Have Elites Betrayed the Working Class? with Batya Ungar-Sargon

May 22, 2024 00:58:17
Have Elites Betrayed the Working Class? with Batya Ungar-Sargon
The Atlas Society Presents - The Atlas Society Asks
Have Elites Betrayed the Working Class? with Batya Ungar-Sargon

May 22 2024 | 00:58:17

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Show Notes

Join CEO Jennifer Grossman for the 205th episode of The Atlas Society Asks, where she interviews Batya Ungar-Sargon about her latest book Second Class: How the Elites Betrayed America's Working Men and Women, which combines deep reporting with a look at the data and expert opinion on America’s emergent class divide.

Batya Ungar-Sargon is the opinion editor of Newsweek. Before that, she was the opinion editor of the Forward, the largest Jewish media outlet in America. She is the author of Bad News: How Woke Media is Undermining Democracy and holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and has written for outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, the New York Review of Books Daily.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: Hi everyone, and welcome to the 206th episode of the Atlas Society asks. My name is Jennifer Anju Grossman. My friends call me Jag. I am the CEO of the Atlas Society. We are the leading nonprofit organization introducing young people to the ideas of Ayn Rand in a variety of ways, graphic novels, musical collaborations, animated videos, and conferences. Today we are joined by Bhatia Angar Sargon. Before I even begin to introduce our guests, I wanna remind all of you whether you are joining us on Zoom, Instagram x, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube. Go ahead. Use the comment section to type in your questions and we will get to as many of them as we can. So today, as I mentioned, our guest is Bhatia Angar Sargan, an opinion editor at Newsweek. Previously, she was opinion editor at the Foreword, the largest jewish media outlet in America, and has contributed to the New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and New York Review of Books daily, among many others. She is the author of Bad News how Woke media is undermining democracy, published in 2021, and just last month came out with her latest book, second class how elites betrayed America's working men and Women, which combines deep reporting with a look at the data and expert opinion on America's emergent class divide. So, Bhatia, thanks for joining us. [00:01:39] Speaker B: Thank you so much for having me. It's like really thrilling to be here with you and with your audience. [00:01:45] Speaker A: So in doing a bit of research into your background, looks like we both grew up in Massachusetts for the most part. Newton, Highlands, girl here, what about you? [00:01:57] Speaker B: I'm originally from Brookline. I lived there until I was eleven years old. It was a very idyllic situation to grow up in, obviously before phones. And I remember mostly a lot of sort of being chased out the house by my parents. Go play on your bike, go have some fun outside. I really, really love Boston, even though I didn't spend so much time there. I have amazing memories from there. [00:02:20] Speaker A: So in my family, our experience with Israel is pretty much that of tourists going there for my brother's bar mitzvah in a box at the wailing wall. But you ended up going to high school there. How did that come about? And was it a bit of a culture shock? [00:02:40] Speaker B: It was an enormous culture shock. It was. Israel today, I think, is a lot more similar to the United States than it was back then. And I definitely was not prepared for what I found there. And it's so funny because I was there for high school, and then when I back here to go to college, I remember sort of stepping foot on an american university campus and being like, oh, I'm an american. That's why I felt so out of place all this time. Like, I thought it was teenage angst, but I feel very american, and I feel like a lot of my fellow american Jews feel that way as well. And so we're in this position where, of course, we feel very connected to the Jews who live in Israel. We feel very connected to the land because we feel very connected to the Bible and to our ancient history and traditions. But at the same time, culturally, I feel really, really, you know, embedded in the fabric of american society and very tied to it. And increasingly since October 7, I think I felt even more grateful to be american just because of all of the outpouring of love and support for Israel and for the Jews that you really see across this country. We get bamboozled into thinking that, you know, there are millions and millions of Americans who support the Hamas cause the way that they do on college campuses. But that's really an illusion. The vast majority of that support is what we are seeing. It's not the tip of the iceberg. It is the entire iceberg. And it is very localized in elite spaces on elite university campuses. And so having written this book about the working class before October 7, it's become even more important to me after to promote the cause of this great nation. [00:04:25] Speaker A: Well, I'm so glad you said that, because I think it is all too easy to look on our social media and to get all just completely overwhelmed and depressed and frightened, frankly, and thinking that we are just swimming in a sea of jew hatred. And to get a reframe on that and understand that it is these loudest voices that are indoctrinated with postmodernism and hatred for the country and hatred for. Ayn Rand said, envy is the hatred of the good for being good. So hatred of anything that is successful. And, of course, Israel is quite an example of that. So I actually spent my first year at Columbia as well, before. Quite a bit before you arrived there, before transferring to Harvard. And I had a great experience because it still had this intro to western civilization, which really gave a grounding in our western tradition, literature, culture, enlightenment values. I don't know if that is still the case, if you had an experience with that. But also, I was intrigued by your PhD in the 18th century novel with a dissertation on coercive pleasures. The force and form of novel, 1719 to 1740. Sounds extremely sexy. So what was it all about? Sounds like, you know, like a scene out of the fountainhead. Not mentioning any. [00:06:06] Speaker B: It's so funny that you brought that up, because I remember reading the fountainhead in high school and being very excited for, you know, what the future of relations between men and women were going to be like. And lo and behold, they were not. And I was rather disappointed, I don't mind admitting to you. But, yeah, it's funny because now, in retrospect, I see my dissertation very much through the lens of my critique of the humanities in America. So I don't usually