Economy Robert Scheer SI Podcast Social Issues

Michelle Wilde Anderson: Saving Broke and Broken America, One Town at a Time

Michelle Wilde Anderson speaks to Robert Scheer about how four working class towns struggling with poverty and broke governments still managed to progress.
[Stuart Wainstock / CC BY-NC 2.0]

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America’s wealth gap has been cratering since the 2008 Great Recession, although the groundwork for this form of grotesque inequality has been laid for decades before and since through policies that have systematically impoverished communities across the country. In her book, “The Fight to Save the Town: Reimagining Discarded America,” Michelle Wilde Anderson, a professor of property, local government and environmental justice at Stanford Law School, takes a closer look at four places in the U.S. in which residents are dealing with poverty while their local governments see their budgets slashed.

Michelle Wilde Anderson
Michelle Wilde Anderson. [Stanford University]

On this week’s installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Anderson shares how examining Josephine County, Oregon; Stockton, California; Lawrence, Massachusetts; and Detroit,  Michigan revealed the hope hiding in the cracks of the most broken parts of America. She also reveals that, while studying and reporting on these four places, the law professor came to understand how poverty is often pathologized in the way it’s discussed, which in turn causes more harm to the communities in question. 

“All of the places that I write about show up on all these click bait blogs, like ‘Most Miserable Place to Live in America,’ ranking the horrors of poverty and dying towns and so forth. We use all this language that heavily stigmatizes poor places, and saps our belief, our basic optimism that things can get better. And I don’t care what color the statehouse is, I think officials in all 50 states are very susceptible to the narrative that if they put money behind these problems in very poor places, they’re ‘throwing good money after bad,’ or ‘they’re trying to save places that are categorically dying and can’t be saved.’” 

To Scheer, the plight of the towns portrayed in Anderson’s book are symptomatic of widespread failure on behalf of our dysfunctional bipartisan political system. The examples Anderson provides are also indicative of a broader systemic inequality in which towns like Stockton become feeder towns for low-wage jobs in Silicon Valley—which contains some of the wealthiest ZIP codes in the nation. The Stanford scholar, however, manages to find bright spots in the shape of exceptional progress and people who beat the odds that are heavily stacked against them.  

“I think ultimately, this book is a project of political will,” concludes Anderson. “It’s a project of saying if you actually show up on the ground and you see how hard people are fighting and how much progress they’re making, these heavily pathologized, stigmatizing stories do not line up with the reality on the ground.” 

Listen to the full conversation between Anderson and Scheer as they pinpoint the ways America has failed its towns and citizens from California to Massachusetts and everywhere in between. 

Credits

Guest:

  • Michelle Wilde Anderson – Author; professor of property, local government and environmental justice, Stanford Law School

Host:

Robert Scheer

Producer:

Joshua Scheer

Transcript:

Robert Scheer:

Hi, this is Robert Scheer, with another edition of Scheer Intelligence. And I hasten to add, because I strongly believe it, the intelligence comes from my guests, of which we’ve been doing this for going on six years now, and it’s really been a great education for me. And again, we’re dealing with a subject that I had the conceit that I knew a lot about it in my 29 years at the LA Times. I covered questions of poverty, urban development that went up to the Bronx, after Jimmy Carter went there to supposedly save the Bronx, it didn’t quite get saved.

And I’ve covered these issues, but I must say this book, Michelle Wilde Anderson, a professor at Stanford, “The Fight to Save the Town, Reimagining Discarded America,” it’s a Simon & Schuster book, and coming from a law professor, it’s a terrific work of journalism. You went into four different towns, I’ll let you give the list and so forth, and interviewed people suffering, trying to end the suffering. Sometimes having success, more often having failure. But to my mind, it’s revisiting the old Dreiser book of The Forgotten America, or Michael Harrington, and what happened here? What happened to the normal American city?

And I’m going to let you lay out the large theme, but in terms of your own, where you work at Stanford, one of the things that struck me very early on in this book, you’re talking about a town of Stockton, California, where ironically, they’re not discarded in a sense, because buses leave Stockton for people to clean bathrooms and do other work at Stanford early in the morning. Maybe we should just begin with that. It’s not so much discarded people, as really maybe what, neglected or exploited ordinary Americans?

