How to Be a Modern Democrat — and Win

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Gina Raimondo is one of just 15 Democratic governors in the country. (Gina Raimondo/Flickr)

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “How to Be a Modern Democrat — and Win.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at Apple Podcasts or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)

Gina Raimondo, the governor of tiny Rhode Island, has taken on unions, boosted big business, and made friends with Republicans. She is also one of just 15 Democratic governors in the country. Would there be more of them if there were more like her?

Below is a transcript of the episode, modified for your reading pleasure. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.

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Stephen DUBNER: Okay. It’s Stephen Dubner. Is that Governor Raimondo?

Gina RAIMONDO: It is. Hi, Stephen, it’s Gina, how are you?

DUBNER: Hi Gina, very nice to meet you. Thanks so much for doing this.

RAIMONDO: Yes, I’m happy to. I am a secret, closet economist.

DUBNER: You are 46 years old, and you’ve done a lot. You have an undergrad economics degree from Harvard, a Ph.D. in sociology from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, a J.D. from Yale, and then 10 years in venture capital focused on health care, and then General Treasurer of Rhode Island, before your election as governor in 2014.

DUBNER: So I have to say, when I think of Rhode Island, I think of the tiny state next to Massachusetts. A state whose most famous resident is probably Peter Griffin, from the animated comedy Family Guy, who’s a dumpster fire of a man —  

Peter GRIFFIN: Aw, geez, Lois! I just spent all morning on a boat with my friends, drinking beer, telling jokes, and screwing around — how about a little me time?!

DUBNER: I think of a state whose tourism ad campaign accidentally featured restaurants from Massachusetts and a scene shot in Iceland. I think of a state that I rarely hear about in discussions of forward-thinking technology, or economics, or society. I think of a sort of — a land that time forgot. So, a state that’s had one of the highest unemployment rates in the U.S., one of the highest rates of death from opioid abuse, one of the highest rates of unfunded — or underfunded — pension liability.

And then when it comes to politics, I think of — this is just me — I think of former Providence mayor Buddy Cianci, one of the most corrupt mayors in modern American history. So, that’s what I think of when I think of Rhode Island, kind of knee-jerk. I’m guessing that’s not what you think of when you think of Rhode Island. So give me your version.

RAIMONDO: So those are the low-lights, I guess, but I can give you the highlights. When I think of Rhode Island, I think of some of the best beaches in America. I think of Brown University and RISD and Johnson & Wales. We are nestled between New York and Boston, which means if you want to start a company, be part of the ecosystem of northeast talent, but you can’t afford the eye-popping prices of New York and Boston, you should come to Rhode Island. And having said that, we were stuck. It was kind of a tragedy. There’s no reason that a state with our resources and strategic location should have had the highest unemployment rate in the country for as long as we did. But today, our unemployment rate is below the national average. In the past year and a half, companies like G.E. Digital, and Johnson & Johnson, and 17 other companies have moved here. So my experience is, it’s an amazing state. People just don’t know about us. And when I tell the story, people fall in love. They just don’t know the story.

Today, we will hear the story of the Rhode Island Recovery, as told by its unconventionally Democratic governor, Gina Raimondo. We’ll hear how the old story went. We’ll hear some of Raimondo’s plot twists. And: some surprise endings.

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DUBNER: Why did you want to be governor of Rhode Island?

RAIMONDO: Because in order to help create jobs in the state, you have to be the governor. I had been state treasurer and spent four years working really hard to fix our broken pension system. But I realized what Rhode Island really needed was more jobs, a better economy. We were stuck.

Gina Raimondo had personal experience with this economic “stuck-ness.” She grew up in Smithfield, Rhode Island, in a tight-knit Italian-American family. Her grandfather had immigrated at age 14, and he learned English in the public library. Her father, a World War II veteran, worked for 26 years at a Bulova watch factory. But when the factory moved overseas, her family took a big financial hit. Later came more sad news: in order to fix its broken budget, Rhode Island was cutting funding for the libraries where her grandfather learned English. One big cause of the budget trouble: a $7 billion shortfall in pension funding.

DUBNER:  So Rhode Island was in pretty terrible shape with unfunded or underfunded pensions, pension liability. You undertook pension reform back when you were treasurer, before you became governor, and this involved raising the retirement age and cutting cost-of-living adjustments, which are the things that people talk about but rarely do. I know this made you extremely popular among unions and retiree groups. How did you get it done? And talk about how effective it has been; I know that there was a suit, and that there was a settlement where the state did pay some money to those retired groups.

