BILL MOYERS: Welcome. It's the weekend after, and Barack Obama is back in the White House, Democrats are back in control of the Senate, and Republicans are back running the House. That's what prevailed before Americans voted, when deadlock reigned in Washington, little got done, and the country was frustrated and angry. Are we in for more of the same? The talk we are hearing in Washington sounds altogether too familiar.

So let's consider what's ahead with two people of different philosophies about what should be done. Bob Herbert was a long time liberal columnist for The New York Times until he retired last year and became a distinguished senior fellow for the national think tank Demos. He's been on the road for months now, reporting for his forthcoming book, Wounded Colossus.

Reihan Salam writes The Agenda – that’s a daily blog for the conservative National Review Online. He is a policy advisor at the think tank Economics 21 and a columnist for Reuters. He is also the co-author with Ross Douthat of the much talked-about book, Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.

Welcome to both of you.

BOB HERBERT: Great to see you, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: Bob, what will you remember about this election?

BOB HERBERT: Well, the first thing I'll remember is the way people turned out to vote in this election in the face of tremendous voter suppression efforts. And I just think they've been really American heroes because they stood up and said, "You are not going to take the vote away from us." Some people stood in line for six, seven and eight hours. Some had been in areas that had been damaged by the storm. And I just think that they were there upholding democracy. So that's the first thing that I remember about it.

BILL MOYERS: They were also there making delicious pecan tarts. Because when I voted the kids in the school were selling baking goods, and they were having a great time of it. What will you remember?

REIHAN SALAM: Oh, that's a tough one to say. I think that for a lot of conservatives and a lot of Republicans this was a very disappointing election that opened a lot of folks’ eyes to some of the deeper changes that have happened in the country, much more so in some respects than the 2008 election which I think a lot of folks wrote off as a one off, as a fluke, something that reflected very unique historical circumstances.

But I think this election really did demonstrate that there's been a dramatic change particularly with regard to social issues and how folks talk about them. So I think that that has proven very sobering already for a lot of folks on the right.

BILL MOYERS: With the exception of the civil rights movement have you ever seen change take place regarding cultural mores and behavior more than it happened with gay people and marriage equality and all of that which seemed to come out positively in this election? Have you ever seen change like this?

BOB HERBERT: Well, I think that what's important to note though is that these changes came about as a result of the gay rights movement which has been very fierce for a long time, and they've not given up. I think that that effort was very similar to the civil rights movement, and the women's movement and that sort of thing.

REIHAN SALAM: I have a somewhat different view. I think that when you look at the history of same sex marriage in particular it's an issue that a lot of folks in the official gay rights movement were skeptical towards. But then you had some folks at the local level in Massachusetts, places like that who really kept pushing the issue even though early on it looked like an issue that was going to be very unpopular and difficult. Yet they kept pushing it. And you've really seen a sea change in the space of really a decade--

BOB HERBERT: I'm talking less--

REIHAN SALAM: --on this issue.

BOB HERBERT: I'm sorry. I'm talking less about gay marriage than about gay rights in general. So over a long period of time you have the gay rights movement so that you now have younger people growing up where it is normal to see gays in, you know, just any aspect of American life. I think the idea of marriage almost flows naturally from that.

REIHAN SALAM: I think that's a fair way to put it. I think that a lot of it-- I often think about this in the context of, when you look at a lot of other social issues or things you could-- for example, think about concerns about drone warfare that some folks on the right and the left have expressed, one of the barriers to that becoming a really big issue is that frankly there are not a lot of Americans who know people who live you know, in the areas most directly impacted by that.

Whereas there are a lot of Americans who have the experience of knowing, you know, a relative, a cousin, a brother, a friend who is lesbian or gay. So I think that that's a big part of the transformation. And it actually speaks to this larger issue of empathy and understanding in a society in which, you know, we live so far apart from each other, we live in such different contexts, we're able to be around people who look like us and think like us, so you know, I think that's one of the deeper barriers behind constructive change in our politics.

BILL MOYERS: Was this election a game changer?

BOB HERBERT: You know, I think that people should be cautious in assessing what may come out of this election. But what does strike me about it are the stark divides. And to me, it's so clear, people have been talking about obviously the racial and ethnic divides, the breakdown of the vote.

But there's also a very strong class divide in this country. And so I think when people are talking about change, what they want is a change in the economic dynamic in this country. So you have the middle class losing ground, you have the ranks of the poor expanding. And the number one issue in all the polls for most Americans is jobs. And people feel that not enough has been done about jobs.

