Van Jones' American Dream

Friday, July 08, 2011

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and former Obama administration green jobs advisor Van Jones talked about his new project "Rebuild the Dream."

A second austerity program?

"Washington, DC is completely off the rails," said Van Jones.

Like many Americans, the former White House advisor is extremely frustrated with the debt ceiling debate, though Jones' anger is directed specifically at the calls for cuts to entitlement programs and public services. Especially considering the grim jobs report released Friday morning, Jones said he couldn't believe anyone was entertaining the notion of more austerity in America.

We've already had an austerity program given to us by Wall Street when it destroyed the economy in 2008; to add a public sector austerity program is the height of foolishness. Yet we've heard this drum beat over and over that we're broke, we're broke, there's nothing we can do. I've been to countries that are broke...America is not the poorest country in the world. We're still the richest country in the history of the world. What has not been done is take a balanced approach to the economic crisis.

'The whole discussion has been hijacked'

Jones said that through polling and other outreach conducted by his organization "Rebuild the Dream," he'd found that an overwhelming majority of people take issue with insulating wealthy individuals and financial institutions from the squeeze while public workers and the unemployed receive ever less support.

The whole discussion has been hijacked by people who have already sworn an oath that no matter what happens to the American people they will never ever agree that the American government should have more tax revenues...David Stockman himself, the architect of Reagonomics said it's time for rich people to pay more taxes. The only people fooled and tricked by the propaganda offensive are people working on Capitol Hill.

Learning from the Tea Party

Van Jones started "Rebuild the Dream" in order to guide the national conversation toward progressive policies. He took as his model the very people he hoped to counter: the Tea Party. Jones said that in the year following his departure from the federal government he read every single book by, about and against the movement. And he hopes to emulate their success.

Basically there were 3,528 affiliates that pre-existed naming something as the Tea Party, some dating back to 1992 and Ross Perot. They realized they were speaking in too many voices and had too many different names, that they needed to stand under one banner named Tea Party. By taking pre-existing ideas and small groups, they completely changed the conversation. We are already larger in terms of number of groups and organizations larger, but we're not aligned. We're not standing under a common banner.


Van Jones


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Comments [42]

Ozzir from Melbourne, fl

Check out MY AMERICAN DREAM/ MY BAILOUT PLAN and supply your feedback.

Jul. 18 2011 06:56 AM
Whatever happened to civility? from Brooklyn

Samantha is dead-on. There seem to be an unfortunate number of trolls posting nasty, disrespectful comments on this site. One post below even calls the guest an "idiot."

Whatever happened to manners???

Jul. 08 2011 04:46 PM
gary from queens

Dear BL producer,

I hope you were not referring to me when you posted this:

No "insults and name calling and keep your comments productive to the conversation taking place on air."

I've been called names on this blog. People label me with various synonyms of malevolence, because I'm conservative. Rarely is there even an explanation to support the allegation.

By contrast, I refer to "ignorant liberals." WHY? Because they are liberal and they expressed an ignorant remark. And I supply the evidence.

If conservatives are not allowed to make the same "observations" about their political opponents on this blog as liberals utter about them, then your moderation is one sided and biased.

In the past, i could not make one comment without an ad hominem directed at me. Now that I'm adopting the same language, all of a sudden it's an insult?!

Jul. 08 2011 03:22 PM
Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

Happy to see the left wingers to come out of the wood work. I hope they damage the dems as much as the tea party is damaging the GOP

Jul. 08 2011 02:37 PM
Jon from Essex Cty, NJ

Martin - not one American company pays effective 39% or even close. Their accounting staff would be fired if they did. This is a red herring number that has no reality and is used to sustain the illusion that business pays its share of taxes in US. Is why closing corporate tax loopholes that undermine this number is better than any actual rate increase. In fact, cut the nominal rate and reduce the loopholes so we get something close to 20% actual and that would be fantastic.
How about we start with a loophole that gives a tax benny for every new American hire?

