#1414 Go Home and Go Big (Infrastructure Investment, Jobs and Climate Mitigation) (Transcript)

Air Date 4/24/2021

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left Podcast, in which we shall learn about the major infrastructure investment plan proposed by the Biden administration, progressive perspectives arguing to make it better, and the need to democratize the institutions that constitute our infrastructure. Plus at the end, I'm going to explain the paradigm shift in Fox News disinformation that I finally just figured out. 

And now, clips today are from The Bradcast, The Brian Lehrer Show, Jim Hightower's Radio Lowdown, This Is Hell!, CounterSpin, and Economic Update with Richard Wolff.

The American Prospect's David Dayen on Biden's new American Jobs Plan - The Bradcast - Air Date 3-31-21

BRAD FRIEDMAN - HOST, THE BRADCAST W/ BRAD FRIEDMAN: [00:00:53] As we go to air today, President Biden is rolling out an approximately $2 trillion plan focused on infrastructure and the climate as a blueprint for his vision to reshape the US economy, which he is calling the American Jobs Plan, probably a smart way to take the word climate out of the title so as not to trigger Fox News snowflakes, take infrastructure out of it, which puts some people to sleep, and also the American Jobs Plan echoes the name of his so far wildly popular and surprisingly progressive $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed into law in March for COVID pandemic relief and stimulus after being passed in both houses of Congress without a single Republican vote. 

The American Jobs Plan, formally introduced in Pittsburgh on Wednesday but previewed to journalists on Tuesday night, aims to tackle some of the nation's most pressing problems from climate change to decaying water systems, to the nation's crumbling infrastructure, according to the Washington Post today. The administration's promises are vast and may prove difficult to enact, the Post notes, even if the effort can get through Democrats' extremely narrow majority in Congress, where the measure may need to be passed under Senate budget reconciliation rules, allowing for a simple majority vote that doesn't require overcoming a GOP filibuster even though Republicans in recent years have at least pretended they were interested in infrastructure investment. The sweeping plan says that it will enable drivers across the country to find electric charging stations for their vehicles on the road; every led pipe in the country would be replaced; all Americans would have access to high-speed internet broadband by the end of the decade; and as many as 2 million homes and housing units would be built, retrofitted or renovated. It includes a slew of tax hikes on businesses, and, according to the White House, would pay for itself over 15 years.

 On the tax side, Biden's plan includes raising the corporate tax rate from 21 to 28%, increasing the global minimum tax paid from about 13% to 21%. Now I believe what that means is that while corporate tax rates are increased, the existing loopholes in the tax code would be plugged up enough that businesses would still have to pay at least 21%, no matter what. But I will ask my guest to explain that momentarily. It would also end federal tax breaks for fossil fuel companies, finally, while proposing as much as $400 billion in clean energy credits. The tax measures help Biden address concerns that his spending package would add to an already large federal deficit, but the Post reports they are likely to provoke a torrent of opposition from lobbyists and business groups who celebrated Donald Trump's 2017 tax cuts.

Of course they will. Too bad. I'm sure they enjoyed all that free money at the rest of our expenses while it lasted. Congressional Republicans naturally are panning the tax increases as damaging to US investment and competitiveness. They've pledged to oppose them, of course. While opening the door for negotiations over the details with Congress, the White House is adamant about the need for a sweeping economic program that goes beyond immediate coronavirus relief. It cites the threat posed by climate change, the deterioration of America's infrastructure and the long decline of US manufacturing. Here's White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday:

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY : [00:04:49] He sees clean energy and clean energy jobs as central to his own vision and his own objectives. It's about jobs. It's about investing in the industries of the future. And it's about rebuilding parts of our communities that have long been forgotten .

BRAD FRIEDMAN - HOST, THE BRADCAST W/ BRAD FRIEDMAN: [00:05:04] Joe Biden's plan devotes more than $600 billion to rebuilding America's infrastructure, such as ports, railways, bridges, highways, about $300 billion to support domestic manufacturing, more than $200 billion in housing infrastructure. Other measures include at least $100 billion for a variety of priorities, including creating national broadband, modernizing the electric power grid, upgrading schools and educational facilities, investing in research and development projects and ensuring America's drinking water is safe. Oh, I object to that.

Biden's plan also includes measures unrelated to either infrastructure or the climate, such as about $400 billion investment in home care, home-based care for the elderly and disabled. That was a top demand of some union groups. As well, the plan calls for passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. We've talked about that on the show, the PRO Act, aimed at significantly strengthening workers' rights to organize. It includes a hundred billion dollars to bolster the country's electric grid and phase out fossil fuels. It also asks Congress to adopt an energy efficiency and clean electricity standard that would set specific targets to cut how much coal- and gas-fired electricity power companies may use over time as part of Biden's plan to make the power sector carbon-free by 2035. And as one of his top climate spending priorities, invest about $174 billion in the electric vehicle market too, along with federal incentives for manufacturing and purchasing such cars to establish a national network of 500,000 charging stations by 2030. The plan would also replace 50,000 diesel trucks while electrifying at least 20% of the classic yellow bus fleet that transports children to and from school each day, to which I say only 20%? In an effort to transition fossil fuel workers to other jobs, Biden plans to devote $16 billion to employing Americans to plug abandoned oil and gas wells and restore land that has been used for coal and mining. That would be nice. In his news conference last week, as we noted on the show yesterday, the President said that the workers would earn  as much money sealing those wells that are leaking methane as they would in drilling them. Also, another $10 billion would fund the establishment of a new civilian climate corps, which would employ people to restore landscapes and help prepare communities for global warming's effects. The President also asks Congress to provide $45 billion to replace the remaining lead pipes across the country while reducing lead exposure in some 400,000 schools and childcare facilities. I'll look forward to the Republicans opposing that. 

There is much more here, but you get the idea. And of course the package will change once Congress begins its own work on it. Among Democrats, the plan has already been met with objections from lawmakers in the Congressional Progressive Caucus who say it's insufficient to meet the scale of the threat posed by climate change. Meanwhile, conservative Democrats are reportedly balking at another large spending package. Three house Democrats have already vowed to oppose it because it does not reverse a cap on state and local tax deductions from Trump's 2017 tax law that hurt a lot of homeowners in high tax states like California and New York. Reversing those caps, however, would also lower federal revenue and thus increase the price of the bill. 

An Infrastructure Plan That Includes Unions, Climate and Economic Balance - The Brian Lehrer Show - Air Date 4-1-21

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, BRIAN LEHRER A DAILY POLITICS PODCAST: [00:09:08] So how much is Biden laying out a restructuring of the economy, or a redistribution of wealth after decades of it being redistributed for most people to the top few percent? 

MEGAN CASSELLA: [00:09:20] That's definitely part of this plan. It's interesting how under the infrastructure umbrella Biden has really found a way to touch on a number of his broader priorities, and one of them being a more redistributive tax policy and redistributing wealth and tackling income inequality.

