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The Straight Dope

April 1, 2011

David Simon would be happy to find out that The Wire was hyperbolic and ridiculous, and that the “American Century” is still to come. But he’s not betting on it. An excerpt from Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues, forthcoming from The New Press.

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Photograph by Robin Holland

Watching movie and television versions of Charles Dickens’s novels, I often have imagined him back from the beyond, only this time living in America, putting his remarkable powers of observation to the dramatization of life in our inner cities. Then one day, while screening some episodes of HBO’s The Wire, it hit me: Dickens was back and his name is David Simon.

What Charles Dickens learned walking the streets and alleys of Victorian London, Simon saw and heard over twelve years as a crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun. He turned his experiences first into a book and the NBC television series Homicide, then the HBO series The Corner. Next, with Ed Burns, a real-life cop turned teacher, he created The Wire. Simon’s meticulous and brutally honest storytelling made Baltimore a metaphor for America’s urban tragedy. During its five seasons, The Wire held up a mirror to an America most of us never see, where drugs, mayhem, and corruption routinely betray the promise of “ life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that is so ingrained in our political DNA.

For The Wire and his other work, David Simon received a MacArthur Fellowship, the no-strings-attached $500,000 grant that honors singular creativity and innovation. In the last few years, Simon also has produced Generation Kill, a brutal and realistic depiction of combat in Iraq, and Treme, a series that dissects post-Katrina New Orleans much as The Wire did Baltimore. Yet “when television history is written,” one critic wrote, “little else will rival The Wire.” Nor, when historians come to tell the story of America in our time, will they be able to ignore this Dickensian portrayal of America’s expendable people.

[Eds.: Simon was back in the news last month weighing in on those expendable people. On March 11, Felicia (Snoop) Pearson, an actor from The Wire, was arrested on drug-related charges. Simon wrote in the Baltimore Sun that she deserved the presumption of innocence, adding, “America now jails more of its people than any country, including all totalitarian states. We pretend to a war against narcotics, but in truth, we are simply brutalizing and dehumanizing an urban underclass that we no longer need as a labor supply.”]

Bill Moyers: There is a fellow in city government here in New York who’s a policy wonk and a die-hard Wire fan. He was hoping I would ask you the one question on his mind: “David Simon has painted the most vivid and compelling portrait of the modern American city. Has he walked away from that story? And if he has, will he come back to it?”

David Simon: I’ve walked away from the Wire universe. It’s had its five years. Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. If you keep stuff open-ended and you keep trying to stretch character and plot, they eventually break or bend.

Bill Moyers: What is it about the crime scene that gives you a keyhole, the best keyhole perhaps, into how American society really works?

David Simon: You see the equivocations. You see the stuff that doesn’t make it into the civics books, and you also see how interconnected things are. How connected the performance of the school system is to the culture of a street corner. Or where parenting comes in. The decline of industry suddenly interacts with the paucity and sort of fraud of public education in the inner city. Because The Wire was not a story about America, it’s about the America that got left behind.

Bill Moyers: I was struck by something that you said. You were wrestling with this one big existential question. You talked about drug addicts who would come out of detox and then try to steel-jaw themselves through their neighborhood. And then they’d come face-to-face with the question—which is…?

David Simon: “What am I doing here?” You know, a guy coming out of addiction at thirty, thirty-five, because it often takes to that age, he often got into addiction with a string of problems, some of which were interpersonal and personal, and some of which were systemic. These really are the excess people in America. Our economy doesn’t need them—we don’t need 10 or 15 percent of our population. And certainly the ones who are undereducated, who have been ill-served by the inner-city school system, who have been unprepared for the technocracy of the modern economy, we pretend to need them. We pretend to educate the kids. We pretend that we’re actually including them in the American ideal, but we’re not. And they’re not foolish. They get it. They understand that the only viable economic base in their neighborhoods is this multibillion-dollar drug trade.

And I would think, “Man, it’s just such an uphill struggle to do this with facts.” When you tell a story with characters, people jump out of their seats.

Bill Moyers: I did a documentary about the South Bronx called The Fire Next Door and what I learned very early is that the drug trade is an inverted form of capitalism.

David Simon: Absolutely. In some ways it’s the most destructive form of welfare that we’ve established, the illegal drug trade in these neighborhoods. It’s basically like opening up a Bethlehem Steel in the middle of the South Bronx or in West Baltimore and saying, “You guys are all steelworkers.” Just say no? That’s our answer to that? And by the way, if it was chewing up white folk, it wouldn’t have gone on for as long as it did.

