Barbershop
11:56 am
Fri January 17, 2014

Is Obama's Jobs 'Crusade' Focused?

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Now it's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shape-up this week are writer, Jimi Izrael, with us from Cleveland. Mario Loyola is chief counsel for the Texas Public Policy Foundation and a columnist for the National Review magazine in Austin. Fernando Vila is director of production and development at Fusion, that's the collaboration between Univision and ABC. He's in Miami. And here in Washington, D.C. is TELL ME MORE editor, Ammad Omar. Take it away, Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Hey fellas, welcome to the shop. How we doing?

AMMAD OMAR, BYLINE: Doing all right. How's it going?

FERNANDO VILA: Hey.

MARIO LOYOLA: Hey.

OMAR: How's it going?

IZRAEL: It's going, bro. It's going. All right. Well, let's get it started. You know, all eyes are on the president today because he's trying to put all the noise about NSA surveillance to rest, but the thing he wanted to talk about this week was his latest plan to create jobs. Michel.

MARTIN: Yeah, that's right. He's been talking about boosting manufacturing with what he calls innovation hubs. And the idea is to bring together universities, government and businesses to help private companies create new products, hire more workers. And here's a short clip of him speaking at North Carolina State University.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today, I'm here to act. To help make Raleigh-Durham and America a magnet for the good, high-tech manufacturing jobs that a growing middle class requires and that are going to continue to keep this country on the cutting edge.

MARTIN: Now, he says he's asked Congress for legislation to help the plan along, but he's willing to move ahead on his own, Jimi.

IZRAEL: All right. Thanks, Michel. Fernando.

VILA: Yo.

IZRAEL: What do you think the president should be doing to create jobs?

VILA: Well, you know, these - initiatives like these are nice, but they're not, sort of, going to create the amount of jobs that are needed to significantly bring down the unemployment crisis that we still have in this country. I mean, to me, it's pretty obvious that the number one thing affecting the economy is a lack of demand that can be stimulated through, you know, inflationary monetary policy or deficit spending or something like that. There does seem to be a little bit of a trend of manufacturing jobs coming back to the United States after about a decade of jobs leaving. And I think the biggest reason for that is just the competitiveness gap between the United States and China has dropped significantly in the past 10 years. But, yeah, initiatives like this are nice, but they're sort of small-bore and not good at getting things done.

MARTIN: Yeah, but big-bore tends to be, like, the government building things, right. Like, big-bore tends to be, build a bridge, put people to work. Build a highway, put people to work, you know, back in the day, a railroad. Or, you know, you can do that too.

VILA: Sure.

MARTIN: We still don't really have - what about that? I mean, is there any appetite for that?

VILA: Well, yeah. That would - I mean, those are certainly jobs, right. It just seems politically unattainable at the moment. It seems impossible to get something like that through Congress. So yeah. It's a tough one.

IZRAEL: It is a tough one. Mario, you say if Obama wants to create jobs, he should leave the private sector alone. But isn't his job to do more than that?

LOYOLA: No. I think that...

MARTIN: Break it down, Mario...

IZRAEL: Oh, OK.

LOYOLA: Government doesn't...

MARTIN: ...Just go right there.

LOYOLA: Look, government doesn't create wealth, that's why government can't create jobs. I mean, it can, you know, through deficit spending, it can, like, borrow a job from the future or it can move jobs from one place to another. But government doesn't create wealth and it's not the president's job to create wealth. I mean, if the president wants to create jobs, the number one thing that he could do is just get out of the way of the private economy, right. I mean, American businesses already have to operate under the world's highest corporate tax burden, and by far, the most insane regulatory burden in the world. I mean, if I had one question I could...

MARTIN: He's never been to France...

LOYOLA: ...Ask, I've been dying to ask the president this question...

MARTIN: He's never been to France...

LOYOLA: ...Mr. President, what is - it's like 60,000, 70,000, 80,000 new pages of regulations every year. What's our goal? I mean, will the president be happy with, when we get to, like, a billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion pages of regulations?

VILA: Corporate...

MARTIN: Go ahead, Ammad...

VILA: ...Profits are at an all-time high...

