This week on Truthdig Radio in collaboration with KPFK: Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Chris Hedges explain why the 99 percenters are “the best among us.” Plus: Occupy L.A., Obama’s “secure communities” and modern midwifery.
Listen to the show:
Chris Hedges on “the best among us”:
Rep. Dennis Kucinich on the 99 Percent Movement, his new jobs bill and the redistricting that could force him from office (rush transcript below):
The occupation on Wall Street has spread to cities across the country, with protesters camping out in downtown Los Angeles since Saturday. Reporter Howie Stier has been at the scene every day. He files this report:
The White House is trying to thread the needle on immigration by reprioritizing deportation rules. Leilani Albano has this report from Free Speech Radio about the so-called secure communities program:
Ina May Gaskin, author of “Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta” has been an advocate and innovator of natural birth for decades. She speaks to Truthdig’s Kasia Anderson:
Below is a rush transcript of the Dennis Kucinich interview. A full transcript will be posted soon.
Peter Scheer: Earlier today, Josh Scheer spoke with populist Congressman Dennis Kucinich about the 99 Percent Movement, his new jobs bill and the redistricting that could force him from office.
Josh Scheer: Congressman, we’re talking about H.R. 2990. What is it, and what is it going to do for America?
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: Well, what it will do, it’ll help secure America’s economic future by providing the resources to build America’s infrastructure. With 14 million people out of work, and the government saying well, we can’t create any programs because we can’t afford it, we’re missing something that is fundamental to our economy, and that is that while the Fed has been busy creating over $2 trillion for banks since the fall of 2008 through programs like Quantitative Easing [Rounds] 1 and 2, and you’ve got banks that got $700 billion in bailouts and they, too, can create money out of nothing through fractional reserve banking—meanwhile, we’re being told that the government can’t do that. Well, actually, it’s a sovereign power that resides in the government: the ability to coin or create money. I’m saying government needs to reclaim that power, spend the money into circulation to create jobs, to put millions of people back to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, water systems, sewer systems, and put the Federal Reserve under Treasury so we have control over what they do, and end fractional reserve banking, which in this historic period has actually helped to contribute to the wave of speculation that swamped our economy in 2008.
Josh Scheer: In the bill itself, you talk about the 14 million people unemployed, the 12 million people in low-wage jobs, 3 million estimated homeless. What exactly do you think your bill [is] going to do, and then what about the Obama jobs bill that he’s been kind of promoting?
Rep. Kucinich: We need to go very deep into the underlying questions of why do we have poverty in America? Why is the wealth of the country being accelerated upwards? And one of the chief reasons is our monetary policy, which in 1913 was privatized, which gave the Federal Reserve the ability basically to direct the economy through the banks and be able to create money out of nothing, give it to banks. And banks are using money right now for mergers, acquisitions, parking it, gaining interest, but they’re sure not, you know, helping to create jobs on Main Street, which is why in August we had a defined stall in job creation. So what we need to do is to reclaim the power of government to be able to spend money into circulation and not borrow from the banks. Why should we have to borrow money from China to fund our economy? Or Japan, or South Korea? Why should we have to borrow money from banks? The government itself has this power to be able to get our economy moving, to create the jobs. We need a job program of New Deal-type proportions. And that’s what I have ready; I have the actual infrastructure job numbers and all the infrastructure categories on how we can put 7.2 million people to work creating good, full-time, permanent jobs with good take-home pay, distributed evenly across the United States, and create an average of 16,500 new jobs per congressional district.
Josh Scheer: Now, I want to ask you, because the way you’re talking and the way—obviously, there’s a lot of problems going on in this country, and we see these protests across the country like Occupy Wall Street. I wanted to get your take on that. What do people in Congress—but especially you—when you see this, what do you guys think?
Rep. Kucinich: Well, first of all, I think that the occupation of Wall Street is a very important protest that needs to gather strength around the country. Because Americans have to be visible in our objections to the fact that the wealth in our country is being concentrated at the top. And unemployment leads to the concentration of wealth. When you have the top 1 percent of Americans owning half of the country’s stocks, bonds and mutual funds; when you have the top 1 percent of America taking in more of the nation’s income than at any time since the 1920s; we have to be concerned about the impact on our democracy, because an economic democracy is a precondition of a political democracy. And so what’s happening in our economy is manifestly unjust; people have finally caught on; they’re taking to Wall Street and cities across the country to be heard about the demand that we have a government that is responsive to the practical aspirations of people for jobs, health care, education, retirement security and peace.
Josh Scheer: You know, I was just at Occupy L.A. today, and there were a lot of peace signs and people—obviously, the wars are important. And obviously, you’ve been a strong opponent of the war since it first started. What do we need to do with the wars? How much is this costing us?
Rep. Kucinich: Well, if you look at Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes’ report on Iraq alone, they said that—they called that the $3 trillion war. The cost of the war in Afghanistan this year hit the half-trillion dollar mark. We are squandering the resources of our nation on wars—the war in Iraq based on lies, and the war in Afghanistan based on an abysmal misreading of history. We need to start understanding that every bomb that’s being dropped and every war machine that’s being put together is really a denial of the educational aspirations of our children; a denial of the crisis in housing we have with the rising foreclosures; a denial of the unemployment problem. Why can’t America get its priorities straight and say that our priority should be to create jobs for all, health care for all, education for all, housing opportunities for all, retirement security for all, and peace? Why can’t America stand for that instead of becoming so famous as standing for war wherever our government so chooses to wage war?
