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In this episode of Scheer Intelligence, host Robert Scheer is joined by author Natalie Foster, president and co-founder of the Economic Security Project, a network dedicated to advancing a guaranteed income in America and reining in the unprecedented concentration of corporate power.

Scheer and Foster debate and discuss the conditions in America that led to the ideas presented in Foster’s new book, “The Guarantee: Inside the Fight for America’s Next Economy.” The main idea in Foster’s book suggests that a new sort of paradigm has emerged throughout the Biden administration and in response to the pandemic, where the guarantee of income and healthcare no longer faces the same stigma it once did.

“The guarantee of housing has moved into the mainstream,” Foster said. “During the pandemic, government would do things like buy hotels and move the unhoused in, giving them a room of their own with a key, getting us closer to the idea of a guarantee of housing and certainly a guarantee of healthcare where we would mobilize the National Guard,” she added.

Scheer challenges the notion of relying on the Democratic Party to implement such profound changes since they are often the ones who perpetrate the conditions that see people suffer now. Foster maintains, however, that there should be hope for change since these policies are becoming more popular.

Scheer mentions how neoliberalism was the product of the Democratic Party as an answer to Ronald Reagan and the Reagan revolution. From that, a new kind of enlightened capitalism was meant to emerge but instead the Clinton era ushered in great destruction:

“That’s where we got the laws passed that allowed The Great Recession, that’s where we got the Financial Services Modernization Act, the Credit Default Swaps Permission with the Commodity Futures Act, and so forth. That was done under Bill Clinton and that was endorsed by Hillary Clinton when she was running as a great achievement.”

“Unfortunately, Bill Clinton and the leadership of both the Republican and Democratic Party have a very different model. They want to suck up to the people that destroy our economy, destroy initiative and get those big campaign contributions,” Scheer told Foster.

Credits

Host:

Robert Scheer

Producer:

Joshua Scheer

Introduction:

Diego Ramos

Transcript

This transcript was produced by an automated transcription service. Please refer to the audio interview to ensure accuracy. 

Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where I have to say right away, otherwise it’s a very egotistical name for a show, the intelligence comes from my guests. It genuinely does, because I only basically end up, I shouldn’t say always, but generally, try to get books that people should read, and that I want to help the sales, admittedly. And I do read these books and/or the documentary, talk to people, and I know a lot of good books are published and they don’t get read. They even get lead rest frequently when they’re bought. Sometimes people buy them just to have them, but don’t read them. And this is a book, it’s called, Guarantee, let me, I left my cheat sheet here. Give us the title right away. 

Natalie Foster: The title is, “The Guarantee: Inside the Fight for America’s Next Economy.” 

Scheer: Okay. All right. We’ll do it that way. Natalie Foster, “The Guarantee: Inside the Fight for America’s Next Economy.” It’s New Press, they do a lot of really great work, publishing. And, let me just say what the guarantee is about. It’s about, really, what most other capitalist societies at least take seriously as a goal. A guarantee of health care, housing, an income floor, dignified, I’m getting this from the introduction to your book, but, dignified work. Family care, college, that’s a good one, and an inheritance for every single person in America. Now, this sounds like a pretty wild idea, but I remember when I first visited Germany a long time ago. I have relatives there. And, they were living in the capitalist side of Germany and they had much of this already, at least compared to America.

And this was just accepted as necessary to have a healthy, functioning capitalist society. Yes, you have the market, you have market incentives, and people can, as they have in Germany and elsewhere, gotten quite wealthy. But the idea of a guarantee is a fundamental human right, any society, I always promise I’m not going to give long introductions, but this book is very clear on something we should be clear on: the right to health care, housing, an income workform, repeating it, dignified , family care, college, and inheritance for every single person in America. And then we wouldn’t be arguing about can we afford technological progress? Should we be frightened of artificial intelligence? Blah, blah, blah.