But I don't think that we can get any kind of real healing in this country until we start acknowledging these deep divides. And we keep trying to paper over it. There's the ethnic, racial and ethnic divide and then there's the class divide and we're in trouble if we don't do something about them.

BOB HERBERT: We need to be clear that this is a party that has been hostile to the interests of African Americans and hostile to the interests of Latinos in this country and hostile to the interests of working people in this country.

So you have to begin to address their concerns. And the Republican Party is hostile to their concerns.

REIHAN SALAM: Well, I respectfully disagree with that take. I think that Republicans aren't hostile to the interests of minority voters. But what I do think is fair is that when you look at the folks who voted for Mitt Romney, 88 percent of them were non Hispanic whites.

BILL MOYERS: Non-Hispanic whites.

REIHAN SALAM: Exactly, non-Hispanic whites, and what that implies is that when you're in these conversations among conservatives sometimes when you don't have people from these other groups who can engage in these conversations you miss a great deal.

And that's one reason why there are a lot of conservatives, myself included, who believe that we do have messages, ideas and strategies that would be relevant for achieving economic uplift and much else. But the problem is that when you don't have a more diverse group of people who are part of the conversation, then I think that it makes it very hard to translate that message to folks who are inclined to distrust.

BOB HERBERT: I would say that if you are going to target voters on the basis of the fact that they are African American or the fact that they are Latino and try to prevent them from voting on that basis, voter suppression, that is being hostile to the interests of those groups. And if you start talking about self deportation, that is being hostile to the interests of Latino Americans. So I think that, you know, I think that we really need to be clear about this because unless we understand it we can't begin to heal that wound. And that's a grievous wound in this society.

REIHAN SALAM: Yeah, I mean, I don't see it the same way. I don't see a lot of the efforts to reform voter ID laws and what have you the same way that you do, but I absolutely believe that your perspective is widely shared, and it's an important one. But I think--

BOB HERBERT: But didn't the governor of Pennsylvania say, when they were talking about the voter restrictions in Pennsylvania saying, "This is how we're going to win Pennsylvania for Mitt Romney"?

REIHAN SALAM: Well, no, there was a state senator who said that--

BOB HERBERT: Excuse me, a State Senator.

REIHAN SALAM: --this will allow Mitt Romney to win the election. Now, the implication of that is that the suggestion was that there's such pervasive fraud that he wouldn't be able to win without it. I do not think that is correct. But I think that actually when you parse what he was saying I think that's what he meant. And I think that you're actually illustrating my point in a wonderful way.

There's so much distrust that-- and of course people aren't inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. Let's interpret what he said in the most favorable possible light because there is legitimate distrust that is rooted in the fact that these are communities that don't generally talk to each other.

BILL MOYERS: But you know, I brought you together because both of you from different perspectives have been writing about the people at the bottom of our economic ladder. Is anything going to change for those people?

BOB HERBERT: You have nearly 50 million Americans who are officially classified as poor. You have another 50 million who we call the near poor or just a notch or two above the official poverty line. That's almost 100 million Americans, and that's almost a third of the entire population. If you talk about college graduates from about 2005, 2006 up until now, only about 50 percent have full time jobs of any kind and many of them are not jobs that require a college degree. And when college graduates are taking jobs that high school graduates used to have, that pushes the high school graduates out of the work force. And we know what's been happening to dropouts, I mean, they're just almost completely left behind.

We have not paid enough attention to this employment crisis in this country and we have not paid enough attention to the families who are struggling and losing their grip on the dream. I don't think either party has done a decent job in this area. I think the Republican Party is defined, and I think accurately defined as a party that looks out for the interests of the very wealthy. The Democratic Party less so, but I think they look out for the interests of the wealthy, too, before they look out for the interests of working Americans.

REIHAN SALAM: I think that we certainly have had a deep employment crisis since 2008. But I think that to my mind the crisis started much earlier on. I think when you look at the Bush years for example, if you look at the recovery that we had during that period of time, the housing boom I think actually masked some of these deeper problems.

So for example during that era you saw really dramatic losses in manufacturing employment, yet you had employment in housing construction. And so there were a lot of folks who thought, you know, "Gosh, this is something that can sustain people, a lot of these kind of men who are really struggling to get on the economic ladder."

And I think that when that went away we really saw that there was this hollowing out of the middle class, that had been going on for a very long time. And so I think that, you know, the problem is that it's not just this immediate crisis is a huge deal and I would want us to do more about the immediate crisis. But I think that there's a deeper hollowing out. And to my mind a deeper hollowing out is really about something I always like to talk about which is about networks.

When you're talking about human capital, building skills, all of these other things that, you know, we want folks to do in order to thrive in a changing economy, you've got to do that by having relationships, by being embedded in stable communities.

