Thom was at the Dubrovnik Conference: Transforming Culture: From Empire to Global Community Dubrovnik, Croatia, broadcasting live from the studios of Radio Dubrovnik, Croatian Radio and interviewed fellow speakers Frances Moore Lappé, David Korten and Swami Beyondananda, also known as Steve Bhaerman.
Thom Hartmann talks with David Korten, Frances Moore Lappé and Steve Bhaerman, 7 June 2007
[Thom]: And welcome back. Thom Hartmann here with you broadcasting live from Dubrovnik, Croatia, the former Yugoslavia, in Europe. It's amazing, the technology. Frances Moore Lappé here with me, David Korten, Swami Beyondananda, also known as Steve Bhaerman and occasionally channeling Bullwinkle.
[Steve]: [Channeling Bullwinkle] It's certainly true.
[Thom]: Indeed, it's great to have all of you with us. Just a quick summary of some of the news events of the day. I just wanna go over, and they can be grist for the mill of commentary. We'll also be taking calls, your calls, throughout the next couple of hours, our number 866-303-2270, toll free across the United States and actually, I think, these days, people from outside the United States can call 0800 numbers in the United States. I remember back when you couldn't do that, but typically you can, these days.
"Vice President Cheney told the Justice Department", this was in the War and Peace blog today, interestingly enough, "Vice President Cheney told Justice Department officials that he disagreed with their objections to a secret surveillance program". Now, he disagreed with their objections. In other words, he's all in favor of spying on you and me. Oh, what a great guy we've got as a vice president. It was a, in fact, Zlatko here, helping us put this thing together with Radio Dubrovnik, he and I were making jokes earlier about, he said, in the United States, and I don't know if you have a mike there, Zlatko, that you can turn on or not. Apparently not. He made a joke about in the United States, you know, as you're using your Internet connection, is somebody monitoring? And I said, "I don't think so", and he said "Ohhhh".
But it's true, you know, so Dick Cheney definitely monitoring our Internet and our phone calls and everything else, and here he is saying back in 2004 when James Comey, the guy who rushed to the bedside of the Attorney General, John Ashcroft, to stop Andy Card and Gonzo, our esteemed Attorney General, who was then the official lawyer to Bush, from trying to get the spy program renewed, that Cheney was opposed to. So, you know, this all started with a phone call from Bush, and now we're discovering Cheney is involved too. I mean, this is truly, truly bizarre stuff.
Senator Ted Stevens, the esteemed, and some would argue, corrupt Republican from the great state of Alaska, has been asked by the FBI to preserve his records as part of a widening investigation. That's, you know, something worthy of note, that from the Washington Post.
Los Angeles residents, they're having, "We have no problem with global warming, we just, it's so how we got no rain". So, LA residents are asked not to put trash in their toilets, don't water their lawns, try to cut your water by 10%, the worst, the driest year since they started keeping track 130 years ago. So it might be the driest year in 1,000 years, nobody knows, but certainly the driest year in 130 years.
A Kuwaiti company, the Kuwaiti company that's building our embassy in Baghdad, we call it our embassy, it's building a city 104 acres, it's, you know, it's a massive thing, 21 buildings, you know, it'll be occupied by 5,000 people, is under investigation for using forced labor; using labor, people against their will.
And then also, Putin. We started out the program in the previous hour talking about Vlad the Impaler Putin and George, who somehow thinks that Vlad is just another frat boy, and this the New York Times reporting right now on the front page of the New York Times. The Russian President suggested that instead of building radar defenses in the Czech Republic, and of course Bush wanted it to be more than that, he wanted there to be at least 12 missiles, was the number that I heard reported by the BBC last night, he says, instead of doing that, we should use the existing system in the Republic of Azerbaijan, the former Soviet Republic.
So, this is sort of like Vladimir Putin saying, "instead of developing your own defense system, use our defense system, we'll then know what you're looking at and whether or not you're looking at us". Gee, interesting. I, well, how is that going to go over with George?
See what, this is this is just classic, classic martial arts you know, the prime, the key imperative of most martial arts, particularly the more well developed and sophisticated ones, is you use your opponent's energy that is supposed to be directed at you, ultimately to flip your opponent, as it were. and that's what Putin just did. Bush comes out and says, "ah, there's bad guys out there and they wanna, you know, they took down some airplanes with box cutters, so we need to get missiles in right next door to Russia to be able to stop these guys". Now, setting aside the logic of that, so Putin says "fine, good idea, by the way, we've got some missiles, you can just use ours". And, I think it's amazing. It's just amazing. You know, our president outmaneuvered, he obviously didn't even see it coming, it's this, gee, it's how badly is he going to humiliate us
And then there was a fascinating interview with Bono, on BBC I believe it was, it might have been CNN International, and I'd be really curious to know if any of our listeners in the United States saw this, where he's there along with Bob Geldorf, the guy who put together the Live Aid concerts, and he was talking about how at the Gleneagles G8 meeting, and I think it may have been G7 at that time, but maybe it was when it first became the G8. Which at Gleneagles, Scotland, this was
about 2 years ago, 3 years ago, do any of you remember when it was? A couple of years ago.
