Ep. 43 Jacob Hacker: American Amnesia

JACOB HACKER: I'm Jacob Hacker. I'm a political scientist. I write a lot about economic inequality and insecurity. Most recently I wrote a book with my co-author Paul Pierson entitled American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper. And I think it's pretty obvious what that's about.

NICIE PANETTA: We’re going to get into all that in a moment. But it would be wonderful just to hear a little bit about your background and how you got interested in the field of politics and have made it your life's work.

HACKER: It’s a good story, actually. I grew up in a pretty non-political household in Oregon. My father was actually a professor of architecture and when I moved up to Portland, Oregon and went to high school I started to get more interested in public affairs, but really the crystallizing moment for me was in the early 90s when the health care fight started and I started learning more about health care and health insurance and the problems in the system. And I was going to college and decided to write my senior thesis on it. And to me, you know, having grown up in a kind of solidly middle class, you know, smaller town, the degree to which we were losing that life really struck me and the fact that we are having this debate over moving to a system that was still light years behind where other advanced industrial democracies were in providing economic security. You know, that really also made me feel like there was something going on with our politics. So that's really been my obsession since. I went to grad school, I've written a few books on this,and every book I try not to be pessimistic but every book I've written is basically about why government has stopped working for the middle class. It's just different elements of that. Whether it's insecurity or inequality, and I think it's really important that people recognize that our democracy at one point in time did actually work pretty well. And there were some real problems and gaps but in the immediate post-war years up through the 1970s it actually worked pretty well in delivering expanded opportunity and security for Americans, including expanded college opportunity. We were the most educated country in the world and greater economic security and since, you know, roughly the late 1970s we've fallen farther and farther behind other rich countries. I mean, I've always been thinking about this in cross-national terms. United States is not the only country in the world and lots of other countries have done a better job of dealing with some of the basic problems that we're dealing with. And so, they're facing the same kind of pressures that we are, like globalization and technological change. And it really makes you think about how politics and policy have made American policies less effective than they are in some other countries. So for example, you know, 50 years ago we had the highest labor force participation in the world and we saw the biggest rise in women's employment. And now we're second to the last among rich countries, may be third to last in labor-force participation. So we might have a low unemployment rate but we have a lot fewer people of prime working age participating in the labor market. That's sort of surprising, I think, to most Americans when they hear that and it means that our economy isn't producing enough good jobs to bring people out of the woodwork. It's not training people for positions. It's not providing the kind of benefits that people need to feel confident they can take a job; if you're going to lose your health insurance if you take a job. That's obviously something that doesn't appeal to you. So that's what I've been thinking about.

NICIE: Your recent book, American Amnesia, is of great interest to us and maybe there's a little bit of a generational aspect of this conversation that - I certainly grew up feeling that government was not some beneficent sprinkler or a fairy dust on the world but that it was basically good. Government was helpful in a range of ways and all of our everyday lives. So you tell the story in the book of how this big idea changed - that government is no longer perceived broadly as a force for good and it is perceived more frequently as a problem or a force for, frankly, evil or problems. So maybe take us through a little bit of that story and what happened.

HACKER: So the first thing that I think is really important for people to understand is the reason that we became such a rich, educated, healthy country in the 20th century was because of government. Now that's not to say it was only government, but if you look at the sort of fundamental innovations in public health, in the expansion of public education, in the creation of a social insurance system like Social Security, Medicare, and in the creation of world-class infrastructure and research and development, we were basically jet fueling our economy and creating a lot more opportunity in the process. And so at the start of the 20th century, life expectancy was in the 40 to 50 year range. Of course now it's dramatically greater. GDP per capita annual incomes were down at what many developing countries are at today and now of course we're among the richest countries in the world. And education was you know really anemic. We didn't even have universal high schools in the early 20th century, even though we were world leaders in public education. So the first thing that people should understand is that government was central to this and you know, one example that we give in the book is that after World War II we were spending more on research and development through the federal government than the rest of the world's businesses and governments combined. So basically, we owned the field and that's why we became the world leader in technology like supercomputing and semiconductors, radar, digital, you name it. Most medical technology came out of government research and just to say, there was a very supportive ecosystem for this government role. Our politics was more moderate and it was more pro-government. And that's partly because Americans were more sympathetic towards government.

