Van Jones' American Dream

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.