RAIMONDO: Yeah. So, it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy to do. Not something that you ever really want to do. But I felt it had to happen, because we had one of the worst — if not the worst — funded systems in America.

DUBNER: You were below 50 percent, I believe, yes?

RAIMONDO: We were, yeah, we were. Pensions weren’t going to be there for people when they needed them. And at the time I was doing this, we had a small city in Rhode Island, Central Falls, go bankrupt, in large part because of unfunded pension liabilities. When they went bankrupt, they cut the pensions in half, of already-retired people. And I have to say, it broke my heart to see 75-year-old firefighters saying, “I can’t buy my food, I can’t buy my medicine, I can’t stay in my house, I can’t live on $14,000 a year.” So I decided, I’m not doing that. It’s not about my politics, it’s about shoring up the system. Because the reality is, our system would have been fine for five, or maybe ten years. But there’s a lot of people in this system who need their pension to be there in 30 years, and it wasn’t going to be. So anyway, my tagline at the time was: “this is math, not politics.” I went around. I talked to anybody who would listen, including many people who did not want to hear from me. And I basically said, “Look, I got some bad news.  This is the math of it. I know we need to solve this.”

DUBNER: So when Central Falls went bankrupt — I don’t mean to sound cynical here, but politicians do talk about never letting a good crisis go to waste — was it the kind of crisis that got the attention of voters and others in the state, and let you say, “Look, if we want to have it not be that bad, we have to at least take some medicine now.”

RAIMONDO: I think it lent credibility to what I was saying. It was hard for people to say, “Oh, she’s fear-mongering, or she’s not right, this won’t happen.” Because it was happening. So it just made it very real at the time. I don’t want to sugar-coat this. There was a huge amount of resistance. Many people did not agree. However, the legislature overwhelmingly voted for my proposal. So it was vast majorities, bipartisan, voting in favor of the proposal.

DUBNER: And then you did, we should say, get elected in a statewide election, to governor. This move was made as treasurer, correct?

RAIMONDO: Yes, yes. You’re right. It made for a very difficult election. I had a very difficult Democratic primary, running for governor, frankly, as a result of this.

Angel TAVERAS: Look, the treasurer has stood for Wall Street. I believe that we need to stand for you, and invest here, in Rhode Island, and that’s what I’m going to do as governor.

RAIMONDO: It made for a very difficult election. But I won.

DUBNER: So how do you explain that you did something that would be, theoretically, so politically unpopular, especially for a Democrat, and yet you then won governorship as a Democrat?

RAIMONDO: I think it was the right thing to do and people realized that. I told the truth to people, I was honest. I was sincere, and we solved the problem. We did solve the problem.

DUBNER: So what is the state of pension funding in Rhode Island today? I realize it’s a marathon, not a sprint. But where are you at and how’s it looking?

RAIMONDO: It’s looking quite good. It’s improving its funding level. But just as important, we also have money in our budget to invest. Since I’ve been governor, we’ve had the money to triple the number — number of public pre-K classrooms in Rhode Island. We’ve brought about all-day public kindergarten for every kid in Rhode Island. We are, for the first time in a long time, fixing our roads and rebuilding our bridges. So yeah, we took the medicine, as you said. But now we’re investing like crazy. And again, we were in the dumps. We had the highest unemployment in America, years after everyone else had come out of the recession. And now the wind’s at our back. Our job growth in certain sectors, such as advanced manufacturing, is the highest in New England. When I look out my window from the state house, I see three cranes in the sky. The investments are paying off.

The investments Raimondo is talking about sometimes come in the form of business subsidies, the kind of incentives offered to lure big, out-of-state companies to set up shop and create local jobs. This practice has plenty of detractors including Raimondo’s predecessor as governor, Lincoln Chafee.

Lincoln CHAFEE: I’ve never liked corporate welfare, because it’s unfair to existing businesses; that’s what I’ve always felt. The ones that have been here for years, loyally paying their property taxes, and their sewer taxes, and their water taxes. And then all of a sudden some outside company comes in and you give them the candy store? I just don’t like it, I don’t think it’s fair. We’re seeing that money go out the door — to General Electric! To Johnson & Johnson! Billion-dollar companies.

DUBNER: We know that governments offering tax breaks and other incentives does work to draw firms, and therefore employment. Of course, there’s a cost to that, too. Talk to me about what you’ve done, maybe in addition to the tax breaks and incentives but especially in drawing these firms and increasing employment.

