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Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz on “Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy” (Part 2)

Web ExclusiveOctober 27, 2015
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Part 2 of our conversation with Nobel Prize-winning economist and Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz, author of the new book, “Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity.” || Watch Part 1

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StoryOct 27, 2015Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz on “Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Our guest is Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, Columbia University professor, chief economist for the Roosevelt Institute. He’s got a new book out; it is called Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity. This is Part 2 of our conversation.

Again, welcome back to Democracy Now!, Joe Stiglitz.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Nice to be here again.

AMY GOODMAN: The subtitle, An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity, what would that look like?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, it is about rewriting the rules in a fairly comprehensive way. I mean, the basic—

AMY GOODMAN: Who writes them?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, that has to be done by Congress, and it has to be with a lot of popular support. And in a way, we’re beginning to do that. You know, the Fight for 15 movement, raising the minimum wage, that’s one of the rules. But one of our points is that we need a more comprehensive agenda than just raising the minimum wage, and that if we make—and the two words there, for “growth” and “shared prosperity,” so our view is that the only sustainable prosperity is shared prosperity and that one of the problems is that the way the rules have been rewritten since the beginning of Reagan has been to actually slow the American economy.

And let me give you one example. When you have corporations having a very shortsighted view, paying their CEOs such outrageous monies with less money spent on investment, of course you’re not going to make long-term investments that are going to result in long-term economic growth. And at the same time, there’s going to be less money to pay for ordinary workers. And paying that low wages to ordinary workers, not giving them security, not giving them paid, you know, family leave, all that results in a less productive labor force. So what we’ve done is we’ve actually undermined investments in people, investments in the corporation, all for the sake of increasing the income of the people at the very top. So there’s a really close link here between the growing inequality in our society and the weak economic performance.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re in the midst of an extended election year. But that goes to the issue of how we govern ourselves in this country, a very critical point. Let’s talk about what underlies these elections: campaign finances. How does campaign finance reform fit into rewriting the rules of the American economy?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, it’s actually absolutely essential. And, you know, the problem is that we’ve gone basically from a political system with “one person, one vote” to “one dollar, one vote.” And, you know, Citizens United made that worse. So, the only way that you can combat the force of money is, you might say, people power, people coming out. And we’ve seen this work. I mean, we’ve seen it work in raising the minimum wage. You know, just—we couldn’t do it in Congress, because the gridlock there, the money there, so we’ve done it in city after city—Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, in New York. So, we’ve actually been able to see that this kind of uprising can work, even in a political system with money making so much difference.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, what’s very interesting is you have Bernie Sanders really stressing inequality. This pushes Hillary Clinton to do this, because he has gained so much momentum and drawn tens of thousands of peoples to his rally. On the Republican side, you have, in some areas, Donald Trump sounding more liberal than Hillary Clinton—immediately came out against these trade deals.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Yeah, so, in a sense, what you see both in the Republican and Democratic Party is a sense that something is wrong. You know, America was the first middle-class society. We’re about to become the first society that ceases to be a middle-class society. The basic requirements of being a member of the middle class—the ability to send your kids to school, a secure retirement—all those things are being put in jeopardy. And one of the things we talk about in Rewriting the Rules is how we can get those back. But what you’re seeing on both sides is a sense of anger. Now, I think that both of the Democratic candidates have put forward credible ways of dealing with it. And there’s going to be a long discussion. The problem is that on the Republican side there’s anger, but it’s basically inchoate. You know, it’s basically tax reforms that actually rewrite the rules in the wrong way, making things even more unequal than we have and the numbers not adding up.

AMY GOODMAN: In Part 1 of our conversation, we talked about the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that President Obama has really championed. What would—what grade, as a college professor, would you give President Obama, who actually went to Columbia University, where you’re a professor, when it comes to these issues? You’ve called the trade deal a “charade.”

