Question from the Internet: How many years should people be able to draw unemployment before we start calling it welfare anyway?
11:03 Robert Scheer
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:03:41 GMT
I suspect you intend a pejorative comment by that, but the reality is that these people are not unemployed by a fault of their own or a lack of desire to work. The government policies were created because they did what the bankers wanted. Until the mess gets straightened up, we won’t have this solved. The government has an obligation to the unemployed to provide a better solution.
Another Internet question: “Will the coming Obama Recession/Depression be worse than the Bush Recession? Even VP Biden says that there’s no possibility to restore 8 million jobs lost. That’s not very optimistic.
House (finally) gives final congressional passage to unemployment extension. Pres. Obama to sign it today.
11:07 Robert Scheer
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:07:19 GMT
Well let’s be clear, it was not Obama that caused this recession. This recession—if we are to place blame—should be placed on the Reagan Republicans who kept demanding radical deregulation of the financial industry, and that was implemented by Bill Clinton, who collaborated with them and pushed the reversal [of the rules] that controlled the greed of the banking industry. Obama inherited the problem; it broke under Bush, his response was to throw money at Wall Street. Obama has tried to do a little bit better, but in the main he’s playing out of the same playbook that Bush had in the crisis. Unless the policies are reversed—that means worrying about foreclosures, people losing their homes—if we can’t bring back housing, we’re not going to have the turnaround we need for the work force. We have to bring back construction of the streets. Have to be more in tune with helping people buy homes, in the same aggressive way that was done to make Wall Street whole. If Obama does not do that, we’re in for a long haul.
11:07 Comment From Guin in France
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:07:20 GMT
Comment: Hi Robert, big fan here—Do you think that the GOP, with this round of antics regarding unemployment benefits, will feel repercussions come the midterm elections?
11:09 Robert Scheer
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:09:41 GMT
(To Guin) I do. I believe this was, as I said in my column, a branding issue. It revealed the Republican leadership to be heartless in the idea of holding up checks for 2.5 million families, who since the beginning of June could not get an unemployment check. The Republicans even admit this is a good way to spend money, but were using it as blackmail to get other cuts in the budget. For them to blackmail, reveal their true nature ... they never attempted to blackmail the banks, they didn’t tell Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, “If you don’t help those in need we won’t give you money,” but when it came to helping people who needed it, they got really callous.
Question from Nat in Los Angeles: I’ve heard in the past welfare and unemployment benefits referred to as measures created by the government to ameliorate and quiet the poor. It seems the logic behind this statement is that the more the government gives people for free, the less likely they’ll be to rock the boat by airing subversive opinions or even formulating them. What do you think about this?
11:13 Robert Scheer
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:13:35 GMT
(To Nat) Well there’s no question that the enlightened government policies of unemployment insurance, retirement benefits and medical assistance were all concocted out of a desire to save the system. The system can’t depend upon corporate greed, it short-circuits, and we can’t count on the good will of leaders of multinational corporations to do the right thing, whether it concerns banking policies or drilling in the Gulf, or now, the banks not being able to make the kinds of deals to help people stay in their homes. So government intervention is necessary for the survival of corporate capitalism. That was the message from the New Deal. Roosevelt came from a wealthy family, and he saved capitalism from its worst tendencies. Unemployment insurance and welfare—which are not the same, I would point out—unemployment insurance is a program that is paid for out of productive activity. The whole idea of the program is that we put these funds in in good times to cushion the effects of bad times. It is not a giveaway, it’s a part of what makes the work cycle efficient. But yes, it’s necessary to sustaining stability in the society.
11:13 Comment From radson
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:13:37 GMT
Comment: Hello Mr. Scheer: It can be safe to conclude that the corporations that abide by the Chicago Boys’ philosophy is now being practiced in America with impunity. The unemployment figures coupled with the reductions of social services is clearly evident along with this latest “fiasco” with regards to unemployment benefits and the reluctance to help the average citizens with what in reality are modest funds. My question is how far will the corporations actually go to totally reform the America that was once known, especially that America that was forged in a sense by the veterans of WWII?
11:17 Robert Scheer
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:17:43 GMT
(To radson) I think that the multinational corporations are out of control. They are obsessed with short-term profits, they no longer have the sense of responsibility that even the old robber barons had, which was to preserve their legacy, to think of the long run. That attitude, which was true of the Rockefellers and Morgans, has been lost. We no longer have serious family control of these corporations; they are run by hotshots preoccupied with their bonuses, whipping up what they can. And even if they leave a disaster, as we’ve seen, they still make a fortune. So there’s no fundamental sense of responsibility to their communities, workers, stockholders, and that is why we need more extensive regulation now than ever. The problem is they have enormous results that they can use to prevent regulation. They spent 350M dollars to get the New Deal regulations reversed, this time around they have spent 650M dollars according to the NY Times to prevent meaningful financial regulation. The consequence is that we have a very weak bill the p resident has just signed which was weakened by the Wall Street lobbyists to a point where it will not prevent a future crisis.