like. [00:06:41] Speaker A: To revisit it. [00:06:42] Speaker B: I know you couldn't. [00:06:44] Speaker A: Well, but, you know, but that is always refreshing to me. It's much better to have somebody who said, I mean, I certainly had quite the evolution from my. I mean, I don't think I would have ended up in these pro hamas encampments, but I'm definitely not. I don't have the same ideological or philosophical outlook that I did in college, but, I don't know, I just thought it was. Was interesting. So it was a kind of feminist critique, if I take it. [00:07:11] Speaker B: It wasn't feminist so much as, I mean, I was. The thing that you have to do to get a PhD is you have to say something original about a set of texts that people much smarter than you have been talking about for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years, right? You have to write a book. You have to have an original insight, or you can't get a PhD. However, everything that is true about these books has already been said because they've been around for hundreds and hundreds of years. And like I said, people much smarter than me have been talking about them. And so at some point, when you're preparing for your oral exams, which means you're reading everything that's been written about these books, you realize, like, oh, yeah, this guy got it right. Like, that's obviously what this book is about, but you can't actually say that and get a PhD. So what you have to do is make something up. I mean, the entire industry is built around promoting, you know, originality, which means, like, making stuff up, right? And so you have to make, literally. [00:08:11] Speaker A: All too often, apparently, exactly sound plausible. [00:08:17] Speaker B: You know, but are probably not true. And, I mean, that was my whole thing about Claudine Gaye. I really didn't want her to resign because her plagiarism of these people, like, the things she was plagiarizing, were also, like, facsimiles of thinking, right? They were not original, thought they were not good, and they were not true. And so she, to me, represented, like, the apotheosis of the humanities, right? She didn't do anything worse than the people that she was, like, stealing from because they, too, were not thinking or creating actual knowledge. They were just pretending to. And so I wanted her to stay at the head of Harvard. I wanted Harvard to have to live with the ignominy. Ignominy. You know, this, like, the humiliation. [00:08:58] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:08:59] Speaker B: Of, like, having, you know, put this woman at the head because she is such a perfect representation of what the humanities are today. [00:09:06] Speaker A: That's rather stressing. All right, speaking of making things up, I want to talk about your book, bad news, how woke media is undermining democracy. Not that you are making things up. You are a journalist. You have been in journalism, really, all your career, and you document a status revolution in american journalism that has warped the way they cover news and contributed to a profound loss of trust in the media as an institution. Tell us about that. What happened and what are its effects? [00:09:43] Speaker B: Yeah, I mean, people don't realize this, but journalism throughout most of american history was a working class trade. People would go into journalism who did not have a degree and who had not been to college, and many of them had not even graduated high school. Basically, these were people from working class communities who were anti authoritarian. Right. They were always cracking wise at the teacher's expense, and they hated taking orders. And so they couldn't go with everybody else to work, work at the factory, because they would have been a danger to everybody. And so they went to become journalists where they had access to people in power. And what they did with that access was hold people in power to account on behalf of their fellow working class people. That was the job. Today, it's the exact opposite. The people who become journalists are extremely comfortable with power and with hierarchy because it has served them so well. They. Most of them have multiple degrees, many of them, if not the majority of them, from elite universities. These are people who went to school with everybody in power. Their children go to school with people in power. They are the neighbors of the wealthy, and they are in the elites themselves. And so they have a vested interest in protecting the status quo. And so they have become extremely, extremely, you know, comfortable, basically protecting the powerful from people who are trying to demand justice on behalf of the working class, like, you know, someone like Trump, for example. So, you know, you really have seen this reversal. They've become part of the elites. And I argue in bad news that all of this woke language, all of this Russiagate stuff, all of the COVID garbage where they were just lying and perpetuating mythologies, this was less about being on the left and more about protecting their status as elites and masking the ways in which the top 20%, the credentialed elites, have plundered the middle class and themselves gotten rather wealthy. So they developed this language around social justice. And we are on the side of the good guys, and you are the racists, and you are the granny killers, and you are the threat to democracy, to mask the Ways in which, actually, they are all of those things. [00:11:55] Speaker A: I know often. Sometimes I'm reading this drivel, and it just is like a classic case of projection. So, really, if you want to know the truth about the liars, you have to listen to the lies and turn them on them themselves. So we started off talking a bit about Israel and our current moment. I previously interviewed Ashley Rinsberg, author of the gray lady winked how the New York Times, misreporting distortions and fabrications, radically alter history. He documented the newspaper's history of covering up atrocities against the jewish people. What's your take as a journalist on the New York Times coverage of the October 7 mosque atrocities against civilian Israelis and Israel's response? [00:12:53] Speaker B: The New York Times are the stenographers of terrorists. There was a piece in the Jerusalem Post, I think just yesterday or today, someone sent it to me that documented how something like 84% of articles written by the New York Times since October 7 about Israel, Gaza, Palestinians, et cetera, had sympathy for Palestinians alone and no sympathy for the other side. Close to zero criticism of Hamas. They have routinely and continue to routinely promote Hamas propaganda as though it were fact. Um, just absolutely despicable, despicable reporting. I'll just give you, um, the. The. You know, the. The first example that comes to mind, which is they reported because Hamas told them to, that