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    415. How Rahm Emanuel Would Run the World

    en-usApril 27, 2020

    Podcast Summary

    • Steve Levitt: From Skeptic to Successful PodcasterLevitt's willingness to explore new mediums led him to podcasting, which allowed him to reach new audiences and share his unique intellectual perspective.

      Economist Steve Levitt, who initially thought podcasting was a dumb idea, has found success in using it to reach a wider audience. Frustrated by the lack of attention his academic papers were receiving, Levitt turned to podcasting and became a guest host on Freakonomics Radio. This led to a national conversation about math reform and opened up opportunities for Levitt to start his own podcast. Levitt's intellectual curiosity and willingness to think outside the box make him well-suited to the medium. His unique perspective, shaped in part by his father's work as a doctor and medical researcher, promises to offer thought-provoking content for listeners.

    • Steve Levitt's New Podcast Featuring Unconventional ThinkersSteve Levitt's podcast challenges societal limits and features conversations with unconventional thinkers, encouraging listeners to have the right mindset to achieve anything.

      Steve Levitt, known for his book 'Freakonomics', is starting a new podcast where he will have one-on-one conversations with unconventional and smart thinkers, or 'outsiders by design'. In his first episode, he interviews Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago, about his new book 'The Nation City'. Levitt's father, Michael Levitt, is one of the world's leading researchers on intestinal gas, making Levitt an outsider by design himself. Levitt was inspired by his father to challenge societal limits and to believe that anything was attainable with the right mindset. The podcast aims to reshape the way we see the world by featuring conversations with unconventional thinkers, and Levitt is already succeeding in convincing people who otherwise wouldn't talk to him to take part in the show.

    • Rahm Emanuel on the Power of Local Government during CrisisDuring times of crisis, local and state leaders have the ability to shape the world. Mayors hold a lot of power and should step up in the face of dysfunctional national government, as seen during the Covid-19 pandemic.

      Rahm Emanuel, a highly respected figure in politics is known for providing smart and effective advice to Presidents Clinton and Obama. He is known for coining the phrase “never let a good crisis go to waste” during his time in the Obama administration and having a fearlessly ruthless personality. He comes from a family of achievers and despite his foul-mouthed reputation, he has been very successful in his career. Emanual mentions that mayors hold a lot of power and that they have the ability to shape the world. He believes that during times of crisis, national government can be dysfunctional and local and state leaders need to step up. This is most evident during Covid-19, a truly global disaster that disproportionately impacts large cities.

    • The Need for National Leadership During the PandemicNational leadership is crucial during crises, but state and local leaders can also step up. Data literacy in our education system is lacking, but decision-making should balance data and critical thinking. Informed guesses are necessary.

      The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the critical need for national leadership in areas such as immigration and climate change. However, state and local leaders have filled the power vacuum created by federal dysfunction and have shown the ability to take decisive action, as seen with Los Angeles' mask mandate. The crisis has also exposed the lack of focus on data literacy in our education system, leading to challenges in decision-making by public servants and policymakers. While data and models are important, common sense and thoughtfulness are the most critical talents of a data scientist. Informed and educated guesses are necessary in crises as information is constantly changing.

    • Rahm Emanuel's Suggestions for Preparing for Future Public Health CrisesA robust testing system, increased public health investments, online learning and telemedicine, and a floor guaranteeing equitable participation in the new economy are necessary to prepare for and effectively respond to future public health crises. Investing in coordinated efforts is essential for success.

      Former Chicago Mayor and White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, suggests the need for a robust testing system, reorganization on economic levels, increased public health investments, and a new office to bring together resources for early detection, mobilization, and deployment of resources. He stresses the importance of a floor that guarantees equitable participation in the new economy, which will likely include online learning, telemedicine, and stay-at-home work. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the need for a coordinated effort and accountability for public health. Emanuel argues that history shows the success of coordinated efforts such as the National Security Council, Department of Homeland Security, and elevated FEMA. Investing in these efforts is essential in preparing for future public health crises.

    • Balancing Privacy and Public Health in the COVID-19 EraPrivacy measures can help prevent COVID-19, but there needs to be a balance between public health and civil liberties. Policies that protect both are necessary, and constant monitoring is needed to ensure that these policies are applied appropriately.

