Washington Watch Roundtable: Republicans Attack Capitalism, Who Will “Broke” Americans Support In 2012 | Roland Martin Reports

Washington Watch Roundtable: Republicans Attack Capitalism, Who Will “Broke” Americans Support In 2012

Roland Martin and the Washington Watch roundtable discuss Republicans attack capitalism and who will angry poor people support in 2012.

This week’s roundtable discussion features Heather McGhee, Washington director of DEMOS, Dr. Cornel West, Princeton University professor, Deborah Simmons, senior correspondent for “The Washington Times” and Politico’s White House correspondent, Joseph Williams.

MR. MARTIN:  Lots to discuss this week, folks, in the roundtable.  We have a couple of newbies.  That’s right.  We promise not to haze them.  Heather McGhee, Washington director of DEMOS, a progressive think tank; Dr. Cornel West, Princeton University professor, author and activist; Deborah Simmons, senior correspondent for “The Washington Times.”  And look who dressed up this time!

[LAUGHTER.]

MR. MARTIN:  Politico’s White House correspondent, Joseph Williams, rockin’ a nice pocket square.

All right, folks.  Let’s get right in- — ri- — right into it.  Republicans [are] intent on destroying each other, but what’s interesting is we’ve had all of this talk about the anti-Bain ad that Newt Gingrich put out there.  And it is – it’s causing much consternation, because the GOP now has to fight this whole deal of, “Are we the party of capitalism, or do we actually care about all of these people who were put out of work by” – as Rick Perry said – “‘vulture capitalists’?”  What do you make of them now having to deal with this type of dialogue?

MS. MCGHEE:  This is absolutely a really exciting moment, and it’s so great, because Mitt Romney really stands for the 1 percent.  I mean he’s sort of Mr. One Percent.  He’s Mr. – you know, I mean I think it’s great that Rick Perry’s putting “vulture capitalism” out of the sort of left-wing pages and into the public discourse, because –

MR. MARTIN:  Now, wait a minute.

MS. MCGHEE:  — that’s exactly what –

MR. MARTIN:  You said –

MS. MCGHEE:  — it is.

MR. MARTIN:  — “left-wing pages,” but it’s interesting. When Meg Whitman ran for governor in California, it was someone on the opposite side, who is now a Romney advisor, who called her a “vulture capitalist.”

MS. MCGHEE:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  So, not necessarily the left-wing language.  The right has used that against their own in – in opposing campaigns.

MS. DEBORAH SIMMONS:  Right.  Let’s be real, first of all, Roland.  We know that vultures eat scraps – our leftovers.  So, to say somebody is a vulture capitalist really has two, different meanings.

But – but the more important thing is that the Republicans are acting like hyenas.  They’re practically eating their own and snipping at their own in order to try to separate themselves – which I had said on this show months and months ago that until they start separating themselves, you won’t know – really know one from the other.  The bottom line is the Republicans want to get Barack Obama out of the White House, and it’s obvious they’ll do anything and everything to get it done.

MR. MARTIN:  But, clearly, they have to be concerned when so many people are ticked off and broke.  There are broke conservatives.

MS. SIMMONS:  Yes.

MR. MARTIN:  There are –

MS. SIMMONS:  Yes.

MR. MARTIN:  — broke liberals.

MS. SIMMONS:  Yep.

MR. MARTIN:  There are broke White folks –

[CHUCKLING.]

MR. MARTIN:  — broke Black folks.  And when you say, “Oh, no.  We believe in the free market, and” – “and we shouldn’t be having this conversation,” what are you saying to those people who might look at you – in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in Florida?  They’re saying, “Wait a minute.  Are you guys trying to get me, or are you trying to support guys like him?”

DR. CORNEL WEST:  No, I think what – what – what it reveals is that Bain is just the peak of an iceberg.  The predatory capitalism’s been at work for 30 years.  We’ve been dealing with a class war against poor people and working people for 30 years.  The oligarchs rule, and the politicians just come and rotate.  They reigned for a little while, but the folk who really rule:  big business, big banks, big corporations.  And what we’re seeing now is, first, on the Republican side, this kind of critique; but the challenge is when it begins to even move toward the Democrats, and they’re tied to big money.  Then we’ve got serious debate about, “What is capitalism?”  “What has it really done to poor people and” – “and working people, especially in the last 30 years?”

