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Bernie vs. Greenspan

07/31/03 12:00AM By Ellen David Friedman
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(Host) Commentator Ellen David Friedman says that the problem with trying to decide who is in touch, and who's out of touch - with reality - is that it depends on what YOUR reality is.

(Friedman) When Bernie Sanders confronts Alan Greenspan, two wildly different worldviews collide.

Congressman Sanders publicly interrogates Mr. Greenspan, the long-serving chair of the Federal Reserve Board, every year when he comes before the Financial Services Committee on which Sanders serves.

Sanders to Greenspan - quote - You talk about an improving economy while we have lost 3 million private sector jobs in the last two years, long-term unemployment has more than tripled one-point-four million Americans have lost their health insurance.

A bit later Greenspan responds to Sanders - quote - The major focus of monetary policy is to create an environment in this country which enables capital investment and innovation to advance.

You could say both gentlemen are correct. Congressman Sanders' viewpoint reflects reality for middle class, working Americans who are just trying to get by. But Greenspan sees things in terms of those who own vast wealth, that very small minority that drive our economy.

Sanders to Greenspan - quote - You have insulted tens of millions of American workers. You have defended over the years the abolition of the minimum wage and giving huge tax breaks to billionaires. But today you have reached a new low, I think, by suggesting that manufacturing in America doesn't matter.

When Alan Greenspan talks about capital investment and innovation, he doesn't necessarily mean investment in America of course. He means investment by American corporations wherever the returns will be greatest. That generally means the countries of the world with the lowest labor rates. Mega-profits made in those countries can, technically, be considered American wealth but it is wealth that belongs to a ridiculously small number of Americans.

Still later in the hearing, Greenspan to Sanders - quote - We are at the cutting edge of technologies in the world.

Now, this is certainly true. American technologies are cutting edge, and have generated well-paying technical, research and manufacturing jobs for Americans. But Greenspan is out-of-touch with reality if he implies that these benefits are enduring. The actual reality for working Americans is obvious everywhere, and a signal of it came to Vermonters last week from IBM, that bastion of stable, high tech employment. In a conference call to IBM executives, a transcript of which was leaked to the media, two senior officials explained that IBM would accelerate its efforts to move white-collar, often high-paying, jobs overseas.

Bernie Sanders has been alert to this trend for years. Corporate executives, and their defenders, have hoped that we - American workers - wouldn't notice or wouldn't care. Increasingly, we must notice. This reality is at our door. It's not easy to reshape reality, but the first step - as always - is to acknowledge what is real.

I'm Ellen David Friedman.

Ellen David Friedman is Vice-Chair of the Vermont Progressive Party. She has worked in the labor movement in Vermont for more than 25 years. She spoke from our studio on Montpelier.
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