And I actually think we will continue to see him address that through the second part of this plan that we expect to be rolled out in a couple of weeks that will include more pay for, and we expect other sorts of tax hikes as well. 

This one focuses just on corporate tax hikes. And so that's how he'll pay for this, they say, even though they're spending the money over eight years, they will get it back through revenue raisers over 15. So not exactly an equal 10-year plan as we're used to seeing, but over 15 years at least it would raise the money back by raising taxes on corporations. And it's a way of finding something that at least most Democrats, if not all Democrats, should be able to rally around.

And it touches on that priority that he just spoke about, about, as you said, casting shade on Wall Street and making sure the biggest companies pay their fair share, as he says 

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, BRIAN LEHRER A DAILY POLITICS PODCAST: [00:10:23] Politically, do you think he's going after the white working class and white middle-class? Part of which is a very Republican constituency, by offering something and coupling it with a certain kind of sense of grievance against Wall Street in the top few percent, because let's face it, Trump got elected partly on running to a white working class on grievance against elites and the Democrats do it too. They do it in their way. 

MEGAN CASSELLA: [00:10:53] They do. It's an interesting question and a really interesting point and something that I think we'll see become a theme throughout Biden's term. In some ways this is a way that he can look to try to win back some of those Trump voters, people who had been Democrats their entire life, the blue collar workers, who then found something in Trump that resonated with them and switched parties that way. At the same time, this is also something that Joe Biden has really championed his entire career, in terms of blue collar workers, pro-union, he's little Joe from Scranton. And he went to Pittsburgh yesterday for this speech. So he's clearly really trying to amp up that theme. And the other aspect too, is that the White House in designing this plan did it in a pretty shrewd way where they're clearly looking for bipartisanship here. So many of the things that are going to be the most controversial I should say are saved for that second plan. And that's the tax hikes on individuals. That's investments more in  what they're calling the care infrastructure, where there's some pushback that it's not quite infrastructure.

There's some of that in this first plan, but much of it is saved for roads and bridges and transit, that physical infrastructure. It's broadband access, it's access to clean water. And so these are sorts of the things where they're really hoping for bipartisanship, at least from some moderate Republicans or from those white working class voters, as you mentioned, who are probably, or at least the white house hopes they will look at this plan and say, I agree that we should have more roads and bridges. I agree that the biggest companies should pay more in taxes. And so there's a lot to like here. 

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, BRIAN LEHRER A DAILY POLITICS PODCAST: [00:12:19] We have people like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as you quote in your article, and others on the left saying that the Biden infrastructure bill doesn't go far enough in terms of size. What do they want? 

MEGAN CASSELLA: [00:12:33] They want much more in terms of investment and a big focus for Ocasio-Cortez and others is on climate, that many of these climate groups have been requesting or suggesting $10 trillion in spending over 10 years on climate alone.

This Biden plan, that encompasses some climate investments as well, is just over $2 trillion over eight years. So it's not even close to what they've been asking for. Other groups have a smaller ask, but they want about 4 trillion on climate and labor over four years. So of course, everybody just wants more money here.

And one of the reasons that this has become such a flash point and there's been so much lobbying and so much emphasis and focus on making sure that different priorities are reflected and reflected adequately here, is that there's widespread concern in the conventional wisdom in Washington is that the Democrats will only get one more chance this year to pass a bill through reconciliation, meaning they don't need Republican votes.

And that because of how tightly, how narrow the Democrats majorities are, they only have three votes to lose in the House and none in the Senate. That because of the way things are, those political dynamics, they won't get another chance after that to pass possibly anything else before the midterms, when the incumbent president's party tends to not do so well.

So Democrats feel like they only have possibly one more shot to get anything done in this Congress. And so everybody really wants to pile on and make sure their priorities are reflected. 

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, BRIAN LEHRER A DAILY POLITICS PODCAST: [00:13:56] And also on the climate aspects of the bill, you note that it includes a call to end fossil fuel subsidies. Do we as taxpayers still subsidize the mega profitable fossil fuel companies?

MEGAN CASSELLA: [00:14:10] We do. It's one of the things that progressive Democrats in particular have been calling for so long, but now they're labeling it often the bare minimum, like the least we can do is stop subsidizing these companies. And that is something that Biden's proposing to do in this plan. It's obviously such a flashpoint because it really angers oil and gas companies and lawmakers who are close with those companies will of course maybe have a hard time voting for something that ends those subsidies and close other loopholes and so forth that they benefit from. So it will be interesting to see if that becomes a flashpoint or a central point of debate on Capitol Hill. 

Is America big enough to Go Big again? - Jim Hightower's Radio Lowdown - Air Date 4-13-21

JIM HIGHTOWER - HOST, JIM HIGHTOWER'S RADIO LOWDOWN: [00:14:43] It's time for America to go back to the future. The future of true greatness created by people united to build a strong nation for the common good. From the start of our United States, Americans have backed leaders who dared to do big public projects. Jefferson, Lincoln, TR, FDR, Truman, Ike, JFK, and LBJ all dared to achieve bold goals.

It's only since Ronald Reagan's "government is evil" demagoguery that our presidents and lawmakers shriveled to "no can do" mediocrities, unwilling even to try tackling America's big needs or invest in our people's unlimited possibilities. Their failure is why our nation's infrastructure, once world-class, has deteriorated to an embarrassing 16th in the world. It's hard to muster any national pride in chanting "We're number 16."

But surprise! Here comes Joe, a lifelong go-slow Democrat, unexpectedly proposing a get serious, roll-up-our-sleeves, $2 trillion package of investments to modernize and extend America's collapsing infrastructure. In addition to roads, bridges, and dams, it gives a long overdue boost to such needs of rural high-speed broadband and providing affordable childcare facilities, all geared to creating good union jobs and lifting local economies.

Even more transformative is Biden's back-to-the-future method of paying for this Rebuild America agenda by returning to progressive taxation. Instead of the same old, no-tax laissez-faire extremism that Washington, has practiced for 40 years, Biden will at long last demand that multinational corporate behemoths stop dodging their tax obligations to America.

It's the same fair tax policy that funded our nation's real needs in the past while also increasing productivity, raising living standards for millions of working families. 

This is Jim Hightower saying, let's do it again. 

Infrastructure, mobilization, survival w/ Laleh Khalili - This Is Hell! - Air Date 4-14-21

CHUCK MERTZ: [00:16:43] So it appears our infrastructures are not prepared for a crisis. So what does that reveal to you about our infrastructures when they are not prepared for a crisis, whether it's global warming or the pandemic? 

LALEH KHALILI: [00:16:52] It tells me several things. The first thing that it tells me is that there has been, because of this devaluation of the public in favor of the private, the public investments and the kinds of public goods that everybody can use has fallen precipitously. And that means that even existing infrastructures are not being repaired in ways that are useful, that allows them to continue on for other generations. So that's one thing, that there has been a drop in public investments. 