And in my opinion the really big issue is that when you look at mass incarceration, when you look at a lot of other social changes, when you look at family breakdown, I think that these are things that are kind of like an undertow that is shaping what we're seeing happening above the surface. And I think the problem is that policy has a very hard time dealing with some of these things. It can make a big difference on, for example we can throw fewer people in jail and destroy fewer communities and fewer lives that way.

BILL MOYERS: California just to steps to weaken their three strikes and you're out policy. That's a step in the right direction.

REIHAN SALAM: And you also have folks on both sides of the political aisle who are making progress on that.

BILL MOYERS: But in terms of Washington politics it looks to me as if all the blood, sweat and tears of this campaign, all those billions of dollars ended up with the status quo.

The Republican leadership in Washington said the day after the election, "No new revenue, no new taxes."

And many conservative activists are not yielding an inch despite the election results. Let me play for you an excerpt from a video that was put out by one of the leading conservative activists at the Heritage Foundation which is sort of the granddaddy of conservative think tanks.

MIKE NEEDHAM: President Obama’s re-election is a devastating blow. But it’s not a decisive defeat. We are in a war. We’re in a war to save this nation. And abandoning our post will condemn it to a future of managed decline. To win this war we must remain committed to fighting President Obama’s agenda. We’ll work with our friends in Congress to remain true to our conservative principles. In 2014 there will be 20 Senate liberals up for re-election. A strong, constitutionally conservative Senate is critical to this fight. And in 2016, with a deep bench of committed conservatives, let’s choose a nominee who can best articulate our shared conservative values.

RONALD REAGAN: You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. If we lose freedom here there’s no place to escape. This is the last stand on earth.

BILL MOYERS: This is issued the day after the election of 2012. It's a declaration of war to win the election of 2014 and 2016. What does that augur? What does that portend for getting things done?

REIHAN SALAM: Well, I've got to say, I think that after the 2004 election there were a lot of folks on the political left who were very dispirited by the result, and some who were very surprised by the result. And I think that in our-- the way that I see our political process is that we've had some deep and enduring disagreements about a lot of things for centuries.

And our political parties are very flawed vehicles, but they're vehicles for working through these disagreements, sometimes reaching compromises but also making the case for the country. So when you say that we spent that money and got basically the same result, here's what happened. There are a lot of folks who poured their blood, sweat and tears into making that case as vigorously and energetically as they could.

And it's also a learning process, particularly for folks on my side of the fence that, you know, we made that case. And I think there are a lot of ways in which it just didn't translate very well. So for example this whole message at the Republican National Convention of, "You didn't build that," that was the kind of thing that resonated for someone like me. It didn't resonate for either of you guys I imagine.

And my sense is that the problem is that what they were really trying to talk about is the importance of civil society, the importance of that space between government and individuals where characters are formed, where new ventures are started, where we try and experiment and we try-- and I think that that space is really important, it's just that conservatives don't have the right language for talking about it. So I think that--

BILL MOYERS: Well, you think that's the right language, what we just heard?

REIHAN SALAM: Look, I think that what we just heard, you know, I've got to say I'm a lot more sympathetic to it than I imagine other folks are.

BILL MOYERS: I'm sure you are. I mean, you are philosophically a conservative.

REIHAN SALAM: But I think that the message-- look, people have fallen into despair. There are a lot of folks on the political right just as there were folks in the political left the day after Election Day in 2004, and I think that part of this is about keeping people engaged and motivated to keep making the case. Now, I do think that Speaker Boehner did say that he was open to new revenue, it is an open question about how many folks in this caucus will be.

There are a lot of Republicans, Tom Coburn, the rock-ribbed conservative senator from Oklahoma has also been very open about it. So I think that you are seeing some people who are very firmly on the political right who are saying that, "Look, we're willing to give an inch on revenues if we can also make some reforms on the spending side."

BOB HERBERT: I think we're missing the point when we look at the political parties. We should keep our eye on what's happening to working families. And working families have been hurting since at least the 1970s. And they've been hanging on by, you know, one manner or another that is really not fundamental.

The fundamental way families make money is through work and savings and buying a home and accumulating wealth. But what's been happening is that first you had wives and mothers that went into the workforce. Now, ultimately this was a good thing for women to be in the workforce, but it initially started because families did not have enough income.

Then people began maxing out their credit cards, building up incredible amounts of debt. Then there was the housing bubble where people starting using their homes as ATMs for example. And then ultimately came the crash. But they've been hanging on by hook or by crook. And they've been doing this because they haven't been getting a fair wage for a day's work and because there's been a concerted effort to prevent them from organizing and negotiating on their own behalf, primarily through labor unions.

