The 200k Challenge Live Webcast
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. We are in the home stretch. We are in the final segment of the Real News Network First Annual Webathon. We cracked our $200,000 target. We’re inching towards–I think we’re going to crack $205,000, and we hope later tonight, tomorrow, we go further. As I’ve said before, $200,000 was a great achievement, and we thank everybody–something close to 1,200 or more individual donations since we started the campaign. Two hundred thousand dollars funds–just about funds four months of The Real News Network[s] work. So getting beyond $200,000 is an important target for us in the next few days. If you want to donate and you haven’t already, you know, click the donate button here next to the webpage, or down below if you’re watching on Livestream, or you can phone 888-449-6772. And, again, we really want to thank everybody. The response has been overwhelming to us. We–just to look on the emails and the–or see the list as the donations start coming every minute, it’s really, frankly, inspiring, ’cause we know that there’s a lot of things people can give money to, and to have confidence in us and choose to support us is very meaningful, other–meaningful emotionally to us, not just that we need the dough to keep going on. Now joining us from Virginia is David Swanson, the author of War Is a Lie. Thanks for joining us, David.
DAVID SWANSON, POLITICAL ACTIVIST AND AUTHOR: Thanks for letting me.
JAY: So we’ve talked before about War Is a Lie, so let’s get a little bit into what’s happening in your book War Is a Lie, which I encourage everybody to go get and watch our interview with David about the book. But let’s talk about what happened in Washington today, I guess it was. I shouldn’t say today. For people watching this after we go live, it will have been on Thursday. The House caucus of the Democratic Party made what seems like a pretty important decision. What was it? And how much significance do you think it has?
SWANSON: Oh, I think it’s several significant things that happened today that were remarkable breakthroughs, and that is one of the big ones, that the Democrats in the House voted in their caucus to not bring up for a vote and not support the sort of plan that the president came up with on tax cuts that is, you know, what the Republicans wanted on tax cuts and what the American public certainly do not, that is extending Bush tax cuts for the millionaires and billionaires, lowering the estate tax on the same group of plutocrats, putting in place a sort of a backdoor attack on Social Security with quote-unquote “temporarily reduced” payroll taxes. You know, we’ve been fed have these lies for years now about how Social Security is in trouble. Here’s an attempt to actually put it in trouble. It’s a very, very dangerous proposition. And what’s remarkable is not how bad this particular proposal is, but that the Democrats in Congress actually saw fit, while still in the majority to for the first time say no, enough’s enough, we aren’t going along with this now.
JAY: But David, I know you’re in direct touch, at least from time to time, with some of these members of the House. How line-in-the-sand is this for them? We know they’re saying now they’re willing to negotiate the deal, renegotiate this deal. You know, they’ve said before they would stick to their guns on the public option, and then they didn’t. How serious are they?
SWANSON: Well, if you had to bet, it would be not serious at all. I mean, this is a remarkable first for them to have publicly said such a thing. For them to stick to it and fight for it and turn it into something really significant would be another first, an unprecedented move. I think we’ve seen the Progressive Caucus for three or four years now draw a line in the sand on war funding and on the public option and the health insurance reform and so forth, and always 90 percent of the members who sign those letters cave. Here we have 53 Democrats send a letter to the speaker just before this vote went down, drawing a line in the sand. The expectation is always that they will cave. But, you know, perhaps they won’t, and it’s a little bit murky what would constitute caving and what wouldn’t, in that all they’ve said is we will not accept this, we want changes. What changes is completely up in the air. And so to force them to be significant changes or else, or have a refusal to go forward, is the goal now.
JAY: Let’s talk a little bit about the Democratic Party. It seems to me, you know, being in Washington, covering politics here and, you know, observing in most of my political life what goes on, and not just American politics, but it’s very similar in Canada–. But let’s talk specifically about the Democratic Party. The politics seems to be so defined by what supposedly is people’s ideology. So, like, over here you have a liberal left meter, and you’re somewhere here on this ideological meter, and over here you’re on the right, conservative, neoconservative meter, and you’re kind of here or here. And the two parties, it’s really just a question [of], well, where do your beliefs put you on this meter, as opposed to–again, taking the Democratic Party as the issue, that there’s very different class interests within these parties? It’s not just about people having different scales of belief. There’s a corporate sector of the Democratic Party. Much of it’s been on Wall Street. Much of it’s in the military-industrial complex. Some of it’s in consumer and retail industries and whatever. And, for example, manufacturing companies right now with large workforces, who as individuals may very well support the Democratic Party in many ways, but they’re very happy with high unemployment and forcing two-tier wage agreements on workers. And then you have in the Democratic Party ordinary people, working people. But we don’t talk very much about objective differences of interests within the Democratic Party versus just differences of ideological opinion. What you think about it?