Michelle Wilde Anderson:

Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Robert. I’m so delighted to be here. It’s wonderful to get to have this conversation with you. And I think Stockton and it’s relationship to this Silicon Valley is a terrific place to start. There’s no question that Stanford and Palo Alto and Silicon Valley rely on low wage workers that come in from very long distances, and Stockton is one of those feeder towns for the workforce that Silicon Valley refuses to build housing for.

And that commute time has real penalties on the ground for families. It’s not only extremely expensive, because some ride the bus, as you describe, but many have to maintain private cars. It’s very expensive. It is hours every single day away from children and caregiving responsibilities to families, and it’s hard on their bodies, et cetera. So the fact that Stanford and Silicon Valley’s hospitals and universities and businesses rely on this workforce is inextricable from the inequality at the heart of this book.

Robert Scheer:

And the question is, do the folks at Stanford, I don’t want to pick on Stanford here, although that’s not a bad thing to do, but do your colleagues there, and particularly the folks over in the business school and the Hoover Institute and so forth, do they recognize the different America of the people cleaning the bathrooms or serving food at Stanford, or doing all the other things that keep it functioning? I could ask the same question about where I teach at USC in LA, or any other school, but it’s an issue you’ve specialized in this.

You’re a leading expert, really, on what’s happening now in so-called ordinary America. And reading your book, if you took it away the labels of these cities… I might as well mention, you’re talking about Stockton, California, you’re also talking about Detroit, Michigan, you’re talking about Lawrence, Massachusetts, and you’re talking about I guess Josephine County, Oregon, but you know, if you take away those labels, I would think you’re talking about what we used to call a third world environment. And so it’s literally another America, and yet it’s connected to the elite places because these are the people who do a lot of the menial work. And in the case of Stockton, they also work in the fields feeding most of us, right?

Michelle Wilde Anderson:

Yeah. Stockton is definitely the urban center of distribution and food processing and manufacturing related to the agricultural interior of California that not only feeds the Bay Area, but also California and really the world, so that’s definitely true. And it’s also true, Robert, to just pick up on one other thing you said, that most of Silicon Valley is hyper-segregated in terms of class. Race too, but both of those dimensions, and that level of class segregation means that many times, as you suggest, people are not aware of the degree to which their own economy and their own businesses are interwoven with communities elsewhere.

And you can find that all over the country. I wrote about that in the context of Lawrence, Massachusetts too, because Lawrence is an urban center that is adjacent to the Route 128 Silicon Valley of Massachusetts zone, with Andover and some of the wealthiest communities in the state of Massachusetts, and a city like Lawrence is the low wage service pool for everything from nannies to elder care to Uber eats drivers, to on and on, so Route 128’s wealth is built in relation to the poverty in Lawrence. So these kinds of deep interconnections are very important.

But if I may, I just want to rewind for one second and just touch down with what the book is about, because it’s not about poverty generally, as you know, it’s really about places that are both very poor, but also broke at the government level. So it’s about places that have high levels of poverty all across the entire city or the entire county, and because of that concentration of poverty in a tax base, and because of the long-term retreat of state and federal dollars supporting local governments, what I’m documenting is what happens when local government shrivels back in the context of this kind of poverty.

Robert Scheer:

Yeah. But I want to make a point here, because when we think of border to border within a county, or poverty, I guess people would think of the old, rural south. There is still a very much impoverished rural south. I remember spending time when Bill Clinton was running for president, when he was president, in his neck of the woods in Arkansas and the Old Delta. But these are states that have what are considered, and they consider themselves enlightened progressive governments. So Stockton… And I don’t want to fall into the trap of dehumanizing poor people. I grew up myself in the Bronx during the Depression and lived there for 23 years, so I know.