So what has happened is and both parties have collaborated to some degree or another-- both parties collaborated in the, I think, in the demise of the clout of big labor. The Republican Party has been at war with labor and the Democratic Party has not fought strong enough on labor's behalf. And the Republican Party has also fought to keep people from being able to make their case at the ballot box.

So we need to understand that there are these attacks, these sustained attacks on the interests of working people. And those attacks have been working out. I agree wholeheartedly that this jobs crisis did not start with the Great Recession which started in December 2007. It started long before then. And until we look at what's happening with working people and specifically decide what steps we can take to help them, all this chatter about the different political parties is not going to mean much.

I don't think the parties are actually going to ever take the lead in turning this situation around. What I think is very important is for people outside of the political process, for people who are not elected officials to organize working people and organize those who are working on behalf of working people and then to mobilize to bring pressure on public officials and the political parties to actually bring about meaningful change.

REIHAN SALAM: Bob and I have fundamentally different view about the origins of this crisis. I think we do agree that there is a real crisis, that it's been in place for a very long time. My own view is that when you look at the biggest, most important, most crucial sectors of our economy, the health sector and the education sector, these have been the sectors that have been tremendously burdensome for middle income families.

When you think about a middle income life in this country I think you think about some modicum of stability. You think about having health insurance, you think about having access to a decent education. And I think that actually those sectors, our efforts to help, our efforts to subsidize, our efforts to actually introduce regulations and controls in order to, you know, perfect our health and education systems, I think it actually really backfired in lots of ways.

They prevented us from having a lot of the innovation that we need that would drive down costs. And I think you see a similar dynamic in housing. Housing is a domain where you're absolutely right, a lot of Americans have built wealth through accumulating housing wealth. But I think that actually our efforts to improve and perfect the housing market I think really backfired. Now, this is a very deep and fundamental disagreement. But I think that, you know, that's certainly the perspective that I have and a lot of folks on my side of the aisle share.

And I think that it is frankly difficult to reconcile with Bob's view in a lot of ways. Because, you know, we tend to think that experimentation, trial and error and actually more entry and more innovation is actually the way to address some of these problems--

BOB HERBERT: One of the ways to address some of these problems is to have a more equitable sharing of the wealth in this country. So I'll give you just one quick example. In 2010 93 percent of all income gains went to the top one percent of Americans. Now, how is anyone who's in a working class type family, and I use working class in the broadest sense. How are they supposed to begin to make headway if they can't get a bigger share of the advances that are being made over the course of any given year?

REIHAN SALAM: I see that as a byproduct of a broken economic model--

BOB HERBERT: We agree that this model is broken.

REIHAN SALAM: And my own view is that actually a more market-oriented decentralized model that would allow for more entry would actually give people more access to the skills--

BOB HERBERT: But isn't that what we've been doing, this market oriented model? Isn't that what we've been doing, at least since 1980, increasingly market oriented?

REIHAN SALAM: I've got to say I disagree pretty strongly. I think that particularly in the domains of education and health I think that we've seen a dramatic expansion not only of public sector spending but also of regulation which I actually think is a bigger deal. I don't object to spending as such. If you look at societies in northern Europe like Sweden and Denmark, these are societies that are very market, in some ways more free market than the United States.

But the issue is actually the regulation that protects incumbent firms. When you're looking at powerful incumbent firms whether they're public sector firms or private sector firms I think-- I actually agree that they have way too much power. So I actually agree that when I'm looking at elites in our society including financial elites I think that they really have in a lot of ways rigged the system in their own favor. I just think that actually markets are a cure for that rather than the disease.

BILL MOYERS: Let me ask both of you if you think President Obama is going to be able or committed to the changes that you think are important? He's already being pointed in different directions. Here's a story by David Ignatius, a very respected writer for "The Washington Post" saying, "Mr. Obama, take big risks, get it done. A successful second term is less about ideology than results."

This column by William Saletan on Slate who says, "Cheer up, Republicans, you should be happy. You're going to have a moderate Republican president for the next four years. His name is Barack Obama. He's in the same mold," says William Saletan, "As Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and he stands where the GOP used to stand and will be standing once again." Now, if you can see the tensions there that people are reading into and out of Obama.

REIHAN SALAM: I have a quite different perspective from William Saletan. I think that actually President Obama in passing his health law really took a big gamble. Because he really wanted to complete the project that he saw as having been started, some could say 100 years ago, some could say with LBJ with Medicare and Medicaid, it was very important to him. And so even when it was very clear that he was suffering some political consequences he thought, "It is crucial that we complete the welfare state in this way--"

BOB HERBERT: I agree with that.