RAIMONDO: That’s actually a pretty small piece of the puzzle. Those are the things that grab the headlines because they’re big, big, brand-name companies. But most of the reason that we have had this economic comeback in the past couple of years is because we’re investing in our people. We have-job training programs, which I’ve completely retooled since becoming governor, that are working. We’ve created tight partnerships between our high schools and our companies.

I’ve started the first — some people say the first-ever, but maybe the first in a long time — small-business loan fund — that’s run out of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. These are like micro-loans, somewhere between 5,000 and 100,000 dollars. It’s pretty amazing how well it’s working. I was with a roundtable of a couple dozen businesses yesterday, and their stories were all the same: “We are a small business in Rhode Island, we’re too small for the bank to lend to us. We got turned down by a bank. We came to you, and the money you gave us allowed us to go to a trade show. We got a new client. We tripled our business. One woman who owns a great restaurant told us, “I needed a few thousand dollars to move an oil tank from the basement. I couldn’t do my business without that.”

DUBNER: So one constant friction between governments and business is that a lot of businesses complain that governments are mostly a hindrance, whether it’s with regulations or obligations. Small business will say, we don’t necessarily need you to do something for us, just stop doing things to us.

RAIMONDO: When you’re getting a business going, you’re paying the bills on your credit card, and you’re trying to find a place to set up shop; it is very annoying if you have to take time out of work to go to City Hall to stand in line to get a permit. If you have to call to get some kind of permit or license or whatever, and call back four times, and hang online for half an hour every time — that’s real. And so since I’ve been governor, I’ve eliminated a ton of regulations. We’re moving to put all our permitting systems online. Having said all of that, government does help, right? One example is the job-training program I just told you about, these companies need it, and we’re providing it. I’m proud of the fact that we just became the fourth state in America to make community college tuition-free.

DUBNER: What kind of residency requirement is there afterwards? If I get a free community-college degree from you and then I move immediately to Massachusetts or California, do I have to pay you back?

RAIMONDO: We ask them to make a pledge that they’ll stick around for a couple of years. So yes, the deal is, you have to go full-time, because we want people to graduate. You have to keep up a minimum grade-point average, can’t get into trouble, got to be in academic good standing. And we want you to live in Rhode Island for at least two years after you graduate.

DUBNER: Tell me how many students either are taking advantage, or you expect to take advantage, of this first-year, free community college. And then I want to know what it costs the state, and where the money comes from.

RAIMONDO: We know that this year, on account of the scholarship, the first-time, full-time students, is up 43 percent over last year. That is 43 percent more kids this year than last year. And one thousand five hundred enrolled with this scholarship. By the way, an interesting fact: Hispanic enrollment, enrollment of Latinos, is up 70 percent. African-American enrollment is up 52 percent.

DUBNER: Which I guess is, among other things, a really good indicator that cost was a huge barrier for certain groups, right?

RAIMONDO: That’s exactly it — cost is the reason. In America, four out of ten kids drop out of college. And cost is the number one determinant. People make life-determining decisions, often over a very small amount of money. Like the S.A.T., to give a perfect example. One of my initiatives is, this year, we’re putting the S.A.T. during school, not on a Saturday, and we’re making it free for everybody. The number is skyrocketing, how many people are taking it. And I sit with kids and ask, “Why didn’t you take it before? This will change your life.” They say, “Where am I going to get the 80 bucks, Governor? Where do you want me to get it?”

This is another thing that motivated me with the Promise program. Kids drop out every day over 400 bucks. I ask, “Really? Honestly, you dropped out of college over 400 bucks?” It might as well be $40,000, because they don’t know where to get it.  Let me tell you how we are paying for it. It’s less than $4 million a year. It’s about three and a half million dollars a year. By the way, our total budget is $9 billion. And where are we getting it? We are prioritizing it. It’s coming out of our budget. I found the money in a balanced budget. It’s not that much money.

DUBNER: Three and a half million, for 1,500 kids, though. That sounds like super cheap tuition.

RAIMONDO: Well, do you know why, though? The way we’ve structured this, it’s what they call a last-dollar scholarship. So in order to get the scholarship, you have to apply for all federal aid you’re available for, like Pell grants, for example. You have to apply for any kind of other scholarships. And then there’s often a gap of about a thousand bucks. So the average size of our scholarship is — is not huge— it’s a thousand bucks, 2,000 bucks. Because they get their Pell money, we’ve seen a huge increase in the Pell recipients because now that people know they have a shot at going to college, they are more likely to apply for Pell. And they’re not leaving that money on the table.