SWANSON: Well, you know, one of the other remarkable breakthroughs today, Thursday, as we’re speaking, was that the labor movement, most of it, the AFL-CIO and its member unions, came out strongly against a corporate trade agreement with Korea that the president is pushing. Many institutions in this country for decades have been subservient to the Democratic Party and whoever its top representative might be at the time. And so we haven’t had, on behalf of low-income and working people, and even the middle class, we haven’t had institutions outside of the Democratic Party interacting with it, pushing it in the right direction, the way that we have all the corporate front groups and the US Chamber of Commerce and the Tea Party and Fox News and all of those institutions dragging everybody to the right. From the left and from the working classes of the country we have had everybody subsumed within the Democratic Party in a rather subservient position. And so to see some break with that is new and hopeful and encouraging. I think we have been moving, of course, in a direction of great separation of wealth and concentration of wealth at the very top. And while the Democratic Party has been interested in helping those at the very bottom with unemployment insurance and so forth, there hasn’t been any resistance to that accumulation of wealth at the top. Here we’re lowering the estate tax and so forth, and that’s a procedure that guarantees that the middle class will seek out policies that help those above them, will aspire to be the next millionaires, and will neglect those below, and we will be in a spiral of ever greater division of wealth. And the Democratic Party, left to its own devices, does not seem ready and up at this moment to reverse that trend.
JAY: And the Republican Party’s very good in power, partly taking advantage of what the business cycle is, but also making sure there’s enough foreign adventures going on that during the–certainly all the Bush years. Of course, 9/11 was the start of this process, but more or less for the whole Bush presidency, with maybe the exception of Katrina, they were able to keep the people’s focus outside of American borders and not talking about the growing crisis and the growing, enormous income disparity.
SWANSON: Absolutely. I was working for the now-defunct ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) on 9/11, and I saw every effort that was moving forward on behalf of low-income and working people just abandoned. It was now wartime, and in wartime you can’t waste your efforts on creating a decent minimum wage or a living wage or undoing predatory lending practices, even if it’s going to take down Wall Street, which needs to be protected from itself. You know, war has always been a great distraction and a great funneller of energy and anger towards a foreign enemy, as opposed to in pursuit of social justice here at home. And, you know, the Democratic Party may be a little bit different from the Bush-Cheney war machine, but not terribly.
JAY: Yeah. Certainly in the history of the 20th century, the Democrats were in on perhaps even the last–starting more wars than the Republicans did.
SWANSON: Oh, in terms of presidents, absolutely. But, you know, one of the other remarkable things that happened today was that Jeremy Scahill of The Nation Magazine was a witness at a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee and told John Conyers, the chairman, that the problem with the past three years of Democratic rule in Congress, of four years of Democratic rule in Congress, has been the abandonment of the power of subpoena, the refusal to enforce subpoenas. It was almost six years ago that we were in the basement of the capital, holding hearings on the Downing Street Minutes and the war lies with then-ranking minority member John Conyers, an informal hearing. And he has been holding these hearings by the dozens for six years, including the one today, where he had great witnesses and they’re laying out all the abuses of presidential power and war crimes, and John Conyers is pleading with them to praise him for hearing yet another hearing. And I have to say thank you to Jeremy Scahill for speaking up and saying, you know, wait a minute, Congress is actually supposed to do something more than just hear about the crimes and pat itself on the back and move on. The fact that we allowed dozens of top officials responsible for the most serious abuses and crimes to simply blow off subpoenas all through 2007 and 2008 and have not reissued a single one of them in 2009 or 2010, this is the serious story here. And, you know, that’s something that had to be said. And, you know, the Republicans weren’t even in the room. They weren’t going to dignify, you know, a hearing on serious crimes in this country. But the Democrats who were in the room needed to be told that at some point we have to see action out of Congress.
JAY: Well, we’re in the final moments of our webathon. Any final comments?
SWANSON: Well, I certainly would second the sentiments that you expressed earlier and others have been expressing, that we need to support what you are doing here with The Real News. I think of all the corrupting factors in our government and society, the lack of a decent communication system is number one. You know. And there are so many great efforts to critique the corporate media and the right-wing media and do PR better and organize people to protest and so forth, but creating the media that we need is the easiest and the cheapest and the most effective and the most critically needed. And Real News is doing as good a job as anyone out there and has a vision to do it bigger and better that is exactly what’s needed. So if people want a single thing they can do to help reverse the downward spiral that our republic seems to be on, I certainly would say give money to TheRealNews.com.
JAY: Thanks very much.
SWANSON: Thank you.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on the webathon. Now, there’s one more little segment to go, ’cause we want you to meet everybody behind the scenes. So we’re going to take a short break, and when we come back you’re going to meet everybody who hasn’t been in front of the Camera but probably should have been. But they will be soon. So please give us a couple of minutes and come back for what will be the end of this year’s Real News Webathon.
End of Transcript
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.