Dylan stopped by WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show to discuss The 30 Million Jobs tour and people who are creating innovative jobs around the country. He also shared his thoughts our country’s fundamental ideals, and the idea of an agreed culture of aligned interests through collaboration to solve our country’s problems. (Also, we talked about what’s really on everyone’s mind in New York right now, NY Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin.)
Here’s a full transcript of their conversation.
BRIAN: Brian Lehrer on WNYC, and since we spoke to him last month, MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan has been on a tour of the United States on an ambitious mission. He’s been to Austin, Texas, to Miami, Florida, to Washington D.C., to Silicon Valley, California looking for a job—no, for 30 million jobs. Joining me now to talk about his 30 Million Jobs Tour is MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan, host of the Dylan Ratigan Show, 4:00PM weekdays. He’s also the author of Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry, he of the subtle, non-confrontational book title. Hey, Dylan, welcome back.
DYLAN: Nice to be here.
BRIAN: And you were caught up in our Jeremy Lin conversation.
DYLAN: Well, I mean, I think everybody, and certain everybody in New York, is completely consumed by it, and I think well beyond New York at this point. The narrative that is represented behind what really are our most fundamental American ideals, right, which is this concept that if you can illustrate a capacity to do something well in America, you can not only create value and be rewarded in your community, but that you become a beacon of hope for everybody else in America that they too might be able to achieve that type of an experience.
BRIAN: But you’re a Liberal talk show host, that’s a Conservative argument, that if you have the drive and you work hard and you have the ability, you’ll break through.
DYLAN: I have never self-identified as a Liberal talk show host in my life, nor have I self-identified as a Conservative. As you know, my background is through an education as a financial reporter and as a New Yorker in that context, and I think that the – that’s a false paradigm, the Jeremy Lin story.
BRIAN: You just wrote a book called Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists…
DYLAN: That’s right.
BRIAN: …Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry.
DYLAN: I did.
BRIAN: Is that not a Liberal book?
BRIAN: We had three Conservatives on yesterday and one of them made the point on our post CPAC panel that we Conservatives revel in the label Conservative. Liberals are always running away from it. Here you are, the famous Dylan Ratigan on MSNBC before Rachel Maddow and Al Sharpton and the other guys…
DYLAN: [cross-talking 02:51] scandalous, Brian.
BRIAN: …come on and you fit right in. You don’t want it? You won’t take that label?
DYLAN: Well, I don’t want to take any label that forces me to fight with somebody else, so I believe that the actual problem with this country right now is that everybody’s looking for a fight. The Tea Party wants a fight, the Liberals want to fight, the Republicans want to fight, the Occupation wants a fight. Who wants a fight? I love a good fight. And we all, I think, are collectively coming to the realization that to solve the problems that we have right now, which are so complex and are so custom in the need to be – and the way that they need to be solved, that the only way that we can really achieve the custom solutions to everything that we’re dealing with, which is what we’re going to have to do, is through an agreed culture of aligned interests and collaboration to solve the problem—make people healthy, are we learning, are we shooting each other. These are not political issues. Political issues are draw the line issues where you’re never going to have agreement—gay marriage, abortion. They’re wonderful power dynamics, wedge issues that prevent us from aligning around everything in this country that we’re 90/10 on, which is: I would like it if we didn’t shoot each other; I would like it if we actually had health for the 5% of our country that is sick all the time; I would like it if we had a culture of learning, not just in our schools, but in our communities through the day we’re born until the day we are dead. That is not a Conservative point of view, that is not a Liberal point of view, that is a point of view that says we are America, we have freedom to choose how we live our lives today even if we don’t feel we have control over our government, and we can choose to restore our communities, and Jeremy Lin for me represents the most hopeful and aspirational expression of the energy that says, “I know I’m kind of screwed here for a lot of different ways,” if I can use that word, “and I can’t do anything about that, but what I can do is seize today.” And that’s a wonderful things to watch.
BRIAN: When you were here for your book interview, you did call yourself a Capitalist…
BRIAN: …and talked about what that means to you. How does that fit into you 30 Million Jobs Tour?
