tv Tavis Smiley PBS November 1, 2011 12:30am-1:00am EDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. whether it is herman cain's plan, rick perry flat tax or mitt romney, no one can blame europe the various tax proposals seem a bit confusing. what to these mean for everyday americans? we will break down the impact of these competing plans with robert borosage. it contributor at politico.com. laura dern is here. she is back on hbo in a new
series, "enlightened." >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic e a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television]
tavis: robert borosage is the founder and president for america's future who served as an adviser to the campaign of jesse jackson. he is also a contributor to politico.com. he joins us from washington. good to have you on this program. i am going to go to the piece you wrote on october 24 and put a line up on the screen. "taxing the working poor is an ineffective and distraction from the challenge is facing. our problem is not that working people get too much, it is that income inequalities have reached extremes, destructive to our economy and democracy." i want to come to that as a starting place because there are a number of words that i hate. i want to start with the
language. why do we say things like recovery and working poor? how much of what is wrong with our discourse about to look for starts with stealing words that we use? >> it is important for people to understand we have a number of jobs in this country that pay very little and have no security. it makes it almost impossible for a wage earner to lift other family out of poverty. tavis: i wonder whether or not because in that trade -- because that phrase, i wonder whether becomes a self sizzling prophesied -- a self-fulfilling prophecy. i am not casting aspersions on you. i'm trying to get at what allows
us to except to those kinds of terms and definitions in the debate. >> i agree with your premise that no one who works full time should be poor. they ought to be able to support a family and to lift them out of the state of poverty just by the virtue of their work. a system that does not allow that is flawed. i do think that spreading poverty is one of the grotesque realities of this current moment. too many people in washington do not use the term poverty. everybody talks about the middle class. the sinking middle class, which is also true. it is important we do not forget not only is the middle class sinking of poverty is spreading. tavis: maybe the conversation is about to turn. >> i do think that the
occupation wall street has opposed to this question in the sense of saying, there is 1% that has gotten all of the rewards for growth in more than a decade while the rest of us have been sinking. poverty is spreading. they have, with a demonstration, forced campaigns across the political spectrum to deal with this question in a way that they were ignoring before. if you look at the republican tax plan, these are plants that are reverse robin hood plans. they are designed to take from a poor -- the poor and give to the rich. at a time when we have the most extreme inequality we have seen in concentrated wealth. tavis: how are any of these plants differ in from washington as we speak?
>> they are worse. take rick perry's plan. he says that washington -- america is being crushed under a burden of deficit and debt. the first thing he does is eliminate taxes on wealth. he eliminates the estate tax which applies to multimillion- dollar estates. he eliminates taxes on dividends for the wealthy. if you are warren buffett and you were worried you were paying a lower tax rate to the undersecretary because you have all your money from investments, under this plan your taxes headed toward zero. in order to pay for these tax cuts, about five trillion dollars worth, he has to cut the size of government by a quarter. that means deep cuts in social
security, dismantling medicare, turning medicaid over to the states in cutting the grants. deep cuts in the basic promises we make to working americans. tavis: talk about mitt romney. >> his plan is in the same mode but not as bad. he eliminates the estate tax which will help people like him and his heirs. he eliminates capital gains for people under $200,000. he reduces corporate tax rates and the top and a tax rate. he says he wants a flatter tax that applies to more people. he wants low-income people to pay higher income tax. his reforms are regressive. they're just not as extreme. tavis: if you take herman cain's
plan, you get triple sixes. the devil is in the details. >> his is the worst. cain appls a 9% income-tax to everyone so that people who are now in the lower part of the spectrum will now have to pay 9%. then he adds on top of that a 9% national sales tax. those are the most difficult taxes for the low-income people because they spend more of their income on necessities. you will be spending an extra 9% on every bottle of milk and item of food. the cain plan does the worst damage. tavis: there was a story the
other day, it was fascinating for me. i think it connects with this conversation. the new york time brooks this story -- broke this story, mister romney is out raising president obama four or five times. he was up four or five times in fund-raising over president obama with regard to getting money from wall street. what t make of what those numbers mean relative to this debate about the poor, wall street making more money, about them sitting on a trillion dollars which they won't reinvest. what you make of the numbers that it from me is the nominee he will swamp the president in raising money.
>> there is no question that a lot of donors are looking for republican candidates, who is the best bet to take on president obama. the actual article was misleading. obama has raised a ton of money from wall street. the total from his campaign is probably as much or greater than what romney has raised to did. romney is not the nominee. there is no question a lot of money will go that way. the real thing is what the senator said a number of months ago which is basically these a day -- banks own the joint. our problem is we have allowed financial deregulation in
concentration, a kind of financial was asian that is having -- financialization that is having an effect on our ability to ensure that the strength of the democracy is sustained. that is not happening. the wealth is being concentrated at the top end. the levels are far more extreme than people realize. the top 1% makes as much income every year as the bottom 60% of americans. they hold as much wealth as 90% of americans. when you have that kind of concentration of income, the economy does not work very well. corporations go without customers. the people on the top have excess cash they use and speculative casino-like gambling. that is very destabilizing.
we discover that when wall street blew up the economy. tavis: it is not just that our economy is challenged by those numbers, i think democracy as we know it. some people might say that is hyperbole. i think not. democracy cannot sustain itself with the kind of numbers you just laid out. i think democracy is at stake. but i digress. robert borosage, good tap have you run the program. up next, actress laura dern. stay with us. tavis: i am pleased to welcome laura dern back to the program. she is the star of "enlightened" which airs monday nights at 9:30. here is a scene.