11:17 Comment From Donna Fritz
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:17:45 GMT
Comment: To Bob’s comment about housing: My wife and I are utilizing a government-subsidized house purchasing program here in Long Beach, CA, where only 1% down is required. We’re meeting with a loan officer tomorrow. It looks like an outstanding opportunity for low-income people to purchase homes.
11:19 Robert Scheer
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:19:53 GMT
(To Donna) That’s good news, and if you manage to get a reasonable loan, that’s a step in the right direction, but the statistics throughout the country are quite depressing. The mortgage modification program has affected less than 20% of the people in trouble, and I’m basing this on a Wall Street Journal survey 2 days ago ... the banks have been very slow to make modifications to keep people in their homes. The reason is that Congress did not pass legislation to empower the bankruptcy courts to force them to make reasonable accommodations, so it’s still up to the good will of the banks, and we know what that means.
11:19 Comment From Jason
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:19:56 GMT
Comment: Is capitalism that good it should be saved? If capitalism is the problem, can we replace it with something else? Don’t get me wrong here, I’m all for helping people out who have been screwed by the system (Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment, Social Security, etc), but isn’t [it] the system that is completely flawed? Can we move beyond doing what’s best for the economy, i.e. businesses, and towards doing what’s right for human beings and the environment we depend on to live?
Obama wants the tax cuts permanent for middle- & lower-income taxpayers. http://bit.ly/bcZZh7Republicans & Democrats both want something else
11:24 Robert Scheer
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:24:35 GMT
(To Jason) Well what has happening ever since Franklin Roosevelt was the modification of rural capitalism, of raw greed, of unfettered corporate power, to make the system more accommodating to the needs of people as well as ensuring its own survival. We could sit around and wish up design of a better system, but that’s not how human progress occurred. What has happened with the development of capitalism is that major battles have been won. For example, the ban of child labor, the right to form unions, the 8-hour workday, occupational and health safety. And I think two things have to happen. More standards have to be expanded throughout the world to places like China, India and Mexico, to ensure that working people around the world are extended full human rights, which includes not being economically exploited. So we have to pay attention to rights of workers around the world, and products produced through such exploitation should be denied to be imported. Secondly, we have to demand sufficient regulation of multinational corporations so that they are beholden to the citizens of the countries in which they operate, That’s the issue we’re facing with BP: Are they to be allowed to float above all nation state concerns? Or, when they operate offshore from the US, are they responsible to the citizens of the US? That’s the big issue.
11:24 Comment From Donna Fritz
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:24:44 GMT
Comment: Isn’t it useless to discuss any kind of reform until we figure out a way to extricate corporate money from electoral politics and Congress?
RT @ScottWGraves: If Obama spent more time focusing on jobs, he could spend less time worrying about jobless benefits.
11:25 Robert Scheer
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:25:49 GMT
(To Donna) Look, I’m a realist, I can’t wish away the current system. What I can do is expose its failings and urge people to correct them. That may not be as satisfying as engaging in utopian fantasies, but I think it’s more meaningful.
11:26 Comment From Mark Bradby
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:26:02 GMT
Comment: After the Great Depression (and WW2) there was pent-up demand and creativity that led to a huge increase in productivity and standard of living—do you see a similar situation now? Do you think this recession will lead into a period of growth? How can the GOP/DFL encourage this to happen?
11:29 Robert Scheer
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:29:12 GMT
(To Mark) Well, it’s not the same because after WWII, the US emerged as the only developed country that was stronger, rather than much weaker, as a consequence of the war. We were not bombed, our cities and factories not leveled, so we came out of the war without any rivals. What is happening now is quite different. China, for example, has under, oddly enough, the leadership that still calls itself a Communist party, managed a Keynesian response to this economic crisis, which is much bolder and more successful that anything that has been done in this country. We created the crisis, but they have shown a much more effective path to dealing with it, and as a result they are experiencing spectacular growth and we face very intense competition in this world. And not just from China, but from other countries figuring out how to deal with this problem more effectively.
11:29 Comment From Old Man Turtle
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:29:17 GMT
Comment: Given the rather dire picture you and no few of your regular contributors limn for us, do you still think there’s some relatively painless way to correct the situation, and if not, how much personal pain are you ready to take (in the form of fewer comforts and even some actual hardship) to do so?
11:29 Comment From Carlos Beca
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:29:49 GMT
Comment: I personally believe that the world will not see a growth economy until we move to a non-polluting, sustainable type economy. If we do, it will be the last time. The planet cannot take it and we will collapse.
11:32 Comment From Donna Fritz
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:32:08 GMT
Comment: Yes, but China is doing all of that on the blood and sweat of its hundreds of millions of pseudo-slaves.