NICIE: So let's talk about a very particular character who we learned a little bit that in the book and that is Dwight Eisenhower. Tell us about Eisenhower and remind our listeners of how he governed what he thought of as government's role in society.

HACKER: Eisenhower was pretty conservative in many ways for his day. And you know, he believed in budget balance. He was worried about the degree to which there was creeping socialism and yet he would look unrecognizable within the contemporary Republican Party. He would basically be a moderate Democrat today. It wasn't just Eisenhower. I mean, it was the Republican Party as a whole was far, far more moderate at the time. We tell also the story of another figure who is very important in the research and development. This is Vannevar Bush, who was an MIT engineer who became basically the father of the National Science Foundation. He was a conservative Republican. Again, he was a Hoover supporter at one point and yet he worked closely with FDR. So what did Eisenhower recognize? I think there was two things. The political reality was the government was doing a lot of good things and people liked it. He wrote this famous letter to his brother in which he said, "there are some politicians and rich oil men who want to get rid of Social Security and rollback labor rights and the like." But then he said, "they're small in number and they are stupid." Because he understood that that was a political suicide, any political party who did that. And he also felt like it was a bad idea that we had made great progress in a lot of these areas and that while he didn't believe that we should dramatically expand some of these programs, he thought they were really important and Eisenhower was the key force behind the expansion of the federal role in higher education and public education, building on the G.I. Bill. He also, as is well-known, was the person who oversaw the creation of the Interstate Highway System, which revolutionized our economy in ways that people don't I think recognize today, just how bad it was. Eisenhower himself had as a young man in the Army had taken something like a 60-hour trip across the country. It took them days upon days to get to California. And he remembered just how awful the infrastructure was. This was really holding back the country. So it really raises this question of what happened and we tell the story as involving two major players: the Republican Party, which went from being very moderate to moving to the right, particularly in the wake of Barry Goldwater's challenge within the GOP in the 60s, and the story of the business community, which also moved dramatically right. And the business community is the less well-known story. We all know the Republican Party went to the right. It's like the ultimate dog-bites-man story. The man-bites-dog story is that the business community was actually really moderate in mid-20th century. It had worked with government during the war. Most of its leaders were really committed to the basic idea of fairness. There's lots of stories of business leaders who wouldn't pay themselves more than a certain amount relative to their frontline workers. One of the people who was part of this moderate business establishment as well as a moderate Republican was Mitt Romney's father, George Romney. George to Mitt Romney is actually a pretty good metaphor for what happened to both the business community when it became super financialized, it became more conservative not because business leaders themselves became dramatically more conservative though some did, but because the associations that represented business became much more conservative. If anybody looks at the way the Chamber of Commerce operates today, they recognize that it now is basically a lobbyist for the sort of narrow interests of certain corporate sectors and a key supporter of the Republican Party. And then there's a new business organization. It deserves to be called a business organization. The Koch Brothers network, which is as large if not larger than the Chamber and particularly active in changing the terms of discourse over the last 30 years, of really changing the way we talk about government. So business and the Republican Party moved away from the sort of moderate post-war consensus. And then of course we all know that there were a bunch of big shifts in the 70s that shattered our understanding of the economy and opened the door for this change and also shattered our complacency about government. I mean so they're really - alongside the really great faith in government was somewhat of an unwillingness to realize that there were some real threats that were posed by the growth in executive power. And so when Nixon did these, what would now seem rather modest abuses relative to what we're considering with the Trump administration, but when Nixon did these things it was really a huge blow. Watergate is really one of the crystallizing moments in the decline in faith in government. If you look at the polls right after World War II and in the 60s, essentially 75 percent of Americans said they trusted government to do what was right always or most of the time. And after Watergate that had plummeted downward to less than 50 percent. And it has essentially continued to set new lows. It sort of rose a little bit in the wake of 9/11. But right now we're seeing record low levels of faith in government in general and particularly in Congress. I mean, people think Congress is a total mess and they're not wrong. So the faith in government dropped for understandable reasons but it never really came back. And I think part of the reason it didn't come back was because Republicans realized that they could run for government by running against government. Not just Republicans. Democrats too, once it became clear that it was sort of a losing proposition to say, "government's great," also kind of adopted the skeptical line. And as I said you know, there were some economic shocks in the 70s that made people more skeptical of the idea that government could manage the economy. The irony again is that overall, government's role in the economy has been enormously positive and it's probably more important now than ever because we're in a complex technological society. If you look at the knowledge economy, which is the economy that you see in places like Boston and San Francisco and New York, the knowledge economy is heavily dependent on getting government right, making sure that you have places that are conducive for innovation and growth and that means research and development. It means education, and those parts of our economy have been prospering to a greater and greater degree in this era. And one of the great concerns I have is that there is a disconnect now that many voters who are not in these prosperous centers have really kind of come to feel that government isn't just incompetent but, like, somehow fundamentally trying to hold them down. And so, we're maybe getting ahead of ourselves but I think the huge challenge is to create a model for an active government in the 21st century that is good for a broad cross-section of Americans, not just those who are living in these urban innovation hubs and that's going to require some substantial reforms. But it's ultimately going to require a really active role for government.

