--Collins the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean here at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and we're delighted to have so many of you with us here this afternoon. I'm particularly pleased to host the Citigroup lecture this afternoon on behalf of the Ford School and the International Policy Center and we're very pleased to have the director Jan Svejnar with us as well. It's a special honor to have Dr.Jessica Tuchman Mathews with us to deliver our Citigroup Lecture for 2010. The Citigroup Foundation Lecture was made possible by a gift from--in honor of President Gerald R. Ford from the Citigroup Foundation and we're very grateful for this generous gift which has enabled us to bring a number of distinguished thought leaders and policy makers to the Ford School and to our broader community. Dr. Mathews is the President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace which is a major nonprofit organization that is dedicated to advancing cooperation between nations and promoting active international engagement via the United States. Dr. Mathews has held positions in the executive and legislative branches in management and research in the nonprofit arena and in journalism. She is one of the nation's most important and influential voices on international affairs and foreign policy. She was a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations from 1993 to 1997 and served as Director of the Council's Washington Program. From 1982 to '93, Dr. Mathews was founding Vice President and Director of Research of the World Resources Institute, an internationally know center for policy research on environmental and natural resource management issues. She's also served on the Editorial Board for the Washington Post covering energy, environment, science, technology, health and arms control issues and later became a weekly columnist for the paper. She earned a bachelors degree from Radcliffe and a PhD in Molecular Biology from the Institute for Technology--of Technology. As I said earlier, we have in large part the Citigroup Foundation to thank for being able to invite Dr. Mathews to join us today but I suspect that there's somebody else who had a hand in our bringing her here and that someone is a second year MPP student our very own and Dr. Mathews' son Oliver Mathews. And so we're very grateful to him for his role in that. He's working on a joint degree with the Business School I know he's very busy and so we're very pleased that he has taken the time out to be involved in helping to chair our Charity Auction and I know he's working with many other community members on that activity as well, so thank you Oliver. So on behalf of the International Policy Center and the Ford School I could not be more pleased to welcome Dr. Mathews.
[ Applause ]
Well thank you and good afternoon and thank you Susan. It's--as someone who has spent their whole working life on working on public policy it's a great pleasure to be with you at one of the nations leading schools of public policy and an honor as well and I thank you for it. What I'd like to do today is to put before you a proposition to explore with you, you will see it's a somewhat depressing one but the outcome is not determined and in the years ahead I hope that people in this room, students here at Ford can play an important role in reversing the trend that I believe that I see. Simply put, I think our country is losing the ability central to the health and well being of any state to address its big problems, to respond to the major challenges that face it. I exempt from this, threats from abroad and we retain an enormously strong sense of patriotic nationhood and a readiness to act against any such threat. But as you will hear in a minute, an actual attack brings the country back together again, if only briefly, but nonmilitary threats and challenges of foreign policy are not exempt, not least because they depend to an increasing degree on our policies at home. The single central factor holding back the global response to the many threats of climate change for example is the absence of a US Domestic Energy Policy. There are many examples in history of empires and countries that for one cause or another have lost the capacity to respond to the problems that they face and their--and that then fall into decline. And it's not at all impossible that this should happen to us now, but the question of course is, is it happening and what is my evidence that it is? My criterion for being unable to address a problem is a generous one, to qualify it has to be a big issue with major implications for national well being and its features have to be essentially unchanged and unaddressed for at least a quarter of a century. All but one of the examples that I will cite today have languished actually for far longer than that. Before I describe those let me set the stage. I'm agnostic to skeptical about the value of most public opinion polling--issue polling, because so much depends on the way the issues are phrased. And as anyone who's ever had to respond to one knows usually, answering is often a matter of picking the least distasteful of three or four options, all of which sound wrong. But there is one enormously important I think poll that's conducted by the American National Elections Studies Group here at Michigan and also at Stanford. This group has been asking Americans the same question just about every 2 years since 1958. And the question is "Do you trust the government in Washington to do what is right all or most of the time?" The results speak volumes about where we are although they certainly haven't been heard. From 1958 to the mid 1960s, 75 percent answered yes to that question. A slide began in 1966 and it continued steeply downward for the next fifteen years, so that by 1980, only 25 percent of Americans said yes to that question. In the interim, of course, with the Vietnam War, the Watergate, the impeachment of the President, the Arab oil embargo, so there were plenty of good reasons for people to feel estranged or even antagonistic. But think what it means for a democracy that three-quarters of its people do not trust the government to do the right thing most of the time. What happened next though is I think what really matters, and that is that the trust did not recover. For the last three decades, the approval level has bounced around in the region between 20 and 35 percent. It climbed briefly to 40 percent during later Reagan years and again for the last 2 years of President Clinton's term. The one outliner, the one exception was 2002 which I think proves my earlier point. Because following the 9/11 attacks 55 percent of responders said they trusted the government. The attacks briefly brought Americans back together and back into a feeling of connection with Washington. But then the number immediately began to fall and plummeted for the remainder of President Bush's term back to 30 percent in 2008. During the earlier downward slide the trust percentage fell below half in about 1972. What this means is that for anyone under the age of forty, they've lived their entire life in a country the majority of whose citizens do not trust their own national government to do what they think is right. Through four long decades, none of the massive changes they have voted for in leadership and ideology have changed that. It's astonishing really when you think about it. It has to seem as though this were the natural order of things, the inevitable order of things, but it is not. I alas had not under forty and I have known a very different America. In four years during the presidency that we almost never remember that of Lyndon Johnson, Congress passed more than 200 major pieces of legislation. Legislation on a par within and many cases far bigger than the two big laws, Healthcare Reform and Financial Reform that our present Congress almost tore itself to pieces over and which took the better part of eighteen months to pass. The list begins with the three revolutionary laws that transformed this country the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of the same year and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. When the Voting Rights Act passed there were three hundred black elected officials in this country.