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, unfortunately, you know, he’s done some things that—he did not support some of the basic reforms in the financial sector that I think were needed. TPP, I think, is a very big mistake. On the other—

AMY GOODMAN: It means corporations control trade, as opposed to democratic societies and their governments?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Exactly, and particularly as we move away from lowering tariffs, which is what the old trade deals—these are about regulations. And yes, regulations maybe have—so many regulations have to be harmonized, they have to be changed. But you can’t leave that up to corporations. And with a changing world, you can’t lock in the current regulatory structure, which is what TPP attempts to do. So—

AMY GOODMAN: For people who don’t understand TPP, explain who makes the decisions around these global trade rules. This will control what? Forty percent of the global economy?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Yeah. And the irony is that the president came out and said, “This is about who makes the trade rules—China or the United States?” But I think the big issue is, this is about who makes the rules of trade—the American people, our democratic process, or the corporations? And who they’re made for, which is, for the corporations or for all of us?

AMY GOODMAN: You don’t think President Obama understands that?


AMY GOODMAN: You don’t think he understands it, or he—

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: I think he wants to chalk up some kind of an achievement, i.e. he can’t pass anything through Congress because the Republicans won’t allow him, so he has to get something that the Republicans want. And they want a trade agreement. The provisions about—in the TPP about investment, about—are the kinds of provisions that were number one in the agenda of the Business Roundtable. And so—

AMY GOODMAN: And explain what the Business Roundtable is.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: This is the group of the big—America’s biggest corporations.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s not the mom-and-pop stores.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: It’s not the mom-and-pop stores. So this is about big business being able to protect themselves. But let me make it clear: It’s not about property rights, as we usually understand it. You know, what the USTR says, they say, “Well, we’re dealing with countries where we can’t trust the way the legal system works, so we have to put these protections in, because these countries just can’t be trusted.” We’re insisting on the same kind of provision in our trade agreements with Europe, with Germany. And the Germans are saying, you know, “We have just as good a legal system as yours, and why are you trying to go beyond our legal system?” I mean, for instance, there, they care about GMO. You know, they care a lot about various kinds of—

AMY GOODMAN: Right, genetically modified organisms.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: And they say, you know, “We want at least the consumers be informed. They can make a choice.” And if this gets passed, if you pass the regulation that says you have to display, and Americans—and people say, “I’m not going to buy a product that’s GMO,” they can be sued, because of—

AMY GOODMAN: If you put the label on, just informing people that there may be GMOs in this product, you can be sued.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: You could be sued. Now, we don’t know—let me make it clear: We don’t know all the provisions. They kept it secret. But you have to say—

AMY GOODMAN: And how do they get away with keeping it secret?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, that is the amazing thing. You know, this was—their argument again is they have—you know, these are negotiations, very complex, and if everything were open, everybody would be—you know, it would be a mess. But they haven’t really kept it secret, because they’ve talked to the corporations. The corporations have been there at the table saying, “Well, it’s really important for us to have this provision. It’s really important for us to have that provision.” But ordinary citizens have not been at the table. You know, the only way that we know what’s going on is leaked documents. And some of the links come from other countries, where there’s a stronger democratic commitment to more transparency. But our government has been keeping it much more secret.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Joe Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, who’s written the new book, Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy. What would rejuvenate worker power, labor power, union power in this country?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, all these things are about rewriting the rules. I mean, our basic idea is that over the past 35 years we’ve rewritten the rules in ways that have weakened labor power, increased the financial sector power. There’s been a rebalancing of the power in the wrong way. And TPP—

AMY GOODMAN: What happened 35 years ago? Reagan?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: President Reagan, but he was part of a zeitgeist, because you see it in Europe going on at the same time. And let me just say, TPP is another example of rewriting the rules in the wrong way. It’s a continuation of that trend that began back in around 1980 that has increased the imbalance and made things more difficult. So what we need to do now is to rewrite the rules once again, but this time, you know, we’re in the 21st century: It’s not going back exactly to where we were before 1980; it has to be modernized. But realize that we rewrote the rules in ways that destroyed the kind of balance of power that we had.

