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The Betrayal of the American Dream -- A Once Vibrant Middle Class Is Now on the Brink

Donald Barlett and James Steele explain in their new book how American middle class has been impoverished and its prospects thwarted in favor of a new ruling elite.

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AMY GOODMAN: And how much of that information, that knowledge, is taxpayer-financed?

JAMES STEELE: Boeing has of course been a major defense contractor over time, and many of those contracts have led to all sorts of technology that have worked their way into both civilian and military planes. Taxpayers have supported that. So now you have a situation where some of the technology that taxpayers have paid for—through Boeing and of course other contractors, as well, not just them—is now going to be handed over to the Chinese to build airplanes to compete against us. And civil aircraft is the only significant export this country has.

AMY GOODMAN: And the number of jobs Boeing has moved to China?

JAMES STEELE: The number of jobs is, I think, 20,000 to 30,000 by Boeing’s own statement. I should correct one thing: we have other exports, but in civilian aircraft is the only thing where we have a surplus of exports. We export a lot of things, but—and most of those products, like auto parts and things of that sort, the imports vastly overwhelm our exports.

AMY GOODMAN: Back on Apple, earlier this year  Democracy Now! spoke to Charles Duhigg, a staff reporter for the  New York Times. I asked him about President Obama’s meeting with the late Steve Jobs of Apple in February of 2011 to see what it would take to make iPhones in the United States. This is what Charles Duhigg said.

CHARLES DUHIGG: One of the things that President Obama asked was, is it ever possible to bring back those jobs to the United States, to make iPhones in the U.S.? And what Steve Jobs said was—I think accurately—those jobs are never coming back. And the reason why isn’t just because workers are cheaper in China, although that—they are cheaper in China; it’s because China has established a huge competitive advantage over the U.S. There are supply chains that exist in China and Asia now which the U.S. simply can’t replicate.

AMY GOODMAN: I also asked the  New York Times reporter, Charles Duhigg, about the human costs of Apple products for workers in China.

CHARLES DUHIGG: What Apple says—and you have to take Apple at their word, because this is a major corporation, they usually don’t lie about stuff like this—is that they say every single time they find a violation inside a supplier, that they mandate that a change is made and a management system is put in place in order to prevent that from occurring again. The difficulty is, when you look at the aggregate statistics that Apple publishes every year, we see the same violations occurring again and again and again.

AMY GOODMAN: New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg about the human costs of Apple products. James Steele?

JAMES STEELE: I think he’s right that these Apple products are not going to be coming back here. But the issue isn’t that they’d be coming back here; the issue is what happened that let them go over there, to begin with. And I think the point could easily have been made, Apple could still certainly have kept some manufacturing in this country—doesn’t mean you couldn’t also have some manufacturing elsewhere. Nobody has said that. But the point is, they made a conscious decision to go over there.

And the reason a lot of companies do that, it’s not just the cheap labor. The Chinese have a system in place that subsidizes companies—land, low-interest loans, a whole range of things—the kinds of things that a company in this country cannot compete with. So it goes way beyond the labor. We talk about free trade in this country, but other countries don’t really practice free trade. And China is a perfect example of that. I mean, how is a company over here expected to compete with a company that has that kind of support, that can then bring its product back here duty-free? I mean, it’s almost impossible. And this is true of dozens of products, not just computers and iPhones.

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