And I don’t think any of this is going to happen if you don’t have a strong labor movement, if you don’t have political parties that in some way care about ordinary folks, but the logic of it is unquestionable. And so let me ask you to outline how you came to this idea and why this book now, why you think this is the right moment for what I think is common sense, but both our major political parties have actually taken politics in the opposite direction. There’s a meanness derby going on with neoliberalism of the Democrats and the total arrogance and elitism of a Trump and his Republican party, where basically these basic notion of human rights have been thrown into the trash can. You tell me it’s now time where we can revitalize what was basically the assumption of the New Deal in response to the Great Depression.

Foster: That’s exactly right. It was the New Deal response. It was an era in American history where  played a very different role in creating markets, one that would be dismantled throughout the sixties and the seventies. And so I believe that, in some ways, because Joe Biden is 81 years old. He’s pre-neoliberal. He is a president who remembers a period of time when government played a different role in ensuring a floor. And, I think this is one of the reasons why over the past few years we have seen economic policies that are very different from economic policies of the last 50 years. And so that’s really what I started to, that’s really what prompted me to write this book.

Let me backup and tell you that story. I’ve been heads down working in the guaranteed income space, and over the last several years, we’ve had a lot of movement. There was a young student years ago sitting at the Stanford library reading his dog eared copy of Dr. King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last book. He was making notes in the margins and he would take that book with him to Stockton. His name was Michael Tubbs and he would become the youngest mayor in America. And he would decide, in Stockton, to take an idea from Dr. King’s last book. I would meet him then and get to work with him very closely as he set up the first demonstration of a guaranteed income, a guaranteed minimum income as Dr King called for eliminating poverty in this country. And he would ensure that 125 families in Stockton would receive 500 a month with no strings attached. They would just get a check in the mail. 

And this was also happening in Jackson, Mississippi by Dr. Aisha Yandaro, who would launch the Magnolia Mother’s Trust. And both Stockton and Jackson would start to get texts and phone calls from mayors and nonprofit leaders all over the country saying, I want to do this in my city. And it would start to replicate and spread. A dozen cities, 40 cities, 60 cities. It got up to 150 cities that were demonstrating what a guaranteed income would look like. And then the pandemic hit and Congress would reach for tools that already existed in the states, in the cities. They would pass the expanded child tax credit, which is essentially a guaranteed income for families with children.

If you have two small, young children, it’s about 500 a month with no strings attached, debited directly into your account. And so I thought this is political warp speed to move an idea from white papers and research into the actual lived experience of people’s lives. And as I put my head up and looked around, I realized it was not just the guarantee of income. It was also the guarantee of family care. Ai-jen Poo, the legendary labor leader, has been organizing domestic workers for years, laying the groundwork for the guarantee of family care, which has burst into the political mainstream to the point I think that the Biden administration has held a rose garden event on family care every month for a year.

It’s so important to their vision. The guarantee of housing has moved into the mainstream. During the pandemic, government would do things like buy hotels and move the unhoused in, giving them a room of their own with a key, getting us closer to the idea of a guarantee of housing and certainly a guarantee of healthcare where we would mobilize the National Guard. We would put free vaccines in people’s arms. We would make COVID care free and expand Medicaid to the point where we’d have the lowest number of uninsured Americans at any point in history, getting us closer to a healthcare guarantee. So as I looked around, I saw all this progress and I wanted to write about it because I, who gets to do this full time, found it incredibly inspiring and I felt like others would too. And I also feel like we’re at a crossroads where this is not the future that will happen without a lot of work and political power built. So it’s more important than ever that we study how far it’s come and how possible it is and how we get it done. 

Scheer: Yeah, and my hat’s off to you for encouraging that. I do want to point out, so yes, first of all, we’re talking about saving capitalism. You correctly point out in your book, this is really not socialism. Socialism implies a much greater commitment to, at least democratic socialism, well-being of people. But it is true, and it remained for social democratic governments, be they in England or Germany, to basically bring this to the aid of capitalism. But the whole idea is that, we should have some guarantee of a level playing field. That’s one thing that certainly free college would afford, get the skill set to be able to participate. It would also, as you point out, there are some advantages to a gig economy and people being able to develop their own businesses.