And the great thing about your book is these people come alive that live there. They have aspirations, they care about their children. They want things to get better. They make sacrifices to get it better, whether they’re cops or they’re people out of work, or whether they’re people working in the fields and what have you. And so your book is really a book about a struggle to make things better, rather than bemoan the way they are. Now, you use a phrase from a civil rights leader, we want people to call in rather than call out, and so we don’t want to write off any of these people. But the fact of the matter is, in your discussion of Stockton, very progressive governors like Jerry Brown and now Gavin Newsom appear almost as side figures, extras.

They have the power in a rich state like California, or take Massachusetts or Michigan or Oregon, the four states that you talk about, to not neglect these people. To make the schools better, to help local funding. You point out the local tax base is not good because you have poor people, but the state can do something about it. And I’d like you to address that question, because it’s a story of heroism on the part of ordinary people in their communities that want to save it, want it to be what it should be and has been at other times, but what about the power brokers?

Michelle Wilde Anderson:

Yeah. So let me take that in a few different pieces, because that’s such a rich question. First of all, it’s true that the book doesn’t focus on any places out of the American south. The problem that I write about is all over the South. Texas alone has 240 places that have the problem of concentrated poverty across a tax base, and Missouri, 240 of them, Alabama, 124. This is a problem all over the South. So why didn’t my book hold the South? The reason I didn’t write about any southern community in great depth is because right now, their state governments don’t care. So there’s a way in which I wrote about blue and purple states on purpose, because I think that the project of generating greater political will from the state is much more promising in those political environments. That’s just the reality.

The project of The Fight to Save the Town in Jackson, Mississippi is amazing. There’s a story to tell about that. I want to work on that one day and tell that story, but that work in Mississippi has to look different than that work does in Stockton. And I think that at some level, because I’m a legal scholar and I understand how fundamentally the Southern states have built these different legal structures around taxes and local government, there’s just going to be a different set of solutions. But then, within the states I was writing about, there’s a different problem, which is that the wealthiest areas in the country, and I think really all across our broader discourse, anybody can be very guilty of pathologizing poverty in the way you also alluded to.

This is why all of the places that I write about, they show up on all these click bait blogs, like Most Miserable Place to Live in America, ranking the horrors of poverty and dying towns and so forth. We use all this language that heavily stigmatizes poor places, and saps our belief, our basic optimism that things can get better. And I don’t care what color the statehouse is, I think officials in all 50 states are very susceptible to the narrative that if they put money behind these problems in very poor places, they’re, quote unquote, throwing good money after bad, or they’re trying to save places that are categorically dying and can’t be saved. So I think ultimately, this book is a project of political will. It’s a project of saying if you actually show up on the ground and you see how hard people are fighting and how much progress they’re making, these heavily pathologized, stigmatizing stories do not line up with the reality on the ground.

Robert Scheer:

Well, but the disconnect. I’ll just introduce, I’m an old guy now, but I grew up in a period of great optimism about doing something about poverty because I was born during the Depression. 1936, very bad year. My father lost his job, et cetera, et cetera. But in the post-war period, World War II, there was a great optimism, and there was a great commitment to poor people, particularly if they were white, even if they were immigrants. Coming out of that, the New Deal and so forth. And there was no question, when I went to school in the Bronx, they were going to make those schools work, and they were going to train at least the male students for meaningful jobs, and being an engineer or what have you, and that things were going to work, and safety was going to exist and so forth.

Reading your book, we’re really talking about throwaway people, in the minds of an establishment. Losers. People you don’t care about, the way I felt Franklin Roosevelt at least cared about me, and I cried when he died. Reading your book, there’s an absence of the people who can really make it better, because all of these cities you’re talking about… And they’re big cities, actually. Stockton, I think has 300,000 people, it’s a major industrial hub, and the others are all significant. Certainly Detroit is, Lawrence, Massachusetts, and the portion of Oregon that you were talking about… And yet the federal government is just making decisions to spend $45 billion. I don’t want to write an editorial here on the Ukraine. They found $45 billion.

