Cornel West and Tavis Smiley's Anti-Poverty Tour

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Princeton Professor Cornel West  and Tavis Smiley, co-hosts of Smiley & West,  which airs Sundays at 4PM on AM 820, discuss their new book, The Rich And The Rest Of Us: A Poverty Manifesto -- a call for a new socioeconomic system based on "fundamental fairness."


Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West

Comments [43]

Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn, NY

Hi, If there are some who want to deny their new poverty, it is because poverty hurts emotionally and psychologically. It's not just lack of money not being able to buy what a person was once able to afford easily. It's everything that goes with it--your self esteem is not the self esteem of your better days and you ask: Has long will this last? Will it last forever? Sometimes there are no good options and a person gets tired--again emotionally and psychologically. Eugenia Renskoff

Apr. 19 2012 05:26 PM

One other thing,Fred. You wrote: "...and since Reagan it has become progressively worse."

Actually, since Nixon.

Apr. 19 2012 03:46 PM

Fred: I don't propose anything. Economics does. You want to ignore it, go ahead.

Apr. 19 2012 03:01 PM
Fred from Queens

To David:

Are you proposing (according to "Minimum Wage, Maximum Stupidity" ( that to redress unemployment there should be no minimum wage? Should we pay Americans less than in China and ignore environmental consequences? (The average wage rate in China is only 2.1% that of the United States I'm sure that would bring manufacturing back.

How about a more equitable distribution of wealth, where you can still have very very rich people and enough resources for a well functioning society, which this one is not.

Among Western nations we are at the bottom in most leading categories (health, education, infrastructure, etc.), but at the top in poverty, corruption, and greed, and since Reagan it has become progressively worse.

We shouldn't be stupid and look to see how other successful capitalist countries do it.

Apr. 19 2012 02:17 PM

ladyjay114: If you can ask the question: "I understand the economic issues of the rising minimum wage, but what good does it do if we pay someone $3 an hour?," then you still don't understand the economic issues.

Did you read the three links I posted? If so, what isn't clear about the economic logic which they point out?

The employer doesn't determine the price of labor (i.e., wage), the market does. (The same way the seller doesn't determine the price of a product, the market does.) If you believe that the employer determines the price, then we would all be paid minimum wage. How come most of us aren't being paid the minimum wage? It's certainly not because most employers are being "generous." After all, why would a person be economically foolish enough to pay more for something than the market is signalling it is worth? That would leave that person with less money to purchase other products and services that they require.

Wishful thinking is not economics. Being compassionate is not economics. I'm sure we'd all like to think that if we fell off of a 20-story building that we shouldn't die—but, unfortunately, the laws of biology and physics disagree with us. Though economics is a social (as opposed to a natural) science, there are axioms that hold for it just like in the natural sciences of physics, chemistry, and biology. To expand what I wrote in my first comment, you can ignore economic axioms/laws/principles, but they will not ignore you.

By the way, if you want to understand why $3.00 an hour—or even $7.50 an hour—doesn't give one much of an income anymore, I strongly suggest that you take the time to read this short—but very understandable—book:

Apr. 19 2012 01:17 PM
The Truth from Becky

Proudful & Busy Peg, this particular spot was to sell a book about "us" K?

Apr. 19 2012 12:02 PM
Ciro in Garfield from New Jersey

The greatest injustice for the unemployed/under-employed is "Herd Mentality" retraining programs, initiated by faulty data generated by self-serving industries, to fill a limited number of jobs with desperate, over-qualified, workers, at low wage rates.

They create a glut of "qualified" workers who either still can't find work, or don't make a living wage. Between the generally uncreative bureaucracies, and the self-serving employment leaches, the "New Poor" will continue to be trapped between Employment Stockholm Syndrome and Pied Piper Syndrome!

Education and job training have to be revamped to help people learn the principles of critical thinking, and self-determination. Read "Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?" by Seth Godin ... very enlightening

Apr. 19 2012 11:56 AM

@David: I understand the economic issues of the rising minimum wage, but what good does it do if we pay someone $3 an hour??

Apr. 19 2012 11:50 AM
Fred from Queens

These interviews are always so brief and superficial; I often wonder why even bother? I'm sure there's much more that your guests can say. On the Brian Lehrer Show all topics get equal treatment: poverty, babysitting, etc.

My attention spans is more than ten minutes, and I bet others too. This is not good programming.

Apr. 19 2012 11:47 AM

“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.”

Cornel West and Tavis Smiley can ignore basic economics, but I can assure you that basic economics will not ignore Cornel West and Tavis Smiley:

Apr. 19 2012 11:44 AM
John Strange from Rye Brook NY

Poverty is a pandemic. To the caller from Australia and her moving story about the Vet in Denver and how "you never see that in Australia" - nonsense. Been to inner-city Sydney (Redfern, Newtown) lately? Or rural locations where the first Australians live in appalling deprivation? Clearly not.

Apr. 19 2012 11:41 AM

To truthful Becky:
Yes, most of us are very busy. That's why we need someone who has a little extra time to speak up for us.

Apr. 19 2012 11:33 AM

I can't help but love Bros. Tavis and Cornel (and the latter despite his self-satisfaction). Thanks for giving them more air-time.

Apr. 19 2012 11:29 AM
Laura from UWS

Impressive and moving segment....can we have more, please?

Apr. 19 2012 11:29 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Is it over yet? Socialists never die,and will never fade away, as long as academia and public media continue to exist.

Apr. 19 2012 11:29 AM
The Truth from Becky

PEARSE...state the issues, what exactly do you propose that President Obama address first during the next term. ALSO please give an example of the "apathy" he has shown the Black Community.

Apr. 19 2012 11:28 AM
Ana from Summit, NJ

Regarding education and training for the poor and how people are making money off them: It breaks by heart and makes me angry to see for profit schools taking taxpayers' money and squashing people's hopes

Apr. 19 2012 11:27 AM
John from Fanwood

I don't think I heard anyone point out Glen Hubbard's statement that job training would be done with "training accounts." Thr right seems to solve everything by sellingf these "accounts."

Apr. 19 2012 11:26 AM
Stella from Manhattan

Do Cornell and Travis have a website? Is there a way to create a movement (and brand it) based on their lucid and
compassionate arguments? Is there any way this discussion can be made available via the internet? The eradication of poverty is the most important issue facing Americans today - is there any way we can help?

Apr. 19 2012 11:26 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

As the "poor artist" caller mentioned, a lot of poor people are not advocating for themselves or actively supportive of arguments like Smiley and West's. Smiley and West argue points that their constituencies (if you will) too often don't understand or actively support. Does this deficiency concern them? Are they addressing this? They and the grassroots seem to have no answer.

Apr. 19 2012 11:26 AM
The Truth from Becky

I respect both of these gentlemen for their accomplishments, they are BOTH brilliant and honorable Men, with the best of intention...but I don't particularly like either one. A. Neither one of you are "the rest of us"...the real "rest of us" are at work now, in the unemployment line now, at the human services office now...u get my point?

Apr. 19 2012 11:25 AM

I've never heard what the cost to the government is the result of a job lost to overseas manufacturing. Does anyone know?

Apr. 19 2012 11:24 AM

Fifty percent of Americans who are qualified to vote DO NOT. How do you propose to solve anything when 50% won't participate?

Apr. 19 2012 11:24 AM
Ann G. from Briarciff manor, NY

"Personal accounts" for job retraining would NOT work. No-one thinks about the time and difficulty of finding and then evaluating programs. Our government needs to fund and then evaluate training programs - and eliminate the ones that don't work.

Apr. 19 2012 11:24 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

I applaud Mr. Smiley & Dr. West's unequivocally message today. in the past, I haven't agreed with every position or perspective they have expressed individually or in unison, but today's message truly resonates.

Apr. 19 2012 11:22 AM

Can Mr. Smiley and Prof. West speak about the Presidents apparent lack of emphathy towards the African American population? Will a second term result in any change for African Americans here in America? And why is our first black president so removed from minority problems?

Apr. 19 2012 11:22 AM
Arianna from Brooklyn

Curious what the guests think about the following: I've been documenting how the economic crisis has moved into the suburbs. Formerly middle class people living in the suburbs have been falling on hard times and there is no infrastructure built in those areas to protect them. It can be quite a trap if you've lost your home and your car, and are stuck without access to amenities. I met many people living in extended stay motels, or trying to get to a food pantry which is something they'd never had to do before.