By 2001 the latest numbers I can find there were ten thousand. Democrats at the time were very well aware and that discussed actively that by championing and voting for this package of laws, they were saying goodbye to a South that had been solidly in the
Democratic camp for decades, yet they did it anyway. And immediately, in the mid term elections of 1966 the effects began to be felt with the loss of 47 seats in the house and 3 in the senate and you know the longer term effect. This was political courage by a President and by a Congress of a sort that if you were under forty you have never seen. Opposition to ending segregation was fierce. It took the assassination of Martin Luther King to finally drive though the Fair Housing Act three years later but support was also by part as Republican leader Everett Dirksen and his many moderate Republican colleagues played a central role in all three laws. But this was only the beginning. Medicare was created in those four years and Medicaid, food stamps, Head Start, two new cabinet agencies, Housing and Urban Development and transportation also the National Transportation Safety Board, 35 new national parks, the first federal assistance to higher education, student scholarships, grants, loans work study programs and the first to elementary and secondary education, VISTA volunteers, legal services, Job Corps, The National Endowments for the Arts and for Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the powerful Freedom of Information Act. I'm just skimming the top here. There was much, much more from urban mass transit to international monetary reform. For those who want to know more about this extraordinary period, I refer you to a wonderful speech given in 2008 by Joe Califano an aide to LBJ and the former Secretary of Health Education and Welfare entitled "Seeing is Believing". I don't mean to suggest that Washington was always like this, obviously it wasn't. We've never seen as good a legislature president as LBJ or as pure a politician in the sense of knowing how to pull the leverage of power in order to get a desired result and we likely never will. Johnson also had the legacy of JFK to build on and his own massive victory over Goldwater as a mandate. But my point is that Washington's ability to act in 1964 and its ability to act to today are two completely separate universes. So let me turn to the cases that I think illustrate my proposition. What are these problems we've been able--unable to address? The first for me is energy policy, for more than 35 years since the shock of the Arab oil embargo we have been trying and failing to formulate one. We've talked endlessly about energy independence a goal that is neither feasible nor desirable. What we have done is very little. Automobile mileage standards have been the single major achievement. Congress has wasted untold man years fighting over symbols like the pitons of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR. Through 3 major oil crisis the plot line has been nearly identical when oil prices are low we ignore surging consumption just when it makes most economic sense to raise the prices to bring it down. When a crisis hits we try to boost short term domestic production through tax incentives at exactly the moment when incentives are redundant in the face of the price spike that caused the crisis. Next we search for that year's silver bullet, the new technology that will somehow solve all our problems. We've been through oil shale, through hydrogen, fuel cells, ethanol, et cetera. Government subsidies spark investments, sometimes very large investments in these, but the enterprises fail when oil prices fall back and Congress repeals the subsidies. As the price spike ebbs, the efficiency mandates that have worked to bring down demand are weakened or abandoned and consumption starts to rise again. Soon the cycle repeats itself and we again pay to foreign suppliers through higher prices, what we might have paid to ourselves in a targeted tax spent for domestic benefit. Why is this? There are three reasons, first, a deep unwillingness to confront the necessity of raising energy prices. The strangle hold of special interests in this case energy interest over Washington and a strange national blind spot about energy demand. States notably California of course but others as well have been able to act but you cannot make a national policy state by state. We've been willing to do almost anything but face the prospect of sustained high energy prices. In 1973, there was talk of invading Saudi Arabia. Rapid deployment forces for use in the Middle East were funded. We've been willing to endure inflation and other unnecessary economic pain but we've never had, excuse me, we've never seen the political courage to explain the truth to the American people. The mere word tax is enough to frighten away the politicians of our era even though the revenues could be refunded completely in any number of ways. It has been 17 years since we last raised the gas tax during which time the cost of building and maintaining our highways and transit has risen by 40 percent. In Europe today the gas tax is between 4 and 5 dollars per gallon, the tax. Ours is on average combined state and federal, 45 cents. The result of this is that we are one of the only developed nations in the world in which transportation does not pay for itself. The Highway Trust Fund is broke. We have somewhere 60 and 85 billion dollars of needed maintenance that is not getting done, a deferred tax on our children. And this critical element, transportation of our national infrastructure, is not fit to support a renewed period of economic growth. By the third factor, energy demand, I mean of course improved energy efficiency. We have a massive resource of waste built into our system. Every expert including these days the leaders of the major oil companies will tell you that by far our largest energy resource and our cheapest and our most quickly accessible is what can be mined from wasteful use. Yet our National Policy Discussion continues almost entirely focused on the hunt for new sources of supply. It's been one of my greatest disappointments about President Obama's period in office that he has focused so much on renewables which are about in the short term one twentieth the dimensions of the efficiency resource. Healthcare is of course the second example. It took 45 years to take the first major step beyond Medicare and Medicaid towards universal healthcare coverage. But the new law does not come near to doing what has to be done to contain costs, namely to address the way healthcare is delivered