Every area that you talk about, they’re broke. Some have declared bankruptcy, they can’t find the resources. Why? Because they can’t have local taxes. Well, why? California’s not broke. It’s the fifth largest economy in the world. It’s a deep blue state. The state house and the governor in California that has veto-proof majority, why aren’t they doing the right thing by Stockton, California? It’s a straightforward question. They don’t care. They don’t see those as fellow humans. And by the way, you point out the population of these cities drawn from all over the world, all colors, all backgrounds. These are fully human beings by anybody’s prejudiced reckoning, so what happens when you run into a Gavin Newsom or a Jerry Brown? Do you ever ask them, “Where’ve you been? What have you done for Stockton?”

Michelle Wilde Anderson:

Well, let me come back to that. I think your question situated us in this longer historical arc, and I just want to finish that thought. I think it’s true that if you go back to the ’30s and the Great Depression, and you benchmark it to the Great Recession, which was the biggest wave of municipal bankruptcy since the Depression, so that window of time is pretty good snapshot of this longer arc of change in federal funding for local governments. And across our period, back in the ’30s, local governments were incredibly unequal. We flattened a lot of that inequality, the world of local government haves and have nots in the mid-century period, when we flattened all kinds of interpersonal inequality too, and then in starting in the ’80s, it started to revive.

I’m situated as a writer today in this aftermath of 40, 45 years of rising inequality among local governments, where we’re spending a lot of money on government in general. We’re spending a lot of money on local government in general relative to the past, but it’s super unequal. So back to Palo Alto, which you mentioned, and Palo Alto is a very wealthy town as your listeners will recognize, and I work there, Palo Alto invested more than $76 million in renovating its libraries, with state-of-the-art technology and wifi in public space. And Stockton nearby, which as we said before is a source of a really important pool of workers for the Silicon Valley engine, couldn’t afford to keep all of its libraries open.

And I’m writing about this larger problem nationally, lots of places that can’t afford to keep things like libraries open, even though their people rely much more heavily on publicly-provided wifi and computer terminals and books than a private household in Palo Alto, generally speaking, will need to do. So libraries are more important in Stockton, and they’re less able to afford them. So that kind of acute inequality that we’re sitting in right now has definitely risen in this most recent period. And so you alluded to that, and it’s absolutely true. I do think that these kinds of communities need reinvestment in people, in resources, in attention, and there’s a way in which the stories we tell about them undermine that reinvestment.

There’s a very common narrative, it’s almost an oppressive narrative, that the reason local governments have gotten in trouble is because of corruption or self-dealing, or failed management. That if they’d just had better officials, things wouldn’t be so bad. And the truth is that there’s individual incidents of mortifying levels of corruption, terrible government officials, any given self-dealing or kickback scandal. Those things happen for sure, but they’re tiny numerically compared to the crushing budget pressure that comes from having citywide poverty.

So I think we have to be realistic about the causal role that corruption or mismanagement plays, and when we tell stories that fixate on bad management, I think we reinforce these vicious cycles in which there’s no political will to support the city from outside, because people feel like new resources will be wasted. So part of what I deliberately set out to do in this book was ask where are these problems coming from? And dropping into four places in greater detail allowed me to really look at the engines of decline, at the roads that people are building out of that decline, and really think more holistically on each community’s own terms, how did we get here, and who’s got a vision for how to get out of it?

Robert Scheer:

You know, just yesterday by coincidence, I talked to my late father’s relatives in Germany, in a part of Southwest Germany that I have visited often, and so forth. And they work in sophisticated, modern jobs as engineers, and new technology and everything. They still live in their hometown in Southwest Germany. They raised their children there, and there’s a transportation system that helps them get around, but it’s the norm. It’s the norm. These towns were written off not because you can’t make Stockton a good place to live, and by that I don’t mean the redevelopment and the river and get some tourism and replace the population, I mean if you really cared about the people who live in Stockton, which is not a bad place to live by any means, in terms of its climate or what have you, then you would make sure.

It happened in my father’s hometown. They supply instruments to all the children young, and they also did that, by the way, in the Bronx when I went to school. I got to take a cello home from the public school, believe it or not, a heavy cello. But in your book, you have an example you say of an orchestra, which every instrument is broken, but this conductor is still trying to get music out of them, and that is a positive tale in that they get a kind of music. I found it an incredibly depressing tale, and if I were a parent of one of those children, I would say, “Stop. Stop. Where is the governor? Where are the leaders? Where are the religious leaders? Where are the political leaders? Where is Nancy Pelosi in this state? Why isn’t she getting decent musical instruments here, to such a rich state?” What would your answer be to that?