MR. MARTIN:  Joe, even Frank Luntz, Republican pollster, said, “We cannot have this conversation.”  Bill Kristol, big-time conservative – he said, “We need to be very careful in this dialogue, because,” he said, “we can’t associate every person in business with the free market and capitalism.”  Basically, he was saying, “There are some people out there who have some problems in this area, and so we can’t just rush to defend them at every moment.”

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  Well, one of them’s Mitt Romney.  I mean who can forget the defining image of this debate right now, which is of him as Bain Capital, holding the dollar bills with money stuffed in his jacket, with a bunch of other White guys holding dollar bills, with money stuffed in their jackets?  That is what he’s trying to say:  “Back off, guys, because this is more ammunition for the Democrats,” coming forward in tw- — in 2012.  And it’s more a case of as- — of the – the appearance of aspirational politics being, like, completely void.  I mean people tend to vote Republican – at least the poor White people tend to vote Republican against their own interests, but they want to vote Republican because they aspire to be what the Republicans re- — represent.  They want to be known as the – as somebody who can be rich, if given the proper opportunities.

MS. SIMMONS:  Oh, you two guys – I’m sitting between you two guys, and I’m going to take it calm and take it slow.

DR. WEST:  [Chuckles.]

MR. WILLIAMS: Here we go.

MS. SIMMONS:  Why are we acting as though capitalism just reared its head – forgive me, Dr. West –

DR. WEST:  Yes, yes.

MS. SIMMONS:  — in the past 30 years when it comes to politics?  Money has always ruled politics –

DR. WEST:  That’s true.

MS. SIMMONS:  — in America.

DR. WEST:  That’s true.

MS. SIMMONS:  So, why is – why are we pretending that it’s any different in 2012 –

MR. MARTIN:  I – I don’t think –

DR. WEST:  Or different –

MR. WILLIAMS:  [Crosstalk] –

[CROSSTALK.]

MS. SIMMONS:  — [crosstalk] – wait a minute – whe- — than it was, because there were poor people back then.

DR. WEST:  Yes.

MS. SIMMONS:  There were rulers back then.  We didn’t have a monarchy, granted, but we were the ones – Democrats and Republicans a- — alike –

DR. WEST:  Gotcha.

MS. SIMMONS:  — who created our monarch with the John F. Kennedy –

MR. MARTIN:  But I – I do

MS. SIMMONS:  — Administration.

MR. MARTIN:  — think the difference, though, is that –

DR. WEST:  [Crosstalk] –

MS. SIMMONS:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  — when you look –

DR. WEST:  — [crosstalk].

MR. MARTIN:  — I do think there’s a difference when you have – look at Occupy Wall Street, when you look at so many people being out of work, but also the Tea Party’s rise also was based upon big business –

MR. WILLIAMS:  And anger.

MR. MARTIN:  — demanding bailouts, things along those lines.  And so you have absolute anger on both sides –

DR. WEST:  Yes, yes.

MR. MARTIN:  — and it’s [no] longer just poor folks being mad.  You have people who used to have money –

DR. WEST:  Exactly.

MR. MARTIN:  — who now are broke, who are saying –

DR. WEST:  [Crosstalk] – middle class going into poverty – [crosstalk].  But –

MR. WILLIAMS:  And it’s –

MS. SIMMONS:  Yeah.  [Crosstalk]- —

[CROSSTALK.]

DR. WEST:  — Sister Deborah’s point, though –

MS. SIMMONS:  — [crosstalk]- —

DR. WEST:  — can I – can I just say –

MR. MARTIN:  Yeah, go ahead.

DR. WEST:  — one thing – [crosstalk]?

MR. MARTIN:  Go ahead.

DR. WEST:  There’s a difference between monopoly industrial capitalism, when you had manufacturing.  You still had big corporations.  Then, the banks only had 7 percent of the profits.  Today, the banks have 42 percent of the profits.  That’s monopoly finance capital, and what they produce are not products.  GM produced cars, with jobs.  All they produce is billions of dollars in speculation – [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  Right, a- —

DR. WEST:  — casino-like[?] – [crosstalk].

MR. MARTIN:  — and I –

MS. SIMMONS:  [Crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  — don’t think – I don’t –

MS. SIMMONS:  — get our hands on.

MR. MARTIN:  — I don’t believe –

DR. WEST:  [Crosstalk] – get our hands on.