What were their findings on poverty in the suburbs?

Apr. 19 2012 11:22 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Too few politicians are willing to even mention the poor. The other day Mitt Romney said the people who were hurt by the economic collapse were the middle class. No acknowledgment that the poor, who were already hurting, were hurt even worse by the collapse.

Apr. 19 2012 11:22 AM
Paul from NYC

Please speak to the fact that money doesn't grow on trees. This whole conversation has been basically, "there are so many poor." I want to hear what they want to do about it outside of taxing more to give money away. Everything is relative. You give a living wage, the cost of living rises and it is no longer a living wage. I don't think poor whites are voting against their interests, as the last caller stated, I think they are voting for the person they think will allow government to create an environment where jobs can grow. They probably realize that free money from the government is worthless when it's the bottom line for everybody. They still believe in the American dream.

Apr. 19 2012 11:21 AM
Sherry from nyc

I agree this is a huge issue. What do the guests suggest as the solution with the current policy maker ties to Wall St and special interests?? OUr political system and status quo is increasingly determined by those with the deepest pockets, rather than collective consensus.

Apr. 19 2012 11:21 AM

The last caller's question about creating a coalition of the striving poor across racial lines is crucial - please press on this issue!

Apr. 19 2012 11:20 AM
John from NYC

I am sorry,Mitt Romney is NOT the president, Obama is. So, we not longer blame Bush, we now blame Romney.

How about getting realistic here:

For the not rich we have PUBLIC SCHOOLS. When my parents (in the 1930s) went to public school in NYC, and I in the 1960s on Long Island, they were the best schools in the WORLD. Now we have given them over to the TEACHERS UNION and EDUCATIONISTS, and we have abandoned VOCATIONAL schools (check out Germany). No wonder there is so much unemployment, we have had a forty year program of the STUPIDIFICATION of America -- if you graduate people who cannot read and write, of course they will be unemployed.

Apr. 19 2012 11:19 AM
Jo Ann Vincent from Fair HAven

Why aren't more Americans speaking out/acting/voting about Poverty? Assuming that most humans act in self interest why don't the 99% realize they ARE poor or a life event away from being poor????

Apr. 19 2012 11:19 AM
Harvey from Brooklyn, NY

a core issue that is fundamental to dealing with any and all of the issues discussed is that our system is so based on money, and until there is REAL and complete public financing in our political system nothing will change.

Apr. 19 2012 11:18 AM
Shauniqua C from Brooklyn

Nothing new in this discussion.. channel change time.

Apr. 19 2012 11:17 AM


The federal minimum wage for employees who receive tips is $2.13 an hour and has not been raised in more than 30 years. In 23 states that do not have minimum wages for tipped employees, that's all that workers receive. The regular minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is not applicable if the tipped employee receives $30 or more in tips per MONTH. Some people in America, primarily the South, are working for $2.13 an hour for 40 hours per week plus about $8 per week in tips or just $2.33 per hour, including tips. THAT"S LEGAL. It's not right, and it's not ethical.

Apr. 19 2012 11:14 AM
Peter from North Carolina

Tavis Smiley speaks beautifully about growing up stuttering. Not the topic today, but if time permits, perhaps you could ask him if he has any words of advice for young people who stutter.

Apr. 19 2012 11:11 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The poor will always be with us, but please God, don't let me be one of them. Oh, wait, it's too late! I am.

Apr. 19 2012 11:11 AM
Dan from Manhattan from Inwood

I love this show & have been podcasting it since it hasn't been on the air for the last month. I just assumed WNYC has cancelled it... anyone know anything different ??

Apr. 19 2012 11:10 AM
Kevin from Teaneck, NJ

Does concentration on an After Life distract from this life?

Apr. 19 2012 11:09 AM

Is it possible to help those who are in trouble through no fault of their own without helping those who did not take personal responsibility and are just lazy?

Apr. 19 2012 11:09 AM
john from office

Mr. West, while very smart and educated, takes away from his message with his delivery. He sounds pompous and a little too "hip".

Apr. 19 2012 11:09 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Cornel and Tavis are on point with their criticism. And podium pontification has its important place. But address of the issues they raise requires more, like innovation and dedication on the ground level.

Apr. 19 2012 11:07 AM

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