Let’s suppose, for a moment, there was a country where the people in charge charted a course that eliminated millions of good-paying jobs. Suppose they gave away several million more jobs to other nations. Finally, imagine that the people running this country implemented economic policies that enabled those at the very top to grow ever richer while most others grew poorer. You wouldn’t want to live in such a place, would you? Too bad. You already do.
Those are the words of this week’s guests, DON BARLETT and JIM STEELE.
These are some of the consequences of failed U.S. government policies that have been building over the last three decades – the same policies that people in Washington today are intent on keeping or expanding…Most significant of all, the American dream of the last half-century has been revoked for millions of people – a dream rooted in a secure job, a home in the suburbs, the option for families to live on one income rather than two, a better life than your parents had and a still better life for your children.
Barlett and Steele wrote these words in 1992. They are the first words of their Pulitzer Prize winning series of articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which led to the #1 best-selling book, America: What Went Wrong. They put their finger on things and connected dots that really established a lens through which to view the next 20 years. The point of view of the 99% movement is basically the one Barlett and Steele described and predicted at the birth of the Clinton era.
Last week I interviewed longtime reporters Don Barlett and James Steele regarding their new book, THE BETRAYAL OF THE AMERICAN DREAM, looking at the relentless economic, financial, and governmental process over the last 40 years to enrich the largest corporations and richest individuals at the expense of the middle class. This week I’ll talk with another wise and experienced Pulitzer prize winner with a long term perspective, HEDRICK SMITH, about his newest book, WHO STOLE THE AMERICAN DREAM?
I don’t think it’s a coincidence nor do I think it’s redundant to turn so soon to the same questions being pursued by another savvy journalist. HEDRICK SMITH had already won a Pulitzer by 1973, the year that the post-WWII boom for the middle class began to wane. Real wages for all Americans had risen pretty consistently from the war years, and have done so almost not at all ever since. I point this out to highlight the fact that Smith has witnessed first-hand the rise and long fall of the middle class and brings that experience to this book and this conversation.
The stock market’s roaring, and applications for unemployment are down, but there was disappointing news in Thursday’s economic data. In January manufacturing growth slowed, construction spending dipped, and Americans’ after-tax income fell, leading to a fourth straight month of weak consumer spending. Guest host Terrence McNally explores the continued gap between Wall Street and Main Street, and what we can do about it.
Although it’s down a bit today, the Dow hit 13,000 this week for the first time since May, 2008. NASDAQ flirted with 3000. One US company, Apple, is now valued at over $500 billion, higher than the gross domestic product of Poland, Belgium, Sweden, Saudi Arabia or Taiwan. Yet manufacturing growth has slowed, construction spending has slipped, and consumer spending remains weak. Both housing construction and Americans’ after-tax income actually fell in January. What accounts for the disparity? How important is it? What can be done about it? And how will all this play out in this year’s elections?
* Daniel Gross: Yahoo! Finance, @grossdm
* Robert H. Frank: Cornell University
* Tom Donlan: Barron’s National Business and Financial Weekly
* Dean Baker: Center for Economic and Policy Research, @DeanBaker13
* Gross’ ‘Better, Stronger, Faster: The Myth of American Economic Decline’
* Frank’s ‘The Darwin Economy: Liberty Competition and the Common Good’
* Baker’s ‘The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive’
Economists, politicians, and pundits insist recovery is at hand, yet unemployment remains high, real estate values continue to sink, and governments face record deficits. Today’s guest, RICHARD HEINBERG has a new book, The End of Growth, in which he proposes a startling diagnosis: humanity has reached a fundamental turning point in its economic history. He talks about the new normal that recognizes the limits to growth imposed by resource and disposal limits, climate change, and population growth.
There are the repercussions of the Republican electoral victories in last fall's elections - not just in Washington but in statehouses across the country. Though they well know that they were swept into office due to unemployment and a weak economic recovery on the one hand, and voter ignorance and lack of memory on the other, the GOP in DC is acting like they have a mandate for gutting Planned Parenthood, Public Radio and Television, and the EPA. Even worse, in the states, they are seizing on budget shortfalls to try to crush public employee unions.
JOHN NICHOLS is a Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital TImes in Madison, Wisconsin. He is the author of Jews for Buchanan, and co-author with Robert McChesney of Our Media Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media.