DYLAN: So the barrier to jobs in this country as I see it is very simple, which is that because there is not a flow of money into America as a nation state, as a full balance sheet, because there’s not money coming into America but if you look at the flow of money whether it’s through the banking system, through our tax policies and tax codes, or through our trade policies, what you’ll see is trillions and trillions of dollars consistently being taken out of the United States of America and then we fill the hole by borrowing that money either through printing it at the Federal Reserve or through foreign lenders like China. So that’s the current financing structure for this country. The 30 million jobs that we need requires a tremendous investment, an infrastructure, energy independence, cradles of innovation, nursing, teaching, that’s where those jobs will ultimately manifest because the jobs have to solve our problems, right? And so that’s sort of the natural matching. A necessary prerequisite to any of that development is a reversal, a direct reversal of the capital flows which currently are leaving our country such that they come into our country beginning with dealing with reconciling the rigged trade with China, the Swiss cheese of the tax code, and a banking system that is incentivized to gamble and remove money from our country, not lend money into our country. Now, bear in mind, lending is down a trillion dollars since 2008.
BRIAN: So, for example, you just got back from Austin, and you did a segment on the prison industrial complex with criminologist David Kennedy, who was on this program, by the way, former NAACP Director, Ben Chavis, also Russell [indiscernible 06:30], they’ve all been on, but do you also discuss…
DYLAN: Tim Dunn, who’s a Conservative Christian West Texas oil man was on, as well, in that same conversation, as was Mark Meckler from the Tea Party Patriots.
BRIAN: So what’s your frame for this, because if people want to make the real prison industrial complex argument, as they do in upstate New York sometimes, as you know, the argument is, “Hey, this actually provides jobs for our community,” and if you start releasing all the low level drug dealers and everything like that, you’re also putting people in upstate New York out of work.
DYLAN: Understood. Remember, jobs are things that solve our problems, so the first thing you have to understand with the prison system is what problem is the prison system attempting to solve. And the answer to that question is very simple; it’s trying to assert and create restored and healthy communities for those in the non-prison population to live in. So our suggestion is that if there is such a violation of the social covenant that – there’s the robbery, the violence, whatever it may be, that we have to remove you from the community in order to maintain the social covenant. That’s the premise of the prison system.
BRIAN: But how does this create jobs, seeing this a different way?
DYLAN: Well, seeing this a different way creates jobs by releasing – so when you alter the narrative from basically saying, “We’re going to finance prison training culture and then export prison culture back to our communities with our tax dollars.” We’re like, “Okay, we’re going to train a generation of people in prison culture and then we’ll send them back and make sure they can’t have a job and make sure they can’t get anything done, and we’ll have prison culture everywhere. It will be fantastic.”
BRIAN: It’s stigmatized and —
DYLAN: Do you want to pay for that? I love paying for that. I think it’s great for the community. When we discovered that, through David Kennedy’s work explicitly, that when you create a custom solution in the community identifying the 5% of the community that has the propensity to the violence and then identifying the two or three influentials that are most influential on that individual. I can’t go do it, you can’t go do it. Maybe it’s his or her younger brother, maybe it’s their aunt, maybe it’s a gang leader, and get those people to convene around the exacerbated situation, the aggravated anti-social behavior. David Kennedy is proving an 80% reduction in that behavior, and I cannot think of something better for jobs in American than vastly healthier communities who have trust with one another such that they can cultivate real solutions to everything from healthcare to education to energy efficiency and simply preserving jobs when those jobs that we’re preserving in the case of the prison complex is financing the annihilation of a generation of black and Hispanic men and then training those people to reinfect our society with a degraded prison culture is the act of a madman.
BRIAN: I want to go into another of your stories. In Florida, you discussed the mortgage and foreclosure crisis and you cited a statistic from that state that 45% of mortgage holders in the state are underwater on their mortgage. We know that is one of the epicenters of the foreclosure crisis, so what’s the solution?