Jul. 08 2011 11:50 AM
antonio from bayside

Thanks for the exuberant fact check. It was filled with the neighborly sentiment I come to expect on these boards nowadays. :)
I think I was trying to make a point that we should raise taxes to where they were in the fifties/sixties for corporations, and got caught up in the way the rest of the world REGARDS corporations. MY MISTAKE!

However that aside, what do you think of the rest of my comments?

Jul. 08 2011 11:43 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan



Germany goes down below 20% this year.
Canada is 15%.
Even Communist China is only 25%!!! (and their capital gains tax is also less!)
We are the only country in the world to raise corp taxes in the past 15 years.
Please don't make stuff up.

Jul. 08 2011 11:33 AM

What's sad is that this administration and the Republicans will not pay attention to what we the people want done. We are systematically ignored.

NewsHour last night had a segment on Obama's grand bargaining, with Andrew Kohut, pollster, and Naftali Bendavid, WSJ congressional correspondent.

Kohut reported on a recent poll showing that by TWO to ONE people want, if changes must be made, to cut some costs AND raise taxes, but definitely DO NOT WANT THE POLS TO TOUCH Social Security, Medicare, and by a slightly lower margin, lMedicaid.

All polled: Two to one against what Obama and the Republicans want to do. Among Republicans, the affluent aren't that concerned, but the middle, lower, and poor Republicans DO NOT WANT these programs messed with.

From the transcript:

ANDREW KOHUT: Well, surprisingly, when you ask about what is more important, preserving benefits for Social Security and Medicare, by 2-1 -- or reducing deficit or the debt -- 2-1, people say, preserve -- preserve our benefits.

There is very little give there. Now, Republicans are of the view -- more of the view that reducing the -- reducing the deficit should be given high priority. But even among Republicans, it's really interesting. There is a big income divide. Affluent Republicans say it is more important to reduce the deficit, but poorer Republicans, middle-class and lower-middle-class Republicans say, no, no, protect our benefits.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And have -- are these attitudes, Andy, that have changed over time, with all the attention that's now being given to the size of the debt and the urgency of the problem?

ANDREW KOHUT: Well, a lot -- people are willing to do a lot of things to reduce this deficit. Concern is at an all-time high.

But when it comes to entitlements, there's no movement. It really is rock-solid when we see 2-1 margins.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, again, entitlements meaning Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare.

ANDREW KOHUT: And even Medicaid. Having states raise the -- make it more -- reduce eligibility for Medicaid, not 2-1, but a solid majority say, no, let's not do that.

Video and transcript at this link:

Jul. 08 2011 11:12 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Poulson of Westchester,

Rand's comment is very true, but America was also very fortunate that Russia, China, India and others chose NOT to compete, by binding themselves to socialism and communism.
But after Reagan freed 35% of the world from socialist slavery, and exhorting them to become hard working capitalists, Americans have been subsequently inundated by a tsunami of competitors who are now eating our lunch.

The rest of the world now seriously competes with us for resources, including energy, food, minerals, you name it, and this is causing a squeeze on our formerly national profligate life style. People don't being forced to retreat back into a simpler life style.

Jul. 08 2011 11:11 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

After listening to Sen. Jim "Demented"s, version of team-building - it nearly made me wretch - I am grateful to hear Van Jone's views on how to re-build the American Dream.

Average hourly pay would need to be $48/hr in order to equal the American worker the buying power of the average worker in 1968. The US economy generates approx. $6T per year that the middle income earners DO NOT get a piece of. The DNC, the GOP and Koch Bros. TP'ers have had a share in this 'race to the bottom' which is robbing the middle class. The fix for poor distribution of income is long-term but it starts by recognizing that the theft is occurring.

Suggestions: Lower the FICA rates; broaden the income subject to FICA; cut-off employer matching at 2X median for the self-employed; raise rates for $1M+ earners; add seats to the House so that more folks can serve - smaller constituencies, less corruption (or at least lower impact from any single corrupt member).