Israel had bombed a hospital, destroyed the hospital, 500 people. And I believe they carried live footage of a press conference that Hamas had staged in front of the still standing hospital, but with a shot, like, highly. [00:14:01] Speaker A: But mostly peaceful protests. [00:14:03] Speaker B: Enough in that all you could see were doctors holding babies, lying, and saying, these babies were just killed in this hospital. Like, just. And then never, ever, ever then said, oh, we're sorry, we got that wrong. Never took those 500 allegedly dead people, who were obviously still alive, out of the lied calculation that Hamas has been giving everybody about how many women and children have been killed. Total, like, inability to distinguish between Hamas militants and the civilian population. They hide amongst just absolute propaganda on behalf of terrorism. It's just disgusting, but it's completely. Ashley has done a great job pointing out, and there's a whole chapter about this in bad news, just completely in line with how they covered the Holocaust, how they've always covered Jews. Jews are always the perpetrators and never the victims. And I can tell you an amazing story about this in the book, but my parents, very good friends, the Grossmans, who lived down the block from them, no relation. [00:15:04] Speaker A: Or maybe it was. Maybe it's us. [00:15:07] Speaker B: They have a son, Tuvia. And Tuvia went to Israel for a year to study in yeshiva for a year, as many young orthodox kids do. And he got into a taxi to go stay with the family for Rosh Hashanah. And he was dragged out of the taxi by an arab mob, and they beat him with stones and sticks, and he was, like, within an inch of his life. And he gathered what strength he had left and screamed out the shema, which is what you say before they think they're about to die. And they sort of were taken aback. And by the way, there were many stories like this on October 7 of people whose lives were saved because they screamed the Shema. And the person who was about to kill them sort of took a step back. They took a step back. He managed to run to a nearby gas station where there was a druze, arab israeli police officer. So it was a very, you know, identified with the state of Israel, proud Israeli who was an Arab and a Druze. And all he had was a club. And he stood over Tuvia like this with the club, protecting him from this mob until more reinforcements were able to come. And it's just so funny because Doctor Grossman, my parents friend, found out about this because he got the New York Times delivered to him on Rosh Hashanah Morning. And, you know, he's turning the pages, and he gets to page nine, and there's a picture there of a bloody young man and a soldier standing over him with a club. And the caption read, palestinian boy being beaten by IDF soldier. And doctor Grossman looked at the picture, and he thought to himself, wow, that Palestinian looks just like Tubia. And turned the page, not realizing that that palestinian kid was Tubia, like they literally were when faced with a jewish victim and an arab, vile mob, and, by the way, an arab savior. They literally could not see the truth and turned it around and said the victim was the Palestinian and the aggressor was the Jew. [00:17:03] Speaker A: Unbelievable. Well, I highly recommend Bhatia's book, bad news. So we're going to put that link in all of the chats across all of the platforms. Buy that book and your subscription to the New York Times, please. So what are some of the lessons that we should learn from the media's coverage of Trump and how it cast Trump voters as racist, rather than trying to listen, trying to grapple with and report on the deeper underlying concerns that was driving that support? [00:17:40] Speaker B: It's so funny because jews are very upset right now about how they're being covered in the media. And I keep telling them, you're getting the white treatment like you're getting the treatment the working class has been getting since 2015, but also much before that. It's not really anti semitism. It's you are a threat to the status quo of the elites. And so they're treating you the way. And it wasn't okay when they treated white people like this, and it wasn't okay when they talked about the working class like that. And of course, it's not okay when they treat jews like that. But we are in the same boat as the other, not unpersons, you know, undesirables of this kind country, right? It's not like there's suddenly this, like, new anti semitic movement, although it's tying into old tropes. It's that they're treating us the way they treated Trump voters. You know, it's exactly the same. They called them racists to mask the ways in which these people were not going to take the elite garbage anymore. They were not going to continue to allow the elites to stuff their pockets with middle class wages while pretending to be on the side of the good and the just. And because they refused to buy into this narrative of their own downward mobility anymore, they smeared them as racists to hide all of that, that that was happening. And it's just pure, like, self interest. I don't know that they all know they're doing it. I think many of them, like, truly believe it. But if you are a millionaire and you're a cable news host and you're sitting there sneering at a person who does not have enough money to buy groceries, who works full time, by the way, who works and works and works and cannot afford groceries, and you don't realize there's something wrong with that, with you calling them a racist because they refuse to call this garbage of an economy a good economy, right? Like, there's something really, really wrong there. And they do think that they are the good guys, but I think that they would not be able to make such a mistake if it wasn't very much in their economic interest to do so. [00:19:39] Speaker A: So that segues perfectly into your most recent book as viewers can see, I took a lot of notes and thought it was really fabulous. Second class, how the elites betrayed America's working men and women. So one of the drivers of modern populism in various forms, Brexit and Trump, Eric Kaufman in white shift talks about this, is that people have concerns. For example, they think maybe we should have less information, less immigration or secure the border or whatever the concerns might be. But that rather than being listened to, that they are smeared and they are silenced and they are deplatformed, and all of this. So you definitely found a way of listening and bringing those voices to be heard. So it's obvious you went to great lengths in the book to make these voices heard. So tell us about the process, about the interviews, about how you found people and what you learned along the way. [00:20:54] Speaker B: Well, something that I think would resonate with lovers of Ayn Rand is one of the things that I