Historian Peter Kuznick and Paul Jay discuss the significance of the generals’ statements and what can be learned from FDR during the 1930’s – on podcast.

Rush Transcript

Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay, and welcome to podcast. The Washington Post reports that the Pentagon’s top general apologized on Thursday, June 11th, for appearing alongside President Trump near the White House after authorities forcibly removed peaceful protesters from the area, saying that it was, “a mistake that I have learned from”.  General Mark Milley the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “His presence created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics”.  

In the same week Joe Biden said he was sure that if Trump loses the election and refuses to leave the White House, the military will escort him out. The Guardian reports that the retired Marine general who led the global coalition against ISIS and commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan has warned that Donald Trump’s actions this week could start a U.S., “slide into illiberalism” and the beginning of the end of “the American experiment”.  In denouncing the president for his response to the George Floyd protests retired General John Allen became the latest in a string of venerable military figures to have gone public over what they describe as the threat posed by Trump to the nonpolitical nature of the armed forces and more broadly, to U.S. democracy. The fact that there is a serious conversation taking place about Trump defying the constitution and ignoring election results shows how in disarray U.S. governance and its political system are.

Is the statement by General Milley a direct shot across Trump’s bow, saying that the military will not allow Trump to act unconstitutionally? Is there any historical precedent for the chair of the Joint Chiefs publicly distancing himself from the president? Now joining us to discuss the significance of the generals statements and what we can learn from the Great Depression of the 1930s and the mass movement of the 1960s is Peter Cousins. He’s a professor of history and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University. The author of Beyond the Laboratory Scientists as Political Activists in 1930s America,.He and filmmaker Oliver Stone co-authored the 12 part Showtime documentary film, series and book, both titled The Untold History of the United States. Welcome, Peter. 

Peter Kuznick

Glad to be with you, Paul.

Paul Jay

So start with Milley’s comments about his participation at that church and then retired General John Allen statements. Is this unprecedented? What kind of message are they sending to Trump?

Peter Kuznick

This is really unprecedented. We know that during the Vietnam War, a number of military officials did speak out condemning the war, but had this many high ranking military officers, former military officers and some active duty denounce what happened is really unprecedented. And if you look at the comments that Milley made is he can let it be known that he considered resigning over this. What happened there was absolutely disgraceful. You had the National Guard and you had other officers clearing out peaceful protesters far in advance of the curfew who were not disruptive in any way.

Clear them out with with grenades, flash bang grenades, with pepper spray, with rubber bullets tear gas. And then to do this so that Trump could have his photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church holding up a Bible. You know, as people comment that it looked like it never held the book before. So there is holding up a Bible.

And and next to him were Esper, the secretary of defense, and General Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And to make it even more absurd, Millie was wearing camouflage. So he was wearing combat camouflage uniform downtown Washington and clearing out peaceful demonstrators. He and Esper both claimed that they had no idea that that’s where they were being set up in this way. Among the others in this entourage were Ivanka, I think Jared is probably there.

It was something totally unprecedented that reminded me of the when Hoover what had the Army led by Douglas MacArthur cleared out the veteran. Those who were protesting for the bonus payment in 1932. It was outrageous then. It’s outrageous now. When that happened, Franklin Roosevelt turned to the person next to him and said, this will get me elected in November. Well, this is also going to help get Trump unelected in November. The response was so universal, so outraged that it was clear that not only the we had, I think, for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff speak out about this.

So you had Mullen, Admiral Mullen, you had General Dempsey, you had General Colin Powell, you had General Richard Myers. We also had General Milley himself. That makes five. We had two secretaries of defense, James Mattis and Robert Gates. We also had Admiral James Dove. Right is the NATO supreme commander, General Time, Tony Thomas, the head of U.S. Special Ops Command, General George Allen, commander of American forces in Afghanistan, General Barry McCaffrey.