Bill Moyers: Can fiction tell us something about inequality that journalism can’t?

David Simon: I’ve wondered about that, because I did a lot of journalism that I thought was pretty good. As a reporter, I was trying to explain how the drug war doesn’t work, and I would write these very careful and very well-researched pieces, and they would go into the ether and be gone. Whatever editorial writer was coming behind me would then write, “Let’s get tough on drugs,” as if I hadn’t said anything. Even my own newspaper. And I would think, “Man, it’s just such an uphill struggle to do this with facts.” When you tell a story with characters, people jump out of their seats, and part of that’s the delivery system of television.

Bill Moyers: Is it because we are tethered to the facts, we can’t go where the imagination can take us?

David Simon: One of the themes of The Wire really was that statistics will always lie. Statistics can be made to say anything. You show me anything that depicts institutional progress in America: school test scores, crime stats, arrest reports, anything that a politician can run on, anything that somebody can get a promotion on, and as soon as you invent that statistical category, fifty people in that institution will be at work trying to figure out a way to make it look as if progress is actually occurring when actually no progress is. I mean, our entire economic structure fell behind the idea that these mortgage-backed securities were actually valuable, and they had absolutely no value. They were toxic. And yet they were being traded and being hurled about, because somebody could make some short-term profit. In the same way that a police commissioner or a deputy commissioner can get promoted, and a major can become a colonel, and an assistant school superintendent can become a school superintendent, if they make it look like the kids are learning and that they’re solving crime. That was a front-row seat for me as a reporter, getting to figure out how once they got done with them the crime stats actually didn’t represent anything.

Listen, if you could be draconian and reduce drug use by locking people up, you might have an argument. But we are the jailing-est country on the planet right now. Two million people in prison.

Bill Moyers: And you say that’s driving the war on drugs, though, right?

David Simon: Stats, you know, dope on the table. “We’ve made so many arrests.” I mean, under one administration they used to ride around Baltimore and say, “If we can make fifty-four arrests a day, we’ll have an all-time record for drug arrests.” Some of the arrests, it was people sitting on their stoops and, you know, loitering in a drug-free zone, meaning you were sitting on your own steps on a summer day. Anything that is a stat can be cheated, right down to journalism. And I was sort of party to that.

So I would be watching what the police department was doing, what the school system was doing, you know, looking outward. But if you looked inward you’d see that the same game is played everywhere, that nobody’s actually in the business of doing what the institution’s supposed to do.

Bill Moyers: Many people could see what you saw simply if we opened our eyes. And yet the drug war keeps getting crazier and crazier, from selling guns to Mexico’s drug cartel to cramming more people into prison even though they haven’t committed violent crimes. Why don’t the policies change?

David Simon: Because there’s no political capital in it. There really isn’t. The fear of being called soft on crime, soft on drugs. The paranoia that’s been induced. Listen, if you could be draconian and reduce drug use by locking people up, you might have an argument. But we are the jailing-est country on the planet right now. Two million people in prison. We’re locking up less-violent people. More of them. The drugs are purer. They haven’t closed down a single drug corner that I know of in Baltimore for any length of time. It’s not working. And by the way, this is not a Republican-Democrat thing, because a lot of the most draconian stuff came out of the Clinton administration, this guy trying to maneuver to the center in order not to be perceived as leftist by a Republican Congress.

Bill Moyers: Mandatory sentences, three strikes—

David Simon: Loss of parole. And again, not merely for violent offenders, because again, the rate of violent offenders is going down. Federal prisons are full of people who got caught muling drugs and got tarred with the whole amount of the drugs. It’s not what you were involved in or what you profited from. It’s what they can tar you with. You know, a federal prosecutor, basically, when he decides what to charge you with and how much, he’s basically the sentencing judge at that point. And that’s, of course, corrupting. Again, it’s a stat.

Bill Moyers: It’s also clear from your work that you think the drug war has destroyed the police.

David Simon: That’s the saddest thing in a way, again, because the stats mean nothing. Because a drug arrest in Baltimore means nothing. Real police work isn’t being done. In my city, the arrest rates for all major felonies have declined, precipitously, over the last twenty years. From murder to rape to robbery to assault.