But I think there has been also other things. When  you allow for infrastructures to be built in order for private firms to benefit, and that in this thinking we are not taking account of the public who uses it or the public who lives near the infrastructure, we ended up essentially saying that those people who the infrastructure might act to the detriment of, have no say in it. So one example that I can give for this are the various pipelines that are built across the US Midwest that are often going through indigenous Americans' nations and native American nations, and those pipelines could leak, they could have leakages of essentially tar oil into extremely sensitive water systems. They essentially also create securitized zones around those pipelines as they're going, as I said through, for example, Native American nations.

So on the one hand, the pipelines make really good money -- some of them come from Alberta, some of them come from the Dakotas -- make very good money for the fracking companies or for the shale oil companies. Of course now the Keystone pipeline has now been stopped by Biden, but for a time it was going to make money for firms in Alberta. Whereas the Native Americans who were going to be living near the pipelines, their life, and livelihoods were going to be destroyed. And then of course there's the larger effect of that, which is that once that oil was brought in to the refineries on the gulf coast of the US then it was also going to be producing all sorts of emissions that were going to affect not only the people along the route of the pipeline, but elsewhere in the world. So that consideration is also a really important one.

 And a final consideration is I think that last bit, which is that not only people in the immediate vicinity of infrastructures, but people very far away are affected by this. We need to start thinking about our communities that are affected by these infrastructure as being yes, the people near us, but also a global community.

So when we're thinking about redundancy in our electric systems, it might behoove us to consider that perhaps that a cheaper option of let's say, using natural gas or oil may not be in the long term a better decision for the planet as sustainable forms of electricity production would be. It might behoove us to think about retiring hydrocarbon fuels, since they seem to be at the root of so much climate change. It might behoove us to think that if we are producing, for example, electricity, that its distribution should be cooperative, that it should be much more equal, that perhaps it should not be privatized in order for the people who are benefiting from it not having to pay over-the-top prices for it.

So there's a whole lot of considerations that need to be taken into account when we're thinking about infrastructures. 

CHUCK MERTZ: [00:20:03] So do you think that the privatized infrastructure system and service, do you think they could survive democratization? Do they need to not have a democratized system in order to exist?

LALEH KHALILI: [00:20:16] I think that is absolutely right. I think that you need a transformation in the ways in which we the people control our economies. And I think that should the systems be democratized and the profit motive will have -- it essentially challenges the profit motive as the primary use and as the primary reason for infrastructures.

And so I think that in some ways in this instance, privatization is very anti-democratic. 

CHUCK MERTZ: [00:20:42] Can there be an infrastructure then that is not detrimental to the environment? Or is there something inherent in our thinking about infrastructures in general, that makes them environmentally destructive? 

LALEH KHALILI: [00:20:52] I think that's a really good question.

Obviously we are all going to need clean water. We obviously need to have schools, we need healthcare and we need infrastructures that allow for us to flourish. And I think that all of these things come with with a certain set of benefits for some certain set of harms for others.

And I think there has to be a considered discussion over who benefits and who's harmed, and there has to be a considered discussion about whether the benefits from a particular infrastructure will actually in the end result in long-term environmental devastations, long-term cost of the public, that in the end actually make the current, the short-term benefits not worthwhile.

And that, I do think that for really large scale infrastructures, that kind of a democratic consultation is absolutely necessary. It can't be a top-down process. 

Infrastructure, Jobs, and More - The Brian Lehrer Show - Air Date 4-5-21

CATHERINE RAMPELL: [00:21:47] biden has proposed a number of new visions for what government should be doing, not just on infrastructure. You mentioned infrastructure earlier in the show, but he's also talked about expanding the social safety net, having a more robust welfare state, providing greater subsidies for things like child care, paid family leave, et cetera.

I think my own politics are that I think these are worthwhile initiatives for the most part, but to the extent that the conversation has been about, "Biden is presenting a new vision of government, one in which it's more new deal like, or more great society like, or bringing us back to the pre-Reagan era where big government could be a solution and not just the problem."

I think that's only half true, in the sense that there is a lot of popular support for a more robust role for government for the shared benefits of more generous government services, but not so much robust support for the shared sacrifice, or at least shared financial responsibility for paying for those kinds of expansions of government. At least that's the calculation that Biden seems to be making, because he has restricted the pay force. He said that he wants to pay for the things he wants to do, or at least partially. He's restricted that to corporations and the wealthy.

My own view is that, yes, corporations and high-income households should be paying more in taxes. They've gotten a lot of tax cuts over the years, and inequality has grown. Those two things combined suggests that they're shouldering less of the burden than they could, but if you look at the magnitude of the kinds of things that Biden wants to do, it's going to be really hard to actually fund all of these things solely on the back of higher taxes for the wealthy.

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: [00:23:52] For example, Obama defined wealthy, you say, for tax rate purposes as $250,000 a year or more. Biden defines it at 400,000. You know we can get lots of calls from families raising kids who will say, "Yes, I'm doing well if $250,000, but I'm upper-middle class, not rich in New York, or New Jersey, or Connecticut, or San Francisco, or LA's cost of living. What would you say to them?

CATHERINE RAMPELL: [00:24:18] Well, look, it is true that it's more expensive in New York or in San Francisco when or other places with a high cost of living, but objectively speaking, those people are still towards the top of the income distribution, even in those places. There is a fraction of people who make a ton more money. If you're comparing yourself to the Joneses, if the Joneses around you or hedge funders, you're not going to feel as rich. Just look at the data, that's the case. I think the argument that I would like to hear Biden making, essentially, is that these programs are valuable and we will make sure that the very high-income people and corporations pay their fair share, which we don't think that they've been doing et cetera.

We should all be invested in the financial success of these programs. If we want to have a welfare state that looks more like those in Scandinavia, say, you look at how their tax system works. In those places, in Sweden, in Denmark, it's not just that the tax rates are higher, but they're much more broader base, that even the middle class pays higher tax rates there than they do here. The middle-class here actually pays relatively low tax rates compared to many other industrialized countries. That's the trade-off that we're making. If you want more government services, yes, make sure that the very highest income people pay their fair share.

People at the $200,000 mark, the $250,000 mark, maybe even the $150,000 mark, they will probably need to foot some of the bill as well, through some broader base taxes. That doesn't necessarily even mean income taxes. There are other reasons why imposing this constraint is probably a bad policy move, not just for revenue, including that. For example, if we really want to get serious about climate change, there's almost unanimous support among economists for the idea of a carbon tax as the most effective way to reorient our economy towards more climate friendly technologies.

