Second ‘BuzzFeed Brews’ Event Addresses Jobs, Labor Laws

On Oct. 20, the Newseum hosted the second installment of the “BuzzFeed Brews @ the Newseum” series, in partnership with BuzzFeed News. The evening series, taking place throughout the fall, focuses on key issues the nation will face in 2017.

At last night’s event, BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith interviewed Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress. Tanden has served in the Obama and Clinton administrations, and worked on presidential campaigns for both Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The two speakers took their seats on stage while firing off jokes about the latest developments in this year’s election. Tanden referred to herself as a “puppet” — the word Hillary Clinton used to describe Donald Trump in the final presidential debate Oct. 19. Smith told the audience that it was difficult to make plans with Tanden because “she refuses to use email.” (Tanden has been recently caught up in the WikiLeaks email scandal.)

After the playful exchange, the two settled down to a discussion on campaign issues and what Clinton’s agenda would be if she were elected president. Jobs and employment were the focus of a large portion of the evening’s conversation, as both candidates have frequently focused on these issues in their campaigns. Tanden said she hoped and expected Clinton to raise the national minimum wage to $15 per hour, and talked about Clinton’s ideas for reforming labor laws. Our current labor laws reflect an outdated idea of our workforce, one that is no longer reality, Tanden said. The “gig economy” and the rise of independent contractors have resulted in more people who have less bargaining power in the economy, and our laws need to be adapted to protect them, she argued.

Smith also asked about areas where Clinton would be more or less able to “work across the aisle” as president, and about the transition from Obama to Clinton, if she were elected. Jobs, immigration and health care would be the top priorities, Tanden responded, and the focus would be on “keeping the momentum going” from the Obama administration.

The conversation eventually circled back to the campaign.

“It’s an odd election cycle,” Tanden commented, an observation that has been made repeatedly in the media and political circles since Trump became the Republican Party nominee. “In what way?” Smith quipped.

Tanden said that Americans feel let down in this election, and that they’ve lost faith in the nation’s institutions. She explained why Trump won the GOP nomination. “The majority of Republicans felt that their leaders had betrayed them,” she said.

The evening didn’t end without a final mention of the massive email hacks that have roiled Clinton’s campaign. Tanden pointed to a comment Florida Sen. Marco Rubio made recently warning Republicans who wanted to politicize the email leaks in their favor.

“Today it is the Democrats. Tomorrow it could be us,” Rubio said.

“When we look at the email hacks, we need to think, ‘There but for the grace of God go I,’” Tanden said.

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