NICIE: One of the things that I most appreciated in the book is the attention that you pay to young people in our society and what's going on with them. And I think about something like certainly education but also something like rural broadband. As an example, if you're a family living not in one of our big cities and you have children and you can't get any kind of fast internet at home, you know, just the implications of that alone for your child's future are quite significant, I think. So, it strikes me as an example of maybe there are some ways to start shifting that narrative from "all taxes are bad" to here's something concrete that the government can do for you and your family. But maybe just spend a little minute on the youth aspect of this and where you think the policies are that could maybe start shifting things a bit.

HACKER: Young people are the barometer of the future health of our society. And in fact I think a lot of times we are neglecting how far we've fallen because we look at the population as a whole and not at the people who have just experienced our systems of education or our systems for providing opportunity. So an example of this is that we have the most educated old people in the world, but among young people we've fallen to the low teens relative to other rich countries in terms of getting people through college. Or, if you look at entry level wages or job security, you know, it's really young people who show you where the economy will go, if we don't start to rebuild some of the structures and policies that help create the middle class and cement our leadership in the world as a rich economy. And I think young people are actually also quite revealing politically. They are actually very idealistic and generally fairly left of center but they're also very cynical about government. And so I want to make one really important point here and that is that our surveys, the conversations I've had with voters through pretty systematic qualitative work I've been doing, and the research of others have all pointed to the idea that most Americans are not anti-government in the sense of thinking that, you know, you're throwing money down the drain if you pay taxes or that government shouldn't be doing things. They're very cynical about how government works. And they feel as if it's captured basically by elites. That rich people and interest groups decide what government does. And so even if government could do all these things well and even if they're happy to pay taxes for good programs they don't feel like their interests are represented with government. I think that's really important to understand, and young people particularly feel that way and they're not entirely wrong. [laughs] Maybe they're not wrong at all to feel that way. So I do think that the key to rebuilding trust in government is to make sure that government is doing things that are visibly good for a large majority of Americans and to do the kind of political reforms that would reduce the evident influence of rich Americans and interest groups. You know, we've had scores of political science studies done by really top people in the field that have shown that middle class and lower income Americans have seemingly little or no influence on policy decisions, however you measure them. So if you look at the correspondence between public opinion polls and what government does, it's essentially zero for middle class and poor people, when middle class and poor people disagree with rich people or monied interest groups. So I don't want to overstate the case but I think that that is really important that people understand that it's not that government is in disrepute in the way that it might have been in say the 70s because of this idea that there was a certain kind of corruption within the executive branch or the way it might have been in the 80s when there was all this anti-government rhetoric around Pentagon overspending and the like. It's really clearly about the fact that people think that they don't have a voice. And so I'm hopeful that if we see a big upsurge of activism in the 2018 election and beyond, and that activism results in reforms, that it will be a reaffirmation of the idea that there is a connection between participation and demand for change and actual governance and policy change and that's what's necessary. I mean, the formula for reform isn't actually that complicated. It's: say you want to do good things, get elected, do good things, get reelected. That's the spin cycle of successful political reform. And I'm more optimistic than I might have been in the past partly because I do think the disconnect is the big problem, not that people somehow think government can't do anything right.

NICIE: There's an interesting group of former government employees who have emerged as part of this election cycle and they are military veterans who are running for office. And I'd be interested in your take on whether they can have a meaningful impact or not. They're certainly by our estimation a very well-intentioned group. Let's say a whole bunch of them get elected. They will be encountering the same structural forces that everybody else has been encountering in Congress to try this, trying to do good work. So what are your thoughts there?