The summary of the summit was, "we're going to, we're going to stop, you know, we're going to help reduce poverty. We're going to take all this money and reduce poverty, and we're going to relieve the debt of many of these nations. and they kind of added those 2 numbers together. Well, it turned out it was a trick, it was an accounting trick. What they actually did was they said, "ok, we're going to take $5b and relieve debt and we're also going to take $5b and relieve poverty". But really what they intended to do was reduce poverty by $5 billion dollars by eliminating the $5 billion dollars of debt. So they were double counting it and then, they never did either one.
And so, so in this interview Bono was going like, you know, he's always wearing these rose colored glasses, in the middle, there was this incredible iconic moment, in the middle of the interview. He's going, you know, he's talking about how he was had, you know, he said, "I had these guys sign in their own handwriting because this has never been done before, all the heads of state of the world, he said, "I had them sign it in their own handwriting that they would do this and none of them have done it. It's enough to make me take off my rose-colored glasses", and he whips off the glasses, and here's Bono with his naked face, "and look at the world the way it really is", or words to that effect. It was amazing.
. It was amazing.
So, anyway, that's just some of the things that are going on in the world. Oh, also, the guest worker provisions in the immigration bill. This may be a deal killer, the immigration bill may be dead. The Republican Party, the right wing of the Republican Party freaking out. So, what do they do, they put this sunset provision in it after 5 years.
And this is, I think this is particularly interesting, and I'm interested if any of the three of you here have any thoughts on this: Paul Krugman's column in the New York Times a week or two ago, where he commented that progressives who are in favor of immigration reform that doesn't produce immediate amnesty, unlike, you know, '86 was basically "boom! you're a citizen", but this bill is "boom! you can be a citizen in 10 or 15 years", or maybe 20 years, or whatever, I think a minimum of 8 years.
His point was that progressives are shooting themselves in the foot if they support this, not just for the normal economic arguments, but because historically the major progressive political force in America has been the dispossessed; the poor, the working poor, those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder and they have only been able to participate as a progressive force politically, when they're allowed to vote. And so, basically what this guest worker program is doing, is, it's saying, "yes, you can continue being here, you can continue being the party that traditionally be the advocate for progressive change, but you can't vote." Thoughts? Anybody want to take a bite at that one?
[Frances]: You can fight in the war, though, right?
[Thom]: Yes, yeah, instant citizenship, it's...
[Thom]: I thought that was, you know...
[Steve]: It's one of those issues that people really want to have both ways, and, you know, George Bush's position is particular about that because definitely he wants to make sure that there's enough labor...
[Thom]: Cheap labor
[Steve]: Cheap labor. Yeah, exactly.
[Thom]: There's plenty of labor, so long as we have ghettos in America there's labor, trust me.
[Steve]: Yeah, cheap labor and at the same time having to mollify the people in his own party who are anti-immigrant and who also understand that there is a balance.
[David]: I mean, there, it is an extraordinarily complicated issue, because one of the realities also, is as soon as you give the workers rights, they're moving off to find a better job some place, so you're still not meeting the needs of, for that really cheap labor.
[Thom]: Yeah, to the extent that you can really define it as a need.
[David]: Yeah, exactly. Now, you know, the much deeper issues are looking at why, what's the nature of the economic system that drives those people across the border here...
[David]: And what about our own sick economy. When we've got an economy where we can't afford to pay a living wage to keep...
[Thom]: Right. Which brings us back to our conversation from the last hour, and we'll continue with that right after this...
[Thom]: Swami Beyondananda, also known as Steve Bhaerman, also occasionally channeling Bullwinkle, in the studio with us. Frances Moore Lappé, the author of Democracy's Edge and the forthcoming "Getting a Grip" and David Korten; his newest book "The Great Turning", before that "When Corporations Rule the World" and Steve Bhaerman, you also have a book out, "Swami's"...
[Steve]: "Swami for Precedent"; that's Precedent, "a 7 step plan to Heal the Body Politic and Cure Electile Disfunction".
[Thom]: A fine thing, ah, a fine thing indeed. Bill in Queens, New York. Welcome, you're on the air. Hey, Bill.
