Morning Joe | December 12, 2012
>>> welcome back to " morning joe ." a live look at times square in new york city . the sun has yet to come up. everybody neats to wake up, though. it's time to wake up, mike barnicle .
>> still with us. joining us from washington, "new york times" columnist tom friedman . and here on set, msnbc political analyst and vice president and executive editor of msnbc.com, richard wolffe and carl bernstein . good to have you all on board today.
>> i'd love to start with tom friedman . tom, we're obviously talking about michigan , talking about the protests, between the republican governor and the unions organized labor . and it seems to me that unions, along with the republican party , seem to be stuck in a different era. how would you, as a guy that has been obsessing on the impact of globalization on the u.s. economy , what recommendations would you have for unions to be more competitive in the 21st century ?
>> look, this is a really hard problem , joe . and i don't think there's a simple answer to it. let me answer you with a story. you know, i park at reagan national airport here, you know, for the last 20 years i've lived in washington. and every time i park there, when you exited, there were these -- there were six, i believe, exit booths. and they were each manned or womaned by these ethiopian women. i think it was an ethiopian company that owned the company. a couple weeks i went to exit to pay. i noticed there was one booth that said cash. there was one ethiopian woman in it. the other five booths had been converted into automatic exits. i was doing the math as a left. i thought, that's probably three shifts a day, 16 ethiopian american women who have just lost their jobs. and somebody else probably -- somebody else insuredly has gotten new jobs, one designing the software for that system which probably was done collaboratively between someone in america and somebody in india, and there's surely somebody else in the back room manning the computer system that is operating the whole exit operation. so what is the story here is that this is a relentless process. if horses could have voted, there never would have been cars. technology is constantly churning old jobs and turning them into new ones. but there's one bottom line we know, joe , and that's this. every good new job requires more education and more skill. the basis of the american middle class for the last 50 years, or the 50 years after world war ii was something called the high-wage middle-skilled job. but the relentless march of globalization and technology is really eliminating that. now there's only a high-wage, high-skilled job. and there's no answer other than certainly more education. i don't know what else we need. everyone's going to have to upgrade their skills.
>> what does that mean for the future not only of unions but the future of the strong, vibrant middle class where people get living wages , they get health care , they get workplace safety . it seems like a bleak picture.
>> i worry about this. there's no question about it, joe . i can just tell you, you think about a columnist for "the new york times," very easy for you to say. what do you care? how has my job changed? i just came from a long trip, russia, syria, israel , egypt . here's what happens in what i call a hyperconnected world when you're a columnist now. when i started, i was a reporter in beirut in 1982 . all i wanted to do was tell americans something they didn't know from beirut , okay? well, that was pretty easy because, you know, there was no cnn back then. you couldn't really follow the news. there were no bloggers. now when i go abroad to write a column, i just wrote from egypt this morning, what's in my head is i'm not looking to tell just americans something they don't know about egypt , still pretty easy. what i aspire to now is actually to tell egyptians something they don't know about their own country. in other words, my job has changed because i know i have readers there. i have bloggers there. i'm so connected to that audience that it isn't enough for me anymore in the old days just to tell people in chicago something new about egypt . i've now got to tell people in egypt something new about egypt if i want to keep my job.
>> exactly. and we ask these questions and make these points because of what happened, of course, in michigan . controversial right-to-work measures will soon be the law of the land there. republican governor rick snyder signed the measures yesterday despite widespread protests by labor unions at the state capitol . the law will make it illegal to require an employee to pay union dues as a condition of their employment. but governor snyder says it was the unions who started this fight in the first place by trying to add collective bargaining rights in the state's constitution. michigan has the fifth highest percentage of unionized workers at more than 17%, and it's hardly alone in passing right-to-work laws. 23 other states have already done the same.