REIHAN SALAM: "--and continue to build and enhance it." And I also think that frankly the model of the Affordable Care Act is not in my view very sustainable and I think that over time you're likely to see progressives work to introduce new modes of cost containment that are going to involve a somewhat heavier hand from government.

You're going to see for example the reintroduction of the idea of a public option for folks under 65. I think that what you're going to see is a deepening of the progressive project under President Obama who has a tremendous amount of leverage right now. Now, that happens to be something that I don't favor. I don't think that that's the right way for--

BILL MOYERS: Bob does. Bob doesn't think he's going to be progressive enough, right?

BOB HERBERT: That's exactly right.

REIHAN SALAM: Right, and perhaps that’s true from Bob's perspective. I don't think the President Obama's views are identical to Bob's. But I tend to think that--

BOB HERBERT: That's an understatement.

REIHAN SALAM: Yeah, but I do think that Barack Obama--

BILL MOYERS: You've been quite critical of Obama during the first three years.

REIHAN SALAM: But I think that Barack Obama is very much a progressive. I do not think that he's an Eisenhower Republican or a Gerald Ford Republican. I think that he's someone who really does want to deepen a larger social transformation. I'm also somewhat, I also believe that he really does believe in this idea that public investment is what will likely grow the economy.

BOB HERBERT: When I grew up President Obama would have been considered a moderate Republican I suppose. Maybe somebody would have said he's a liberal Republican and I might have taken issue with it. I think that we're, you know, with President Obama we know what we've got. And I expect more of the same. I think that he's going to try and make a deal with the Republicans on this fiscal cliff thing.

And I think it's the wrong way to go. I do not think that austerity and more tax cuts are going to do anything to help working people. I think it's actually going to harm working people. I think it'll end up throwing more people out of work. We should just let the Bush tax cuts expire and we should end the war in Afghanistan and bring those troops home.

And we should start to use the additional money that's available for the investments that will put people back to work. And then ultimately, not in the short term, then ultimately begin to take care of, bring down some of these budget deficits. But I don't think that that's going to happen with the political parties as I said. So I think that it is important right now, immediately, right after the election for folks outside the government to begin to mobilize to put pressure on President Obama and the Democrats not to cave in their negotiations with the Republicans and try to achieve some grand bargain that ultimately is going to hurt working people.

BILL MOYERS: But let me ask you a personal question. As you look at how America has changed over the last 30 years and the elections seem to reinforce those changes and even represent an acceleration of those changes, how do you think about the country right now? What do you think about America?

BOB HERBERT: I think of it on two tracks. On the one hand I grew up in a time when I thought it was the best time possible to grow up in America. Jobs were plentiful, a college education was affordable. And even though there were a great deal of problems we know that blacks and women had to fight against treatment that was hideously unfair and that sort of thing. You had the feeling that the country was moving in the right direction because you had the civil rights movement, you had the women's movement. Later you'd have the environmental and the gay rights movement and so forth.

So it was terrific. And so life in America is much better now generally than it was half a century ago, there's no question about that. But now we're going backwards. On some of these cultural issues we may be going forward, but if you look at what's happening, what the controversy was over women's rights for example and abortion and birth control, and that sort of thing, I just think that the country is in a period of economic decline and it's declining in other ways as well. And so I think that we need, that there should be an urgency in the effort to arrest that decline.

REIHAN SALAM: I see three different Americas. You have one group of folks who have college educations who are forming families and stable relationships, who have folks who can look out for them, beyond the state, who are really flourishing, who are a big part of why America continues to be such a rich country. And they're raising children in those stable households.

You have another group of folks who are at the bottom, who really are very socially isolated. They don't oftentimes have strong connections to each other. And I think that they're badly in need, of economic and also social uplift.

Then you have this group of folks in the middle, folks who have high school diplomas but not a college degree, you saw a lot of folks in these in the Midwest. These are folks who've been really buffeted by economic change. And this is a group of people who are looking more like those folks at the bottom than they are like folks at the top. You're seeing dramatic changes in family formation.

And I think that that's what I worry about the most because that broad middle group is the group that has to be the basis of shared growth and prosperity. And when those folks don't have those social connections they need in order to make investments in their own future, I think that's dangerous for all of us, and I think it's not something we think about enough.

BILL MOYERS: Reihan Salam, thank you very much for being with me, and the same to you, Bob Herbert.

BOB HERBERT: Bill, thanks so much.

REIHAN SALAM: Thank you.