and paid for. Healthcare cost in the US are today in the neighborhood of two and a half trillion dollars per year more than 17 percent of GDP. At their current rate of growth healthcare alone would constitute one fifth of our entire economy soon after 2020. I think it's obvious that this is not a sustainable situation in a healthy economy. Most important we spend per person more than double what most European countries spend with poor outcomes as measured by public health measures, life expectancy, infant mortality, and so on, twice as much. We know that paying people on a piece work basis which is what fee for service is encourages more use of services. We know that medicine an interaction between sick and frightened and ignorant not stupid but ignorant patients on the one hand and highly educated providers is not and cannot be a normal competitive market place. We can see and measure the differences between what we do and what happens in Europe and Canada and we could even see it within the United States through the work of Wenburg and his colleagues at Dartmouth. Through 40 years of data collection and analysis, they have shown that there can be and frequently are 2 to 3 fold differences in the consumption of medical services in different places even sometimes in neighboring towns which are correlated to the supply of hospital beds and physicians, not to the characteristics of the population and not to differences in health outcomes.
Their work suggests immense savings on the order of 30 to 40 percent of what we currently spend if all healthcare were delivered on the same lines as it is in the low expenditure areas. We know all this and yet how long do you believe it will be before we are able to address it at the national level? My third example is the wildly diverging shares of household income that have marked the past 30 odd years. During this time 80 percent of American households have lost ground economically, although this was the period in which a huge proportion went from one income to two-income households as women entered the workforce. The vast majority of gains among the lucky 20 percent actually went to the top 1 percent, so average income is 1.9 million. And the same is true for the top 0.1 percent who took home nearly all of that 1 percent share. The same pattern holds only slightly less dramatically for a real after tax income. Another indicator is the ratio of CEO pay to the pay of average worker, which went 40 in 1960 to more than 400 in 2005. How, you wonder, could this be true or at least I wonder about it. How in a country built on being the land of opportunity could 80 percent stagnate for more than 30 years while immense wealth accumulates among the top 1 percent? How could this happen when the cost of high inequality to both economic growth and political cohesion and stability is so well documented? Why hasn't been there been a reaction? The answer is that cheap credit, the housing bubble and the home equity loan disguised what was happening. Now they are gone and that is the principle reason for the pain and anger that has erupted, sometimes frantic and unreasoning anger. Remember the sign "Keep the government's hands off my Medicare" that we see in the tea party. It seemed like the American dream was still in force and then seemingly all of a sudden it wasn't. But this huge economic shift has actually been a long time coming. My last example is the failure to get over the Cold War. It doesn't exactly fit my criterion I admit because it's only been 20 years rather than 25. But here we are today facing the failure of the New START Treaty in the senate, I think more likely than not. On its merit the treaty is unimpeachable. It has been endorsed by virtually every Secretary of States, Secretary of Defense and National Security Adviser of both parties for the past three decades an unequivocally and unanimously by the current military leadership. I'm talking about endorsements from Secretary George Shultz, Kissinger, Powell, Slazenger, Scowcroft, Steven Hadley all Republicans, all endorsed it. The questions that have been raised through 18 senate hearings have been answered, there's no constraint on future missile defenses, the nuclear triad is preserved, inspection and verification is robust and yet, the administration has to keep promising more and more money to modernize our nuclear weapon systems, an amount now up to 80 billion dollars and still Senator Kyl and the obedient Republican votes waiting on his decision is not satisfied. He wants more. The truth that doesn't surface in these discussions is that we don't have a use for our nuclear forces these days beyond deterrence of nuclear attack and for that, we already have far more than enough capability. If the New START Treaty is not ratified the consequences will be far reaching. There will be no boots on the ground inspection of Russian nuclear forces, there will no next round of arms control to address the thousands of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, the US-Russian relationship will be damaged, perhaps significantly in terms of cooperation on Afghanistan and Iran but not fatally but the impacts on efforts to control nuclear proliferation globally will be huge. The greatest threat we face today and everyone knows this is not from Russia or from China but that a broken state or a group of terrorist will get heir hands on nuclear materials. To stop that access to technologies that provide weapons usable fuel must be limited. The regime is going to have to be tightened. Yet the non-nuclear weapon states believe that the nuclear states have failed to live up to their end of Nonproliferation Treaty the NPT bargain, which was nuclear disarmament by the nuclear weapon states. Without progress in that direction there is no absolutely no realistic hope except perhaps the after math of a nuclear catastrophe of their agreeing to give up more. Rejection of this modest treaty by the United States would be heard loud and clear around the world. Yet there are today and I don't mean to be partisan, but accurate, senate Republicans behaving as though Russia were still the Soviet Union and that US nuclear forces have to be prepared for an imminent nuclear World War III. I could name several more examples, I won't. Climate change of course would be near the top of my list but there are others. It would be both exhausting for you and too depressing for all of us, I think. But I think the case is made. The question is why can't Washington tackle the big issues any longer? And if we understand what has gone wrong, what can be done to fix it? There are many reasons for our