AMY GOODMAN: So if you were in charge of writing a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact that helped people, the vast majority of people, what would be the rules of this TPP?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, one thing that we haven’t talked about is—one of the most controversial aspects is access to generic medicines. You know, ordinary people need to be able to get medicines at a low price. We struck a balance in the United States in the Hatch-Waxman Act, where we said, “OK, Big Pharma has to be able to get some returns for their investments and research.” But—mostly research really goes on in the universities, let’s be clear, and at NIH government-sponsored research labs. But the generic medicines, which are now more than 80 percent of all drugs, bring the prices down. That’s the competition that makes the market work. Well, we struck that balance, but in this trade agreement they’re trying to restrike the balance in favor of Big Pharma. You know, this is—we were talking about President Obama’s legacy. One of his big legacy is Obamacare, and that’s supposed to bring access to medicine. But when you—TPP will go in exactly the wrong way, because it will restrict access to medicine for many countries around the world. So, that’s one thing.

But take the investment agreement. I would do two things. First, it seems to me that the conditions under which you can sue are wrong. If a country passes a regulation, whether it’s for health, safety, the environment or managing the economy, you shouldn’t be able to sue. These are called regulatory takings. And repeatedly our courts have said it’s the basic right of a country to design rules to protect their citizens, protect their economy, protect their environment. So the conditions under which you can sue are wrong. Who can bring a suit is wrong. It should be government to government, not corporations suing a government.

And thirdly, the judicial process by which it’s done, it shouldn’t be in private courts. The most important—one of the most important public functions is dispute resolution. When we created the WTO, we created an international panel for dispute resolution. We could do the same thing for investment agreements. But instead, they’ve decided to go to very expensive private arbitration, rife with conflicts of interests, you know, so expensive that—I referred earlier to the Uruguay, where Philip Morris is suing.

AMY GOODMAN: Altria, is it called?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Altria, you know, the successor to Philip Morris. It’s so expensive that Uruguay can’t pay for its own defense. And Mayor Bloomberg, who is so concerned about smoking, is paying—is contributing to the support of Uruguay to defend itself against Altria, which is just passing regulations to try to protect people’s health.

AMY GOODMAN: Joe Stiglitz, I wanted to go—come back to the United States to the budget deal that’s being reached by Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress, which is very unusual. But maybe it’s explained by what’s in this budget deal, reportedly spending a slim $80 billion over two years, not including an additional $32 billion in war funding—you’ve written a book about war funding. It includes cuts to Social Security disability benefits and Medicare payments to providers. New revenue would come from sales of U.S. strategic oil reserves and the use of public airwaves for telecommunications firms. The debt limit would be suspended until March 2017, after President Obama leaves office. Can you address these points on what deal the Democrats and the Republicans have reached?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, it’s a small deal. You know, the Republicans were being very recalcitrant, and this is sort of a face-saving—or I view it as a face-saving deal for both sides. The fact is that we see in Europe austerity, in what it’s doing, essentially—some countries in depression, some countries in recession. What Americans don’t realize is that we’ve had a mild form of austerity, but it is one of the reasons that our economy is so weak, that wages are basically stagnant. So, we have about 500,000 fewer public sector employees than we had before the crisis, 2008. If we had a normal expansion, we would have had about 2 million more public sector employees. So there’s a shortfall of two-and-a-half million. And that’s one of the things that’s dragging our economy down.

So, one of the ironies in this agreement is that there is one positive provision, but the positive provision itself shows the weakness, because the wages were so low, the economy is so weak, that the Social Security recipients are not getting the kind of increase that they would get usually with the normal increase in inflation and wages. But healthcare costs are continuing to rise—not a great deal. And that means the healthcare costs, the premium on Part B of Medicare, would go up. So, the one positive aspect of this is, if we didn’t fix it, all our older people would see a smaller check that they would be receiving from Social Security. So, affix that.

But in terms of that $80 billion restimulating the economy, just not enough. And monetary policy has reached the limits of what it can do. So I think what we’re going to see is a continuation of this very mediocre economy—even the IMF describes what is going on as a very mediocre economy—and a wage stagnation and a continuation of this kind of world in which ordinary Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to attain the basic necessities of middle-class life.