      The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked debates about balancing privacy and public health. Sacrificing privacy measures, such as using cell-phone data to track movements, could be an effective way to curb the spread of the virus. However, this idea is unpopular due to concerns about civil liberties. Experts suggest creating policies that protect public health while also respecting people's privacy. Constant monitoring and updates to these rules are necessary to ensure they are applied appropriately. Dr. Emanuel's parents instilled in him a passion for social and political justice, which led him to his career in public service. This background has influenced his approach to balancing public health and civil liberties.

    • Bill Clinton's Balanced Approach to PoliticsA focus on ideas and the ability to negotiate effectively are crucial for success in politics. Balancing idealism and toughness, as Bill Clinton did, can lead to significant policy advancements and successful outcomes.

      Bill Clinton's success was due to his focus on ideas in politics and his ability to balance idealism and toughness. His approach allowed him to effectively negotiate with Republicans and achieve significant policy advancements, like expanding children's healthcare. This approach contrasted with unsuccessful presidents who tipped too far one way or the other. Emanuel's expertise in working with Clinton made him a natural choice for Obama's chief of staff. Despite some initial reluctance, Emanuel accepted the job and went on to have a successful tenure. Overall, this conversation highlights the importance of having a well-rounded approach in politics, a focus on ideas, and the ability to effectively negotiate to achieve policy goals.

    • The Demanding Duties of the Chief of StaffThe Chief of Staff is responsible for filtering information and prioritizing solutions for the President, often choosing between bad and worse options. It requires great sacrifice and dedication to serve in this challenging role.

      The chief of staff job is the toughest and most thankless job in America. It involves controlling the flow of information that could potentially reach the President and prioritizing viable options for decision-making. This requires staff to present two or three real solutions and evaluate their effectiveness before presenting them to the President. The chief of staff also assists the President in evaluating all available options to govern, with the understanding that governance often requires choosing between bad and worse options. The job requires sacrificing personal time with family in order to serve the President and the nation, making it a difficult and demanding role to undertake.

    • The Challenges of a President in Post-Crisis TimesWhen facing a crisis, tough decisions must be made quickly. Prioritizing one issue over another may be necessary, and not everyone will agree. It's important to understand the consequences and make the best decision for the greater good.

      Taking office in the aftermath of an economic crisis can be a challenging position for any president. In such situations, difficult decisions need to be made quickly, and it's important to understand which option is the lesser of two evils. President Obama faced this issue when he took office after the 2008 economic downturn. Amidst a flurry of spending bills, including the $787 billion stimulus package and the $700 billion TARP bill, Obama grappled with the possibility of financial reform. While some argued for a tough stance against banks, his financial team was concerned about the impact on lending and the potential for bipartisanship. Ultimately, President Obama's decision to prioritize healthcare over financial reform shows the importance of making tough decisions in difficult times, even if they don't align with everyone's preferences.

    • The Role of Economists in Financial Reform and the Evolution of Freakonomics RadioEconomists in the government during financial reform prioritized their own reputations, but a bailout and stimulus bill helped prevent a depression. Freakonomics Radio is launching spinoff shows with unconventional thinkers, emphasizing the importance of listener feedback.

      During the financial reform, economists in the administration were more concerned about their own reputations than maximizing expected value for society. However, with a significant bailout and stimulus bill, the country was saved from a depression. Rahm Emanuel believes that presidential decisions are major—referring to both Clinton and Obama as great presidents. In terms of Freakonomics Radio, after 10 years, they are launching spinoff shows featuring unconventional thinkers in various fields. Stephen Levitt has been previously praised for his problem-solving abilities, but he stresses the importance of feedback from listeners.

    • Rahm Emanuel on the Complicated Nature of People and ChicagoRahm Emanuel, despite his tough reputation, emphasizes the complexity of individuals and cares deeply about those around him. His love for Chicago drove him to serve two terms as mayor and write a book about the city's livability.

      Rahm Emanuel, former mayor of Chicago, has a reputation as being a ruthless and foul-mouthed tyrant, but he is tough for the things he believes in. Emanuel believes that journalists portray people in black and white, but they are more complicated than that. Despite his reputation, Emanuel cares deeply about people and is a caring person who reaches out to those who worked for him years ago. Emanuel’s journey to become mayor of Chicago was driven by his love for the city, and he served two terms as mayor. His book about mayors starts with his grandfather's journey from Eastern Europe to Chicago, the city that made their family, and Emanuel believes it is the most livable big city in America.