OMAR: Yeah, so. So you...

VILA: American companies - corporate profits are at an all-time high...

OMAR: Either way...

VILA: ...Last year.

OMAR: This is, Ammad. You know, there's the old saying that if you ask one question to two economists, you get three or four different answers depending on their mood that day. But, you know, in economic circles there are, kind of, two big schools of thought. There's the free market, capitalism, which it sounds like Mario is a proponent of. And then there's the Keynesian model, which it sounds like Fernando kind of supports. Those people would say government spending can absolutely prop up the economy. The free market people would say, that's just going to lead to problems down the road. We're going to have greater inflation and more debt that we're going to have to pay off down the road. So, you know, this debate that we're just having in the shop is something that - policymakers are having the same exact debate.

And like Fernando said, you need a consensus to get something through Congress and signed by the president. There's not going to be a consensus on that at this moment. I think the one thing that people can agree on is that the money we do spend, we should maybe try to figure out a way to make that more efficient and make it go a little bit further. It sounds like that's what the president's doing. Is it going to work? I mean, of course if we could predict these things, we wouldn't have the problems we have around the world. But, you know, it'd be interesting to see. But I don't think anyone's saying that this is the way to do it. I think a lot of people would say that, you know, he needs to do much bigger things, like building bridges and trains. A lot of left-leaning economists would say that. But of course there's no...

MARTIN: Well, I don't know if you have to be left...

OMAR: ...Political appetite for that...

MARTIN: Well, anyway. Jimi, what do you think? Jimi...

OMAR: Well, in an economic sense...

MARTIN: Yup.

OMAR: ...A Keynesian, if you will.

MARTIN: ...Oh, no...

OMAR: ...Sure...

MARTIN: Now he's going to start talking about obscure, like...

OMAR: ...No...

MARTIN: ...French films, too. Oh my God...

OMAR: ...Two things. Keynesian and...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: That's what Jimi's for...

IZRAEL: We were just...

MARTIN: ...That's what Jimi's here to do.

IZRAEL: We were just...

OMAR: ...If you will...

IZRAEL: ...Talking about Keynesian politics, Keynesian economics in my bar the other day.

MARTIN: We sure were.

OMAR: I mean, they went there. I didn't make this topic up.

IZRAEL: So you know what...

MARTIN: OK.

IZRAEL: ...What I think is...

OMAR: ...Let's talk about football...

MARTIN: All right. Go ahead, Jimi.

IZRAEL: To an extent, I like my president. I like him best when he's focused. You know, it's one crusade at a time, you know, he's trying to, kind of, wrangle Ed Snowden and now he's trying to do this. You know, when he's focused, like with the Affordable Care Act, you know, he pushes it through. It goes through. So I want him to get on this crusade to make jobs...

OMAR: But he had a democratic Congress...

IZRAEL: ...I do not know how he is going to do it.

MARTIN: Yeah, but he was the guy - he was the same guy in running for president that he said, look, you need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, right.

IZRAEL: Well, he can't...

MARTIN: ...He was that guy...

IZRAEL: ...So that experiment is done, you know, so he cannot. I mean, he can try to maybe, while he's trying to take down Ed Snowden, maybe he can hire a few people to, you know, mow the White House lawn. I don't know how that could go wrong, but, I'm just saying, you know, if he just needs to make some jobs in the meantime, there you go. But I want him to focus on one thing at a time. That's just my thing. I don't know.

MARTIN: All right, so let's go on. We are having our weekly visit to the Barbershop with writer Jimi Izrael, columnist Mario Loyola, journalist Fernando Vila and TELL ME MORE editor, Ammad Omar. Back to you, Jimi.

IZRAEL: So thank you, Michel. Fellas, the country is celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday. And he's been the face of the Civil Rights Movement for 50 years now. Has it been 50? But I'm wondering - I'm wondering if he's still the icon we need today. Personally...

MARTIN: Yeah, let's hear who would you rather have?

IZRAEL: I don't know. I mean, almost anybody. I mean...

OMAR: ...Whoa.