AMY GOODMAN: And so there’s this referendum on what should happen—an election. Speaking in Virginia earlier this month, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders a “communist” and a “maniac.”

DONALD TRUMP: I watched Hillary last night with “We’re going to give this, we’re going to give that, we’re going to give that.” She—the poor woman! She’s got to give everything away, because this maniac, that was standing on her right, is giving everything away, so she’s following. That’s what’s happening. This socialist-slash-communist, OK? Nobody wants to say it.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Donald Trump on Bernie Sanders. Explain what Bernie Sanders represents.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: First, let me comment. You know, the great irony of that is he’s talking about Bernie Sanders and Hillary’s putting in programs that don’t add up, and he’s called for a tax cut, aimed at the rich, that is $1 trillion short. So you talk about somebody who is—

AMY GOODMAN: And he said he’d make the hedge fund guys pay.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: That’s right. No, that’s one good thing that he’s done. And the irony is that the hedge fund guys are taxed at a lower rate than people who are actually working for a living. It’s one of the real, you might say, anomalies of our tax system, one that is actually very costly to our economy not just in terms of lost revenue, but induces our best students—my best students—to go into finance, into speculation, and we’re wasting our most valuable resource, I think—our human resources.

AMY GOODMAN: When, instead, you would like to see them—

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Go into research, go into creating productive firms, you know, strengthening the productive capacity of our economy. You know, the fact that such a large fraction of our most talented young people go into finance is a worry. It should be a worry to—you know, we’ve really lost a balance.

Now, to come back to Bernie and Hillary, you know, what they’re both saying is, really, points that we raise in Rewriting the Rules. They’re saying it’s not—these are not giveaways. We’re saying something is wrong with the way our economy is working. The fact that at the bottom, minimum wage is as low as it was 45 years ago, a half-century ago, says something. An economy that—you know, we’re supposed to—we’ve had technological change, globalization, all these things which are supposed to make our economy better and stronger, and yet, at the bottom, they haven’t had a pay raise in a half-century. It’s not a living wage. So, that’s all he’s calling for. You know, he’s calling for a living wage for ordinary Americans. And they’re both going for—we’re a wealthy-enough economy that we should be able to provide the basic requisites of a middle-class lifestyle for all Americans.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders was asked if a socialist could ever win a general election in the United States. This was in the debate.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, we’re going to win, because, first, we’re going to explain what democratic socialism is. And what democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent in this country own almost 90 percent, almost—own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent; that it is wrong today, in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent; that when you look around the world, you see every other major country providing healthcare to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying to moms that when you have a baby, we’re not going to separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have—we are going to have medical and family paid leave like every other country on Earth. Those are some of the principles that I believe in, and I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton weighed in, in the same CNN debate.

HILLARY CLINTON: When I think about capitalism, I think about all the small businesses that were started, because we have the opportunity and the freedom in our country for people to do that and to make a good living for themselves and their families. And I don’t think we should confuse what we have to do every so often in America, which is save capitalism from itself. And I think what Senator Sanders is saying certainly makes sense in the terms of the inequality that we have. But we are not Denmark. I love Denmark. We are the United States of America, and it’s our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok and doesn’t cause the kind of inequities that we’re seeing in our economic system.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Hillary Clinton. You advise Hillary Clinton?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: I talk to her, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: So, her response—”We’re not Denmark”—as a put-down to Bernie Sanders?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, it’s a fact we are not Denmark. But the question is whether the United States is rich enough to be able to make sure that everyone has a basic right to healthcare, family leave, parental, you know, sick leave—we are exceptional—whether we are a society that can tolerate—that should tolerate the levels of inequality that we have. I think Bernie Sanders is right about that. And I think that we—Hillary is right that one of the strengths of America should be that we can give opportunity for small businesses. Actually, Denmark and Norway do that, as well. So, what I would say is that Bernie is absolutely right that providing the basic necessities of a middle-class society should be the right of everybody in our country. And that’s not—you know, what name you call it is not important to me. What country does that is not important to me. What is important to me is that this is what in the 21st century we should be able to have.