Michelle Wilde Anderson:

Yeah. Well, let me just explain to your listeners what that was. It’s actually the prologue to the book, and it took place in Philadelphia, which I’m not writing about in the book, but I thought it was this amazing metaphor. And in 2017, some philanthropy came together with a museum and a music composer to write a symphony, what they called A Symphony for a Broken Orchestra. And they collected these broken instruments that were stuck in closets across the Philly Public Schools, and really, they did it for exactly the message that you took from it, Robert, which is if people realized how broken down the Philadelphia Public School’s music system is that had this heritage music program in the past, and was a really important part of arts and culture in the city, if people understood how defunded this larger school program was, they would care.

And they raised a ton of private resources and brought a lot of attention to the state of disrepair of the instruments, so they did it for exactly the message. It was a message to the governor and the mayor, and the superintendent and the people of Pennsylvania. And I use it in the book as a framing metaphor, just to set up that I’m, in the book, not trying to say that it’s better to have an orchestra full of broken instruments. That is never the goal. But instead, when you look at what people can do, even with depleted resources, it reminds you of our incredible potential as humans to work together to solve difficult problems. And just like resources flooded toward the Philly Public Schools after the symphony, that is my greatest aspiration for this book is that resources will move toward these people, toward these organizations, toward these cities, because look what they can do even without outside support, and imagine what they’d be capable of with it.

Robert Scheer:

Yeah. And obviously, this is a great message. I want to reiterate the book, by the way, is called The Fight to Save the Town, Reimagining Discarded America. My only disagreement is with that word discarded. I would put exploited, imprisoned, destroyed. We are talking about the heart of America. We’re talking about the people who were supposed to be [inaudible 00:24:56] ever-expanding middle class. And they’re the people, because of de-industrialization, unfair trade policies, exploiting the labor of everyone else in the world, particularly in China and so forth, they’ve been cut off from work that pays significantly. And they are towns that formally had that work, and in the case of Stockton, if they would just pay agricultural workers a living decent wage, that town also would have more money to do things.

But I want to end this, we have about five minutes, really with a question. And I really recommend the book, because once you read this book, you will not consider this a population that can be morally, not any population should be, discarded or forgotten, or no account. These are us. They’re everybody. But I do want to raise a question with you, my one issue that the book raised. There’s a reoccurring devil that appears in this book, and it’s a devil that the Great Recession, as you write, the bookends really could be the Depression and then the Great Recession, the Great Recession was not an act of God. It was not a natural calamity of earthquake or something. The Great Recession was a design of deregulation, and of the Clinton Administration, with the full support of the Republican Congress, to end the sensible New Deal regulations of Wall Street.

And it is Wall Street greed that it reappears in each of your four examples, the Great Recession. And the Great Recession, which made all these liar loans and swindling and hustling, you mentioned the impact on minority people. Black college graduates lost 70% of their wealth, or 65%, according to the Federal Reserve of St. Louis. Brown people lost 60% of their family wealth, so it was a devastation and a reversal of any effort to have greater income equality, and it was a swindle. And then at the end of that swindle, you don’t bail out Stockton or Detroit or Lawrence or Josephine County, you bail out Wall Street. And that was done even with Barack Obama. So I’m asking you, reading this book, why am I focusing so much on this brave young person who becomes a supervisor or city council, becomes a mayor, then runs into the trouble of where do we get the money? Where are the big shots? Where are the Stanford, Yale, Harvard graduates who went to Wall Street and designed these treacherous financial schemes, and then bankrupting Stockton, and what is their responsibility to make it better?