HACKER: Well the first thing I think of is to go back to Eisenhower, that apparently Harry Truman when Eisenhower was elected told his aides he said you know, "Ike is going to come in. He's going to say, Do this, do that and nothing's going to happen. It won't be a bit like the military." It is to say that the military is one of the, if not the most effective government institutions we have. It's a huge engine for economic opportunity. It's incredibly well integrated in a way that goes back of course to a period in which the private workforce was not integrated at all. And people think of the military as being kind of full of folks who want to fight wars and that's absolutely not the case, that for the most part people within the military very much recognize the limits of their powers. It's a very pragmatic bunch, in that we need some more pragmatism in government. That said, the military isn't obviously akin, just as a company isn't the same as running a country, the military isn't akin to the messy world of American democracy. It's a hierarchical organization. What I do think it shows us though, and especially given the fact that a lot of those who are running with military backgrounds are running as Democrats of course, is that the military is, I think, no longer this kind of reliable bastion of the right and that those folks who are coming in who have been within government, I think, they have an attitude that is pretty different than those who've been in private law or in business in that they think the government is a force for good and that we need to run it better. They've seen an institution within government that runs well. So I think it could be very positive. At the same time I don't like, and I'm not worried about this, but I don't like the treatment of military veterans as being somehow a way of inoculating one party or another, particular the Democratic Party, against the charges that it's somehow not patriotic or putting America first. And that's the only thing I hope that this doesn't force age, which is sort of another episode in as we saw with John Kerry's nomination in 2004 in sort of embracing the symbolism of the military without embracing the message, which is basically that government can work well if it's well run.

NICIE: Just real quickly on the business community. You talk about some of the very strong forces that have pushed American politics to the right, that have been funded and led by members of business community. I attended a presentation recently by the firm Edelman PR firm, communications firm, and they do a Trust Barometer every year and their research shows that public trust in corporations and CEOs right now is very, very high compared to our institutions of government. And so I am wondering if there is a way for CEOs and business leaders who may share more of your viewpoint to really step forward and spend some of that trust capital in order to get us to a different place in our politics.

HACKER: It's a great question. In fact at the end of American Amnesia we talk about this. Can we see a return to the idea of CEOs as being kind of influential, farsighted leaders who are standing up for good government? We're pretty skeptical in the book about how that's worked to date to the extent that CEOs have gotten involved in politics recently. It's often been around very narrow ends: healthcare interests, wanting to jack up health care prices and reduce government's role in regulating them, or energy interests, trying to head off any effort to deal with climate change. Or maybe more poignantly, the last big mobilization of CEOs around a cause was at the highest point in long-term unemployment in our modern history, it was a bunch of CEOs got together to say, "we have to fix the debt. You know, the first thing we need to do is bring in the budget," which is a long term, absolutely right, and unfortunately these tax cuts that business leaders are supporting are going to add to the deficit. But at the time just seemed like really off key. It was like a lot of people were barely able to tread water and you had all these rich people saying let's tighten our belts. I actually believe that if you look at what farsighted leaders like Warren Buffett or Bill Gates have done and talked about, that they're completely on board with this idea that you need government. Gates himself has said we never would have gotten universal vaccinations or near universal vaccinations in the United States were it not for government's role. He's talked about the fact that even his huge philanthropic efforts are just a drop in the bucket and that you need to have that aligned with big investments by the public sector. But I've been struck by the extent to which there have been few business leaders willing to stand up and really talk forthrightly about this and I do think if it changed it would make an enormous difference. So it makes me wonder why, and I have two hypotheses and I think they point towards one prescription. So, the first is that if you look at the group that depends most on past government investments, Silicon Valley, it has this funny kind of tech libertarian streak. And of course there are libertarians in Silicon Valley but here I mean the people who are not. There was a poll that was done by some researchers at Stanford where they found that tech entrepreneurs were more anti-regulation and more anti-union than Republicans, ordinary Republican voters, even though they were very progressive on social issues and they believe that we should tackle inequality and so on. The tech libertarian side is - that group is not standing out. But there are others who could. The other thing that I think is true is that the major organizations that represent business tend not to amplify that kind of message or represented at all. The only group that's kind of moderate in the business community that's been really prominent is The Business Roundtable. And it's really lost a lot of visibility and has become much more narrowly focused on executive salaries and the like. So the prescription, I think, is: you need to get a few people speaking out. There's this thing called, in communications research they call a spiral of silence, when you hear silence when it comes to an important argument like government works. And then you assume that that's because everyone else agrees with you and then you're silent as well and I think we are struck in a bit of a spiral of silence. But the fact that the organizations matter so much makes me think that there's going to have to be some effort on the part of big progressive funders to create organizations that can amplify the voice of business leaders who are willing to speak out. And not just about government in the abstract but about specific things we need to do, like making sure that every kid can go to and get through college, or returning to the kinds of high levels of public investment in infrastructure and research and development that we once had.

