(Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

New Yorker staff writer George Packer joins us in studio to talk about his latest book, “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America.” Packer, a Palo Alto Native, also shares his view on the changes occurring in Silicon Valley.

Guests:
George Packer, staff writer for the New Yorker Magazine and author of "The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America"

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    David Packard served in government positions as well as given a lot to specific causes that have had political leanings. Same with William Hewlett.

    Long before there was a Gates Foundation the Hewlett and Packard Foundations were giving mega billions for issues related to education, environment, population concerns, human rights.

  • Wallace

    Silicon Valley is involved in politics in ways they don’t want you to know about: They’re helping build a New World Order in which a surveillance state monitors everything we do. We’re free to express ourselves on Google+ or Facebook but to our peril. High tech companies elsewhere have fed at the same police-state trough, with Microsoft helping New York City spy on its own citizens, IBM helping with facial recognition of the public in China and San Francisco, and on and on. Technology is being used to build a surveillance state that surpasses what the East German Stasi had by a factor of 100. When you’re walking around SF, look up and wave at the TrapWire cameras, meant to identify protesters. Probably Silicon Valley’s technology is being used to spy on protesters at the Bilderberg meeting, where the globalist mafia are planning their continued destruction of democracy and the return of feudalism.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/05/bilderberg-2013-goldman-sachs-watford
    http://rt.com/usa/trapwire-nextbus-surveillance-cubic-932/

  • thucy

    I very well remember George Packer as the man who advocated for the invasion of Iraq. Needless to say, I don’t hold his judgment in high regard. For those of us who lost friends or family in that debacle: NEVER FORGET the role of a press more compliant with power than with truth. George Packer cannot make amends for the 4,500 Americans he helped send to their deaths.

    And given Iverson’s previous “free pass” to Google exec Wojcicki when she was on the show last month, during which time Iverson refused to ask any questions critical of Google, I suggest listening to this interview more as an act of Iversonian “performance art” than as an actual interview.

    • Chris OConnell

      Yes, George Packer is responsible for going to war against Iraq. Not Vice-President Joe Biden, or Secretary of State John Kerry. Or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They all got nice promotions from Obama after VOTING for that war. But let’s pin it on a liberal writer for the New Yorker trying to prove his hawkish credentials in the wake of September 11th.

      Packer was definitely wrong (along with about 70% of America). He has become THE symbol of supposed Liberal Intelligencia in favor of that war so at least he will always be reminded of his colossal mistake. But you are taking the worst thing he has written in his career and dismissing everything else he has to say. If we were all to be so judged by the worst that we did, we’d all be condemned.

      P. S. Don’t forget the other side, the victims of the invasion that was an obvious violation of the UN Charter. A country was destroyed, millions made refugees. At least 100,000 if not close to a million Iraqis were killed. (We don’t really care about the Iraqi numbers, unlike in Syria where the body count is prominent. Interesting, huh?) And the killing continues to this day as a result of the invasion.

      • thucy

        Let me address a couple of these points.
        1) I was very clear in writing that Packer should be held responsible for cheerleading. I did not write that he bore the responsibility of any Senator, e.g. Feinstein, whom I criticize even more vociferously.
        2) It is not true that he will always be reminded of his support, case in point: Dave Iverson gave a good two minutes to his own stuttering, but I do not believe he broached the subject of Packer’s support.
        3) You write that if we were all judged by “the worst we’d done, we’d all be condemned.” This is a false equivalency: the worst I have done did not contribute to the deaths of over 100,00 civilians. This was not some minor error in judgment on Packer’s part, but something that should have cost him his career – and certainly his post at The New Yorker.
        4) I did not ignore the other side, as multiple comments from me on this page indicate.
        5) I think it’s all too easy if you personally have never had to wrestle (literally) with the consequences, to forget the point of accountability. If so, I humbly invite you to spend a day volunteering patient care for a veterans group. During the Iraq invasion, I was caring for a variety of patients, including two Vietnam vets suffering from cancer who very specifically questioned the link between their cancer and their exposure to Agent Orange. They, however, were in better shape than what was coming down the pipe post-Iraq invasion. (If I recall, that was shortly before the gov’t officially recognized “gulf war syndrome” – that which was incurred during Bush I’s Gulf adventure.)
        7) Lastly I would iterate the absurdity of the monies gleaned by Packer off his book “The Assassin’s Gate”. He literally profited off of naming as a fiasco a war he had advocated. After all, why should Packer have to settle for having his cake and eating it, too, when he could have and eat everyone else’s cake, as well?

        • Chris OConnell

          Do the veterans have no accountability? Especially those that joined after 2001? If everyone in the military said “No” there’d be no war. But the killers are saints and the writers are devils.

        • Chris OConnell

          I guess he should have written a really bad book that sold no copies then. How ridiculous as if book writing is some way to “cash in”. And frankly, I am sick of the veteran worship here. Just like with the police praise, there is TOO much of it.

  • Bob Fry

    Tech and immigration reform? Please, “reform” is just a large increase in H1B visas to cheapen the skilled-labor pool.

    • thucy

      Exactly. This support for immigration “reform” is in line with Packer’s support for the Iraq invasion – he says it’s in defense of something entirely different from what it is.

      And, following the Packer pattern of deceit, after (Step 1) ardently supporting a fiasco, he will (Step 2) proceed to cash in on writing about the fiasco. Later (Step 3) he will vehemently insist that he never REALLY supported the fiasco, even though the articles he published in Step 2 include his admission that he did initially support the fiasco.

