Author wipes the floor with MSNBC conservative in debate over the value of rich people
Anand Giridharadas and Noah Rothman (MSNBC)

Author Anand Giridharadas explained how rich people are breaking the world, and then pretending to fix it so they can hold onto their power.

The former New York Times columnist appeared Tuesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," where he debated with conservative Noah Rothman, associate editor of Commentary Magazine, on the benefits of populist social policies.

"I don't think populism, which just means peoplism, is necessarily a bad thing," explained Giridharadas, who's promoting his new book “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.”

Rothman argued that populism inevitably led to totalitarianism, but Giridharadas said a true people's movement could genuinely improve society instead of reinforcing existing inequality.

"There's good populism and bad populism," Giridharadas said. "Donald Trump is bad populism."

Rothman suggested his evaluation of populist movements would likely break along partisan lines, but Giridharadas disagreed.

"I think there's bad populism on the left," he said. "When you have Elizabeth Warren a couple weeks ago saying maybe corporations should be forced to factor social into their bottom lines, that's populist to me -- but it's a good populism. That's not a populism of deporting families and separating people on a border, it's a populism of trying to make sure that the few are not the only people who benefit from progress."

Giridharadas said the topic of wealth inequality seemed to bore most Americans, despite its crucial importance, and he hoped his book would help reframe the discussion.

"Part of what is happening in this country is that there's actually a great amount of innovation that we have," Giridharadas said. "We actually have quite a bit of wealth. We have some of the best companies in the world. Probably the majority of best companies in the world are in one country, but somehow most people over the last 39 years, 1979, have not benefited from all those amazing things we have."

"We have innovation but we don't have progress," he added. "The average American in the bottom half of this country saw their income rise from $16,000 to $16,200 since 1979. That is not a society in my view that is working, and if populism means fighting for those people, I'm in."