Jul. 08 2011 11:07 AM
Jon from essex cty, NJ

BL Monitor - clearly some ppl have confused this site with

Jul. 08 2011 11:04 AM
Paulson from Westchester

"America’s abundance was not created by public sacrifices to 'the common good,' but by the productive genius of free men and women who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes." Ayn Rand

Jul. 08 2011 11:02 AM
Jon from Jersey from Essex County, NJ

An earlier poster said - businesses are in business to make money, not create jobs. No better expression of this fact is found by the current situation of outsized corporate profits matched by puny domestic hiring. pure and simple, companies are making cash by moving jobs to low cost locations like China, India, Philippines, and then sitting on that cash or returning it in dividends to shareholders rather than invest in America or Americans. There is no tax incentive to do this domestic investing, and in fact it is job policy to give incentives to companies that continue to off-shore their operations. The corporate tax code is the best lever the US gov't has to boost jobs, not printing money or putting more people on the public payroll.

Jul. 08 2011 11:01 AM
antonio from bayside

Can't we just let the tax cuts on the rich expire? Fareed Zakaria said on "fresh air" if allowed to expire, in ten years that would reap 4 trillion dollars. And while we are at it, lets get rid of oil subsidies, and put corporate tax rates like the rest of the world. We have the lowest or close to it...

Jul. 08 2011 11:00 AM

We've removed a few comments for violating the WNYC posting policy. Please refrain from insults and name calling and keep your comments productive to the conversation taking place on air.
-BL Show-

Jul. 08 2011 10:56 AM
Samantha from bklyn

The tone of the comments on this piece is nauseating. Please, can we discuss in a civil manner or has our political climate really suffocated the humanity out of us all?

Jul. 08 2011 10:55 AM
J Reilly from Bellmore, LI

I'm with this guy! I'm tired of seeing reactionary groups on the news that are all biased toward the tea party or the republicans and no groups expressing my views. Michelle Bachman and Nancy Grace can get large groups of people to act like lemmings and, as a result, they get all the attention. If there was a group that was highly visable and transparent (so I know I can believe them) I would participate. An interactive (wiki) blog would be a way to collect alternate opinions and estimate the size of the population on either side.

Jul. 08 2011 10:53 AM

Barbara from Westchester
since the first public school was established by settlers in 1635

Jul. 08 2011 10:52 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from M



Jul. 08 2011 10:51 AM
Amy from Manhattan

We need to stop letting the conservatives define the terms of the debate, & we need to have more effective responses to their rhetoric. Even Reagan eventually raised taxes (& it actually helped the economy), but he tried to call them "user fees"; now right-wing Republicans are calling *every* kind of revenue increase a tax. We need to throw this & similar hypocrisies back in their faces. For example, they say the administration hasn't gotten anything done on an issue? Publicize the fact that they've refused to confirm the officials who need to be in place to get things done. They say too much regulation is the problem? Point out that the parts of the market that brought on the collapse were the least regulated ones. And say it as loudly as they do!

Jul. 08 2011 10:51 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

If the "American Dream" was to own a big house or two, surrounded by land and with many SUV's in the oversized garages, then YES, that DREAM is dying or dead for the broad masses.

The reality is, one way or another, we are going to go back down to more universal and sustainable way of living. What goes up, must come down. Our society is going to have to learn to downsize its expectations and live a more normal life. As it did before suburbanization boom (now gone bust) that began in the late 50s. The party is over.

Jul. 08 2011 10:51 AM
gary from queens

Another ignorant caller thinks scandanavian countries have a high standard of living. That ended when their real assets (they produce nothing) were exposed. They've been living on the wealth they created centuries before. now its gone

July 1, 2011 4:00 A.M.
Liberal Frankensteins
From Greece to California, the liberal dream is dead.