IZRAEL: I mean, I'm OK with observing the birthday. Hold on, let me qualify that. I'm OK with observing the birthday, but there has to be something beyond the dream. I mean, black people have to wake up. You know, convincing people to continue chasing a dream is a kin, in my mind, to a kind of mass hypnosis because dreams don't happen. Dreams are unattainable. Dr. King didn't have the last great black idea, you know. And I take umbrage to the idea that there's something noble and dignified about silently abiding the barbs of your oppressor. You know, we have to outgrow that model for black dignity and nobility, you know, that's just lame in my mind. I can't deal with it. And...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Go ahead, Fernando.

VILA: I mean, I don't know. I think Dr. King was pretty vocal in his opposition. I don't know that he was silently, sort of, just taking it. I mean, I don't know. I think that - I think that Martin Luther King is one of the, you know, maybe three or four people that have had the most profound effect on American history. You know, one of the people that, you know, really does change the course of history. And to me, the most lasting message that he had, at least through his actions, was the, sort of - reminding us that in a democracy, the people, kind of, still are supposed to govern themselves and they're supposed to stand up to what they perceive as injustice. And I think sometimes that gets lost, regardless of whether you're black, white, Asian, Latino - these days.

IZRAEL: OK.

MARTIN: What does Mario think? What do you think?

LOYOLA: Yeah, I think Martin Luther King is a, sort of, permanent icon, I mean he - and not just a civil rights icon. He's almost like, you know, almost a constitutional icon, right. I mean, he'll always represent the idea that racism and discrimination are things to be abhorred and that every individual is a dignified and valid person. And I think as long as we believe that, Martin Luther King is going to be an icon of that belief.

But at the same time, you know, he lived and died in a completely different era than our own. And now we have problems that we didn't have then. And so, you know, for example, the anti-poverty programs of the Great Society, which were put in place to try to realize his dream, have had a lot of unintended consequences. And some of them are very serious. And so I think that what I'm looking for is the new icons. The new generation of leaders that are going to really, honestly look at these problems and come up with solutions that we can all agree on as a society the way that we agreed on the things that Martin Luther King stood for.

MARTIN: Ammad?

IZRAEL: Ammad?

OMAR: Yeah, I mean, I don't know if it's a, you know, you got to have one or the other, first of all. I mean, I don't think you got to throw out Martin Luther King, Jr. in order to honor other people. And you know, I'll give Jimi credit for going there because who wants...

IZRAEL: Sorry...

OMAR: ...You know?

VILA: Who goes there? Yeah...

OMAR: ...This is like, the one guy in the world that's like, Oh, I'm not so sure about Martin Luther King. Regardless, I mean, what he stands for today to me is, you know, nonviolent protest and then ultimately, triumphing. You know, the world is a different place now than it was back then. And so, I mean, yeah, I have no problems with the doctor.

MARTIN: Besides...

IZRAEL: I don't have any - I never said I had any problems with him.

MARTIN: Was the argument - the argument was not to silently absorb the barbs. The idea was to not commit mass suicide in the quest of a better life. I mean...

OMAR: Or kill all the cops or whatever...

MARTIN: Yeah, yeah. The argument was...

IZRAEL: OK, well...

MARTIN: ...That there is no other choice. And that his choice required a far more emotional discipline, you know, and intellectual rigor, than a lot of the other choices that people have. And I also think that there's something fundamentally true about his argument, which is that forgiveness is your only choice...

IZRAEL: Sure.

MARTIN: ...Forgiveness is your only path to wholeness...

IZRAEL: Sure.

MARTIN: ...And so it's funny to me that, you know, like, a generation later, we're talking about Nelson Mandela for the same thing, but who showed that path for us?

IZRAEL: But I also resent the way his image has been commodified. I mean, everybody from Starbucks to Burger King, to, you know, Schlitz Malt Liquor has used his image to sell products. And it's just, I'm over it. I'm over it.

OMAR: All right.

MARTIN: OK.

OMAR: I want to see Jimi on coffee mugs.

MARTIN: I know, right.

IZRAEL: My God.

MARTIN: I'm checking your keychain next time I see you. There better not be a Martin Luther King...

IZRAEL: I promise you.

MARTIN: ...Image on that keychain. There better not be.

