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Episode 213
Featuring David Wessel
Demetri Kofinas speaks with David Wessel, author of “Only the Rich Can Play: How Washington Works in the New Gilded Age,” about a new set of lucrative tax breaks known as “Opportunity Zones” and what their passage into law tells us about how financial and political power is wielded in Washington.

In Episode 213 of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with David Wessel, a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution and director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy. David is also the author of a new book titled, “Only the Rich Can Play: How Washington Works in the New Gilded Age.”

In the book, Wessel tells the story of the creation of a lucrative tax break in which wealthy elites attend to one another, under the guise of social justice and redistribution. This tax break, known as “Opportunity Zones,” was sold as a way to incentivizing people to invest in distressed, low-income communities, with the official purpose of spurring economic growth and job creation, but which in practice, seems to have served primarily as yet another tax loophole in an already convoluted tax code full of them.

The first part of today’s conversation is spent discussing the Opportunity Zone provision itself, the story of its creation and implementation into law, and what this tells us about how financial and political power is wielded in Washington. The second part includes a discussion about political corruption, corporate concentration, the current infrastructure bill and its associated tax provisions, as well as the upcoming elections and Trump’s chances in 2024.

You can access the second part of this episode, as well as the transcript and rundown to this week’s conversation through the Hidden Forces Patreon Page. All subscribers gain access to our premium feed, which can be easily added to your favorite podcast application.

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Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

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Follow Demetri on Twitter at @Kofinas

Episode Recorded on 09/29/2021

David Wessel is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings and director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, the mission of which is to improve the quality of fiscal and monetary policies and public understanding of them. He joined Brookings in December 2013 after 30 years on the staff of The Wall Street Journal where, most recently, he was economics editor and wrote the weekly Capital column. He is the author of two New York Times best-sellers: “In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke’s War on the Great Panic” (2009) and “Red Ink: Inside the High Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget” (2012.) He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes, one in 1984 for a Boston Globe series on the persistence of racism in Boston and the other in 2003 for Wall Street Journal stories on corporate scandals. David has served as a member of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Data Users Advisory Committee. He also has taught in the Dartmouth Tuck School of Business Global 2030 executive education program and in the journalism program at Princeton University.  A native of New Haven, Conn., and a product of its public schools, David is a 1975 graduate of Haverford College. He was a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Business and Economics Journalism at Columbia University in 1980-81.

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