You had some experience in that. But a gig economy is not anything but a terrible exploitive system. And people also have to pay for their health care and can’t get decent housing situation and don’t have safe streets and all of the things that you’re talking about, then it becomes a cop out and a brand new way of exploiting people. We know that. And then something as old fashioned as the union movement, which is Underwriting some of these social experiments that you’re talking about and certainly bring dignity to service workers, to hotel workers, to a lot of people, including, by the way, university people. I just recently signed on to a petition from the United Auto Workers trying to organize some of us faculty people at the University of Southern California, where we already have had the organizing of our graduate students of people who actually clean the buildings are now in unions and so forth. 

I think you went to Pepperdine. I don’t know if they, as another private institution, which also has some kind of religious base at the beginning just as USC did it and it’s Methodist, but maybe they’ll develop a social conscience and not oppose unions. And so we have a revival of these movements. And, as I say, the book should be read, the book, “The Guarantee: Inside the Fight for America’s Next Economy” is an accurate subtitle because you can’t get to the next economy unless you guarantee people that change will not destroy their lives. 

Right now we’re all freaked out. We’re going to blame China. We’re going to blame everybody in the world except our own, multinational corporations, for saying progress, but they don’t pass on the rewards. I do want to pick a bone here over, okay, Biden that’s the last latest lesser evil great hope. But as far as I can see, the Democratic Party has been fully as culpable in the destruction of the New Deal as the Republican Party. And what’s interesting in your book, you bring up the pandemic as the high water level of social responsibility. And one thing that you haven’t mentioned here, but it’s, I think, it’s suggested in the book, we even, I think it was tripled, the amount of unemployment benefit so you could actually, your unemployment check was something comparable that you could not, take your kids out and move to another neighborhood and start feeding them dog food and so forth. And that happened under Trump. Now it’s true, the Democrats were also pushing, but the fact of the matter is, there was a feeling something has to be done.

The American public hadn’t brought on the pandemic, so obviously vaccines should be free. Basic health care was not made free, but what you needed to stay alive and the education about it was made free and so forth, and income support. Money directly of the kind you came. So actually, oddly enough, even though the effects of the pandemic were not over, when Biden came in, he was rather quick to cut it back and cut back those benefits. And I do want to put one big little, a big question, not a little question, but hopefully it won’t take up the whole discussion. Neoliberalism, which you discuss in the book, was really the product of the Democratic Party. It was their answer to Ronald Reagan, the Reagan revolution.

And now we’ll have a more enlightened, kind of reform of capitalism. But that’s where we got the laws passed that allowed The Great Recession, that’s where we got the Financial Services Modernization Act, the Credit Default Swaps Permission with the Commodity Futures Act, and so forth. That was done under Bill Clinton and that was endorsed by Hillary Clinton when she was running as a great achievement. And that’s what took away, as you say in your book, half the lifetime, actually more, I think, for Black people. It was college educated Black people lost 70 percent of their wealth, and Latinos lost, I think, 60 percent, according to the Federal Reserve of St. Louis. So the Great Recession was caused by basically a Democratic government in cahoots with the Republicans, destroying the FDR New Deal.

And so I want you to, in terms of the things you are proposing in this book, tell me how it survives a two party system that is controlled by big money and big corporations and would never allow this. Because they don’t want to guarantee they want insecurity in the workforce. They want a frightened workforce that will take whatever job they can get and try to scrounge by and if they can’t do it on one they’ll get a second and if they can’t do it on two, they’ll get a third. Okay, it’s a long speech by me, but I think that’s the challenge your book raises.

Foster: I actually agree with you. There are so many books that have been written about the failures of neoliberalism from both sides of the aisle. What makes a paradigm salient is that it is the orthodoxy under which all governance happens. That was the guardrails of policy and I sum it up as total faith in the market, zero faith in government. And people left pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. And that is the way every president in my lifetime, I’m 45 years old, would govern. And it was really what I was told American capitalism was all about. That it was like the weather. It was nothing we could control. Just get a bigger umbrella, they told us.