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Gina Raimondo is a business-friendly politician who took on labor unions to push pension reform. And yet, she’s a Democrat. In other ways, she’s more typically Democratic. Her views on the Republicans’ federal tax reform, for instance. We spoke about it before things were finalized — but the gist was pretty clear.

RAIMONDO: So, whenever I look at any policy on a federal level, the question I always say, is: is this good for Rhode Island? And I can say unambiguously, the versions of the tax bills that I’ve seen are bad for Rhode Island. We don’t have that many multi-multi-millionaires who this is geared towards, Rich people don’t need a tax break, period. I think the wealthiest Americans should be paying higher taxes at a federal level.

DUBNER: What would you like to see that rate? Do you want it to be Scandinavian level?

RAIMONDO: I don’t know. I do think carried interest should be taxed like ordinary income. We need money to invest in our roads, in higher education, in things like the promise program we just talked about, and the community-college program. The Federal government ought to be doing that. That’s a drop in the bucket, they ought to be doing that so, with respect to companies — look, and I understand the argument, which is: the corporate tax rate for the biggest companies in America is the highest in the developed world. Now, footnote, most companies don’t actually pay that rate because we have so many loopholes. So I understand, I get it. I’m a businessperson. I’m okay with becoming competitive, and I think that would be advantageous. I do think there’s a lot of cash being held overseas by American companies, and I would like to provide an incentive for companies to bring that cash home to America. But from what I can tell, this particular tax deal, it’s just a giveaway to the wealthiest Americans, and they don’t need it.

DUBNER: I’m always curious. You’re a governor, there’s only 50 of you in the country. And when we citizens hear about this proposed legislation at the federal level, I think we always assume, or I like to assume, that you governors are like, you’re on the bat phone. You have the red line, and you’re hearing stuff from the federal government like, this is where it’s at. In other words, I assume that there’s this massively awesome pipeline of information. Sounds like you know about what the rest of us know about the newest tax plan.

RAIMONDO: Absolutely. There is no such bat phone. I wish there were. Like, Rhode Island, thank goodness, we have terrific U.S. senators. They both opposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act. I don’t even know if they’re in the room. They can’t get the information.

DUBNER: This doesn’t sound like the way federalism is supposed to work, does it?

RAIMONDO: I couldn’t agree more. And it hasn’t always. But this is a new phenomenon. Talk to people who’ve been in the Senate for a long time, and they’ll tell you, yes, it’s always been nasty, it’s always been partisan, but we used to have hearings and work groups and actually pass laws, and actually get the work of the people done.

DUBNER: One of my favorite theories — I have no idea if there’s any truth at all to this, but one of my favorite theories is that when that “comity” — comity with a “t,” not “comedy” with a “d” — when that began to break down was when a lot of people in Congress, particularly senators, got a little bit more, maybe, health conscious and a little bit image-conscious, stopped drinking so much. But when you drank, you would naturally drink with people from the other party, all the time. And that kind of social lubricant helped create a more amicable working environment. Do you have cocktails with Rhode Island Republicans regularly? Do you try to bring back that tradition?

RAIMONDO: I do, actually. It’s the only way to get things done. And by the way, we had a storm a handful of weeks ago here in Rhode Island, and the first call I made that morning at 6:00 in the morning after the storm, was to the Republican mayor of Warwick. I don’t care if he’s a Republican. He had thousands of people without power. The guy needed a hand. And I have lunch with him, too. He’s not going to support my re-election. But that’s okay.

DUBNER:We often hear about the fraternity of governors across the U.S. and that party affiliation matters a lot less among governors than among other high-level politicians. I guess, naturally, because they don’t really affect your state and your fate so much. Can you talk just for a moment about that fraternity of governors? How the dynamics of that works and whether that is a useful push against the way that federalism isn’t working out the way that we might all like.

RAIMONDO: The camaraderie is real. I’ll give you a great example. Back to the community-college program. One of the places I got that idea was from the Republican governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam. I spent a lot of time talking to Bill, because he did the same program a couple of years ago, and we tweaked their proposal based on lessons learned. He actually did a public conference call with members of the media and the Chambers of Commerce in Rhode Island for me, to help me pitch the program. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to Republican governors about pension reform. They ask me, “Hey Gina, how did you get that done?” So it’s real, it’s helpful, it’s productive.