Josh Scheer: There was a Pew study, actually, a Pew poll that says one in three veterans of the post-9/11 military believes that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting at all. So, I mean, it’s not even with just the general public or the Congress; it’s now with soldiers who are actually fighting, or were fighting, in those wars. So, I mean, we obviously have to do something about that. I want to get into something that also came out today, a poll that says Congress’s approval ratings are at 14 percent, very obviously a low. And I want to know what you can do in Congress, and what other members of Congress—are they doing anything? Do they care about these polls?
Rep. Kucinich: Well, Congress should pay attention to how the American people feel about the declining economy. This is a synergistic matter; it’s Congress, it’s the administration, it’s a failure of the government to be able to address people’s practical aspirations for jobs and health care and education, retirement security, for peace. And government has become too much of an insider’s game. And as a result, the American people are finding that 14 million are unemployed; 50 million people without health insurance; 6.5 million people will lose their homes, perhaps, in the next year to foreclosure; business is failing. Meanwhile, the wealth accelerates to the top, wars continue. People have a right to be upset with their government—Congress, the administration—and they have a right to demand that their basic concerns be met, and that’s not happening. And it’s really a function of the failure of both political parties; of the legislative and the executive branches of government; failure of the judicial branch of government with its decision on Citizens United and before that Buckley v. Valeo, which basically have given corporations carte blanche to be able to set an agenda for their own narrow concerns, adverse to the broad interests of the American people. America’s in trouble. But it’s not as though we can’t chart a path out of that trouble. And so that’s what my legislation, H.R. 2990—called the NEED Act, the National Emergency Employment Defense Act—that’s aimed at putting America back to work. You know, imagine—imagine, instead of 14 million people out of work, we chopped it down and could cut the unemployment in half in this country with a bill that just has the simple concept of instead of borrowing money from banks or China, Japan, South Korea, we spend the money into circulation—which, by the way, is consistent with Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. The founders understood the importance of that provision to coin or create money. And so that’s what this legislation is based on. It really is one of the most important pieces that is in the Congress right now to deal with the problem of massive unemployment, which is really undermining our democracy.
Josh Scheer: Now, I want to ask you—I’m angry, obviously; we see the Occupy Wall Street people, they’re angry; there’s a lot of angry people in this country, with the approval ratings and everything else. But we don’t maybe want to vote Republican; we don’t want to be part of the tea party; we, obviously, maybe no one will vote for the president, the current president. What do we do? I mean, what do you do if you’re just angry? Should we just go out and protest and make our voices heard?
Rep. Kucinich: Well, let’s talk about the nature of any protest movement. The importance of protest is—and particularly today—is that people become visible. It is through our personal physical presence, through our own visibility merging with others, that we are able to demonstrate, en masse, our objection to the current affairs. And this is a very powerful statement. It’s consistent with our constitutional privilege of freedom of speech and right to assemble, and it’s consistent with the American tradition that wherever change was brought about, it was not brought about because Washington suddenly decided, through its munificence, that one day it would create a situation where people of color would have full rights; where one day it would create a situation where women would have the right to vote; one day it [would create] a situation where there would be a health care program for seniors. So many of these movements started in the streets. And so we really need a movement for economic justice, and the only place it’s going to start is in the streets. But not, you know—it’s profound that we’re seeing Wall Street be the target, because people are making the connection. Instead of just coming outside the Capitol, they’re going outside Wall Street. It’s a different kind of “capital,” c-a-p-i-t-a-l. And that kind of capital has great power to direct the affairs of our nation. And that’s something, that the awareness of the Wall Street occupiers is such that all over the country people are starting to pay attention, and they’re starting to create similar protests in their own communities. And frankly, I think there are millions and millions of Americans who are demanding a level of economic change that the system currently can’t even begin to comprehend; and yet the failure of the system to do so will result in the system being dramatically changed within the next few years.
Josh Scheer: Well, I just want to wrap up with one quick question about your redistricting. And I know that you’ve been redistricted, and I want to let our listeners know what they can do for you, but also, what’s the situation in Ohio?
Rep. Kucinich: The district that I’m running in right now is a district that has been created through the merging of two congressional districts, the 10th district—or three congressional districts—the 10th District, which I represent; the 13th District, which Betty Sutton represents; and the 9th district, represented by [Marcia] Kaptur. So 54 percent of the registered Democrats from my district are in a new district, and 34 percent are from Ms. Kaptur’s district, and 12 percent from Ms. Sutton’s district. So at this point, it looks like I’m headed for a primary against my friend from Toledo, Marcia Kaptur. It’s nothing that I sought, but the Republicans drew a district that extends a hundred miles along Lake Erie. So, you know, I have a primary election on March the 6th, and I am preparing for it. Because the election’s now—it’s about, oh, roughly about 153 days. And so it becomes urgent that I organize and do all the other things that are necessary to be able to get people involved in the campaign.
Josh Scheer: And then, obviously, you’re on H.R. 2990, and I just want to let people know again it’s the [National Emergency] Employment Defense Act. And you can write your congressman, if you’re listening to this in any other part of the country, to vote for it. Thank you so much for joining us.
Rep. Kucinich: I appreciate being on the phone with you, and I look forward to speaking with you again.
Josh Scheer: Oh, yeah. Have a great day, Congressman.
Peter Scheer: That was Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich speaking with Truthdig’s Josh Scheer.