MR. MARTIN:  — I don’t believe that people are against big business.  I do believe – you’re right.  When you had a situation where you had big business, but then you had a job, and you had healthcare, when you had stable pensions –

MR. WILLIAMS:  You had security.

MR. MARTIN:  — absolutely.

DR. WEST:  Yes.

MR. WILLIAMS:  You had security, which you don’t have anymore.  Wages have been flat for roughly the same period of time.

DR. WEST:  For 30 years – [crosstalk].

MR. WILLIAMS:  Corporations have found ways to do more with less.  They’ve found ways – if – if you had a job in 1980, you’re now probably – if you still have that job – doing the work of two people, perhaps more.

MR. MARTIN:  And that’s – and that’s – [unintelligible] – saying.  We’re saying “do more with less.”  What that means is somebody got laid off.

MS. SIMMONS:  Right!

[CROSSTALK.]

MR. WILLIAMS:  Somebody got laid off –

MS. SIMMONS:  [Crosstalk] –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — somebody got laid off –

DR. WEST:  [Crosstalk]- — somebody made profits –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — but the profit –

DR. WEST:  — and got laid off.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — but the profit margin stayed the same.

DR. WEST:  Somebody made profits –

MR. WILLIAMS:  Somebody made –

DR. WEST:  — and still got laid off.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — profits on –

DR. WEST:  That’s exactly –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — either –

DR. WEST:  — right.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — either it stayed the same, or it went up.

MS. SIMMONS:  So, do we –

DR. WEST:  That’s right.

MS. SIMMONS:  — take – do we take ownership of the fact that Black folks, for a very, very long time, placed much of their future, or security, or whatever we want to label it, in getting a “good gub-mint job”?

MR. MARTIN:  No, no, no, no!

MS. SIMMONS:  I mean don’t – don’t –

MR. MARTIN:  No, no.  I –

MS. SIMMONS:  — whether it was being a teacher, working at the post office, working as a –

MR. MARTIN:  — no.  No.

MS. SIMMONS:  — clerk typist –

MR. MARTIN:  I think – [crosstalk] –

MS. SIMMONS:  — or whatever –

MR. MARTIN:  — [crosstalk] – to jump in.  I think –

MS. SIMMONS:  — yeah.

MR. MARTIN:  — what has changed is – again, it’s not even a question of a good government job.  I think what has changed is when you look at the attack on General Motors, when the supply company said, “[If] they go down, we c-” — “there’s not enough automakers for us to stay in business.”

MS. MCGHEE:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  You would’ve seen more than a million people – jobs go away,

towns actually built around manufacturing – auto plants, also the restaurants, the schools.  That means you can’t send –

[CROSSTALK.]

MR. MARTIN:  — your kids to – ki- — kids to college.  All of a sudden, that changed the whole dynamic – beyond the government jobs.

MS. MCGHEE:  Yeah, absolutely.  I mean I think the reason why so many African-Americans had government jobs is because of the nondiscrimination policies of –

DR. WEST:  Exactly.

MS. MCGHEE:  — the federal government.  They – people could not – my grandparents, who were schoolteachers and police officers in Chicago, could not get a job in the private sector, except in the steel companies, which was not a good enough – you know, which was not a middle-class job at that time.

So, I mean I think that we have to say, listen.  The point of the American economy – which is a completely human-made structure –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. SIMMONS:  Yes, absolutely.

DR. WEST:  Yes.

MS. MCGHEE:  — has to ha- — be guided by certain principles.  There was a time – in 1963, Robert F. Kennedy said, you know, ‘the height of responsibility is to put public good ahead of private gain.’  And that was a vision of the economy.  And then we had, in 1982 –

MS. SIMMONS:  But were[?] we sold a –

MS. MCGHEE:  — Ronald –

MS. SIMMONS:  — bill of goods!

MS. MCGHEE:  — Reagan –

MS. SIMMONS:  That’s exactly what –

MS. MCGHEE:  — but then we –

MS. SIMMONS:  — I’m saying.

MS. MCGHEE:  — had, in 1982, Ronald Reagan saying basically the point of the economy is, “I want my party to be the party where people can get rich.”  And we, over the course –

OFF CAMERA:  That’s true.

MS. MCGHEE:  — of that time, shifted our public values around what is the point of even having an economy.

DR. WEST:  Just[?] –

MS. MCGHEE:  Is it for some people to get rich, and then it’ll maybe trickle down?

