I made my debut on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday, discussing the news of the week, from Amtrak to the new Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality (which is taking citizen co-signers here).
Kicking off the panel discussion, which also included filmmaker John Waters and conservative author Charles Murray, Maher asked a provocative question about patriotism and infrastructure: “Why are the patriots the ones who don’t want to spend money on trains?”
In response, I defended the idea of a mixed economy and the very notion of government itself. We live in an era of unprecedented income inequality, thanks largely to a gospel of deregulation and disinvestment that has affected sectors from higher education to campaign finance. Just a day after the Amtrak crash, Congress voted to cut $250 million from the train service’s budget. That’s exactly the wrong response, I said:
When I pointed out that I’ve joined forces with Bill de Blasio and other prominent progressives to enshrine these principles in a new, 13-point Progressive Agenda, my co-panelist Charles Murray was skeptical. He predicted that if Democrats run on this platform and make income inequality the centerpiece of their 2016 campaign, they’d lose to Republicans in a “wipeout.” But are things like a higher minimum wage and paid sick leave really proposals that come out of left field? Of course not.
Finally, the topic turned to race and the right-wing attacks against the First Lady for acknowledging the persistence of racism during her graduation remarks at Tuskeegee University. Here’s my take:
Tuskeegee graduates know well that resilience—both struggle and overcoming—is a hallmark of the African-American experience. The historic university is the home both of the heroic Tuskeegee Airmen and the infamous Tuskeegee Syphilis Experiment, in which our government poisoned black men and kept them from life-saving treatment for decades after it became available. The experiment wasn’t shut down until 1972. Resilience is a core part of the new narrative that our country must embrace, acknowledging both our troubled legacy and the human capacity in all of us.