David Simon at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas

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David Simon, journalist and creator of the TV series The Wire and Treme, spoke about the divide between the rich and poor in America at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney last November.

Simon began his speech by saying: “I come from a country that is now utterly schizophrenic when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it.” He then went on to take questions from the audience.

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  • poco

    wonderful conversation.

  • DavidW

    Income inequality – pishaw! That only addresses a symptom. Ownership inequality is the more serious cause, as ownership of many revenue generating properties conveys economic and political power in this country.

    Unions, they only address the pain, not the cause of the pain – an ability to control an enterprise and set the rules in place. Damn robber barons want smaller government so that they can do whatever they want in their quest for power through the increasing revenue streams of their “properties” without anyone being able to watch over them. They think of themselves as an ultimate authority for the pursuit of profit (is that anywhere in the Constitution?).

    In a perfect world, all the ideologies would work well to be fair and get resources where they are needed. Throw in corruption, greed, selfishness, etc and what happens? People stratify out based on how creative and how willing they are to bend or stretch the rules. Capitalism, communism, socialism, would probably all work great if we were perfect beings. Well, we aren’t and we need regulation and supervision and any one of these economic tools in the hands of a few powerful people get caught up in bubbles of their own corrupt selves and make life miserable for the rest of us.

    World economies aren’t supposed to benefit just a few at the expense of everyone else, they are supposed to benefit an entire population. We need to take more control in our lives and being able to own something is a start to balancing out our economies.

    Think Cooperative Enterprise, where workers and consumers get a chance to own a revenue generating property, not perfect but more people watching the cookie jar certainly can’t hurt. It can help to blunt the concentrated power of the one percent better than chaining oneself to a desk. In a bank and calling out there practices where shareholder value is more important than people, who need help.

    Our Credit Unions and our Food Co-ops are a place to today where Cooperative Enterprise is modeled and can be the model for the rest of us to follow. But we have to learn more and become subject matter experts if we want to catch up to the one percent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RPManke.solar RevPhil Manke

    So, DavidW, If we all (in the US) were to become one percenters, would it be the rest of the world to carry that load?? That may not be too sustainable or non-violent for long. Best we may hope for is to be free of extreme poverty in home and spirit and a fair taxation system would pave that street.

  • Guest

    I find that people who nit pick metaphors are as narcissistic and megalomaniac as any they come.
    An hour and 20 minutes and you got stuck on whether or not Simon meant Bi=polar or false reality? (There is no such thing as split personality, it is

    Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder),

  • Anonymous

    I find that people who nit pick metaphors are as narcissistic and megalomaniac as they come.
    An hour and 20 minutes and you got stuck on whether or not Simon meant
    Bi=polar or false reality? (There is no such thing as split personality,
    it is

    Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder),

  • Anonymous

    - If we all (in the US) were to become one percenters-
    Do you understand Math? Only 1% can be the 1%. (and it isn’t really even 1%… it is the .1%)

  • Anonymous

    There is a quickly growing underclass of people in or near poverty, who are are uneducated, undereducated and often illiterate. Many are unprepared for today’s work place, and it is overwhelming for most taxpayers to think of bridging any gap that could alleviate their many issues.

    Nearly 50% of U.S. residents no longer pay income taxes.
    When Romney made his infamous 47% remark, I recall no enterprising journalist asking Obama and Congress, “How does our government expect to make up for the difference of these funds that are no longer collected?”

    To note, It steams me to hear people compare Obamacare to Social Security and Medicare, which Simon did.

  • jsegal

    Most of those in the 47% either earn too little to pay Federal Taxes or are living on Social Security or Disability or Veterans benefits and they all pay sales tax and payroll taxes!

    You want to tax people who can barely survive as it is while you ignore that 1 in 4 major corporations doing business in our country now pay ZERO taxes and corporations pay a lower percentage of federal taxes than corporations have in decades!