Bob Herbert and Reihan Salam on What the 2012 Election Reveals About America

The election is finally over, so what happens next? Reihan Salam, a conservative blogger at National Review Online’s “The Agenda”, and long-time New York Times columnist Bob Herbert join Bill to assess and debate how the election revealed changes in American social and political culture. They also discuss what Obama’s re-election means for working families and people at the bottom of our economic ladder.

“I think this election really did demonstrate that there’s been a dramatic change particularly with regard to social issues and how folks talk about them,” Salam tells Bill. “I think that that has proven very sobering for a lot of folks on the right.” Salam is the co-author, with Ross Douthat, of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.

Herbert says, “I think the Republican Party is accurately defined as a party that looks out for the interests of the very wealthy. The Democratic Party less so, but I think they look out for the interests of the wealthy, too, before they look out for the interests of working Americans.” Herbert has been traveling the country for the past two years, reporting for his forthcoming book Wounded Colossus. He is now a distinguished fellow at the think tank Demos.

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  • Phillip LeConte

    More Fallows!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks as always to Bob Herbert for reminding us that income inequality remains the pressing issue for our nation, and to both participants for their respectful engagement with one another. And of course to Bill Moyers for bringing this about. It’s the best post-election analysis I’ve yet seen.

  • Nate Peterson

    Agreed. If other networks could deliver this level of discussion and civility maybe we could finally talk about the realities facing this nation. Thanks Bill and team for a great segment.

  • Anonymous

    Herbert and Reihan are a good choice to pair together because the former is completely at home in liberal philosophy, while the latter gives us something we didn’t get throughout the entire election period, namely a rational take on right-wing economics.

    Neither one of them changed anything about my own philosophy — I still think that the liberalism that was born of its engagement with socialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a liberalism that began to see its role as balancing the greed of capitalism and the needs of the electorate as absolutely crucial if a civilized society wanted to continue to evolve — that liberalism, ever evolving, is called democratic socialism in most of the non-American world.

    One of the things that Herbert kept trying to get at, but Reihan kept pulling the conversation back to the la-la land of market theology was income inequality — an equally abstract idea unless you’re allowed to get down to exactly what that means.

    In 2008, when GW Bush’s gesture of sending every taxpayer in the US a cheque for $200 with the expectation that they would spend it and then it would be morning in America, Berkeley economist Henry C.K. Liu wrote the following:

    … financial manipulation cannot replace the need for
    adequate income growth. The mismatch of income with asset price is the definition of a financial bubble. People were buying homes with cheap credit at prices that their income could not afford. The more home prices rose due to cheap credit, the more homeowners fell into the debt trap.

    Yet in all the current talk about finding ways to deal with the crisis, NOT ONE SINGLE VOICE IS HEARD FROM OFFICIAL CIRCLES ABOUT THE NEED TO INCREASE WORKER INCOME. Instead, false hopes
    on one-time stimulant tax rebates are hailed as the magic bullet.

    — Henry C.K. Liu, economist, UCBerkeley
    “Debt Capitalism Self-Destructs,” 22 July 2008

    There is no “magic bullet” for fixing the flatlining of American wages. I used to pay a lot of attention to the daily money shows on cable TV, and it appalled me whenever the anchor would report, with a tone of joy in his voice, that another month had passed without without wage increased (for they would have an adverse effect on profits and dividends). How long can this go on, I wondered. I found out in 2008.

    The only bullet in view right now is the one Obama dodged last Tuesday. So now America has its moderate Republican president back in the White House — a true inheritor of Clinton, whom Michael Moore called “the best damn Republican president we’ve ever had” (*Stupid White Men*).

    Bob Herbert is exactly right. Americans have to stop looking to the political parties to save them. There are no messiahs to be found there. Americans have to get off their butts in enormous numbers, organize, get out on the streets, and even do some civil disobedience if they want “hope and change.”

    Because if you don’t do this, get used to being a postmodern banana republic.

  • Bodoc

    Salam’s default excuse for the inability of “free markets” to have improved economic prospects for the bottom 98% is the claim that pure”free markets” have never been tried.

    In the real world, of course, there is no such thing as PURE — it’s the pragmatic, empirical blend of compromises that is reality.

    Hence, “Free Market” Randian Conservatives can never be wrong…even when the results in the real world prove it.

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately, Mr Salam accurately represents the “whys” of defeat for the Republican Party. Their refusal to see the “real” reasons why their message did not ring with most voters.