When in fact, the economy is like a house that we build every step of the way. And in fact, as you’re pointing out, I think you’ve written a book about that. We’ve done something very different during the New Deal era, and we can do something very different again. And so I, agree with you on the stories of neoliberalism. The impact of neoliberalism is all around us, right? 25 percent of Americans have no money pulled aside for retirement. Four out of 10 Americans cannot pull together 400 in an emergency if they need to. We are working longer hours than ever, wages have stayed stagnant, we’re stressed out, we’re overworked, and we’re at the brink.

And our democracy is at the brink. So it is clear what neoliberalism has brought us. The story I’m telling here is one that of something very different. Over the past few years, we’ve seen things like college debt abolished first a moratorium put on repayment of college debt during the economic crisis, the fallout from the pandemic. That meant every month Student debtors had that money to spend in their own lives in their own communities and sock it away for savings, purchase athletic uniforms for their children, just a little bit more room to breathe.

And then the government outright abolished billions of dollars of debt, almost retroactively creating the guarantee of free college and showing hundreds of thousands of Americans, what it would mean if we said college was a public good once again in America, one that’s guaranteed to everyone, regardless of race, religion, or zip code in this country. So that is just one example of where we’ve seen, a big shift in policymaking from the last 50 years prior. That said, I also want to pick up on your point that…

Scheer: Before you drop that one, I’m a little confused because I teach at a college, it’s a private college, but I also friends and relatives who go to public universities and colleges where tuition keeps climbing, and they go into debt. And a lot of debt has not been forgiven. I talk to people, I know a young fellow here who’s still paying off his, he’s a nurse, and he’s still in debt, for his college loans from your native Kansas, by the way. He went to college there, and that’s where he ran up to debt. And now he’s here in L.A.

 But that’s a typical, story I run into. We’ve now had, you were involved, to some degree with the Obama administration. It’s not all Trump and it’s that’s what I’m worried about. The message of your book is important. But if we think it’s the good guys are the Democrats and the bad guys are the Republicans. We missed the whole point because they’re both owned by big money. That’s not a slogan. It’s a reality. It’s an absolute reality. I remember when they passed those terrible rules on, laws under Clinton, freeing Wall Street, it was supported by quite a few liberals and they were getting a lot of money from Wall Street and from, and their lobbyists were writing these things.

I remember even I was in Barney Frank’s office and he was, one of my progressive heroes and he told me, Oh no, this thing is going to make it all better. It’s going to allow poor people to buy houses. No, it isn’t. It’s going to allow poor people to be swindled. And they were swindled and they lost everything. So really address that though, who are the good people here? The heroes of your book are not the establishment. So let’s be clear about this. We can, it’s not going to come from the leadership of the Democratic Party any more than from the leadership of the Republican. And it’s not the fault just of libertarians. It’s the fault of fake liberals who said they were really helping poorer people and minorities. And they were betraying them. 

Foster: Yeah, the heroes of the story, I believe, are the advocates and the activists who’ve been proving a different economy is possible in the United States of America, who’ve been laying the groundwork every step of the way so that when there would be a moment, it’s actually Milton Friedman himself, who has a quote that says, in a crisis, real or perceived, is when real progress happens and ideas are picked up that are lying around and they’re moved forward. And that is what I have seen happen over the last several years here in this country. Ideas that were understood to be impossible, suddenly became possible. And it wasn’t just overnight.

It wasn’t because Biden is the hero of the story or the stimulus Trump checks that Donald Trump sent out at the end of his presidency. He understood just as well as anyone that those are both good politics and good policy, and made sure to sign his name on every check. No, and I will also give him credit for Operation Warp Speed, which made sure that government spent time and energy making, moving a vaccine faster than any moment in history to prevent millions and millions of deaths across this country. And so I think it is really important to say those ideas were lying around ideas like the expanded child tax credit, ideas like canceling student debt, ideas like the sending people rental assistance and mortgage assistance to help people stay in their homes and incentivizing building more housing, both affordable housing, middle income housing, but just housing in general, where millions of units short across this country, those are the ideas that were lying around and were picked up and moved forward when there was a political opening. 

