Mort Zuckerman Blames Lack Of Upward Mobility In America On Teachers Unions

I don't know about anyone else, but I feel there's something rather disconcerting about about watching four extremely rich American immigrants who were all born on third base, discussing the reasons for lack of upward mobility in the United States, but that's exactly what we got here on CNN's weekend show, Your Money.
up

I don't know about anyone else, but I feel there's something rather disconcerting about about watching four extremely rich American immigrants who were all born on third base, discussing the reasons for lack of upward mobility in the United States, but that's exactly what we got here on CNN's weekend show, Your Money.

I guess they couldn't find anyone who actually grew up as a member of the working class or a union member or leader to potentially counter the likes of Mort Zuckerman, and statements such as this one that are inevitable when you allow him on the air:

ZUCKERMAN: Let me just say I really support what Arianna has just described. I think there are huge problems in this country and a lot of it, in my judgment, stems not from capitalism but from the government.

I'll focus on the first one, which is we have done a terrible job in providing enough education for the children of this country. There's a whole mismatch in terms of the number of people coming out looking for jobs and the qualifications that people need for jobs, particularly those who are educated, particularly in the world of science and technology.

There are shortages of people, there are literally millions of open jobs because we don't train --

VELSHI: But why does the free market not solve that problem?

ZUCKERMAN: Because the education is a government function. If there ever was a public function in this country from the days it started, it's public education and we've done a lousy job. Part of it is frankly because we have lousy teachers.

Part of the reason we have lousy teachers is we have teachers union that say won't deal with those issues. So there are lots of reasons why education is not being properly handled in this country.

But to me if I could think of one thing that would change it, it would be to change our system of education and make sure that our children were properly educated.

I can think of a lot of reasons as to why we are lacking upward mobility in the U.S., like outsourcing, a race to the bottom on wages (which is what Zuckerman is really advocating for here), union busting, corporate raiders and vulture capitalists like Mitt Romney and his ilk, our terrible trade laws, lowering taxes on the rich, not regulating the financial sector, privatizing our commons, and some of the issues they did touch on during this segment. But not being able to fire enough of those terrible greedy overpaid teachers that have those damned unions representing them is not one of them that makes my list.

And Zakaria wasn't much better with basically saying we have to choose between our social safety nets or investing in infrastructure and education as though we can't do something about the unfairness in our tax structure and controlling the costs of providing medical benefits to Americans, like say, single-payer, and do both. I will give him credit though for admitting that austerity isn't going to solve our economic problems and at least bothering to mention that the people who are still employed are in the jobs you can't outsource. It would have been nice to hear the topic of the pure greed of a few and the race to the bottom that got us there though, which I don't expect from the likes of CNN. They play the same "fair and balanced" game Fox does. They're just not as blatant about it.

Full transcript below the fold.

VELSHI: Fareed, is American capitalism the problem here? Is it broken? Is it doing what we expected it to do?

ZAKARIA: I don't think American capitalism is broken, but I think that there have been fundamental changes that have taken place over the last 20 years.

If you look at the American economy over the last 20 years we have created net no new jobs in what is called the tradable sector of the economy, the part of the economy that is subject to global competition.

The only jobs we've created have been in health care, in government and in fields like construction, which are not really subject to outsourcing. You can't outsource the building of a New York skyscraper. So something has happened and I think it's a combination of technology and globalization that is pressing down very hard on the average American worker.

It becomes very difficult for him to find a way to raise his wages or her to raise her wages. So that's real and I think it's a huge problem for an economic system, which has been able to provide enormous rewards to capital corporations. But it's finding it much more difficult to provide those rewards to workers.

VELSHI: That's interesting. What you're talking about here is what we thought of as upward mobility, which is we think about it as capitalism and free enterprise.

But really part of the American dream, Arianna, has been the ability to come here and leave this earth in a better socioeconomic position than you started, that upward mobility, that your work will be rewarded.

HUFFINGTON: Absolutely. As an immigrant to this country, this accent is for real. I've lived the American dream. I remember growing up in Athens and walking by a statue of President Truman, who was revered because of the Marshall plan, and there was a sense that you could move to America in search of a better life. That was always identified with America.

And I think what happened goes even beyond technology and globalization. I think it's two things for me. The role of government in misallocating resources, because you have basically the role of money in politics, the role of lobbies, the role of influence has meant that we have so many rewards being given for the wrong reasons.

Whether you are -- whether it's sugar subsidies or whether it is the attempt as happened recently to regulate for profit colleges, which was undermined by for profit colleges spending $16 million to basically water down the regulations.

Again, education is at the heart of the American dream. If you can't go to a good school and if you can't afford to go to college, that's a central undermining of the dream.

VELSHI: So let's take a look at this Pew study, Mort. Pew survey recently found that 46 percent of Americans believe most rich people are wealthy because they came from wealth. They came from a wealthy family or they have great family connections.

So that's 46 percent, 43 percent believe people become rich primarily as a result of their own hard work and education. So Americans are roughly divided on whether making money in this country is as a result of hard work.

This is at the core of some of the debate that we're having right now. You hear a lot of the Republican candidates saying that Democrats are not rewarding work. This issue of whether work pays is central to whether capitalism works.

ZUCKERMAN: Let me just say I really support what Arianna has just described. I think there are huge problems in this country and a lot of it, in my judgment, stems not from capitalism but from the government.

I'll focus on the first one, which is we have done a terrible job in providing enough education for the children of this country. There's a whole mismatch in terms of the number of people coming out looking for jobs and the qualifications that people need for jobs, particularly those who are educated, particularly in the world of science and technology.

There are shortages of people, there are literally millions of open jobs because we don't train --

VELSHI: But why does the free market not solve that problem?

ZUCKERMAN: Because the education is a government function. If there ever was a public function in this country from the days it started, it's public education and we've done a lousy job. Part of it is frankly because we have lousy teachers.

Part of the reason we have lousy teachers is we have teachers union that say won't deal with those issues. So there are lots of reasons why education is not being properly handled in this country.

But to me if I could think of one thing that would change it, it would be to change our system of education and make sure that our children were properly educated.

VELSHI: OK, let's go full circle here because I know you've talked about this, Fareed, this idea if we're educating properly, it should lead to less -- we have a mismatch.

Let's say we have 15 or 16 million people unemployed. We have probably 3 million job openings in the United States and we've had that consistently for some period.

Because the people with the 3 million job openings say we can't find the talent to fill it and the 16 million looking for jobs don't have the skills to fill the 3 million. So we got a mismatch.

ZAKARIA: The 3 million job openings are slightly deceptive because there's always a process of jobs being available that people aren't filling. I think I want to go to the central point you were asking, which is -- and what Mort was talking about, the role of government.

I think it's very important to understand there is no such thing as just capitalism and socialism. There are varieties of capitalism and the crucial question is are we providing the kind of investment in human capital and physical capital that are going to make it possible for broad-based economic growth, or are we instead subsidizing a bunch of industries here. That is the crucial issue.

We have to find a way to get the role of government to be pro-growth, pro-middle class and we're not doing that right now because of lobbies and frankly, the American public want very large and lavish subsidies for the health care. They don't want to invest in science and technology in education.

Even things like infrastructure are much less popular than expenditures that consumption, Medicare, Medicaid, things like that. So I think the crucial pointing is not -- you can't cut your way to a new generation of prosperity.

People who think you can have austerity and budget balancing are crazy. You need an active, energetic government, but it's got to do the right things.

VELSHI: So the role of government in providing the ability for the individuals to change their situation, to improve their economic situation is central.

About Heather

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.