    All I heard from Mr Salam was the same old tired deregulation and low tax stump speech, which, frankly, has not been shown to create jobs. The corporations had their way for 12 years and still have shown little for the goodies they received. All they have given is stagnant wages, more work burden for fewer workers, dwindling benefits, and stingy or non-existent pensions–all cost savings for them and short-term record profits, but at the risk of lower profits in the future, because they have not been good stewards of the economy. Taking their profits/money out of circulation (and out of the country) has done great damage. Workers without money CANNOT buy goods and services–that simply means NO profit for business. Henry Ford realized the wisdom and value of well-cared for/well-paid workers.

    And all their complaining about uncertainty and risk–that’s what business is about!!! If you’re too scared or too lazy, get out and leave the work to those who want to labor and create and build and risk and dare and contribute to the society and government that has afforded them the chance to succeed. Too many businesspeople want to profit easily, without their fair share of contribution and hardly any work or risk on their part.

  • califather

    Bob Herbert: relentless.

  • califather

    Salam’s equation of control equals a lack of innovation is

  • Anonymous

    What are we talking about? You are not talking about out and out crime in the congress, wall street etc.

  • Anonymous

    suppressing votes is a crime, Hello?

  • Anonymous

    Bingo! Wealth!

  • Anonymous

    Markets are crooked.We need regulation.

  • Anonymous

    extract the Jamie Dimons from the market and forget global stuff.

  • Anonymous

    Romney is actually a crook, how can a crook be allowed to even run for president?

  • Anonymous

    Obama is a Blue dog! are you kidding me, progressive? I don’t think so.

  • Anonymous

    Who caused the isolation of the lower middle class with fear mongering and criminal activity?

  • Clyde Robinson Jr

    In my opinion the GOP is not ready to change. I believe that they are still in shock their walk in the wilderness has just begun and it is a walk they don’t want to take. The best thing they can do is to go back and look at the tapes from their convention and compare them to the tapes of the Democratic convention and they can see why the GOP is walking and the Democrats are riding.

  • Anonymous

    MONEY BUYS! Its about corporate and social injustice resulting from misrepresentation in our Congress that is at issue here. When you all allow elected officials to be bribed, given lobbyist jobs, and allowing money to buy politics is when the system breaks. Stop blaming the average Americans and the real culprits of our society, the 1% and their campaign contributions.

  • Peter

    We need a discussion on labor vs corporation. In my mind this is the denominator in income inequality and the ‘American Middle Class’.

    What’s the defense for Big Labor when their highest priority is protecting the weakest performers?

    I don’t want to spend my tax dollars on war- and I don’t want to spend my union dues on poor performers. What does that make me?

  • PublicAdvocate

    Another demonstration of polar opposites. It’s relentless. This outsourcing is decades old and it was the Democrat Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who pushed a bill to tax exempt US corporations doing business overseas. Point being, our national distress is non-partisan.

    Media has been crafted to maintain a polarity in order to successfully eliminate the center, where policies have generally been constructive. Witness the propaganda effects of starkly red and blue states. Ultimately, it stratifies the nation, but that is the point – divide and conquer.

    Beginning November 10, 2012, iHeart Radio (1500 stations), has eliminated a vast swath of “progressive” talk radio across the country further eliminating what little was left. In no small part is the pseudo left responsible for this black out. Had they been less democratic party partisan, they may have sustained their audience, but if iHeart is to be believed, it was the loss of market share that sealed their fate – and ours.


    I understand what you mean, Peter, but there is no basis for comparing people with fictitious entities.

  • Peter

    I don’t understand ‘fictitious entities’. What do you mean by that? Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    So what is the difference between the Big Banks making contributions and influencing politics verses Big Labor? You would agree both corrupt the balance of government representation and who is to say foreign labor is better? Better only in the cost of living expenses. We dont have a Democractic government and lets stick to that argument.

  • Anonymous

    Salam’s false equivalences – say, between the repulsive, swift boating GOP campaign of 2004 and the Democratic campaign recently concluded – to justify a “declaration of war” against the president is typical of what passes for conservative “thought” these days.

    Fair minded liberals like Bill are always looking for honest, principled conservative interlocutors, but all they can ever come up with is an unimaginative, disingenuous, talking point spewing hack like Salam.

    I suppose the fact that Salam is at least polite distinguishes him from the majority of his ilk on the right, and, of course, he is one of the VERY few who is not white.

  • Carl789

    I wish Americans would just stop talking nonsense about the “American Dream”. For 99% of the population the American Dream amounts to working hard all their lives so that the 1% get to live that dream while everybody else gets to buy lottery tickets. How can adults continue to believe in such an obvious fraud? It makes no more sense than ‘Let them eat cake’.

  • Peter

    Maybe there isn’t a difference between Big Banks and Big Labor? If that is true, what is the influence of Big Labor? Is their end game the bottom line?