NICIE: So maybe flipping the whole thing on its head. The other set of voices I'd be interested in your thoughts are those of actual working people and there's a new book out from Ken Langone, who is the founder of Home Depot. And the title of that is actually I love Capitalism, exclamation point. And there is a website called Splinter and they solicited comments on the book from people who work at Home Depot and it's a rich trove of responses, many of them very constructive, thoughtful, poignant, and super depressing. But one thing I wonder about is how again this kind of national conversation can start to feature a little bit more of the actual voices of people dealing with the level of economic insecurity that inspired your career in the first place.

HACKER: I think that that is so vital and it is the biggest cost of our massive decline of unions. Now unions weren't always the best voice for working people. But they were an indispensable part of this sort of post-war discourse and political climate. And I think something that people don't realize about unions they often think about unions as being really important within the workplace is that they were basically the major political player on behalf of the working class and middle class. So they got a lot of people out to vote. That was their main resource. It wasn't that they had huge amounts of cash. We forget that they basically were just engines of voter mobilization. And in doing so, right, of course they were amplifying the voice of a lot of people whose voice wouldn't otherwise resonate in American politics. Now, I don't think traditional unions have a great deal of chance of coming back in a big way in the near term. And that's an optimistic way of putting it. However, I do think there's an enormous number of ways in which we could amplify the voices of ordinary working people without revitalizing unions. And I don't want to go into examples, some of them are in our book. There's a lot of writing now about alt labor, social movement unionism. The way in social media can bring these voices to the fore. But let me give one example that I think really is telling. The Me Too movement has been a dramatic and hugely decentralized crusade that has transformed discourse and policy and the careers of a lot of prominent public officials and private businessmen in just fundamental ways and we seem to be able to do these kinds of things. This is not the first example, it's probably the most successful example of a kind of movement organized through social media and decentralized response to social problems. We seem to be able to do those things more around what has traditionally been called social issues than around economic issues. But I see no reason why we could not have a really powerful movement to represent working class Americans and by working class here I mean basically everyone who isn't at the top of the economy because the way our economy has transformed over the last generation, what we would think of as a typical working class person is not someone who's working in manufacturing. It's not a white male in manufacturing in particular. It's a very diverse group of people in a whole range of service sectors from knowledge and industries but not at the very top to healthcare and education. And so here is another sign that I think is quite promising and it maybe is the first stirrings of a Me Too movement that applies to economics. It's the strikes, the teacher strikes. This is both a big victory on behalf of the public sector but also a chance to hear about the kind of working people who really represent today's workers, right?Diverse group of women, mostly women but not entirely women, and men who it turns out are making not even enough to scrape by. They're buying their own supplies. And they're winning even in the most conservative states, especially in those states because that's where the problem is most severe, by basically saying we're working on behalf of the future, right, of our kids, your kids. And so to me that's a very inspiring example and makes me feel like we've got a chance of righting this ship. That's what keeps me going and writing and thinking.

NICIE: Well you talk a bit at the beginning of the book just about the essential theories about government and how they evolved in the 18th and 19th centuries. I'm thinking of the Parkland kids as well. And one of the things I learned in political science was that one of the definitions of government is it has a monopoly on violence. And I think people maybe, again, because we don't always have that comparative perspective of how people live in other countries. We don't really quite see as clearly as we could, how we're losing our grip on the government's monopoly on violence in our society. But the Parkland kids give me hope too. They're figuring out ways to get that message out there maybe in ways that finally they'll break through.