DUBNER: It’s also encouraging to those of us who aren’t in government and who kind of think of government as maybe even more dysfunctional than it is. Do you think that given that sort of relationship between governors from different states who are in different parties, do you think maybe we — the public, the media, or whatever — should pay more attention to state-level politics and the governors? Because really, if you think about it, all the oxygen gets sucked out of the room looking at the stuff at the federal level. And honestly, my argument — the argument of this show for years, has been that an awful lot of legislation that happens at the federal level doesn’t really affect people in their daily lives so much, whereas at the state level, it truly does. Do you think we kind of have our eye on the wrong capitals sometime?

RAIMONDO: Absolutely. I think that all the time. For so many reasons. I mean, first of all, I think, as you say, people would be heartened by it. Like my neighbor to the north, Charlie Baker, governor of Massachusetts, Republican. He and I work on stuff all the time. We’re together tackling the opioid overdose problem. We’re working together on renewable energy, because we want to do a renewable energy procurement. And I may join our state into a regional procurement. When you talk about an energy policy or a public-health crisis, you want us collaborating. But here’s the other thing, which is something that I think very few people realize. We’re all very focused on the fact that Republicans dominate Washington. Most people don’t know that right now, there’s only 15 Democratic governors in America. That’s unusually low. And there’s a lot of us on the ballot next year. I don’t think that’s good for democracy. To have such an imbalance of power, from the White House all the way down — I think there’s a story there, and folks ought to cover it, instead of just covering inside the Beltway.

DUBNER: Well, one story that an economist might tell, or another social scientist, is that, “Wow, people — voters are really expressing their preferences and they’re really voting for — across the board, not just on national level — but on state level, 35 out of 50 times,” they’re saying, “Oh yeah, we kind of like that party position more.” What makes you an unapologetic Democrat, looking at those numbers, as opposed to saying, “Oh man, our party really isn’t doing a very good job, either coming up with the right ideas, or communicating those ideas?”

RAIMONDO: Well, that could be part of it. By the way, I’m not saying that that isn’t a part of it. But I also think, if I’m very honest about it, the Republican Party and Republican Governors Association, and Republican donors, have just done a better job focusing on states. For example, the Koch brothers just decided many years ago, they cared about state legislatures, they cared about governors’ mansions, and they’ve tactically invested and it’s working, frankly.

Indeed, in 2016 the Republican Governors’ Association raised more than twice as much money as the Democratic Governors’ Association, and Koch Industries was the Republicans’ largest donor, with just over $2 million. And they don’t appear among the top 20 contributors to the Democrats. Blue Cross/Blue Shield, meanwhile, was No. 1 on the Democrats’ list and number 2 on the Republicans’, with just under $2 million in each case, giving slightly more to the Republicans.

RAIMONDO: The other thing is that in most states, governors control redistricting lines. So if your goal is domination of your party, you’re smart to focus on governors. It’s not by accident that we may never have another Democratic governor of Texas. The lines are drawn by governors such that that state is firmly in the control of Republicans.

DUBNER: So we talk a lot on this show about the rise in evidence-based medicine, evidence-based education, and so on. So, I know you studied economics as an undergrad, and then were a venture capitalist for years, and those are two realms that certainly thrive on evidence, numerical or otherwise. So to what degree would you say that the evidence-based movement is gaining even a little bit of momentum within national, and particularly, state-level politics. Can you talk about that?

RAIMONDO: It is gaining momentum. But I will say, it’s not the way most of government is run. When I took office, I knew that I wanted to really focus on job training. Job training, education, apprenticeships. I would talk to guys in the building trades who had been out of work for years, losing their houses, losing their marriages. So I said, we have to completely turn upside down the way we do workforce development. We had a model, which I often refer to as “Train and Pray.” Train people and pray they get a job. And it turns out, that’s not effective. And we actually called a team up at the Harvard Kennedy School to come down here and spend a lot of time putting in place a way that we could really measure the outcome of our job training. And I have to say, it’s pretty awesome. We have hundreds and hundreds of employers deeply engaged in the program. We’ve gotten well over 1,000 people good jobs. But we have — we get rid of programs that don’t work. You might say, “okay, this program working with the maritime industry is great” — I’m just using examples. “This other program over here, working with the I.T. industry, not working so well. The results aren’t there. Maybe we ought to shut it down and go to another thing.” And so for me I’m a believer in it, because it’s got to work.