      One of the more ugly things Packer has done is to deny, loudly and in public, that he supported the Iraq War, despite his earlier admissions that he did. No less a journalistic titan than Mark Danner has documented Packer’s denials, as has Glenn Greenwald. I’m really ashamed for Remnick that he has retained Packer at The New Yorker.

      • Aaron

        So do you feel that because of George Packer’s unseemly track record regarding Iraq and his opinions thereon that everything he says in 2013 about Silicon Valley and the culture of self-celebration is to be dismissed out of hand?

        • William – SF

          Aaron’s point is “why dismiss current points of view based on past points of views.” Geez.

          • thucy

            I see his point, but disagree that valid criticism constitutes “dismissing” current views. It is both a matter of demanding responsibility from those who enjoy a very privileged perch in the media, and recognizing the motivations behind Packer’s rather sudden interest in disenfranchised US workers.

          • timholton

            Your anger about the war and Packer’s early support is justified, but your certitude about his motivations seems presumptuous.

          • thucy

            I don’t know that demanding accountability should be described as “anger.” It’s a necessary aspect of being a good citizen. And there are valid reasons, as both Mark Danner and Glenn Greenwald have pointed out, to be skeptical of Packer’s judgment AND motivations.

          • William – SF

            Got it. You want his past views reconciled before we can discuss his current views… I think we got that. And understanding prior views can sometimes help understand current comments…, but perhaps all of it doesn’t really address your empathy towards those that have suffered and your anger at those that, in any way, may share some responsibility for their suffering.

          • thucy

            As I pointed out to Tim, I don’t think a demand for accountability should be confused with sentimental feelings of either anger, or as you bring up, empathy for severely injured veterans, or the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians.
            Beyond issues of his support for the invasion, Packer has been accused by journalists and former colleagues with much higher integrity (Danner, Greenwald) of both poor judgment and questionable methods.
            There are plenty of journalists who have been covering disenfranchised US workers – Packer is new to the bandwagon, INTERESTINGLY, not long after yhe ten-year anniversary of the invasion.
            It’s worth considering his motivations.

        • thucy

          It’s not about how I or anyone else “feels” about what you charitably describe as Packer’s “unseemly” track record.
          It’s about demanding that media serve not the interests of the powerful, but that it serve the truth.
          4,500 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were gruesomely killed with Packer’s cheerleading. Their deaths demand that we hold the cheerleaders and the generals responsible.

          • Aaron

            OK. I agree that media should serve the truth. And that these guys don’t always do that. What I’m wondering is do you think today’s show is open and honest and doing anything valuable? To me that question is independent of Packer’s history on Iraq.

          • thucy

            Aaron,
            I see your point, but I disagree. The grotesque human and financial costs of the Iraq War (ever tend a paralyzed Iraq War vet who can’t change his own diaper?) require that Packer does not get to walk away from the mess he helped to make as someone who advocated for a war he and his elite friends would never have to fight.
            His current project is largely in effort to win back a liberal readership – like everything else Packer does, it is all about Packer’s career.

          • Bob Fry

            Today’s show cannot be independent of its guest’s history of misinformation and lying.

          • Aaron

            If I told you in 2003 that I believe 4+4 = 11, then in 2007 claimed that I never said such a ridiculous thing, then in 2013 told you that the capitol of Kansas is Topeka, would I be wrong about Topeka?

          • thucy

            Aaron,
            Despite your presumed difficulty in quantitative skills, the fact that your math was “off” didn’t contribute to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, and tens of thousands of maimed US soldiers, and 4,500 dead US soldiers.

            Now let me ask you some questions, Aaron:
            Have you taken any responsibility for treating and continued care of the tens of thousands of injured vets, or are you just a chickenhawk, like Packer was? When was the last time you donated your skill set to the V.A., or any other veterans organization? Are you totally removed from the destruction Packer cheerled?
            And is the criticism of Packer by Danner and Greenwald irrelevant to you, or do you just not know who they are?

    • TrainedHistorian

      Exactly. But even worse than this, since one might argue that we can could get away with paying engineers a bit less, current immigration “reform” proposals massivley increase the unskilled-labor pool (in the millions not thousands) through a new W-visa, and by signalling that we will not prevent future mass illegal immigration (no visa tracking, no biometrics, no mandatory E-verify, etc.). And this is a labor pool that is alreay so poorly-paid that it needs income supports (food stamps, EIC etc.) to survive.

  • G_Nikus

    Tech companies are interested in immigration only because they need high paid slaves to submit to their demands. In fact, even hi-tech contract immigrant workers are subjected to abuse, and are tied down due to a slow immigration process.

    • chrisnfolsom

      Even if they can’t have their H1-B’s they hire locals as “contractors” and skip out of paying taxes, vacation, health care and any kind of seniority accrual.

      America boasts about yankee ingenuity and the American work ethic – those are not in our genetics, they were there because the work environment at the time allowed for it – that work environment has changed and many of us are looking for ways to get more for doing less rather than investing money in a company that will not support employee investment beyond the 9 to 5 hours.

      • mountain_webbie

        Having worked in this area, and in high tech, for 30 years, I can attest to the first statement. Corps are hiring experienced local candidates for contracts with no benefits, sometimes year plus contracts; and I don’t believe their arguments about needing to import coders from India and China. If it is truly about needing trained programmers, how about those companies funding targeted training here in the states?

        • chrisnfolsom

          The issue I see here is that Republicans don’t trust/fund government to do anything, and businesses don’t invest in new employees to get them up to speed so “magically” people are supposed to become competent with no funding – how is that supposed to happen?