>> we have a national problem, and that is how to not become a p plutocracy. and we're well on our way. and unions help keep us from being a plutocracy. we now we have less than 10% of the labor force that is unionized. at the same time, we need more people who are protected and can learn these new trades and jobs that tom friedman is talking about. and we are in an era, for the first time, these people are not unionized, and therefore the gap between the rich, the middle class and the poor is widening. we have a national difficulty that we must address legislatively, culturally, and that is how not to be this plutocratic train that's driving us right now.
>> richard, you look at globalization, what's happened since the late 1970s when china started globalizing. you look at the i.t. revolution and what impact it's had since the early 1990s . we've got a lot of forces that are not only making the rich richer and the poor poorer in america but doing the same in industrialized economies across the world.
>> what do we do?
>> well, it's not just a challenge for people who are struggling to make a living wage . it's a challenge for these big corporations that are racking up these big profits, too. the people who buy the gm products are the uaw workers. you need a strong middle class to be strong consumers. and so it is actually in everyone's interest that we have a strong middle class with a healthy disposable income. the challenge on the skills side, when you think about what can we all do together is education. quite clearly. when tom was talking about skills, we were talking about how to compete, how to be innovative, there are opportunities for this country to innovate. there always have been. this country is a tremendous source of innovation, but it doesn't come from anything but a strong education system . and that means these governors also have to think about property taxes. you cannot just do it at the federal level . that is a nationwide project.
>> mike barnicle ?
>> tom friedman , in listening to your answer, it occurs to me, is not part of our problem here in the united states , to be rather parochial about it, is the definitions of things that we have about us, infrastructure, for instance, when we think about infrastructure with regard to politics, people think about bridges, highways, roads, but infrastructure, ought not it to mean to cope with these issues, infrastructure ought not to include the element of kindergarten, of day care , of early childhood education ? i used to measure it, tom, when you were in beirut in '82 and '83, i used to measure a child's future, if you don't catch him by the third or fourth grade, you're going to lose him forever. now i think it's down to age 4 or 5, but we don't pay enough to infrastructure in this country. do you agree with that?
>> i agree totally. we kind of speak in the language of k-12, but it's really now, you know, "b" through retirement, birth right through life. and the big change that is happening and needs to happen much more quickly, you know, there's a great quota tribed to alvin tofler. that the new literacy today is not reading, riting and arithmetic. it's actually the ability to learn and relearn. because the chances of whatever you've learned in college, you know, will be outdated so much quicker in this kind of hyperconnected world. and it's really that ability to constantly be upgrading and broo improving your skills that is really going to be the defining thing for holding any or acquiring any good job. and i think that you're absolutely right, mike. if that is the case, then you've got to work backwards, what do we know? we know that kids who are exposed to books early, that are exposed to a large number of vocabulary words early, are going to do better when they start school, they're going to have better outcomes as they move through school. we have to think about just how we develop all of our workers from the very earliest age. we're not having that conversation.
>> let's -- there's other types of protests around the world that we're covering as well. we're going to have the governor of michigan on the show later to continue this conversation.
>>> but now to egypt . and tom, in your latest column, you ask the question, "can god save egypt ?" and you write, in part, this. " egypt , the anchor of the whole arab world , is embarked on a dangerous descent toward prolonged civil strife , unless a modus vivendi can be found between president morsi of the muslim brotherhood and his growing opposition. if sear ja and egypt both unravel at once, this whole rejune will be destabilized. that's why a billboard on the road to the pyramids said it
all: "god save egypt ." god is not going to save egypt . it will be saved only if the opposition here respects that the muslim brotherhood won the election fairly, and it will be safed only if morsi respects that elections are not winner-take-all, especially in a society that is still defining its new identity, and stops grabbing authority and starts earning it. otherwise, it will be all fall down." i guess, tom, the question is, can morsi regain credibility after all that's happened?
>> really not clear, mika. you know, i left cairo early yesterday, and that was the biggest question on my mind. one of the questions i asked several egyptian friends there, has president morsi ever seen the movie "invictus" about mandela in south africa and the transition there when his supporters wanted him to change the name of their great rugby team to a more african name. and there's a line in that movie, it's one of my favorite lines, where the mandela character turns to his supporters and says, "no, we're not going to do that." mandela says, "we've to surprise them. we have to surprise them." and what has been totally missing for me from morsi so far is that sense of surprise. he's been playing too much to type. we get in as the muslim brothers , we grab as much power as we can, we consolidate ourselves, et cetera . i do want to say one thing, in fairness, having spent a lot of time with the muslim brotherhood folks over the last couple days, and that is some things are true even if mohamed morsi believes them. and one of those things is that there are a lot of old regime people around that have been really working to bring him down from the inside. even paranoids have enemies. he's a deeply paranoid guy right now. but he also is facing a lot of internal enemies. the overwhelming sense i had, mika, from being in egypt is how little the people there know each other. they have a blue states / red states problem that makes ours look like a day at the beach. and that's really -- as the lid has come off and you have these less religious brotherhood people and middle and upper class people from cairo and alexandria, these people do not know each other at all. this country really needs to go on a long weekend retreat.
>> yeah, i don't think that's going to happen. you know, we saw the same thing, interestingly enough, in 2009 in iran where you had a lot of people in the cities opposing ahmadinejad, and you had people in more rural areas being far more conservative and supporting ahmadinejad. but carl bernstein , one of morsi's biggest problems right now is we look inward, he is paranoid. people that know him say that he does not -- he does not take advice well.
>> he's insular.
>> he's very insular. the muslim brotherhood promised that during the revolution that they were not going to take power. they lied. they took power. morsi promised he was going to be open and, of course, he seized power . this man can't get out of his own way. the muslim brotherhood can't get out of their own way. they've actually not only hurt egypt , they've hurt their own cause.
>> it's become an anti- democratic movement . what we're seeing, and tom suggested it here for a minute is, that in the united states , in israel , in egypt , these three great democracies, we are totally divided. our people are divided left, right, religious, nonreligious. it's a similarity in all three cultures, particularly this religious element which skews in terms of our politics just as it does in israel and just as it is in egypt . so we've got universal problems that invoke incredible anger. and how a culture and society deals with this amazing internal anger, we've seen a breakdown of our own political system because of it. it's no wonder that we see it in egypt . and if you go to israel , tom knows this better than anybody, israel is a divided country, very much like we are. with a horrible debate and anger with the two sides.
>> hey, tom, do we have the discipline and/or the time to allow this to play out in egypt ?
>> that's a good question, mike. i actually -- i think president obama 's handled this really pretty well. and that is to understand that first of all, they've got to work this out. and anything we say will be and absolutely can be used against us. that is if he comes out in any way, you know, against morsi, he will delegitimize the morsi critics because he'll use it against him and vice versa . we're going to have to, you know, do our best, i think, to build bridges where possible, draw red lines where necessary and try to insulate ourselves from the worst impacts of this crisis. you know, mike, there's a concept in climate change where they speak about we need to manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable. and it's true about the climate, and it's true about the middle east as well. it's one of the reasons i began this column in cairo basically saying, you know, if you look at the mediterranean today up north in europe, you're seeing the european supernational state break apart. and to the south, you're seeing the arab nation state system break apart. these are two great system. and that tells me one thing. we need to get our act together. we need to be as resilient as possible because the whole world is depending on us. we're one of the last rocks of stability out there.
>> thomas friedman thank you so much. we'll be reading your column online at nytimes.com. carl bernstein and richard wolffe , stay with us if you can.
>>> next, the man at the center of the union fight in michigan who signed the right-to-work measure into law. governor rick snyder joins us next. why he says it was the unions who started this fight.
>>> and a little later, harvey weinstein will be here on set to discuss tonight's big benefit concert for hurricane sandy relief. you're watching " morning joe " brewed by starbucks. we're at