DR. WEST:  — right.  Sure.

MS. MCGHEE:  Or, is it for everybody to have a good job if they’re willing to work for it?

MR. MARTIN:  Joseph.

MR. WILLIAMS:  And I believe that point is what I was trying to make – however inarticulately – about the aspirational nature of Republican politics.  Ronald Reagan defined that when he said, “We want you to be able to get ahead.  Everybody can get this, if they want it.”  But that’s not necessarily –

DR. WEST:  And – and –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — true.

DR. WEST:  — and let’s just be honest about it.  It was, “Greed is good.”  “Greed is good.”

And you say, “No, we come out of a Black, prophetic tradition that said human beings are never reduced just to market tra- — price, and human life is never subject just to market calculation.”  You got – you got integrity, quality, love – all of those nonmarket values.  And we get in the clash:  the greed on the one hand and human integrity, human quality on the other.  And right now, it’s profits over people.

MS. SIMMONS:  Bu- — but have we – I – I think at some point, we’ve also tried to compromise that with our moral values that –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. SIMMONS:  — greed is, indeed, a sin.  It’s not the money in and of itself.  But I also think we mis-define the word “wealth” – that it only means money.  It only means dollars.  It only means credit cards and that.  It also means health and abundance and –

OFF CAMERA:  Of course.

MS. SIMMONS:  — wi- — within yourself, and – and I think we forgot that.

MR. MARTIN:  Le- — let’s – let’s sit tight for a second.  Gotta go to a break.  When we come back, I want to pick up on that point, but also get into the whole issue that aren’t we moving to the point where, frankly, people are saying, “I’m tired of the either/or” – Republican or –

MS. SIMMONS:  Yes, yes.

MR. MARTIN:  — Democrat, and what you’re really seeing –

MS. SIMMONS:  Yes.

MR. MARTIN:  — right now is just a[n] anger across the board –

MS. SIMMONS:  [Crosstalk.]

DR. WEST:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — saying, “Forget” – “I’m not ideological[ly] aligned with you.  I want you to fix something that” – “that’s in my life”?

  • Greglh

    I love what was said here…..
    Totally correct.  And government jobs provide security.  It is harder to be cut throat without accountability like in the private section.

    DR. WEST:  There’s a difference between monopoly
    industrial capitalism, when you had manufacturing.  You still had big
    corporations.  Then, the banks only had 7 percent of the profits.
    Today, the banks have 42 percent of the profits.  That’s monopoly finance capital, and what they produce are not products.  GM produced cars, with jobs.  All they produce is billions of dollars in speculation – [crosstalk] –

  • Greglh

    Agree with this 100%
    Many of our people have sold out for a dollar.

    DR. WEST:  — and let’s just be honest about it.  It was, “Greed is good.”  “Greed is good.”

    And you say, “No, we come out of a Black, prophetic tradition that
    said human beings are never reduced just to market tra- — price, and
    human life is never subject just to market calculation.”  You got – you
    got integrity, quality, love – all of those nonmarket values.  And we
    get in the clash:  the greed on the one hand and human integrity, human
    quality on the other.  And right now, it’s profits over people.

  • Greglh

    Roland… can you have a discussion on African Americans breaking into major industries?
    I truly believe it is the key to our freedom.  I had a presentation for such a discussion that I think would just rock the world, but with so many of us being so sensative with regard to being given guidance I feel it would offend the educated and CEO of white companies who are African American.

    But I’m tired and still waiting….  (remember the lady speaking to Obama making that statement?) of our people being dependent on TV stations, car manufacturers,  major clothes markets, electronics, Walmarts, HomeDepot, etc…  because we only choose to work our way up the chain in the companies, but no one investing in creating the companies to compete that provides services and goods targeted for ALL people. 

    I would love to have someone like yourself the people of this panel and others so there is a variety of with regard to gender and age to discuss it. 

    But for me it can’t be a 30 min discussion.  For me it is too big for such a short period of time.

    Some of the time could be spent SHOWING what many do not see.   I remember seeing something with regard to a Black College that was competing in Robotic designs.   Our people are rarely exposed to what we have to offer outside of entertainment and sports.   Oh… and Black History.    We need some exposure as to what we are doing today and not just yesterday.

    Put the endorsement money into a African American owned shoe company where both parties take a % of the profit and invest into other African Americans wanting to break into major markets.