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The Betrayal of the American Dream: Award-winning Reporters Donald Barlett and James Steele on What Went Wrong

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The famed award-winning investigative reporting team of Donald Barlett and James Steele will release their new book on Tuesday, July 31, called, The Betrayal of the American Dream, a followup to their landmark bestseller, America: What Went Wrong? Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman sat down with the pair for an hour to discuss the assault on the middle class, the great tax heist, deregulation, the outsourcing of U.S. jobs by companies like Boeing and Apple, and the end of retirement.

As Republicans and Democrats continue disputing who should bear the brunt of the tax burden, Barlett and Steele argue that America's middle class has been decimated over the years due to policies governing not only taxes but also bank regulations, trade deficits and pension funds. Their book chronicles how the American middle class has been systematically impoverished and its prospects thwarted in favor of a new ruling elite.

"People are going to have to work forever, and yet what are those jobs going to be? What are they going to pay? And it also puts pressure then on people coming into the workforce. How are they going to get a job if people are having to work between 65 and 75 years old?," Steele says.

"The other thing that runs along with this is that everybody talks about creating jobs, nobody looks at the kind of jobs that are being created. People had jobs that paid solid middle-class wages, now you've got jobs in which people pay little or no taxes because they don't make enough money to pay the taxes. And that in turn impacts the deficit," Barlett says.

The duo also discuss their past reporting on the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, headed by the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, and note he headed "an Olympic committee where that entire operation raided the federal Treasury like no other Olympics in history." Barlett and Steele have worked together for more than 40 years, sharing two Pulitzer Prizes and two National Magazine Awards.

"The hypocrisy of people like Romney who want everyone in the middle and bottom to pay their own way, but they themselves have no trouble grabbing as much money as they can get out of Washington. And they do it all the time. It is just astonishing. People generally do not know it," Barlett says.

Steele discusses their research on how tax policy has impacted most Americans. "Romney and so many of the policies he advocates will benefit very few. The tax structure of the wealth in this country, the tax structure of the whole country, is now geared solely to benefiting the wealthy. Some of the statistics are amazing. The wealth of the top 1 percent of this country is greater than the well of the bottom 90 percent. That is a staggering figure. One thing that has made that possible as a whole series of tax changes over a long period of time, mainly in the last 10 years," Steele says.

Continuing, Steele discusses the evolution of the 401k and why people should be concerned.

"One of the most astonishing statistics we think we have in the book, because we were not aware of this statistic, since 1985 almost 85,000 pension plans have been killed," Steels explains. "In the '50s, the '60s, the '70s, even into the early '80s, more and more people were eligible for pensions, defined benefit plans where you got a specific benefit when you did retire. But since the mid-80s, corporations, with the great assistance of Congress, have been shifting people out of pensions and into 401k plans. Now, there's nothing wrong 401k plans but originally they were viewed just as a supplement to pension, they were not viewed as a pension. But corporations saw this would be a lot cheaper for them, it would shift the responsibility totally to the employees and the workers, but it would also not contribute enough to really take care of their retirement needs. This is one of the greatest title shifts in
the country."

Click here to read the complete transcript of this interview, watch it uninterrupted, and for more information about Democracy Now!, an independent, global weekday news hour.

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