AMY GOODMAN: You study different economic systems. What is democratic socialism?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, democratic socialism is—you know, you have two parts of the word. “Democratic,” and that says people participate, not only actually in voting every four years, but it’s actually a stronger participation in our political life, including, I would say, also democratic participation in the workplace. That’s why unions are important. So, the “democracy” part is important. And all that I would say “democratic socialism” mean—and I don’t put a lot of weight on those words—is those basic social necessities that he was talking about. You know, these are not radical in the 21st century. It isn’t the old socialism, let me make it clear. It’s not the old socialism that said ownership of the means of production. That was something back in the 19th century. We’re in the 21st century. And so, what they’re talking about now is guaranteeing or ensuring that you have the opportunity—opportunity, let me—to live a decent life if you’re working hard. So, the fact—you know, Americans work full-time, they can’t even get a livable wage. Our mortgage system isn’t working. Our retirement security system isn’t working. Bernie Sanders pointed out we are the only advanced country that doesn’t recognize the right of access to healthcare as a basic human right. So, all this is saying is things that I think most Americans agree about. And so, we are rich enough that we can afford this. And the other point that I think Hillary emphasized is that if we do these things, we will actually have a more productive economy. So these are the two sides of the coin, that we can have more sharing and more prosperity.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about more developments in Britain, actually. In September, longtime socialist MP, the member of Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn, was elected leader of the opposition Labour Party after running on an antiwar, anti-austerity platform.

JEREMY CORBYN: Let us be a force for change in the world, a force for humanity in the world, a force for peace in the world, and a force that recognizes we cannot go on like this, with grotesque levels of global inequality, grotesque threats to our environment all around the world, without the rich and powerful governments stepping up to the plate to make sure our world becomes safer and better, and those people don’t end up in poverty, in refugee camps, wasting their lives away when they could be contributing so much to the good of all of us on this planet. We are one world. Let that message go out today from this conference center here in London.

AMY GOODMAN: So the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the new leader of Britain’s Labour Party has many believing this will mean a return to the party’s socialist roots. Here’s Corbyn debating at the venerable Oxford Union in November 2013 that socialism works.

JEREMY CORBYN: If you want to live in a decent world, then is it right that the world’s economy is dominated by a group of unaccountable multinational corporations? They are the real power in the world today, not the nation-state. It’s the global corporations. And if you want to look at the victims of the ultimate of this free market catastrophe that the world is faced with at the moment, go to the shantytowns on the fringes of so many big cities around the world. Look at those people, migrants dying in the Mediterranean trying to get to Lampedusa. Why are they there? Why are they dying? Why are they living in such poverty? I’ll tell you this: It’s when the World Bank arrives and tells them to privatize all public services, to sell off state-owned land, to make inequality a paragon of virtue. That is what drives people away and into danger and poverty.

And I will conclude with this thought: Think about the world you want to live in. Do you want the dog to eat the dog, or do you want us all to care for each other, support each other, and eliminate poverty and injustice? A different world is possible. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: And Jeremy Corbyn won in this Oxford debate. Well, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeremy Corbyn recruited you and fellow economist Thomas Piketty to advise the Labour Party. What advice are you going to give him, are you already giving him?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Actually, what I’m going to give him is the same advice I’m giving all the progressive candidates in the United States, that basically another world is possible, as Jeremy said, and what we have to do is rewrite the rules of the British economy. And all—

AMY GOODMAN: How do they compare to the U.S.?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, they’re not as much—they don’t have as much inequality as the United States. We stand out as the most unequal. But their economy is not doing very well. Under the Conservatives, they’ve introduced more extreme austerity than the United States has. The result of that is that their economy—you know, productivity is not doing very well. Wages are not doing very well. And so, the kind of inequality that he spoke about is growing there. You know, I sometimes jokingly say they’re trying to catch up with the United States. You know, in the U.K. they’re raising tuition in the universities and making it more difficult for poor kids to go there, except by taking huge amounts of loans—in contrast to Scotland, where they’re bringing down tuition and making it free. So they’re—