remember from her books, is a real hatred of, like, victims self victimization, victimhood, a hatred of the kind and almost nietzschean hatred of the adulation of weakness, which is, of course, what's going on with the worship of Hamas and the worship of the palestinian cause, but is very much also at play in how the Democrats operate insofar as what they are now is a coalition of the dependent poor, who they adulate for their weakness, right? And then rich elites. Right? That's the coalition there. And their whole thing of, like, let's pay more taxes, right? Let's have higher taxes. That's their, that's an indulgence, right? The way that the catholic church used to have indulgences. You sin, you pay it off, right? That's what it is, right? It's, they're building an economy that is extremely rewarding if you're in the knowledge industry. And then they'll say, yeah, we have a lot of money. We'll take that money and we'll pay off the people who can't work. Right? Well, we'll expand the welfare state so that there's everybody who's poor or who's working class. Doesn't matter that you're working full time and you can't make a living wage. We'll give you free housing. We'll give you food stamps, we'll give you free childcare. And the thing that I found was working class people do not want that. They do not want, they don't feel entitled to other people's tax dollars. They just want to keep more of their money. They do not see, they have nothing in common with the dependent poor, they see themselves as hard workers. And this self victimization, this adulation of weakness and not trying and not putting yourself out there, it is totally alien and foreign to working class culture. They really value autonomy and freedom and self determination, but that doesn't mean that they want a free market. And this is the thing that I think has been lost on both sides, because culturally, they're more similar to conservatives. But they do feel that if the economy is just left to its own devices, you'll end up in a situation like today is where the largest share of the economy is in finance, is in speculation, is in real estate, is in arbitrage, which really has a devastating impact on workers. When the largest share of the economy was in manufacturing, there was what's called a multiplier effect. Every dollar that got spent really did raise all ships. There was really this feeling of, like, trickle down because they were both the producers of cars, houses, what have you, and the consumers. And so the owners of these corporations, it was very much in their interest to kind of share the wealth and keep working class wages rising with productivity because these were consumers and they wanted them to be able to afford the things that they were making. But today, because only 11% of the economy is in manufacturing, you have a very different situation where you have companies owned by corporations, owned by other corporations. And all they're trying to do is cut costs and the worker has really been cut out of the enormous, enormous prosperity that they themselves are generating. And so I feel like it's sort of like in between both sides. They don't like the democrats. They don't want more welfare. They don't want higher taxes. They don't want free stuff. They don't want a free house. They don't want a housing voucher. But they also look at this economy and say, how is it that I work 70 hours a week and I cannot afford to buy a home? How is it that I work 70 hours a week and I cannot afford to see a doctor and my child is going to be worse off than me? And so it's sort of somewhere in between. [00:24:32] Speaker A: Yeah, well, I think the other thing is that for those of us, like here at the outlet society, that care about capitalism and understand that what we are living through right now is really closer to a kind of managed, fascist, corporatist economy, is to make the case for sound money. For example, I mean, the inflation, the insane inflation that we've been experiencing because of all of this printing of money and because of all this free stuff. You know, the stimulus money that is making people's purchasing power go a lot less far. And that is, you know, most hurting people that are cleaning houses and that are, you know, people for whom buying groceries is a very large part of their, you know, their weekly and monthly spend. And then also making the case, which I think you do a good job of in the book, of ways in which we can make housing more affordable. And so we're going to get to that. But I did think that one of your more interesting observations in the book came in your conclusion, quote, working class Americans aren't polarized. Polarization in this country is an elite phenomenon. Interesting how so? [00:26:02] Speaker B: So one of the things that I think people find most surprising about what I found traveling the country and interviewing working class people for a year is that they are really, really united on the issues. So, and this has shocked me. The vast majority of conservative working class people I interviewed, the ones who vote for Republicans, want some sort of government backed healthcare. And the vast majority of the Democrats that I interviewed want, like, basically a total moratorium on immigration. And so there was just so much agreement. Everybody was very pro gay, including the very christian people that I interviewed, many of whom had a gay person in their life who they really hoped would find love one day and settle down. Everybody was worried about the trans issue and felt really unhappy and upset about trans people in women's sports, in women's bathrooms, teachers talking to kids about sexuality. There was, like, no division on any of these things. They supported higher taxes on corporations, but they also really didn't want more welfare. They thought there was a lot of welfare fraud. They all knew people who were defrauding the system, and they were very upset about that. And so, again, they felt kind of somewhere between the two parties, which is, of course, why Donald Trump has been so successful. I mean, it's a point that I keep making, but people keep asking me, you know, what are the hopes for a third party? We have one. You know, it's called the MAGA movement. Right. [00:27:29] Speaker A: All right, I have a couple questions I want to get to on immigration, but I can see we are completely backed up here with audience questions. So. Sorry, guys. I usually try to get to them a little bit sooner in the show. I think some of these have already been answered. Like Alexander Kirsch asked about the great lady winked. And so, yes, but I, again, want to encourage you to get bad news, because, like, that reporting on what happened to the Grossman's is just a perfect encapsulation of this complete projection and lying about what's happening in Israel and here in the United States? Just general question, I