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Financial crisis calls for massive investment

Immediately following the second Presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, Senior Editor Paul Jay spoke with Bill Fletcher, Jr.. In Part 2 of this interview, Bill discusses the sort of response he would hope to see from a new President to address the roots of the crisis.

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to Part 2 of our interview with Bill Fletcher. We’re talking about the debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. Bill is an activist, author, labor organizer, editor of The Black Commentator, and his new book is called Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path Toward Social Justice. Welcome back, Bill.

BILL FLETCHER, JR., EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE BLACK COMMENTATOR: I’m glad to be back.

JAY: So, Bill, the fundamental issue in the opening part of the debate was the financial crisis: "What will you do about it?" Barack talked about his plans in terms of relief for the middle class, and we heard much of the same language we’ve been hearing during the campaign. We heard from McCain again the issue of smaller government and cuts in all of that. What would you have liked to have seen? What would you like the next president to do in his first hundred days?

FLETCHER: Well, you know, one of the things I would say, Paul, the first thing, is that the whole debate that was going on about cutting taxes and whether someone was spending more, it misses the point. The United States needs a major investment of money on basic infrastructure. That’s going to cost. I mean, we have roads collapsing, bridges collapsing, tunnels collapsing; we have waterways that are eroding. And what I would have liked to have heard Senator Obama to say in his statement was that we are going to have to—in order to address this overall economic crisis, we’re going to have to invest. We’re going to have to invest in the worker. We’re going to have to create a major jobs program, which would be one of the first things, I think, that he would need to do in those first hundred days, a major jobs program that puts people to work. They have to stop the foreclosures; there needs to be a moratorium on foreclosures and a renegotiation of the debts that regular homeowners have. I mean, these are some of the immediate steps that need to be taken. And I think that on the one hand I think Senator Obama was correct in saying that something needed to be done about the credit crunch. But what I think needed to be very much emphasized was that the resentment that people were feeling about this bailout package was based on looking at who seemed to be gaining from this, as opposed to the millions of people who were suffering.

JAY: There was a moment in the debate where one of the questions was: it hasn’t been, really, since World War II, I think the question went, that Americans have been asked to sacrifice. What would you—the question went: what would you ask Americans to sacrifice? And for what? And I thought it was a moment for both candidates to stand up and inspire. McCain went to complete message track, sort of critiqued Obama again about something. But I also was disappointed with Obama, in the sense that if there was a time to say that now is a time for sacrifice, it was a time where he could have said it’s time for equal sacrifice and really gone after the message that if we’re going to pay for this financial crisis, if we’re going to pay for this infrastructure program that we need, then there’s going to have to be real taxation, and certainly at the upper levels. Now, he makes the argument, but he’s very careful about it, whereas I actually think one could inspire people on the question of that it’s time people have to pay their way, and clearly it’s the people with wealth that have to do it.

FLETCHER: I think that that’s true, although, you know, it’s interesting: I was thinking about a very different answer. I was thinking that if I were to say we’re going to have to sacrifice, I’d say that we’re going to have to sacrifice the way we live in order to address the survival of the planet.

JAY: Well, that kind of was his answer. He talked about individual responsibility in how we use energy.

FLETCHER: Yeah, but I’m saying even more than that, Paul. I mean, for example, we have grown accustomed to having suburbanization, cars which one person drives in, communities—even my own community—where there’s no sidewalks, where you have to drive. You know, when we’re talking about changing the way we’re living, it’s not just that we’re going to recycle paper, which is always very important, but it’s that we’re going to have to redesign our very basic infrastructure. The whole idea that everybody gets a single-family home, for example, that we eat up the land the way that we’ve been doing it to create these sometimes massive single-family homes that two people live in or one person lives in, I mean, we’re really talking about a different way of living. That doesn’t mean that people are going to be going back to living in caves, but it does mean that we have to change our lifestyle, and that is going to be a major sacrifice in addition to what you said.

JAY: Well, we’ll see. If there is a President Obama—as of today it looks like there might be—we’ll see if we hear that in his inaugural address. Thanks so much for joining us, Bill.

FLETCHER: Oh, my pleasure.

JAY: And thank you for joining us.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.