Inequality of the Economy: Interviewing Secretary Yellen | The Problem With Jon Stewart | Apple TV+

Inequality of the Economy: Interviewing Secretary Yellen | The Problem With Jon Stewart | Apple TV+

I think the 2008 crisis is a great example. Instead of a big firehose of money being turned on those mortgages that went underwater and brought them back to sea level, they chose to pour money into those bundles and a lot of people lost their houses. People had every reason to feel unhappy about what happened. The purpose of intervening so that big financial institutions and markets didn't completely fail was to avoid a drying up of credit in the economy. If those financial institutions had been allowed to fail, the toll on ordinary families would have been not only bad, which it was, but unspeakably horrendous. We would have been looking at something like the Great Depression. I think for people, they would view it as, well, if I'm going to lose my house, that's a crisis. And I don't have a backstop. That's an important reason why when the pandemic struck, President Biden and his administration have been focused on using fiscal policy, not the Fed, to get help to all those who really need it. But corporate America gets all the benefits of American stability and fiscal policy, but bears none of the responsibility.

I'll give you an example– Walmart, they make billions in profits. Their workers are one of the largest corporate users of social service programs. Why don't Walmart workers share in the profits of Walmart? In a capitalist system, companies have a right to distribute profits to their shareholders. They're not forced to, there's nothing in the law that force– Aren't we subsidizing it? This is the insidious part, I think, of when we talk about that we have a free market system, because what it makes it seem like is that the natural order of things is that Walmart makes billions in profits and can distribute it to its shareholders, and that's just how it goes. But we know that we the taxpayers are subsidizing their workforce with food stamps. They're getting the benefit of our tax dollars, so it's not free market. The government, in many cases, should be running programs. It's not necessarily the case that Walmart should do that directly. You don't feel they are responsible because they benefit from fiscal policy. They benefit from the American infrastructure.

They do benefit from fiscal policy, but I think an important way of making them pay is by taxing them and making sure that their profits provide the resources to provide that infrastructure. You would rather they still make their billions in profit, but as long as they pay us taxes so that we have enough to give their workers food stamps, that's OK. We also need to invest in their workers so that they can have jobs that will produce better pay that they'll have the skills to be able to compete. But it feels like the system doesn't have accountability for those at the corporate level. How do we build that into the system? I think there's a lot of truth in what you're saying, and we are very focused on trying to make sure that companies are responsible and do pay their fair share.

But we slashed the IRS budget– we make accountability very difficult. We're trying to reverse that. We're proposing a substantial increase in resources for the IRS so they can go after tax evasion. I want to tell you about another thing that's important here. All over the world, countries have been competing with one another to attract these companies by cutting corporate tax rates. Every country faces this– of companies having power and saying to governments, cut our tax rates or we're going to go someplace else. Is the problem here that corporations feel like they have this country over a barrel? We have a system where political contributions are important and where wealthy corporations and individuals use the power of– Access.

Access to skew the playing field. But the Biden administration has a different view, and we want to make sure that companies behave fairly, that they pay their fair share, and we make the investments in people and in communities– Who fights you on this? Necessary to reverse this. When you guys bring this up or when you try and change fiscal policy in that way, where is the fight from? What are the headwinds? Why is it difficult to push through? Well, the headwinds– And I'd like some names. Let me get a pen. People don't like to have their taxes increased. And we need to raise more tax revenue in order to finance the investments that our economy needs to be productive and for families to do well.

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