And so the heroes here are the everyday people who believe something different as possible. Now, are we up against serious corporate concentration? Absolutely right. We live in a moment where corporate consolidation is even more significant than it’s ever been. And the gains of the economy over the 50 years have gone to a very small number of people. This will be the age of a trillionaire, is what Oxfam, the international NGO that crunches the numbers every year on inequality, tells us. That if we do nothing with tax policy, we will see the first trillionaire. I had to really spend some time, Bob, to understand a trillion. It’s a million millions. Okay.

It is a thousand billions. It is a very significant number, and it’s one person controlling more resources than many, many countries across the globe. So something very serious has to happen to shift the balance of power back into everyday American’s hands. And I would argue that the big policies, some of the policies we’ve seen over the last four years are beginning to do that. But if we don’t even believe it’s possible, then there’s absolutely no way to get there. And so I take a lot of solace from the quote, hope is a discipline. Even when the odds are stacked high, it’s when we get smarter and craftier and we continue to believe that a different economy is possible. 

Scheer: I hope this is all true, that we’re making progress. When I read your book and not just yours, I remember when Daniel Patrick Moynihan, pretty tough academic, but basically a Democrat. So he went to work for Richard Nixon, advocated a guaranteed annual income and Richard Nixon, bought it. He said, yes, that’s a good idea. He remembered his days growing up in Whittier and his father being out of work. And so Ronald Reagan could remember in his book, “Where’s the Rest of Me?” he praised the New Deal. He said his father only got a job because of the New Deal and it saved his family. I’m of that generation, I was born in 1936. I know the Great Depression. I know it saved my family. In fact, the matter is I could go to a very good college, City College in New York. And they didn’t even, I was the first group that came in where we had to buy our own textbooks.

And the idea of tuition, there was no tuition at all. So these ideas not only have been around a long time, they were dismantled. That’s what I’m trying to get at here is that the fact of the matter is we’re in the hands of totally irresponsible people, the leaders of both of these political parties, and the money people who funnel into them. And, just to ask you one question, because you’re familiar with the Obama administration. Why in the world did not one single banker go to jail for ripping off so many American people, causing all this pain, destroying much of the progress we’ve made since Martin Luther King wrote that book and gave that speech on the war on poverty, that was dismantled by The leaders of both parties. And why would Barack Obama, for all the references of hope in your book, bail out the banks, shamelessly, make them whole, the people who engineered this whole Great Recession, Goldman Sachs and so forth, and not give any mortgage relief, not help any of the people swindle out of them?

I’m asking you as a political, and by the way, you mentioned, I know you’ve got some connection with the, Roosevelt Institute, and you have your own group dealing with equality. I have great respect for the Roosevelt Institute. Not just the name of FDR, but what they do. I ask you that question. Why did Barack Obama betray all the common sense in your book?

Foster: I think that period of time was very difficult. That’s where I start the book in 2008, the trickle down emperor, the trickle down economics emperor would have no clothes. And that became very clear, right? 10 million Americans would lose their homes. And Black and Latino families would lose half of their collective wealth overnight. We would shore up the banks during that period of time, but do very little for everyday Americans. And it would become clear that this, reigning orthodoxy of trickle down economics or neoliberalism would not be sustainable. Was not creating the widespread gains that were needed at all. That people that in fact, it would be in the hands of just a few.