If you say nobody who's making under $400,000 can pay a dollar more in taxes, you've effectively ruled out a carbon tax or even a gas tax, which the Biden administration has said that they're not considering right now, even though did have bipartisan support and has funded infrastructure in the past. Still does. I think there are a lot of reasons to say, "Look, we're all in this together, we should still have a progressive tax system, but if you want a more robust government, you're going to have to pitch in a little bit more. I know you don't feel rich, but that's just how the math works out." There are just too many constraints to satisfy.

Otherwise you can say, "Maybe we'll just won't pay for it and that may be where we end up." As I said, the Biden administration, I think to its credit, has said, "We are going to try to pay for these things."

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: [00:27:28] What about corporate taxes? Biden is trying to be a moderate here too, by his lights. Trump lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, Biden would bring it back half way to 28% and add what he calls a corporate minimum tax and a tax on overseas profits. What do you think of the corporate tax changes that he's proposing?

CATHERINE RAMPELL: [00:27:55] I think as a policy matter and a political matter, there're pretty strong cases for doing this. The statutory tax rate before was probably too high. Statutory tax rate, meaning what the books said corporations had to pay, 35%. That was higher than what companies in other countries pay. However, there are so many loopholes and deductions and complications in the tax school that their effective tax rate was actually much lower than that. I think there was some value to bringing down the statutory tax rate and broadening the base, simplifying it.

Unfortunately, in my view, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act under former President Trump lowered the rate, but didn't really do much in the way of base broadening. I think there's value to bringing that rate up, ideally doing some simplification. As the Biden folks have argued the rate that Trump delivered was actually lower than a lot of companies were even asking for. Maybe there's some happy middle ground here. As I said, there're not just revenue reasons for doing this. I'm not terribly worried about the scaremongering from Republican politicians that if you raise the corporate tax rate that'll destroy jobs, et cetera.

I think the evidence on that is not particularly strong, at least within the range of tax rates that we're talking about here. Besides the policy merits, politically it is definitely a slam dunk. As I said, the idea of raising taxes on higher income people and corporations is extremely popular, has long been extremely popular. This is true even among Republican voters, not for Republican politicians, of course. I think that that is a fair place to begin to pay for many of these initiatives, even if I think ultimately if we're going to make a more permanent structural change to the role of government, it will probably require a value added tax or some other broader base tax system.

Ernesto Falcon on Internet for All, Alexander Kaufman on Future-Proofed Housing Codes - CounterSpin - Air Date 3-19-21

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: [00:30:14] Tell us about the AAIA, introduced by James Clyburn and Amy Klobuchar. What would it do? And why do you think it’s needed?

ERNESTO FALCON: [00:30:23] I think sometimes when we talk about the digital divide, we tend to think it’s like a game of perpetual catch-up, and we’ll never get there. And I think, to your quote, in 2001, that’s kind of the understanding of the infrastructure and the technology at that time. You fast-forward to today, it is pretty clear there is one unifying medium, one type of infrastructure that is unifying all the technologies—so that if you build out this one infrastructure, you will have access to the whole range of 21st century technologies for decades—and that’s fiber optic.

The AAIA, the Accessible, Affordable Internet Act, essentially creates a federal program at the size and scale of our electrification effort from the ’20s and ’30s, where we simply just said, “It’s just unconscionable to have anyone not connected to the electrical grid.” It says it’s unconscionable to have someone not connected to 21st century infrastructure, and spends the requisite dollar amount—it’s around $90+ billion, which is what you would need for a nationwide solution for all corners of the country, with almost no exception.

And if you build fiber optics, you enable things like high-speed wireless; you enable things like the SpaceX’s Starlink, the orbit satellites; you enable gigabit internet connections at homes and businesses—all of those things come through the exact same infrastructure. And it’s just important for the policy in this space—where we’re deciding how to spend infrastructure dollars, like we build the roads and whatnot—to basically go head forth in that.

 The FCC and States Must Ban Digital Redlining

 

And that kind of actually puts America in a place where we’re on the same pace with Europe and China, both areas of the world that have adopted, essentially, a fiber standard for their infrastructure, and are pushing it to all people—China being way ahead of everyone at this point. And if we don’t play catch-up now—so that in five years, it’ll be a wash, and we’ll be caught up, essentially—we will see some pretty massive differences about internet access globally, as well as here at home, where your high-income users have cheap, fast internet, areas where you have free, fast internet, and your low-income rural will have really expensive, old wires, that are delivering really slow speeds at really high prices.

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: [00:32:32] Yeah, you have written and described that as “digital redlining,” which seems apt.

I think, as we think of looking forward, though, we keep stumbling over this thing, at least US corporate news media do, keep presenting this conflict… I would describe, lazily, the standard corporate media frame as, “There’s social justice that some of us might want, but that’s versus the rigors of market capitalism, which, push come to shove, we all really agree are best.” And this gets thrown up again and again. And so, not for nothing, but there’s not—and I don’t even want to concede it—but there’s not a conflict with profit-making here, necessarily, is there, when we talk about fiber?

Ernesto Falcon

ERNESTO FALCON: [00:33:16] “There has to be a public-sector version of access in lots of parts of this country, particularly rural markets, simply because you cannot build this infrastructure with purely a for-profit mindset.”

 No, not at all, for I would say more than two-thirds of the country. You could do it commercially, in a commercially feasible way, so long as the financing is made available to build, and there’s players that are willing to build. And I think there’s actually lots of local businesses that are willing to take on that challenge.

But what the Accessible, Affordable Internet Act does is it embraces all the models. And the model that this country desperately needs to really bolster is the public model of broadband, meaning local cooperatives, school districts, local governments. There has to be a public-sector version of access in lots of parts of this country, particularly rural markets, simply because you cannot build this infrastructure with purely a for-profit mindset. You have to look at it as, “What is the thing that would develop our local economy?” It benefits lots of other for-profit entities, right? All the local businesses, agriculture, retail, you name it.

But the government has to start looking at this like the roads, and allowing commerce to flow over those roads. And if we don’t build the roads, right, the internet infrastructure road, if you will, you actually stifle private-sector activity. And so there’s a real partnership to be had between government and people of all walks of life. And it really is the public model of broadband that is underutilized in this country.

But this bill, not only does it make the money available to make that a possibility in lots of places, but it also, what the word is, preempts states that have banned local governments from building their own infrastructure. All those states that have done that did that at the behest of the cable lobby, who basically argued, “Oh, if you let the public sector invest in this infrastructure, it’ll drive out private investment.”

And that’s an absurd argument, because we’re in 2021 now. If the private sector has not invested today, at this point, they’re never coming. So it’s just a dynamic where I think when they made those arguments 15 years ago, you could believe it, because these new networks were just starting; you had Google building fiber networks, all sorts of activity, starting around 2005. But we’re in 2021. If they haven’t built out that 21st century infrastructure, and at most it takes maybe five years to get to where you want to go, they’re not coming. And it’s time to really start embracing local models to solve our own problems.