Jul. 08 2011 10:50 AM
gary from queens


Minimum Wage, Maximum Folly
25 April 2006
Walter Williams
If higher minimum wages could cure poverty, we could easily end worldwide poverty simply by telling poor nations to legislate higher minimum wages.
About a fortnight ago, Mrs. Williams alerted me to an episode of Oprah Winfrey's show titled "Inside the Lives of People Living on Minimum Wage." After a few minutes of watching, I turned it off, not because of the heartrending tales but because most of what was being said was dead wrong.

Minimum Wage
March 30, 2005
A proposal by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) to increase the minimum wage from its current $5.15 an hour is a bad idea. Moreover, the idea that minimum wage legislation is an anti-poverty tool is sheer nonsense, says economist Walter E. Williams.
There is little evidence suggesting increases in the minimum wage help the poor. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal:
While minimum-wage workers earn $5,000 below the poverty line for a family of three, only 2.2 percent of working adults earn the minimum wage.
Minimum wages discriminate against the employment of low-skilled workers because employers are not willing to pay $7.25 an hour for a worker whose skills enable him to produce only $4 worth of value per hour.
The low-skilled worker category is dominated by teenagers who lack the maturity, skills and experience of adults.

Jewish World Review April 14, 2010 / 30 Nissan 5770
Minimum Wage Cruelty
By Walter Williams
Which allows an American Samoan worker to have a higher standard of living: being employed at $3.26 per hour or unemployed at a wage scheduled to annually increase by 50 cents until it reaches federally mandated wages at $7.25? You say, "Williams, that's a stupid question. Who would support people being unemployed at $7.25 an hour over being employed at $3.26 an hour?" That's precisely the outcome of Congress' 2007 increases in the minimum wage. Chicken of the Sea International moved its operation from Samoa to a highly automated cannery plant in Lyon, Georgia. That resulted in roughly 2,000 jobs lost in Samoa and a gain of 200 jobs in Georgia.

Jul. 08 2011 10:48 AM

Is the left so bereft of "ideas" that it has to use a radio call-in show to find solutions?

How about three words: "free market capitalism?"
1. Reduce corporate and capital gains taxes
2. Eliminate Dodd-Frank and Obama Care regulations
3. Get government out of the way of business creation

Jul. 08 2011 10:48 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Jones has admitted to being a communist....gosh, it's even on Wikipedia. So, let's stop this "jobs" baloney. He is a radical charlatan, not a progressive.

Jul. 08 2011 10:47 AM
Barbara from Westchester

This is too rich. Since when was Socialism the American Dream?

Jul. 08 2011 10:46 AM
Olivier from New York

One idea for job creation: 1930s-style public works projects and civil corps to fulfill them. In other words, greater spending by the federal government.

Jul. 08 2011 10:45 AM
ilene from New York City

Dear Gary thanks for the insightful comment. Now, turn on your listening ears; you might just hear something useful.

Jul. 08 2011 10:45 AM
Unheard from NYC

I would begin by adequately defining the American Dream. I'm not sure what the Dream is anymore. For some the Dream seems to be the possibility of over night riches. How that is uniquely American I don't know. For me the Dream is that my children have the potential and should do better than I have and those that have come before. Which seems a reasonable dream.

Jul. 08 2011 10:45 AM

Is the left so bereft of "ideas" that it has to use a radio call-in show to find solutions?

How about three words: "free market capitalism?"
1. Reduce corporate and capital gains taxes
2. Eliminate Dodd-Frank and Obama Care regulations
3. Get government out of the way of business creation

Jul. 08 2011 10:45 AM
Carol McLoughlin from Bronxville, NY

Several women from WOW (Women opposed to War) met last night and discussed this very issue. We are very concerned that so few Progressives and Americans in general are not involved. We believe we must END all engagements in other countries asap and bring our soldiers and war dollars home NOW. We believe this is the first thing that we must do. After this...1: End lobbying, 2. Concentrate on GREEN JOBS which will immediately effect Education as well as jobs.