strangled government. One that belongs at the top of the list is money. I think one of the strangest paradoxes of what's happened is that we have been willing to pay more and more and more to elect governments that we like less and less and less. The last presidential election cycle came in at 5.3 billion dollars, up 70 percent in the last two cycles. The Center for Responsive Politics which compiles these numbers believes that the 2010 midterms we've just suffered through will cost nearly 4 billion up 300 percent in ten years. The money doesn't stop at elections of course. It provides a daily opening for the lobbying industry. It has been reported that this industry spent 1.4 million dollars a day during the healthcare debate and more than a billion during the debate over the Financial Reform Bill. To pay what have become astronomical campaign costs members of Congress have to begin fund raising for the next election basically on the day after they're sworn in. That's one of the reasons members go home every weekend, and one of the reasons therefore that we have a three-day legislative work week. That means that they don't bring their families to Washington and they no longer socialize with colleagues because there's no time, and certainly not with members of the other party. It's much easier to hate someone you don't know. And it's much harder to hammer out a tough compromise with--and much harder to hammer out a tough compromise. And this of course feeds the bitter partisanship that we see in the Congress. Campaign Finance Reform as hard as it is to be both effective and to meet constitutional requirements in my view absolutely will have to be a part of a better American future. The Senate in particular is a broken body crippled by secret holds, arcane rules that are designed for delay and by threatened filibusters which have grown completely out of control in recent years. In a splendid New Yorker piece this summer, last August. George Packer quotes freshman Senator Michael Bennet from Colorado who was appointed last year to fill an empty seat. And Bennet says "Sit and watch us for seven days, just watch the floor. You know what you'll see happening? Nothing. When I'm in the chair, I sit there thinking I wonder what their doing in China right now." External changes are for which Congress has no control have had an effect as well. In that same piece, Senator Dodd remembers "I used to have 11 Connecticut newspaper reporters who covered me on a daily basis. I don't have 1 today and haven't had for several years. Instead, DC publications" and here he's talking about bloggers and the five political dailies, five that cover the Hill." Instead DC publications only see me through the prism of conflict."
President Carter started a trend as the first to campaign explicitly against the people in Washington. President Reagan escalated that to campaign against government, much has flowed from both. I don't know all the forces that have so deeply eroded Americans confidence in their government and no one I think knows which have contributed, how much. But they have produced a government, I think, that is manifestly smaller, less able, less worthy of respect than this country deserves or needs. I do believe that the diagnosis of what has changed over these last 3 decades, three and half and of what it would take to reverse it is by far the important policy issue we face. The farther backward you can look Winston Churchill said, like a good historian, the farther forward you are likely to see. And I think that's where we have to cast our mind back over this period. I hope that some of you will contribute to the massive task of figuring this out, providing the answers and helping to find the solutions. And I thank you for listening and look forward to our discussion.
[ Applause ]
Doctor Mathews has kindly agreed to take some questions and I'll ask her to repeat them so that our video viewers are able to hear the full exchange.
A wonderful talk and I agree completely with every word you said except
I think it's too optimistic.
Climate change is one that [inaudible] I think at this point a large segment of the American people are in the groups of religious fundamentalism, market fundamentalism, constitutional fundamentalism and as those things play themselves out under the [inaudible] market fundamentalism play that's going on, [inaudible] I think we're in store for a number of additional crises and problems whether it's the teaching of evolution or it's the legality of Medicare, constitutionality of--where does it say in the constitution that we can have Medicare? Where does it say we couldn't--we could buy Alaska? But-- [laughter] [Inaudible] about that. But I think those three fundamentalisms are gaining strength and I think we'll be increasingly deflected in the next Congress maybe beyond.
Do you want me to repeat that or? [Laughter] Well the--I mean it was a comment rather than a question which is fine to the nice effect that the gentlemen thought I was too optimistic which is great to hear. And that we are caught in the grip of--the American people are caught in a grip of a series of what he calls fundamentalisms. What I sometimes, you know, I think we have to be--I'm an empiricist so I like to have data which I've tried to share with you, about what's happening. And, you know, it's easy to have strong feelings about what's going on but I think this is such an important question that we have to--we have to know, we have to figure it out with data. I wonder whether we--and this is a wonder to match your wonders, whether we came out of the slide I described from the mid '60s to 1980, that dark turbulent period and discovered ourselves split with--in a country with two different sets of values. And, you know, that the pain and anger and profound upheaval of the Vietnam War separated us into camps and that part of the inability to find leadership again came because you can't achieve leadership unless there is a body of shared values. But I don't know, you know, that's speculation and feel but that's all. Just one other comment I'd make to yours, I know, I mean there--I could have extended the list as I said and climate story is a terrible one. But on the other hand, this country has great powers of innovation in the social sector as well in technology and science. And I don't give up. I think we're in a scary period because I, you know, at some point trends do become irreversible, at some point. I don't believe we're there yet. But I think in order not to get there we better really focus on this and I don't see it generally defined this way or happening, so I-- yes?
