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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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DONALD BARLETT: That’s where you got your new products from. That’s where you got your innovations from. And if you’re not making it on the floor, doesn’t come.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to come back to this discussion. Don Barlett and Jim Steele are our guests, the authors of  The Betrayal of the American Dream, the Pulitzer Prize-winning dynamic duo.

And just before break, a clarification for an earlier headline: police in Burlington, Vermont, are being accused of firing rubber bullets at activists protesting a meeting of New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers. Police said pellets were fired but have denied firing rubber bullets. This is  Democracy Now!We’ll be back with Jim Steele and Don Barlett in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We are joined by Don Barlett and Jim Steele. They are the authors of the new book,  The Betrayal of the American Dream. I want to go to the issue of the Olympics since they’re happening in London right now. In 2001, you wrote a  story called "Snow Job" about the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, headed by none other than the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. In your investigation, "Snow Job," about these Olympics, which you published in Sports Illustrated, you reported, quote, "The $1.5 billion in taxpayer [dollars] that Congress is pouring into Utah is 1.5 times the amount spent by lawmakers to support all seven Olympic Games held in the U.S. since 1904—combined." Jim Steele?

JAMES STEELE: Well, it’s an interesting position for somebody who’s against new taxes and wants to cut the deficit, that here you had somebody heading an Olympic committee where that entire operation raided the federal Treasury like no other Olympics in history. And they got everything: Salt Lake—infrastructure around Salt Lake, sewer lines, land exchanges that transformed the average snow resort, ski resorts into world-class resorts. All of these things happened one way or another under Romney’s watch. And that’s what astonished us about this comment he made where he was dissing the London Olympics, I mean, because—that they’re not operating right, they’re not doing this right. I mean, the whole—I think he’s so vulnerable on that issue, and everybody who had anything to do with the Salt Lake Olympics is very vulnerable on that. The thing that struck us so much—and here was Utah, a state famously with a great antipathy to paying any kind of taxes, but they had absolutely no qualms whatsoever about raiding the federal Treasury to take care of all of their needs for really the next generation. So, the fact that he would make this point in London just, frankly, astonished us.

DONALD BARLETT: Jim’s right. I mean, Utah got out of this anything they wanted. The states—other states would have had to have paid for on their own, Utah got from the federal government. And so, it’s—the other thing is this hypocrisy of people like Romney who want everyone in the middle and the bottom to pay their own way, but they themselves have no trouble grabbing as much money as they can get out of Washington. And they do it all the time. And it’s just—it’s just astonishing. But people generally don’t know it. The news media does not do what it should do on this area—never has. And so, there—part of the problem here is because most people today get their news from TV, and it’s not public TV, as you well know, it’s commercial TV. And commercial TV is not about to do this kind of work. It just isn’t.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting, with NBC covering the Olympics around the clock, we’re not seeing any of the protests that are taking place and the increasing anger of the small businessmen in East London who are getting wiped out, the whole issue of not criticizing the corporate sponsors, the corporate sponsors—

 
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