Jul. 08 2011 10:44 AM
gary from queens

Mr. Jones,

STOP calling yourself a progressive. You're a self proclaimed communist.

As such, you do not understand the private enterprise aims to get profits. that leads to eco growth and from more investment and thus more jobs are the result.

Only an idiot communist 911 truther like you thinks the primary aim and incentive of business is to CREAT jobs.

It takes 5 private sector jobs to finance ONE public sector job.

Jul. 08 2011 10:43 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

The American Dream?

Van Jones's version of that dream is to let other people work hard .... and then take their earnings away from them and call it their duty to "give back" in "give it back to me."

Jul. 08 2011 10:43 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Tea Party of the Left!!!

After calling the TP obscene names on MSNBC, the Left now embraces them....LOL?

Jul. 08 2011 10:42 AM
dan k from Chelsea

someone needs to do an analysis of all the jobs lost due to commerce moving to E-tail. all the bookstores, video stores, magazine/newspapers stands and reporters, electronic/camera stores, etc. This represents a large part of job loss that simply will not return.

Jul. 08 2011 10:42 AM

Van Jones should speak for himself instead of trying to tar progressives with one brush. Glenn Greenwald? Naomi Klein? Amy Goodman? . . . Are they quiet?

It is the Van Joneses who have been quiet. They are unwilling to condemn Obama when he comes out as _more_ conservative than Bush on torture, on illegal detention, on drones, on fiscal policy, on Social Security.

Jul. 08 2011 10:40 AM
Barbara Kebbekus

The poor job report is no surprise. If we continue to lay off teachers, cops, etc. and cutting paychecks (by making them pay more of their benefit costs) large numbers of families have less to spend and small business has no reason to hire workers. They have no customers!!

Jul. 08 2011 10:39 AM

During a talk last fall, Columbia economist Jeffrey Sachs commented that he didn't think there were ten people in Washington who were either _competent_ or _inclined_ to attend to US economic problems.

Obama is one of those incompetents. At every turn he has _proven_ that he is more a 70s/80s style Republican than a Democrat. And the Democrats are conservative these days.

What possible reason do we have to take Van Jones seriously given his track record of support for Obama?

Jul. 08 2011 10:39 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I think we should do the following three things:

1. An across the board spending cut of 1%, includiing congressional salaries.

2. A 1% national sales tax on everything, excluding food and medication.

3. An increased push toward renewable energy and recycling which will employ many, many people.

Jul. 08 2011 10:38 AM

Ms. Floyd

As part of the journalism establishment and, specifically, covering this topic today, I lay a lot of the blame for the problems of the lower, working and middle classes at your doorstep.

In the previous piece, you claimed that you read up on the issue.

Yet, you treat political reality as THE reality.

You spend almost a half hour talking at the third rail and the raising of the debt limit and do not mention a word about what the people who elected these officials who are making a mockery of the social safety net want (thank you Van Jones for bringing it into the discussion).

You treat spinning and facts as "two different points of view, rather than what they actually are.

People are going to suffer and die as a result of the gutting of the social safety net.

And YOU will have contributed, however far removed you imagine yourself to be or however you justify the dissemination of talking points that help the rich and powerful at the expense of those who are having a tough time even surviving.

A journalist is supposed to tell people what they need to know to make informed decisions.

In my mind, you fail as a journalist.

Jul. 08 2011 10:38 AM
RLewis from the bowery

Please ask Mr. Jones how long he is going to allow the republicans to use him as a club to beat democrats with before he steps aside and out of the spotlight.

Jul. 08 2011 10:35 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Having removed my original comment....please have the integrity to clarify that this "former Obama administration green jobs advisor" was actually FIRED ......and that this dismissal had the support of many Democratic party officials. Please interview all the radicals that you wish, but don't sugar coat them.

Jul. 08 2011 10:34 AM

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