Tom Brokaw is apparently very confused on the issue of “shared sacrifice” and who has and has not already been sacrificing in our society. On this Sunday's Meet the Press, while discussing a recent AARP ad where the group basically stated that the politicians had better keep their hands off of Social Security and Medicare, Brokaw called the ad selfish and an example of "I got mine, to heck with the rest of you." Brokaw followed that with a lot of hand wringing about what tough times we're all in for in America and how we need to be ready to “make some hard calls.”
It seems those “hard calls” include means testing Social Security, which is a terrible idea because it turns it into a welfare program that would be much easier to destroy. And nowhere in the conversation did raising taxes on the rich, raising the cap on payroll taxes, our terrible trade laws that encourage a race to the bottom on wages, the destruction of the labor movement or the refusal to regulate the financial industries come up as a solution to making sure we can keep our social safety nets in place and that we don't have senior citizens or anyone else for that matter living in poverty.
Color me not shocked since our Villagers in the corporate media still aren't over their fetish with austerity measures, regardless of where the majority of public opinion is at right now where people are fed up with the income disparity and the poor and middle class being the only ones asked to make some kind of “shared sacrifice.”
Transcript below the fold.
GREGORY: We're back with our roundtable. Tom Brokaw, your latest book is "The Time of Our Lives." You talk about political gridlock, but you also talk about, at the same time, a lack of shared national purpose. If there's an example of that, here is an ad from AARP, for seniors in the country, that talks about their political message to Washington. Watch.
(Videotape, AARP ad)
Unidentified Man: So Washington, before you even think about cutting my Medicare and Social Security benefits, here's a number you should remember, 50 million. We are 50 million seniors who earned our benefits, and you will be hearing from us today and on Election Day.
GREGORY: I wouldn't call you a senior, but you are a grandpa.
BROKAW: I am. I am a member of that generation, frankly. And...
GREGORY: And that struck you.
BROKAW: It did strike me because I thought it, it would have been much more appropriate for the AARP saying, "Look, this is a crisis in our lives. We are the beneficiaries of all the hard work before us. We know that change is coming. We're here to help you with that change, but there are members of our group who really do need all of this help." There are other members who can afford to pay more and are willing to defer their retirement, whatever you want to do. But to put the marker down that way...
Offscreen Voice: Yeah.
BROKAW: ...is saying, "I got mine, to heck with the rest of you." I just think that's the wrong message. What I talk about in the book is that we all have to step forward. The phrase that I use is that we have to re-enlist as citizens, and that what we have to do is understand that this is going to be hard. This is a real intersection in American life. We're being challenged by, not just China, but by Brazil and Russia and India as well, in education, in housing, in everything else. We need to make some hard calls, and there's a short history of this in this country. Look what we did going into World War II, which is a favorite subject of mine: 1939 we were the 16th military power in the world. We turned this country, won the war, came home and built the lives that we have today. We need to go back on that kind of a footing.
GREGORY: And you talk about the stakes being enormous, writing in your book, "One often repeated question is the most troubling of all, because it challenges an American belief so fundamental it might as well be carved in stone on a Washington monument: `Will our children and grandchildren have better lives than us?'"
BROKAW: I've never had that question asked of me before until the last couple of years. For the first time, parents and grandparents of my generation and the baby boomers are saying, "I don't think my kids will have the lives that we've had." And it's not just a quantitative question, more things, it's the quality of life and what they can expect from their country and how they fit into the world and how they play in the political culture. Walter obviously has written about Steve Jobs. I was thinking earlier we have a--we have an analog political culture in a digital world, and that's one of the ways that we have to start thinking about changing whatever we're doing.