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: [00:35:23] Let me just ask you, finally: It sounds as though it’s very much a question of who’s at the table as decisions are made. Is there change to be fought for there? Because I hear these ideas, but if no one’s in the room except industry when things are being decided, then that’s part of the problem. So where do you see changes being made, maybe to the decision making process here, that could be helpful?

ERNESTO FALCON: [00:35:46] So I think as a first matter, we need a federal program, right? And we need states to have their own programs that bolster public models, along with local-private. I mean, local-private is very different than your big national players. Your AT&T, Comcast and Verizons of the world really do neglect these communities, versus someone who lives in the township themselves; they are more willing to work with people to figure out how to get everyone connected; they’re just motivated to, simply because they live among you.

I think the first step for people is to make sure they contact their congressperson and their senator, to tell them to support James Clyburn’s Accessible, Affordable Internet Act, because we have to get that out through the Congress.

And the danger here is, we are talking about a program that will connect everyone to a 21st century infrastructure; who’s going to be the opposition? It’s going to be the companies who have built the 20th century infrastructure, right, the slow, expensive stuff, by today’s standards, who absolutely do not want to be replaced; they will do everything they can to prevent progress here. And we have to just keep every legislator in line and in support of a forward-thinking infrastructure plan, because there’s lots of ways you could spend money that don’t make progress. And I suspect the industry, primarily led by the cable industry, will do everything they can to curtail, or hinder, or inhibit real progress in the space.

The digital divide is a choice, and it can be ended with concrete forward-thinking programs of this size and focus and scale. But that’s up to us, through channeling through our representation, our representatives, to hear people’s voice.

Live Event Announcement

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:37:18] As you may have heard us announce in the previous episode, we're having a live event. Best of the Left, myself, I am partnering with our good friend, Dr. Roger Ray, who you hear give his progressive faith sermons from time to time on this show, and we're holding a progressive colloquy. It's happening May 10th at 8:00 PM Eastern -- the one true time zone, everyone else can do the math, even Roger he'll be calling in from Missouri. 

So the breakdown as we imagine it, subject to change, is that Roger and I will be having a featured discussion, imagine us being on stage. And we're going to be talking about various aspects of community and what that means. Then we're going to open it up for question and answer. People are going to be able to metaphorically stand up from the audience and ask their question in front of the group or send in their questions via a little text chat. And then, completely optional to everyone in the audience, you don't have to take part, but what we think will be fun breakout groups for small group discussion. 

We're able to do this because I found this platform that is trying to duplicate the experience of attending a  ballroom event, where first you watch speakers on a stage, but you also are given time to talk with other people at your table, but a limited number, 6-8 people, something like that around the table. Because the problem with meetings on Zoom that exceed about a half a dozen people is that it's too big of a group for everyone to meaningfully participate, and I think that this is going to solve that problem. 

You can do not just the table discussions, there's even an opportunity to do one on one conversations, like speed networking, if you like. Again, totally optional. So you can sit at a metaphorical table and chat with a small group of literal humans. You can metaphorically get up and find a new table, if you like. You could meet someone who you want to talk with longer and metaphorically get up together and go find a private table to continue your discussion, if you like. The options are really much more robust than anything I've seen like this before. So we're thinking that after our talk and the Q and A's, Roger and I are going to metaphorically walk around the room and join tables so that we can talk with as many people as possible, but in small group settings. It's an absolute experiment, but we think it's going to be a lot of fun because first and foremost, we can promise that you will definitely not end up in a video chat with two dozen people, only three of whom are talking over the din of background noise. A description, by the way, that defines my personal nightmare.

Humans are made to connect among small groups. So only when I found that that might be possible in the virtual world of the internet did I think it was worth giving this a try. So again, that's May 10th,  8:00 PM Eastern, everyone else do your math. A link for details is in the show notes or go to bestoftheleft.com/live, where you can register right now, entirely for free, to be reminded when the event is actually happening.

Workers Successfully Take Over their Workplaces - Economic Update with Richard D. Wolff - Air Date 4-15-21

RICHARD WOLF - HOST, ECONOMIC UPDATE WITH RICHARD WOLFF: [00:40:47] So let's go through that. An infrastructure are [sic] the roads, the highways, the harbors, the train systems, all of the basics that hold up any economy. And by all accounts by engineers, by economists, by specialists, the infrastructure of the United States is in terrible shape, far worse than in many other countries less wealthy than the United States. In short, our infrastructure: roads, highways, bridges, all of that have been neglected.

And I'll come back and talk about why, but the Biden administration wants to be patted on the back because it has this dramatic program of $2 billion. We are not, the President said, merely tinkering around the edges of the problem. We're meeting it, head on. My response: no, you're not. You are tinkering. Just what you say you aren't doing is what you are doing, and that has become a bad habit of our leading politicians, as you've probably noticed. To not tinker around the edges would be to make basic structural changes. For example, Mr. Biden refers to FDR. Yes. FDR back in the '30's did make structural changes. They weren't enough. They didn't solve our problems because that's why we're in the soup now. But, compared to what Mr Biden is doing, they are indeed dramatic. Let's remember: created a social security system we never had before; an unemployment compensation system we never had before; a minimum wage in this country we never had before; and a federal jobs program that put 15 million unemployed people to work  giving them a decent income.

Mr. Biden isn't doing anything like that. Social Security is no longer support for people of the sort it was imagined and hoped it would be. So far, he's failed to get anywhere on the minimum wage. And he doesn't even discuss a federal jobs program. And moreover, Roosevelt not only did that, he made corporations and the rich pay for it with a dramatic increase in rates of taxation on them. In contrast, Mr. Biden proposes only to raise the corporate tax rate halfway up to what Mr. Trump reduced. Trump dropped it from 35 to 21%. Mr. Biden proposes to bring it back only to 28% thereby leaving the business class with half of what Trump gave them, not even challenged by the Democratic party. What would you have to do, Mr. Biden, if you really wanted to deal with these issues? Here's what we would do. First of all, a la FDR, create a federal jobs program. Give the 20 million Americans right now that are officially unemployed with another five to 10 million that have left the labor force -- so we are talking 25 to 30 million people -- give them a job, Mr. Biden, you're silent on that. What could they do? Put them to work helping to vaccinate, helping to test, helping to really manage this disease far better than Mr. Trump ever did and far better than you have so far been able to do. 

Here's another one: do something for the climate that is so urgent, you say in your mind, millions of people committed to climate control offsetting the damage of environmental degradation. There would be a dramatic job for people plus a serious attack on the climate problems we have. Provide daycare for the millions of people who cannot work unless they get it, provide real programs for the elderly becoming a larger part of our society.

These would be structural changes and make them permanent, the way Mr. FDR was able to do. Okay. And how would you pay for it? Come on Mr. Biden, you know. Raise the corporate tax. And if you're worried about impacting small business, make it a progressive corporate tax like we have a progressive personal income tax. If you're a little business, you pay a little; if you're a middle level of business, you pay a middle level; and if you're Mr. Bezos at Amazon then you pay the high rate. Raise the rates. Raise them back to what they were in the 60's and 70's, not even beyond that, and that would raise the kind of money that would fund a serious structural program to update our infrastructure.

None of that is being done. None of that is even being proposed. What you have is tinkering around the edges. And now perhaps the most important issue of all, what  Mr. Biden's program amounts to, classical Democratic establishment policy, is to throw an enormous amount of money, but let's be clear at whom: to big corporations and to governments. And what are they supposed to do? Repair the road. Restore the bridge. Improve electric charging stations and build them for the new generation of electric cars. And when you give money to big corporations and you give money to political leaders who in turn will use it to give contracts to, you guessed it, big corporations, here's what you get. Those corporations will use the money to pay out fat dividends to their shareholders, fat pay packages to their CEO. Same story. We've been doing that for 200 years, and we have the grotesque inequality we see around us. 

For seventy-five years since the end of World War II, the United States gave foreign aid to poor countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, same kind of throwing money. And where did it go? To the corporations and the governments in those societies who took care of themselves first and never solved their poverty programs. Sure. A road got built here, a bridge got restored over there, and that will happen here, too. And that's better than nothing. But you're not changing this basic economy because you're putting the money in the hands of the people who have shown us for 200 years here and for at least 50 in the rest of the world that they're going to take that money and reproduce the unequal social systems they preside over. Don't do that. And if you do it, admit what you are doing. You are reproducing this system of inequality in income, inequality in wealth and inequality in the power to shape what's going on. You're keeping the system going. That's your top priority, and that's what shows in the program you're doing. 

Last point on this infrastructure. Look, Mr.  Biden is not going to get even the profit tax rate increase from 21%, which is where Trump left it to 28%. So, he's going to end up borrowing. And let me be real clear with you,what government borrowing, whether it's for the infrastructure or for treating COVID or for anything else. Let me explain to you, please, that deficit spending is an enormous gift to corporations and the rich. Here's how it works. You could pay for the solution to our COVID problem or this infrastructure program by taxing corporations and the rich. They have the money to do it, and you have the political power to tax it. If you don't tax them, then you're going to have to borrow the money if you're going to get this done. And you know who you're going to borrow most of that money from? The corporations and the rich, because they will have the money to lend it to the government. And you know why? Because of the government didn't tax it from them. Look at it from the point of view of a corporation or rich people; either the government taxes the money away and does these important social things or it doesn't and instead comes to me, borrows  the money, has to pay it back and pays me interest while I wait. That's a no-brainer for corporations and the rich. For them, deficits are a fancy way of giving them a monstrous gift.

The American Prospect's David Dayen on Biden's new American Jobs Plan Part 2 - The Bradcast - Air Date 3-31-21

BRAD FRIEDMAN - HOST, THE BRADCAST W/ BRAD FRIEDMAN: [00:50:14] So, speaking of confusing, let me hit you with two quick questions here that hopefully you can make easy sense of. I referenced this in the in the opening here that the plan would raise the corporate tax rate from 21 to 28% and increase these global minimum tax paid from 13% to 21%. Did I explain that correctly that it essentially plugs loopholes or no? 

Yeah, 

DAVID DAYEN: [00:50:40] there's a third provision that really does plug the loophole. So, the global minimum tax is really about taxes by multinationals on all of the profits that they gain everywhere in the world. And there's a process that's being undergone right now with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and envoys from all the other countries of the world to create a global minimum system so there isn't this race to the bottom where, you know, Ireland or the Seychelles Islands or these tax havens can proliferate, and everybody can through creative accounting move their profits to those countries where they don't have to pay any taxes. So, there's this kind of process being undergone and it would be put into law once that process is negotiated. But the other thing in this bill is a minimum tax on what they call the book income. And what that means is that every public company, when they give their financial disclosure to investors, they have a book rate of income in terms of this is how much money we made this year. Amazon puts down its profit and loss, and they say we made, let's say $10 billion this year. Then, they put out a tax bill where they say we aren't responsible for taking any taxes  because of various loopholes and parts of the system. So in this bill, it says whatever you put down and told investors, you're going to pay a minimum tax on that. So, you can do all your loopholes and do everything. But at the end, if that's smaller than the minimum tax on your book income, then you're going to pay that minimum tax. And that minimum tax is actually 15%. The 28% rate is the nominal tax rate, that's before any exemptions, any tax breaks, any kind of various deductions that you're able to take. That's like our top, our marginal tax rate as individuals. We don't pay that, necessarily. There are deductions and things like that. But what this is saying is that 15% of your profits that you're going to give you the least that; there's not going to be a situation where Amazon makes $10 billion or however much in a year and pays zero tax.

That's not going to happen anymore if this becomes law.

BRAD FRIEDMAN - HOST, THE BRADCAST W/ BRAD FRIEDMAN: [00:53:08] And that is quite a bit of revenue that would then come in from that, from just that adjustment? 

DAVID DAYEN: [00:53:14] Oh yeah. I don't have this specific number on that adjustment, but yes. There would be significant income raised through all of this, as they say it would be $2 trillion over a 15 year period.

It's over $2 trillion, actually, 

Infrastructure, mobilization, survival w/ Laleh Khalili Part 2 - This Is Hell! - Air Date 4-14-21

CHUCK MERTZ: [00:53:27] Oh, these are for-profit capital accumulating infrastructures. Are these infrastructures then of  power and control? And seeing as how we depend on these infrastructures for our daily survival, and they are such a part of our daily lives, is there anything we can do to not be complicit in these systems that are so entrenched and have so much power over our lives? 

LALEH KHALILI: [00:53:47] It's a really good question. One of the things that has been really striking to me is that indigenous communities in a lot of the world, and in particular in the Americas, have been organizing, for example, against oil pipelines, petroleum infrastructures, et cetera, et cetera. In other parts of the world, there is a lot of mobilization around mining, which is extractive industries which often actually operate according to neo-colonial rules. They devastate the environment in a lot of the countries of the global South and the profit is expatriate or repatriated elsewhere.

And so in all of those instances, we find that there are indigenous communities that are organizing around demands for limitations to the operations of these extractive industries that are also devastating to the environment. So my sense is that the best way to democratize the process is for a genuine grassroots organization at every level of communities. And in various forms. I do believe that there's, while there's room for electoral politics, you want to elect representatives to your state houses or to your county councils or to your parliaments or Congress or Senate that represent the interests of their constituency. But I also think that there's also room for extra electoral forms of political mobilization, activism, protests. Not only the major organization by various native communities in the Americas that try to fight against the Dakota Access pipeline or the Wet'suwet'en people in Canada, all of these instances of protests, which are extra-electoral, are also enormously important in trying to transform the situation in which infrastructures hurt us. So I think that those two forms of mobilization have to work side by side. 