    95% of all the income gains since 2009 went to the top 1% and that sir is why there’s a growing “underclass” of people in or near poverty today. It’s 30 years in the making since Ronald Reagan perpetrated the failed supply side trickle down lie on America and destroyed the organizations that gave labor a voice.

    Giving the richest people all of our money through their corporations and hoping it will result in rising wages and increased jobs and cleaner air and better infrastructure is quite literally insane.

  • Alan D Smith

    Please, stop insinuating that democracy exists anywhere on earth. It doesn’t. That’s just pure bankster propaganda. What we mistakenly call democracy today makes a mockery of the concept of democracy, because it only serves the will of the .0001% unlawful rulers at the expense of everyone else. I suggest we call that demockery! We need real democracy to combat the banksters’ demockery. Nothing will ever change for human benefit, until we begin to relentlessly define the true will of the mind of Mankind regarding everything for all to know. When we’ve done that, paradise (our true will) will automatically begin to manifest. And, until then, everything will continue to worsen for Us. Let’s focus on uniting mankind in Our own defense. That’s the banksters worst nightmare.

  • Anonymous

    More than 30 years ago social economists and demographers predicted the decline of the middle class, and especially labor unions. People who pursued careers, education and training in the 70s-80s are doing okay in work world today, and some are doing very well. They are not rich or even affluent, but they are comfortable and secure. People make a mistake by looking at the rich and thinking, “I want THAT,” instead of using the talent, education and skills they have to move up the ladder, putting aside their envy.

    There is a staggering amount of wealth and a disturbing amount of poverty, but there have always been rich and poor for centuries, and there always will be. Technological advances and the advent of an information-service economy have probably done more to harm the middle class than the rich getting richer has. If the huge corporations and mid-sized businesses decided to leave the country to invest in BRIC or European nations, the U.S. would be SOL. Maybe we shouldn’t hate on them too much. I am not aware of corporations in this country that pay zero taxes. My point about individual income tax payers – we also pay state and sales taxes – is that we can’t be stretched any more. We are already at the breaking point.

    Yes, since 2009, more than 60% of the jobs created have been low-wage. Our consumer economy can’t move ahead on the salaries of waiters, hotel desk clerks and administrative assistants. If you read business publications, you get the impression that businesses, large and small, are not going to make significant hiring decisions until Obama leaves office. They don’t have confidence in his leadership, and neither does a large portion of Congress (both sides of the aisle).

  • Anonymous

    I wish public figures would stop using “schizophrenic” this way. It may be the root meaning of the Greek, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the disease(s) schizophrenia (which isn’t likely to be re-named,) which is a genetic/biochemical disorder of perception.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    Time to rethink the use of the term, schizophrenic…. It is not, as popular misperception assumes, one of split or multiple personality. And not a term to be used lightly. This kind of talk just furthers confusion, ignorance and stigma for those dealing with a complicated and often devastating condition. Thanks.

  • http://batman-news.com Samuel Goodman

    I am awestruck by how clear and logical Mr. Simon articulates what I firmly believe to be the status of American political and economic affairs in 2014. To say I am mortified by what our current circumstances are is an understatement. As a political scientist, an urban planner and resident in the Bronx, New York who also benefitted from thirty years of life in Westport, Connecticut, I can say that we have evovled into two “American cultures.” In the Bronx and places like it we are experiencing a “Great Depression” with no resolution in sight. In Westport, Connecticut there is a resurgance of wealth beyond anything I could have predicted. What I also understand is that never in human history has a democracy longed survived when such economic and political differences go on
    unchecked

  • Mary Seitz

    I was born in 1954, arguably an easy time to better oneself in America. I was born on a farm that was so poor that we grew our own meat and vegetables to eat. But one could better oneself. There were factory jobs, mid-management jobs, government jobs and college loans that did not strap you the rest of your life. Also, a siginificant part of the population were farmers who were used to work hard and learned to get along and problem solve with sometimes strange neighbors. It was easily apparent that if you didn’t plants seeds, you didn’t get plants etc. Also, we did not spend much time on TV or other electronics philosophizing and figuring how to get by without working much. I was shocked when I started working in offices where many people spend more time blowing their own horn and getting out of work, cherry picking what gave them the most credit with the least work etc. Computers have helped in some ways, but also allow us to micro-manage things that shouldn’t be micro-managed and make up think we’re smarter than we are (you are not an artist because you use photoshop…)

  • Anonymous

    “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  • Anonymous

    That you are “not aware of corporations in this country that pay zero taxes”, is just the tip of the iceberg of things of which you are unaware.

