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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: Why couldn’t Apple build factories here now?

JAMES STEELE: Well, I mean, they could if they wanted to, but I’m just saying it’s just not going to happen, because they don’t want to. And the problem was—

AMY GOODMAN: But consumers can also make a statement.

JAMES STEELE: Absolutely.

AMY GOODMAN: And make demands.

JAMES STEELE: And make demands, exactly. And maybe enough heat will be exerted on them. And we got so much mail after our piece on Apple last year. People who thought Apple products were more expensive because they were built in this country, that was one of the most common themes we heard from people. And people were astonished to find out, no, they’re not. And yet they still cost you more than things that might be made here.

AMY GOODMAN: Don Barlett?

DONALD BARLETT: Well, the only thing to add to that is if—you need to put controls on corporations. Somewhere along the line, we’ve reached this point where there can be no—you know, no tariffs, no—nothing on corporations. They are free to do whatever they want. And look no further than fracking everywhere, but especially in Pennsylvania, where we’re both from. I mean, you grew up in Pennsylvania, you remember what it was like—well, I do. I’m a lot older than Jim. You went out of the house in the morning, it was covered with orange dust from the blast furnaces. That was a way of life. Was that healthy? No. Should it have been allowed? No. But now, that kind of behavior is tolerated—not only tolerated, encouraged, because nothing is done to prevent it.

I mean, there’s—you have all of this talk on the far right about the regulations that are, you know, stifling creativity and all this. That’s utter and complete nonsense. When it’s put in historical terms, it is just mind-numbing that we’ve allowed this, because—Jim made the distinction: we’re talking about civilian aircraft now. The Chinese have just been given the keys to the U.S. attack helicopter. What does this say? I mean, back—as an old Cold Warrior, in which I spent a few years in counterintelligence, security clearances would have been killed then automatically for the corporation. And this is just mind-numbing that nobody says anything in Washington. They like to pretend they’re in charge of something. They’re not. They are just there to do whatever the corporations want them to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Interesting, on that—

DONALD BARLETT: And let me qualify this. This is—and this is my mistake more often, when I say "corporations." We need to distinguish between global corporations and domestic corporations, which truly are being screwed in Washington. The domestic companies, who—the ones that employ the people in this country, have really taken it in the ear, and only because Washington is—gives a free pass to the international, the global corporations.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Jim Steele, the statement on Apple products, "designed by Apple in California"?

JAMES STEELE: Right, but manufactured elsewhere. And in the past—I mean, this is the point I was trying to make earlier. In the past, you had a whole chain of people: you had the inventors, you had the designers, you had the people who manufactured, you had the people who sold it, and then, of course, at the end of that you had the consumers that bought that product. And this doesn’t mean that you can’t have factories elsewhere, but the idea that we do not have the capability of building these products in this country, that we do not have all the engineers to do that, I mean, we just totally reject that. I mean, too many people have told us—too many people in manufacturing in this country are very—who are very upset by this whole trend, because they say separating the design from the actual manufacturing floor is a huge mistake. That’s the way so many great things were done in the past.

 
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