Because to solve those crimes requires retroactive investigation. They have to be able to do a lot of things, in terms of gathering evidence, that are substantive and meaningful police work. All you have to do to make a drug arrest is go in a guy’s pocket. You don’t even need probable cause anymore in Baltimore. The guy who solves a rape or a robbery or a murder, he has one arrest stat. He’s going to court one day. The guy who has forty, fifty, sixty drug arrests, even though they’re meaningless arrests, even though there’s no place to put them in the Maryland prison system, he’s going to go to court forty, fifty, sixty times. Ultimately, when it comes time to promote somebody, they look at the police computer. They’ll look and they’ll say, “This guy made forty arrests last month. You only made one. He’s the sergeant” or “That’s the lieutenant.” The guys who basically play the stat game, they get promoted.

Bill Moyers: There’s a scene in the third season of The Wire where the Baltimore police major Bunny Colvin, a favorite character, gives some rare straight talk on the futility of this drug war.

David Simon: I don’t think we have the stomach to actually evaluate it.

Bill Moyers: What do you mean?

David Simon: Again, we would have to ask ourselves a lot of hard questions. The people most affected by this are black and brown and poor. It’s the abandoned inner cores of our urban areas. As we said before, economically, we don’t need those people; the American economy doesn’t need them. So as long as they stay in their ghettos and they only kill each other, we’re willing to pay for a police presence to keep them out of our America. And to let them fight over scraps, which is what the drug war, effectively, is. Since we basically have become a market-based culture, that’s what we know, and it’s what’s led us to this sad dénouement. I think we’re going to follow market-based logic right to the bitter end.

Bill Moyers: Which says?

David Simon: If you don’t need ’em, why extend yourself? Why seriously assess what you’re doing to your poorest and most vulnerable citizens? There’s no profit to be had in doing anything other than marginalizing them and discarding them.

The drug war is war on the underclass now. That’s all it is. It has no other meaning.

Bill Moyers: But here’s the problem for journalism. When we write about inequality, we use numbers that are profound but numbing. I mean, here’s something I just read: over the past twenty years, the elite 1 percent of Americans saw their share of the nation’s income double, from 11.3 percent to 22.1 percent, but their tax burden shrank by about one-third. Now, those facts tell us something very important: that the rich got richer as their tax rates shrank. But it doesn’t seem to start people’s blood rushing.

David Simon: You start talking about a social compact between the people at the bottom of the pyramid and the people at the top, and people look at you and say, “Are you talking about sharing wealth?” Listen, capitalism is the only engine credible enough to generate mass wealth. I think it’s imperfect, but we’re stuck with it. And thank God we have that in the toolbox. But if you don’t manage it in some way that incorporates all of society, if everybody’s not benefiting on some level and you don’t have a sense of shared purpose, national purpose, then it’s just a pyramid scheme. Who’s standing on top of whose throat?

Bill Moyers: Why do you think, David, that we tolerate such gaps between rich and poor?

David Simon: You know, I’m fascinated by it. Because a lot of the people who end up voting for that kind of laissez-faire market policy are people who get creamed by it. And I think it’s almost like a casino. You’re looking at the guy winning, you’re looking at the guy who pulled the lever and all the bells go off, all the coins are coming out of a one-armed bandit. You’re thinking, “That could be me. I’ll play by those rules.” But actually, those are house rules. And most of you are going to lose.

Bill Moyers: After all these years do you have the answer?

David Simon: Oh, I would decriminalize drugs in a heartbeat. I would put all the interdiction money, all the incarceration money, all the enforcement money, all of the pretrial, all the prep, all of that cash, I would hurl it as fast as I could into drug treatment and job training and jobs programs. I would rather turn these neighborhoods inward with jobs programs. Even if it was the urban equivalent of FDR’s CCC—the Civilian Conservation Corps—if it was New Deal–type logic, it would be doing less damage than creating a war syndrome. The drug war is war on the underclass now. That’s all it is. It has no other meaning.

Bill Moyers: There’s very little the police can do.

David Simon: You talk honestly with some of the veteran and smarter detectives in Baltimore, the guys who have given their career to the drug war, including, for example, Ed Burns, who was a drug warrior for twenty years, and they’ll tell you, this war’s lost. This is all over but the shouting and the tragedy and the waste. And yet there isn’t a political leader with the stomach to really assess it for what it is.

Bill Moyers: So whose lives are less and less necessary in America today?