11:33 Robert Scheer
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:33:34 GMT
(To Old Man Turtle) Well I don’t know about this being such a dire situation. After all I’m an old guy, I was born at the height of the Depression in 1936. My father lost his job the day I was born and didn’t get it back for four more years. When I think of dire times, I think those were pretty dire. My parents were garment workers that worked long hours in sweatshops, and we made progress. When I was young, it wasn’t just the South that was segregated, but much of the North and even the military, and the Navy, which wasn’t desegregated till 1947, and I’ve seen great improvement with working people, minorities, certainly women and their rights. So I don’t like people getting so bummed out thinking we have problems we can’t get out of. We’ve had a lot of problems which we’ve solved. They are man-made, it is a mess. My new book, “The Great American Stickup,” details that. This was a Ponzi scheme, a bunch of scoundrels picked our pockets, they created the misery, [it] wasn’t a result of shrinking results, overpopulation, global warming, this crisis was not from any of that. It was Wall Street, Capitol Hill, and these guys got the legal power to refuse—the legal power, from Congress, to be able to basically destroy our economic well-being.
Given that mainstream journalism has become such a non-critical, bought-out enterprise, what is your advice to an aspiring journalist such as myself, one that of course sees the need for critical, thoughtful investigation and opinions, yet cannot enter the larger media in a significant way without watering everything down.
Reading pieces such as what you have just written, and others I find myself digging for, I am always shocked that there seems to be so little meaningful conversation in the media surrounding such important, perhaps dangerous events, and even less outcry.
You have had a tremendous and inspiring career, do you think my efforts are best spent working on what has become the liberal fringe? Or in this day and age, with so much mistrust of the media, do you think such efforts would be best spent elsewhere?
11:33 Comment From Carlos Beca
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:33:49 GMT
Comment: Hi Donna
11:34 Comment From Mike Swanson
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:34:19 GMT
Comment: pseudo-slaves? I’m quite sure the hundreds of millions of Chinese would love to hear themselves called that.
11:35 Comment From Donna Fritz
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:35:38 GMT
Comment: Hi Carlos.
11:37 Robert Scheer
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:37:12 GMT
(To Guest, the aspiring journalist) No, I think there’s never been a better time than now to be a journalist. Because we’re no longer dependent on a few newspapers and television stations to let us get the word out. Thanks to the Internet, as we’re demonstrating right now, we can reach millions of people if we have an important story to tell and we tell it effectively. Truthdig has been visited more than 40 million times. That’s incredible. The Nation magazine, or Ramparts, very worldly enterprises, were never visited 40 million times in [such a] 5-year time frame. And we know that Chris Hedges, and his columns, are read throughout the world. Now there’s a separate question on how you make a living out of this, but I think the best journalists never started with how do you make a living; sometimes you need a day job—I mean I teach—but journalism is a great place to be because they can’t shut you up anymore.
Thanks everyone, thanks Bob. We’re opening up comments for real-time chat.
11:37 Comment From Carlos Beca
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:37:37 GMT
Comment: Gee, this is sending the message before I can complete the sentence; I am sorry Donna—I was going to say that I agree with you but they are not pseudo-slaves—they are slaves but the race is to the bottom and companies are more than happy to help the process along.
11:37 Robert Scheer
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:37:55 GMT
Bye everyone, thanks for everything!
11:38 Comment From Donna Fritz
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:38:47 GMT
Comment: Thanks, Bob!
11:39 Comment From Carlos Beca
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:39:12 GMT
Comment: Bye Robert, and I would like to ask how the heck you put up with the absurd comments from the right in the radio program?
11:39 Robert Scheer
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:39:14 GMT
I want to tell people not to be bummed out. It’s not constructive, doesn’t accomplish anything.
11:39 Comment From Carlos Beca
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:39:41 GMT
Comment: The “Left, Right & Center” radio program, I mean.
11:39 Comment From Carlos Beca
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:39:50 GMT
Comment: See you.
11:39 Comment From Old Man Turtle
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:39:51 GMT
Comment: Chris Hedges, for example, sure thinks these are much worse conditions for people and the planet than was that so-called “Great Depression.” Anyhow, you either believe addressing even the “lesser” problems you think are with us today won’t mean people of your status having to suffer much, or you’re unwilling to say how much of it you yourself might have coming.
11:39 Comment From Guin in France
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:39:56 GMT
Comment: Thanks Robert!
11:41 Comment From Mark Bradby
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:41:34 GMT
Comment: Hello guest-
11:41 Comment From Mark Bradby
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:41:46 GMT
Comment: I thought your question was very interesting.
11:41 Comment From Mark Bradby
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:41:57 GMT
Comment: How can journalists be an impact for the good.
11:42 Comment From Mark Bradby
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:42:11 GMT
Comment: How can you increase prosperity?
11:43 Comment From Donna Fritz
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:43:16 GMT
Comment: Carlos: Well the only reason I call unskilled Chinese factory workers pseudo-slaves instead of slaves is because they get paid, albeit not very much.
11:43 Comment From Guest
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:43:58 GMT
Comment: I think journalism isn’t so much about increasing prosperity, but more of a safety valve ... when those that seek prosperity, let’s say, get out of hand.
11:44 Comment From Donna Fritz
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 19:44:53 GMT
Comment: The logical end to the free market is slavery.