guess. Alexandra Issen on Instagram asks, do you think journalism is different today than when you started? So maybe, like, give us a sense of, like, your first break, how you got into journalism and had the changes already been underway, or how do you see that? [00:28:33] Speaker B: So sociologists have actually tracked this, like, when the great awokening started. And by great awokening, what they mean is they've been tracking public opinion. And there was a moment around 2015 when white liberals became more extreme in their views on race than blacks and Hispanics. So they called that the great awokening when it became, like, radical chic for rich white progressives to be, like, to turn on Doctor King's vision of a colorblind society and be like, that's racist. So that happened around 2015, when the white progressive movement really decoupled from people of color in this country, most of whom are working class and. And still believe in this country, believe in the american dream, believe in Doctor King's vision. And other sociologists found that this was very tied to the great awokening taking place within newsrooms to where our newspapers became absolutely obsessed with race and gender. And so the instance they trolled the archives of the New York Times and the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal and the LA Times and Vox, the Atlantic, all these liberal outlets, and what they found, they tracked the instance of words like racism, white suicide, supremacy, slavery, marginalized people of color. All of this woke vocabulary, and they found it absolutely skyrocketed starting around 2012, 2013, because they had gone digital. And this was a great way to drum up outrage from rich progressives who were no longer interested in class issues, who were no longer interested in talking about inequality because they had benefited from it so much. So they needed another way to be able to sneer at their neighbors who were slightly less liberal than them. And this was the perfect smokescreen for that. So that happened around. I got into journalism around 2012. I remember in 2014, I was still able to write articles for the new Republic arguing that, like, affirmative consent hurts women, affirmative consent was this standard that the Obama administration implemented in title ix saying that if a woman does not explicitly say, yes, please have sex with me, it's rape. Basically, she has a rape case. And, you know, obviously, this would not fly with Dagny Taggart or any of the other, you know, Dominique. Exactly. Of, you know, basically taking all of the Eros out of Eros. Right. And suggesting it has to become this, like, very formulaic, like, you know, contractual thing and I wrote a piece saying, this hurts women. Like, why are you teaching women, encouraging women to see themselves as having been raped, rather than teaching them to say, no, I don't like this, and walk out. Right. And so in 2014, I could have still written that in 2020, you could never have written something like that in a liberal outlet. Like, that would have been a total no go. So by 2018, 2019, it had been. I was, you know, if you were an opinion editor, which I was at a liberal outlet, you know, in 2018, 2019, and you were running Republicans, you were getting called racist on a regular basis by people who used to be your friends. Let's just put it that way. People would try to get you fired all the time if you dared to publish an opinion by one of the 80 million people who like Donald Trump. So it was like, by then, it had already changed. Although I believe we're in the woke lash, I don't know what you think, but I feel like we have already, that peak woke was like, 2021, and we're already kind of moving on. [00:32:07] Speaker A: I sure hope so. I'm going to be interviewing Nellie Bowles next week, also, former New York Times reporter who has had her own ideological, I think, evolution. And she's still certainly no conservative or libertarian or anything, but she's thoughtful. And I think the fact that the free press exists and it is something that I can read and my parents can read, so I, I am on a different kind of political plane than my family. I don't know if the same is true for you, but I sure hope that is the case because it's really insane. All right. Fadduds on Instagram asks, what would Ayn Rand think about what Zionism has become? Well, I mean, Batya has read the novels, but I don't think she's necessarily wants to be put on the spot as a, an expert in Ayn Rand's thoughts. I mean, I will say that Ayn Rand was a very strong supporter of Israel. In fact, she said, quote, in a conflict between savages and civilized men, you must support the civilized men. Israel is the only country in the Middle east that is founded on the defense of individual rights. Now people say, oh, she's calling all savages, you know, all arab savages. No, she was talking in the middle of a conflict. And certainly, if we can't look at what happened on October 7 and say that that was the work of savages, then, you know, I don't know. But I think she believes that people have a right to exist and to pursue their happiness. And she would probably, if she were alive today, be an admirer of what Israel has created, what it has done in terms of the state and the economy and the development. Batja, I don't know if you have anything to add to that. [00:34:12] Speaker B: I think that, I mean, there's a video, everybody should go watch it. It's very hard to watch. That was just released today of the five young women who were abducted by Hamas on October 7. Extensive footage of them being absolute animals, just absolute animals. And I think anybody who cannot look at that and say, tell which is the good side, has a real problem. And I will say, I think Ayn Rand, like, going back to this theme of, like, valorizing weakness, she would have hated hamas. Because what they do is they're cry bullies. Like, they act in savage, beastly, animalistic ways and then say, oh, we're the victims. You know, like, that's why the left loves them, because they have the same playbook. It's, oh, I am the marginalized. Therefore, I have no ethical or moral responsibilities. Because you have slightly more power. Your canon is slightly better than mine, so I can rape your women with impunity. I think she would have thought that was disgusting. And I think her books are about exactly that. I mean, if I remember them, it's been a while, but that. That the villains in her books are people who are too weak and too pathetic to stand on their own 2ft and take responsibility for themselves. That is the left, that is Hamas, that is the Palestinians. I think she would have been very clearly on the side of Zionism. I don't know what it means, like, what Zionism has become, but I know that the left hates Zionism because it is strong and powerful. And they hate Israel because most of the time it's able