CHUCK MERTZ: [00:55:29] And you mentioned redistributive infrastructures and you point out that they allow benefits to reach the public who often fund them. In the Indian state of Goa the Goenchi Mati Movement is campaigning for zero-loss mining, which would distribute profits for the benefit of the citizens of the state.

But Laleh, that still continues. The mining. Is fossil fuel extraction continuing, but now the people profit? Because there has been criticism of late when it comes to revolutionary movements being funded by fossil fuel extraction. 

Yeah. I think that's definitely a problem, right? Because if fossil fuels are going to kill us, it doesn't matter who's operating them, if it's a revolutionary movement or if it's the public. But I do think that in some ways that's why I was also pointing out to the indigenous communities and America's organizing around fossil fuel, because for them, it's actually not just about who profits, but it's also about actually stopping the kinds of destructive infrastructures that are devastating the environment in those places.

I also think that we also see the abolitionist movement and the police abolitionist and the prison abolitionist movement in the US is also addressing these questions of infrastructure. Because of course, if we think about the police and the prisons as being the infrastructure of capital that actually allow for profit, for capital accumulation to occur uncontested, or at least to put down any contestation against this, then the forms of abolitionist movement that we have really seen take off over the last decade or so are also a part of this kind of a revolutionary struggle. 

I do think that only having redistributive infrastructures is not enough. I do really think that there needs to be actually a much more revolutionary way of thinking about the world as our community, we need to hold the planet in the palms of our hands and think about if we want to really survive, if we want multiple generations after us to survive. And if we do, then we really need to do things differently. And one of those solutions could be de-growth, to not emphasize economic growth to the exclusion, for example, of demands for equality to the exclusion of demands for better environmental protection.

I think a lot of activist groups that are organizing around questions of de-growth are now asking questions about the fundamental operations of global capital today. And not just about who holds capital or let's say sort of fossil fuel producing industries in their hands. But in fact, the very fundamental need for those kinds of fossil fuel producing environmentally devastating processes.

Again, I think we really need democratic organization around this. We need democratic mobilization around this in order to be able to address them. And I think that should such a grassroots capacity to be able to self-educate and to self-organize around questions of infrastructure in our communities and then in our countries, and then across the globe to emerge, that could really perhaps save us from what seems at the moment, a kind of an inevitable move towards devastation because of climate change.

We've had guests on this show who have argued, like you had just did, that economic growth is the driving force behind both our current crises of climate change, pandemic. Do infrastructure as they exist today, do they impose runaway economic growth upon us? Is that the function of the infrastructure, and that's why we cannot stop economic growth?

LALEH KHALILI: [00:58:50] I think that infrastructures are one element of this kind of enthroning of economic growth as the ultimate be all and end all. And one can see, for example, that the World Bank looks to infrastructure as a panacea for everything. You also see it actually with the infrastructure, when Trump was elected, he was saying that he was going to be investing in infrastructure, Biden now has an infrastructure bill put forward. And I think that on the one hand, one can think about these infrastructures as Keynesian weapons or Keynesian tools in which you invest a lot of public money into some things. So filling up, for example, orphaned oil wells in order to be able to produce jobs, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I think that we. Need to go one step beyond that. I think that if we are thinking about massive public investment in infrastructures, there also needs to be massive public engagement around the question of infrastructures and a questioning of whether or not these infrastructures are necessary for economic growth or they're necessary for the functioning of equal, redistributive, environmentally careful societies.

CHUCK MERTZ: [01:00:02] And you write that as the historian Julie Livingston argued in Self-Devouring Growth, her book, the imperative of the ideology of growth is, quote, "grow or die, grow, or be eaten, with an implicit assumption that this growth is predicated on uninhibited consumption." And you add that de-growth would entail slowing down fossil fuel consumption, arresting the constant drive toward the financialization of every aspect of life, and contracting the processes that produce waste. It asks all of us to consume less and more thoughtfully. 

So how much of a threat to humanity is the end of economic growth? Does ending economic growth mean death? Why does the idea of consuming less frightened us so much? 

Summary

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:00:43] We've just heard clips today, starting with The Bradcast giving an overview of Biden's plan. The Brian Lehrer Show discussed wealth redistribution and AOC's criticism based on climate mitigation. Jim Hightower on his Radio Lowdown advocated that America learn how to go big once again. This Is Hell! discussed and making our infrastructure crisis proof and the need to democratize our institutions. The Brian Lehrer Show talked about the need for tax increases. CounterSpin looked at the long-term benefits of fiber optic cable and the digital divide. And Richard Wolf on Economic Update challenged Biden to stop tinkering around the edges of the fundamental change we need. 

That's what everyone heard but members also heard a bonus clips from The Bradcast explaining the global minimum tax, and This Is Hell! laid out the importance of campaigns against the powerful interests that are fighting to maintain the status quo. 

For non-members those bonus clips are linked in the show notes and our part of the transcript for today's episode, so you can still find them if you want to make the effort, but to hear that and all of our bonus content and deliver it seamlessly into your podcast feed, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/supportor request a financial hardship membership, because we don't make a lack of funds, a barrier to hearing more information. Every request is granted. No questions asked. 

And now, we'll hear from you.

Further thoughts on public welfare programs - Craig from Ohio

VOICEMAILER: CRAIG FROM OHIO: [01:02:14] Hey, Jay, this is Craig from Ohio. I'm calling again about the issue of cash payments in lieu of social programs. And I had a feeling when I called before on this topic that I didn't get my main point off clearly.  I think if I can try and make this concise, my main concern is that in the United States, where we have over the past half century systematically undermined social services, the community services that were a hallmark of the new deal, at least for the White part of the country, have been cut back and since they were so systematically undermined, we are now looking for alternative solutions. And so lately, and this was reflected on the episode that you made, the left has been arguing for policies that I think of as more libertarian, more traditionally right-wing solutions, like UBI, like a minimum wage, and the like direct payments to citizens. 

Now I should say, if I were in Congress, I would vote for those things. I would vote to raise the minimum wage. I would try and get money into the hands of parents as efficiently as possible. So I'm not necessarily opposed to those things. What I'm worried about is those things may be replacements for the kinds of broad-based social services that we, one point in our history, relied more on.

So, I think that's my main complaint. We're not Canada, Germany, this is the United States where we've suffered under this right-wing propaganda for decades at this point now. So. I would just like to hear reflected in left media more that we should be thinking more broadly rather than just payments, cash, even though those are effective tools at this point in time to get people out of poverty and reduce suffering. I would like to see us talking more about things like postal banking, guaranteed jobs, that sort of thing. 

So, all right, I think that gets at it. Thanks a lot. Bye bye.

More thoughts U.S. complicity - Jonathan from New York

VOICEDMAILER: JONATHAN FROM NYC: [01:04:38] Hi, It's Jonathan from New York City. As I commented last week, I think we should accept that even though the Chinese oppression of the Uyghurs is appalling, the US has very limited influence to stop it, and recognizing that fact is healthy. I think you generally agreed. But, I should have emphasized the flip side of that. There are places where atrocities are taking place that the US does have influence over or even where we are causing harm and can improve the situation simply by stopping making things worse.

