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Truthdig Radio: The Great Recession, Jobs and the Royal Spectacle

Posted on Apr 28, 2011
Photo illustration from an image by Colin Grey

(Page 2)

Robert Scheer: Can you give me a sort of summary statement—bouncing off the publication that you co-authored, “The State of Working America: 2002-03”; how would you compare the state of working America now to what is almost a decade ago, when you did that study?

Heather Boushey: Well, I mean, I think that … there’s a word that I’ve—that has come into my vocabulary over the past year and a half, and that is nadir, which I think I am pronouncing correctly, which you know, when you think—when I think about the state of working America, I’m really glad that we are not seeing the hemorrhaging of jobs that we saw back in the winter of ’08/’09, where we were losing jobs to the pace of 20,000 a day. And it’s fantastic that we’ve seen job growth, that we’ve seen six quarters of GDP growth, and we’re going to get new numbers on that this week. That’s all good. But for families out there, we are still at a period where employment rates are close to their recession lows; for men, that has meant that they are close to their lows in terms of the number of men, the share of men in America who have a job being just a smidgen above their lows in the post-World War II era. That’s not a good thing for working America. And what we’re seeing is that—alongside this heightened unemployment, the increase in people working part time even though they want a full-time job, and so many folks are sitting at home because they’ve become so frustrated over their job search—you’ve seen a slowdown in wage growth that’s associated with that. There’s a lot of folks out there seeking every job available, and people aren’t, don’t have a lot of bargaining power right now to keep wages up, even though we’ve seen profits rise dramatically since the economic crisis. So I think that things out there right now are pretty tough for families, and I think we should all be focusing on making sure that we get people back to work so that we can start pushing our economy into the right direction.

Josh Scheer: Well, thank you, Heather. That’s all the time we have, but—this is for Robert, for Josh and Heather: Thank you for listening to Truthdig.

*  *  *

Josh Scheer: We’re back with Truthdig Radio. This is Josh Scheer with Robert [Scheer] and Prabhat [Gautam] from Positive Television. And he was one of the members of the—the people that confronted Obama at the San Francisco fundraiser and sang him a song. So how’s it going, Prabhat?

Prabhat Gautam: Oh, doing well, doing well. How are you guys doing today?

Josh Scheer: We’re doing good.

Robert Scheer: You know, we’re calling from Truthdig, and we were so impressed we gave you [and the other singers] this award of Truthdiggers of the Week, for raising this issue. And then a number of people commenting on our site said, why are you giving them an award? They like Obama, they support him, they were giving money to him. And I personally think that made it all the more effective: that you were people who were raising a question with somebody you had supported, and do support.

Prabhat Gautam: Well, thank you—first, thank you guys for giving us an award. And you know, we’ve done tons and tons and tons of interviews, and I honestly think one of my favorite ones was a conservative talk show radio, and we said to them, we said—I said I really respect the conservative Republicans who spoke out against George Bush, and that he wasn’t fiscally conservative, and they disagreed with him. Because to have the other party speak up—well, that’s just expected. But to have people within a party who will support the candidate, who have supported the candidate, who will most likely support the candidate again—they’re the ones who should really speak up. Because in any real democracy, in any real society, you have to have dissenting voices that speak up, especially within that movement.

Josh Scheer: And you’re part of this …

Prabhat Gautam:Fresh Juice Party.

Josh Scheer: Fresh Juice Party, and you can go to the website and see—the Bay Citizen is … and you have videos, not just of the event, but other—other videos, because I’ve seen you speak and other people from the group speak, right?

Prabhat Gautam: Right, yeah, definitely. And then the one thing we really try to push with people, at—on the left side there’s a videos tab. Right underneath the video where Naomi Pitcairn and all the rest of us were involved in, you know, singing the song to President Obama, there’s a video of “Collateral Murder,” which is the video that Bradley Manning is purported to have leaked to WikiLeaks. So, essentially, what we want people to learn and look at is like, all right, this is a video where on the surface to all of us, he’s a whistle-blower. And you know, people can decide for themselves whether or not they think military people should be giving out information or not. But if he did give information, we think he’s a whistle-blower, and should not only not be incarcerated and thrown in solitary confinement, or what they’re doing now, moving him somewhere else [to a Kansas prison] after a lot of public outcry; he really should be seen as a whistle-blower. If there are war crimes, people need to speak up, and anyone who does … you know, I think we all say in society, oh, if something is wrong in the workplace you should speak up. But the reality is, people who speak up are often fired; they’re mistreated; they’re shunned by co-workers. And that’s not any different in the military as well; you know, a lot of people have had horrible experiences.

Robert Scheer: Well, you know, you actually have a legal obligation to speak up if you are witnessing a crime, if you have knowledge of a crime. And yet when it comes to government actions, we say, you know—in violation of the Nuremberg Principle, in violation of any standard of decency—we say you’re supposed to be silent. And the parallel I would draw—and did in a column on Truthdig today—is with the Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg. And Daniel Ellsberg actually was leaking documents that had a much more significant level of secrecy. He also had taken—made a commitment to the government, through the Rand Corp., and he’d been in the government, not to do that. And he argued, I think correctly, that this was information the public had a right to know, and it was kept from the public—exposing the basis of the Vietnam War. And I do think in the Manning case … you know, the fact that The New York Times—the Atlantic magazine pointed out that The New York Times this year, every other day, or half the days that they’ve published, they’ve had a major story based on WikiLeak information. And yet that’s information that we wouldn’t have if not for, allegedly, Manning; and that’s information that we only have because this happened.

Prabhat Gautam: Right. And I think if you look at this case, already—like, one of the people that I respect is P.J. Crowley, the [former] assistant secretary of state, who came out and said, this is stupid and this is ridiculous, in regards to our treatment of Bradley Manning. And it’s something where you just think—transparency is something that everybody says they want, transparency in government, but I think what frustrated a lot of us is, you know, we supported Obama; we like Obama; we were hoping for transparency from Obama. And for him to do things that we saw with Bush troubles us.

Robert Scheer: I want to point out, by the way—and it’s been pointed out by others—that he misspoke. Now, I—did he do that in your presence, or he did that after … ? But when the president said, you know—first of all, that he said that he [Manning] was guilty; that he broke the law, where you know, he’s the commander in chief—how is somebody supposed to get a fair trial within the military system when the commander in chief has already judged him guilty—but he also seems to misunderstand the whole classification system. He made it sound like it was something very clear and indelible, what is secret, what is not for foreign eyes, and so forth, and he indicated that even the president has to follow that; that’s simply untrue. These come from executive orders that the president can change on a moment’s notice. And what is secret is really determined by the convenience of the government, when it wants to leak or when it doesn’t. And I thought that was a great revelation from your action.

Prabhat Gautam: Well, thank you. And I think a lot of that—when you spoke about Daniel Ellsberg; like, he has spoken out in favor of Bradley Manning, and said this is very similar to what he did. But the thing, I think, that troubles a lot of us is when somebody gave information out in the ’60s …in hindsight we all think, oh, it’s wonderful, he’s a hero, it’s great. But at that time, you know, it wasn’t easy for Daniel Ellsberg to do that. I think now with Bradley Manning, are we at a time in society where we’re more open to people giving out information that’s going to reveal the truth? Or are there more … not just the media, but also are there more factions within the government that try to stifle any sort of public dissent? And I mean, you know, I think … for me, personally, I think about Russell Feingold, and when the Patriot Act [was] going in front of legislation, Russell Feingold was the sole courageous person who spoke out against it—I mean, there were others, I’m sure, in the House; but Russell Feingold as a senator spoke out. And you know, look at what happened to him this many years later [voted out of the Senate in 2010], where he’s not in politics anymore. And I’m troubled that the people who are speaking out are often isolated and aren’t supported by the bigger groups who want everyone to just sort of follow their agenda, and it’s … when anything’s hidden, and there’s secrecy in government, I think that’s troubling.

Josh Scheer: Well, one thing, I think, with Daniel Ellsberg—got lucky because the president of the United States committed a crime, you know, against him, and that helped him get off the charges.

Prabhat Gautam: Right.

Robert Scheer: Well, just to make it …

Josh Scheer: And then—but also, about Russ Feingold, though, I think—no, but I think it goes back to Obama …

Robert Scheer: Just to make it clear what you’re saying for our listeners. The matter of the rights of the whistle-blower, which was what Daniel Ellsberg was and which Manning is—although WikiLeaks is not, WikiLeaks should be in the same position as The New York Times, in that they’re publishing documents and should have the same free press protections to the degree that they publish in this country. But the issue in the Ellsberg case was never really taken to the Supreme Court. He faced a very lengthy sentence, and it was thrown out because [of], as Josh indicates, judicial misconduct, in that Nixon had offered the judge a job running the FBI. So the case got thrown out, and the government decided not to continue. But we have really not established, as a matter of law, whether somebody who reveals public crime—the crimes of the government, and informs the public—deserves any protection. And I would think a reading of the basic amendments of this country, the Bill of Rights, would suggest that they do. But that has not been established.

Josh Scheer: I just want to say though, about Russ Feingold, going back to that point—I mean, we have this Obama fundraiser; I mean, Obama failed kind of miserably, and there’s a backlash. And that’s why Russ Feingold’s out of politics—not because he stood up; it’s because he was part of a party that has kind of—didn’t do its job, just like the Republicans didn’t many years—well, not many years ago now. But you know, that’s why Obama was in the White House in the first place. So … he’s the unfortunate victim, as was almost Dennis Kucinich, as was a number of congressmen who kind of got stuck because they’re Democrats.

Prabhat Gautam: Right. And I agree with you, on the other side, Lincoln Chafee, who was one of the rare Republicans who stood up that was against the Iraq War. And he’s out of politics …

Josh Scheer: Yeah.

Prabhat Gautam: … or he’s out of, at least, the [Senate]—you know, like, you see that and you think, these few, rare people who speak up and speak against a party, lose support from the party. And in the end it’s like, we need those brave, few people in politics to have, I think, a functioning government. And I think as we’ve seen the two-party system become so gray we’re almost the same party, it’s troubling. And for a lot of us who believe in universal health care; who believe that the U.S. should be far, far, far less involved in war, if at all—and most of us believe they should hardly be involved—we’re troubled that under an Obama administration, where everything we voted for was not an extension of Bush, the U.S. is now in Libya. Like, the U.S. is still in Afghanistan, is still in Iraq. Like, there’s a lot of things that we thought would not be happening. And then when you see with Bradley Manning somebody who actually is speaking up and saying, OK, this—in the video, “Collateral Murder”—this is clearly an action where … and the thing that we’re troubled with, those are Reuters reporters that were killed. And for us, we look at it like, where is the media speaking out for other media? And it’s—it’s too often silent. And people just let it pass as oh, well, it’s what happens in war; but that’s not what’s supposed to happen in war.



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