Remembrance of College Interviews Past

I’d exposed the fact that by age eighteen, I had learned that someone would always, always be better than me at everything.

An Interview with Leanne Brown, Author of the (Free) $4 a Day SNAP Cookbook

Leanne Brown is a Canadian-born NYU food studies graduate whose masters’ project was Good and Cheap, a free PDF cookbook for food stamp budgets ($4/day). She posted the PDF on her website, and it was downloaded over 100,000 times after being discovered by Reddit. Now, she’s launched a Kickstarter to print the book so she can get copies to people in need, and she’s already well past its initial $10,000 goal. I recently talked to her about cooking on limited incomes, food studies, her experience with Kickstarter, and more.

Debt in America

The Los Angeles Review of Books has a really interesting interview with Andrew Ross, the author of Creditocracy, which examines debt in the U.S. and our "predatory debt-money system that only benefits the 1%."

The Whelps of Wall Street: What It’s Like to Work as a Junior Banker in the Post-Crisis Era

Initially, Roose thought about going undercover as a banker, but as an English major who dropped an economics class after three weeks and a name that was easily Google-able, he switched gears and decided to shadow young bankers for three years as they left college and started their careers on Wall Street. His book, Young Money, is about what it's like to work as a junior banker in the largest financial institutions in the world, and how Wall Street's culture and recruiting efforts have shifted in the post-crisis era. I spoke to Roose while he was in town this week promoting his book.

Can Americans Retire? (Part II)

In part one of my interview with National Institute on Retirement Security Director Diane Oakley, I mentioned that the Obama administration is endorsing an automatic IRA. The plan would mandate employers who do not already offer savings plans to provide a government-approved private alternative, with automatic enrollment. This is in many ways similar to the Affordable Care Act, also proposed in part by the conservative Heritage Foundation, and is a compromise from a more government-involved and subsidized proposal from the Clinton era. It's now mostly opposed by conservatives and industry groups.

A Chat With the Women Who Started ‘Rice Paper Scissors,’ A Vietnamese Restaurant in San Francisco

We're Valerie and Katie, the founders of Rice Paper Scissors, a Vietnamese restaurant based in San Francisco.

Bill Gates Talks About Income Inequality

At Rolling Stone, Jeff Goodell talks to Bill Gates about, well a variety of things—Silicon Valley, climate change, his foundation—but the part I’m particularly interested in is Gates’s views on poverty and income inequality:

Let’s talk about income inequality, which economist Paul Krugman and others have written a lot about. As a person who’s at the very top of the one percent, do you see this as one of the great issues of our time?

Well, now you’re getting into sort of complicated issues. In general, on taxation-type things, you’d think of me as a Democrat. That is, when tax rates are below, say, 50 percent, I believe there often is room for additional taxation. And I’ve been very upfront on the need to increase estate taxes. Particularly given the medical obligations that the state is taking on and the costs that those have over time. You can’t have a rigid view that all new taxes are evil. Yes, they have negative effects, but I’m like Krugman in that if you expect the state to do these things, they are going to cost money.

Should the state be playing a greater role in helping people at the lowest end of the income scale? Poverty today looks very different than poverty in the past. The real thing you want to look at is consumption and use that as a metric and say, “Have you been worried about having enough to eat? Do you have enough warmth, shelter? Do you think of yourself as having a place to go?” The poor are better off than they were before, even though they’re still in the bottom group in terms of income.

The way we help the poor out today [is also a problem]. You have Section 8 housing, food stamps, fuel programs, very complex medical programs. It’s all high-overhead, capricious, not well-designed. Its ability to distinguish between somebody who has family that could take care of them versus someone who’s really out on their own is not very good, either. It’s a totally gameable system – not everybody games it, but lots of people do. Why aren’t the technocrats taking the poverty programs, looking at them as a whole, and then redesigning them? Well, they are afraid that if they do, their funding is going to be cut back, so they defend the thing that is absolutely horrific. Just look at low-cost housing and the various forms, the wait lists, things like that.

When we get things right, it benefits the entire world. The world’s governments don’t copy everything we do. They see some things we do – like the way we run our postal service, or Puerto Rico – are just wrong. But they look to us for so many things. And we can do better.

Gates also talks about how difficult it is to make specific changes to improve things because of the current political climate where there is little consensus on what should be done. “If I could wave a wand and fix one thing, it’d be political deadlock, the education system or health care costs,” Gates says. “One of those three, I don’t know which.”

Photo: Domain Bonyard

How David Shapiro, Creator of Pitchfork Reviews Reviews, Does Money

David Shapiro is the pen name of a writer who created a Tumblr blog called Pitchfork Reviews Reviews. He then wrote a novel (You're Not Much Use to Anyone, out now) about a character named David who created a Tumblr blog called Pitchfork Reviews Reviews. We talked about his career and his money.

Detroit Would Rather You Not Take Pictures of Its Ruins

I called Philp to ask him what people like me, outsiders with no knowledge of the city and getting this constant barrage of ruin-porn and gentrification panics, should know about what it's like to live there.

An Interview With a Person Who Makes a Living Doing Seasonal Work

My friend Emily and I first met while preparing to study abroad in Barcelona in 2003. Some of the first things I learned about her were that she loved ice hockey and sailing. After we graduated, Emily took a summer job as the seasonal program director of a yacht club. She took it again the following year, and the year after that.