Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter Hedrick Smith is definitely on a mission these days, barnstorming the country not only to promote his latest book, “Who Stole the American Dream?,” but to help us change the focus of the Washington political debate from debt and deficits to restoring the economic prosperity of working-class Americans.
In my interview, Smith summarizes the theme of his book – that the American Dream was in fact stolen through a systematic ideological assault on the underpinnings of middle-class prosperity that started in the 1970s. The book cites former Supreme Court Justice’s Lewis Powell’s epochal 1971 memorandum that encouraged the dramatic expansion of the K Street corporate lobby and set the stage for its dominance today of American politics.
That assault continues today through the federal budget sequester and the efforts by conservatives in Congress to impose an economic austerity agenda on the working class. That agenda, he argues passionately, will do long-term damage to ordinary Americans. “We’re not even talking about the right things,” he says in the interview. “Instead of talking about budget deficits, we should be talking about human deficits” – such as the crippling impact of student debt, low wages and high unemployment.
Hedrick says that the way to change what he calls “a broken political system” is to “get engaged as ordinary people” in the same way that working-class people sparked movements from the civil rights movements in the 1960s to the marriage equality movement of the 21st century.