David Simon: Certainly the underclass. There’s a reason they are the underclass. We’re in an era when you don’t need as much mass labor; we are not a manufacturing base. People who built stuff, their lives had some meaning and value because the factories were open. You don’t need them anymore. Unions and working people are completely abandoned by this economic culture, and, you know, that’s heartbreaking to me. I’ve been a union member my whole life and I guess I belong to a little gilded union now. A gilded guild.

Bill Moyers: The Writers Guild.

David Simon: The Writers Guild, yes, but I was a member of the Newspaper Guild before that and I thank them for letting me earn an honest living. Without them, God knows what we would have been paid in Baltimore. But I look at what’s happened with unions. Ed Burns says all the time that he wants to do a piece on the Haymarket.

Bill Moyers: The Haymarket bombing in Chicago, in 1886.

David Simon: Yes. The bombing, that critical moment when American labor was pushed so much to the starving point that they were willing to fight. And I actually think that’s the only time when change is possible, when people are actually threatened to the core, and enough people are threatened to the core that they just won’t take it anymore. Those are the pivotal moments in American history, I think, when something actually does happen.

In Haymarket, they were fighting for the eight-hour workday. It sounded radical at the time, but it’s basically a dignity-of-life issue. You look at things like that, you look at the anti-Vietnam War effort in this country. You had to threaten middle-class kids with a draft and with military service in an unpopular war for people to rise up and demand an end to that unpopular war. I mean, it didn’t happen without that. So on some level, as long as they placate enough people, as long as they throw enough scraps from the table that enough people get a little bit to eat, I just don’t see a change coming.

Bill Moyers: So did this great collapse we have been experiencing confirm the reporting you had done about what happens when an economic system creates two separate realities?

David Simon: I couldn’t have conceived of something as grandiose as the mortgage bubble, when you finally look at what caused that, and the sheer greed and the stupidity of that pyramid scheme. We didn’t know it was as corrosive as it was. We didn’t know it was rotted out that much. But we knew there was something rotten in the core. And we knew it from what we were looking at, in terms of Baltimore, and how Baltimore addressed its problems.

Bill Moyers: Politics is supposed to be about solving the situations you describe. But it’s constantly creating its own reality, right?

David Simon: It’s about money and it’s about advancement. As a reporter, I got to see some politics. I wasn’t a political reporter per se, but I got to see enough of city politics to absorb it. And Ed Burns taught in the Baltimore city school system and pulled all that through the keyhole for season four of The Wire. I got to see the war on drugs. I got to see policing as a concept. And I got to see journalism.

And when it came to explaining complicated and sophisticated systems and trying to say, “This is what’s going on and if we change this or do that, or if we actually implement this policy, we can, you know…” The hard work of looking at it systemically, there was no incentive to do it and nobody did it, and that’s as true in Baltimore today as when I started as a reporter, and I think it’s true in America.

I am very cynical about institutions and their willingness to address themselves to reform. I am not cynical when it comes to individuals and people.

Bill Moyers: I remain indebted to those reporters who go where I can’t go, who talk to people I can’t reach, and come back. I’m still indebted to them. And as you say, you were spit out by the forces at work in the journalistic world. And now journalism is spitting out reporters like teeth.

David Simon: Left and right. You know, listen, I was not the last. That’s true. And it’s heartbreaking. And I say this with no schadenfreude just because I got a TV gig. It’s heartbreaking what’s happening, and I feel that the republic is actually in danger.

There is no guard now assessing anything qualitatively, no pulling back the veil behind what an official will tell you is progress, or is valid, or is legitimate as policy. Absent that, no good can come from anything. Because there is an absolute disincentive to tell the truth.

Bill Moyers: I read something you recently told The Guardian in London: “Oh, to be a state or local official in America”—without newspapers—“it’s got to be one of the great dreams in the history of American corruption.”

David Simon: Well, I was being a little hyperbolic.

Bill Moyers: But it’s happening.

David Simon: Yes. It absolutely is. To find out what’s going on in my own city I often find myself at a bar somewhere, writing stuff down on a cocktail napkin that a police lieutenant or some schoolteacher tells me because these institutions are no longer being covered by beat reporters who are looking for the systemic. It doesn’t exist anymore.