So I totally agree with you on that period of time, and I believe that’s when we entered a transition, figuring out what would be the next orthodoxy. And I think it’d be 2016 where you would see two candidates, unlike any candidates that have run in my lifetime, you would see Donald Trump and you would see Bernie Sanders, both of them speaking to that pain and anger that Americans were feeling. And so it is a period of time of unrest, but it also means that honestly, anything can happen. So it is important to build… 

Scheer: Yeah, but that was not the contest in 2016, because Hillary Clinton shoved, and the forces she represented, and the people who gave her all the big money, destroyed Bernie Sanders. And what happened was that you had a person who, she went to Wall Street. This is why Julian Assange is rotting in prison in London and I think because the Democrats will not forgive him for exposing what Hillary Clinton said when she met with the banks. She said to the bankers at Goldman Sachs and elsewhere, the people who had constructed this whole nightmare under her husband, she went to them and said, I need you to go with me to Washington to solve these problems. To solve the problems that they had created, and she said this to them. And so the choice then we had was between an out and out hustler, Donald Trump, who, because of the pandemic was forced to keep the country together by, doing some Roosevelt type stuff. And Hillary Clinton, who said, Donald Trump said, I’m going to make America great again, but Hillary Clinton said, Oh no, America’s always been great.

Was it great during the depression? Was it great during the recession your husband caused? Was it great when we were segregated? It’s utter nonsense. So we have two people playing With This American Dream, which as your book, documents, I want to take it back to the book, it brilliantly documents the failure of this neoliberal and neoconservative model from both camps. And so I urge people to read the book because I think you’ll come away as outraged as I am over how both parties have failed us. I just want to be clear. I just think we’ve got to be clear on that because we’re going to go down, follow another presumably progressive, enlightened person or another presumably believer in the vitality of the free market, and both of them betray us. There is no free market. It’s constantly manipulated, constantly controlled. The laws are passed for it, and there’s no neoliberalism. It’s a total betrayal of any kind of liberal idealism. 

Foster: I hear you that both parties, have hewed to this orthodoxy. That is what makes orthodoxy so powerful. They seem like the air we breathe and are unassailable. That has changed. There is new ways of thinking about the economy. And I do think there are very big differences in the two candidates running this fall. I think we’d be remiss, I would be remiss not to point that out. What I have seen over the last few years from this administration is a resurgence of antitrust movement in the United States. To use the tools government have to create fair and competitive markets through enforcement, through procurement and through ideas like a public option to force competition in markets, saving everyday families millions of dollars across the country on things like junk fees, on things like airline fees, and dealing with the rising cost of living, putting money back into people’s pockets.

I’ve seen this administration go to bat for the expanded child tax credit. Not one Republican showed up to vote for that, no matter how much they talk about family values. It is very important to me that not one party owns the idea of the guarantees, because it must be something that becomes a story so powerful as neoliberalism, but right now, this election in the fall is a contest for the future, and there are very big differences in the candidates.

Scheer: I think there are a lot of big issues at stake, but I think the message of your book is quite clear, because in your book you throw a lot of statistics and a lot of examples, and they were, at the very least, endorsed by both political elites. And you just can’t, I’m sorry, that’s what the book plays out. I don’t have the exact, but you know exactly what I’m saying. And, certainly the big issue of who destroyed the New Deal. I’m not going to deny that, Ronald Reagan, even though he said the New Deal saved his family, I’m not going to deny, and even though he had been head of a labor union at the Screen Actors Guild, I’m not going to deny that he went for that idea of the free market, which was never free.

It was totally monopoly. But it could not have happened without Bill Clinton. That’s just a matter of reality. So when I’m reading your book, I’m thinking, why do you keep mentioning Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump? Where are the, come on, Joe Biden, what is he doing now? What his main economic policy is to support the Fed. Why are there so many unhappy people in America, including in Kansas? Why do they even think of a Trump? Why do they think that the government is failing them? It’s because it is. They go out to a restaurant now, they even, they go to, Subway or someplace and they can’t afford it.

They go anywhere, they can’t do it people are hurting. And it seems to me, if I took the message of your book, I would be outraged at both of these parties and I would not make nice with Joe Biden because the fact of the matter is, first of all, just spending all the money he’s spending on the military industrial complex goes back to an argument raised, as long as we brought up Martin Luther King, when he did his war on poverty, and you refer to 1967, he said, my government is the major purveyor of violence in the world today, and as a result, we are never, going to deal with poverty and unfairness in this country as long as we have this foreign policy. That’s what he said at the same time.