McCaffrey captured the spirit. He says, we are dealing with a lawless president. He’s unraveling. He’s impulsive. He doesn’t respect the Constitution. He’s getting us in dangerous ground. Madison’s comments were also quite stark. He said never did I dream that troops taking the same oath would be ordered under any circumstances to violate the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens, much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander in chief with military leadership standing alongside as Mattis, who had avoided criticizing Trump even on his book tour.

Only a few months ago, Mattis said, I’ve never in my life seen a president who is deliberately trying to divide the American people and trample on the Constitution. So they’re all very concerned that Trump is playing as a strong arm Karzai dictator and trampling on the American constitution. So I think, as you were suggesting, the implications are quite important because there’s been a lot of speculation of whether or not Trump would actually leave office if it’s a close election.

He’s already been saying that we can’t have mail in ballots because there is going to lead to fraud. And the irony, of course, is that the fraud was committed by him when he tried to register in Florida, even though it doesn’t have address in Florida, try to register to vote in Florida from his Washington address. So it is already warning people about voter fraud. And after the 2016 election, that he, in a sense, won, although he lost the popular vote by three million votes, he was saying there was massive vote fraud and that’s why he lost the popular vote.

So he repeats these lies over and over again, and they resonate with a certain portion of his heavily armed right wing base. And so there is concern that there could be civil war. And many experts, including Biden, have expressed fear that he will try to pull some stunt to say the election was not fair. There was vote fraud. He didn’t really lose and he’s not going to leave the White House. But now the fact that the so many military leaders, in addition eighty nine former Defense Department officials, Pentagon officials signed an oped in The New York Times.

I think it was condemning what’s going on. So there’s a broad sense that at least a lot of the leadership of the military is not going to go along with Trump if he tries to stage a quasi coup and stay in office.

Paul Jay

I’ve been saying from the time Trump got elected, if not even during the campaign where he did get elected, that given the people around him and the agenda, this includes people like Sheldon Adelson and others in terms of the neocons, the bringing down the government or causing massive disruption in Iran has been one of the highest foreign policy objectives.

And I’ve been saying if he’s going to try to really create a crises that could postpone the elections, it might be he creates a provocation like the assassination of General Suleimani.

But even more so, that makes him a, quote, wartime president sometime in October. I wonder if these messages from the generals. Also, messages about that that don’t try to draw us into a war, although would they really defy him in such a situation?

Peter Kuznick

You know, it’s unprecedented. We don’t know what they would do. I could certainly see them resigning in protest. That’s why it’s so important that we act preemptively to expose his plottings and the way his mind works and the possibility of worst case scenarios to try to preempt them. We know that Trump’s popularity has been sinking sharply, that he’s trails Biden by as many as 14 points in the recent polling, and that is significantly behind in most of the battleground states.

So right now, the optimistic scenario is that Trump will lose by a significant margin, that he won’t be able to make these kinds of claims and try to cling to power. But we don’t know. And the scenario that you raise is one that we’ve seen work before. We saw what happen with George Bush after 9/11, but his popularity skyrocketed. We saw the  way, Maggie, Margaret Thatcher used this, we seen where Reagan used this. 

Paul Jay

With Margaret Thatcher, you’re talking about Malvinas Islands.? 

Peter Kuznick

 Yeah. The Falklands. Yeah. And so they take note and Trump takes notes of these things and he doesn’t have a very subtle, nuanced mind. And a there is certainly the danger that he could try to pull something off among. He’s got various options. As you know, Iran is the one that they mostly agree on. But Iran is giving very little provocation right now. And even in Iraq, there were just meetings yesterday with the Iraqi government officials and the Iraqi parliament voted after the Sulemani killing, voted all U.S. troops out of Iraq.

And so now the negotiations are taking place and they say looks like we are going to reduce the troop levels. But for some time, the Iranian backed militias were allegedly bombing American bases that held American troops. That has decreased. So the provocation there on the Iranian part, their strategy seems to be, wait this sucker out, you know that they understand that he’s likely to be voted out in November and that they can deal with Biden in a more rational way.