AMY GOODMAN: Something that Bernie Sanders is calling for in the United States.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: I think that it is a major, major problem in the United States that we are making access to higher education increasingly difficult. That’s the ladder up. We talk about opportunity, American dream. It’s no longer true. And that’s part of rewriting the rules to make sure that there is opportunity. All of these issues have been going on on both sides of the Atlantic. You know, when we talk about rewriting the rules back in the 1980s in ways that created more inequality, Margaret Thatcher was doing the same thing on the other side. They had a great bond with each other. And unfortunately, you know, there’s a lot of parallel. While in the U.K. they had a Labour government, Blair, he continued some of the same rewriting the rules that led to greater inequality in the U.K. So, that’s why, you know, I was enthusiastic about the opportunity to try to get, on both sides of the Atlantic, a new agenda, a new progressive agenda, both rewriting the rules this time to make our economies more efficient and more shared prosperity.

Now, he talked about the role of multinationals, the big corporations. And he’s absolutely right that we’ve left them untamed. And we’ve left these untamed in ways that have enriched them, enriched their CEOs, enriched their shareholders, but not—we’ve forgotten means—we’ve mixed up means with ends. And so, the purpose of these corporations originally was to increase the well-being of everybody in our society. And if we tame the corporations, again, by changing corporate governance, changing the legal frameworks, I think we can do it again.

AMY GOODMAN: Two last questions—on climate and war. Climate change, the talks coming up in Paris—what are we going to see? What do you want to see?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: I think what we’re going to see is significant voluntary contributions for reductions in carbon emissions, not enough to add up to the numbers that would attain the goals that were set in the Copenhagen—two degrees centigrade. That should be extraordinarily disturbing. I hope that there will be enough momentum that, say, the corporations realize this is the new future. You know, we didn’t achieve what we had hoped to achieve in Paris, but there’s enough of a momentum that we know the direction that we are really going to deal with the climate change, and we’re going to get to that two degrees. The reason this is so important is, for instance, if people realize this, the price of coal, the price of carbon is going to—you know, carbon industries, like coal and oil, are going to come down. And that’s going to—and there’s going to be more interest in renewables. And then those market forces will actually help us achieve the goals that we want. So, I hope, coming out of Paris, there will be momentum even if it’s not the agreement that we would have liked to have achieved.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, war—you wrote a whole book about the cost of war. President Obama has just announced that the U.S. will continue the longest war in U.S. history, the war in Afghanistan, of course, Iraq continuing to blow up, and the Middle East, as well. Talk about this.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: OK. Well, the book I wrote with Linda Bilmes was called The Three Trillion Dollar War. Actually, we estimated the cost would be well in excess of $3 trillion. Just imagine what we could have done with those—with that amount of money to address the real problems in our society. But we knew that we were being conservative when we said $3 trillion. We, for instance, when we talked about disabilities, we were looking at the evidence from the previous wars, and we knew that this war the disabilities would be much, much higher. Unfortunately, we were right. And about 50 percent of those coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq are disabled. And by now, our estimate of the cost of the disabilities alone, and healthcare and disability benefits for that group of people, is over $1 trillion. You know, I don’t—

AMY GOODMAN: Which brings the cost of war to? Just the financial cost?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Oh, we’re—you know, I said before we were $3 to $5 [trillion]. We’re talking $4 to $6, $5 to $7 trillion. You know, we haven’t recalculated the full cost of the war, but what we do know is that that one part of it is—

AMY GOODMAN: We have 15 seconds.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: —is much larger than we thought when—at $3 trillion.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much, Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist, Columbia University professor, chief economist for the Roosevelt Institute and author of a new book. It’s called Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

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Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz on “Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy”

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