I first became aware of William Greider after the publication of his 1981 Atlantic Monthly profile of President Reagan’s embattled Office of Management and Budget Director (“OMB”), David Stockman. At the time I was just a kid and the Reagan administration insisted they could simultaneously balance the budget, cut taxes and increase defense spending exponentially.
Greider’s reporting however exposed that even Stockman, doubted the fiscal prudence of Reaganomics. After the article’s publication, Stockman absorbed public humiliation when President Reagan took him “to the woodshed.” I trace that article as a seminal moment in my own political awareness.
Over the years, Greider has been a determined voice of truth against a backdrop of America’s pro-war, pro-Wall Street governing elites and their enablers inside the corporate media. While Alan Greenspan was celebrated, Greider warned that the Federal Reserve and other regulatory agencies were guilty of dereliction. When celebrated economists such as Paul Krugman extolled the virtues of free trade and globalization, Greider warned of diminished wages at home and condemned the shameful exploitation our consumption habits subsidized abroad.
Greider’s latest book, Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country, just published by Rodale, is a manifesto of hope and warning. In Chapter One, Greider writes:
“Think of America at this point as a muscular teenager, full of talent, adolescent energy, and youth’s over-reaching impulses. This is a critical stage in human development and for our nation it could go either way. Some nations that acted like willful children when they were young formed balanced societies when they became adults. Other nations have never really grown up.
"The question, I think is whether-we-the people who proudly call ourselves Americans – can mature as a society. The country can develop a deeper sense of what matters most in life and what doesn’t. It can shed some self-destructive reflexes and acquire a wiser sense of national self-interest that is anchored in the nation’s ideals. Wisdom tempers egotism. This is true for both people and nations.
"Or, the United States can plunge ahead self-indulgently, repeating destructive habits, acting out reckless ambitions, and getting into deeper trouble. We all know children who, for whatever reason, got older but never found themselves. This is possible for nations too, especially ones that refuse to reconcile themselves to new realities.
"I am betting we will grow into our maturity and hoping that lots of Americans agree.”
Greider’s book chronicles why America is in dire straits and proposes numerous solutions to facilitate a better economic foundation for America's struggling middle class. His recommendations include consolidating many of the Federal Reserve’s functions within the executive branch to ensure public accountability for monetary policy, replacing private pension plans such as 401ks with government pension plans instead and capping U.S. trade deficits through a general emergency tariff authorized under the charter of the World Trade Organization.
Even more than any singular remedy however, Greider’s book urges outraged citizens to embrace activism as a means of forcing the powerful in the public and private sectors to finally put our national interests above corporate greed. Ultimately, Greider's book argues that the current crisis is an opportunity for citizens to reengage and facilitate a more just and equitable society.
Greider is the best-selling author of five previous books, including One World, Ready or Not; Who Will Tell the People; and Secrets of the Temple. He’s written for the Washington Post and Rolling Stone as well as serving as an on-air correspondent for six PBS Frontline documentaries. Currently, Greider is the national affairs correspondent for The Nation.
Greider agreed to a podcast telephone interview with me this afternoon about his book and views. Our conversation was just over forty-eight minutes and among the topics discussed was the current A.I.G. bonus controversy, the Democratic Party’s culpability in overriding state and local laws against usury, his recommendations to overhaul the Federal Reserve and America’s pension system, our destructive relationship with China, America’s excessive militarism and the fine line being walked by activists who support the Democratic Party and President Obama while simultaneously pushing for real change.
Listen to the interview on the flash media player at the bottom of this page.Originally posted at Intrepid Liberal Journal.