DUBNER: Some of the things you’re mentioning now about employment, especially the apprenticeships and especially the state working within industries, that sounds practically European — I mean the German model, which has proven incredibly successful at staving off recession and unemployment. What’s been your inspiration for these kind of ideas?

RAIMONDO: That, in part, by the way. I was a little bit late running over here today, because I had a dozen people in my office who were engaged in the apprenticeship model in Rhode Island, and we spent a lot of time talking about the German model. I’m a big believer in pushing the limits of apprenticeship, not just for traditional, plumbing, pipe-fitting, welding, but what we’re doing in Rhode Island around apprenticeship is, cybersecurity technicians, community nurses, public-health people, I.T. employees, computer techs. The days of going to high school and getting a decent job are, sadly, behind us. So we’ve got to retool. And apprenticeship models can be very effective to get folks high-end skills, advanced skills, to get a decent job and keep a decent job.

DUBNER: In terms of preparing the populace for the labor scenario that’s coming down the road, I know you’ve been pushing to have every student in Rhode Island take computer-programming classes. Is that a thing already?

RAIMONDO: It’s happening now. We set a goal, I think a year or so ago, that by the end of this year we would be teaching computer science in every district and every grade, starting in kindergarten. And we’re going to hit that goal this year.  

DUBNER: So, I hear about this kind of thinking a lot, and I certainly understand the appeal and the resonance. But I do also wonder if there’s a proven upside of having everyone learn computer science or programming. It strikes me a little bit like the equivalent of having every student in America during the boom of the internal combustion engine learn to take apart a carburetor. And then I think, if you look at the history of economics and progress, that one of the main strengths of economic progress is the division of labor and specialization, rather than everybody chasing after the latest trends. So I’m curious what the evidence was that inspired that move of yours.

RAIMONDO: I think of it as access and exposure, and also just providing people with a basic level of essential skills. So, everyone has to take math. They may become a writer, they may become an actor, but they ought to have a certain basic level of math skills. First of all, because it’s an essential skill to function. And by the way, they might like math. I think digital skills are the same thing. No matter what job you have, you have to have some basic familiarity with computer skills and digital skills. And so it is as essential in this economy as any other skill that we teach. But also, we know — and there’s loads of data on this girls, people of color, and low-income folks are less likely to go into I.T. fields, which tend to be higher-paying. However, if they’re exposed to some computer training, they’re much more likely to go into the field and do well at it.

DUBNER: That was an excellent answer to my churlish question, I have to say. So if you’re not careful, and you keep having these kind of successes as a pro-business Democrat who took on unions for pensions, someone’s going to want you to run for President, plainly. Are you interested?

RAIMONDO: No. I do want to get re-elected next year as governor of Rhode Island.

DUBNER: But you can do that first, correct?

RAIMONDO: Yeah. Well, I think I’m in the fourth inning of an economic turnaround in Rhode Island, and I want to get it done. And then who knows what comes after that?

DUBNER: So, you’re a relatively anomalous Democratic governor in that you’ve got a business background, in venture capital and so on, and in bringing along small businesses. Do you think that that is a kind of — the sort of component that’s necessary for modern Democrats to get elected?

RAIMONDO: I don’t know if you have to have come from business, but you have to understand, value, and respect businesses, and small business in particular. And understand the fact that, really, what most people crave and deserve is a decent job with economic security. So in other words, if you’re afraid to talk about business or to appear too close to business, it’s hard to actually tap into people’s real and legitimate anxiety about the economy, because folks just want a job. That’s what I want for my kid. I don’t know if you have kids, but what do you want for your kids? You want them to be happy and to have a steady job.

DUBNER: I want my kids to be layabouts. I want to work so hard and so well during my career that I just give them the checkbook when I die, and say, “go for it.”

RAIMONDO: Okay, well, I’m in public service, so there’s nothing left to bequeath.

DUBNER: Oh yes, good point.

RAIMONDO: So, they’re on their own.

DUBNER: All right. I should let you go.

RAIMONDO: I got to go. Thank you, Steve.

DUBNER: It’s been a great pleasure. I really enjoyed it. Thank you so much.

Freakonomics Radio is produced by WNYC Studios and Dubner Productions. This episode was produced by Stephanie Tam. Our staff also includes Alison Hockenberry, Merritt Jacob, Greg Rosalsky, Vera Carothers, Harry Huggins and Brian Gutierrez; the music throughout the episode was composed by Luis Guerra. You can subscribe to Freakonomics Radio on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, or via email at

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