DYLAN: The only solution, not only in Florida, but with Nevada – Nevada’s number one for the percentage of homes underwater, Florida’s number two, California is – gets in there in the top five. You also have Michigan and Illinois and some of these states have some significant issues. Again, what’s the problem? The problem is you have trillions of dollars in mortgage debt that were manufactured by both the large banks and the government over the past 10 years to create easily available financing for as many people as possible for as many things as possible. It turns out that those people are not going to be able to return those payments beyond the value of the asset that they purchased, in this case, the house. So as the house gets worth less money, their ability to repay those trillions evaporates, it’s non-existent, okay?
BRIAN: Does this relate to jobs?
DYLAN: Absolutely. The clear barrier to jobs is investment in America. If people – every American is being asked to service thousands of dollars a month to pay off debt that was created without capital – that was fraudulently created in the credit insurance markets without capital requirements, and they’re servicing fraudulent debt on behalf of the status quo, eastern finance apparatus’ desire to preserve itself, and for no other reason. That’s all money—$1,000 a month, $2,000 a month, $500 a month, $3,000 a month, and every community in America that’s going to service that fraudulent debt rather than being harnessed to either be saved or invested in creating jobs and investment in those communities.
BRIAN: We just have a minute, and then, listeners, we’re going to continue our series, looking at and playing excerpts from all five of the documentaries nominated for best Oscar – nominated at the Oscars for best documentary. So we’re going to talk to the director and producer of Hell and Back Again in just a minute, which is an incredible documentary about this one sergeant who came back from Afghanistan.
But you, Dylan Ratigan, and former New York Governor, Elliot Spitzer wrote a piece together reacting to the $26 billion mortgage settlement plan announced last week with Eric Schneiderman and all the other state Attorneys General, except Oklahoma. You both think it’s unlikely to be meaningful and part of that is a math problem, real quick.
DYLAN: You have $13 trillion worth of mortgage debt that we’re expected to pay back to the big banks, Federal Reserve, and Fannie and Freddie at the housing agencies. You have trillions – you’re short on that money by trillions of dollars because of the decline in the value of every house in America. You cannot release the necessary investment that from the trapped money in that debt, that housing debt, it was a multi-trillion dollar problem that’s a barrier to investment and growth in this country, by simply allocating $2,000 per house in Florida, Nevada, and California, which is what the settlement ultimately is. Remember, this is a political vehicle; this is not a mathematical vehicle. And if anybody wants to sell me their house for $2,000 and allow me to assign all the liabilities for their house or apartment to the government, which is the deal that’s been done, not only is it a bad deal, it doesn’t address issue which is the reason we want to reform the mortgage and housing market is because we want to release the trapped capital in the fraudulent mortgage debt to invest in America’s necessary transition to the 21st century, starting with things like energy independence.
BRIAN: So if this causes the investors and the mortgage securities to lose more money, that ties up more money and it frees less to, you know, open up mortgages for the future?
DYLAN: It absolutely frees up capital across the board. The barrier to doing this has nothing to do with the mortgage holders. If you talk to Fannie, Freddie, Pimco, people that own the mortgage debt, they would love to do a restructuring so that they have a more predictable repayment stream. The problem is that the big banks—Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan, and Citigroup—who don’t own any of those mortgages, own all of the second liens and home equity loans, and they are carrying those at $0.80 to $0.90 on the dollar, such that if you actually restructure the underlying mortgage debt, you render the value of the big banks’ balance sheets because they’re carrying the value of those second loans at $0.80 and $0.90, that goes to zero. So the real issue is, just as it was in 2008, as it is now, as it will be 10 years from now, until you are prepared to restructure those big banks, you will not ultimately be able to resolve the underlying credit issues.
BRIAN: MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan. He will continue his 30 Million Jobs Tour…
DYLAN: All year, all year long.
BRIAN: Where’s your next stop?
DYLAN: We’re going to Kentucky, Ohio, and Illinois next week, all three.
BRIAN: And he’s the author of the new book, Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry. Thank you very much.
DYLAN: Thank you, Brian.