HACKER: Absolutely. That's a really great example. So there, I think, are two great shifts in the rise of government. The first one is associated with this creation of centralized bureaucratic states, but not democracy in most cases. And that was the massive reduction in violence that occurred when the state basically said, "we get to be in charge of defense and police. And in fact if you kill or attack someone else, that's a crime against the state and the state will prosecute you." Now, this was not very benign at first but there was a huge decline in violence within societies, not a decline in interstate conflict. The next big shift was the rise of democracy. And that involved a deepening of this and of course the creation of rights for people so that they wouldn't be abused by government's monopoly on violence. But it also involved through democracies a commitment to a much more inclusive understanding of what government's role was. Its role was to educate. Its role was to help all parts of society. Its role was to create the grounds for economic social development. And so we have in the United States, I think, lost a lot of ground with regard to that larger role and that's partly because our democracy is weakened. But I wouldn't have thought, you know, a generation ago, it would have been hard to think that you would see such attacks on the states' monopoly on violence to the point that gun rights advocates say that the reason to have guns is not about self-defence against people who might try to hurt you or steal your stuff or that it's about, you know, hunting or something else, But it's about - it's like a seedbed of liberty, it's a defense against government. That's a scary thought. It's a totally unrealistic thought first of all, if you look at our military, right? It's not going to work. And it's a really scary thought because in fact it's creating the opposite condition in which there is enormous amount of private violence and threat all the time instead of the kind of safety and stability that it's supposed to provide. I'm not an expert on the law of gun control but if you look at this retreat in the U.S. and it is really a retreat. It's gotten worse. The rhetoric of gun proponents, gun rights advocates, has gotten much more extreme and of course school shootings have gotten much more frequent. And while overall gun violence has declined because of the decline of crime, where it is endemic it is still this enormous blight. And if we can't come up with sensible regulations that would allow us to move in the direction of other countries that don't have this kind of endemic violence, then it strikes me that we're really failing as a democratic society. And it worries me that there are people for whom this is seen not as a source of security but as a threat. You know, to me that's kind of the ultimate expression of the anti-government ethos today, the idea that you need to be armed to the teeth because somehow your government is your greatest threat to your liberty and even though historically government has been the main guarantor of your liberty.

NICIE: So this has been great. Maybe we could just close - we have a big set of elections coming and the MidPod is all about these 2018 midterm elections, so any thoughts? Do you have advice for voters? Advice for candidates? We're all ears.

HACKER: Well first, let me say how much I appreciate that you're doing this. I think it's absolutely important that we're not just talking about who's going to win or lose particular races but we're talking about what the priorities should be as a society. And I will say, if you went back to 2015 and thought about what would have happened if the election had gone the other way, if Hillary Clinton had won and Republicans had held onto Congress we would've seen a slow grinding down of government capacity of the sort that we've been seeing for the prior 25 years, of the sort we saw in the latter years of the Obama Administration. And who knows, I mean there's a good chance that Hillary Clinton would have been brought up on impeachment proceedings had she been elected even faster than the current occupant of the Oval Office, who may face them in the future. So that might have been in some way a better reality because right now we're seeing, I think, a real crisis of our government and democracy but it's been crystallizing and animating and energizing. And I have to say I have never lived through a mid-term season like this and I feel as if despite all of the barriers, the fact that there are definitely structural reasons why it will be hard to get a pro-government majority into our government. And I put higher odds on this than I would ever have thought possible a few years ago. And that's because of the amount of commitment and mobilization. I saw some recent surveys that showed a very large share of Americans, relatively speaking historically, participate in protest activities. And I'm just struck by the extent to which young Americans, my students, my kids and others who have been galvanized by what's happening, are really saying, "now we know and understand that we have to be part of this." So I'm actually more hopeful today than I might have been a couple of years ago because I think that we have seen the costs of denigrating government to such an extent that we're willing to let a bunch of leaders who are using government almost solely for private enrichment, either personal or the enrichment of their allies in the corporate community that we've seen that and we understand that that's not the purpose of government. So I have my fingers crossed and I have a lot of faith ultimately inn the wisdom of the electorate. Whether or not their voice will be heard depends a lot on everyone getting out and not just for one election but for that one after that, and the one after that. Political reform isn't so complicated. You need to advocate big changes, get elected, proceed to implement as much of them as you can, and then get reelected. And so let's hope that we start the positive cycle of reform and get out of this vicious cycle of government dysfunction.

NICIE: It's a huge opportunity. [laughs] Thank you so much, Jacob Hacker. Much, much appreciated.

Eunice Panetta