Michelle Wilde Anderson:

So, there’s no question that the Great Recession comes along after really decades of declines. You have this chronic problem that is accumulating across the industrialization, and a lot of suburban flight issues, and tremendous ongoing racial segregation. You have those chronic problems, and then the Great Recession comes along and just slams these cities all in slightly different ways, but all very profoundly, as you described. So that’s true. I’m a lawyer, there are people fighting the fight you’re describing. They’re fighting it in courtrooms, they’re fighting it in state legislation, they’re fighting it at the federal level. You have fought it as a reporter. That’s an important conversation to have both punitively, preventatively, and in terms of remedying, or some kind of restorative answer to the ongoing displacement of the recession.

But meanwhile, back on the ground, people are still living in their towns, and they still have to show up for each other. And that’s the bottom line of this book, is while DC is fighting through its wars of polarization, while ongoing, incredible levels of inequality continue to flourish in the larger macro economy, people on the ground are looking out for each other anyway. And they have to be able to do that, because they cannot wait for, as one Oregon official said, the cavalry is not coming. And at some level, maybe the cavalry will come. Maybe we’ll progress on regulation and other kinds of modes of tax reform that address systemic national inequality, but meanwhile, there are incredibly vulnerable people on the ground.

And this book sits with the problem of unlivable wages, incredible ongoing levels of foreclosure and evictions, gun violence, and the collapse of public services, and those four problems are not going to wait for the big federal answers. So at some level, this book is by no means saying that the federal reform work is not important, or the state reform work is not important. Those are critical. The whole point of the book is to summon more of that energy at higher levels of government, but at the end of the day, the reason those governments should care is because they’re incredible people who are progressing on the ground.

And that’s where this whole project started, is these places that I chose are poor and broke, but they’re also progressing, and we owe them something for that tenacity and resilience. And also, the truth is that there are such exceptional people there. At one point in the introduction, I described how I felt so angry reporting parts of this book, and other times I was just brokenhearted by it. But equally, I felt envy in writing a lot of this book. There are incredible people who are building communities and networks together of a lot of friendship and joy and meaning in their lives. And so this is not a paternalistic project of sympathy for these places, it’s really a look at how extraordinary humans can be, even in the most trying circumstances.

Robert Scheer:

And I agree with what you said about the importance of the book, which first of all, begins by reminding us that these are not throwaway people. These are people, they are us, and they could be us, and I want to end on that point. I’m recording this from downtown LA, okay? I would love to have you, your journalistic side, even though you’re a hotshot lawyer there, do for LA what you did for Stockton, what you did for Lawrence, what you did for Josephine and what you did for Detroit, because here, right in LA, I’ll go out and get a Subway sandwich for lunch soon and I’ll run into homeless people all over the place. I’ll run into a dysfunctional city in this great big, blue state run by liberals and enlightened people, although now we got another one of those rich guys who wants to be mayor, and they’re they’re tussling about it.

But the fact of the matter is, the discarded America you are writing about is not located just in those four counties, it’s most of the working people, most of the so-called ordinary people of this country. And that’s why, I just read the New York Times poll, 33% of the people give Biden doing a good job. They think the country’s headed in a darkly different direction, and the economy is the main reason. And what your book is, is really a wake-up call, I think, to pretend progressive politicians. They are the ones who have discarded America, not because the right wing Republicans wouldn’t, they’d probably shoot them all all, but the fact of the matter is this neglect in your four cases came in four states where the top leadership pride themselves on being enlightened and concerned about ordinary people.

I’ll let you have the last word, but I’m not saying your book misses the target. Your book opens up a discussion about the real America, and it’s not just these particular towns. It’s a book you could write right now about other parts of the Bay Area, much of the Bay Area, despite Silicon Valley. It’s certainly a book you could write about Southern California right now, beginning with Los Angeles, but I’ll let you. So I am recommending this book. I think it’s terrific, in the spirit of Michael Harrington or people that really wrote about what’s going on, Studs Terkel or what have you. But let me give you the last word, and tell us about your next project, or how are you going to expand this discussion?