[Bill]: Hey guys.
[Bill]: I have one, well actually I have two quick points. First of all, on competition and free markets. Isn't it the case that when you have a so-called truly free competitive marketplace or regulated competitive marketplace, over time, there are winners and losers, and as the winners, big fish, eat the losers, small fish, a marketplace necessarily tends toward creating monopolies. You can't maintain this equipoise of perfect competition forever. Eventually there are going to be winners who become the monopolists. That's the first point. The second point, is that I've hear you say, Thom, that you feel that government can provide certain kinds of services like medical transportation, but that the production of goods is always better served by a private marketplace. And it seems to me that the open software movement like Linux for example, or Mozilla Firefox, shows that if you have people who are motivated by the public good who want to create effective goods for the common good, that you don't really need a marketplace to create effective products.
[Thom]: Yeah, excellent point. Actually what, my argument is that it has to do with what's the commons, and what isn't. You know, what do we collectively own, and what do we not/ And that commons, that notion of the commons, is, with open source software and things I think is one of those examples, and yeah, your example of Monopoly is spot on. David Korten, you had some thoughts on this.
[David]: Yeah, I mean, this relates to the nature of the rules. I mean, one of the sets of rules that you have to have for the market to function is a set of rules that maintain a degree of equity. I mean, it's actually fascinating to me that one of the most fundamental principles of an efficient market is that there has to be a reasonable degree of equity in economic power among the various players.
[Thom]: Equity as in equality, or equity as in ownership of assets?
[David]: Well, it is relative equality in terms of ownership of assets and income. Because as soon as you get a world that is divided between the very rich and the very poor, the market only responds to the very rich and so it is no longer allocating resources in any way that is remotely socially efficient. So you need...
[Thom]: It's really no longer a market.
[David]: If it really gets monopolized it's no longer a market, and so you absolutely have to have strict anti-trust enforcement to break up firms that get too large. The same thing with individual wealth; you need a strong progressive tax system as well as an estate tax which is really kind of like the jubilee, you know; OK, you can get some rewards during your lifetime, but the end of your lifetime you've got to re-divide the pie and bring equity back into the society.
[David]: Now this is where one of the things that, you know, we don't really talk about, is that the whole financial system, if you take it apart and understand it, it is fundamentally in the business of increasing the wealth gap. And it starts with the very simple fact that all our policy decision-making is all oriented around the idea that we should make our decisions based on what will produce the highest returns to money.
[Thom]: Right, which means return on investment.
[David]: Yeah. But that's the highest return to money, which means the highest return to people who have money.
[David]: And so, by the very dynamic of the system as that plays out, you're concentrating economic money, financial power.
[Thom]: Well in fact Bush made this so explicit with his last tax cuts. And Bill, thank you very much for the call, and good point, I appreciate you making it. Bush made this so explicit with his last tax cuts, where he said that those people who earn their living with money; those people who earn their living sitting on their butt around the pool waiting for the dividend check to arrive, will never pay an income tax higher than 15 percent. That's the maximum rate of income tax on dividends and on capital gains,
whereas those people who earn their living through the sweat of their brow and through their mind or their muscles will pay a tax rate that goes into the thirties; into the 30 percent range. And it was just so obvious.
[Steve]: That is what happens when you let the rule of gold overrule the golden rule.
[Thom]: Yeah, thank you Swami.
You know, it all starts with the story that we are conditioned to, to believe that money is wealth, and that people who are making money are creating wealth. And so then we're supposed to buy into the idea that the people who are enriching the society are the people who are making money.
[David]: Now, in truth...
[Thom]: Which is Reaganism.
[David]: Which is Reaganism, exactly.
[Thom]: It's called trickle down economics. With trickle down economics you end up with a nation of peons.
[Steve]: That's right, and when people get peed on, they get tired, and when they get pissed on, they get pissed off.
[Thom]: There you go.
[Steve]: And you have upwisings and downfalls and all that.
[David]: Yeah, I mean, you know, part of the system apart is just simply recognizing that money is not wealth, so when you're making money, you're essentially accumulating accounting chits which give you calls, or claims against the real wealth of society. And we've got a money system that is simply geared to making money out of nothing, concentrating it in a few hands so that very rapidly you've got two percent of the global population owning 52 percent of the world's assets.
[Thom]: Yeah, indeed.
[David]: And it's accelerating.
[Thom]: And it's a mess.
This was segments 05 and 06; the first half of the second hour. You can hear an archive of the entire interview at KPOJ. The first 2 segments were with Steve Bhaerman. The 3rd and 4th segments were with David Korten and Frances Moore Lappé. Tom Hayden was on for segment 07. Remaining segments to follow.