  • chrisnfolsom

    Companies will only pay (or trickle down to) workers as much as they have to – as it is their duty to heir stock holders…. The 50’s and 60’s were a unique point in history when America had little competition and was the most technological producer, but was before globalization so that businesses HAD to pay workers more because of the limited labor pool. We can never have both of those things again, and thus never have a middle class as large as it was before, not with the double whammy of technology which reduces the need for workers, and outsourcing which reduces the need for local more expensive labor.

    I don’t see anything but a Government solution as I cannot imagine us making so many goods as to be able to create the middle class many of us lived through, and most of us think of as America.

    • TrainedHistorian

      Packer correctly points out that some devleoped countries like Germany face the same competitive forces but decide to maintain a large middle class rather than throw it under the bus. And Scandinavia has greater upward mobility than the US now. Why? One point: Germany & Scandinavia do not believe in unlimited immigration,whereas our elites have hoodwinked most Americans to believe that you can accept millions of low-skill high shool drop outs and not end up hurting those in the lower half of the income ladder already here. Since there is a commitment to provide opportunity to its native population, higher education and retraining is subsidized there too a greater degree than here. Sure, many jobs can be outsourced to cheaper labor abroad now, but there is no inherent reason why in-person jobs (you can never outsource janitors, schoolteachers, restaurant workers etc.) must be paid too little to survive on—unless your own domestic low and medium-skill labor pool is glutted.

      And here we get to the biggest sacred cow of both the Republican and Democratic elites: the refusal to place any practical limits on low and medium-skill labor (now, we are told, about 11 million strong) who, not the few thousand more H1B’s, are the source of the downward pressure on the wages of these in-person low-and medium-skill jobs. We even have Democrats (!) promoting a new W-visa, which brings in even more low-skill labor, as if we need that at a time when the wages and employment rates of our own low-skill populaiton are already so unfavorable.

      • chrisnfolsom

        Yes Germany is an exception in many ways, and I have been trying to tease out the threads between our countries that make sense – they even absorbed East Germany and all of it’s workers – much more as a percentage than the 11million we are talking about here in the US. I believe there are key differences that do not translate to the US – many being political as we still have an aversion to socialism and somehow believe laissez faire capitalism will work (and many who believe that also believe God actually affects markets and will protect them)…. Germany does pay for education and assist with health care to a large extent of course we here in America are making those even more expensive and out of reach for a larger portion of our citizens.

        WHY can’t we see good reports on TV showing comparisons of Germany and the US, and different solutions and possibilities – prime time in your face. We need solutions, compromise and hope, but it seems like as things get worse we are all just going to polarize more and make it even more difficult.

        • aa aa

          There is a big difference between West Germany absorbing East Germany and the US trying the absorb millions of high school drop outs from Mexico, Central America and elsewhere for the last thirty years, and, if our Congress pushes through its absurd immigration overhaul, many more decades to come:

          1. Germany got not only millions more people, but thousands of sq. mi more land too. It would be more like the US taking over Sonora and Chihuahua counties. Yes, we would get a lot more labor, but a lot more resources as well. ,

          2. East Germans were much more educated than most undocumented immigrants to the US and they faced no language barrier. (Check out the 2009 CBO report on immigrants: more than half of immigrants from Mexico & C. America are HS drop outs, while less than 10% of native Americans are, and that figure includes legal Mex. & C.A. immigrants, who are obviously more educated than the “undocumented” ones). The problem with the E. German system (as other parts of Communist Europe) was not worker education levels, which were high, especially in science. The problem was, of course, that the capitalists were too highly regulated by the government, so could not run businesses properly, respond to markets etc. .

          I agree that higher education and job training is getting too expensive for many ordinary Americans.This is devastating upward mobility.
          And here we come to the sad fact that immigration politics are part of the problem. After getting a Phd, and being unable to get anything other than very low-wage part time work or, at most, $13,000/a year to teach private school full time (!) I decided only a teaching credential would lead to a living wage. Despite being way below poverty level, CA would not offer me enough financial aid that I could do this. And this was when CA was subsidizing in-state tuition for the BA’s of the “undocumented.” Unfortunately, higher education subsidies are already small here. Dividing that small pot among more and more does mean less for those of us who need it most.

          • chrisnfolsom

            Thank you for your response – very sorry about your personal education issues. I think the problem is that the “pot” is too small and that our leaders say one thing and do the opposite. Look at what we spend in Defense, and how much we spend there in comparison to other countries – I agree with many conservatives that we need to do more with the taxes that we already have, but I think what we spend on defense is ridiculous and one of the things holding our country back – defense does pay some dividends as it does stimulate some business and development/R&D which trickles down, but there are better ways to do that.

            Regarding Immigration specifically I think a requirement of education and such would help – most of these people are hard working holding multiple jobs. I think the think we have lost more is the job as a stairway to better things. It seems most jobs are set up as end points with MUCH less chance to rise to the level of your ability and effort – you now have to switch companies to get a better job and in doing so loose all your seniority, vacation and other increases you used to keep as you worked for a company for many years – even the thought of a pension is laughable anywhere but in state job…

  • William – SF

    Consider these facts:

    – Single mom raising 10 children in the 60s/70s, living in the same neighborhood as the rich guy that owned the local hardware store, the well-to-do guy that fixed the cavities of her children, the optometrist, the town doctor, and across the street from the guy that offered career advise to high school students; she a kindergarten teacher; no credit (especially not for women) – nothing owned until paid for (layaway), kids clothed and feed, but just; eventually kids college bound.

    Yeah, that couldn’t happen now ….unless one of the kids wears a hoodie and knows too much about technology…

  • chrisnfolsom

    So now that we all see the issues – and have bitched about it 😉 What are some solutions, and what concessions/reality are we going to have to live with?