And you’ve got a democratic government now that just can’t find enough wars to keep fighting and money to spend. They just spent, another hundred billion dollars just the last few weeks on it or allocated it. And so it just seems to me we have these great ideas. But they don’t go anywhere. And your book is full of them. And we had people going way back that had these other, in that area, say, Moynihan and others, John Kenneth Galbraith. And the fact of the matter is, the people who have power in the society want the people who are going to be working for a living to be insecure, to have to work long hours, to have to sacrifice their family. Because that’s how they get their trillions. They don’t get it by having people that actually have a say in government and can have decent regulation, which we had briefly thanks to the New Deal, but also thanks to the Great Depression. 

Foster: I do not read my book to find a step by step history of how both parties failed us over the last 50 years. I feel like that is well documented. I think you yourself have a book out on this. There are so many great books about the failures of neoliberalism. My book is designed to say something new is underfoot and it is just beginning and it’s possible in the United States. Things I was told were never possible here are now. In Montgomery County, Maryland, the housing authority there is building housing for middle income Marylanders. It is kept permanently off the speculative market. It is not just leaving housing to the private market to solve, which has failed us. It is in fact using government’s ability to finance and move things forward to help everyday Marylanders and housing authorities around the country are coming there, are starting to copycat the idea like that is the future of housing guarantee.

That’s happening today. So we are at the floor, not the ceiling. But the floor of something new, and I wanted to lay that out. And I also want to underscore your point that this is an evolution of capitalism. Venture capitalist Roy Bahat calls this trampoline capitalism. That it’s not a safety net created that holds people safe and still, though it does do that, it is more like a trampoline. When people touch down, they can jump right back up because they have the economic security and the resources to do it. And so I think that’s the way to think about the guarantee economy that I’m documenting.

Scheer: Okay. Look, I hope you’re right. And it’s going to take a lot more than 500 bucks to get a trampoline effect. People are being worn down. These jobs are awful. The companies we celebrate, look, first of all, Apple is such a successful company and these people make a fortune, but it depends upon exploiting people in China and, who take them off to farm these young women and they’re working to the point of suicide. And, that was the multinationalism that we liked, and if they don’t do it there, we’ll do it in Vietnam. We’ll do it in Bangladesh and so forth. And, no one looks critically at that.

And then we play the nationalist jingoistic card. Oh, they’re the fault. They’re destroying wages. They’re the ones that are hurting us. So let’s have another war, maybe destroy the whole world. And, yes, what you advocate in this book is a matter of common sense. but what we, I’ll just remind people, Occupy, which you do celebrate in your book has an expression, was destroyed primarily by Democratic mayors who brought the police and broke up Occupy, prevented the kind of organizing and outrage that formed the New Deal. After all, Roosevelt didn’t make the New Deal because he had a lot of happy, he had a lot of angry workers and veterans and everywhere responding to the Great Depression and saying, capitalism is failing us.

So Roosevelt caught the energy to do the right thing. Unfortunately, Bill Clinton and the leadership of both the Republican and Democratic Party have a very different model. They want to suck up to the people that destroy our economy, destroy initiative, get those big campaign contributions, which by the way, the Democrats seem to be getting more now than the Republicans from Wall Street. And they’re not going to deliver. But, I think people reading your book will at least raise the bar of what they demand. And so I think, yes, let me recommend the book, written by Natalie Forster, “The Guarantee: Inside the Fight for America’s Next Economy. “And I want to say, it’s New Press, and I want to say, we won’t have the next economy. If we don’t follow this idea of a guarantee, because people will have a Luddite mentality. They will be opposed to change. They won’t, we should embrace mechanization. There’s a lot of jobs that involve drudgery on an assembly line and so forth. It’s good to be able to use artificial intelligence or anywhere else.

