'US political system flawed'
Fri Aug 5, 2011 6:11PM
Interview with Saul Landau, Senior Fellow and Vice Chair at the Institute for Policy Studies from Berkley
The US debt limit wrangling between the Republican congressmen and the President have laid bare the “dysfunctional” state of the political system of the US, an analyst says.
Press TV interviewed Senior Fellow and Vice Chair at the Institute for Policy Studies Saul Landau on the issue of the US debt limit crisis.
The following is a transcription of the interview.
Press TV: There are critics who say the political posturing around the debt ceiling crisis was mostly a distraction from the hard issues the US is facing; issues like the US economic decline. Who are the winners and losers of this debt limit deal? Who will benefit most from the deal; the average and working Americans do you think, or the rich Americans and the big corporations?
Landau: Well I think it's very clear that the winners are the billionaires, the oil companies and the other large corporations, who are really going to get at least the same, if not more, than they were before.
The losers of course are the majority of the American public, and it's not just that they are losers in the sense that they are going to be paying more, way more, than their fair share.
It's that they're losers in another way. Its' become quite clear that they are the only people in this country that don't have a lobby.
Every single special interest group has a very good lobby that gets what it wants, but the American public has none and it doesn't get what it wants and needs.
Secondly, what this round of so-called “talks” or “negotiations” demonstrated is that our political system is in a state of dysfunction.
There's one individual that the American people vote for once every four years and that's the President of the United States and now he is hit by a group of basically extortionists, extreme right wing Tea Party Republicans, who make demands on him and he agrees.
He concedes not everything they want, but some of the things they want. The very fact that he would be in a position to compromise his presidential status in that way shows you how far down our political system has sunk.
I think this is another one of the casualties of our current system and I agree with my colleague from The Hill newspaper [Brent Budowsky]; we are in a very bad situation where the Congress of the United States, which I would say is certainly the best Congress money can buy, has refused to tax the wealthiest people in the country.
There's a front page story today in The New York Times that says luxury goods are selling better than ever.
There's some necklace that's selling for USD 11 thousand and it was on the shelf for just a few minutes before it was sold and another one replaced it and it was sold.
This is the kind of stupidity that we are in. I would leave it this that this country or the people who are running this country are in a state of denial.
They are not recognizing priorities and they are certainly not acting and they have now sunk into their own definition of reality which is the equivalent of the ride on the old Egyptian river “the Nile.”
Press TV: Explain to us …based on this income inequality that our guests here are pointing towards, some are saying that it's actually a criminal act committed by the US government.
When people, on a weekly or monthly basis, commit part of their paycheck that is supposed to go for social security and other welfare benefits that they are obviously entitled to when they retire that they are not going to ever get that and that's indeed a criminal act by the US government.
Explain that to us and also how bad will the quality of life in the United States get based on the way it's moving forward; this debt deal being one of those motions?
Landau: Well, I think the real criminality of this is the ignoring of the reality that is pressing upon us. As all throughout the world we are recognizing climate change as a very very basic threat to future civilized life on this planet.
The first thing that got cut was the environmental protection agency in the United States and funds that are going in to deal with climate change, so that was just not ignored it was scoffed at.
The second thing, what was really behind all of this class war against the working people, the middle class?
This is a war essentially designed to reduce the socially necessary cost of labor. This is what's happening. You have 25 million or more people unemployed in this country - that's officially 25 million but there are many more - many people have been thrown out of their homes, the amount of homeless people on the street has grown, and people are hungry in the United States.
And they are simply talking about “we can't afford to tax the really rich because they're the ones who are going to create jobs” as if they never have and they never will. They are buying bracelets and they are repainting their yachts.
Well, that will absorb a little bit of labor but really not much. So what we are really facing in this country, people say we are living beyond our means. Well we have a healthcare system that is beyond stupid.
When you have health insurance companies that do nothing but obstruct healthcare that is many people are sick can't get treatment because the insurance companies don't allow it, because they don't want to pay for it. That's really stupid.
We have a so-called defense budget that doesn't defend us. It's almost USD 1 trillion a year, if you add in atomic weapons and all of the wars we are fighting. All these wars essentially simply create more enemies for the country.
We have 800 bases around the world. What are they for? Nobody really knows anymore.
We have NATO. This was an organization that was designed to contain the Soviet Union which stopped existing 20 years ago.
So we are living in a state of denial. I said it before and that's it. It's stupidity and denial and it is catastrophic and it does spread its vibrations throughout the world in terms of economic instability.
There doesn't seem to be either the will or the courage in this country for any key leader to grab a hold.
I think one of my colleagues pointed out the object of the Republicans is to prevent Obama from becoming president for a second term.
They don't have any other objectives. This whole Tea Party movement, this extreme right, capitalized on the anger of certain sectors of the American public, but it was financed by two Wisconsin billionaires who have their very own agenda and who knows it may be selling short on the dollar.
I don't know. But we are now in an absurd situation and in a sense the public is demanding action from the President; it's seeing none, it's demanding action from the Congress and it's getting none their either.
Press TV: The top credit rating agency in China has downgraded the US credit rating. One of the reasons, the credit rating agency said, was “the squabbling between two political parties which reflected an irreversible” as they said, “trend on the US's declining ability to repay its debts.” What's your reaction to that?
Landau: I think the Unites States will not have a problem repaying its debt for given previously that can essentially sell the bonds.
The pint I think is that what this country had in the 1930s was a president with great will and determination who was willing to try things and most important he was able to do that because there was a mass movement underneath him; a labor movement, a movement of poor people that supported him.
And that's what we need in this country. We've got to get the people away from their computer screens and their television sets and stop wringing their hands and get out into the streets as the people did in Wisconsin to answer this movement to the right. There's no other way.