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Dennis Kucinich and Chris Hedges on the 99 Percent
Posted on Oct 6, 2011
Chris Hedges: Many similarities. First of all, it’s driven by highly educated—these, most of the people are very young and very smart and very well educated. That was also true in Egypt. They’re very tech-savvy, and that’s also true. They’re very, very adept at using social media. Not as a form of activism, because it’s useless as activism; but it is very useful in terms of communication, communicating a message; and so again, that’s very similar with Egypt. And I think finally, the third similarity would be that many people at Wall Street, you know, they did everything right; they worked hard, they studied, they went to good schools; they got massive loans to do it; got out in the wider society, did not want to be whores for JP Morgan Chase or Goldman Sachs or somebody, and realized that everything had dried up. They’d been had. We are no longer a society that remunerates anything that has to do with truth or beauty or education or journalism, or art or teaching; we only pay public relations, which is propaganda and corporate management, and that’s about it. And so they sort of got hit in the face with a two-by-four. And again, that’s similar to Egypt. I mean, these are highly talented, creative people who frankly should be in positions where they can help us reorient ourselves in a time of severe climate change, and weaning away our dependence on fossil fuels, and you know, they’re the best among us. I mean, that was the last line of a column I wrote, but it’s true. And the society has just pushed them to the margins. And so they have a kind of consciousness about the degradation of the American political system that I think perhaps others have up to this point lacked, but I think are beginning to see.
Peter Scheer: Let me just ask you a final question. You wrote in your last column that you mentioned, “The state and corporate forces are determined to crush this. They are not going to wait for you; they are terrified this will spread.” And it is starting to spread. You’ve been calling for movements like this for a long time. Is this real? Is this happening, or do you see it fizzling out?
Chris Hedges: No, it’s real. And it’s happening. But I’m too good a reporter to tell you where it’s going. You never know where it’s going, you know; I will say that, certainly, having spent a lot of time with the Wall Street protesters, they are very determined and very resilient. And even if the cops shut this thing down tonight, there is within the DNA of the hundreds, perhaps few thousand people that have been through that park, a kind of consciousness that wasn’t there before. And in that sense, they’ve already won. Where is it going to go? Can they shut it down? Will it spread? These are just unknowable questions. These kinds of movements, when they spring up, have a kind of centrifugal force that even the purported leaders—and I used the example of East Germany—don’t grasp; I mean, they don’t know where it’s going and none of us know where it’s going. I’m certainly going to work overtime to make sure it goes somewhere.
Peter Scheer: Chris Hedges, thanks so much for speaking with us about this.
Chris Hedges: Thanks, Peter.
Peter Scheer: Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose Truthdig column is published every Monday. He is the author most recently of “The World As It Is.”
Later in the program, we head out to the occupation at City Hall, and we’ll dig into the president’s Secure Communities initiative. Also, stay tuned for a special segment on modern midwifery. But first this.
Peter Scheer: Earlier today, Josh Scheer spoke with populist Congressman Dennis Kucinich about the 99 Percent Movement, his new jobs bill and the redistricting that could force him from office.
Josh Scheer: Congressman, we’re talking about H.R. 2990. What is it, and what is it going to do for America?
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: Well, what it will do, it’ll help secure America’s economic future by providing the resources to build America’s infrastructure. With 14 million people out of work, and the government saying well, we can’t create any programs because we can’t afford it, we’re missing something that is fundamental to our economy, and that is that while the Fed has been busy creating over $2 trillion for banks since the fall of 2008 through programs like quantitative easing [rounds] 1 and 2, and you’ve got banks that got $700 billion in bailouts and they too can create money out of nothing through fractional reserve banking—meanwhile, we’re being told that the government can’t do that. Well, actually, it’s a sovereign power that resides in the government: the ability to coin or create money. I’m saying government needs to reclaim that power, spend the money into circulation to create jobs, to put millions of people back to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, water systems, sewer systems, and put the Federal Reserve under Treasury so we have control over what they do, and end fractional reserve banking, which in this historic period has actually helped to contribute to the wave of speculation that swamped our economy in 2008.
Josh Scheer: In the bill itself, you talk about the 14 million people unemployed, the 12 million people in low-wage jobs, 3 million estimated homeless. What exactly do you think your bill [is] going to do, and then what about the Obama jobs bill that he’s been kind of promoting?
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: We need to go very deep into the underlying questions of why do we have poverty in America? Why is the wealth of the country being accelerated upwards? And one of the chief reasons is our monetary policy, which in 1913 was privatized, which gave the Federal Reserve the ability basically to direct the economy through the banks and be able to create money out of nothing, give it to banks. And banks are using money right now for mergers, acquisitions, parking it, gaining interest, but they’re sure not, you know, helping to create jobs on Main Street, which is why in August we had a defined stall in job creation. So what we need to do is to reclaim the power of government to be able to spend money into circulation and not borrow from the banks. Why should we have to borrow money from China to fund our economy? Or Japan, or South Korea? Why should we have to borrow money from banks? The government itself has this power to be able to get our economy moving, to create the jobs. We need a job program of New Deal-type proportions. And that’s what I have ready; I have the actual infrastructure job numbers and all the infrastructure categories on how we can put 7.2 million people to work creating good, full-time, permanent jobs with good take-home pay, distributed evenly across the United States, and create an average of 16,500 new jobs per congressional district.
Josh Scheer: Now, I want to ask you, because the way you’re talking and the way—obviously, there’s a lot of problems going on in this country, and we see these protests across the country like Occupy Wall Street. I wanted to get your take on that. What do people in Congress—but especially you—when you see this, what do you guys think?
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: Well, first of all, I think that the occupation of Wall Street is a very important protest that needs to gather strength around the country. Because Americans have to be visible in our objections to the fact that the wealth in our country is being concentrated at the top. And unemployment leads to the concentration of wealth. When you have the top 1 percent of Americans owning half of the country’s stocks, bonds and mutual funds; when you have the top 1 percent of America taking in more of the nation’s income than at any time since the 1920s; we have to be concerned about the impact on our democracy, because an economic democracy is a precondition of a political democracy. And so what’s happening in our economy is manifestly unjust; people have finally caught on; they’re taking to Wall Street and cities across the country to be heard about the demand that we have a government that is responsive to the practical aspirations of people for jobs, health care, education, retirement security and peace.
Josh Scheer: You know, I was just at Occupy L.A. today, and there were a lot of peace signs and people—obviously, the wars are important. And obviously, you’ve been a strong opponent of the war since it first started. What do we need to do with the wars? How much is this costing us?
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: Well, if you look at Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes’ report on Iraq alone, they said that—they called that the $3 trillion war. The cost of the war in Afghanistan this year hit the half-trillion dollar mark. We are squandering the resources of our nation on wars—the war in Iraq based on lies, and the war in Afghanistan based on an abysmal misreading of history. We need to start understanding that every bomb that’s being dropped and every war machine that’s being put together is really a denial of the educational aspirations of our children; a denial of the crisis in housing we have with the rising foreclosures; a denial of the unemployment problem. Why can’t America get its priorities straight and say that our priority should be to create jobs for all, health care for all, education for all, housing opportunities for all, retirement security for all, and peace? Why can’t America stand for that instead of becoming so famous as standing for war wherever our government so chooses to wage war?
Josh Scheer: There was a Pew study, actually, a Pew poll that says 1 in 3 veterans of the post-9/11 military believes that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting at all. So, I mean, it’s not even with just the general public or the Congress; it’s now with soldiers who are actually fighting, or were fighting, in those wars. So, I mean, we obviously have to do something about that. I want to get into something that also came out today, a poll that says Congress’ approval ratings are at 14 percent, very obviously a low. And I want to know what you can do in Congress, and what other members of Congress—are they doing anything? Do they care about these polls?
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: Well, Congress should pay attention to how the American people feel about the declining economy. This is a synergistic matter; it’s Congress, it’s the administration, it’s a failure of the government to be able to address people’s practical aspirations for jobs and health care and education, retirement security, for peace. And government has become too much of an insider’s game. And as a result, the American people are finding that 14 million are unemployed; 50 million people without health insurance; 6.5 million people will lose their homes, perhaps, in the next year to foreclosure; business is failing. Meanwhile, the wealth accelerates to the top, wars continue. People have a right to be upset with their government—Congress, the administration—and they have a right to demand that their basic concerns be met, and that’s not happening. And it’s really a function of the failure of both political parties; of the legislative and the executive branches of government; failure of the judicial branch of government with its decision on Citizens United and before that Buckley v. Valeo, which basically have given corporations carte blanche to be able to set an agenda for their own narrow concerns, adverse to the broad interests of the American people. America’s in trouble. But it’s not as though we can’t chart a path out of that trouble. And so that’s what my legislation, H.R. 2990—called the NEED Act , the National Emergency Employment Defense Act—that’s aimed at putting America back to work. You know, imagine—imagine, instead of 14 million people out of work, we chopped it down and could cut the unemployment in half in this country with a bill that just has the simple concept of instead of borrowing money from banks or China, Japan, South Korea, we spend the money into circulation—which, by the way, is consistent with Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. The founders understood the importance of that provision to coin or create money. And so that’s what this legislation is based on. It really is one of the most important pieces that is in the Congress right now to deal with the problem of massive unemployment, which is really undermining our democracy.
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