IZRAEL: I promise you.

MARTIN: All right. Well, so switching gears now. Moving onto some football. You know, sorry...

OMAR: All right...

MARTIN: ...Tough segue. Can't think of any other way to do it...

VILA: Whoa. My bad...

MARTIN: ...But it's down to the final four this weekend. So we're figuring out who's going to the Super Bowl. Ammad, who do you like?

OMAR: I mean, who do I like - is the 49ers. That's my squad. That's who I love. So I'm hoping they win. It's going to be tough because they're playing at Seattle and this is the matchup that everyone's been waiting for, at least 49ers fans because, you know, Seattle's been the best team all year. They've only lost once at home in the last two years, and they have a crazy home-field advantage. It's the loudest place in the country, even in the world, the stadium. I was looking at online, they've got some online bookmakers. And they've got over-under on how loud it's going to get. You know, is it going to be louder than a jumbo jet or not? So...

VILA: Wow.

OMAR: ...That's what they're talking about. And last time the 49ers went up, there they had a tough time and got blown out. So I'm hoping for a better result. I'm hoping for the 49ers and - I went to Michigan, too, so I'm going for Brady-Harbaugh, the double Michigan quarterback Super Bowl. That's where I'm at.

MARTIN: I'm sorry, could I get somebody to change the locks on his office, please, and kind of get...

OMAR: What do you mean? Champions right there. It's going to be a good game.

MARTIN: Mario, what about you?

LOYOLA: Yeah, can I just...

MARTIN: I understand that you're, kind of, coming from a place of hate, right. It like...

LOYOLA: ...Yeah. Oh yeah. Oh my.

MARTIN: ...It's not who you love, it's who you hate. So where are you going on that?

OMAR: Haters going to hate.

LOYOLA: Oh my goodness. I mean, I speak for all Packers fans when I say...

VILA: Sorry guys.

LOYOLA: ...I hope the loathesome Sanfransico 49ers will be utterly humiliated and defeated in Seattle...

OMAR: That's what happens when you get beaten at your house.

LOYOLA: ...Next weekend. I mean, I actually think that the rest of this season - I mean, the Packers won the NFC North with basically the whole team on injured reserve so I'm proud of my team. And I think that our consolation is going to be that the rest of these great games that we have in front of us are going to go just the way the Packers fans would want, which is that San Francisco is going to lose. And then New England will defeat the Broncos in a valiant battle to be decided in the final seconds. And then Bill Belichick will display his Napoleonic genius to defeat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Mark my words.

MARTIN: All right.

OMAR: Marked.

MARTIN: Fernando, what about you?

VILA: Well, I'm a Dolphins fan so I have extreme hatred toward the Patriots, Tom Brady and the cheater Bill Belichick. So I'm taking the Broncos in that game. And then in the other game, I think that - I mean, I was disappointed in Russell Wilson's performance last week. I thought he was pretty poor against the Saints, even though they won. And I really don't like the Seahawks' uniforms so I'm taking the 49ers.

MARTIN: Well, there you go.

OMAR: Welcome aboard.

VILA: That's my analysis.

OMAR: Welcome onto the bandwagon, sir.

VILA: Credible analysis.

MARTIN: All right, Jimi, do you even care? I'm honestly even afraid to ask.

IZRAEL: You know, I...

MARTIN: Like 'cause I know...

IZRAEL: ...Live in Cleveland, and it's hard to be a sports fan in Cleveland. So therefore I choose to ignore the fact that there may even be sports in America. And I'm not even familiar with this Super Bowl you speak of. I choose to play my Xbox 360.

VILA: It's the thing that happens on Twitter.

MARTIN: Yes, it's - he's a conscientious objector so.

LOYOLA: Jimi turn on your...

IZRAEL: That's exactly right.

LOYOLA: Turn on your TV this weekend, Jimi, because this is the greatest sport in the history of the world and it always will be.

OMAR: Yeah, I agree.

MARTIN: He's like, what TV?

OMAR: We can agree on that.

MARTIN: So old school - old technology. What's that? All right so, Jimi, maybe this will tempt you back into the waters - Oscars. Oscar nominations.

IZRAEL: Sure.

MARTIN: "American Hustle," "Gravity," "12 Years a Slave" they all scored. The others - other popular movies that didn't make the cut. So I need to - you know, OK. Ammad, do you want to start? What...

OMAR: I mean, I'm not a film critic as you know, but my thing is, you know, the Academy - why's it always got to be so serious? You know, it's always got to be like the English patient or, you know, something like that. It's like, when is there ever going to be just a standard comedy that people like that's good. At least nominate one. Throw them a bone. They've got like 10 things up right now.

MARTIN: Like this one, for example.

OMAR: No, no. I mean, I'm saying you've got "Old School," should've been best picture. And now, you know, I haven't seen "Anchorman 2," but at least nominate it.

VILA: I mean, "American Hustle" was a funny movie.

MARTIN: OK.

VILA: It was a really funny movie.

MARTIN: OK. So what about you, Jimi? What do you like?

IZRAEL: Actually, I do like "12 Years a Slave." It was a really commanding performance. I'm sad that, you know, it takes these kinds of performance of black oppression to resonate with the Academy. However, it was a stunning film to watch, to look at. It's a film that everybody should see. Black people should not see it the day before they have to to work because that guy that's giving them the soul handshake - that one white guy in management that gives you the whole soul handshake, he will not be as funny after you've seen "12 Years a Slave." That will not be anywhere near as ironic. Anyway. But yeah...

MARTIN: OK.

IZRAEL: ...I'm down with Steve McQueen and John Ridley.

MARTIN: Mario, who do you like? Who do you like?

LOYOLA: I really liked "American Hustle." I mean, I think that "12 Years a Slave" will probably get best picture just because it's such an important and impactful picture. But, I mean, I thought that "American Hustle" had such exquisite attention to the details of this other time, you know. And it's the '70s, which were just such an incredibly weird time. And, you know, and I love also that the movie has, like, no admirable characters in it. Basically everyone's like a loser to some degree or other. Talented.

MARTIN: And you're attracted to that. OK.

LOYOLA: Well, yeah. It's like the novels - I mean, that's - I mean, I know that you want me to mention French literature. I mean, this is like the novels...

MARTIN: Absolutely.

LOYOLA: ...Of Flaubert are all about, right.

MARTIN: That's why I call upon you.

LOYOLA: That's what Jackie Brown is all about. It's like this completely, you know, unredeemable characters. And it's just - and what I want to know, though, however, is what is Christian Bale going to do with that beer belly now? Is he going to be sporting that for the next Batman movie?

MARTIN: I don't even want to think about it. Oh no. Fernando, what about you?

VILA: Yeah, I was sad that "Inside Llewyn Davis" didn't get any nominations. You know, my boy Oscar Isaac is from Miami, and he didn't get an acting nomination even though he was awesome in it. I do think it'll probably be "12 Years a Slave," although I really, really, really enjoyed "The Wolf of Wall Street." I thought it was like a, you know, kind of like a nonstop orgasm for three and a half hours. It was amazing.

IZRAEL: Hey now.

OMAR: All right.

MARTIN: OK. Wow.

LOYOLA: So that's what you get to on the weekends.

MARTIN: Exactly. So that's what...

VILA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

MARTIN: See if tickets - ticket receipts kind of fly up just on that one.

VILA: That's my analysis.

MARTIN: OK. All right. Fernando Vila is director of production and development at Fusion - joined us from their studios in Miami. Mario Loyola is chief counsel for the Texas Public Policy Foundation and a columnist for National Review magazine with us from KUT in Austin. Jimi Izrael is an adjunct professor of film and social media at Cuyahoga Community College. You can find his blog at JimiIzrael.com. He was with us from WCPN in Cleveland. And here with me in Washington, D.C. was TELL ME MORE editor, Ammad Omar. Thank you all so much.

OMAR: Thank you.

LOYOLA: Suavecito por ahi, mi gente.

VILA: Later guys.

IZRAEL: Yup.

MARTIN: And remember, if you can't get enough Barbershop buzz on the radio, look for our Barbershop podcast. That's in the iTunes store or at NPR org. That's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Let's talk more on Monday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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