>> amy, we are happy to see your getting better but unfortunately we do not have a position to offer you. >> what is? >> perhaps in a few weeks things will change. right out there are no jobs. i am sorry. >> this is weird. when i left, i saw a lawyer who said there was no way he would not give me my job back. there was a pre-existing condition and if i got treatment you have to give me my job back because -- i do not know if it would be grounds for a lawsuit. i am confused. tavis: what are you trying to say? >> she is trying to speak the truth could also get some
handlers. it is great to see you. tavis: these billboards are everywhere. on every major thoroughfare. >> hbo has been very generous a. putting that emotional face all over. tavis: tell me about your character. >> i love her so much. tavis: it was written for you. >> amy is someone going back to our love of "network." she is mad as hell and she is not going to take it. what is interesting about her evolution is this is about the person, even though they have hit bottom, and she is someone who is reactive and feels everything, she is willing to
take to the streets about everything. her relationship with her mother, her husband, and the greedy corporation. she is not going to stop until there is change. tavis: i do not want to overstate this because there are still -- there is such a lack of parity. i am very much aware of that. but there does seem to be this move where women are getting a chance to star in their own shows. certainly on cable. what to you think makes your character different than these other women characters that are getting this kind of attention? >> to speak to the women who are working. some actresses are working in cable television and playing deeply flawed characters which is the duty of cable television.
we are given room to explore what did this to be a human being. without a real judgment of the character. that is extraordinary. what i am excited to be a part of, yes, this is a person with a deep flaws but instead of mike white watching someone's descent into hell, we are watching someone logging for growth and ceiling and for making the world better -- growth and feeling and for making the world better. there is a truth to its satire that i am moved by. tavis: i wonder if you think there is irony in terms of this series coming to air now. i asked about what you just said
about the human condition. you are looking at this in this way and whether you think that narrative resonance now. -- resonates now. >> my background was that i had done the film "recount." they wanted to develop something. i spoke to them as did mike white. we were collaborators before saying, there is apathy in this country. where are the people in the streets? what happened that is a part of the fabric of this country? why aren't people applying it to the millions of things that we see every day on the news that is upsetting us. it was from that's that we wanted to create and develop
this character. i think that was our mission statements, our plea. >> it to your point about the apathy in our culture on so many issues, these protests are growing everyday and are indicative of the fact that there is something happening. it is stirring the soul of people who are upset. the what is your sense of -- i am tapping into the social critic. what is your sense of what is happening that gives us reason to believe that people are getting more and see -- antsy about issues that are not going to sit dormant? >> i could not be more excited. i am always fascinated that people would find a voice scary.
i am interested in what people have to say. that has not scared me. it is something i have long to develop. i remember when we were working on the show i thought, will people get this desperation that we are holding we are looking at the world and not seen change been deeply affected. egypt happened while we're in the middle of production. i thought, with a voice and an iphone it does not matter who you are. if you're willing to send a picture put something on facebook, you might change the world. that was so profitable. i feel amazed by wall street. do they know what they are fighting for? do they know that they get screwed?
yes, they know. somebody does not have a job. the kids are not insured. that is all they need to know. what i love about amy is, maybe we need people who are willing to be that they agree. -- angry. maybe people who do not have downed trees. -- boundaries. amy is from riverside, california. she has had a complicated background. a fairly recent divorce from a character played by luc wilson who is an addict. she has worked at the same place for 15 years. maybe she started low level.
she has worked herself to a decent mid-level jobs, working in the health and beau division of thisgl conome cte. it does a lot of interesting things we learned over the course of the season. at the moment we meet her, she has a nervous breakdown. it was a tough day. i am not going to live. -- lie. everybody has a bad day. it is a memorably bad day. she gets sent away for treatment and recovery and goes to have anger management in hawaii and comes back determined to change the world and herself. tavis: a reference to the women that are headlining a lot of these shows.
it must be cool to not just having a character written for you but to be involved in the riding of the character. >> it has been incredible. an amazing process for mike white and myself. he is such a visionary as a writer. he has such a beautiful tone to his work that is always as reverent as it is irreverent. it is not one or the other. as an actor, it is what i long to work with. words that are written in that fashion. i think we both feel deeply as citizens about the changes we would like to see in this country and throughout the world. i think that was a wonderful starting point for our fantasy of amy and the journey she
takes. i had a huge wish list and mike went away and wrote an entire season of television. usually there is a staff of writers. he wrote it as one long form film. when we shot it as such, i think that was a great luxury. tavis: more than anybody i know, you have this gift of being able to bring your mom to work. [laughter] you are always bringing your mom to work. it is a beautiful thing to watch. it must be " to pull off. >> it is really cool. great when we work together? everything you said triggered me. but we have a very close and beautiful relationship.
she got to come to work and there were babies to play with. tavis: how cool was it, this honor, a whole family. you, your mom, your dad. >> it was amazing. it was amazing for my children to see their grandparents and their mom receive this honor and for them to celebrate to their work and for me to be included. i was thrilled to watch them have the honor. tavis: laura dern is living a good life. somebody upstairs likes you. it is a wonderful series called "enlightened." as if you did not already know from all of the billboards. glad to have you on the program. that is our shoreline for tonight. see you next time. as always, keep the faith.
>> if we can change, anything is possible. the whole world can change for the better. can you let me finish? we will talk after. >> what medications did they give you? >> nothing. i do not want to talk about my medications. >> i just want to be sure you are ok. don't get irritated with me. i want what is best for you. that is all i've ever wanted. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with chilean writer ariel dorfman/ . >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all
know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.