Opportunity for All? Van Jones Discusses His New Book 'Rebuild the Dream'
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A: What does the future look like if we don’t address current levels of economic inequality?
VJ: Bleak. After all, there are only two ways to build a middle class. Either you have well-paid manufacturing jobs, or you educate a generation for jobs in the highly skilled knowledge sector. We are doing neither very well.
Free-market fundamentalists won't let us have an industrial policy, to ensure that we have high-quality manufacturing jobs. The corporate elite won't let the rich be taxed sufficiently to pay for massive investments in education and physical infrastructure. So we are essentially throwing a generation of young Americans overboard into the global economy, with no protection and no viable rope to climb up into the middle class. Every fight for the next 10-15 years will be a fight about whether we are going to make the rich pay America back by reinvesting in the country that helped them get rich, or whether we are going to let them build their own little castles and moats, while the rest of the country sinks.
A: Why do you believe so strongly in the American Dream?
VJ: Because it was the dream that sustained my great grandparents, my grandparents and my parents. It is the dream I have for my sons, even now. My community has put too many martyrs in the ground in this country to walk away from the American Dream of opportunity for all. We certainly should not throw an idea like that in the garbage can, just so that the richest people ever born don't have to pay a penny more in taxes. We built this country by pooling our resources and working together, sacrificing for the next generation. At our best, we are a nation of neighbors. I reject Social Darwinism as barbarism. We are either going to turn to each other -- or on each other. Rebuild the Dream is working to create a way for us to work together -- the 99 percent fighting for the 100 percent.
Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet contributing editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of 'Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.' Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.