to protect Jews by being strong. They hate strength. They think strength is itself a crime. And I. Everything, I think everything I've read by Ayn Rand was the opposite of that. You should love what is strong and what is free. [00:35:58] Speaker A: Yeah, well, Batya, don't under sell your understanding of Ayn Rand. I think that is a pretty darn good encapsulation of her ideas, particularly. No lot has been said and written about Ayn Rand's villains. And certainly, if you think of people like Ellsworth Tui, who's, you know, trying to the worst, you know, villain of all, and how he's trying to underline, undermine, again that which is beautiful, talented, courageous, you know, in Howard Rourke, somebody who is building and trying to be productive, trying to achieve. Okay. My modern goal. I know I need to get to you. He's always with us on Instagram. Bhatia, do you think journalism suffers from a lack of a humanities foundation? Do you think there's too many who just regurgitate information rather than actually thinking and being thorough? [00:37:01] Speaker B: I do, but I don't think the humanities is the answer. They can't think because they have humanities degrees like they learn in university, like the average person. This is this whole class of over credentialed elites are. They're rent seekers. They're everything Ayn Rand hated, which is people who just make money not out of producing anything, but in many cases, out of tearing down what is beautiful and what is good. And whenever somebody stands up in a courageous way, you'll see the mainstream media try to tear them down because they can't stand it. If one person says no, it reveals all the rest of them to be the cowardly stenographers that they are. So he's right. I think about the problem, but not about the solution, because most Americans don't have a college degree. And if you're a journalist, job is to give voice to that is to reflect the nation as it is to tell the great american story. And unfortunately, having a college degree makes you much worse at that. [00:37:59] Speaker A: Yeah. All right. Candice Morena on Facebook. Do you think the mask slipped for the elites and the credentialed class during Covid-19 talk about that from your perspective. I mean, it just seemed that it was kind of beyond this panic, but it was like wanting to punish people and humiliate people, really in a very sadistic fashion. So I'm really eager to get your perspective. [00:38:29] Speaker B: It really was. You really saw the ways in which they are so quickly able to fashion an ideology that is effectively a protection of their status. So the whole lockdown, what did that do? It was the largest upward transfer of wealth in human history. Because, of course, working class people had to keep working, right? Their jobs don't exist at home. And the work from home laptop cast relied on their labor. Right? They sat at home and deliver and ordered delivery of groceries and takeout food and everything that they needed, but then lock down the rest of the world so that their laborers, the worker class, had nowhere to go, despite the fact that they did not have the luxury of staying home. It was so disgusting. And then notice how the second there was a vaccine, the elites who had locked down at home very comfortably and made a lot of money doing so because their homes were suddenly worth twice as much. And their children were able to keep learning, right? Their kids kept going to school, but public schools were closed. So the gap between the working class and the elites grew even bigger and bigger. As soon as there was a vaccine, they said, oh, now you who braved the pandemic worked while I was at home. You have to take this vaccine and put it in your body. So I feel comfortable going to a restaurant and being waited on by you. It was so disgusting. I mean, the scene of AOC with her servant class wearing masks and holding her gown at the Met gala, right? That was the apotheosis of the leftist use of this in order to widen the gap, widen income inequality. But all with this patina of, you're the grandma killer. You don't care about anyone but yourself. We are the good guys here right now. [00:40:23] Speaker A: It's almost like I don't want to breathe the same air as these people. So you must cover and breathe through a cloth so that I won't have to share the same space. So something you had said before, Batia, about Ayn Rand and the left and the hatred for the independent men reminded me of this quote. So I went to fetch it by Ayn Rand quote. Notice how they'll accept anything except a man who stands alone. They recognize him at once. Notice the malignant kind of resentment against any idea that propounds independence. Notice the malice towards the independent man. So pretty much exactly what you said. Okay, I'm going to take a couple of more and I'm going to warn all of you in advance. We've got so many questions here that we are not going to be able to get to them. Okay, let's see. Ann M. On YouTube asks, isn't it true that back breaking work without dignity existed in much more, much more in pre capitalist societies throughout history? So can't attempts to imposing regulations to fix things make them worse? [00:42:01] Speaker B: It's a really important question. Obviously, I like America's working class. I'm very committed to capitalism. I mean, the jury's in about whether people fare better under capitalism or socialism, right? The jury's in, right. This is the best country on earth because we believe in free markets, markets within the country. I think that much of what went wrong was between this country and other countries. So what I don't support is free trade because I don't think that a free market means you have to give your enemies a competitive advantage. And I don't believe that what we have with China is free trade because their competitive advantage is not material. It's simply that they're willing to treat their workers much worse and effectively. By having free trade with a country like China, you are making the labor of Americans too expensive to supply a living wage in the way that it would be very easy to create trade deals that favored american workers while also maintaining a totally free trade capitalistic model within this country in commerce between states. And to me, I believe in the nation state. I believe in national borders. Like, I think we all believe in that, right? I mean, we all think we should. [00:43:22] Speaker A: Well, I think all of us here on this show and most of us listening, but apparently not all of us. [00:43:29] Speaker B: Like, if you're offended by the open border, you should be offended by free trade with China because they both are offensive for the same reason. We have a nation state. We have a national border. You cannot have civil rights without a national border because a right is not actually, it's granted by God, but it is not guaranteed by God. It is guaranteed by a government who you can vote out. And that requires having a limit on who is in this country and who is part of this body politic and who is part of that social contract. And so from that point of view, it doesn't really, to me, make sense to say that trade between countries should operate under the same auspices as trade within a country. [00:44:10] Speaker A: Well, you and I could probably spend the rest of our scarce time arguing about that. But if we did that, then we wouldn't get to have the opportunity to hear the voices of the people that you spoke with. And so we're going to agree to disagree on that. But I think the other thing is it's really important to have debate on these issues because, you know, you're not just, you're presenting your marshaling arguments and bringing them forward. And I think it's good for us to hear different points of view. But there was some common themes in the interviews, the many, many interviews that you conducted over this year of traveling. One, that topic that repeatedly came up was immigration with working class Americas across the political spectrum feeling that a lax, that lax border policy has contributed to lower wages and worse working conditions. What are some of the stories you heard? [00:45:13] Speaker B: Well, one of the things you hear a lot from left and the right, by the way, is no one wants to clean toilets. No American wants to do that. And therefore, it's okay to bring in, to import a slave cast that's enslaved to cartels to do those jobs because Americans don't want to. And in my book, I interviewed a lot of Americans who get a lot of dignity from cleaning toilets, from being janitors, from working in hotels as cleaning people. The thing that makes those jobs undignified is not the work itself. There is no labor, you know, under God that is inherently dirty or beneath contempt. What makes them undignified is when they don't pay a living wage. And one of the main impediments is illegal immigration, especially for the janitorial and custodial services I interviewed. There's a guy profiled at great length in the book, Kevin Nelson, who was so excited to start his own business. He really, really loves cleaning, and it made, it gave him a lot of self esteem. He felt that he had found a niche, but suddenly he realized, especially with Joe Biden's open border, that he was competing with teams made up entirely of illegal immigrants who are willing to work for $8 an hour. And he wanted to pay his workers $30 an hour, and he just couldn't. You know, the business folded, mapped in that up. [00:46:25] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:46:26] Speaker B: And like, how is that okay? I just don't understand why that's acceptable. In the seventies, you could be a manicurist and afford to buy a home. And we, the elites, the people who get manicures, completely upended the economy in such a way to very, very explicitly favor the elites economically. And now we have a situation where the top 20% controls over 50% of the GDP. And I think you'll like this, because the top 20%, the top 10% people in leftist media, they love to rail against billionaires. They love to rail against the billionaire class. Billionaires don't pay their fair share, blah, blah, blah. Working class people don't see it that way at all. They see billionaires as jobs creators. They admire them a lot. And they are right. And you know why they're right? If you look at the 1970s, which was the high watermark for working class wages, so the biggest share of the GDP at that time, over 50% of the GDP, was in the middle class. Today, you look at what's happened, right? Obviously, the working class, the middle class has shrunk. The elites will tell you it's because all of that money that used to be in the middle has been funneled to the billionaire class. It's nonsense. The share of the economy controlled by the billionaires has not significantly changed since 1970. You know what has changed? The top 20% who now control over 50% of the GDP. So there has been this upward squeeze into the knowledge industry, an absolute plunder of the middle class by the credentialed elites who instead of admitting this blame the billionaires who actually have not increased their wealth very much since the seventies. [00:48:08] Speaker A: Well, when I look at the numbers, what I am seeing is, yes, there's an increase in the number of, or the percentage of the economy that's made up by the poorest, and that more of the middle class has seemed to move on and do better and move up into the highest income bracket. So to me, that would seem like a good thing. But certainly that immigration is going to contribute to more people making up the poorest segment of the economy because people are coming here with nothing and they are trying to make their way. So let's talk about the class divide that privileges the college educated for jobs, even when the actual work being done has very little to do with college degrees. You had some examples of that, of people who were not able to apply for jobs within their own company because they still had these requirements. Is there some hope that, you know, with a labor shortage, people are going to start rethinking those kinds of requirements? [00:49:19] Speaker B: There actually is. There are a number of states that have gotten rid of degree requirements and said you can no longer require a college degree to apply for a job that does not require a specific skill set you picked up in college. And the higher has to be able to point to that skill set. And that's amazing news. It is amazing news. Walmart has been really at the forefront of this. You have people at Walmart who started as associates on the floor working hourly, their hourly wage, by the way, starting salary now is about $17 an hour. So it's pretty good. And 70% of managers are promoted from the ranks of the hourly workers. And now you have regional managers at Walmart making $250,000 a year without a college degree. So it's really leading the way when it comes to these issues. There's always more room for growth. But there is, I think people are waking up to this because of the labor shortage, but also because you have populists in Congress who are really thinking about these issues hard and how can we make the make life easier for working class Americans? [00:50:21] Speaker A: Speaking of Walmart, did you see the epic community notes the other day? So, yeah, there was a tweet from the Jacobin, which is this far left wing, quasi socialist media company, talking about how horrible Walmart was. And then the community notes compared the pay and the benefits of working at Walmart compared to what, you know, people were making working at Jacob Bench, those pretty rich. All right, well, in the few minutes that we have remaining, nine minutes of thought, I want to talk about some of the solutions that you've identified. But I thought an important problem that you also talked about and certainly came up a lot with the interviews of the lowest income people with whom you talked, and that was the benefits cliff. So what is that and how can it be addressed? [00:51:25] Speaker B: People don't realize this, but we are incentivizing all the worst behaviors and we are penalizing all the best behaviors. So let's say we have a single mom, right, and she has a child, and maybe the child has a disability and is on Medicaid, and she's working part time and she's really doing her best, and she's making $11 an hour, and she's a really good worker. She shows up on time. She never calls in sick. When she has a problem with the kid, her mother is able to step in and her boss notices her. You know, there's a tight labor market. People are being noticed who are sort of just willing to show up. You know, it's like, hard willing to do that. And her boss says to her, hey, you're a great worker. Let's get you full time. I'll get, you know, you'll make $16 an hour. I'll get you healthcare. You'll be full time. I'd love to give you that opportunity. If she takes that opportunity, she will lose the equivalent of $25,000 in government assistance, whether it's free childcare, whether it's the healthcare, whether it's food stamps, whether it's housing assistance. If she gets married, she will lose all of that stuff, even though getting married is one of the best things she can do for her child to ensure that it is not downwardly mobile. Even if she gets that healthcare, it's probably terrible healthcare with an incredibly high premium, incredibly high deductible, terrible copays, and may not even cover her child's disability. She will not know that until she shows up at the hospital. And so it would be criminal for her to accept this job, this promotion, even though she probably really wants it. I mean, most of the, everyone I spoke to wanted more opportunity, better pay, less benefits, and less help. We are disincentivizing everything that matters, like, you know, opportunities and independence and standing on your own 2ft, which is stuff that people crave. And then we are penalizing, you know, we're incentivizing all the worst behaviors, having children out of wedlock, not working, remaining independence, and then penalizing the best decisions people can make for their children. [00:53:29] Speaker A: The lack of affordable housing is a pressing concern that shows up repeatedly in your interviews. One thing you and I can both agree on is how government intervention has contributed to a housing shortage. And one of the things I learned from your book was some of the origins of zoning laws that have contributed to this crisis. So tell us about that. [00:53:56] Speaker B: Yeah, these people with, like, black lives matter signs in their front yards who go to every zoning meeting and make sure that, you know, they pass zoning laws that make it illegal to build duplexes in their fancy neighborhoods. Those zoning laws are all based on redlining and exclusionary zoning, keeping blacks out of neighborhoods and poor people and Italians and Jews and what have you, and making sure that the american dream is only available for white Americans. That started early 19, I believe it was 1917 when the Supreme Court made it illegal to discriminate based on race and housing. So immediately the states came up with their brilliant new plan, which was they would make a law that you can only build single family detached homes knowing that blacks couldn't afford them. And that is basically the legacy that rich progressives are perpetuating today while sitting there sneering at everybody else and calling themselves the leaders of the anti racist movement. I mean, the hypocrisy is just unbelievable. [00:54:53] Speaker A: Well, I have to say that you cannot read Batia's book second class and come away without a deepened sense of empathy and admiration for the people that are out there driving the trucks, docking the shelves, cleaning the rooms that are, you know, making so many of our lives more convenient and bearable. And so I urge you guys to get the book, also get bad news. But I'm going to warn you that you will. It is going to cost you because like I said, you can't read this book and then not, and then walk away and not start tipping, you know, more heavily. And I learned this already on my most recent trip. Tipping the people that clean your rooms, tipping people more generously. So. Wow. [00:55:54] Speaker B: Wow, that's. That means a lot to me. [00:55:57] Speaker A: Thank you. Well, we should do that anyway, right? Because that's the kind of person that we want to be and we want to encourage people to work and we. We want to spread happiness. So. So do it, Bhatia. Anything that. Any final words or just telling us where we can follow you, what's next for you? [00:56:20] Speaker B: Wow. Yeah, I know, people, the book came out, I don't know, two months ago. Everyone's like, so what's your next book? [00:56:25] Speaker A: And I'm like, I know, just trying to get through the book tour and all of that. Not your next book, but we know there will be a next one, but where can we follow you so at least that we know where to find it? [00:56:37] Speaker B: I'm sort of chronically on Twitter, always trying to be on Twitter less, but I'm on Twitter ungersargon. I'm on Instagram, where I get a lot more joy and try to spread more joy at Batia us. You can get the book at Amazon or at encounter books, although it's much cheaper on Amazon, so I would recommend Amazon. There's an Amazon driver profiled in the book, a wonderful woman who actually said Amazon is the best job she's ever had. It's funny because there's a lot of people in the book profile who work at jobs that the media want you to think are terrible jobs, but who are very happy. Starbucks was another one. Walmart people really like these jobs. Yeah. So I enjoy the book. Let me know what you think. Jack, thanks so much for this wonderful conversation. I really, really enjoyed it. It meant a lot to me. Thank you. And I'm going to revisit my Ayn Rand. You know, Shabbat is very. [00:57:27] Speaker A: Okay, good. I think you should. Don't forget, she was a grammar groundbreaking jewish author as well, so. All right, well, thanks, Batya. Thanks to all of you for joining us today. If you enjoyed this interview or any of our other programming or content, remember, the Atlas Society is a nonprofit and we do rely on donations from people like you. So please go to atlasesociety.org forward slash donate. And hey, leave us a tip. Thanks, everyone. Join us. Next week we're going to be talking with Nellie Bowles. As mentioned, she is the author of a new book, morning after the Revolution, dispatches from the wrong side of history. So we'll see you then.

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