“We were doing our job, making the world safe for democracy. And all of a sudden, terra firma shifted, new technology. Who knew that the Internet was going to overwhelm us?” I would buy that if I wasn’t in journalism for the years that immediately preceded the Internet. I took the third buyout from the Baltimore Sun. I was about reporter number eighty or ninety who left, in 1995, long before the Internet had had its impact. I left at a time when the Baltimore Sun was earning a 37-percent profit.

We now know this because it’s in bankruptcy and the books are open. All that R&D money that was supposed to go into making newspapers more essential, more viable, more able to explain the complexities of the world went to shareholders in the Tribune Company. Or the L.A. Times Mirror Company before that. And ultimately, when the Internet did hit, they had an inferior product that was not essential enough that they could charge online for it.

I mean, the guys who are running newspapers over the last twenty or thirty years have to be singular in the manner in which they destroyed their own industry. It’s even more profound than Detroit in 1973 making Chevy Vegas and Pacers and Gremlins and believing that no self-respecting American would buy a Japanese car. Except it’s not analogous, in that a Nissan is a pretty good car and a Toyota is a pretty good car. The Internet, while it’s great for commentary and froth, doesn’t do very much first-generation reporting at all. The economic model can’t sustain that kind of reporting. They had contempt for their own product, these people.

Bill Moyers: The publishers. The owners.

David Simon: You know, for twenty years, they looked upon the copy as being the stuff that went around the ads. The ads were God. And then all of a sudden the ads were not there, and the copy they had contempt for. They had actually marginalized themselves.

I was being a little flippant with The Guardian, but what I was saying was, you know, until they figure out the new model, there’s going to be a wave of corruption.

Bill Moyers: Are you cynical?

David Simon: I am very cynical about institutions and their willingness to address themselves to reform. I am not cynical when it comes to individuals and people. And I think the reason The Wire is watchable, even tolerable, to viewers is that it has great affection for individuals. It’s not misanthropic in any way. It has great affection for those people, particularly when they stand up on their hind legs and say, “I will not lie anymore. I am actually going to fight for what I perceive to be some shard of truth.”

You know, over time, people are going to look at The Wire and think, “This was not quite as cynical as we thought it was. This was actually a little bit more journalistic than that. They were being blunt. But it was less mean than we thought it was.” I think, in Baltimore, the initial response to seeing some of this on the air was, “These guys are not fair and they’re mean. And they’re just out to savage us.” But it was a love letter to Baltimore.

Bill Moyers: You said to the students at Loyola College in Baltimore some years ago, “I want you to go and look up the word oligarchy.” Well, I did just that. I took your advice. I looked it up.

David Simon: Uh-oh.

Bill Moyers: It means “government by the few.” Or “a government in which a small group exercises control for corrupt and selfish purposes.” Is that what you saw in Baltimore?

David Simon: I was speaking nationally, but yes. We are a country of democratic ideas and impulses, but it is strained through some very oligarchical structures. One of which could be, for example, the United States Senate. Or I look at the electoral college as being decidedly undemocratic. I don’t buy into the notion that “one man, one vote” is not the most fundamental way of doing business. And, ultimately, when I look at the drug war—listen, the only reason that alcohol and cigarettes, which do far more damage than heroin and cocaine, are legal is that white people, and affluent white people at that, make money off that stuff. Philip Morris, if those guys had black and brown skin and were in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, they’d be hunted. Or maybe not anymore; maybe they’d be in control of the Mexican state of Chihuahua. That’s another story.…

I look at that, and I say, “Yes, money talks.” The idea that what the most people want is best for the most people, the utilitarian sense of democracy still applying in American life—I just don’t see a lot of evidence for that.

There are about 749 different shows, dramas and comedies, on television right now. Seven hundred and forty-eight of them are about the America that I inhabit, that you inhabit, that most of the viewing public, I guess, inhabits.

Bill Moyers: So is this what you mean when you say The Wire is dissent?

David Simon: Yes. It is dissent. It is saying, “We no longer buy these false ideologies. And the false motifs you have of American life.” I look at this and I think to myself, if only you stand up and say, “I’m not going to be lied to anymore,” that’s a victory on some level, that’s a beginning of a dynamic. Can change happen? Yes. But things have to get a lot worse.

Bill Moyers: If I could put a lead on the body of your work—your journalism, your articles, your essays, your speeches, your books, your television series—it would be this: David Simon says America’s not working for everyday people who have no power. And that’s the way the people with power have designed it to work.

David Simon: Right. I mean, it would be one thing with an oligarchy if they were doing a better job of it. I would be okay with that.

Bill Moyers: Making the trains run on time.

David Simon: Right, but everything from Iraq to Wall Street to urban policy to the drug war, I look at it all and I say, “You know, these guys really couldn’t do much worse.” New Orleans was such a beautiful metaphor for the hollowness at the core of American will, you know? To have seen the president of the United States take the plane down and look out his window and say, “Oh my God, it must be twice as bad on the ground.” Twice as bad? Really? It’s failure of will and imagination and I see it across the board, and I just think, in a way, The Wire is an editorial. It’s an angry op-ed, as if Frank Rich was given, you know, twelve hours of airtime to rant.

Bill Moyers: Are you, as someone [Eds: The Atlantic] said, “the angriest man in television”?

David Simon: I saw that. It doesn’t really mean much. The second-angriest guy is, you know, by a kidney-shaped pool in L.A. screaming into his cell phone because his DVD points aren’t enough. But I don’t mind being called that. I just don’t think it means anything. How can you have lived through the last ten years in American culture and not be? How can you not look at what happened on Wall Street, at this gamesmanship that was the mortgage bubble, that was just selling crap and calling it gold? Or watch a city school system suffer for twenty, twenty-five years? Isn’t anger the appropriate response? What is the appropriate response? Ennui? Alienation? Buying into the great-man theory of history—that if we only elect the right guy? This stuff is systemic. This is how an empire is eaten from within.

Bill Moyers: But I don’t think these good individuals you talk about—the individual who stands up and says, “I’m not going to lie anymore”—I don’t think individuals know how to crack that system, how to change that system. Because, as you say, the system is self-perpetuating.

David Simon: And beautifully moneyed. I don’t think we can. And so I don’t think it’s going to get better. Listen, I don’t like talking this way. I would be happy to find out that The Wire was hyperbolic and ridiculous, and that the “American Century” is still to come. I don’t believe it, but I’d love to believe it, because I live in Baltimore and I’m an American. I want to sit in my house and see the game on Saturday along with everybody else. But I just don’t see a lot of evidence of it.

Bill Moyers: Do you really believe, as you said to those students at Loyola, that we’re not going to make it?

David Simon: We’re not going to make it as a first-rate empire. And I’m not sure that that’s a bad thing in the end. Empires end, and that doesn’t mean cultures end completely, and it doesn’t even mean that for nation-states. If you looked at Britain in 1952 and what was being presided over by Anthony Eden and those guys, you’d have said, “Man, what’s going to be left?” But Britain’s still there, and they’ve come to terms with what they can and can’t do. Americans are still sort of in an age of delusion, I think. A lot of our foreign policy represents that. And this notion that the markets were always going to go up, and that once we had invested stocks to death, we could create some new equity out of nothing.

Bill Moyers: You are a reporter, not a prophet, but sometimes what happens emerges from the way the facts were reported. You need to know what reality is, as best you can, before you can choose which way to go. Who do you think is going to tell us now what the facts are that we can agree on? Is it going to be television? Is it going to be fiction? Is it going to be journalism?

David Simon: I don’t know. I mean, I think ultimately a little of it’s going to come from everywhere. You know, there have been novels that I read that I thought were genuine truth-telling. And there have been journalistic endeavors that have really come close to being brilliant and blunt and honest, in a variety of formats. And there has been some film and some television. But it’s not like everybody’s rushing to make The Wire. I’ve pretty much demonstrated how not to make a hit show, you know? I make a show that gets me on Bill Moyers.

There are about 749 different shows, dramas and comedies, on television right now. Seven hundred and forty-eight of them are about the America that I inhabit, that you inhabit, that most of the viewing public, I guess, inhabits. There was only one about the other America. And it was arguing, passionately, about a place where, let’s face it, the economic rules don’t apply in the same way. Half of the adult black males in my city are unemployed. That’s not an economic model that actually works.

This excerpt is from the forthcoming collection of Moyers interviews, Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues
Copyright © 2011 Bill Moyers
Published by The New Press, Inc.
Reprinted here with permission.

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2 comments for The Straight Dope

  1. Comment by stephanie on July 18, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    brilliant

  2. Comment by Kiara Anthony on February 12, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Hello, if there is any way possible I can get in contact with Mr. Simon, that would be great. I am writing a story about him and his work and I would love to be able to speak with him…

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