12/2 How The Rich Rigged Our Tax Code With “Opportunity Zones” w/ David Wessel

December 2, 2021

Emma hosts David Wessel, senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, to discuss his recent book Only the Rich Can Play: How Washington Works in the New Gilded Age., and how bipartisan legislation on Opportunity Zones has created a tax haven for the ultra-wealthy under the guise of investing in low-income communities. They begin by covering what Opportunity Zones are, and how they work, looking at tech mogul Sean Parker’s ingenious idea to promote investment in low-income neighborhoods to combat geographic inequality by giving massive tax cuts on capital gains as a reward, and how it made its way into Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, with help from Tim Scott and Cory Booker. After exploring the actual tax breaks and tax deferrals in the policy, they dive into the actual impact of the legislation, exploring how investment opportunities for the wealthy, unsurprisingly, has resulted in a focus on making capital gains on your capital gains rather than actually putting the tax break back into low-income communities. Next, David Wessel walks through concrete examples, looking at the massive investments in “Opportunity Zones” that include a Ritz Carlton condo complex and hotel in Portland, and a Goldman Sachs-backed complex in Baltimore, and the effective impact of federally-backed gentrification that the policy has created. This brings him and Emma to the real estate industry and its focus on the exploitation of legislation, exploring the Mandalay Bay Opportunity Zone convention that saw wealthy investors come together and explore their new opportunities for tax avoidance, before they wrap up the interview by looking at the future of Opportunity Zones, including the billions of tax dollars it will lose in the coming decade, and whether or not it will meet any practical pushback. Emma also covers the nation waiting on SCOTUS’ upcoming decision on Mississippi’s abortion ban, the horrifying ramifications it could lead to, and Fox’s anticipatory threats ahead of the conservative Court’s vote.

And in the Fun Half: Brandon and Matt join Emma to take on the role of musicals in this cultural moment, cover Brian Kilmeade continuing the whitewashing of the 80s with a discussion of the “overhyped” reaction to the AIDS epidemic, and BJ from Montana calls in on Governor Gianforte leaving Montana residents in ashes. They also cover puritan influencer Eric Metaxas’ impure experience with COVID, Greenwald’s poor pattern recognition as he goes after a Brazilian Petroleum Workers Union for their “privilege” in understanding the inefficiencies and exploitation in the philanthropy model, and Matt and Matt rant on cryptocurrency’s scams, plus your calls and IMs!

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