Hopefully then they can deal with Trump. The one thing that all the Trump advisers agreed on was that they hated Iran and that Iran was a menace to the region. They didn’t agree on China. They didn’t agree on Korea. They didn’t agree on Russia. But they all agreed on Iran. And the irony, of course, is that Secretary of Defense General Mattis had been demoted in early retirement under the Obama administration because Obama considered to be such a hawk, such an extremist on Iran when it came to the Trump administration.

He was the least belligerent toward Iran. He was the adult in the room who didn’t want to go to war with Iran. And so you see but everybody else in that administration was gung ho for confrontation led by Pompeo. Certainly Bolton and the others. So Iran is a good case, but it’s not the only one. We still have the dangers in Syria potentially. We still have the situation with North Korea, which has gotten more and more dangerous.

Kim Jong un has been very, very provocative in his statements lately, and they seem to be gearing up, hopefully not for more testing, but that’s certainly a possibility. Very inflammatory rhetoric coming out of North Korea lately. And there’s always the possibility with China, Trump’s fallback in dealing with the Corona virus pandemic was to blame China. In fact, the Senate Republican Senatorial Committee issued a 57 page memo for a senatorial candidates saying don’t defend Trump in what he’s doing on the pandemic.

But what you have to do is blame China. That was the game plan. And so we’ve had this everybody warning about this new Cold War with China. And that’s and how is that playing out? Well, the U.S. is sending freedom of navigation operations into the South China Sea. One of them, the U.S. and the Chinese ships, missed each other by forty five yards. There is that potential over and over again for either accidentally or deliberately a military confrontation with China.

We know that the American public’s attitude toward China is increasingly negative. Some of the recent polling says that 60 percent of the American people now have a very negative attitude toward China. And Trump is trying to exploit that. So we’ve got several different scenarios.

Paul Jay

That’s particularly dangerous because Biden, who he had this ad, is anti China ad critiquing Trump for not being militant enough on China. So provoking something with China, actually, Biden winds up adding to that hysteria. Yeah. Many of us who are horrified by what Trump does, who Trump is, what Trump represents are very disappointed that Biden is the Democratic candidate for precisely that reason. Biden, when it comes to foreign policy, does not have a very good track record. He’s been much too hawkish. 

Paul Jay

I give him one thing. He was actually quite good on the Iran agreement. He supported Obama. Larry Wilkerson, who worked helped in Congress to try to get that passed, says Biden was down there really hammering for support and the Democratic Party, as we know.

But Chuck Schumer, wing of the party, was very much against the nuclear agreement with Iran. And so at least on that, Biden wasn’t bad.

Peter Kuznick

Yeah. But we look at Biden’s overall record, his support for all the wars, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya. He’s been very, very hawkish on on Syria. We know about Ukraine that he was the administration’s point man on Ukraine during the time of the Maidan and the coup that occurred there. He is much, much too conservative. My taste when it comes to foreign policy in general. He’s been very, very hawkish. And that also weakens him against Trump in many ways.

He’s in a parallel position to Hillary Clinton. He’s not as personally disliked as Hillary Clinton was, but because of his own hawkish foreign policy, he’s going to be neutralized on that issue by Trump, the same way that Clinton was having supported every possible American war that we contemplated for three decades. On top of that, Biden is not going be able to make an issue of Trump’s sexual assault against a couple dozen women, apparently because of Biden’s own record on this.

Biden is just a very weak, flawed and compromised candidate. That said, he’s still head and shoulders over Trump and Biden is is much more reasonable. And we’ll support was found cell with better people and is far better on domestic policy, even though he’s certainly not faultless.

Paul Jay

What we come to that either. Let’s go back into the 1930s and what we can learn from that when we try to understand what’s happening now. When Roosevelt was pursuing his more reformist, radical reformist even policies.

What was the relationship with the military and did they play any role?

