth because it's clear that we have done so much damage in our greediness are the greediness of again, not holding them accountable. So I'm hoping that I don't know, David, what do you think?
Oh, I mean, look, I think the fact that change can happen so fast is both scary and also inspiring. Change can be bad change can be good. And I think we're living at a time where change can happen very, very quickly. And I think as dark as it looks for the I don't want to call it the left for folks who want an Accountable Government that actually, you know, does, you know helps people, I think we've gone through a very long period of time where that has not been the case. And I think people are obviously frustrated. And I think that what can come out of that frustration is something terrible, or something good, or actually both of those things at the same time. And so I think it's all of our job as just people living in this in this world, to try to get the good outcome rather than the bad outcome. Because the bad outcome, we know what that looks like. And we know it's it's the movement for a really nasty, right wing nationalist, authoritarian outcome is right at the doorstep. And it's incumbent on us to all wake up in the morning and try to do what we can in a very difficult situation, to avert that and to actually create the society that we want. And so I don't I'm not speaking, I don't think only for myself and saying that you are one of the people. And I really mean this, who inspires me to do the work that I do, because I know it's not easy for you to do the work that you do. And so I appreciate all that you do. As I said at the beginning, you really are one of my favorite people. And thank you for taking time with us today.
Well thank you because there's I don't know anybody that's putting out so much information. I mean, I go all the time to read what's going on and find out things and pass it around because you just are doing such a good job. So you know My heart goes to you too. And thank you, all your team for how hard you work.
Thank you. Thanks so much. I appreciate it. That's it for today's show. As a reminder, our paid subscribers who get lever time premium get to hear our bonus segment, my presentation at the Tomorrowland festival in Belgium, where I spoke about the existential threat of the climate crisis, what we need to do to stop it, and how underdogs are the last hope to save the day. When I graduated college in the late 1990s. I sent my resume to offices all over Washington. I didn't get many calls back but I got one call back. I was demoralized, the phone rang and I was asked to come for an interview with a lawmaker I'd never heard of from a tiny state. I've never been to and it was that lawmaker was Bernie Sanders. listeners can subscribe deliver time premium by heading over to lever news.com. When you subscribe, you also get access to all the levers website, our weekly newsletters and our live events. And please be sure to like, subscribe and write a review for lever time on your favorite podcast app. One last favor to ask. If you liked this podcast and our reporting. Please tell your friends and family about the letter and the work we're doing here forward our emails to them, encourage them to subscribe. The only way independent media grows is by word of mouth. So we need all the help we can get to continue doing the work that we're doing. Until next time, I'm David Sirota keep rocking the boat