Michelle Wilde Anderson:

Well, I thank you so much, Robert. That was very generous, and I couldn’t agree more that there’s a version of this book that can be written about just so many places from different angles. And for that reason, when I sign the book for friends and family, and just anybody who wants me to sign it, I take the title page, which as you said, the book is called The Fight to Save the Town, but I just cross out the title to alter it so it says Fight to Save Your Town. And to me, that’s the larger message that you just conveyed. This a project of responsibility for each other. It’s a project of being responsible for vulnerable people within our own community, and being responsible for shaping and communicating with and learning about our local government institutions.

At some level, this project is about the kind of radical mutual aid that we need at the civic level, in addition to one-on-one mutual aid. It’s incredibly important to just a functioning democracy, and with our larger national democracy in a very shaky moment in our history, I feel like learning the project of democracy, learning the project of institutional engagement at the local level is incredibly important. And I will give the actual last word to Jasmine Dellafosse, who is an amazing Stockton organizer that I’ve been so privileged to work with and write about.

And Jasmine and I were talking yesterday, and she showed me this vision board that she did when she was a brand new intern for the City Councilman Michael Tubbs in Stockton. She was 17 years old and she created this vision board about what she was doing there and what she wanted for her hometown of Stockton, and one of the pieces on this board said change the city, change the world, and below it, she wrote the things that were so important to her, and they were all based on people. They were based on child literacy, they were based on high school graduation. They were based on closing mass incarceration as our answer to concentrated poverty. So change the city, change the world. I really believe that we have a responsibility to that work, and we have a responsibility to our towns.

Robert Scheer:

Well, that’s a good statement of it. Let me just put one last little footnote here. Sadly, when you drive up and down California, particularly if you go on the 99 or something, lesser highways, you realize sadly enough, the main way towns have been saved is by the prison industrial complex, and the placement of people not because it’s convenient for others to visit them or anything, but because it creates jobs. And the incarcerated population is probably the main way that they’ve tried to address, so I know that your job at Stanford, you’re an expert on local government property. This is Michelle Wilde Anderson, local government property, environmental justice. And I think the sad thing is most of Americans now fall into a category where the people who have real power think they’re an inconvenience.

If we could just one way or another ignore them or get rid of them, we’d have a thing here, and you remind us that is not the way of justice, and it’s not the way of stability. So the book is “The Fight to Save the Town,” I think it should be called “The Fight to Save America.” And I want to thank you for being here. I want to thank Christopher Ho and Laura Kondourajian at KCRW for posting these shows, Joshua Scheer, our executive producer for getting it all together, Natasha Hakimi Zapata for writing the introduction, and the JKW Foundation in the memory of a terrific writer, Jean Stein, for helping fund some of these. See you next week with another addition of Scheer Intelligence. 

4 comments

  1. Once again you didn’t say what really happened to those cities. Our factories went to slave wage nations thanks to bill clintons FREE TRADE

    t was America that was at the forefront of the industrial revolution. It was America that showed the world how to mass produce everything from automobiles to televisions to airplanes. It was the great American manufacturing base that crushed Germany and Japan in World War II.

    But now we are witnessing the deindustrialization of America. Tens of thousands of factories have left the United States in the past decade alone. Millions upon millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost in the same time period.

    The United States has become a nation that consumes everything in sight and yet produces increasingly little. Do you know what our biggest export is today? Waste paper. Yes, trash is the number one thing that we ship out to the rest of the world as we voraciously blow our money on whatever the rest of the world wants to sell to us.
    https://www.businessinsider.com/sad-facts-deindustrialization-america-2011-11?op=1

  2. insanity—Newsome and Brown “progressive”—maybee in Nazi Germany
    “that a nation like America is irresponsibly adolescent is revealed in the great fear Americans have of learning about the war they made in Vietnam”. Richard Sennet

  3. John Titus is creating a new video series that claims the economic meltdown of 2008 was really a coup d’etat, and the only solution is revolution:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VRV_1ECbasw
    Revolution includes the kind of organizing the guest describes here, creating communities of mutual aid and resistance. The super elite like Eric Schmidt who have captured “our” government agencies don’t understand empathy or appreciate human resilience because they hate life itself. What the hell is wrong with them? Why do we reward the most psychopathic among us with the most wealth and power?

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