My question has to a little bit with one of the issues probably also found in your list that you didn't get around to and that's education. I'm mostly thinking that we've got school systems that are highly dysfunctional and huge amounts of places. We've got people who are segregated by economics and are going to only some kind of schools as opposed to other kinds of schools. People are across these--in these ideological gulfs that you were talking about, are having much to do with those who aren't like them anymore, positive or negative. Bob Putnam in his Bowling Alone and other subsequent studies talked about coinciding that that period, the mid '60s, being the high point of civic societies, civil societies where people broadly were engaged in everything from scouting to like healthy animal [inaudible], the elks, the moose, PTAs and it started declining in the '65 and I think it's emblematic of our time. Tom Frank in What's the Matter with Kansas? People voting against their economic interest because of ideology helping it, and people wanting to feel comfortable off in one pure place as opposed to the muddy center, your take on that on that and whether we got fundamental failure of education which goes along with the daily newspapers disappearing and people just listening to what they want to hear.
Well, the question has to do with the state of our education system and I am not an expert on it at all. It is certainly true that the advent of cable news has transformed news from--television news, from a place that provides information to a place that provides ammunition. And blogs and online media tend to be directed and read by--and chosen by people to reinforce what they already believe and that I think is a big part of what's happening and as Dodd quote, I shared with you suggest--there is a big shift in what is being covered from news that is relevant to people's well being and inside political conflict and inside stories of political conflict. I can't say too much about education 'cause I just am not--I don't know enough. My hunch about these issues is that they are contributors but they're not the core of it. They've probably made something worse but I just have the feeling we haven't peeled the onion back far enough to know to have found those core things yet and--but that's a hunch. Yes? Who wants to go first? You go first and then you, yes?
I'm very pessimistic in some sense but I'm very concerned about the solutions to our problem. I think the one thing you did not mention though I suspect you're very aware of is peak oil which I'm very convinced that we've hit and it's going to really present us with very difficult situations of country.
We have to think about and I think that the positive thing when I was an under graduate student [inaudible] France, a new constitution in 1958 that made profound impact I think in terms of the effectiveness on the French governor, it was still the same French man. I think that you can make institutional changes and they can improve things. I have my own ideas on this but I'm very curious what ideas you might put out in terms of what changes can we make so that our political system serves us well?
When--you're first sentence, you said a word that I didn't catch that this question was aimed at.
I meant very pessimistic--
Oh, peak oil, peak oil.
Peak oil, yes.
You know there's a paradox about what we call renewable resources and so called non-renewable resources. The problem--the so called renewable resources in fact, can disappear. You can make a species extinct. Non-renewable resources are badly named because they never run out. The price just goes up until we stop using them. So, in fact, they're named in a completely confusing way. I--we've been on a downward slope on oil production for some time and--but proven resources are still growing, natural gas resources are growing steeply. We have a whole new universe, shale gas out there now that could be tapped. I--the problem I see with energy and, you know, there were a lot of environmentalists worried about peak oil in 1974. It's not that we're going to run out of oil, we're not. The problem is oil is too cheap. The problem is we have to choose to price energy at its real cost which includes climate, which includes other pollution, which includes national security et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And if we do that out there is this gigantic resource. I--you know, for years I worked a lot on the ozone issue and for years and years and years, in fact, it took about 17 years to deal with the problem of ozone depletion. And people were screaming that there was no possible substitute for chlorofluorocarbons because they were inert and easy to deal with and cheap and abundant and did this wonderful thing in all the uses that they were used for. And there were studies that put the costs of replacing them in billions and billions and billions of dollars and this fight went on forever. When we finally took action on banning chlorofluorocarbons there was--after the treaty was finally signed, an international technology fair sort of thing 3 months after the treaty was signed and there were more than 300 exhibits of chlorofluorocarbons substitutes. All that technology was sitting in the closet. It existed already. And the cost of banning chlorofluorocarbons is probably the negative that is the substitutes have been cheaper. I think the same thing is going to happen with energy. I mean you've got, you know, you don't have to listen to environmentalists you've got the McKenzie Institute, McKenzie Company estimating the waste resource at 40 percent of current use. You've got Edison Electric Institute which is the research arm of the electric utility industry estimating it at 25 percent of electricity use, this is with existing technologies and we've spent almost nothing on R&D. This doesn't make a tremendous lot of sense to spend an awful lot of money on R&D when there's no demand pull. You know, you've got to raise the prices first and then the market provides the demand pull instead of the government. So this is, I think, going to turn out to be an infinitely simpler technical question than we think. The problem is not that it's not out there and that we can't have plenty of energy. The problem is political will. The problem is not the cost to society the problem is the cost to the existing distribution of winners and losers. There are going to be different winners and losers. And the current winners have a whole lot of political power.