  • izak

    it is disheartening to hear a man of color, demonstrably educated, to defend the conservative policies that seek to marginalize and disengage African Americans. He cannibalizes real people in order for him to maintain his own economic security and prestige.

  • Anonymous

    Very true. The American Dream is a dream only if you are asleep. Media is so powerful in controlling the masses.

  • Thirdcloud

    The change is not the result of how folks talk about the conservatives. The change is the push back from the left having been stomped on and fleeced by conservative.

  • Thirdcloud

    Voter suppression and self deportation is “hostility.” Reihan Salem is just another conservative double talker. Bill Moyer, I’ve lost interest in wading through the sham of conservative politics–thank you for your work.

  • Thirdcloud

    Here, here! Finally someone who can see the work to be done. Americans have a tough road ahead and we cannot dilute ourselves into thinking that we can restore a middle class without getting off our butts. Civil disobedience is exactly the concerns of those who signed the NDAA. The wealth of this country has been taken through political hostility and Obama is no messiah. Wake up America.

  • Thirdcloud

    James Fallows hit it on the head. The Fox bubble. The problem is that CNN and MSNBC are no any better just a bit more reasonable.

  • Anonymous

    It seems that Salam doesn’t know that Obamacare was a Republican “free market” program, developed by the Heritage Foundation, a right wing think tank, and instituted by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. The only reason Republicans voted against it was that Obama proposed it.

    It is a successful program in Massachusetts, where they
    currently working on cost control. The “heavy hand of government” is needed to develop more efficient systems of care and standardization of data to stop duplication of tests and overtreatment. Medical economists generally accept the fact that Medical Care is an example of the failure of free markets to perform properly.

  • Tim Bolger

    Dear Bill,

    Even though I am a self-confessed liberal, I consider myself to be open-minded when it comes to the perspectives of conservatives. Therefore, I was intrigued by your recent segment, in which you sat down with Bob Hebert and Reihan Salam. I was generally familiar with the views of both of these gentleman, as I had read a number of Mr. Herberts columns during his NYT years, and had seen several interviews with Mr. Salam on public television here in Ontario, Canada, where I live.

    But, after listening to Mr. Salam make his arguments I found myself thinking that, if Intellegent Design were part of the body politic, this is what it would sound like. Needless to say, I came away from the interview thoroughly unconvinced by his argument, which seemed to be a bazzare mashup of Mr. Rogers, Ayn Rand and Charles Murray (networks…really?).

    If you really want to get a thorough and precient conservative perspective on the state of the current conservative movement in general, and the Rebublican Party specifically, I recommend that you invite David Frum to your show. His is a perspective that should resonate, regardless of where your loyalties reside.

    Tim Bolger

  • Reginald

    Bob Herbert – the most excellent journalist on TV!

  • Anonymous

    What a great discussion. Reihan Salam allows you to respect aspects of the conservative view point. His point about certain regulations helping industry elites rig the system to their advantage and thereby limit entry and stifle innovation is right on. The degree to which excess regulation or deficient regulation has contributed to the gross income inequality that Bob Herbert focuses on is a question for the researchers.

  • Ann Nolan

    This election restored faith in the American voter. We reelected a black man president, not because he was black, but because we thought he was the best man for the job. We didn’t let big money buy our election, and we protested in long lines against voter oppression. We cast a vote against plutocracy and against government intrusion in our most personal decisions. And we may have given the moderate Republicans a boost, so that they may be heard by their own party.
    BUT, how do we keep the voter engaged? Why do they seem only to pay attention when threatened? Many of our problems could be prevented if the voter would pay attention on a regular basis. And please dear god, tell us what we can do about the irresponsible press.

  • Shelley Shaver

    Bill Moyers is a lifeline to “blue” people in “red” states, so to me one of the happiest results of this election was that people like my Democratic relatives, who are surrounded by a culture that despised Obama, can see that they are not alone.

  • Anonymous

    In such situations as this interview where the two (or more) sides are brought together, what I would like to ask each person first, is can they agree on the basic facts. e.g.
    * Does health care anywhere in the world follow the usual supply/demand price curves of other products and services? ((the data that I read says no, but if people do not accept this, what point is there in continuing about how to provide health care?)
    * Was the financial melt down largely a result of too much regulation and oversight or too little? Again if there isn’t agreement on what happened, how can we go on to try and fashion a path forward?

  • Ian

    There is voter fraud that occurs, albeit in small proportion comparative to the size of the electorate, but voted id fraud almost does not exist.

  • DLO

    The left is the party of the rich and use the poor to obtain the power to obtain power. The great irony is Obama voters do not know they are being used.