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Our American Discourse

Great knowledge need not wither on the academic vine. We bring you the smartest minds from the University of Southern California and beyond, wrestling with the defining challenges of our time. In their research, we find wisdom. In their voice, hope.

Hosted by Anthony W. Orlando, Our American Discourse reminds us that we’re never too different to learn from each other, nor too divided to find common ground.

Listen to the individual episodes on the Our American Discourse page, or subscribe at iTunes, Soundcloud, or Google Play.

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Our American Discourse

The Great American Housing Finance System and the Role of the Federal Government

Housing is local, but money is global. What is the best way to allocate our resources toward housing affordability? How far are we from that goal? How do we even agree on what affordability means?

In this episode, our resident housing finance expert Richard K. Green will walk us step-by-step through these winding routes we’ve constructed to access the American dream.

To listen to this episode of Our American Discourse, click the arrow in the Soundcloud player here. Or you can download it and subscribe through ApplePodcastsSoundcloud, or Google Play.

Transit-Oriented Development

People are moving back into the cities. But where should they go? In an age of congested freeways and greenhouse gas emissions, gentrification and concentrated poverty, suburban sprawl and all sorts of inequality, where is the best place to build, to live, to walk, and to shop? One answer has been touted to address all those problems: near public transit. In this episode, we define, describe, and debate “transit-oriented development” with Seva Rodnyansky.

Build, Baby, Build: Make the City Affordable Again

If you live in a major city, you probably know that the rent is “too damn high.” What if the city’s rental affordability crisis were in your hands? Would you do something about it? We think you might, and that’s why you’ll want to hear from the one renter who’s taking on big-city politics and showing us all how it’s done.

In this episode, we get down to the grassroots of housing advocacy with Sonja Trauss.

To listen to this episode of Our American Discourse, click the arrow in the Soundcloud player here. Or you can download it and subscribe through ApplePodcasts, Soundcloud, or Google Play.

Who’s Really in Charge? Government Bureaucracy Under Attack

Bureaucracy is so boring. Who cares? Not you, right? Well then, you’re in for an unwelcome surprise because the people who run our government from day to day aren’t the ones you voted for. Our democracy depends on the men and women of the bureaucracy. They execute the laws, and lately they’ve been doing it without supportive leadership, without the trust of the public … without a voice.

In this episode, William Resh is their voice, and we would be wise to listen.

Listen to this episodes of Our American Discourse by clicking on the orange play arrow, or subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, or Google Play.

Tell ‘Em What They Need to Know: The Virtues of an Informed Electorate

They say we live in the Information Age, but more and more, it feels like the public understands less and less about what really matters. How should you invest your money in a volatile economy? How should you vote when you don’t like your choices? The information is out there, but often it’s manipulated, spun, and diverted from your attention. The more information we have, it seems, the more education we need to understand it. That’s why, according to Paul Haaga, good financial advice and good journalism have never been more valuable. In this episode, he gives us an ample share of both.

Listen to this episodes of Our American Discourse by clicking on the orange play arrow, or subscribe at iTunes, Soundcloud, or Google Play.

Citizens Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Americans are fed up. The government is not living up to their expectations. Trust is deteriorating every year.

Donald Trump rode this wave of dissatisfaction all the way to the Oval Office. But does he really understand why citizens are dissatisfied? Do citizens themselves understand why the government appears to be failing them?

In this episode, we question these perceptions—and the solutions they imply—with Gregg Van Ryzin, Professor and Interim Dean of the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University-Newark.

Federalism and the Battle for Partisan Power

We think we know how federalism works. Republicans believe in states’ rights, and Democrats want a strong federal government, right? Not so fast. New research reveals a whole different tug of war playing out on Capitol Hill. Our legislators don’t always do what they say, but they do have a strategy to design and implement our laws. It turns out that federalism is ground zero in their battle for partisan power—and now we finally know how the game is being played.

In this episode, we go behind-the-scenes with the researcher who uncovered these terms of engagement, Pamela Clouser McCann.

The Art of Leadership in Precarious Times

The great leadership gurus usually tell a story of virtue rising to the top. They advise us to think positive, treat everyone with respect, and follow our moral compass. But we don’t have to look far to see leaders who turn this wisdom on its head. Negativity, disrespect, and divisiveness seem to be the order of the day. Were the experts wrong? Is good leadership dead? Surely there must be a more realistic way to understand the whims of the masses—and make straight their path once more.

In this episode, we get a more realistic take on leadership from the contrarian guru Rob Asghar.

Listen to the individual episodes of the Our American Discourse podcast by clicking on the orange play arrow on this page, or subscribe at iTunes, Soundcloud, or Google Play.

The Ethics of Governing

PhD candidate Anthony Orlando discusses the “Ethics of Democracy” in the latest episode of Our American Discourse.

Democracy is a dialogue. It requires our leaders to ask, to listen, and to react. Good governance thus hinges on conversation and consent—and whether we like it or not, conflict. Planners and policymakers have to balance competing needs, never more so than in today’s polarized environment. How do they do the right thing? Does such a thing even exist? Citizenship demands that we engage with these uncomfortable questions, especially in this troubled era.

Listen to this episode of Our American Discourse by clicking on the orange play arrow on this post, or subscribe at iTunes, Soundcloud, Google Play, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Good Governance and the Democratic Process

The “causes of faction are…sown in the nature of man,” said James Madison. But could the founders have foreseen the level of political polarization we’re seeing today? They certainly tried. That’s why we have separation of powers, checks and balances, and the Bill of Rights. In many ways, these institutions are under attack. Power has been concentrated, and minority rights have been threatened. How shall become of our constitutional system?

In this episode, we navigate this treacherous onslaught with Dean Jack Knott.

Listen to the individual episodes on the Our American Discourse page, or subscribe at iTunes, Soundcloud, or Google Play.

Migrant Entrepreneurs: The In-Between Advantage

Immigrants exist between two words: their country of origin and their new home. In this nexus lies unique challenges—and opportunities. The immigrant communities who maintain bonds with their origin, or “diasporas,” can bring what they have learned back with them. They can transform developing nations and spur economic growth with their entrepreneurship. They can bridge the divide between the prosperous and the poor—and inspire lasting change.

In this episode, we explore these transformative individuals with Jennifer Brinkerhoff.

Listen to this episode by clicking on the orange play arrow to the right here, or subscribe at iTunes, Soundcloud, or Google Play.

The Affordable Housing Crisis

Our first episode of the Our American Discourse podcast, features a conversation with Raphael W. Bostic. We confront the affordable housing crisis.

Throughout the country, Americans are moving into the cities, and construction isn’t keeping up. Rents are rising faster than incomes. Housing costs are eating away an increasing share of the average family’s budget. Without sufficient renewal, the existing housing stock is aging, and the quality is declining. Affordability has reached crisis levels.