    Keep knowing things that aren’t true. Your sanity depends upon it.

  • Anonymous

    I am thankful liberals aren’t selfish. In fact, they are most generous when they can help people with someone else’s money. How clever they are. And their motives are sincere – even pure. They are altruistic to a fault. They expect nothing in return for their boundless acts of goodness.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t be concerned about my sanity. I am not assuming I know you, so please don’t be so offensive with your assumptions. You’re trying to sound scholarly and all-knowing, but I am hearing juvenile and silly-headed.

  • Anonymous

    Contact the O-Man in the White House or your senator or congressional representative. Stamp your foot. Sound outraged. See how far that gets you. If you think that anyone in D.C. cares if you live or die, you are naïve. Our elected officials are indifferent to us and our needs – except when they are seeking our votes. If you’re as wealthy as some of the corporate titans, they will love you and look out for your interests. Otherwise, forget it.

  • Anonymous

    OK

  • Anonymous

    Oh, I see. The facts didn’t fit your narrative so it’s, “hey, look over there.”

  • moderator

    Rumlonemore and Brunssd,

    You have both made your points please move on before you break the comment policy.

    Thanks
    Sean @ Moyers

  • moderator

    Brunssd and rumionemore

    You have both made your points please move on before you break the comment policy.

    Thanks
    Sean @ Moyers

  • Anonymous

    Well, not exactly. Most corporations do pay huge taxes, but if they don’t, that becomes a matter for government leaders. As of now, no one wants to rock any boats because the titans of Wall Street give their support to people in both parties. None of the really big fish have been prosecuted, and they won’t be. Jamie Dimon seems to have become a personal bud of Obama and Holder, doing public service announcements for a corporate intern program and reportedly paying visits to Holder.
    My point stands: we need corporations for the jobs they produce for our country. If someone is not prepared to hold one of the jobs, it is not the fault of the HR forces who hire them to perform certain jobs. Anyone who has ever hired (and fired) employees gets this. I would have given Obama an interview but would never have hired him with such a paltry resume. I would have placed my reputation with my boss at risk if I had. “Bad hire – really bad hire. Inexcusable.”

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Sean.

  • Anonymous

    You are doing a good job of proving Mr. Simon’s critique of libertarians as juvenile. While he meant that their political philosophy was immature and all about the self, you’re comment does a great job of backing it up, in spades.

  • jagdkg

    A recent article pointed out that the NFL is technically considered a “charity” and receives the tax breaks given to such. I was appalled to hear this. I am trying to do research to give more specifics. I guess after all of the SuperBowl hype, it just seemed impossible that this could be true. Please correct me if I am mistaken.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks. I enjoy getting news and information from various sources, but I am weary of “spew” from media who have taken up agendas and assault us with them. I find myself parting company with public broadcasting and am watching Al Jazeera America. They are more objective, don’t manufacture news and seldom make news of the yammer of talking heads. No John McCain. Very little of Obama. Refreshing and trustworthy.

  • NnoNno

    So glad to have found this guy…he is articulate and smart. Well thought out…well done. Also …what a great title to the festival.

  • Anonymous

    Simon is “right on”. As a person who has worked on environmental issues for half of my adult life, I live, every day, what he is exposing. Our government is totally corrupt, 100%! Democracy is a farce at this time, and the only way to get it back is to use the bricks that Simon talked about in his Bill Moyers interview.

  • Anonymous

    FDR saved capitalism, two brothers and their cronies will destroy it. We have become what the founding fathers feared and fought against.