So given that the Carnegie Endowment and [inaudible] worked globally I wonder if you can give us a little comparative international perspective on your argument, in other words is it just a US problem or is it a problem we're facing in other advanced countries as well? Give you an example that might lead to that kind of thinking the European countries were trying to pass the new constitution totally oblivious to the fact the voters were not on board and in fact, [inaudible] down in France and Netherlands and so on. So is this in some sense a crisis of the western civilization more broadly or is it just the US and if it's differential, does that lead to ideas on how to tackle it given that there may be examples of countries that have [inaudible]?
I don't think it's European. In fact, I'm struck by the opposite and, you know what? I recognize I'm speaking to a European. But, you know, I think Americans have poo-pooed and missed--and missed the importance of European Union for 40 years, you know? And every stage as it moved along, every American said well, it will never go further, you know? And it will never get the common currency. And, you know, every stage, right? Meanwhile the United States was trying to balance the interests of Ohio and Vermont took 15 years on acid rain while Europe did 8 air pollution agreements, long distance air pollution in the time that we've fought over acid rain. And when I think what has to be struck, you know, it's true that the closer you get to the EU the worse it looks. It looks better from far away. But--and it's true, as you say, there have been major problems. But I think the fact of it is enormous relative to what we have done in this period and took an enormous amount of political energy. You know, in fact, I think it has drained an awful lot of political energy out of everything else and continues to. But you have to be struck by what's happened for example in the UK in recent months, you know? Faced by a really horrible economic situation they elect a coalition government, it takes office, it's stable. It is un--you know, it is cutting spending in a way that would--would be completely impossible here. It's talking about adding a 20 percent--you know the VAT tax on top of a gasoline tax that is 4 dollars and 86 cents a gallon, the tax. So--and I think Europe is responding to--I mean European countries have made some, you know, terrible mistakes as did we but I think there is a degree of readiness to confront it with some things--it's hard for me to imagine there being the political will to do here, so I see a different picture, yes?
Hi I'd be very curious to hear your response or your opinion about the Rally for Sanity that took place a couple of weeks ago. Two hundred and fifty thousand people perhaps were on the National Capital I think that that is a statement of some sort that got very little analysis. And is an energy that is not being directed necessarily--government people weren't there so it's kind of this free floating energy. And perhaps is at some sort of foundation where we could go, you know, to try to answer some of these things that you raised. And to follow up on your comment about the people, I'm especially interested in nuclear energy issues, Nuclear Energy Law. And to take that power away from utilities, it's hugely funded, and really have the--you know, create a political will that could actually answer this problem in a much more constructive manner that subsidies for nuclear, long guarantees for nuclear energy companies in my opinion, could you, you know, is there some sort of like connection between this free floating high energy level that went to the national mall and this need for a political will to shift?
I love Jon Stewart but I have to tell you that I find it depressing that our political leadership is being offered by television entertainers either on the right Glen Back or the left. And that's not where it's suppose to come from so, you know, it's great that after--that he answered the Beck Rally and showed that the country is not that country completely. But to me the fact that those rallies happen in that context is a sign of weakness. It's a sign of--when something wrong. I wasn't there. I talked to a lot of people who were. It apparently felt really good but you couldn't hear anything or see anything and so--I told you my sense about it. I guess that Stewart wouldn't object to what I just said, you know, that this is a problem, this not where leadership belongs. On nuclear, nuclear could have--I could have used as another example. I mean we have been trying to find a solution for nuclear wastes since 1950s and we don't have one yet or even close. And I think nuclear has to be a part of our energy mix and, you know, there's lot more that I could say about it but I don't think it, you know, nuclear is a weird problem because it's never gotten over the circumstances of its birth. That the government said "Hey guys, we've got this neat new way to boil water and it's easy ad it's cheap and it's simple." And none of that was true. And the utility industry, the nuclear utilities grew up with this sort of--when that turned out not to be true we just kind of chip on their shoulder where they keep thinking people don't understand. And they keep trying to take short cuts and it always back fires. It's an industry that could've--it's just not well run.
And--in a strategic sense, I think, and could have been and could well be, you know, so yes?
I always keep wondering about this survey you've talked about, I forget when you--they started at 58 or so?
But having been a war baby myself, I'm wondering in where after the war the United States had absolutely no competition with our industry. I wonder if part of this response you're hearing is a frustration of people trying to figure out where we're--where the United States now has lots of competition and, you know, a frustration people with different economic outlook maybe, or trying to figure out their place, so I don't know.
It could well be true. I'm sorry. The question had to do with whether in the 1950s--as early as the '50s and the early '60s whether with the US world economic dominance, whether that was a heavy influence in this--in the 75 percent of people who felt good about the government. I think that's true, you know, we've had a Post War Policy designed to spread economic growth. We've invested an awful lot in the growth of other countries and we succeeded at some cost to ourselves. It was still the right thing to do. But you may be right and it may also have been partly a--the after glow of the war still, things take a long--take some time to fade. World War II was a period when the country was together as--I mean that's the one thing about wars they tend to do that in societies. And--but we also have to remember the '60s were terrible time, you know? Our cities were burning, people were being assassinated. It wasn't just the happy after glow of World War II or a period of, you know, of great economic well being, yes?