But you got to pass on the rewards to the people who are losing their jobs. You got to help them get other kind of jobs or maybe no jobs. That’s the brilliance of, oh, let me use that word. The brilliance of the guarantee is an extension of, let me push this very heavily, it’s an extension of the notion of human rights. Human rights mean nothing if you can’t get health care. Literally, you’ll die. And, you’ll endanger other people. Let’s go through that list. If you don’t have health care, if you don’t have housing, some kind of decent housing. If you don’t have an income floor, so your work actually helps you get better off.

If you don’t have dignified work, meaning you don’t, have the freedom to choose or form a union or treated as if you have fundamental rights. If you don’t have family care, so you’re not sacrificing your children with these jobs. If you don’t have the opportunity college, which is the new high school, you can’t get a decent job. If you don’t have, an inheritance, that’s our main division in America, people will pass it on to their children. For every single person in America. Now, you’re right. How dare anyone challenge this standard list and say they believe in human freedom, they believe in human rights. Without this, you have no human rights.

You have wage slavery. I want to endorse The book, again, “The Guarantee: Inside the Fight for America’s Next Economy,” I do think it’s a fight for decency and logic, but I also say we have a system, and the reason we have the trillionaire economy emerging, is we have a system based on the immiseration of people, on their insecurity, make them frightened to lose their job, vote against unions and so forth and so on. But I’m all for you giving it to college try here. So thanks for doing this. 

Foster: Thank you, Bob, for having me. And I think your real talk is important, but if we don’t believe it’s possible, then we’ve lost so much hope. And I think that’s what it’s going to take to truly build the first multiracial democracy anywhere in the world. And I think that’s the project we’re all part of. We can draw from our history, but we can improve on it. And that’s what I think is possible. 

Scheer: This is where an old fogey like myself can meet, someone of a much younger generation, because I don’t think it’s some kind of fantasy. This is what we had. Come on, I was born at a time where to not be involved with a union or getting involved with a union, you were considered an idiot. No one, any in my extended family growing up in the Bronx or any my relatives or when I traveled around the country, you wanted to be in the United Steelworkers. Look at Ronald Reagan, for God’s sake. He celebrated GE, but the only reason GE was a successful company that had the international United Electrical Workers, United Electrical Workers, great unions, automobile industry. Hollywood was based on them as to this day, our most creative industry, the great exporter has the most unionized workforce. on every level. 

It’s not pie in the sky, as you point out. It was destroyed. The Taft Hartley laws, all these rules, they destroyed what was sensible about the reform of American capitalism. And they gave this mad, manipulative, exploitive world that we have now, which I think is what produces a Donald Trump. Because the system sucks. And people will go with that nutty guy because at least she’s saying something right or doing something right. That’s the danger of this moment. And it’s because of the failure of the liberal establishment Democrats. They’ve, they’re the ones who gave birth to Trump, just as the show business people love the idea of The Apprentice and all that.

Let’s have a really mean guy. People will love it. It’s all a cop out, but you’re on the right side. The book is really important. And so let me put it out there now. Let me thank, get to the closing here. I want to thank Christopher Ho and Laura Kondourajian at KCRW, the excellent NPR station in Santa Monica, for posting these shows. Joshua Scheer, our executive producer, who insisted I read your book and do this show, so I want to thank him because it really was worth the effort, very much worth doing, Joshua Scheer. And then Diego Ramos, who writes the introduction. Max Jones, who I’ve been driving crazy, who is now getting the sound right, who does the video. And the J. K. W. Foundation, in memory of a very good writer who dealt with a lot of these questions, Jean Stein for giving us some funding for this. See you next week with another edition of Scheer Intelligence.

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Robert Scheer

Robert Scheer, publisher of ScheerPost and award-winning journalist and author of a dozen books, has a reputation for strong social and political writing over his nearly 60 years as a journalist. His award-winning journalism has appeared in publications nationwide—he was Vietnam correspondent and editor of Ramparts magazine, national correspondent and columnist for the Los Angeles Times—and his in-depth interviews with Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev and others made headlines. He co-hosted KCRW’s political program Left, Right and Center and now hosts Scheer Intelligence, a KCRW podcast with people who discuss the day’s most important issues.

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