Peter Kuznick

The military was not that big a factor in American life in the 1930s. You have to remember  we’re still reeling from the U.S. involvement in World War One. So there was a very strong streak of anti-militarism and anti-war sentiment in the United States, which reinforces the isolationism that keeps the United States neutral in the Spanish civil war, which is a tragedy and it keeps the United States from intervening sooner against Hitler, which turned out to be a tragedy.

So the military does not play a very important role in the United States in the nineteen thirties. I mean, there were some military linked people who were involved in the attempted coup in 1934 that Smedley Butler exposed. But the military is not a major force in American life. That’s is why when they were getting ready for the war, we’ve got to gear up so quickly and why it takes the United States really until the beginning of 1943 before we’re ready to seriously engaged in combat in World War Two.

So the military was not a major player in the 1930s.

Paul Jay

Biden says he wants to be the most progressive president since Roosevelt. I don’t think there’s very much in his history to suggest that he could or would be.

Paul Jay

But there is something in the sense that when Roosevelt was originally elected, he wasn’t all that radical in terms of his politics either. Now, when I’m saying radical, it’s obviously radical for within the elites. I’m not talking radical in terms of the broader definition of that word, in terms of what the mass movement and the left was saying in the thirties.

Peter Kuznick

Nobody had any reason to think that Roosevelt was going to be nearly as progressive as he turned out to be in 1932. He during the campaign, he was attacking Hoover from the right for being a big spender, for unbalancing the budget, for running such big deficits. So nobody would never had any idea that he was going to do the kinds of things that he did. Now, one of the big differences between what’s happening now. And what happened then was that Roosevelt rode a wave of progressive upsurge.

That was in some ways more widespread than now. Really, the key to understanding Roosevelt’s progressivism is to understand how far to the left the country had shifted. And between 1932 and 1935, this included the upsurge of the labor movement, the industrial union organizing. That’s going to lead to the formation of the CIO. And it’s going to be that progressive backbone, the labor movement that’s going to give Roosevelt the strength. African-Americans were mobilized. The unemployed were mobilized.

The scientists were mobilized. Other groups were also mobilized in the 1930s. Labor was really the backbone of the progressivism that allowed Roosevelt to do the kinds of things that he did. And what he did is he revolutionized our understanding of the role of government. Because before that government was there really was no safety net. Government was not actively intervening to put people back to work. And the kinds of programs that we saw led first and even more so in the second New Deal.

But you also if you look at the voting in the United States by 1934 and then even more so in 1936, the Republican right was wiped out. The  Democrats and the left wing Democrats were taking over the country during those years. So Roosevelt was in a very, very good position. One of the areas which Roosevelt was weakest is what we see going on now, and that’s race relations. I have to remember how the Democratic Party was constructed in the 1930s at a strong base of the Democratic Party with the Dixiecrats, the southern Democrats.

They were the ones who had been in power the longest. They held many of the chairmanships in the House, in the Senate, and they were an impediment to some of the most progressive aspects of the New Deal. Roosevelt could not so did not even support anti lynching legislation during this time. The kinds of programs that should have been made specially available to African-Americans were not. And in fact, some very discriminatory things that we’ve had to live with ever since were actually imposed.

If we look at the housing policies, they basically the redlining, the homeowners loan insurance corporation. This reinforced segregated neighborhoods and made blacks ineligible, black neighborhoods, ineligible for loans. And the big part now, the reason why the average African-American family has less than one tenth as much wealth as the average white family has is because they were never able to get loans for housing because the neighborhoods they were forced to live in, the housing values are a small fraction of what the white housing values were.

Most of the wealth for the white middle class especially, came from their housing from homeownership, which African-Americans could never capitalize on. So we see the negative effects of some aspects of Roosevelt’s policies. But now those who were most progressive in the 1930s were Eleanor Roosevelt, secretary of the Interior, our Leykis and Henry Wallace. And you and I have talked about Henry Wallace a lot over the years. But when Wallace ran, who became Roosevelt’s vice president or vice president in 1940, 1944.

And when he ran for get to become vice president again in 1944, he won the unanimously won the support of every African-American delegate to the Democratic convention in 1944. It was unanimous. Truman got none of them. And certainly Jimmy Burns got none of them. But they all supported Wallace because he was the most outspoken in terms of the outrages against African-Americans in the United States during that time.

Paul Jay

One of the things that characterized the movement in the thirties is the role of the socialist and communist, the whole idea of the socialist consciousness beating and quite a leading factor in the development of the movement unionization. We’re not seeing that as with the same strength. Now, I don’t think I guess the closest would be the Bernie Sanders election campaign.

Peter Kuznick

It’s an irony with the Bernie Sanders, of course. To me, the irony was that Sanders was promoting himself as a democratic socialist. By my definition of socialism, Sanders was not a socialist. And it seemed to me the stupidest strategy to try to claim to be a socialist by somebody who is not a socialist. Why give Trump and the right wing Republicans that much more ammunition? It’s like putting a target on your back or a sign kick me. And that to me was a stupid strategy.

I understand why he did it apart. And that’s because the younger generation, those between 18 and 29 in many surveys support socialism over capitalism by almost two to one margin. So the that’s and that’s the backbone of this exciting movement that we see happening now. And so in some ways, maybe I might be disagreeing with you on this, because even though socialism is not a demand that’s being raised by the Black Lives Matter movement at the moment, socialism and rejection of capitalism and the consequences of capitalism is something that’s driving so many of these young activists who are out there day after day after day, black or white and brown and yellow and red, and supporting this kind of a sense that we need, that we’ve gone wrong now.

We need to have a different kind of society with different kind of values. And they reject the model based upon greed and private accumulation and this kind of personal gain and trust. And Trump to them epitomizes that who is more greedy, who is more selfish, who’s more narcissistic it. Trump embodies everything that this generation despises. And what I’ve seen lately in the polling that I find very encouraging is that Trump’s popularity has gone down sharply among younger people, even in the rural areas, even in the red areas in the United States.

So I think the fact that the younger generation is so active and radicalized to a large extent, something we haven’t seen since the 1960s. To me, that’s very promising for where we’re going to go in the future of this country. 

Paul Jay

Well, let’s talk about the movement in the 60s, because while it reached quite a peak, both with the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement and a large lot of emotion amongst the working class, too, in terms of strike struggles and getting organized, it did dissipate.

And once the Vietnam War was over and the draft was over, the movement really lost its steam. And we wound up with quite a few years without the movement and quite a low. What would stop that from happening again?

Peter Kuznick

I think this movement does have staying power. First of all, the base of the movement is still on the campuses. In large part, it’s not in the labor movement, which is unfortunate. We know that the percentage of organize unionized workers in the United States has gone down dramatically to before the upsurge in the 1930s, and that that’s a real problem. There are very many progressive unions out there, nurses among them, but that’s not enough to be the backbone of the movement now.

So we’ve seeing something like we saw in the 60s in some ways that see young people again, it’s in some ways the youth movement, combined with the movement on the part of African-Americans and other people of color. The women’s movement, we’re seeing a lot of this broad sense of disgust over what’s going on right now. But we still do have a lot of influence on the campuses. And we see this in the United States right now. The right wing in the United States has made a concerted effort for recent decades to challenge the liberalism and the left thinking of the universities.

And they’ve done it through their think tanks and they’ve done it through their organizations accuracy in academia and other right wing organizations. And they’ve failed to make much of a dent on the campuses. If we’re going to part of what’s so exciting about this upsurge is that discussion of these trust, a systematic racism of the structures of oppression. And that is what’s being taught on the campuses. The students are not getting that so much in the high schools, but they are getting that at the universities.

And I mean, across the board, the universities, maybe not Liberty University, the well, a university or some evangelically universities, but the state universities and the private universities, the discourse has shifted sharply to the left and the faculty, many of whom initially came out of the new left. What happened during that period is that the conservatives went into business because they were motivated by getting rich and getting powerful. And the new leftists went into academia because they were much more idealistic, didn’t care so much about making money and wanted to continue that.

Exciting periods that we went through in the 60s and 70s were able to sustain that and generate that on the campus. So we’re seeing the positive effects of that. So I don’t see this dying out. And the fact that this is what’s so exciting about this movement, that it is so multiracial that in many of these demonstrations, even though the focus is black lives matter and police violence and brutality and discrimination, the majority of protesters out there are white, actually.

So that’s something we haven’t seen for a long time and is also very encouraging. So I’m not sure there’s any magic to why it’s not going to die out. But I think we’re going to be able to sustain it. We’re seeing that there are enough progressives in the Democratic Party. You’re clearly the centrist still control the apparatus of the Democratic Party, but it’s slipping away from them. Look for a while there, like Bernie Sanders was going to be the nominee.

The irony and the tragedy, in my opinion, is that it was the African-Americans in South Carolina especially, who put Trump that Biden was on the ropes there. It looked like Sanders was actually going to run away with it and then they reversed it in South Carolina. And I think, you know, there someday we’re going to all regret that. Let’s hope we can get a progressive vice president who will at least carry on some of those traditions. But I think the mood in the country, and especially if you look at the ideas and the policies, the mood in the country is dramatically on the progressive side. There are, I think, some limitations in the current movement. And one of them is that it’s a very focused and somewhat narrowly focused right now. Whereas in the 60s, when it was an anti-civil rights movement and an anti-war movement, we saw the great civil rights leaders, the Martin Luther King’s even the Malcolm X, the Julian Bonds and the others had a broader vision.

They were talking about uniting the black struggle here with Pan Africanism, with the with the global anti-war movement, with they all became critics of capitalism and moved toward embracing socialism. They had a much broader vision. The movement now in the early stages has been more narrowly focused. And I think that’s understandable and not a problem. But to the extent that I get to intervene at all or have a say in any of it, I try to certainly validate what’s going on.

And all of the concerns that the protesters have in the United States that I’ve been trying coalitions I’m working with to put this more in the broader context to make clear that the assault on not just civil liberties, but also standards of living environmental standards, global warming is all tied to four decades of neoliberal economic policies that have ravaged communities around the world. And I think that that’s the context we need to see. What’s happening in the United States, as wonderful as it is, needs to be tongue tied in with what’s happening globally right now.

And the world community has responded. This is front page news all over. The world is happy, the United States.

Paul Jay

I think it’s the point you raise is very important.

The what I’d add to it is that when we’ve seen these movements in the past, especially when there’s the president is a Republican, the Democratic Party tries to take the strength and energy of the movement and co-opt it within the framework and limits of what the Democratic Party’s willing to do, which essentially is maintain more or less the status quo. You can see the beginnings of it now where the demands that are more narrow, as you describe, that the Democratic Party is coming up with police reforms.

Bill de Blasio, New York, says he’ll accept this idea of defunding the police because defunding the police is not much of a reform, is the truth of it. You move some money over to social services, but it doesn’t deal with community control of the police, first of all, which is a critical step, I think.

And then to the underlying issue of chronic poverty and chronic low wages and underemployment, especially for African-Americans. That’s the heart of the problem. And to deal with that, there has to be real structural change, I think, including changing how stuff is owned. There has to be more public ownership with direct employment and using public ownership to leverage the economy. For example, taking some larger scale public institutions like it could even be a public Wal-Mart or something on that level where and raising wages.

The issue of local publicly owned enterprises with public money and whether their workers co-ops are directly publicly owned.

Other than that, no strategy has ever worked in dealing with the economic problems of the inner cities. All the programs of throwing money, whether it’s throwing money at NGOs or supposedly creating black wealth or creating black housing opportunities, all of that simply led to more money in the pockets of developers and such. The issue of parting ways and the ability once Biden gets elected and right now it certainly looks like he’s going to win the election the election, unless something extraordinary happens.

The fact that the movement has to keep its independence from the Democratic Party and not leave the streets, not leave the activism, assuming given Covid people are capable, there has to be a whole nother gear found to put serious pressure on that Democratic Party administration that the movement’s not giving up just because Trump is gone.

Peter Kuznick

Yes, I totally, completely agree with you. There are people doing a lot of very progressive thinking along those. You’re talking about my friend Gar Alperovitz helped found the Democracy Collaborative, which is. Actually putting out programmatic solutions in terms of local ownership, community ownership, cooperative ownership, and there is an economy that’s sort of developing in the United States now where you’re raising sounds a little bit. I know that’s not where you’re taking it. Some of the things that the Nation of Islam was talking about in the nineteen sixties, the earlier iteration, but that was more of of kind of black capitalism.

Paul Jay

Yeah, I’m not talking about that at all. In fact, in fact, the earlier the earlier Malcolm X was talking it out because this in you know, I was in Baltimore for a few years and eight years.

And this kind of black capitalism is really, I think, a very negative force in the communities. It’s very divisive in terms of building a broad movement. But also it doesn’t get anywhere because, you know, you do get some successful black black capitalists. And it’s not like they pay anything above the minimum wage. They act like any capitalist.

Peter Kuznick

Yeah,  capitalism can be colorblind. But I think that that that next step, the next year is what we have to do. There are a lot of progressives in Congress now, and I think the overall mood of the country and understanding the country is shifting in that direction. Looking for some deeper structural changes at the heart of these four decades of neoliberalism is the idea that government is the enemy. As Reagan said, government is not the solution.

Government is the problem. And so they’ve been defunding the government, defunding the public sector, defunding the universe. As you know, it wasn’t that long ago that the University of California didn’t charge any tuition. It was during Reagan’s when Reagan was governor that they began charging tuition at state universities used to be either free or next to next to free. And but we’ve seen this starvation of the public sector, for another example. You look at the rate, the percentage of the national income that went into welfare, welfare, cash payments was always around one percent.

And the percentage of national income that went into policing, law enforcement, courts and prisons was also about one percent. This was the case through the 1980s. It was during the Reagan period with the beginning of the war on drugs and then accelerated under Clinton in the 1990s, that those two started to diverge. And by 2010, the difference was 2.5 percent of the national income went to policing and prisons and courts and less than one percent was going to welfare.

Now the number is about two percent for policing and point eight percent for for welfare cash payments. So what we’ve seen, again, is starvation of the public sector and the financing and emphasis on the means of repression. So that’s the immediate cutting edge issue. But as part of a much broader kind of assault on people’s standards of living that’s taken place. But that attitude is shifting. The attitude toward government is shifting. And we’re going to see now with this corona virus pandemic, a lot of this is hitting in the rural areas, in the red areas.

One of the ironies, of course, is that the parts of the country that are are suffering the most under Trump and the Republicans are the  areas where where’s their stronghold. And one of the problems that we see in rural America is the health care. Many of these areas, many of these counties don’t have any hospitals. Many of them very few doctors, inadequate health care. And those are also the worst education, the highest poverty rates, the highest out of wedlock child children race, the highest welfare rates also.

And those areas should be the ones who would be should be supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and seeing it in their common interests. But that understanding has not happened yet. But I think we’re seeing signs of this blind adoration for Trump and the right wing and the racist tropes we’re seeing that dissipate some. 

Peter Kuznick

So what do you make of the Biden’s choice for vice president? Does he appeal with a centrist type who would appeal to Republicans that might leave Trump or does he pick someone more progressive that might energize the progressive wing of the movement in the party?

Well, I guess I was leaning toward Elizabeth Warren as my first choice, but I met with May 25th and the police murder of George Floyd in broad daylight on camera in Minneapolis, I think that it behooves Biden to choose an African-American woman. And if we go there, I’m not a I’m not uncritical of Kamala Harris, but I think given Biden’s age, given his weakening powers. I think we can need somebody who’s got some executive experience, who seems competent and knowledgeable, somebody for whom we wouldn’t be on the job training.

And so I have the potential African-American female candidates. My sense is she’s probably as strongest, even though her own record as a prosecutor leaves much to be desired. 

Paul Jay

And her  vacillation on the health care issue. She’s certainly alienated the Sanders voters. Yes. Mean a lot of thought that I would criticize about her. So  given how weak he’s been. I don’t know what’s gone on with Biden. I, I know it’s about time he came out of the witness protection program. He’s been absent, missing in action for the past three months.

Paul Jay

But the lesson seems to be them. I think the lesson seems to be the more he shuts up and is missing, the better he does.

Peter Kuznick

Well, I would hope that he would provide some real leadership. But I agree with you that that’s not his forte. And, you know, his policy is strategy now is working. That’s so that Trump self-destruct. Thank Trump keep talking and saying and doing the stupidest things. Mean we know he doesn’t listen to anybody else, but I can’t imagine somebody being more self-destructive than Trump has been first throughout the pandemic then. And then even more recently, when Mattis criticized him, then his statement that he issues first, he says that he fired Mattis, which isn’t true. Mattis resigned. Secondly, he says, I gave him the nickname Mad Dog. Why does he say that when anybody can check within 30 seconds and find out that both of those are lies? I mean, there’s that he’s so indifferent. He’s such a sociopath. Such a malignant narcissist. Such a sick man. I mean, my sense of Trump is that he’s not just an embarrassment to the Republican Party. He’s not just an embarrassment to the United States. He’s an embarrassment to the human species. How did the human species ever produce such a vile person? I mean, it’s it’s almost incomprehensible to me. 

Paul Jay

Well, come on. We’ve had we’ve had vile, more vile people than Trump.

Paul Jay

I mean, by just saying  on a gut level, aesthetic level you had Hitler and so on and so on. So it’s not such a unique, vile character, I think.

Paul Jay

 What I think is more, is that the political system in the United States has gotten so parasitical that some crazy, batshit crazy multi-millionaire billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and Robert Mercer are able to put someone like Trump and make him president. It’s a reflection of how vile, if you want the human species, the American political system has become.

Peter Kuznick

Now, I was going to say there that I think we’re very lucky that Trump has not done worse things, especially when it comes to foreign policy, yet he has not done the things he’s capable of. But but if we look at what I consider the two most pressing issues globally. The two main existential threats, Trump has been an absolute disaster. The first is, of course, global warming and trust. You know, we keep on saying that this is.

To be irreversible and Trump is putting us on a glide path toward destruction when it comes to global warming. And the second is the nuclear issue. And Trump has been as destructive as he could be. They’re pulling us out of the JCP away. The Iran nuclear deal in 2018, pulling us out of the IMF treaty. Intermediate range nuclear forces treaty in twenty nineteen. Pulling us out of the Open Skies treaty. Recent. Very recently. And saying that he doesn’t want to renew the new START treaty when that expires in February 2021.

What we’re going to go back to if Trump gets reelected potentially is a 1980s style nuclear arms race. Trump says, I don’t fear a nuclear arms race. I welcome one. Well, Trump, the human species might not survive another nuclear arms race of that sort. Right now, he’s got fourteen thousand nuclear weapons back in the mid 1980s. We were up to close to 70000 nuclear weapons. And that’s now Trump says we’re going to win this nuclear arms race.

And he says, what’s the point of having nuclear weapons if we can’t use them as new nuclear and its nuclear posture review, basically calling for a new, more usable nuclear weapons.

Paul Jay

But we’re going to do another podcast with you, Peter, just on the nuclear issue. I agree with you.

It’s  an imminent threat, not a back burner threat. And it’s certainly not on the front burner of most people’s minds in discussions these days.

Thanks very much for joining us, Peter.

Peter Kuznick

Yes, my pleasure. Take care, Paul. 

Paul Jay

And thank you for joining us on podcast.



Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *