George Packer

  • Aired:  12/12/13
  •  | Views: 45,108

"The Unwinding" author George Packer discusses income inequality and institutional failure in America. (6:18)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE).

>> Stephen: WELCOME BACK,EVERYBODY.

MY GUEST TONIGHT JUST WON THENATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR HIS NEW

BOOK "THE UNWINDING."

I WONDER IF I HAVE TO READ "THEWINDING" FIRST.

PLEASE WELCOME GEORGE PACKER!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)HEY, GEORGE, GOOD TO SEE YOU

AGAIN.

THANKS FOR COMING BACK.

IT'S BEEN ONE OR SIX YEARS SINCEYOU WERE LAST HERE.

GOOD TO SEE YOU.

>> GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN, TOO.

>> Stephen: YOU'RE A "NEWYORKER" STAFF WRITER.

YOU'RE THE AUTHOR OF "THEASSASSIN'S GATE" WHICH WAS ABOUT

AMERICA IN IRAQ.

NOW YOU'VE GOT A NEW BOOK.

"THE UNWINDING: AN INNER HISTORYOF THE NEW AMERICA."

OKAY, I'LL BITE.

HOW ARE WE UNWINDING?

WHAT IS UNWINDING AMERICA OTHERTHAN, LET'S SAY, GAY MARRIAGE,

LEGALIZED POT, AND SOCIALIZEDMEDICINE?

(LAUGHTER)SHOULD I HAVE SAID SPOILER

ALERT?

DID I JUST GIVE AWAY THE BOOK?

>> THOSE ARE NOT THE BIG THEMESOF THE BOOK.

THE BOOK IS ABOUT HOW OVER THEON THE INSTITUTIONS INSTITUTIONS

THAT USED TO SUPPORT THE BROADMAJORITY OF AMERICANS LIKE

GOVERNMENT, LIKE NEWS MEDIA,LIKE CORPORATIONS, LIKE SCHOOLS

HAVE STOPPED WORKING ON BEHALFOF THE MAJORITY.

>> Stephen: CORPORATIONS AREDOING FINE, MY FRIEND.

>> THEY ARE DOING WELL.

BUT MOST OF AMERICA IS NOT.

SO WE'VE BECOME MORE AND MORE ACOUNTRY DIVIDED BETWEEN WINNERS

AND LOSERS.

LET ME JUST SAY, THIS IS NOT ANARGUMENT BOOK.

IT'S NOT A POLICY BOOK.

THERE ARE LOTS OF GOOD BOOKSABOUT THIS SUBJECT.

>> Stephen: SO YOU'RE NOTARGUING WITH THE BOOK?

>> I AM NOT.

(LAUGHTER).

>> Stephen: SO IF WE WERE TOHAVE AN ARGUMENT, I'VE ALREADY

WON?

>> DOESN'T THAT ALWAYS HAPPEN?

(LAUGHTER).

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)>> Stephen: CERTAINLY ONCE

WE'RE DONE EDITING.

(LAUGHTER)SO IT'S DESCRIBING THE STATE OF

AMERICA.

>> WELL, INSTEAD OF MAKING ANARGUMENT THAT YOU AGREE OR

DISAGREE WITH BUT QUICKLY FORGETIT GOES THROUGH THE LIVES OF

HALF A DOZEN AMERICANS ANDFOLLOWS THEM OVER THE COURSE OF

THE LAST 30 OR 35 YEARS, THEHUGE CHANGES IN THE ECONOMY AND

THE WAY THEY'VE REACTED.

>> Stephen: WHAT'S THE BIGGESTCHANGE?

MY UNDERSTANDING HOW THE ECONOMYWORKS-- YOU CAN CORRECT ME IF

I'M WRONG-- IS THAT YOU WORKHARD, YOU PLAY FAIR AND YOU'RE

REWARDED.

THAT'S THE AMERICAN DREAM.

YOU KNOW?

AND -- PLAY BY THE RULES, YOUGET A HOUSE TO LIVE IN.

(LAUGHTER).

>> Stephen: AND THE BIGGESTCHANGE IS THAT NO LONGER WORKS

AND THERE'S LOTS OF PEOPLE INTHIS BOOK WHO WORK HARD,

BASICALLY PLAY BY THE RULES--THEY MAKE MISTAKES, THEY'RE

HUMAN-- BUT THEY END UP WITHVERY LITTLE OR NOTHING.

AND THEY'RE STRUGGLING OR EVENDROWNING AND THERE'S NO

STRUCTURES TO SUPPORT THEIRASPIRATIONS.

THEY'RE ON THEIR OWN.

STPWHAOUP ARE THESE STRUCTURESTHAT WE USED TO HAVE?

>> A DECENT PUBLIC SCHOOLSYSTEM.

>> Stephen: WELL, PUBLICSCHOOLS RELY ON MY TAXES.

(LAUGHTER)I'M THE GUY PAYING FOR PUBLIC

SCHOOLS, MANY I KIDS GO PRIVATE,I CAN'T BE PAYING FOR THAT.

THAT'S NOT MY PROBLEM.

WHAT ELSE?

(LAUGHTER)AGAIN, WE'RE NOT HAVING AN

ARGUMENT.

WE'RE NOT HAVING AN ARGUMENT.

>> YOU MENTIONED CORPORATIONS.

IT USED TO BE THE CORPORATIONSHAD OTHER INTERESTS BESIDES

SHARE PRICE BUT WHEN THEY BECAMETHE ONLY GOAL OF C.E.O.s,

SHARE PRICE AND THEIR OWNSALARIES AND BONUSES THEY

STOPPED THINKING ABOUT THEIRWORKERS AS HAVING A KEY ROLE AND

HAVING CERTAIN RIGHTS AND ITBEING NECESSARY.

I MEAN, IN SOME WAYSCORPORATIONS --

>> Stephen: SOUNDS LIKE YOU'REGOING POPE FRANCIS ON ME RIGHT

NOW.

(LAUGHTER)>> THAT'S PRETTY GOOD.

I BET HE'S ACTUALLY A VERYPOWERFUL VOICE FOR THIS.

OBAMA QUOTED HIM IN A SPEECH HEGAVE ON INEQUALITY ABOUT A WEEK

AGO.

IT'S NICE TO HAVE SOME LEADERTALKING ABOUT THIS.

WE CAN'T FIND TOO MANY INWASHINGTON SO WE HAVE TO LOOK TO

THE VATICAN.

>> Stephen: OBAMA CALLED THEPOPE SOULFUL.

(LAUGHTER)WHICH I FOUND OFFENSIVE.

I DON'T WANT MY POPE DESCRIBEDLIKE BARRY WHITE.

(LAUGHTER)ARE YOU SAYING THAT I'M -- GUYS

LIKE ME WHO BELIEVE IN OURCORPORATE HEGEMONY NOW WHO

BELIEVE IN SMALLER GOVERNMENTAND LESS SOCIAL SERVICES THAT

WE'RE THE PROBLEM FOR PEOPLELIKE THAT?

>> STEPHEN, THAT IS VERY NICESET BUT YOU DID NOT BUILD IT.

(LAUGHTER).

>> Stephen: GO ON, ELIZABETHWARREN.

>> SHE'S IN THE BOOK.

>> Stephen: OH, I BET SHE IS.

OH, I BET SHE IS.

I BET THERE'S A FOLDOUT OF HER.

(LAUGHTER)>> YOU KNOW, THERE ARE TEN

WELL-KNOWN AMERICANS PROFILED INTHE BOOK AS WELL AS THESE FIVE

OR SIX PENAL YOU DON'T KNOW ANDI -- I ADMIRE HER BECAUSE SHE

HAS THE GUTS TO TELL BANKERSWHAT THEY DON'T WANT TO HEAR AND

THERE'S VERY FEW PEOPLE INPUBLIC LIFE WHO DO.

LOOK, WE HAVE -->> Stephen: SO WHAT DOBACKERS

NOT WANT TO HEAR THAT THEYSHOULD HEAR?

I'M HAVING A CHRISTMAS PARTYTONIGHT, I'LL TELL THEM.

>> THAT WE HAVE AN ECONOMY THATDOESN'T WORK VERY WELL BECAUSE

PEOPLE WHO WORK AT WAL-MARTCAN'T -- CAN BARELY AFFORD TO

SHOP AT WAL-MART WHICH IS WHYBLACK FRIDAY WAS A BUST THIS

YEAR.

>> Stephen: THEY DON'T NEED TOBECAUSE WAL-MART ENCOURAGES

WORKERS TO GIVE EACH OTHER OLDCANNED FOOD.

>> EXACTLY.

>> Stephen: AND AS LONG ASTHEY'RE TRADING EACH OTHER DEL

MONTE PEAS WE'RE GOOD.

(LAUGHTER)>> THAT'S THE ARGUMENT THAT I'M

NOT MAKING.

>> Stephen: I'M GLAD YOUDIDN'T BECAUSE I COULD KNOCK

THAT DOWN IN A MINUTE.

I'M GLAD YOU DIDN'T MAKE IT.

>> THERE ARE SIX SURVIVINGWAL-MART HEIRS THAT HAVE MORE

WEALTH THAN THE BOTTOM 42% OFAMERICANS.

NOW, THAT'S SUCH A GAP OFINEQUALITY THAT THE ECONOMY NO

LONGER WORKS AND PEOPLE ARECYNICAL AND THINK THE GAME IS

RIGGED.

WE DON'T EXPECT EQUAL RESULTS,BUT WHEN THE GAP IS SO WIDE,

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY ITSELF SEEMSLIKE A SHAM.

>> Stephen: THERE IS EQUALOPPORTUNITY.

WHETHER IT'S LIKE ONE OF THEHEIRS OF WAL-MART OR, YOU KNOW,

SOME GUY WORKING A MINIMUM WAGEJOB, THEY HAVE THE EXACT SAME

CHANCE TO WIN THE PICK 4 OF THEPOWERBALL.

(LAUGHTER)OR THE SCRATCHOFF.

THERE'S SO MANY OPPORTUNITIESTHAT THEY'VE SHARED AN EQUAL

CHANCE OF.

YOU WILL ADMIT THAT.

>> AND IT IS MORE AND MORE OF ALOTTERY.

BECAUSE KNOW WHO LONGER HAVE THEUPWARD MOBILITY THAT'S ALWAYS

BEEN OUR CLAIM TO BEING INEGALITARIAN SOCIETY.

EUROPE IS A MORE SOCIALLY MOBILEPLACE THAN THE UNITED STATES

NOW.

>> Stephen: YOU SHUT YOURMOUTH RIGHT NOW.

(LAUGHTER)SIR, HAVE YOU NEVER HEARD THE

ETERNAL TRUTH THAT AMERICA'SGREATEST DAYS ARE AHEAD OF IT?

>> WE LIKE TO THINK THAT.

>> Stephen: OH, IT'S -- IT'STRUE!

THAT'S WHY WE LIKE IT.

AND AMERICA'S GREATEST DAYS AREALSO BEHIND IT.

IT'S RIGHT NOW!

>> THAT'S THE PROBLEM.

>> Stephen: AND ALWAYS HASBEEN!

(LAUGHTER)GEORGE PACKER, THANK YOU SO

MUCH.

GEORGE PACKER, THE UNWINDING.

WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.

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