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The Selling Out of the Middle Class is No Accident: Interview transcript part 1, with Donald Bartlett and James Steele

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Rob Kall: Can you talk a little bit about how those ultra wealthy are influencing government and policy and regulation, and taxes, that they hold onto and grab even more from the middle class and the poor?

James Steele:    [Jim Steele] What they do in part, and this is one of the things that was kind of interesting to us when we did the book. So many of the foundations that spew out a line of reasoning that says "minimum wage is bad; de-regulation good; and unrestricted free trade good for the country.. low taxes or no taxes, best in all situations." Most of those foundations are non profits date from the '70s. It's very interesting. They were not, a whole lot of them, years before that. And they all got up to speed with their in-house scholars and scientists, and they turn out their position papers that look very scholarly. And a lot of the media has picked up a lot of this stuff as though some of these arguments are shared evenly around the country, when in fact many of the positions advocated by these think tanks really only benefits a tiny sliver of the population. But because of that, it's contributed to this notion that these are widely discussed and widely debated issues. And a lot of the media, our business unfortunately, has succumbed to this and picked it up as though these things are really bona fide discussions when in fact they're, most of them are bogus. And affect, and really do not affect the great mass of people. But that's affected our legislators, that's affected a lot of public opinion, and it's ultimately, we think, a very pivotal factor in dismantling the middle class. Putting pressure.  

Rob Kall: All right, let's talk about the media. I want to talk about your experience. Now you are highly  honored  and celebrated journalists. I'd like to get some advice from you for writers nowadays. There are a lot of bloggers, there are a lot of amateur writers out there. How can people, who have a lot of time because they're out of work, or because they're passionately caring and interested in this" how can they learn from your experience? What advice would you give them as writers and journalists?  

James Steele:   [Jim Steele here] We have always, and this hasn't really changed" we've always suggested that unfortunately people have to kind of connect the dots. There's no one place that you're going to see everything. But you just [have] to be informed, because information comes in so many different directions, you really have to try to pull some of that together. And you know, that's what our business ought to do more of. That's what Don and I tried to do over the years. We've tried to connect those dots on a lot of these big issues. But more of it needs to be done. And the problem now in some ways, it's almost a blizzard of information that people half the time don't know what to go to, what to look at, what to believe. And the internet is both a marvellous creature, but also the purveyor of a lot of nonsense. So it's in some ways harder then ever to connect the dots than the old days. But it's still what has to be done to know what's happened.  

Donald Barlett: And one good sign out there is the investigative reporting today, some of it is the best it's ever been. And contrary to what people like to think. There's always been investigative reporting, but it was very little of it for, you know, most of the life of journalism. It's really only come of age since the "70s, and as bad as things are in journalism right now, there's some remarkable investigative reporting going on. And somehow this has got to be further expanded, you know, that's for, you know, people to figure out how to do. But what it does show you, is that the potential is there. We just have to find a way to get people to do it.

James Steele:   And in the way we did this"

Rob Kall: [inaudible 46:12]

James Steele:   The way we did this project is a perfect example of how things are changing. Years ago it would be your newspaper and maybe a couple of other people on the paper, but Don and I partnered with a non-profit Foundation, based in an American university in Washington D.C. They provided some of the research help. And also as a vehicle to start posting some of the researchers, we went along, which then led us to some of the people whose interviews are in the book. That's the kind of collaborative thing that would have been unheard of, really ten years ago, twenty years ago. 

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Rob Kall: Can you describe that in more detail. That's very interesting!

 

James Steele:   Well, what's happened with the shrinkage of a lot of newspapers and magazines, is that many non-profit entities have grown up around the country. An old friend of ours, by the name of Chuck [Charles] Lewis founded one twenty-seven [27] years ago, called the "Centre for Public Integrity' in Washington. Chuck later went on to take a sabbatical of his own, and end up teaching in an American university. And then there founded another entity there called the "Investigative Reporting Workshop'. And that's the one we partnered with on this project. But in addition to that, those there are four to five dozen of these non-profits around the country now. Some of them are on a State-wide basis" former reporters for newspapers who've gotten enough foundation money that

  they're providing this. "ProPublica' in New York is an example of a national one, that actually won a Pulitzer Prize this year with another entity which I can't remember. So, the idea, you know there's a lot going on, and a lot of it is just going to take a different shape than it did in the past. And nobody knows how this whole non-profit will eventually shape out. Which ones will survive, which ones won't. What kind of a business model is ever going to be there that will support them. The field remains in tremendous turmoil in that sense. But we feel, and as Don said, that there's a lot of great reporting going on, and the public wants this, the public needs it, and we're hopeful that this will continue in one form or another, just not the way we've seen it in the past.   

Rob Kall: Who do you see as doing some of that great investigative reporting now? What are the names, and organizations or publishers?  

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Donald Barlett: I think Jim mentioned one of the more prominent ones is "ProPublica'. And he just retired, I think, but the man running it was" he had come over from the Wall Street Journal. So there are people in each of these organizations, with, you know, real journalism credentials.

James Steele:  [interjecting] I mean the biggest surprise of all in some ways is the New York Times. The New York Times a few years ago didn't even use the word investigation, but the New York Times today and for several years now, has done more investigative reporting than any time in their history. Walt Bogdanich is a friend of ours, he's done a lot of the great pharmaceutical reporting for the Times, on the bad drugs coming out of China. Walt did an outstanding piece on  railroad  crossings, and how  railroads  cover up the mistakes they'd made because they don't properly have the signals at these crossings and people die. I mean there's a dozen people at the Times, and there's some really good people at the Washington Post as well. So I mean there's a lot of good folks around. The reason really" I'll tell you where we see this as much as anything. One of us judges a journalism contest and the interests comes in, and it's amazing what's going on out there.

Rob Kall: What's the journalism contest?

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project.

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Rob Kall's Bottom Up Radio Show: Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com

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