  • Christine Kiessling Wolf

    As a self-imposed exile of Silicon Valley, I would love to have a coffee with Mr. Packer and talk about his impressions.

    That said, let me weigh in that part of what insulated the Valley from the worst portions of the most recent depression is the part played by higher education and long-established defense contracting companies. “Silicon Valley” as currently constituted is just a callow younger version of what it has been since the fruit orchards started to disappear.

    Another remark– please do not anthropomorphize “History.” The forces that you noted in this interview, while large, were all based on human decisions. Part of these decisions came of a realization that there was no fixing what earlier hubris never bothered to see. And yes, at the time there were PLENTY of critics.

  • Chemist150

    We don’t have growth because the total debt (includes borrowed Social Security funds, etc..) to GDP is over 90% suppressing growth as suggested by statistics which is a function of how much money is leaving the country as opposed to staying here for investment. The trade inbalance is adding outflow of funds. The increasing 56+% of GDP (before healthcare) spending coming from federal, state and local governments from taxation is draining the private sector. The power of taxation is losing power as the private sector contributions to GDP decrease to a paltry 30%.

    Innovation won’t fix the problem. It will merely influence it.

    High tech needs the immigrants here so they can train before going back to their home countries to setup shop so the big companies can outsource more and more jobs.

    • TrainedHistorian

      If government spending per se were so bad for the economy in general and the middle class in particular, German and Scandinavian economic and inequality rates would be worse than ours since they have even bigger public sector spending. If trade defecits were so crucial, Chinese growth rates and living standards would have been higher than British ones in 1800-1850 since China had very favorable trade balances with Britain before 1850. (China’s gov’t refused to allow its consumers to buy British goods in exchange for all the tea the Brits bought; it just wanted the Brits’ cold hard cash).
      More important for living standards than trade and gov’t defecits are factors like the size of the labor pool relative to capital (glutted labor supplies depress real wages: we’ve had this problem for several decades: and poorly paid people can’t buy much), education & skill levels (highly dependent on government investment, which is why one can’t simply “cut government” mindlessly), and productivity levels: ours have been rising over the last 3 decades, which shows that the labor supply is a more important factor behind our stagnant wages than our productivity rates.

      • Chemist150

        I started on a long post to respond because I immediate see several holes here but I decided that if you can’t connect available capital to outflow of money from the country as a whole instead of looking at a narrow focus, there is no point. Thank you for your input.

        • chrisnfolsom

          If we could actually have intelligent discussion/debate on this in a public forum – like TED.com, perhaps about our government, but the damn Kardashians, Bachelors, Duck Hunters and CSI are more important…damn sad.

  • timholton

    I appreciate this very much, but can’t help pointing out that the ethos Mr Packer complains about goes back much farther than the 30 years he seems to have framed it in. It’s simply the ideology of laissez-faire economics, which itself evolved as a rationale for the growing domination of world markets. It seem to me that in essence what Packer calls The Unwinding, Karl Polanyi, back in the ’40’s called The Great Transformation. Under that regime, while there’s obviously been considerable progress in many things, the cornerstones of society’s real wealth — community, work, nature and cultural heritage — have slowly been eroded. The last thirty years have only seen that process of erosion expose and make increasingly hard to ignore the fundamental flaws of the ethos of “economic man” and brought to a logical conclusion forces unleashed on us centuries ago.

  • Lilian

    While it’s true, as George Packer says, that the many many things that “ordinary” people are doing to improve their communities and change the world are not often heard about, there are media covering these phenomena. One example is YES! magazine, which covers the actions and thinking of local leaders and innovators faced with the big, important, pressing questions of today.

  • Chemist150

    Why is this an ethical thing?

    Employees need higher wages.

    To accomplish that, capitalism requires more demand for employees. Demand for employees is enabled by the access to untapped cash flow. As long as the cash is net flowing out of the country in the form of debt, trade imbalance, etc, the demand for the employees here will continue to decline and rise in other countries. Thus, employee compensations here will drop.

    People will demand more from their government, the government will borrow more, increasing the money leaving this country decreasing demand for employees as the opportunity for cash flow decreases.
    It’s a self fulfilling prophecy.

    • TrainedHistorian

      If trade imbalances were so important, Chinese growth rates and living standards would have been higher than British ones in 1800-1850 since China had very favorable trade balances with Britain before 1850. (China’s gov’t refused to allow its consumers to buy British goods in exchange for all the tea the Brits bought; it just wanted the Brits’ cold hard cash). If government spending levels per se were so bad for growth, Germany and Scandinavia would be worse off than we are.

      While debt and defecits are not completely irrelevant, other factors are more important. For example, stagnant real wages mean most people can’t buy much, leading to sluggish growth. (For a while our low real wages were masked by our high household debt, but after 2008 debt was revealed to be a bad way to buy a lifestlye that your wages couldn’t). We’ve had stagnant real wage growth because our labor supply, at least in the low and medium category, is glutted relative to capital and economic growth rates. Because of mass illegal immigration we have millions more school drop outs high than we would have if we’d enforced immigration laws meant to limit the number of low-skill laborers. (The “undocumented” are far, far more likely to be HS dropouts than natives and legal immigrants(See CBO 2009).

      • Chemist150

        Besides reposting your same post, you’re still missing key points.

        One does not beget the other, it allows it. The trade balance does not employ all their workers. They maintain large rural areas where people are unemployed. i.e. in a way they need more exports. The US however is not at that level. Our demand for employees at one point was good but is dropping. The trade imbalance could be used to improve it. Second, trade imbalance between two countries is a limited analysis. China trades with more than just Britain and the fact that you isolate it to such an extent baffles me. Plus, the standard of living in China is now exploding because of the trade. Thus, your argument fails.
        The second point “labor….is glutted relative to capital”. Exactly! For some reason you do not connect this as being what I said. You blame it on illegal immigration which again is short sighted. Exporting all illegal immigrants would show an improvement. I’ll grant you that but it would only be temporary.

        Consider this. Inflation continues at some rate, thus expenses increase. If money is leaving the country faster than it’s being printed through debt, trade imbalances, etc.., what will happen to peoples income and ability to purchase goods? It will dwindle because there is less money supply.

        Why do you think that Bernanke is printing so much money? It’s to stabilize what the politicians are not fixing and to drive inflation in China, Brazil, etc…, because they’re large bond holders and thus their currency is based on the dollar to some degree because of that.

        Statistics shown that GDP growth drops by 1% (Reinhart, Rognoff) when total debt to GDP passes 90%. That happened ~feb 2010 and in ~march 2010, our GDP growth dropped by 1%, right on target, and has remained depressed since. It’s a function of how much money is leaving this country.

        Now if you claim that they’ve been debunked, I counter with that Thomas Herndon is not published. Thomas used “public debt” and Reinhart and Rognoff used “Total debt” and apperantly Thomas does not understand the difference but claimed some publicity. One is more accurate than the other. “Total debt” includes things that do not list as “public” or “national” debt such as the money borrowed from Social Security which is real debt but is not owned by anyone specific like China or Brazil. To say that Thomas et al debunked Reinhart and Rognoff shows the lack of understanding the details and showing that one did not read the papers. That’s why Reinhart and Rognoff said to go ahead and publish it because they knew that the reviewers would eat them alive.

        • aa aa

          “China trades with more than just Britain.” You did not read carefully. I am giving an example from the 19th century, which you did not catch or you would not write “trades” rather than “traded.” I named Britain because it was the one who, (through the Opium Wars) forced China to buy products, not just accept hard currency, from the West, and because it was far and away the most advanced economy in 1800-1850, thus making the point clearest: highly positive trade balances (as China had through much of its history up to about 1850) do not in itself make a high growth economy or high standards of living. England had much higher standards of living and economic growth than China in 1800-1850, even though its balance of trade with that nation was very unfavorable.

          In fact, China had positive trade balances with much of Europe, not just Britain, since the 16th century. Because of its consistent mercantilist policies, from the 16th to the early 19th century China was a great recipient of European currency (much of it silver acquired from the New World) that Europeans spent buying Chinese products at the same time that China prevented its citizens from buying European products in exchange.Thus it makes no sense to look only at trade imbalances and money supply and conclude from these factors which economies have highest living standards or growth. One has to look at capital to labor ratios–(by the early nineteenth century W. Europe certainly had more favorable ones, especially after China’s population exploded in the 18th century) and technology levels (W. Europe started to on balance, pull away from China arguably already beginning in the late 15th century). These, and other aspects of the real economy, are far more important than money supply, debts and deficits.

          • thucy

            Well said, aa! And illuminating.

          • Chemist150

            You’re the one “only looking at” one item. You keep bringing up one single issue like you need to discount it because it cannot stand alone.

            Did you account for the income from the colonies from Britain? You seem to have ignored that. De-colonialization did not occur until the turn of century. You’ve left out most of their economy from the picture.

            You’ve not convinced me that you understand the full scope of “capital to labor ratios”. It was suggest we expel undocumented workers and it would solve the problem. The capital is still exiting this country through many means which which the government can influence and yet they ignore it.

            Clearly you’re going to believe what you want and ignore the facts and continue to leave out details that are very important and narrow your focus to one point that fails without facts in order to discount it as an influence.

          • aa aa

            I never said anything about “expelling” undocumented workers at all, I said that if you want a large middle class as we had from 1945-1975, we need to enforce limitations on low-skill immigration, as we did then. This could be done through E-verify, tracking visa exits, etc. No “expulsion” needed. If undocumented cannot get jobs because employers hire legals and Americans instead, many will leave, reducing the problem. Our elites did not enforce workplace sanctions on hiring undocumented after 1986, so of course we got increased illegal immigration and stagnant or declining wages in the bottom third. The current immigration overhaul is not shaping up any better, as the Congress is repeating the mistake of 1986 of refusing to enforce meaningful sanctions vs. more illegal immigration.

            I’m not sure what you’re getting at about decolonization. Britain did not have that many colonies 1800-1850, (many fewer than in 1914) and in territory they weren’t much more than what China had under its own direct territorial control. China, in other words, was a land-based empire with its periphery as a sort of .colony. And in any case, Britain was far and away the most advanced economy in the first half of the 19th century not because of its colonies, but because of its internal technological development which in that half century had far outstripped other societies, even ones like China with comparable territorial resources.

          • Chemist150

            Perhaps you would like to take a couple days to look up the East India Company which established trade monopolies. In particular moving Opium from Bengal to China during the time that you’re speaking of to account for the trade deficit. Much of this led into later acts to take full control of the regions.

          • aa aa

            The East India Co. was a private company, which had only indirect control over parts of India. British gov’t did not take full control of India til 1857,. But even counting the E. India’s Co. indirect territorial reach, the point still stands that China in 1800-1850 had almost as much territory under its control as Britain, Likewise, Spain had as much if not more colonial territory than Britain in 1800, but only someone with no grasp of economic history would claim that Spain was.economically at the level of Britain at that point in history. Again, neither “colonies” nor money supply nor deficits are as important as technological levels, labor-skill levels, labor to capital ratios. China had a lot of land (the most important type of capital in agriculture-based economies), but because of population explosion, various elite policies, and, arguably, even certain social values, was had moved into,unfavorable capital, to labor ratios by 1800, despite its very favorable trade balances. Your original point was about how trade deficits and budget debts was causing our unfavorable labor to capital ratios. Now you go off on an unconvincing tangent that Britain was more advanced economically than China—a far, far larger country–because of colonies. The point stands: one can have very favorable trade deficits and no significant budget debt (true of most pre-premodern governments), and yet still have poor labor to capital ratios, if your lower-skill population grows too fast relative to your technological or economic growth.

          • chrisnfolsom

            Britain also had a huge disparity in wealth then – although I would like to see the wages of workers through that period and if it actually was able to increase much – without organized labor, education and/or a limited labor pool not much forces “the rich” to trickle down much to the workers.

          • thucy

            You’re very right in pointing that out, however, the income disparity in Britain at that time was not comparable to the obscene wealth disparity in China.
            Then again, if you died of exposure to the cold on the streets of London, would it matter to you that things were worse in China? Probably not.

          • chrisnfolsom

            Yes, comparisons are difficult. What I see now though is the tools of business are so much different, and entire countries – the largest country in the world – have changes in 20 years – there is very little similar in business or government in the country. They have the new tools of computers, data and analysis, but never had a middle class, a representative democracy or ANY controls thus you have cities with no tenants and environmental waste with no regulation. I believe it is the fault of the “West” that we give these tools to countries without trying to establish some of the controls first – impossible perhaps, but to give the powerful of a country – government/rulers/warlords guns, computers, cars – whatever which gives them power over their people they would never have developed on their own makes it OUR responsibility as they are using our tools – and if the rich or powerful can run amok with no regulation or controls that is our fault as I would not like to compare a country that have been around for 1000’s of years as a child, but when it comes to new technologies and politics you ARE a child until you figure out how to make it work. While guns or computers, or economic systems are not as spectacular as a nuclear bomb which we all agree should not be distributed will nilly, I would argue that those guns, technologies and now business systems have a much larger affect on the populace of a country.

          • aa aa

            True, but China’s was even larger.

      • Chemist150

        Now Consider that the federal GDP contribution is 26% and the state and local GDP contributions add to 30% giving a total of 56% of GDP originating from govnerment. On top of that are the debt payments which constitutes how much?

        With only 30% of the country providing the initial tax base, we cannot continue like this. Healthcare will erode this further. Yes, tax money gets rolled back into what is dubbed “private” but it’s not really private. You’re still taxing tax money and thus you lose efficiency. The vampire it killing the only host it has. Continue on this path and it has to be 100% socialism… And as we’ve gotten closer, our situation has worsened. We’ve begged the government to give us more and they do and our situation worsens.

        Self fulfilling prophecy.

        • chrisnfolsom

          But the opposite of 100% capitalism will not work either, and basing our economy – a business is a singular entity especially in today’s “honor thy stockholders first” attitude. The government has to set policies for long term growth, education and trade – the two have to work together. IF Japan wants to corner the steel industry and puts billions in subsidies, taxes and incentives into that industry and undercuts US steel we have to react, or at least discuss what needs to be done, and what is in our strategic best interest. The same with Solar Cell production – why do our businesses have to not only compete against companies in China, but subsidized companies which our industries die as besides labor expenses they can’t compete – in the end we are left gutted as are in many ways today. If we don’t work with government to combat these issues then they will progressively ruin industry after industry in the US. Different environments take different tactics and just proclaiming Laissez Fair Capitalism is the best, and competing against business sectors in which there is heavy subsidies – you have to change with the environment – I guess if you don’t believe in Evolution you can stick to your guns, unfortunately Evolution is real so in the end you change or die – no matter how “right” you are.

          • Chemist150

            I would never argue for 100% capitalism.

          • chrisnfolsom

            That seems to be the issue as with the “mandates” and “litmus tests” and attaching God to the constitutions and such no one will compromise and we searching for “pure” truths (for our sound bites..) and really looking more for security in these troubled times although every situation is different in the details and each situation needs some different tactics – you either allow for compromise and growth or perhaps die a slow death clinging to the past as others pass you by.

          • Chemist150

            We’re definitely at 56% (26% fed, 30% state & local) government in the GDP. Add on top of that the debt they’re paying off, I’ve seen a number putting the total to 70% (40% fed). Add on top of that healtcare and we’ll be exceeding 70%.

            I would make the argument that we’ve tilted too far to the socialist side and it’s killing the host which is a declining 30% of GDP…… I doubt that we’ll evolve fast enough with so many arguments for more taxes when the new taxes keep knocking out the lower rung tax payers and not the top. The top tax payers are business people who go to where the money is. If it’s in China, they go to china. The workers cannot go to China and get left out in the cold. Simply said, we need to keep more money here.

          • chrisnfolsom

            I would say the same thing to a certain extent except the example of Germany and the fact that the very important issues are still open and should be covered in some way such as Education, Health Care and Regulatory Services (very limited list). Wow it sucks that saying that makes me feel like a traitor by Repub standards.. but changes need to be made when heal care can only survive by essentially not treating 50 million people and increasing faster than GDP – much faster.

          • Chemist150

            It depends on how you look at it. I’m in the pharm field. A few year old statisitic had the US producing 21 out of 30 drugs on the market. Progress makes it cheaper by putting old tech behind making it affordable.

            Let’s say 30 drugs are produced a year and the US produces 21 because of greedy capitalism and they can make money for 7-15 years before losing patent depending on the context. 7-15 years down the road, people have cheaper drugs as generics. Some will remain expensive because they’re just hard to make. Some countries with healthcare programs have heavy subsidies on the imports to make them affordable in their programs.

            Now consider regulation of those drugs or loss of patents. Now the incentive is lost. Already, the US has seen a large decrease in pharmaceuticals over the past 5 years though some amazing things have appeared. Many large companies buy programs and depend on the upstarts to develop new ideas. Gilead for example had it’s hayday where they were innovative and now they just buy spectacular programs. Without the money incentive, this will decrease. Lets say it drops to the US only making 11 drugs instead of 21. 7-15 years later, only half of the possible new treatments will be available at lower cost or available at all for that matter.

            Which is better having twice as many treatments now and cheaper 7-15 years down the road or half the innovation now and down the road? After that first 15 years, you’ve lost another 150 (160 in all) possible treatments and innovations. Statistically, I feel that more people would suffer without the innovations. It seems selfish to suppress research. But other countries look better than the US but they are 100% feeding off our innovations and capitalist ideas for creating them.

            Would healthcare be better with 160 new treatments where those treatments become cheaper every year as they go to generic or is it better to tax and supress innovation and pay for broader availability of current therapies when those therapies often do not meet the full need to begin with? Most people with cancer will die of the cancer because treatments are not what they could be.

          • chrisnfolsom

            As with everything there is a balance – I was thinking more of environmental, safety, work, economics/monetary – baseline regulations. Any regulation is a double edge sword or course and those in any business generally don’t like those that apply to them, but don’t have as much of a problem with regulations on others – again the NIMBY effect which is part of how we all work psychologically, and something that you have to protect.

            I look at medicine as I do electronics in that few people really understand the development/creation and large companies are more about acquiring then actually creating… I believe in the free market and such, but in capitalism you are supposed to reward those that create products and services, not just those that can corner the market. I think a hybrid option should be developed for new drugs in which nations get together and pay-forward the pharmaceutical company the profits they would make over their patent period and then they are able to spread the drug out at cost to everyone thus you can make money, but not have to wait and marginalize many people who could benefit from the treatment. I know that is imperfect, but it seems to both be able to stimulate development and allow for distribution. Also, countries and such could offer money for developing drugs for issues that are not financially profitable in today’s development atmosphere.
            TED.com has some great talks on this.

      • Chemist150

        Also, Germany’s public debt is less than 85% than our Total debt which is ~105+%. I do not know if they have additional debt to add like we do with borrowed SS funds.

        I don’t know Scandinavia debt issues, but I’ll assume you’re missing key points there with everything else you said.

        • aa aa

          Germany has less public debt than we NOT because their public sector is smaller but because their taxes are higher. We could do that too, but politically higher taxes are unpopular. You can’t have it both ways. If the biggest problem really is the debt, then you need to raise some taxes. But many people don’t pay income tax because incomes are so low in the bottom third. They don’t even make enough money to cover basic costs of living; making them pay income taxes is just robbing Peter to pay Paul. (However, maybe it’s time to make Soc Sec means tested). Our government is divided between those who want more government spending & higher taxes on the wealthier, and those who say they want less government spending & lower taxes, especially on the wealthier (i.e. lower income, estate and property taxes). As a consequence we get taxes too low and spending too high to cover the debt.And Republicans have been as bad about the debt as D’s: when Reagan & the Bushes were in office, their big federal debts were not a problem.

          Trade deficits are much more difficult to solve short term than the federal debt since you don’t control the economic policies of other countries. We could impose tariffs, but our business class, breaking with its history in the 19th and early 20th century, has been against this, and there are some costs to consumers.

          • Chemist150

            You’ll have to make your argument more specific. Germany’s corporate tax is much much lower (20%). So I don’t understand what you’re actually claiming with their taxes being higher.

          • chrisnfolsom

            There is a big difference between the corporate tax rate and the corporate tax rate actually paid. Just as with income as it is interesting that “the rich” only have to pay 15% on income from investments – many arguments can be made, but it is a complex and strange system that survives as is not because of any long range plan, but by what the lobbyist and such have set up and manipulated or outright written for our legislators – the “poor” used to have refactor representation through their representatives, but now with the current political system reliant upon huge sums of money and allowing for large donors – even corporations – the “poor” have much less of a voice.

          • Chemist150

            Which only complicates the tax argument further.

          • chrisnfolsom

            I am more of a flat tax person, but also believe it makes sense to have a few wrinkles. The only issue is that the complexity of it all is much more tailored to those who really don’t need the protection.

            Also, I always say, why make the most universal thing we all do so damn complex. If it was flat then perhaps 500K jobs (probably many more) would be able to actually contribute to the economy – generally very capable people. It would be like creating paperwork for all the employees to fill out and keep track of in a family restaurant – instead of making food and servicing customers….waste.

  • Peter

    George should add into the mix the increasing power and potentials of global universities to develop opportunities and to lead change from within their public sector-private sector-university partnerships. He should also further the notion that the Sand Hill VC model is too narrow to enable masses of people to engage in sustainable growth on a macro-economic level.

    He could also warn Obama: what comes out of his upcoming meetings this week with Chinese leaders could have a larger negative impact on his second term than all current scandals combined.

  • Aaron

    Thanks for a lively discussion. I know Danner only by reputation. I read Greenwald regularly and think
    highly of his work. What resonates with me in this discussion is one’s
    choice to dismiss what another person is saying today based on things
    that person did or said, however grievous, in the past. I mean for
    me if I made that a blanket policy it would lead to many closed
    doors and only limit where I might go or what I might think about in the
    future. Again, that’s just for my life.

    As for the veteran
    question. This is clearly important to you. I think that’s wonderful. I
    have never donated time or money to the VA. Does that make me a
    chickenhawk? I never wanted the war. I went to marches and what not.
    It’s not something that drives me daily. My grandfather was a WWII
    paratrooper. Sometimes I feel guilty for having it so easy. I have to
    live with that.

    My professional life is in the trenches of
    creating more affordable and quality child care for working parents,
    particularly low-income families. I’m the primary parent in my young
    son’s daily life. And I volunteer coach middle school basketball. I
    played through college and am, by all accounts, an effective and beloved
    coach.
    So kids and their welfare is where I can take my limited time
    and passion and make the most impact. Maybe this is an area of great
    commitment for you as well. But if it’s not, would you react well to
    leading and seemingly judgmental questions about your lack of
    involvement in family welfare?

    My sense is that you might be taking your commitment to veterans’
    issues and establishing a moral high ground from which you decide who is
    and is not qualified to disagree with you on anything even tangentially involving war and
    its repercussions.

    I make no apologies for thinking George
    Packer might have a point in 2013 about Silicon Valley’s impact on our
    broader culture, despite my lack of personal involvement in veterans’
    issues. And I suggest that some people upon reading that last sentence
    might see it as a non sequitur.

    My wife is a donor and
    fundraiser for this group – http://1mind4research.org/programs. That
    changes nothing about me. But I wonder what it implies in your moral
    universe.

    • thucy

      I want to be very clear. My point in bringing up your lack of involvement in veterans issues is that, in an era in which less than 5% of the US population will ever serve – even briefly – in the military, the consequences of the war are essentially invisible to you.
      And so you can swallow Packer whole, because never having witnessed the suffering that resulted from his cheerleading up close, your demand for accountability is nil.
      I sincerely recommend exposing yourself to the victims of Packer’s cheerleading. I invite you to massage the stumps of amputated legs, to change the diapers of 35-year-old men who would otherwise be continent, to check or change the colostomy bags. The colostomy bag on a grown man is not like changing your son’s diaper, Aaron. It’s a very different experience. And after you’ve done that for a year or so, come back and tell us your views on George Packer. Because I think they’ll change.
      Or just try this: imagine if you lost your son in a firefight outside your home in Baghdad, or imagine if your son were maimed like the hundreds of thousands of children maimed in the war Packer cheerled for, and then you come back and tell me how your appetite for Packer’s new posturing might have been affected.

      • Chris OConnell

        Just victims, victims, victims. Automatons with no choice or free will. Signing up to be the tip of the spear and expecting to not be put in harm’s way? But George Packer is responsible for their missing limbs. As if that is a fair or accurate accounting.

        • thucy

          You’re certainly entitled to believe what you wish but the two are not equal. Many young people join the military because there is no place for them in a US economy based on outsourcing. Packer comes from a privileged and highly connected family. He was also older and better educated than the enlistees. He also had far, far, far more influence and power which he abused for his own profit.

          • Chris OConnell

            Yes, and the Iraq War veterans keep mumbling, “Damn Packer. Stupid Remnick. They ruined my life.” Your obsession with pinning the blame for the war on Packer is a little weird.

          • thucy

            Well, no doubt if you intentionally ignore what I actually wrote and how I qualified it, it could seem that way to you, and so be it. I’m okay with having the same opinion on Packer as Greenwald and Danner hold.

  • Aaron

    Fair enough. I still feel like you’re basically saying to me, “If you saw the world through my eyes, here’s how it would look to you.” And I don’t react well to that sort of thing.

    Nonetheless. Give me your top 2-3 recommendations for how/where I can invest my limited resources of time and/or money in relation to supporting veterans.

    • thucy

      Aaron,
      You “still feel like” I’m saying something I didn’t actually write. Are you basing your conclusions on your “feelings” and on the disparate notes you have provided on the quality of your coaching skills and whatever thing your wife is into?
      In the meantime you have stubbornly missed the point I repeatedly made, which is that your disconnection from the consequences and the victims of the war Packer advocated means that you have little to no interest in demanding accountability from even media. And despite your invitation, I would at this point have zero interest in making recommendations for how you should spend your time, because, given the level of comprehension you’ve demonstrated here, I think the world might be better off if you stuck with coaching, which you clearly enjoy and take pride in. To each his own.

      • Chris OConnell

        He gets it. You don’t. I am sure the vast majority of the victims of war and their families have absolutely no gripe with George Packer and his editorializing in favor of the war. I suspect few could even identify him.

  • Gary Kay

    After the Great Depression, the aristocracy became aware that their position was being threatened by the “up and comers”. Regardless of how much they might talk about it, the aristocracy does not believe in equality. They believe in “Divine Right”; the idea that the aristocracy is destined to rule, and everyone else MUST remain in their place. “Divine Right” originated centuries ago when the aristocracies at that time developed the belief that “God” had ordained their position in life; that they would rule over the majority.
    The problem with the aristocracy of those days was they felt this “God-given” order was given them by the God of Creation. It wasn’t. They confused the “God of Creation” with the “God of Materialism”.
    And under the “God of Materialism”, money is what matters. So it is very important that the majority be kept in their place: poor.
    The current aristocracy intends to hold on to it’s position, even if it risks destroying the human race.
    Which, most likely, will be the ultimate outcome.

  • Aaron

    You might be mixing up comprehension of your point with agreement with your point. With advocates like you the veterans movement doesn’t need enemies. Good luck browbeating people into submission and telling people who already agree with you how right you all are.

  • Chris OConnell

    By the way, very good show. It was a solid conversation. But he should have been asked about his well-known position as the LIberal Hawk in favor of the Iraq War just so we could hear his current take on his former position.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor