Episode

3/24 The Collapse of Venezuela w/ William Neuman & Summer Lee

March 24, 2022

Emma hosts journalist William Neuman to discuss his recent book Things Are Never So Bad That They Can’t Get Worse: Inside the Collapse of Venezuela. Then, Emma is joined by Summer Lee, candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 12th District, to give up an update from the campaign trail. William Neuman begins by jumping back to his first move to Venezuela at the start of the 2010s, as a correspondent for the New York Times, tracing the story of Venezuela’s economic collapse. He starts with the booming success of Hugo Chavez in the 2000s, as he oversaw an incredible jump in oil prices, and began a spree of government spending and borrowing, without saving the income for any future crisis – thus, when Chavez died from cancer in the wake of his 2010 reelection, passing the reins to Nicolás Maduro, only for a massive drop in oil prices, down to around a quarter of the peak of Chavez’s administration, to completely cripple the economic output of the country beginning in 2012. The rest of the 2010s saw Maduro attempt to grapple with the crisis while uncertain about altering Chavez’s pre-existing policy, as hyperinflation, depression, and rising refugee rates took over, leading up to the mass blackouts in 2019, and eventual controversy over Maduro’s reelection. This brings Neuman and Emma to the role of US foreign policy and sanctions in pushing Venezuela over the edge, as former President Trump and John Bolton pushed intervention to the extreme, with the Defense Department rejecting any actual invasion, before Bolton chose to “go for the win” and push Maduro completely out of office by putting an incredibly stringent set of general sanctions, effectively enforcing a complete oil embargo against the country, cutting them off from the world economy and digging them deeper into this crisis – effectively. This, of course, came alongside the declaration by Juan Guaidó that he was the legitimate president, with much of the West clamoring to support and recognize him, despite the similar illegitimacy of his claim in the wake of large disenfranchisement and voter suppression, with American Republicans attempting to capitalize on the socialist boogeyman to bolster their electoral push in Florida. Emma and William then dive into the counter to this negative branding of Socialism by the US, looking to Chavez’s autocratic rise as a populist, appropriating the socialist rhetoric and symbolism of the 60s and 70s in Latin America, without taking on the actual policy, pushing increasing polarization and capitalizing on the oil boom. After briefly touching on what the country looked like during the economic collapse, and the various unsuccessful (and some successful) policy the government took on at the time, Emma gets Neuman to dive into what the role of the leftist opposition in Venezuela is, as they discuss the discourse from politicians such as Henrique Capriles and the need to not just take down the bad guys in government, but to build up good and functioning institutions in the wake. Emma also touches on the end of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings, the continued Russia escalation in Ukraine, and the disastrous and corrupt shadow docket decision by SCOTUS to overturn the Wisconsin State Supreme Court’s decision regarding redistricting.

And in the Fun Half: Emma hosts Summer Lee as they unpack fighting for her base of poor and working-class Pennsylvanians when up against union-busters, being a part of a legislative arena with white supremacists strewn throughout it, and what working for Pittsburgh means to her. Then, Brandon and Matt join as Kowalski gives his agriculture update, Tucker goes deep into the role of genes and the Supreme Court, and Joe Rogan defends the ideology behind the “don’t say gay” bills, lighting fire under the bigots’ fight for the right to be themselves (violent assholes). Bee from PA discusses Leftists and the culture war, as Matt, Brandon, and Emma unpack who the “Left” is, and the difference between “culture war” and “civil rights,” before Cory Booker goes Cuckoo for Crypto, Bari Weiss takes the crown for cringiest Ukraine poem – overtaking both the Pelosi x Bono collaboration and the wonderful AnnaLynne McCord’s “If I Were Your Mother” – plus, your calls and IMs!

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