    • The Rise of Local Government: Investing in CommunitiesLocal governments are taking center stage in providing necessary amenities and investments for their cities and residents, as national governments take a back seat. Initiatives led by mayors are making a big difference, even without federal or state help.

      The book centers on the growing importance of local government, as national governments take a back seat. Local governments are becoming more proficient in providing amenities and investments that are vital for their city and residents such as schools, transportation, libraries, and parks. With the national government becoming more like Disneyland on the Potomac, local governments are becoming more resilient with mayors spearheading investments towards the need of their city. While the government entity that could provide new services disappeared, the need didn't. Some cities like Chicago took initiative and created free community college education even without federal or state help with 8,000 success stories where 81% of the beneficiaries are the first ones in their family to pursue higher education.

    • The Role of Parents in Breaking the Cycle of Poverty through EducationEducation is crucial in breaking the cycle of poverty, but parents play a vital role too. To improve education for impoverished children, policies must ensure equal opportunities and capacities for all, and schools must create a culture that involves the entire building.

      Education is a critical component in breaking the cycle of poverty, however, schools cannot do it alone. Parents also play a pivotal role in a child's education, and not every parent has the same resources and agency as others. Therefore, the discussion must be comprehensive, taking into account both the school's responsibility and the parents' contribution. To improve education for children in poverty, policies must be put in place to ensure equal opportunities and capacities for all. Schools must create a culture that involves the entire building, not just one room, to tackle social, economic, and cultural deficits that children bring with them. Ultimately, education is a joint responsibility, and we must work towards meaningful solutions for the betterment of future generations.

    • The Power and Importance of Local Government in Today's Political ClimateLocal government officials, particularly mayors, can have a significant impact on people's lives by addressing issues such as education, infrastructure, and quality of life. They must lead their communities towards progress, even in the absence of federal support.

      Local government, particularly mayors, are becoming increasingly important in the current political climate due to their ability to have a tangible impact on people's lives. Despite challenges, Mayor Emanuel of Chicago proved that factors like zip code, income, race, and gender did not determine a child's success. While a federal partner would be ideal, mayors cannot afford to wait for support and must lead their communities towards progress. By addressing issues such as education, infrastructure, and quality of life, local government officials can gain legitimacy in the eyes of citizens who feel alienated from the federal government. Emanuel's book on urban policy sheds light on the power and importance of local government in shaping our daily lives.

    • The Rise of Cities: Why Urbanization is Here to StayAs people become wealthier, they value access to services and amenities offered by cities. Companies follow talent, leading to the success of cities like Chicago that invest in infrastructure and institutions. Even in the midst of a pandemic, urbanization is on the rise.

      Cities have experienced a surprising turnaround in recent decades, despite factors like crime and poor financing that used to drive people away. The reason may be that as people have become richer, services have become more important, and cities offer unique opportunities for those services. People want the benefits of city living, like cultural attractions, proximity to work, and access to amenities like museums and restaurants. Companies are also chasing talent, and where there is talent, there is success. Chicago is an example of a city that has attracted talent, with companies like G.E. Healthcare and McDonald's moving there for the institutional strength and access to universities. The city has also focused on improving schools, public transportation, and parks to meet the needs of residents. Amid the Covid-19 crisis, this trend of urbanization is likely to continue.

    • Global Interdependence and Diversified Supply Chains in the COVID EraThe COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for collaboration and action in addressing conflicts between public health and the economy. Future pandemics must be prepared for by identifying key issues. Lessons learned can aid in better decision-making for the future.

      The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the global interdependence of nations and the need for diversified supply chains. The current conflict between public health and the economy's principles of integration and interdependence must be addressed collaboratively. Future pandemics are inevitable, and society must prepare for them by identifying key issues and taking action. The crisis presents an opportunity to do things that were previously thought impossible and make them possible. It is important not to let this crisis go to waste. The lessons learned from this pandemic can make us all better data scientists and better prepared for the unknown future.

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