With like the relatively new and I guess currently like nearly extreme, I guess thought processes of party politics being, you know, like you're with us or you're against us. And there's like a solid divide between parties like--what do you envision is the solution to this mentality and like the gridlock or the conflicts of interest that causes our Capitol Hill or do you see this as like the slow evolution of the--like the painful and the battle safeguards that the founding fathers built into our governmental system.
Well, I think the question was what do I think about this, it's just came in a sense, right? And, you know, as I told you I mean the only honest answer is I don't know what the answers are. I think what I can offer is fixing our attention on a trend that I think is there and trying to give it some specificity and some concreteness rather than sort of a general feeling of things aren't right. I don't believe that there's anything fundamentally wrong with our system of constitutional checks and balances but I think there are things wrong, many, some of which I suggested with how the system is currently working. And, you know, the difficulty is that for example if you start to talk about how Congress has changed since the 1970's its over determined, right? There are too many reasons you could cite for this horrible decline. And in a situation when you've got too many reasons it's awfully easy to find the wrong ones, you know, because you don't know what to fix. As I mentioned, right, Jimmy Carter--he was the first presidential candidate to campaign against Washington, that was new, 1976. And then Regan came in and he campaigned against government and--but they were presumably tapping into something they already knew was there. So we have to look a little bit further back and, you know, then we had the--enormous shift in the Republican Party. In the 1970s there were 17, I think is the number, moderate Republicans in the Senate. Today there are none. I mean they were a major force and some of those were the great men of the Senate Jacob Javits and a whole list, Edward Brooke, the whole bunch of them. So there- and, you know, then Newt Gingrich came in and told members "Don't bring your families to Washington. Stay home. Stay close to the people." And that as I described just sketched a little bit, that produced a whole different set of people. And now that we are where we are the atmosphere is so toxic that it attacks a different kind of people as candidates, so the system sort of begins to self-perpetuate. I can't give you as I said, a more precise answer as to exactly what the cause are because I can't. And I don't anybody can. But I think I've identified something that needs our deepest attention. I'll leave it there. Yes?
You described the slide very well and many of us are old enough to say "Oh, yeah we saw it happen, yeah." And I noticed you've touched on polarization and all the factors involved in the slide. I'm wondering if you have an opinion about how we get out of this hole, particularly I think some of us would say the only thing that ever seems to get us back on track is a crisis in this country. It's the nature of what we do. Is there more possibility than a crisis like 9/11 to get us back on the right track or--what do you see?
Shall I repeat that? So the question was, you know, well how do we get back on the right track.
I don't--well, first of all, the crisis, unless it's a continuing war as I described with 9/11 won't get us back on the right track, all it did was this sort of a temporary reprieve. And it brings its own real risks, water boarding and, you know, the rebalancing of civil liberties and the things we know about. And, you know, I'm very much afraid that were we to have another terrorist attack the country's reaction would be a repeat of what happened in those respects far, far worse. But I--again, I cannot give you, I'm afraid, answers until I think we all have a clearer sense of why it happened, and there I can only guess, so. Yes?
You seem to make a big deal about the--this problem that congressmen specifically House of Reps are spending more time at home instead of in Washington but--
Senate as well--
Isn't this-- isn't that [inaudible] somewhat they supposed to be representing their district instead of the nation at large? I mean their representing for the district in order to see the problems that district needs to face. Shouldn't they be home most of the time to actually see what their district needs?
Well, hopefully they knew what their district needed before they ran. But, you know, I mean here's what their life is like, they go home--member, when I worked on the hill members of Congress lived in Washington, their families were in Washington. So their work week except when they went home which was depending where they lived from time to time was a seven-day work week in Washington which included, as I mentioned, time to know both their colleagues and their own party and then the other caucus. Now, they leave their families home, they camp out in these terrible living conditions in kind of dormitory like conditions in Washington. They tend to arrive back midday Monday and they're gone at the end of the day, Thursday. And people who come from Montana and Alaska and Idaho, they go home too every weekend. And I don't know what the percent is, I was about to say half of what they're doing is fund raising. And I think you're point is perfectly valid, I think that there is a balance. They do have time for town halls and meeting and hearing what their constituents want but their job is not just reflecting what their constituents want, their job is voting for what they see is a national interest and that I think is more and more missing.
Do you think there's something we need to look at about the evolution of democracy?
Something that we don't yet understand about a system of government that we've had for several hundred years that has been shifting and moving and perhaps in ways that we don't understand no longer reflects the needs of our people, or that our people are no longer educated to understand the basic values of democracy?
The question was very--I can't--it was very eloquent, is there something about the basic nature of democracy we don't understand and the changing conditions and particularly perhaps that we--that Americans are not adequately educated for being citizens in a democracy in these conditions.