We should use our influence to end the war in Yemen. The United Nations has called this the worst humanitarian crisis going on today and the US is complicit. Biden has taken some steps but not nearly enough. We need to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and why not the rest of the world while we are at it? The senate just allowed sales of fighter jets and drones to the UAE on a close vote. With better mobilization we could have stopped them.

We can return to the Iran nuclear deal. We can reduce the defense budget. All of these changes would be good and would improve our international reputation. While we are fairly powerless to stop the Chinese oppression of the Uyghurs, there are many areas where progressives should be working to change US policy and have a realistic chance of winning. This is a critical time -- before the Biden administration has fully committed to a course of action.

The military-industrial complex is working to push us in the wrong direction so progressives need to organize and pressure Biden to do the right thing. Also, I'm looking forward to the live format with you and Doctor Ray and to connect with other listeners.

I love the show! Stay Active!

Final comments on the new propaganda paradigm leading the charge at Fox News

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:06:17] Thanks to all of those who called into the voicemail line or wrote in their messages to be played as a VoicedMails. If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record a message at (202) 999-3991, or write me a message to [email protected], which is exactly what Jonathan did. He wrote in that message and I turned it into audio. He signed off with stay active, which is not normal. People often say a stay awesome. It accidentally became a catch phrase for the show. For those who don't know it hearkens back to the first job I had, where I had to write semi-professional sounding emails, and I learned then that the sort of standard was to sign off Best, and [your name]. And I thought, I don't even know what that means. Best wishes?, but that's too frilly. So we just shortened it to the best? Anyway, it sounded odd to me so I came up with my own sign off for my professional emails, well semi-professional, and I started signing emails "stay awesome", and it just sort of stuck with me from there. So it's not even really a catchphrase of mine it's just an email signature and listeners, I think, caught onto it. Anyway, that's neither here nor there. So my guess is that that was a typo or something, to tell me to stay active, but quite applicable one. I had to buy pants recently that were two sizes larger than I've been buying for the last couple of decades. So I will heed that advice to stay active. 

But now, as promised at the top of the show, I am going to revolutionize your understanding of the propaganda of Fox News. First, let's hearken back to the old paradigm. Fox News loves to ask questions as demonstrated in this clip from The Daily Show from 2006. 

JOHN STEWART - HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: [01:08:21] Then there's Fox News. It uses its question marks in a more focused way. Asking queries like, "have Dems forgot the lessons of 9/11?" it's just the question. Technically, that's not really a question mark at the end of that, it's a similar punctuation symbol known as the Cavuto. It's named for the "journalist?" who pioneered its use in sentences like, "Why is Russia doing business with nations that hate America?" "Why is America more concerned about the economy than terror?" "Media preaching hate in the mid East?" "Is the liberal media helping to fuel terror?" Cavuto is not saying these things, he's just asking. Like, "Is your mother a whore?" I'm not saying she's a whore, I'm just wondering out loud if she is a whore. All I'm saying is reasonable people who have banged your mother for money can disagree.

By the way, I do not want to give you the impression that Cavuto is biased. He's not. He doesn't just use the question mark on Democrats, but Republicans too, like "Number one President on Mideast matters, George W. Bush?" or "the best President?" I know the answer to that one. Yes, Fox has figured out that by simply putting a question mark at the end of something, you can say anything.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:09:52] As I said that was 2006, so it was a couple years later they were still up to their old tricks when they asked the question that, to me, will go down in infamy. No, not "what race is Santa Claus?", that they were willing to say with a declarative statement, but this question that they asked after Barack and Michelle Obama celebrated having won the 2008 election with a completely innocuous fist bump. 

FOX NEWS HOST: [01:10:25] A fist bump, a pound, a terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:10:33] And so we were off to the races of "do we have a terrorist in the White House?" for eight years. We're calling that the traditional Fox News question style. Here's where the paradigm takes a shift. They still love asking questions, but Tucker Carlson has put his own entirely new spin on the concept. And I got to say, I really appreciate what he does for the ingenuity that he's bringing to his propaganda model. So here's a series of questions that Tucker has asked, very representative of the types of questions that he likes to pose to kickstart his conversations or his commentaries. 

TUCKER CARLSON - HOST, FOX NEWS: [01:11:18] What is hate speech? What is a white supremacist? What precisely is privilege? What exactly is a nationalist? What is a fascist? What exactly is this disinformation? 

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:11:30] You hear that series of questions and they could be segments that we would play on this show because we would very much like to answer those exact questions to inform people. I could answer all those questions. There are thousands of people who Tucker could invite on his show who could explain those concepts even better than me. But that is not the point. Tucker asks them as rhetorical questions because he doesn't want answers. He wants his audience to believe that there are no answers. He asks the questions dripping with doubt, and then goes on to explain that no one has ever been able to answer them sufficiently.

So the question mark of old Fox News was there to implant new unfounded ideas into viewers' heads. The new rhetorical question technique is designed to convince people to dismiss and remove ideas from their minds entirely, less they make the great mistake of actually trying to get real answers to those questions and learning that the concepts in question are based on very real, though certainly uncomfortable, aspects of our history and culture. 

But the good news of all of this is that the old paradigm assumed a relatively even ideological playing field, and so they needed to implant their usually conspiratorial ideas into people, and that was their strategy. Now, the left's interpretation of the world, which is willing to take deep and nuanced looks at history and society in order to form a more complete picture of the structures of our society, since that is increasingly becoming the dominant understanding of reality, that means that Fox can't just play offense with their baselss ideas as they used to. They now have to play defense by directly trying to undermine the ideas that the left is putting forward. I mean, Fox's old slogan was "Fair and Balanced" because it was sort of a cover to legitimize their propaganda. Their new slogan could very well be "question everything, but learn nothing". 

As always keep the comments coming in at (202) 999-3991 or by emailing me to [email protected]. That is going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work that goes into the show. Thanks to the Monosyllabic Transcriptionists trio, Ben, Dan, and Ken for their volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work and our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic design, bonus show co-hosting and so on. And of course, thanks to all of those who become a member or purchase gift membership at bestoftheleft.com/supportsupport as that is absolutely how the program survives.

And now everyone can earn rewards and support the show just by telling everyone you know about it using our Refer-o-Matic program at bestoftheleft.com/refer. I absolutely think that you will like that. For details on the show itself, including links to all of the sources and music used in this and every episode, all of that information can always be found in the show notes on the blog and likely right on the device you're using to listen. So coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of Left Podcast coming to you twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors from bestoftheleft.com.

 


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  • Jay Tomlinson
    published this page in Transcripts 2021-04-23 22:23:01 -0400
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