I am sure--I'm not sure at my hunches that values have changed. I don't know exactly how and exactly why. We--I don't know for example whether fewer Americans today understand the requirements of democracy, know the basics of their government, et cetera than did forty years ago. I just-- I don't know--I don't know if the data exists. I tended--clearly, you know, I'm scientist originally so I like to do experiments where one variable changes and everything else is held constant and unfortunately we can't do that. So we've got to get pretty good at trying to single out, you know, the really important factors. And certainly the sense of anger and frustration with Washington not with all government, because it isn't visited against state and local government, I was saying earlier in a conversation this afternoon it's really striking that especially the western states, they do not ideologues as governors. They elect moderate people as governors and then they send these ideologues to the Senate to walk around in cowboy boots and talk crazy stuff. [Laughter] But they don't want them at home making decisions that have to do with the highways [laughter] and their, you know? They don't. And you can look at this it's a nationwide pattern. And the same is true with local government, right people? So what is so troubling is that the sense of anger and frustration has taken itself out in the answer being "Well, the best thing then is to send somebody who doesn't know anything about the issues." You know? Just--I don't think they would--you know, that the electorate--this would be an interesting question, they're going to elect somebody like that to be governor? I doubt it. So that's a horrible thing because there are a whole bunch of decisions only the national government can take. And if we got a bunch of people who think that the right approach to it is not to know anything about the issues 'cause that's simpler, you know? Give me half the facts I need to make decision. You know, what's going to be the outcome there? Yes?
You said that you don't think we can suggest any solutions to the problems that you proposed so eloquently until we know what caused them. And I guess I would argue that we can't afford to wait. I once had a philosopher who said "Don't bring me a problem unless you also bring me a suggested solution." And so I'm kind of putting that to you.
Well, I, you know I get the picture there but [inaudible].
Let me ask an intermediate question and that is if you don't have a ready made silver bullet, can you identify things, signs which suggest to you that there are green shoots that maybe the trend might be turning around?
I mean no, I can't. No. I don't see, I'm sorry, the question was do I see any green shoots that suggest a reversal in this trend? No. I mean I think, you know, that the last couple of years have been some of the worst.
No, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make it that difficult, what I meant was what--what if you saw it would you take as green shoots?
What would be possible green shoots signs of a reversal? Well, you could think of lots. And remember, I did suggest one solution, Campaign Finance Reform. We have got to drain the swamp of this much money and we've got to figure out a way to lower the costs of campaigns and we got to figure out a way to do it in some constitutionally acceptable way.
I just don't see--there's, you know, how arrive at a body able to think in terms of a national interest rather than an accretion of special interests when its life blood is daily need to fund raise. You know senators with six-year terms have weekly fund raising goals. So progress in that direction, I mean, almost any one of the number of things that I described if it were the reverse would be a green shoot so, you know, I could see lots of things happening, signs of political leadership, I mean a change in the culture of what our leaders feel they can say to constituents and be heard. A change in the way cable television operates, a less shouting at each other mode of communication would be an enormous help. You know, many things but I just unfortunately don't see them
Probably make this the last question.
Okay last question, red sweat shirt.
I think it seems fair and pretty non-controversial to agree that there hasn't been a ton of huge policy game changers over the last 40 years. But I think it will be unfair to say that there hasn't been a lot of significant incremental change during that same time. So why don't we look at the source of incremental change and positive movements in those areas as a source of optimism rather than looking at the lack of game changers as a source of pessimism?
I think that's a perfectly--the question is why don't we look at incremental change in a positive sense rather than just being depressed by the absence of game changer, major changes in the negative run. I think that's a perfectly fair comment. I mean it--when you make a proposition like the one I laid before you today, you have to be very aware that you're taking a partial picture of a country that is a much different place. The lives of women in this country are a whole lot better today than they were in 1960 and one could--and that's major. And one could cite others I'm sure a little time to think about it, you know, but I think that doesn't--I think a race, I can sense you all feeling "Well, don't come here and tell us this bad news without giving us an answer." And usually, I used to write in a newspaper column and my rule for myself was don't write one unless you have something constructive to say in the last two paragraphs about that answer and I almost never did. [Laughter] No. I mean I almost never wrote one. [Laughter] I hate news paper columns that just sort of rant about how off-- you know, as terrible things are. But I was trying to say there is something that I think has gone very wrong in the period since the early 1970s to now. There are I'm sure many reasons for it but we don't know what they are. It has manifested itself in a prolonged period where we cannot confront issues that are pretty well defined and that holds really serious implications for our future. So here at a school of public policy I'm handing you a whole lot of work [laughter] to figure it out. The whole country has to figure it out because we can't go on indefinitely without--in a globalized world, without a central government that can solve its major problems. It just--maybe we can muddle along for a long time but we can't thrive. And the world, I expect, can't thrive with a muddling along American government either.
Well thank you very much but before you leave the front and before we close and I formally thank you, I'd like to invite Oliver Mathews to make a presentation on behalf of the Ford School.
[ Pause ]
This is the first time I've seen this so I'm just taking a second to look at it.
This could be the first time I've ever actually said that out loud. It is my great pleasure and honor to give you this certificate of appreciation from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy particularly because I get to give it to a person not only whom I love but who is an inspiration.
[ Applause ]
So we have had a very thought provoking steps and how to action I think is going to keep us at the Policy School busy for a long time. But we've got to move quickly 'cause these are important challenges. Before we do a final thanks to Dr. Mathews I did want to make sure you knew we have a reception outside and we can more informally continue some of this conversation. I hope you'll stay and join us. So once again, thank you so much.
Thank you Susan.
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